If you’d have told me years ago that after graduating from college, I’d have to move back in with my parents, one word would have jumped to mind: regressive. This, of course, followed by a brief-but-vibrant mental montage from Step Brothers of John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell — who play 40-somethings still living with their parents — fashioning a DIY bunk bed in their childhood bedroom to make room for activities. I equated living with my parents post-grad with a permanent, self-imposed failure to launch. Turns out, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.
A 2016 Pew Study found that 32.1% of adults between 18 and 34 live at home with their parents. The most preferred alternative was cohabiting with a romantic partner, trailed by people who had “other living arrangement(s)” — those living with a family member other than their parents, or with roommates or in group quarters.
Although this may sound unusual or culturally jarring to American ears, it’s actually quite common elsewhere. For instance, take the Italians: A study reported that 60.7% of Italians aged 18 to 29 live at home. 45.2% of South Koreans in their 60s report living with their children. This study’s age groupings are skewed to cover young adults (starting at age 15), but still show the same thing: countries like Greece, Spain, France and the UK are all experiencing a marked rise in the number of children living with their parents.
This begs the question, why?? Well, for starters, it’s not really a choice. Aside from cultural differences (for Italians, living with your parents in your thirties isn’t stigmatized), one factor that almost all adult children living with their parents cite is financial hardship. Millennials are often called the boomerang, kangaroo or Peter Pan generation — all allusions to our seeming inability to grow up and out of our childhood homes. For example, we’re getting married later in life than any generation before us. The median age of first marriages today is encroaching on 28 and 30 for women and men, respectively.
We’re delaying other things, too. Women are getting pregnant with their first child later in life — at 26.3 in 2014, as compared to 24.9 in 2000 and 21.4 in 1970. If this piques your curiosity, take a gander at how this compares to first-time pregnancy ages in other countries.
We’re also buying our first homes later in life, at the average age of 33. This compares to 29 in the mid-1970s when, incidentally, people spent about 1.8 times their yearly income on their first home. Want to know what that number is today? 2.6 times. Oh, and when adjusted for inflation, our incomes haven’t actually changed all that much compared to the 1970s.
The average first-home price — $140,327.58 — is quite misleading. In the cities that increasingly attract millennials due to job opportunities, that figure looks more like $580,700 (for Somerville, MA) or $631,900 (for Arlington, VA), suburbs of Boston and DC, respectively. These numbers for places like New York City (any borough) or San Francisco are so stratospheric that I won’t even bother mentioning them.
If you decide to rent (which millennials do for an average of six years before buying their first home), costs are still high in big cities and their suburbs. Let’s say you compromise and live with roommates, or live far away from the urban hub where prices aren’t quite as high. You’re still paying for your commute. Either way, the numbers add up very quickly.
The moral? If you want to find a job that matches your qualifications, want to pay off your student loans, don’t want to waste more than the recommended 1/3 of your after-tax salary on rent and want to save enough money to buy a house someday, your options are very limited. Living with your parents under these conditions shouldn’t be taboo.
If you’re anything like me, you did everything in your power post-graduation to not move back in with your folks. The fact that so many millennials are resorting to a previously unattractive option is not a sign of our incompetence or laziness, but rather the unique challenges that we face as a generation. We’re not in it for the built-in meals and free laundry services (nice perks, though), but rather due to constraints uniquely ours: rising student loan debt, rising property values and stagnant wages in an increasingly complex and globalized world.
Did you or do you live with your parents to save money? Do you find it particularly challenging to do so as an adult? Financially, has your choice been worth it? Do you have tips for those looking to save a little money and make some key investments this coming year? Sound off below!
Helena Bala is a writer, former lawyer and the genius behind Craigslist Confessional. Follow her on Twitter @Clistconfession. Illustration by Meghann Stephenson. Follow her on Instagram @meghannfinley.