Boomerang Kids, Listen Up: It’s Not All about You

I run into a variation of this statement quite often around the PF blogosphere:


“I chose to live at home* to save money while I paid off debt/saved for the future.”


I don’t want to link to specific articles, though there are many, because I don’t want to call out the authors individually.  But I want to say that this type of statement drives me up the wall!


My request to you boomerang kids is this: Please don’t act as though you are making some big sacrifice by living with your parents.  I get that you could be having a lot more fun by living independent from your parents so you could keep you own hours and not make your bed and have whatever you define as freedom.  But you are not the one making the sacrifice – your parents are.  They could be empty nesters, or at least have one fewer kid to take care of, if you weren’t living with them.  They could downsize their house (what Kyle’s parents did) or move across the country (what my parents plan to do) or have sex in the kitchen or whatever they consider freedom.  In many cases parents are delighted to have their children close by, but please don’t ignore the fact that their generosity involves shouldering financial, domestic, and relational costs.


I’ll clarify that I’m not against boomeranging per se – I myself lived with my parents for about six months after I graduated from college.  What I’m against is boomerang kids failing to give credit where credit is due and admit that their parents are the ones to be commended for their generosity and flexibility, not the kids for their self-interested financial decisions.  I made similar mistakes – while  my choice to live with my parents wasn’t financially motivated, I did fail to understand how much I was being given by my parents during the time I lived with them post-college.  Even though I was paying them a rent-equivalent amount of money during those six months, I was still coming out ahead financially and domestically at their expense and I wasn’t appreciative enough.


If I got my wish, it would be to never see the above statement again, but instead read something like this: “To help me with my goal of paying off debt/saving for the future, my parents generously offered to let me to live with them for a time.”


* Side rant: Can we all please stop using the phrase “living at home?”  It’s redundant and non-specific!  Anywhere you live is your home.  What we mean to say is “living with my parent(s).”


Have you written or uttered the statement that so offends me?  Who do you think is making more sacrifices when a kid boomerangs – the parent or the child?  Have you seen members of “the sandwich generation” putting off major life changes because of their boomerang kids?  Have you known some truly exemplary boomerang kids?



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42 Responses to "Boomerang Kids, Listen Up: It’s Not All about You"

  1. Emily too says:

    You are so right! I have a relative like this who’s always complaining about how much of a drag it is, and I’m always saying, “You do realize how lucky you are and how much help your parents are giving you?”

    However, I know some people who do or have done this whom I really respect for it – they *never* talk about it as a sacrifice they’re making, they talk about it more in matter-of-fact terms of having a mutually supportive family. Their role in their parents’ households is that of a contributing adult, not a mooching kid, and you get the impression they will do their best to care for their parents too. I think this is common in a lot of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian cultures, and based on my anecdotal evidence, it’s Americans of more WASP-type descent, too many generations from immigrants, or with bad parental relationships who view it in the way that offends you.

    1. Emily says:

      I totally agree. I was going to write more in here about how living with your parents makes you stay a child when you should be an adult, but that only takes place in certain types of family cultures (like mine). I know people who live with their parents but it’s more like they share a home than that they are living in their parents’ house – and you’re right, they don’t take the attitude I wrote about!

  2. You know, I wonder whether living with your parents as an adult really helps a person. Yes, it allows them to pocket their rent or mortgage payment for a little while, but what is $5-10,000 really going to do for you in the long term? Instead, take that same person and instead of moving home, he or she cuts their lifestyle down drastically and cuts out all unnecessary spending to the point where they save the same amount of money every month as they would have living with their parents and continuing to spend like congress.

    The second person just made a lifestyle change that will help them for life. The boomerang adult has $5-10,000 in the bank. Which one will get he/she further in life?
    Kraig @ Young, Cheap Living recently posted..I’m Paying Cash for November and am Loving It

    1. Emily says:

      Great point, Kraig. The young adult “living at home” is not making all the lifestyle changes she could that may benefit her for her entire life. I think it’s easy for young adults to forget that it took their parents half a lifetime to reach the quality of lifestyle that they enjoyed during their children’s high school and college years. “Living at home” helps them avoid facing what living within their means really is.

