When adult children come back home

Family finances can be strained when adult children come back home.

What should parents do when helping out an adult child who comes back “home” to live with them and they simply can’t afford it? It is an all too common situation. When a son or daughter loses income due to a cut-back in hours, loss of a job, inability to find a job after college or other schooling, a divorce or another uncontrollable circumstance, parents can find themselves in a financial crisis due to extra expenses.

For households on a fixed income, the cost of extra groceries, heat and other energy bills due to an addition to the household can cause major financial struggles. Additionally, sometimes parents try to help their adult child by picking up some of their payments on a temporary basis such as car insurance or car payments in order to avoid repossession or to allow their son or daughter to look for a job or get to work.

Michigan State University Extension educators recommend that families look carefully at income and expenses for their household before agreeing to take on extra expenses. Do you have extra money to cover additional food and utilities? If you are thinking of making payments for your adult child, do you have the extra money to cover that plus your own payments and expenses?

Putting it all down on paper can help make important decisions about the circumstances in which you invite family members to live in your home. If your son or daughter has any income, it is important to have a frank conversation about how you expect them to help out with the household finances. Spelling out financial terms and other issues such as helping with household chores ahead of time can make the adjustment much easier and alleviate future stresses. How long do you/they expect the situation to last should be another very important item to discuss ahead of time.

If the son or daughter does not have any income and your budget doesn’t have room for extra expenses, look for other types of assistance such as food assistance (bridge card). Is there assistance available which would enable them to stay in their current housing? If there are minor children involved, are they enrolled in free or reduced price hot lunch and breakfast programs at school?

Taking time to consider all of the possibilities before allowing grown children to come back home can help avoid major financial problems later and also help to keep family harmony for the long haul. 

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