There’s a one in three chance that as you’re reading this — whether by tablet, smartphone, or a sophisticated-looking Mac laptop — a big part of your life remains somewhat unsophisticated and, well, maybe even embarrassing.
Pssst: Your mom just called and your breakfast is getting cold.
1 in 3 adults under 35 live with parents
If the American Dream of buying a home, or at least renting your own pad, stood just within reach for thirtysomethings a generation ago, it’s a far different story today. According to the Trulia Trends blog by chief economist Jed Kolko, more than 31 percent of 18-34 year olds live with parents in 2013. That’s right: 1 in 3. Could be the guy in the cubicle next to you. Or the gal in the cube next to him. Or you: The odds are it’s one of you, if you’re all under 35.
The 31 percent figure marks an increase from 27 percent pre-recession, and depending on how you view it, that’s either a modest jump of 4 percent, or a shocking 15 percent increase. (Both numbers are correct, by the way. It depends on whether you view the increase as additive, or weigh it against the original cohort.) And they’re statically solid, originating from numbers complied in the Current Population Survey and by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Moving home does save on the rent
So what does all this mean, for the economy and for you? The news isn’t all bad, it seems. Young adults living at home may have to restrain their behavior a bit, but they’re also showing adult restraint with finances, in least in terms of what they dish out for rent or a mortgage. Based on a figure of $500 savings per month on housing, a live-at-home young adult will save $12,000. And provided you don’t blow it all at the bar, or attend every outdoor summer music festival, that represents a 10 percent downpayment on a $120,000 home or condo.
Insofar as the housing market goes, Kolko says the situation is creating a pent-up demand. Adult kids can’t live with Mom and Dad forever, and likely don’t want it to turn into a semi-permanent situation. So when they leave, “there should be a surge in housing demand, especially for rentals, which will give the construction industry and the overall housing market a boost,” Kolko says.
He hastens to add: “But just not yet.”
And can buy time to find the right job
What’s keeping adults 18-34 at home besides cheap housing, easy access to a washer and dryer, and maybe free food to boot? It has much to do with employment. Parse the figures and you’ll find that 44 percent of 18-34 year-olds without jobs live with their parents, versus 25 percent with jobs.
This brings up an interesting wrinkle the stats don’t shed much light on. While a fruitless job hunt can get depressing, the comfort of having a roof over your head, and your parents around, can remove some incentive for finding gainful employment.
I know; When I moved home from Rutgers University, I stayed with Mom and Dad for five years. Mom made dinner almost every night, and she was a fabulous Italian cook. Home-made meatballs. Cheesecake. Pork risotto. Why leave that behind for the joy of ramen noodles and frozen dinners?
But the opposite also applies: If your parents prove annoying — or worse — it could put a burr in your saddle to kick the job search, and the accompanying housing search, into a higher gear.
When I left home after five years, I was still underemployed, broke and largely without prospects. This much I learned: You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to get going. If the “ready, fire, aim” strategy has any sort of wisdom to it, my scramble to survive and put down stakes proved a great motivator for growing up and (finally) getting my act together. Right around the time I left Casa Carlozo, I landed my first full-time journalism gig. Two years later, I was on a plane from Philly to Chicago, a moving van in hot pursuit. The timing of it all wasn’t coincidental.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. Kolko points out (and I agree) that the job market needs to turn itself around for young adults for things to improve in substantial fashion. And while certain job sectors are leaning heavily towards the under-35 set — it’s much easier for a young, digital-savvy journalist to get a job than an older one — that’s simply not the case across the board.
“While more young adults are working now than a year ago, their employment rate is still much closer to the worst of the recession than to pre-recession levels,” Kolko observes. How bad? As late as mid-2008, “71 percent of adults ages 18-34 were employed. That dropped to a low of 65 percent in mid-2011 and has risen back only to 66.8 percent.” And I shudder to think how many of the young and employed begin the work day saying, “Would you like fries with that?”
If you can’t stomach it, roommates are the next-best thing
If you’re fighting the battle solo, consider whether it’s time to synergize and strategize. Several roommates pooling resources have a much better chance of living on the cheap, as do young married couples who combine incomes and possessions. Also take a look at playing landlord, or at least a junior version: It’s always possible to recruit a bunch of roommates, handle the lease yourself, and sublet to them at a modest markup that allows you to live rent-free, or close to it.
Meanwhile, if you’re bummed about sleeping in the same bedroom where you used to watch “Dora the Explorer” and “Blues Clues,” remember what’s so often repeated by myself and other bloggers at this site: Nothing beats having goals to shoot for, and plans to make them happen. I’m hardly a fan of Dr. Phil, but he’s written that a big difference between high school students who succeed, and those who get in trouble, is that the successful kids busy themselves chasing after a goal, whether it’s buying a car or getting into a great college.
That distinction, I believe, applies to leaving the nest and striking out on your own. If you’re already there, hats off to you. It’s not easy to run your own household, is it? And to those stlll trying to get there, but struggling with it, drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you, and share whatever good stuff I learned on the way to cutting the apron strings once and for all.