There are adult children who are slackers still living at home on their parents dime. And then there are adult children who out of real need depend on their parents’ help for food and shelter. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two types of hangers on, especially nowadays as more and more young adults fail to launch early for independence.
According to some studies, nearly a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds in Canada and the U.S. remain under the wing - and roofs - of parents or grandparents. For a lot of elders, that’s bringing an unwelcome outlook to household budgeting and financial planning. What can mom and dad or grandpa and grandma do to help improve matters, not only for their children’s sake, but for their own budgeting needs and financial peace of mind?
First, we must look at the roots of the problem. Some say the stay-at-home trend has to do only with today’s economy and the job market. We constantly hear news about kids who are being schooled for jobs of choice that are dwindling. Well-educated young adults move on from college and university - often carrying student loan and credit card debt well in excess of $25,000 - only to find themselves stuck in their parents' basements, with employment prospects limited to low-end service jobs.
I grant that there are many young adults out there who are hitting brick walls in terms of narrowly defined job titles. Studies show that jobs relating to vocations especially involving the arts, history, and other fields are far fewer in number than they once were. On the other hand, as an individual who took schooling in the 1980s, I cannot remember a time when finding just the right job was easy. Most students just out of Canada’s post-secondary institutions found agreeable employment only through sustained and determined effort. When preferred positions couldn’t be found, we revised our career strategies to adapt to the marketplace. We also pulled up our bootstraps to find gainful employment even as we continued our search for work relating to our training.
Attitudes have changed over the years, though. Longstanding prosperity in Canada has encouraged postures of entitlement amongst the young. It’s the thinking that life is one big gravy train and all that’s needed to hop aboard is a college certificate or a university degree. Not so. The pursuit of happiness takes hard work, and I believe it always will.
So what can parents do to help their youngsters get over the hump and out of the basement? Well, harsh realities might have to be faced requiring reasonable measures of tough love. Parents must ask themselves whether their children are slackers or go-getters. As I see it, any able-bodied young adult ought to be a go-getter. That means the children should be doing their personal best to find work in any given field of choice, and to take what work they can to either launch from the nest or at least prepare to launch through budgeting and financial planning. Kids must be held accountable to step up their game. At the same time, through gainful employment or otherwise, they ought to contribute to the household.
The message here is, you don’t get something for nothing. And it may mean that parents charge their children rent, perhaps at least with the view of setting the money aside to help with an eventual launch. It may mean saddling children with various household responsibilities and tasks. It should involve putting together an action plan for finding work and sticking to it.
Parents need to be up front with their children. Especially if the support is taking a meaningful toll on household budgeting and lifestyles, the children should know that there is no trust fund; that serious trade offs are being made through the help that’s being provided. Open communication of this nature often helps accelerate moves from the nest. Above all, there are opportunities here to improve financial literacy among all concerned. Family discussions and education having to do with budgeting, financial planning, disciplined spending, debt management, and goal setting ought to be the order of the day.
It’s wise, too, to consider the aid of a financial advisor to provide young adults with knowledge and tools that can help them manage personal finances. Recognized credit counselling organizations such as my agency, Credit Canada Debt Solutions, also offer affordable money coaching programs that can help families develop money management skills that last a lifetime.