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More young adults living with their parents

Financial advisers and parenting experts provide insight into why many young adults still rely on their parents’ help to pay bills

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More young adults living with their parents

Many young adults are returning to, or have never left, their childhood bedrooms. More than half of U.S. adults under age 25 live with their parents, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released last month.

The number of adult children living at home is higher than it’s been since the Great Depression, suggesting a paradigm shift between Generation Z and millennials and their Generation X and baby boomer parents. Yet most parents and adult children seem happy about the new normal, with 59 percent of young adults and 77 percent of parents saying their relationship is excellent or very good.

The report cites increased student loan debt and higher costs of living to explain the increased financial ties between parents and their adult children. Some Christian financial advisers and parenting experts, while holding a range of perspectives on how parents should financially support their adult children, agree the trend stems from more than a widespread failure to launch.

The Pew report used data from two surveys conducted in late 2023. The first survey asked 3,017 parents a series of questions about their involvement with their adult children ages 18 to 34. The second survey asked 1,495 young adults ages 18 to 34 questions that gauged their reliance on parents.

While 57 percent of adults 18-24 live with their parents, the percentage drops to about a third among all adults ages 18 to 34. And while a slight majority of all young adults surveyed are financially dependent on their parents to some extent, only a third of adults in their early 30s are.

Jen Norton of Fort Worth, Texas, anticipated that her daughter would return home after graduating from college in 2021. This was in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and in part because of a tough job market for her daughter’s degree, a bachelor of fine arts in theater. “We didn’t charge her rent, we didn’t really charge her anything, we just let her live there and save whatever money she could,” said Norton. Her daughter stayed for nearly a year, working as a barista before landing a job as a talent agent and moving into her own apartment.

Norton said her daughter is her “messy child” and had an irregular sleep and work schedule. Her time at home required them all to make adjustments, but it also brought them closer. “We’ve always been a really close family,” she said. “We were happy to have her home.”

Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, said that each family’s situation is different. Bentley separates financial contributions to children into two buckets: a created dependency and a delight. “Is there a dependency that needs to be broken or is there a real delight happening in the family that’s a good thing?” he asked.

Bentley believes a generational shift helps explain the stronger financial ties between parents and adult children. Parents today are more likely to spend money on things their adult children want now rather than save it for their inheritance. Bentley said he has clients who will help their children in ways ranging from paying for summer camps for their grandchildren to financing a down payment on a house in a desired school district.

Robert Netzly, CEO of Inspire Investing, agreed with Bentley that there’s no one-size-fits all approach. But he thinks children born into affluence sometimes take for granted their parents’ wealth without realizing the time and hard work required to build it. “They’re judging their beginning by the middle or end of their parents’ journey,” he said. Netzly advocated for young adults to work hard and be content with less. He backed that mantra by noting his own humble beginnings, having been raised by a single mom on food stamps.

The Pew analysis compared how young adults in 2022 fared in reaching key milestones to their counterparts 30 years ago using government data. While young adults today graduate college at higher rates and have higher wages, they have more debt than their parents did. The number of young adults 25-34 with student debt rose by over 15 percent between 1992 and 2022, and the inflation-adjusted amount of student debt increased by over $10,000 per student during that time frame.

Lisa Anderson, director of young adults for Focus on the Family, thinks too many boomer and Gen X parents expected their children to attend college, but didn’t help them choose degrees with market value. Many of these children, faced with crushing student loans and unable to find employment, return home. “I’m a big fan of young adults following what they’re good at but also what makes sense for earning a living,” she told me in an email.

Netzly doesn’t think young adults today have it any harder than past generations. He noted that the current generation has actually lived in a fairly abundant time, and that the current job market is robust. “There’s always challenges. It is a difficult thing to do, to grow up and become an adult and be self-sufficient,” he said.

Heather Frank

Heather is a science correspondent for WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University. She has worked in both food and chemical product development, and currently works as a research chemist. Heather resides with her family in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Thank you for your careful research and interesting presentations. —Clarke

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