Boomerang Kids: When Should They Move Out For Good?

Lifestyles Boomerang Generation
Greg M. Cooper/AP

There's a generation gap in opinions about how long adults should live with their parents post-college.

A new survey by Coldwell Banker Real Estate and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, a consultant for the company, shows that Americans ages 55 and older think it's acceptable for adults to live with their parents after college for as long as three years. Adults ages 18 to 34 think living at home for as long as five years is acceptable. And nearly 1 in 7 Americans (13 percent) believe adults should never live at home with their parents.

According to a Pew Research Center report, in 2012, 36 percent of young adults (ages 18 to 31) were living in their parents' home -- the highest percentage in at least four decades.

While many of the adults returning home have been affected by the recession, the Coldwell Banker survey shows that the majority (82 percent) of Americans think adult children who live at home should pay rent.

Moocher or Savvy Saver?

Ludwig says there are two extremes when it comes to boomerang kids: those who regress and fail to develop independent living skills and those who are living at home with a purpose, such as saving money to buy a home.

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According to the Coldwell survey, 4 out of 5 Americans say it's OK for adult children to live at home if they're saving money to buy a home, but 70 percent say they think too many adult children living with their parents are avoiding responsibility.

"Young people today sometimes need a safety net that moving back in with parents can provide," says Ellen Miley Perry, a wealth management adviser with Wealthbridge Partners in Washington, D.C., and author of "A Wealth of Possibilities: Navigating Family, Money, and Legacy." "It can be a very helpful and important time for the young people and for their parents, and it can also be a difficult and challenging time."

Tips for Boomerang Kids and Their Parents

Perry says parents and their kids need to discuss their expectations -- for both sides -- before the decision is made to move back home.

"Talk about things like who is responsible for what chores around the house, access to cars, late nights/no-shows, overnight guests," she says. "All those things are a reality when the child is now an adult. Parents should feel entitled to negotiate what works for them during this time. You aren't running a bed-and-breakfast, so be clear about what you need."

All personal responsibilities like laundry, cleaning their room, and cleaning up after themselves must be done by the young person, says Perry. She recommends asking boomerang kids to help the family while they are home, with things like grocery shopping, cooking, and yard work.

The financial implications of moving back home are crucial for the parents and the adult child. Perry says if the boomerang kids have income and can pay rent and contribute to food costs, they should.

Ludwig recommends setting a target end date. The survey shows that 65 percent of Americans think adult children should move out as soon as they have a job.

"Be clear if you're the parent about how long this will work for you," says Perry. "What's the time horizon? Three months? Six months? A year? Or until your kid finds a job?"

Each family has to negotiate an arrangement for adults moving back home and their parents. If the kids are using the time to save money for a house, the parents may want to skip having them pay rent in order to allow their savings to build more quickly.

The key to making this arrangement go smoothly is for both generations to be open about their financial and personal expectations.

Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.

Originally published