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Bad economy forces adult kids to go home

Sat., March 22, 2008, midnight

MILWAUKEE – After being laid off from her job as an events planner at an upscale resort, Jo Ann Bauer struggled financially. She worked at several lower-paying jobs, relocated to a new city and even declared bankruptcy.

Then in December, she finally accepted her parents’ invitation to move into their home – at age 52. “I’m back living in the bedroom that I grew up in,” she said.

Taking shelter with parents isn’t uncommon for people in their 20s, especially when the job market is poor. But now the slumping economy and the credit crunch are forcing some children to do so later in life – even in middle age.

Financial planners report receiving many calls from parents seeking advice about taking in their grown children following divorces and layoffs.

Kim Foss Erickson, a financial planner in Roseville, Calif., north of Sacramento, said she has never seen older children, even those in their 50s, depending so much on their parents as in the past six months.

“This is not like, ‘OK, my son just graduated from college and needs to move back in’ type of thing,” she said. “These are 40- and 50-year-old children of my clients that they’re helping out.”

Parents “jeopardize their financial freedom by continuing to subsidize their children,” said Karin Maloney Stifler, a financial planner in Hudson, Ohio, and a board member of the Financial Planning Association. “We have a hard time saying no as a culture to our children, and they keep asking for more.”

Bauer’s parents won’t take rent money or let her help much with groceries. She’s trying to save several hundred dollars a month for a house while working as a meetings coordinator.

Plenty of well-meaning parents must delay retirement or scale back their dreams because they have to help their children, Stifler said.

Some of Erickson’s clients are giving as much as $50,000 at a time to their kids, many of whom have overextended themselves with big houses or lavish lifestyles. And the sliding economy might threaten their jobs.

Parents feel guilty if they don’t offer help, but she warns them to be careful with their savings.

“I almost have to act like a financial therapist if you will,” she said. ” ‘Here is the line I’m drawing for you. That’s fine. You can do up to this point, but at this point, now you’re starting to erode your own wealth.’ ”

A new survey by the retiree-advocacy group AARP found that one-fourth of Generation Xers, those 28 to 39 years old, receive financial help from family and friends.

The online survey of nearly 1,800 people ages 19 to 39 also found 57 percent believed they were “financially independent.” In a separate question, 33 percent said they received financial support from family and friends.


 

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