How to Maximize Living at Home With Your Parents for Your Financial Independence Journey
I have to admit that 18, all I wanted to do was get out of my parents house. Not that I had any issues at home, I just felt I needed some independence. I was pretty lucky because my parents are awesome people. They were OK with me living on-campus even though I lived 30 minutes from home. (Hindsight: maybe I could have saved some money commuting, but I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy college as much.) Post college, I came back to live at home for two years while I worked and finished grad school. Of course, a part of me still had the itch to get out of my own. During the time I lived at home, I paid rent (significantly less than market price so I was still able to save), made monthly payments for a brand new car, saved for retirement and still had my own life, but I was gungho on having my own apartment, having something of my own to come home too. I wish I had known the benefits of co-habitating with my parents early on but at that point in time I just wanted to go on my own adventure.
A few years ago, my husband and I came back to live with my parents. It's a strange feeling after being out of the house for over 10 years. Originally, our plan was to move to the West Coast so we didn't renew our lease and my parents were kind enough to allow us to stay for a few months. Unfortunately, a few months into our stay, a few events including not finding the right job fit, my husband getting promoted and my mom getting sick changed our plans a little bit. So we ended up co-habitating with my parents in our 30s and I have to stay it was not as bad as they say it is. Here are some tips to make the most of this time.
Get to Know Your Parents and Learn From Them
There is this article by Tim Urban at Wait, But Why that keeps replaying in my mind about parents. He calculates that given his age, his parents age and where he is in the world, he is at the tail end of the time he spends with his parents. It's something that we rarely think about as we carry on with our own lives., but something I was very conscious about when we moved in with them later in life. I knew my parents would retire in a year or two and head back to the Philippines. This was their plan all along to taked advantage of a little geo-arbitrage opportunity. So I knew our time together would have an end point and we wouldn’t be living with them well into our 40s.
I hope by this time as you’ve completed college and have ventured out in the world that you’ve also learned a thing or two and have matured in your own way. Your parents may still see you as their baby, but show them that you are grown adult capable of making decisions. Treat your parents with respect. Show them that you are an adult who can be trusted, an adult who carries themselves with integrity and most importantly show them that they’ve raised you as well as they could. It’s sometimes easy for us to think that our parents will always be around, but we know this isn’t the case. Once you move out, life happens and it happens pretty fast so it’s good to take this time to get to know them in a different context.
Share what you’ve learned in the past few years. Have conversations about adult topics. Get honest and upfront about your experiences and your goals in the next few years. Your parents will appreciate your honesty and you’ll also get a chance to vocalize your goals and get feedback on them and well needed support.
Ask them questions about their life. Your parents lived a whole different life before you were in the picture. Ask them what that was like. What did they do when they were your age? What were their goals and plans? Do you see yourself doing something too that they are doing? Sometimes, the best example of how to live a good life is right in front of you. Perhaps you’ll learn something about how they were able to save money while saving for a house and saving for 3 kids.
Ask them questions about their future plans. Your parents have also mapped out their life. They’ve planned for retirement, for travel, for hobbies. Understand what those are and see how you can support them. If not now, then later as you also get settled into your own independent life. Knowing and understanding their future plans may also influence your future plans. Say for example, being close to them when you have a family so that your future kids can get to know them. Knowing the back story behind their plans can also help you understand their decisions and perhaps give you greater peace of mind as they get older.
Learn from them. This is the perfect time to learn how to make your mom’s famous lasagna or your dad’s adobo. Put yourself into the mindset of learning some basic life skills like cooking, laundry, car maintenance, house repairs, etc. There’s a wealth of knowledge you can gleam from your parents and you won’t have to pay for that knowledge. Knowing these basic life skills can mean a world of savings in both time and money for you in the long-run. Pay it forward by practicing what you’ve learned to and cooking for the family once or twice a month. Practice makes perfect and once you are out on your own, it will be easier to get things done since you’ve perfected them.
