Not only that, in 2015, 20 percent of adults were in the lowest income tier, compared with 16 percent in 1971, Pew found.
If you’re in the middle or lower tiers, what do you do with this information?
Maybe it’s time to embrace a new normal, at least where it concerns your adult children starting out. Consider the message young people get when we say:
●“As soon as you’re 18, you’re out of here.”
●“When you graduate from college, you’re on your own.”
The American model of living on your own so you can learn to be financially independent is just not sustainable for a lot of folks. Does everybody need his or her own home?
I was thinking about this question after getting an email from a reader from Maryland named John. His daughter is a recent college graduate. John said he and his wife are proud of her accomplishments and they enjoy having her “back in the nest.” The daughter has a full-time job.
But here’s the issue.
“She thinks it’s unreasonable that I ask her to share in the household costs by paying $300 a month in rent for her ‘basement bachelorette pad,’ which also includes meals,” John said. “She complains that she has no money left after taxes are taken out of her $30,000-a-year paycheck. Am I being unreasonable?”
Before I answered, I asked him four questions:
●Does your daughter have student-loan debt?
●Does she have consumer debt, such as from a credit card?
●What are her financial goals? Does she plan on buying a house soon?
●Do you need the $300?
Whether you charge your young adults rent or ask them to contribute to the household expenses in your shared space depends on their financial situation and goals. If living at home is an option, you just need to make sure your young adult is being helped — and not hindered — in becoming financially independent. Here are various scenarios with my recommendations:
●Coming out of college in debt. They should live at home if possible and not be charged rent. They, in turn, should devote most of their net income to paying down their college loans. Monitor the payoff. And nope, they are not going to be spending much of anything to go out with friends, shop or take vacations. That’s the price of the financial breathing room you’re giving them.
●Coming back home because of other stifling debt. Same as above. And trust but verify. I suggest monthly reports on their progress.
●Coming back home to save for a major life goal such as buying a home. Same as above, except they’re saving.
●Coming back home because they don’t earn enough to live on their own. You’re roommates. Come up with a written agreement of what expenses you’ll share.
●Coming back home, but you need financial help. Figure out what your young adult can afford to contribute and still aggressively pay down debt or save for his or her goal.
●Coming back home and using their pay to just play. Oh, you had better believe they should be kicking in to help with expenses. In John’s situation, his 23-year-old daughter does not have any student-loan debt. “We paid as she went over the past five years.” But she has incurred credit card debt.
“Online shopping is a temptation that she cannot avoid,” he said.
The daughter hasn’t expressed interest in buying a home just yet. And John said he and his wife could use her financial contribution.
Mostly, John said, he wants to charge rent to nip a few bad habits in the bud. “She’s using her pay for all play.”
It is important for young adults to learn to be good money managers, but it does not have to come at the expense of them spending their 20s setting up a household they can barely afford — even with roommates.
Yes, John, charge your daughter rent. She needs a real-world wake-up call. But she can be independent and learn financial responsibility under your roof.
It’s okay if young folks live with their folks. It’s not a sign that they are financial failures. Given the current economic reality for so many, the new normal is economic interdependence.
Write Singletary at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more, go towapo.st/michelle-singletary.
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United" (http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2017/03/notes-and-references-for-discussion-e.html). Affiliated with Georgetown University (http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/jhb7/) for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."