Years ago, children graduated from high school, got a job and shortly thereafter got married, bought a home and had children.
This pattern may have been delayed a few years as more and more people obtained college educations, but the pattern remained basically the same.
Now, however, the number of adult children living with their parents has skyrocketed. In fact, as recently as 2010, Calculated Risk shared that nearly 13.5% of individuals ages 24 to 35 lived at home with their parents. This group has even been given their own name—Boomerang Children–because they leave the nest for some time but then return back home, sometimes for years.
If your adult child has moved back in, should you charge them rent?
Why Do Adult Children Move Back Home?
There are a variety of reasons why adult children move back home.
Sometimes it is because they can’t find a job in today’s economy, or they do have a job but the salary isn’t enough to allow them to live on their own. Perhaps they have student loan debt or credit card debt and can’t afford debt repayment as well as living expenses.
Even if your child is not in debt, she may choose to live at home to save money for a down payment on a house.
Sometimes it is because they are simply lazy and can’t beat the free ride at mom and dad’s.
Often it can be a combination of reasons.
To Charge Rent or Not To?
Whether or not to charge adult children rent seems to be a polarizing issue.
On one hand, some parents are firmly against charging their adult children rent because they see it as their parental duty to continue to care for their children no matter how long it takes for them to become independent. They may feel as if they are taking advantage of their children by taking rent money from them, especially if the child is living at home to save for a house of her own.
On the other hand, many parents believe that charging rent helps their children mature and learn responsibility.
My mom fell into this camp.
Fifteen years ago when I lived at home for two years between undergraduate and graduate college, she charged me a nominal rent, about $100 to $150 a month, to live at home. At the time, I was working at a low paying job making roughly $15,000 a year and also paying back student loans from my undergraduate career. Still, I happily paid my rent because I knew what she was charging me was much less than I would have to pay living on my own. What I paid her probably just covered my portion of food and utilities for the month.
Even experts are conflicted about what to do with boomerang kids.
Walter Updegrade of Money Magazine believes that there are times when you should be lenient with your children and not charge rent, stating, “If your son is living at home out of economic necessity — perhaps his salary is just too skimpy to allow him to make it on his own or he’s grappling with a huge load of student loans — then maybe you want to cut him some slack. You could just ask him to chip in for household expenses rather than charging him rent.” (cnn.com)
On the other hand, no nonsense financial expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade of Til Debt Do Us Part fame boldly states, “If you don’t take rent, you’re a bad parent. Yep! You are! You’re abdicating your responsibility to teach your kids (adults) about what life is really like. And you’re letting them get used to indulging themselves way more than they should.” (gailvaz-xlade.com)
An Alternative for Parents Who Feel Uncomfortable Charging Rent
If you want your child to learn responsibility but feel conflicted about charging rent, there is an alternative.
You could charge them a nominal rent of perhaps $200 and, unbeknownst to them, save the money. Then, when they are ready to move out on their own, you can give them that money for a security deposit on an apartment or an emergency fund or partial down payment if they are looking at buying a house. If the child stays with you for 24 months and you charge $200 a month that you set aside, by the time she leaves, you will have $4,800 to return to her to help her achieve her own financial independence.
As you may guess from my own background, I do believe in charging grown children who are living at home rent.
It can help teach your child appropriate money management and budgeting techniques, and it helps them realize that their parents are not giving them a completely free ride. It may even serve as incentive to nudge your grown children out of the home if they simply are too comfortable living there.
However, the decision is ultimately yours as a parent. Just make sure when your adult child moves back in that the ground rules and financial expectations are clearly outlined.
Sean @ One Smart Dollar says
I’m a believe that they shouldn’t be charged rent as low as they are in school. They should be forced to help out around the house doing chores but that is all.
My mom didn’t charge rent when I lived at home while in college, but when I graduated, she did begin charging me a nominal amount. You would be surprised how many of my friends thought it was awful of my mom to do this. 🙂
Sean @ One Smart Dollar says
I’m a believe that they shouldn’t be charged rent as long as they are in school. They should be forced to help out around the house doing chores but that is all.
Little House says
I think it depends on the situation. For some adults, maybe they just need to save some money to get back on their feet, so charging rent wouldn’t make sense in this case. But for others who are taking advantage of the free ride, they might need some incentive to get going and charging rent could be just that incentive. I like the idea of saving the rent payments and giving it back to the adults without them knowing about it. That would be a great idea.
Glen Craig says
I agree that it depends om the situation. Parents really have to understand where their kids are coming from when they move back home. Is it for the free ride? Charge them rent. If they are truly working their rears to get back out then be lenient.
I like the idea of giving back the rent too.
I moved back with my folks after being on my own. I offered to pay rent but my dad told me he knew I was saving up to pay off debt and get out. I really appreciated that!
I think that boomerang kids should definitely be paid rent! Even if they are getting back on their feet, it could be a reduced amount (I don’t know about everywhere else in the world but in Vancouver, BC, $200/mo for instance is about 1/5 of the average rent).. As adults, boomerang kids need to learn to fend for themselves, even if they are living with mom and dad, and need to realize that their parents are not there to bail them out when things go wrong in their lives.