Get Your Finances in Order
Staying with your parents can be the best way to get your financial life in order. Because you are not paying for everything on your own and can split bills as you see fit, take this as an opportunity to really tackle debt and savings. Concentrate on your biggest debt first. This may be your student loans and do all that you can to eliminate it by the time you leave your parents home. Eliminating this debt can significantly jump start your financial independence journey. Eliminating this debt will also relieve financial pressure when you are out on your own because it’s one less monthly payment you have to make. Second, consider eliminating and cutting back on unnecessary expenses. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing and sharing so consider aspects of your expenses that you may be able to split up and or eliminate completely. If you can save money by doing it at home, then do so. You’ll have plenty of time to be out on your own.
In the American culture, children are expected to leave the house at 18. In many other cultures around the world, children are expected to stay with parents until married. This creates a different dynamic especially when it comes to the concept of “ownership.” In America, it is expected that you have your separate car, house, etc. and this can be a very costly enterprise. While at your parents home, hopefully you won’t need to buy or own separate high ticket items so forgo the urge to spend on luxury goods. Make do with what you have and take advantage of your own sharing economy.
If you end up moving home, your parents may want to charge you a percentage of expenses or rent. Find and negotiate for a reasonable charge that fits your budget, allows you to tackle debt, save and still have a life. Your parents will at least be more amenable to negotiating with you than with a landlord and take this opportunity to practice your negotiating skills and your bartering skills. You may not be able to pay a large percentage of rent because of your income but perhaps you can exchange your time for any of your skills. This can be a great way to figure out a side hustle. If they don’t want to charge you, see if they can anyways. You want to do this for a few reasons. 1) Show your parents that you are responsible enough to pay bills on time on a monthly basis 2) If they don’t accept the money, ask them to hold it in a savings account so that you have it available when you move out 3) Get used to the idea of monthly expenses so that you can budget appropriately.
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Division of Labor
When it was just my husband and myself, we had to split the chores and that meant everything had a 50/50 chance of getting done. Sometimes, we both may have been too tired to cook after working long days at our full-time jobs so that resulted in spending money eating out. Living with your parents can provide you an opportunity to get some help. For me, when I moved back in post-college, I was working full-time and going to grad school part-time. It was a very busy time for me and I was grateful to have my parents support during this time. On days when I had classes late or was working on a project, my parents made sure there were leftovers for me to eat and bring to work. (Side note: this was a bonus for me as well since my dad would cook Filipino food.)
If you live in a household of adults, creating some division of labor can save you time, thus allowing you more time to work on other areas. Consider breaking up chores by individuals. This means that you are not dependent on your parents, but have an establish and respectful co-living arrangement that benefits each party.
Let This Be A Teaching Moment Too
While many news articles make it seem like living with your parents can be a bad thing and can be heavily stigmatized by society, it’s really all in the way you look at it. Both you and your parents can find advantages in co-living. When and if you do decide to move in with your parents, have a plan in place to move out. This means being laser focused on getting your finances, career, school in order so that you can set a date to venture out on your own. Appreciate the time that you can spend with your parents, but also understand that you and they need their own space as well. There’s nothing shameful about parents supporting young adults, but there also comes a time when young adults need to step up and do what they can to gain their financial footing. You can’t rely on your parent forever so do what you can during this time period to get yourself and your financial house in order. In the end too, your aging parents will need to start relying on you so get prepared for that eventuality.
Let the time that you spend at home be a teaching moment too for your parents. As a young adult, I am sure there’s plenty that you can teach your own parents about the new ways of the world. Don’t be shy to express and vocalize your opinions, thoughts and advice. After all, your parents wish is probably just to know that they have raised you to be a learner, a listener and most importantly a decent human being.
Have you had to return home and live with your parents as an adult? What was it like? I think the experience is going to be different for all of us. Given differences in background and culture, living at home can be a positive thing. I, for one, am glad to have had the opportunity to experience time with my parents as an adult and the opportunity to reflect on it. It taught me a lot and allowed me to learn so much more about them. As you grow older too, don’t forget to have a financial checkup with your parents because at some point, you may need to help them with finances or help them with decisions about their future.