Rising housing costs and living expenses, together with spiralling student debts, are forcing more adult children to remain living with their parents longer.
Compounding this, is the phenomenon of ‘boomerang children”, who leave the family home, only to return at a later time due to relationship splits, returning from stints overseas or any number of ‘life events’ that make it difficult or unfeasible for them to live independently.
Then there are children who hang around the family home because they’re on a good wicket. Their washing is magically done for them, meals are cooked, utilities are provided and life under mum and dad’s roof is generally pretty sweet!
The Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that half of adults aged between 18 and 24 currently live with their parents.
Given that there is no sign of this trend letting up, should parents cop the financial burden of funding their adult children, though, or should they make them contribute by paying board?
We posed the question of charging board to the Starts at 60 community, whose overwhelming response was YES, adult children should pay their way, either in money or time. Most who responded had charged their kids board and felt that it helped teach their offspring important lessons about money.
“If they are receiving an income I think they should contribute. If parents don’t need the money or feel uncomfortable about asking I think they still should ask for board as it is a valuable lesson for young adults that there is a cost for the food they eat, the electricity and water,” Barbara, a Starts at 60 community member, said.
“If [they’re] not receiving an income they should contribute time, a morning in the garden, half an hour each night clearing up after dinner … The eldest moved with me and continued to pay board. I expect all mine have actually got the money back over time in gifts of major items for their houses or a car,” she said.
Another community member, Sue, reckoned that “whatever they are earning, at least a third should be contributed to their board and lodging”.
“Parents aren’t doing themselves (or their offspring) any favours by being ‘cash cows’ forever and a day,” she added.
Sue noted that when she first started work and took home “the princely sum of $24, I paid $8 board and $8 for bus fares [and] $8 was mine to spend or save. And, I did save. It was made very clear to both my sister and I (by my mad) that ‘no children of mine will ever go on the dole'”.
Other community members were happy for their children to do chores around the house in lieu of paying board.
“We have a son at home at the moment after a relationship breakup. He came here with nothing,” Libby explained. “While he had nothing we charged him nothing, but he did so much around the house it didn’t worry us.
“Now he pays board but he is renovating the bathroom. He writes down how many hours he does and we work it out at so much an hour and we take it in lieu of board. Works a treat. So far I think we owe him but we take each week as it comes.”
Starts at 60 readers also noted that being charged board by their own parents had taught them to work hard and aspire to better jobs, and that they had tried to pass these lessons onto their own kids.
Community member Sylvia pointed out, though, that the same lessons could have different impacts, depending on the child, explaining that she asked both of her daughters to pay board in order to teach them the value of money.
“One paid board, saved, bought life insurance, bought herself a car, [while] the other never paid board,” Sylvia recalled. “They both had good jobs. The one that did pay board finished her apprenticeship then went to uni and got a degree in education.”
“Same mother and father, different children,” Sylvia added, admitting that she never pushed the payment issue hard with her daughters because she’d hated paying it herself as a youngster.
“My friends who did not pay it all had beautiful clothes but no ambition to further their education,” she said. “I made my clothes and educated myself, earned great money and passed this ambition on to the one who did pay board (her choice). So really, I do suppose it gives the child the motivation to save.”