SACRAMENTO, Calif. — When Cassidy Myers moved back home last summer, the 24-year-old college graduate and her parents figured it'd be just a matter of weeks — three months, max — until she landed a new job.
Seven months later, despite dozens of job leads, numerous emailed résumés and plenty of parental encouragement, there was no job in sight.
Her parents despaired. So did Cassidy, who had worked two years for a San Diego nonprofit.
“Going from working 180 miles per hour every day to being home and going two miles an hour was a big adjustment. It was not easy,” said the journalism major.
For her parents, Jodie and Chuck Myers, there was another kind of tension. “There's the ginormous, silent, burdensome, omnipresent elephant in the room: the money thing,” Jodie Myers said.
Like many baby boomer parents, the couple face financial stresses of their own — Jodie's part-time work as a court reporter has dried up, their home value has “tanked” and Chuck's education technology sales income is solid but unpredictable. Not to mention paying for their two daughters' Catholic high school educations and their out-of-state college tuitions.
The Myers' family situation isn't new. In recent years, a lackluster job market has driven thousands of young adults — even “kids” in their 50s — back home to live with Mom and Dad. Between 2005 and 2011, the number of men ages 25 to 34 living with their parents increased from 14 percent to 19 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and women in the same age bracket, from 8 percent to 10 percent. That's 4 million men and 2 million women back home with their parents.
So the questions now is, with these so-called “boomerang kids” moving back in, how do families tackle the emotional, financial and day-to-day realities of co-existing again under one roof? It's a delicate dance. Here are some tips:
Coexist as equals
First, parents have to accept that their children are not kids anymore, but adults in their own right. They can abide by parents' rules while living under their roof, but there will be far less tension if everyone treats one another as adults.
Get it in writing
As awkward as it sounds, when adult children move home, financial experts recommend putting some guidelines on paper. Such as: how long they'll stay; what chores they'll help with; how much they'll contribute to monthly expenses (rent, food, etc.); how to share the computer, TV and family car; as well as touchy topics such as overnight friends, late-night hours, drinking and smoking.
“When families end up in conflict, it's not because anyone is trying to cause problems, but parents (can) end up feeling taken advantage of,” said Christina Newberry, a Vancouver, Canada-based author and founder of AdultChildren LivingAtHome.com.
Newberry also recommends an exit plan. Say, six months to find a self-supporting job. Have some milestones laid out: so many interviews, returning to graduate school, part-time Starbucks job to get over the hump.
And one of Newberry's key points: Mom doesn't do laundry.
With Cassidy, the Myers family set some parameters. They would cover room and board, and because Cassidy couldn't qualify for a car loan without a job, her parents signed for a low-interest loan for a used Toyota. They cover the $100-a-month insurance; she pays the monthly $220 car payment from savings.
Everything else — salon haircuts, socializing with friends, attending sports games — is on Cassidy's dime.
Charge 'em rent?
For many parents, the idea is ridiculous. But financial experts say adult kids should contribute something, whether it's cash toward the family's monthly expenses or household help with chores, from grocery shopping to dinner cleanup.
“It's partly so they get in the routine of having monthly payments. But it's also beneficial for their self-esteem to feel they're contributing to the household,” said Newberry.
Adult children don't recognize the added expense of food, electricity or insurance, not to mention postponements to home improvements or vacations.
If they can't contribute cash, consider time for jobs parents otherwise might pay for, such as computer consulting, house painting, yardwork, car washing.
Just say 'no'
The parental desire to help kids financially is normal, but planners advise against giving too much. Parents could shortchange not only their own savings but their kids' financial independence.
Whether it's credit card bills, student loans or a home mortgage, parents should consider their own financial picture first.
Parents paying off a child's credit card bill should be clear that it's a one-time bailout, not a regular handout, says the National Endowment for Financial Education. If it's a cash loan, parents should charge a small amount of interest, so adult kids understand how credit works.
Call in a pro
When parents offer money advice, it's not always welcome. “It is so much easier to take good financial advice from a professional than from Mom and Dad,” said certified financial planner Blayney.
Whether they've got a job or not, getting them to think about setting up savings, loan repayments and other financial goals can boost their long-term security.
Hang in there
Just when the Myers family lamented that the unemployed-at-home saga would never end, an unexpected phone call recently changed everything. After months of interview rounds, Cassidy got hired as a $20-an-hour “contract coordinator” at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. It's only a six-month job, but it's a foot in the door.
And it could be just in time for Round 2. The couple's younger daughter graduates from college in May. With student loans and no job lined up so far, she may be moving back home, too.