  3. Eric says:

    I spent about a year at home with my parents after college. Thanks to having my old room, I was able to save up considerably during that time. I moved out when I started grad school (full time while maintaining my full time job) so I could be closer to school and work.

    Saving up tens of thousands of dollars while living at home was a huge benefit to my finances during grad school. I would have come out with that much more debt had I not been given the opportunity to save by my parents.
    Eric recently posted..Should I Max My 401(k) or my Roth First?

    1. Emily says:

      I’m not disputing the financial benefit that young adults receive by living with their parents – what I’m trying to point out is that benefit comes at the expense of the parents. I would like for young adults to shift the agency of their ability to save money from themselves to their parents.

  4. SWR says:

    i don’t get your beef with the term living at home. Did you call your dorm rooms “home”? When visiting my parents, I still say I’m going home; when we visit L’s parents, we’re going to his house, etc.

    “Home” for me is not the temporary apartments that I have been wandering in and out of since I was 19. Home connotes a permanency for me which I don’t have in my apartment living. Now, both of our parents live in the houses that we grew up in, with the same neighbors that we grew up around. Maybe it would be different if they had moved.
    SWR recently posted..The weekly menu

    1. Emily says:

      There are multiple definitions for the word “home” – the primary one being where you live and one later down the line being where you came from. When I was in college, I didn’t call my dorm rooms home – I suppose because they were very short term residences and my “home” was to where I knew I would return every year, my parents’ house.

      My thinking on this changed after I moved out from my parents’ house for the last time. That will always be my “home”/where I came from, but as I never intend to live there again I don’t see the benefit of using the word “home” to describe it. Particularly after I got married I made an effort to go from using “home” to describe both my residence and my parents’ house to only using it to describe my residence. My home is where my husband and I live, not where my parents live. In this sense, I conflate another definition of home (“where the heart is”) with my residence. It’s an external way of demonstrating that I have turned my primary family allegiance from my family-of-origin to the family I have formed with my husband.

      1. SWR says:

        Interesting. For my family, where you’re living is just where you’re living. There is one city (one neighborhood in one city, really) that is “home” to our entire family. And it’s the same for Liam- but in a different part of the country. If we ever move back to my hometown, then we’ll be living back home, even in our own dwelling. Also (and this may be cultural) my primary allegiance hasn’t switched to Liam; my family ties have extended to include him and any future kids we may have.
        SWR recently posted..The weekly menu

      2. Emily says:

        Oh, and Kyle disagrees with me about all of this so he still uses “home” to refer to both our home and the house/city he grew up in. Much to my consternation. 🙂

    2. Emily says:

      But aside from my personal view of the definition of home, when someone says a variation of “I chose to live at home” they are depending on the listener to understand the subtext that they are living in their parents’ home, likely for free. There is nothing in the phrasing that indicates that directly – a literal interpretation leaves the listener with no more information than “I live somewhere.” They could much more clearly communicate what they mean by simply saying “I chose to live with my parents.”

  5. You’ve got some good points. I mean I think if I were in my parents position, would I want my kids to move out then move back in? Probably not. They let me stay with them until I was 23 and for that I am super thankful (they also didn’t charge me rent, god love ’em!). But I don’t know if I could move back unless something happened and I really needed somewhere to stay until I could get back on my feet.
    Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses recently posted..I’m Gonna Be a Mentor!

    1. Emily says:

      I get along much better with my parents when we don’t live together, a fact that we only discovered after I moved out for good! We have a good relationship now but it was strained when I was still living there, so they are definitely better off when I give them some space (in addition to the financial and domestic aspects). I’m sure my parents would take me in if there were an emergency situation but if that were to happen I would definitely try to not overstay my welcome.

  6. Michelle says:

    I have a a friend who ALWAYS complains about living at home with her parents. It is incredibly annoying and I feel bad for them. I would hate it if my child felt like they could just sponge off me when they are 24 years old.
    Michelle recently posted..Spending, Life, Extra Income, Food Updates…

    1. Emily says:

      I would feel bad too – but they are probably enabling. If they asked her to move out I bet she would appreciate them a lot more after a few months on her own!

