The boomerang generation strikes again. I guess by now it is a cliché, but I did it, I was one of the dreaded millennials who made a return to the nest after graduation. And you know what? I am SO GLAD that I did. I honestly would put it up there as one of the best life decisions I have ever made, for reasons both financial and personal.
I love my parents
Of course, living at home may not be for everyone. I happen to have an exceptionally close relationship with my parents. My mom is my best friend. So for me, living with my parents wasn’t a burden. I can imagine that for many people it would seem oppressive to be back under mom and dad’s roof, but for me it just felt like being “home” in the best possible way.
I am very fortunate that I not only wanted to live with my parents after graduating, but that my parents live near a major metropolitan area where I could get a job. If my parents had retired and moved to Florida when I left for college, I would have had a much harder time making the move home. Being a mere 30 miles from Boston, I knew that I could live with my parents and not have to compromise on job prospects.
And I love saving money too
I won’t lie and say that I moved back home just because I love my parents. I moved back home because it was the cheapest option. I graduated from college right after the official end of the Great Recession. Unfortunately, many industries hadn’t gotten the message that the Great Recession was over, so job opportunities were scant. I was pretty convinced that I would never EVER get a job. (I was only slightly melodramatic about this, leading my parents to question if I would even attend my own graduation. I did.)
So what do you do when you think you’ll be unemployed for life? You live with mom and dad! What could be safer? I could live there rent free until I figured out what the heck to do with my life. No pressure to just take any job to pay the bills, no urgent need to accept the first job that comes along.
Fortunately, I managed to get two good job offers within two weeks of moving home. I accepted one and began work about a month after graduation (all that worry for nothing!). Even with my newfound (albeit very low) income, I was still very happy to be living at home. I had all kinds of new expenses – gas for my commute, suits for work – and it really helped ease me into adulthood not to have to pay for rent and utilities and food and and and on top of that.
Living with parents = luxury hotel
I quickly realized that the low cost was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to living with my parents. Most of my friends had graduated and moved to big cities – New York, DC, etc. – and were making peanuts, living in crappy apartments, and barely making ends meet.
While I was also making peanuts, I felt like I was living like a king. I paid no rent to live in a beautiful house. I had no roommates (OK I had parents, but we had about 11 rooms between 3 people so it really wasn’t that bad). I had home cooked meals every night (thanks mom!). I had a washing machine and dryer right outside my bedroom door (I did my own laundry, more out of my own obsessive fear of others washing my clothes than any need to prove my independence). I didn’t have to pay for rent, or utilities, or even food! I would just tell my mom what I wanted at the grocery store each week, and it would appear!
So you can see how living with my parents felt, at least in comparison to the way my friends were living, like living in a luxury hotel. Lots of people probably wouldn’t find living with their parents to be worth all these benefits, but I sure did. In fact, I probably became a little TOO comfortable. I acted like I was 45 even though I was only 22, and I didn’t hate it. 10 pm bedtime: check. TV on the couch with my parents every night: check. Social life: uhhhhhhh.
Eventually you have to jump the nest
For me, the real push to leave the nest was that I realized how much of the experience of being in my 20s I was missing by living with my parents. I loved living with my parents, but this was the time for me to live in a crappy apartment and figure out how to pay rent and utilities and buy food all on my crappy salary. This was the time to figure out how to live on my own and make friends and be a 20-something, not a 40-something.
I didn’t have an urgent need to move out, but about 8 months after moving home, when work felt manageable and my social life had started to improve, I began the apartment search. The Boston rental market is insane, so it was good that I didn’t have to find a place too quickly. I was able to poke around Craigslist leisurely in search of the trifecta: decent apartment, good location, great roommates. And eventually I did find the right place for me. It was cheap and perfect (for me – it was definitely far from perfect objectively speaking). I ended up living there until I moved into my condo about a year and a half later.
What I gained from living with my parents
I derived two key benefits from living with my parents after college.
1) I was able to ease into the real world at a pace that suited me. We all have our quirks, and one of mine is somewhat oppressive anxiety. The real world felt a bit too scary at times, but living with my parents allowed me to take it bite by manageable bite.
2) I was able to save a lot of money. If I were a different person, my parents might not have let me stay at home rent free for so long. A different person might have blown the money they were saving on expensive trips or fancy clothes or a new car. I like to spend my money a different way, on my friend Charles Schwab. I didn’t keep detailed financial spreadsheets when I lived at home (that insanity started when I moved out and realized how many things my meager salary needed to cover), but I would estimate that I saved 70% or more of my income during my time at home. That savings is, in part, what allowed me to make a substantial down payment and afford my condo a few years later.