When The Empty Nest Refills: Tips for When the Kids (and Parents) Move In
Just a few weeks ago, many Americans took part in an annual tradition: Cars were packed with clothes and electronics, and parents drove their kids off to college. It's a moment that signals that your children have grown up and are moving out into the world, on their own. Except that lately, the same kids who left four or five years ago have been returning to move right back in with Mom and Dad.
But U.S. families are experiencing disruptions beyond young people moving in and out of dorm rooms. There's another household shuffling trend emerging as more and more Americans take in their elderly parents to live under the same roof.
In a recent AARP Bulletin, personal finance expert Jane Bryant Quinn noted that at the end of 2011, there were 4.6 million older Americans living with their grown children, nearly 14% more than in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of adult children living with their parents grew by 8% between 2007 and 2010, with two-thirds of them aged 25 to 34. These days, roughly one in five households are shared, up 17% from 2007. Adjusting to these new living arrangements can be fraught with problems: Older folks moving in with their kids may be upset, feeling they've lost much of their independence.
When Parents Move In
Quinn cited three primary concerns when parents move in with their children: money, duties, and privacy. Here are some ways to address these issues before they become capital "I" issues:
Map out the money arrangement. Come to an agreement on who will pay what, and write it all down. The parents, if able, might contribute a certain sum toward household expenses. Be sure all parties are clear on who is paying for what when it comes to food, home health care services, and so on. If parents pay their children for care, though, that can constitute taxable income. Discuss household responsibilities. How much help will the parents need, and who will provide it? Will they need to be driven places, for example? Will they prepare some of the family meals, if they can? If there are pets involved, how will they be accommodated? How will vacations be managed? If young children are being raised in the same house, be clear on how involved the grandparents will be, and what everyone's expectations are.