That being said – boomerang kids, to me, aren’t kids – because boomerang itself indicates that they’ve left and come back, they’re usually adults. But I stick to my guns that even “kids” going to school living with their parents should have to pay a little bit of rent – after all, lots of students pay full rent and groceries and utilities, etc.
Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think says
I agree. You don’t want to enable them. What would their options be if mom and/or dad wasn’t around to help them out? I probably wouldn’t mind if my adult children lived with me and not paid rent as long as they covered their share of food, utilities, and were willing to show me that they were paying off debt, saving cash, etc. But forcing them to give account of how they’re spending their money would probably make them feel like a child instead of the responsible adult I want them to be.
Frugal Portland says
Yes absolutely they should pay rent. And they should contribute. You worked really hard to get them out of the house and it’s your peace they’re messing with when they come back!
If your peace is your main concern then might I recommend not having kids in the first place. As simple as it may seem, being a parent doesn’t stop when the child turns eighteen.
If your peace is your main concern then might I recommend not having kids in the first place. As simple as it may seem, being a parent doesn’t end when the child turns eighteen.
Tyler @ Dividend Money says
I agree that Boomerang kids should be charged rent. Obviously, it should be a nominal amount if they are in a financial pinch, but it has to be something. They should also be expected to maintain their portion of the household – as they would if they lived on their own.
Every adult needs have responsibilities and be accountable for themselves.
If the parent wants to give the rent back to them when they move out, that is up to them, but the child (adult in these cases) has to be accountable for leading an adult life.
If they are in college and living at home to save money I think it is ok to not charge rent. However, they must be making progress and not drawing it out forever.
Once they graduate they should have to pay at least some nominal amount. You could also charge part of food or utilities as well, just enough to get them used to budgeting and knowing that it isn’t going to be a free ride until they’re sick of living at home.
Glen Craig says
That’s a great point about getting the used to budgeting. It’s not always the case but sometimes a kids will move back because they are just horrible with money.
My son moved home for his 3rd year of law school. Although I did not charge him rent, I did have him pay for his food etc. It worked out fine.
Glen Craig says
You get free legal advice now though, right?
Glad it worked well.
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says
I moved back in with my mom after I graduated from college. I paid rent, but was able to save up enough money to buy a house. Definitely worth it to me.
Glen Craig says
Wow. I was originally planning to buy a co-op or condo with my savings when I moved back with my folks. I never could have afforded a house. But I was living in NYC at the time too. (BTW, I ended up meeting my now wife so buying a home did eventually happen, just a little later.)
I agree with what your mom did, and that’s what my parents do. All of my siblings, myself included, have moved back home after college for at least some time (from one month up to six years). It’s not easy to know what is right for everyone, but my parents said that if we are to live at home as adults, we should pay at least some rent to cover food and other expenses. It’s never too much – they would rather we save up to move out and pay off student debt (none of us have credit card debt). Sometimes they raise it if a situation arises where they feel it is necessary. The one exception is with me: I’m living at home while I’m a student. They feel that even though they can’t help pay for graduate school for me, they would like to help at least with housing. So as long as I am a student, I will not have to pay rent. I still help out around the house and run errands as much as possible to make up for it, though.
Glen Craig says
You know, one way to look at your situation is your parents are saving money by not paying for your housing while you’re in school.
It depends on the child. I think some kids need the extra kick in the pants that paying rent would be, while other kids would be better off being able to save more.
Financial Conflict Coach says
I had the opposite happen- my father lived with me for a year.
I did not charge him rent.
Well, unfortunately I fall into this category due to the recession. I graduated from college with a 4.0 in a field that I felt was safe (in 2010). I couldn’t find my first semi-real job until 1.5 years after I graduated and it didn’t offer any benefits/insurance and the salary was just a few bucks over minimum wage. I just got a new office job and it’s just a few cents more than the last… Still no benefits/insurance and still no prospects of better. Because of the recession, I began graduate studies during my first job and have been living with my parents who seem very dissatisfied with my being in their home. Although I’m grateful for them allowing me to be here, they insist that I pay $400/mo rent, which I find to be ridiculous seeing as how my monthly income is merely $250-$300 and of that, I’m paying my way through school and putting gas in my car (that’s literally all that money does). It’s just not a good situation to be in, especially when you’re trying all you know how to dig your way out of a rut. Endless applying for jobs, no prospects of interviews…
Emily @ evolvingPF says
I think the decision to charge rent depends on the reasons the child is still living in the house and what his/her employment situation is.
I moved in with my parents after college, while employed full-time, because I wanted to spend more time with my family after being across the country for the last 4 years. While my parents did not directly charge me rent, I paid them $500/month to help them pay down the loans they had taken out to finance my education. That was essentially a rent-equivalent.
However, my parents are not charging my siblings a rent or rent-equivalent because they are working part-time and going to school on and off. While I think it was reasonable to begin with that arrangement, my siblings have no incentive to leave my parents’ home even though they are definitely of an age to do so.