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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Michelle Singletary:

By Michelle Singletary Washington Post

I hate the jokes and condescending comments about adult children living at home – or those returning to the familial nest out of financial necessity.

In the interest of teaching young people how to be fiscally responsible, we often applaud parents who rush their adult children to move out as soon as possible. If they stay too long they’re seen as resisting “adulting.”

Rents are rising at the fastest rates in decades, and house prices are surging, too. It’s time to embrace the economic truth that independent living at an early age may get in the way of achieving real financial security.

Understandably, not everyone can live at home. They’ve moved away for a job, or the home situation is too toxic or overcrowded. But space and sanity willing, consider the savings young adults could amass if they continued to live in the family home.

With inflation at a 40-year-high, it just makes economic sense for adult children to live at home for several years.

Overall, prices increased 8.3% in April compared with a year ago, according to the latest consumer price index summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The cost of shelter is a big driver of rising inflation.

Rent averages $1,927, an increase of $323, or 20%, since the pandemic began, according to a rent index produced by Zillow. Of course, depending on location, the monthly cost can be substantially higher. The average rent in April was about $3,000 in New York, $3,100 in San Francisco, and more than $2,800 in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Rents grew more last year than in any year on record, according to Zillow. The high demand for rentals is keeping vacancy rates near all-time lows, pushing up rent prices.

The pandemic pushed millions of Americans to move in with family members, according to the Pew Research Center. But now that coronavirus cases have declined and businesses have gotten back to normal operations, many people want to live on their own. After all, we’ve been conditioned to think you’re not a real adult until you have your own place.

Living alone is viewed as a sign of economic maturity.

But the high cost of housing makes it near-impossible for many young adults to build a cushion to handle a financial emergency. Their housing expenses can keep them from quickly paying off their student loans. Exorbitant rent payments can delay them from getting started on saving for retirement. And we know the power of compound interest favors the young.

People keep asking me what I recommend for folks struggling with rising inflation. The answer for many is to do what they can to cut the largest expense in their budget, and that’s housing. This may mean you can’t afford to live alone.

Pew looked at census data from 1971 to 2021 and found that the number of people living in multigenerational family households quadrupled.

When asked why they share their home with relatives, Americans often say it’s because of finances or family caregiving, according to Pew.

Among adults 25 to 29, nearly a third live in multigenerational households, often in their parents’ homes, according to Pew. Nearly 4 in 10 young men are in multigenerational households.

And while a quarter of adults in multigenerational homes say it is stressful all or most of the time, more than twice that say it is mostly or always rewarding, Pew found.

I feel for the men who are ridiculed for still living at home – and for the daughters who feel pressured to leave.

My husband and I have taken a different tack with our children. We have begged them to live at home. We want them here at least until their 30s. Hear me out before you claim we’re just coddling them.

A year after getting her master’s degree and doing an internship in Texas, our eldest moved home and is saving the vast majority of her yearly income. At 27, she’s plowing 15% of her gross pay into her 401(k). She’s saving up to pay cash for an electric vehicle in about three years.

Our son graduated from college last year and is still living at home. He’s working two part-time jobs while studying to enter the actuarial field. We are in no rush to see him go. He’s lovely to have around – plus he’s the main dog-walker.

My husband and I agreed not to charge any of our children rent as long as they are saving, so that when they finally launch they will have a substantial cushion that should keep them from boomeranging back home.

Financial independence doesn’t have to come with a monthly rent payment. It can be measured by how well the folks under your roof are managing their money within their means.

We should champion long-term multigenerational housing as a way to not just beat inflation now, but to help younger generations build wealth that will also help them weather the financial storms that are still to come.

It’s not a sign of arrested development to live in your parents’ home if you’re a productive young adult trying to save or pay down debt, or both.

It’s a smart move when a rental could eat up so much of your take-home pay. Let your adult children eliminate the heaviest burden in their budget. They will have plenty of time to manage their own households.

A decade at home starting in their 20s, and saving most of their income rather than paying rent for all those years, could put young adults on the path to homeownership that could end with a smaller mortgage or no mortgage at all. That would be a financial game changer.

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