  7. I don’t think I’ve written about the topic myself, although I have commented on it. And I’ve never used the phrase “boomerang kid.” That said, I lived with my parents until I got married at 28. I didn’t see it as a sacrifice or mooching. I saw it as the way things always used to be done and I saw no need to change it.
    Several of my friends did the same thing. My mother lived in her parents house until she got married. My father moved out of his mother’s house after high school, but moved in with his father until the wedding.
    My great uncle lived on the farm he was born at until my great-grandparents retired. Then he bought a house and they moved in with him! The first time he ever lived alone was after they died.

    Oh, and I bought groceries for the house to help pay for things. It was a good deal for them because they ate more food than I used water and electricity.

    I’m also with Kyle. Home is both where I live and where I grew up.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Is P2P Lending a Scam?

    1. Emily says:

      There are of course different cultural expectations within American society. If the norm is to live with parents like it was for you, then you wouldn’t have made a statement like the one I referenced. It implies that the norm would be to not live there.

  8. I think you’re right. Boomeranging is a reflection on the economy, mainly. The economists have a statistic they track, which they call household formation. When kids move out, HF goes up. When they move back, HF goes down (or levels off). And it’s a known fact that HF goes down (boomeranging goes up) in a recession.

    But your basic point about the predominance of ingrates is sadly true. In the end, though, it is up to the parents to set the rules. If they’re unhappy and make no changes, it’s on them.
    William @ Drop Dead Money recently posted..The Economy: Where Are We? Q3/2012

    1. Emily says:

      Even if the parents are happy with the arrangement, I still think the kids should acknowledge their parents having an active role in their ability to save money. But I also agree that parents who feel taken advantage of or unappreciated have a responsibility to change the relationship – their sake and their kid’s sake.

  9. I know people who live at home to save themselves money but completely burden their parents in the meantime. I understand if it’s a temporary situation….but it should only be temporary! I wouldn’t live at home if you paid me. I love my parents but I am an adult and need my own home =)
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..What Would You Do For Money…If You Had To?

    1. Emily says:

      I think both parents and boomerang kids go into the situation assuming that it is temporary but don’t put boundaries in place to define the time period. That is the #1 thing I would recommend for someone boomeranging – well, tied for #1.

  10. I have know lots of people who’ve done this. Some do it the right way, as a temporary measure until they can save up to move out, and help with the household but know it’s short term. I’ve seen others who are total mooches and have no plans to leave. It really strains the relationship as well. I also know a few “adult children” who have always been spoiled and mom still does laundry and cooks for them and can’t let them grow up and they don’t want to. I dated a guy like this in college and let’s just say it didn’t work out. When mom is your main gal, it’s hard to move on.

    1. Emily says:

      You are so right about the potential for relationship strain and stunted growth. And there are different types of situations – one child might “be an adult about it” and another might use it as an means to avoid growing up.

  11. You bring up some great points. I’ve not written on it, though I’d have to have a similar rant. I went back to my Dad & stepmother’s for a couple of weeks after graduating and then moved out on my own. This was solely to basically pack up all of my junk and take care of other obligations before I got out on my own. I know that the current market can lend itself to these situations, but I think should be avoided (if at all possible) for a long term solution.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted..4 Minutes That Changed My Life Forever II, a Thoughtful Thanksgiving

    1. Emily says:

      It sounds like your brief stint at your father’s place had a well-defined purpose and so probably wasn’t too taxing for anyone. I actually had another 3 weeks at my parents’ place between my postbac job and starting grad school, and that was mostly to pack up for my move, too.

      Glad to know I’m not alone by being annoyed by this mindset!

  12. My parents do *not* have sex in the kitchen. *covers ears and eyes* lalala
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    1. Emily says:

      Oh no – your parents told me they do it in your old room!

      1. aieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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  13. eemusings says:

    I LOVE this post.

    (I’ve been independent since 17 and am proud of it, but almost all of my friends still live at home.)
    eemusings recently posted..Link love (Powered by honey and lemon)

    1. Emily says:

      Haha, thanks. Do your friends ever talk with you about being independent?

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  17. I was perplexed when I first started seeing this logic — portraying living with parents as a financially responsible sacrifice for a young person to make. I, too, have seen it in several places online, including the online versions of college papers. Parents really need to make the costs they shoulder for their adult children more clear. And, sorry, I’m fully in the “living at home” means “living with parents” camp. 😉
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