Tag: recession

Living in a Boomerang World


As far as new buzzwords go, “boomerang kids” sounds catchy, but doesn’t begin to encompass the complexity of 20- and 30-somethings who move back home — or the parents who are their new roommates.  Yesterday’s Diane Rehm Show featured Maryland psychotherapist Linda Gordon, Washington Post advice columnist Katherine Newman, and Johns Hopkins Dean Katherine Newman talking about just this issue. They put a face to individuals living in this boomerang world, and some of them aren’t what you would expect.  A few types:

  • The parents who suddenly find their empty nest full again.  When we talk about kids moving back in with their parents, we tend to focus on the younger generation.  But having children move back home is rough on parents, too — especially if they’d been enjoying the time along… not to mention the extra financial freedom.


  • The “adult roommates.” Here’s one thing that previous generations never said:  “My parents are my best friends.” When a son or daughter moves back home, that best friend becomes a roommate.  The tricky thing is defining roles and boundaries for adults living together — who are also family members. Should your kid pay rent? Is it okay for your son to drink in the house? Is it okay for him to bring his friends over to drink? Is it okay for him to get really drunk?


  • The ambitious intern.  Katherine Newman notes that the path to a middle class career is longer and more expensive than ever. Young people are racking up Master’s degrees and unpaid internships just to try and get a foot in the door. And living with parents makes this much more feasible. For these kids, moving back home is hardly a lazy move; it’s allowing the family to provide shelter in challenging economic times.


  • The “failure to launch” case. Carolyn Hax points out that tough economic times make it tough on everyone — and toughest on the marginal cases.  Young people struggling with depression, substance abuse, or other issues “would’ve been able to get a foothold on their own, even struggling” in the past, Hax notes,  “But now it’s like, forget it.”

Better Than a Dorm Room: Students Rent McMansions in California


The St. Mary students who were temporarily moved to a cruise ship while their dorm rooms were cleared of mold probably think they have it pretty good. Just don’t tell them about what’s going on at the University of California, Merced — where students are living in mansions, complete with chandeliers and jacuzzis. And it’s actually cheaper than living on campus.

It’s a recession-era story if we’ve ever heard one — the area was overbuilt during the real estate boom, and now dozens (if not hundreds) of McMansions sit empty in overdeveloped subdivisions. At the same time, the school grew more quickly than dorm space did; UC Merced has 5200 students, but dorm space for only 1600. Enterprising students looked at these two facts and figured… why not? And so these days five students renting a swanky five-bedroom house pay around $200 to $350 each for the privilege of enjoying pool tables and granite countertops.

Which, of course, irks the neighbors who bought full-price houses, expecting “an edge-of-town, Desperate Housewifey community,” and instead found themselves underwater on their mortgages — and living next to the new Kappa Kappa Gamma party house.

Not So Empty Nests


In Maryland and across the US, would-be empty nesters are opening their guestrooms up to their adult children. The number of households across the country with an “extra adult” jumped up by two million from 2007 to 2011. High unemployment rates among young people seem to be the main culprit.

Many of us broke twenty- and thirty-somethings can be thankful our parents didn’t share our life trajectories. For example, my father got a job and moved into an apartment at eighteen, bought a house at nineteen, got married at twenty-two, became a father at twenty-three, and started a coin shop at twenty-four. Me, I’m twenty-eight with $57,000 of college loan debt, and I don’t own anything more valuable than a guitar. (I guess you could say I was actually well-prepared for the downturn — I had been living in my own personal recession since college.)

Certainly, not everyone from my father’s generation took his path, and thankfully not everyone in my generation chose mine, but I see the underlying pattern of later starts and more debt in many of my peers. If my son has to mooch off me in thirty years, I wonder what I will have to offer him.