It was once the norm to leave home in your late teens and early twenties to work, marry or set up your own household, enabling you to financially support yourself almost immediately. But in recent years more and more adult children are continuing to live with their parents right through their twenties.
So, at what age should you become financially independent? According to new analysis from the Pew Research Centre, most Americans (64 per cent) think it should be at the age of 22. However, alarmingly less than a quarter of people are actually managing it.
The analysis of Census Bureau data found there’s been a decline in people becoming financially independent by 22 in recent years. While 24 per cent of young adults managed it in 2018, there were more – 32 per cent – in 1980. The centre also found men are more likely to be financially independent at 22 than women, although this gap has diminished a lot recently.
Meanwhile, almost half (45 percent) of adults aged 18 to 29 say they have received financial help from their parents in the last year, while six-in-ten parents with kids in the same age bracket say they have helped their kids financially in that time. Many parents may offer to help pay for a large expense, however a majority have had to step in to help with everyday tasks too.
Financial independence in the US is achieved if you have an annual income of at least 150 per cent of the federal poverty level. Most young adults who have had financial help from their parents admitted at least some of it went towards regular expenses such as groceries or bills, with large amounts going towards paying their tuition, rent or mortgage too.
Things start to improve the longer young adults remain in the work force however and by the age of 29, around 47 per cent were financially independent in 2018, compared to a slightly higher 50 per cent in 1980.
The trend hasn’t just shifted when it comes to finances. Pew also found today’s young adults are increasingly living with their parents through their twenties and even, in some cases, into their thirties. And more are staying in school longer, marrying and establishing their own households later than past generations.
It’s unsurprising that there’s been a shift in the norm right across the world in recent years. Rising housing costs and living expenses, together with spiralling student debts, are forcing more adult children to remain living with their parents to stay afloat. 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.
Research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in May found the trend in America is mirrored in Australia too when it comes to adult kids living at home for longer. Institute Director Anne Hollonds said 43 per cent of 20–24 year olds were living in the family home in 2016, up from 36 per cent in 1981. Meanwhile, more 25-29 year olds choose to stay under their parents’ roof too, growing from 10 per cent in 1981 to 17 per cent in 2016.
And it seems while more people are marrying later in life, the overall number of marriages has decreased too. The Aussie institute found while there were 116,066 marriages in 1970, there were only 112,954 in 2017.
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 last year, 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 added.
Another community member, Sue, reckoned that “whatever they are earning, at least a third should be contributed to their board and lodging”. She added: “Parents aren’t doing themselves (or their offspring) any favours by being ‘cash cows’ forever and a day.”
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'”.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.