Should parents allow their adult children to live at home?

With the unemployment rate for young adults in the 20-24 age bracket still hovering near 14 percent, and the rate for recent college graduates more than 7 percent, it has become more common for young people to extend the time they live with their parents before establishing their own household. In fact, the percentage of young people 18-31 living with their parents has increased from 32 percent before the financial crisis to 36 percent now.

While at first glance this may not be how parents and young adults expected things to evolve, that doesn’t mean that it can’t work out well for both. But if it’s to be a good experience, it’s important to set ground rules up front that everyone agrees to. How can you determine if allowing your young adult child to extend their stay in your home is workable? You’ll want to consider several factors.

The most important consideration is knowing your child. Proverbs 22:6 comes to mind: “Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.” Does your young adult embrace the Catholic Faith and live in a responsible manner? If this is the case, opening up your home for an extended period of time, properly managed, can be a blessing. If not, you may want to think twice, especially if there are younger siblings who will be influenced by negative behavior.

Before making a decision to have adult children stay at home, parents need to assess their financial situation and make sure resources don’t end up being used on the young adult that they need for other purposes, including retirement, and the education and formation of younger children.

Depending on the situation, an adult child can cost a few thousand dollars for just food and utilities, to more than $10,000 if parents were to pay for transportation, insurance, clothing, phone and entertainment. Of course, I’m not recommending that parents continue to pay for all of these things, but some fall into that trap.

It will be important to set financial, work and around the house expectations for your adult child. Will you charge rent? If so, will it cover just room or room and board? Whether you charge rent, and how much, will probably relate to how responsible your child is. My recommendation is that even for a very responsible child, rent be charged — even if modest — to teach about the importance of participating in the financial obligations of the household. When it comes to other expenses, I think it’s best in most cases if the young adult pays for all direct expenses, including transportation, insurance, clothing, phone and entertainment.

There should be an expectation that adult children work full time, even if they think the job is not the right fit for their education and skill set. Around the home, there should be an expectation that the child will be a positive influence and help with chores as appropriate, especially if the rent being charged is a sweet deal.

On valuestype issues, weekly Mass attendance should be an expectation, especially if there are impressionable siblings in the home. I recall one instance where parents allowed their son to move in with his girlfriend. That should be a nonstarter.

If you have adult children who want to extend their stay at home, you might find it can be a blessing for everyone involved. Just make sure to create a workable plan before you decide. Knowing your young adult and the state of your finances are two keys to making a good decision. God love you!

Phil Lenahan is the president of Veritas Financial Ministries ( and the author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free” (OSV, $19.95). Submit questions for columns to