Failure to launch is more common than you think.
I’m 27 years old and I live at home. It’s a good system, I don’t pay rent, but I eat out as much as I can to save my parents money, I pay for my own transport and don’t drive (eliminating infinite car costs).
I work two jobs, I rarely if ever borrow money from my parents, and if I do, I pay it straight back with interest.
I am entirely financially independent. I have my own life separate from my parents, and aside from anything else, the three of us get along like a house on fire. It’s like having two really funny, quirky roommates who just happen to be 30-odd years older than me. The household dynamic is great, and I don’t think I could have any better time of it if I lived with people my own age.
Fifteen years ago this would have been an unusual situation, frowned upon, in fact. When you turned 18 back then you moved out of home. No questions asked, do not pass go, do not collect $200. This is a huge contrast from European culture, where the idea of the family unit is much more entrenched.
In Spain, 55 per cent of 25 to 29 year-olds live at home. In Italy, 60 per cent of 18 to 34 year-olds do the same. However, nowadays in Anglo society the trend of 20 to 34 year-olds who either choose to stay at home, or leave home and return is becoming more and more prolific.
I am in the latter category. A couple of years ago I moved out of my parents’ suburban house; not to a simple two bedroom apartment a couple of suburbs away, but across an ocean to a whole different continent, jumping the pond to inhabit the bustling heart of New York City, Manhattan.
While I had the most extraordinary time, cost of living, rent, and low wages eventually took their toll. Much as I tried to make every penny stretch, I ended up with just $10 in my bank account and no way of making ends meet. The only option was to jump on a plane and head back home to Australia, the anxiety of dealing with the monetary obligations of NYC firmly behind me.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents were ecstatic to have me back, but I couldn’t help but feel like some sort of failure. So I set myself a goal. In the six months I had left before 2015 arrived, I would work hard, save enough money, and move out again, this time in my home town. However, by the time the new year rolled around, the Sydney rental market took a turn for the worse.
I sat down and had a good think. Yes, okay, I was 26 and living at home. But, so were quite a few of my friends. I was financially independent because of it, I didn’t expect my parents to foot my expenses, and I lived in a lovely house in the peaceful outer suburbs. Without the pressure of rent, I could save up and move back overseas. I could fly back to New York, which I knew was where my heart was.
If I moved out, I was officially a colossal fool. So I stayed, and I haven’t regretted my decision once. Neither have my parents.
My story is indicative of the ‘Boomerang generation’, an increasing group of grown adults who are boomeranging back to the nest. Contrary to popular stigma, laziness, gen Y complacency, and the appeal of ‘mooching’ are not the catalysts for this trend.
Student debt (it’s getting harder to be employed without at least one degree), increasing expenses in the big cities, rising rates of divorce and declining rates of marriage, not to mention the occurrence of the global financial crisis are the driving forces pushing us back into the arms and pockets of our ever-patient parents. Other unfortunate factors are rising costs of living, fluctuating unemployment levels, and the ever skyrocketing rental market. These are old foes I know all too well.
Statistics around the world only cement the notion of adult children living at home. According to a new report from Pew Research Centre, 26 per cent of millennials in the USA lived with their parents in the first third of 2015. This is an increase from the pre-recession 22 per cent in 2007, and 24 per cent in 2010, when the global economy began to recover. To put this in numbers, 16.3 million young adults in the US still live in their family homes today, compared with 13.4 million of 2007.
The UK has similar statistics. From the global financial crisis onward, the number of 20 to 34 year-olds staying in the parental home rose by 38 per cent to 3.35 million, according to the Office for National Statistics. The resulting figure was over a quarter of young adults living at home last year.
Australia is no easier; not only are Sydney and Melbourne the most densely populated cities in the country, they are also the fifth and sixth most expensive cities in the world. Earning only the salary of entry level positions, it’s no wonder our lives are like one giant scene from Failure to Launch.
Look, I get the fact that generation Y’s lifestyle expectancy is different to that of our parents and grandparents. We’re unwilling to live in abject squalor for the sake of ‘independence’. We all insist on smart phones, subscriptions, gym memberships and Netflix. But what’s wrong with wanting to get what you perceive to be the most out of life? If you can make it work for yourself without pinching your parents’ credit card, creature comforts are nothing to be ashamed of.
Removing the stress of living out of home is a huge step towards allowing gen Y to save money, move out comfortably, and fulfill our potential with extra study, internships, and travel. Eventually, we will benefit, and be more productive forces in society for it.
Do I live a charmed life? Am I a member of the privileged class? Absolutely. I am under no delusions as to how disgustingly lucky I am. But the point of the matter is I know it, I’m grateful for it, and I never exploit it. When I move out of home, which will be sooner rather than later, I will do it in a big way again. Because of the money I am saving (and I am saving a hell of a lot) I will be free from financial burden, and able to focus on contributing to the world around me.
If you live at home and you’re in your mid to late 20s, don’t feel bad about it. If you treat your situation with the respect and gratitude it deserves, the benefits for you and those around you are much greater than people realise.
Image via news.com.au