No Place Like Home

This article originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
By Anna Prior
May 24, 2009

The dismal job market has twentysomethings realizing that they can — and maybe must — go home again.

For the young and jobless, moving back with Mom and Dad can provide free or low-cost housing. But conflicts can arise when independent offspring are subject again to the rules under their parents’ roof.

Here are some tips to make the most of your time at home, while keeping your (and your parents’) sanity.

Set a move-out date and have a plan. If you go home without a plan, six months might turn into a year, and a year into two. Instead, establish a timeline and a plan of action for finding a job or temporary work, says Gary Gilgen, a financial planner.

“Try to get as much of this in writing as possible, get it agreed upon and get it signed,” says Mr. Gilgen.

This will help keep you motivated, while giving your parents a light at the end of the tunnel.

Chip in however you can. Talk to your parents about paying a small amount of rent or contributing in other ways around the house.

Paying rent can boost your self esteem and “in return, your parents are much more likely to be more lenient, to not nag and criticize as much,” says Elina Furman, author of “Boomerang Nation: How to Survive Living with Your Parents the Second Time Around.”

When Mr. Gilgen’s daughters moved back home, he stashed the rent money he collected from them in a savings account, which he gave back to them to use as down payments on homes once they were ready to move out.

Paying rent is “another way of showing discipline,” he says.

Save, Save, Save. The main reason for many people to live with their parents is to save money, and you should do just that.

If you have a source of income, financial planner Kelly Campbell suggests setting up three different savings accounts: an emergency fund, savings for a down payment on a home, and a retirement-savings vehicle.

“You should focus on putting away at least half — or more — of your net income after taxes,” says Mr. Campbell.

Don’t view your wages — even from temporary jobs — as “extra” money for nights out or discretionary purchases just because you aren’t paying rent, says Ms. Furman.

Redecorate your childhood room. You’ll probably be happier if you take down the *NSYNC poster, put away the Little League trophies, and invest in a few items that reflect who you are as an adult. But don’t go overboard.

“Do a really minimalist, cheap renovation,” says Ms. Furman.

“Small changes are the best way to go because then you aren’t committing to staying at home longer than you have to, but you are creating an environment that you can live in,” she says.

Say thank you. We shouldn’t have to say this, but…be nice to your parents and realize that they are doing you a favor by letting you move back home and adding you back into their budget.

“They don’t have to take you in,” says Rick Staszak, a financial consultant. “So, once you move out of the house and you are on your own, treat your mom and dad to a nice dinner.”