Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Moving home to make do

NEW YORK (5/20/09)--More people are living under the same roof with their parents or adult children to ride out recessionary pressures associated with job loss, the foreclosure crisis and the credit crunch. The trend toward multigenerational homes is expected to increase.

Besides the financial challenges, these long-term family "guests" can pose a remodeling challenge as families carve out space to accommodate either their aging parents or adult "boomerang" children ( May 8).

Research from The Network on Transitions to Adulthood indicates that since the 1970s, the number of 20-somethings living with their parents increased by 50% ( April 26). AARP Bulletin's Multigenerational Housing survey, released in March, revealed that 33% of respondents age 18 to 49 live with their parents or in-laws, 11% of people age 35 to 44 live with their parents or in-laws, and 11% of people age 50 and older live with their grandchildren or parents (PRNewswire-USNewswire March 3).

Boomerang children used to mean young adults moving back home with parents, but the economy is forcing people in their 30s and 40s--and their children--to live with mom and dad again.

Lisa Orrell, author of Millennials Incorporated, cites the pros and cons of these new living arrangements on her Generation Relations blog. For some, there may be a space issue. For others, the help around the house or with babysitting can make a big difference in quality of life.

If you are considering a multigenerational living situation--or are forced into one--make it a workable living situation ( Feb. 19):

Discuss expectations up front. You can't guarantee how long it will take to find a job, but you can set some goals for getting out of debt. How long is the new living situation expected to last? What are other options if it doesn't work out?

Share expenses and chores. Parents who have lost equity in their homes may be pinching pennies themselves and welcome financial and household assistance. Agree on a rental charge or amount contributed to bills. Will these amounts change as the adult child's financial situation improves? Determine who will do certain chores like cleaning, lawn mowing and making meals. Some parents find help around the house more valuable than payment.

Decide whose rules to follow. There may be differences of opinion when it comes to child-rearing. Discuss details like what young children can and can't play with and who will handle disciplining. Adults may need to agree on guidelines for guests, use of personal items, menu choices, and how much to spend on groceries and entertainment.

Set up private space. If possible, designate some space as private even if only on a limited daily basis. Parents may like being empty nesters and their children have learned to live alone. Decide on how much togetherness works for your family.

Don't drain mom and dad's retirement funds. Financial planners warn parents about making financial sacrifices for their adult children. If they use retirement savings to help a child, they may need to turn to their children for financial help later in life. Parents need to be clear about expectations on the money front. Is it a loan or a gift? If it's a loan, consider a contract that spells out terms of repayment.

For more information, listen to "Audio: Helping Senior Parents" in Plan It: Retire Ready Toolkit.

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