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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Gauging the boomerang effect

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The “Boomerang Generation,” a subset of Millennials who have returned home following college graduation or the twenty-something set who have never left the nest, are negatively impacting the retirement plans of their baby boomer parents.

According to a study by Pew Research, three in ten young adults ages 25 to 34 (29 percent) are living at home with their parents. Between a sluggish job market and a down economy, a substantial percentage of Generation Y cannot afford to set out on their own. This predicament has resulted in adult children leaning on Mom and Dad for financial support, leaving parents to deal with unplanned dependents during the years they should be vigorously saving for retirement.

The economy is mostly to blame for the rise in this trend. Data shows that Americans living in multi-generational family households is at the highest level it has been since the 1950s, with the steepest increase occurring over the past five years.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate of college graduates ages 21 to 25 is 10 percent (compared with 5 percent in 2007), and 16.8 percent are underemployed (compared to 9.6 percent in 2007) according to a 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute.

In addition, young adults who are not employed are more likely than those who are working to be living with their parents or to have moved back home temporarily in recent years. Among 18- to 34-year-olds who are not employed, nearly half (48 percent) have lived with their parents. This compares with only 30 percent of those who are employed full time.

Few of these boomerang kids are financially contributing to the household as they are saddled with student loan debts. The White House recently released figures that show 71 percent of those earning a bachelor’s degree will graduate with debt, an average of $29,400. This cycle is not only leaving many graduates little choice but to rely on their parents as a lifeline, but causing Millennials to put other life plans on hold such as marriage, parenthood, or both.

On the one hand, the sharing of family finances has benefitted some young adults, as it affords them the opportunity to get back on their feet and save for the future. In fact, 78 percent of Boomerang Millennials are satisfied with their living arrangements and upbeat about their future finances. The baby boomer generation, however, may have thought that after the kids went to college, they would be able to save as empty nesters. Instead, the adult children have come home to roost and may be posing a financial hardship.

Since it may be tempting for Mom and Dad to revert to parenting mode and offer support, regardless of the age of the kids, parents need to put their foot down and make sure they are paying themselves first before agreeing to such an arrangement. The first step parents should make is to check with their financial advisor and ensure their retirement strategy is able to withstand ebbs and flows during life transitions, including having a boomerang family.

An adult child at home means increased monthly expenses including everything from food bills to utilities like electricity, extra money that could have been going towards retirement. A survey by VibrantNation found that 56 percent of boomer women say they spend more than $5,000 annually on expenses for adult children (many of whom are living at home) and 17 percent spend more than $10,000 annually.

Not saving enough money for retirement is a mistake that the majority of households make, a problem only exacerbated by a Boomerang situation. Parents should pay their retirement accounts first and think twice about where the household budget is going. For adult children living at home, a percentage of their income should go towards helping with household bills, whether it is paying a portion of the cable bill or taking up chores that would often fall on the parents’ shoulders. It is important to outline a budget so boomer parents do not get stuck in a situation where they are taking the brunt of the bills while their adult children are overspending their paychecks.

There are both pros and cons to Boomerang families, yet it is the responsibility of the parents to make sure lending additional support will not hurt their bottom line and affect their retirement. While the parents who had an adult child move back home in the survey by Pew Research had the same level of satisfaction with their family life and housing situation as parents with adult children who had not moved home, satisfaction does not equal money for retirement.


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