More young people rooming with mom and dad as high cost of housing sends them back home

In the coming weeks, thousands of college students will graduate and need a place to live.

With the high cost of housing and student loan debt, a growing number of them will trade their roommates for mom and dad.

The trend in recent years is for young people to move home.

A 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center found 52% of young adults between the ages of 18-29 were living with their parents. That’s the highest percentage since the Great Depression.

Moving home is an adjustment for everyone involved.

“It’s not always thrilling to tell a potential partner that they’re coming back to a space that’s attached to my parent’s home,” said Cobi Frongillo, a 25-year-old State House Analyst who lives with his parents in Franklin.

Although it’s not a perfect arrangement, he likes that it allows him to save money. “The ability to walk upstairs and know that there’s food in the fridge when you need it is helpful.”

His parents, Rich and Sandy Frongillo, suddenly had a full house during the pandemic. All five kids, all in their 20s, were suddenly back home again.

“I almost felt we had to create a chore chart again,” said Sandy. “It felt silly, but I was like we had to do it again, for everybody to understand, hey we’re not the maids, you guys are grownups now, so everybody’s got to be helping.”

With a few rules in place, they were happy to put out the welcome mat.

“Coming out of school everyone’s got loans, most people have loans, so we want to make sure that they were supported, to get started, and not have to feel that they were just treading water or swimming in the deep end, trying to make ends meet,” added Sandy.

“I think we’re going to see more multi-generation households, I think that’s true,” said Jeffrey Jenson Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester and the author of “Emerging Adulthood”.

He believes another factor behind this trend is a change in parent-child relationships.

“I think baby boomers really changed parents,” added Arnett. “They felt this generation gap between themselves and their own parents and they were determined not to have that gap with their own kids and they largely succeeded. There’s still a parent-child relationship between parents and today’s emerging adults in their 20s, but there are also elements of friendship.”

“It’s almost a throwback to how families used to live 100 years ago,” said Chuck Zodda, a partner at the Armstrong Advisory Group in Needham.

He has this message for well-meaning parents who also need to think about their retirement. “You need to prioritize yourself first. It’s like the announcement they give on a plane, hey, put your own mask on and then attend to the person next to you.”

When asked if tough love is considered a financial strategy, he said it has to be to a certain extent.

“Because if you are not able to take care of yourself, then what good are you doing your kids overall, when down the road, you’re saying ‘Gee, now I need help’ and they’re not in a position where they can help you because you’ve been supporting them too long.”

Zodda believes it’s OK to ask for rent or grocery money. He says communication is the key.

“I think especially when money is involved. Specifically, money and family. You’ve got to put it all out there upfront because otherwise, you get resentful pretty quickly as when you’re seeing someone you know who’s lying on the couch and you’re saying, ‘Gee, what are you paying for’, and the answer is nothing.”

The Frongillo’s did outline their expectations from the start and actually have savored the additional time they’ve had with their kids at home.

“We don’t typically get to see the 20-year-olds, typically, right? You nurture them through college and into their college years and they don’t necessarily stay around. So we got to continue the relationship that we had,” said Rich.

Cobi added, “I happen to have a pretty good, a very good set-up.”

Professor Arnett says the overall timelines for young people are different now.

They’re not in as big a rush for other life-changing events, like marriage.

He points out that in 1960 the median age for marriage was 20 years old for women and 22 years old for men. Those numbers now stand at about 30.

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