Start charging rent and your kid will move out!

My husband Jason and I have agreed that when our sons turn eighteen, if they’re still living at home, they will receive an invoice for monthly rent that will continue until the day they move out. A close friend of mine was horrified when she heard about it: “I would never do that to my son! He will always have a place in my home, no matter how old he is.” While I respect that way of thinking and realize that my harder-nosed approach likely wouldn’t fly with a lot of people, my personal opinion is that parents do no favours for their kids by letting them live at home, indefinitely rent-free. (I’m referring to kids who are gainfully employed, healthy, and fully capable of taking care of themselves but choose not to move out because it’s easier to mooch.)

Photo: issues.cc
Photo: issues.cc

There are many reasons why I think living at home after age 18 is a very bad idea. Granted, I view it through my biased lens of an independent-minded female who moved out for a year at 16, returned home briefly to finish high school, and then never lived at home again. I categorically refused to date any guy who still lived at home with his parents because there was too much of a gap between us when it came to life experience. If he didn’t cook for himself, do his own laundry, and pay rent, utilities, groceries, and a phone bill while attending university classes or working a full-time job, then I wasn’t interested. The fact that a guy preferred independence over ease of life was appealing and attractive to me. So it’s only natural that I want to see my sons exhibit the same qualities that I’ve always admired in guys (and that attracted me to my husband).

On Garth Turner’s sharp-tongued blog The Greater Fool, he writes that Canadian federal statistics from 2011 show that 43% of all young people in their twenties still live with their parents (most in Ontario). Over 63% of all guys ages 20-24 are still at home. 43% of parents allow adult children to live at home rent-free. One third of parents pay for their kids’ major purchases, such as computers and cars, and 20% pay off their kids’ credit cards. As absurd as this sounds to me, Turner points out the darker underside of such babying behaviour. While youth unemployment may be high at 14% right now, the financial situation is actually much more dire for millions of Boomer parents, 70% of whom don’t have corporate pensions, are living with record-high levels of consumer debt, and are retiring with mortgages while real estate market crumbles. So adult kids’ mooching turns into something worse than basic failure to launch; they could actually be setting their parents up for worse financial trouble by consuming their monthly net worth just because they’re too lazy to get a bartending job or dig holes for minimum wage.

Photo: magazine.foxnews.com
“OMG, I totally deserve an $80K starting salary because I have a degree! I should never have to dig holes.” (Photo: magazine.foxnews.com)

I can’t help but feel that adult kids living at home are wasting precious time. With every year that passes, I feel more panic at how little time I have left on this earth and how much I want to do. Why sit in a basement, letting the first decade of true independence slip by just because it’s easy? My twenties are flying by, and now that I’m ‘settled’ with a husband and two kids, I think back with tremendous pride on those ‘free’ years as a single university student living in crappy Toronto apartments with no one to worry about except myself. That experience was invaluable and played a huge role in shaping the person I am now. I want my kids to struggle through that, learning how to scrimp and save, fitting study hours into Laundromat runs, making awkward grocery trips with food balanced on bicycle handlebars. It’s all part of the experience of growing up – and I will be there to help out, but only if absolutely necessary.

I think of my children as being on loan. I do not own them; they are their own individual people. My job, as their mother, is to prepare them for the world as best I can. I do that with endless, unconditional love, but the decisions I make must be for their benefit, more so than for myself. So even though the idea of them leaving home in only fourteen short years fills me with sadness, I will push them to leave as soon as they’re able because I truly believe it’s best for them. I can’t hold them back because there’s a whole world waiting for them. They will stumble, fall, and probably hurt themselves, but how else will they learn to pick themselves up and move forward? Hence the birthday invoice.

I am certain a lot of readers will disagree with me. What do you think about this controversial topic? Do share your thoughts!

You might also like:
This Too Shall Pass
The Gift of a Sibling
Letting out the leash

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11 thoughts on “Start charging rent and your kid will move out!

  1. Hello, I just read your post. I do agree with you, with some caveats. My blog (that I started last Friday) is about my own adult children taking the plunge into the adult world. Granted my son is just going to college! However, my daughter is moving out, even taking her “bed”. This whole “bed” topic will be a blog subject in days to come. The warning I have for you in your wisdom is that we are really the true problem, not them. Our generation seems enjoy having their adult children around. They bring us back to our own youth. I’ve enjoyed my daughter’s friends as we sit around the kitchen island and toast with a glass of wine together. I advise them about relationships and life and I feel so wise! We aren’t that good at letting go! Why? I’m not sure. But I do agree that we have to or they will not be able to really live well. Balance may be the key. My children have both worked since they are 15/16 years old and I do not pay for gas in the car and never sent my daughter a penny in the mail at college. Giving them a safe haven and making life too easy for them lie very close together. We do have a choice though, you are right. Great blog!

  2. I paid rent to my parents and helped with expenses for the 6 or 7 months I lived with them after I graduated. Emma will definitely be paying rent if our house reno ever gets off the ground!

  3. I will never charge my children rent.

    I remember graduating with absolutely nothing left in my bank account and starting a job with an employer that paid well, but withheld the first four weeks of pay. My parents have always told me that their door is open if I ever need a place to live. By moving back home for a couple of months I was able to get on my feet financially before setting off on my own. There was never a discussion about how long I was allowed to stay with them after graduation, or whether I’d have to pay rent. The house rules applied: if i was going to live at my parents’ house, I had to pitch in. The definition of ‘pitching in’ evolved over the years, but it was maintained in such a way as to make me really want to move out from about age 12 onward. My parents, conspirators that they are, probably smiled in secret every time I erupted in teenage anger and stormed out of whatever room I happened to be in, fuming about how I just couldn’t WAIT to move out. I suppose they could have switched to formally charging rent at age 18, but my time was always extremely valuable to me, and what money I had was worth relatively little to them.

    Looking back on it (from afar, while financially independent and in charge of my own household) I like this approach. I was highly motivated to get out on my own from a young age, and by the time I was financially able to do so I knew how to take care of myself – and a family of five. My parents got to gradually shed household responsibilities, gaining more and more free time to enjoy everything they’ve worked so hard for.

  4. My philosophy is : as long as they handle their money responsibly (like saving) I do not charge them rent. I have 2 conditions: One is a year before they get married, they have to live on their own (this way they learn to manage, money, food and expenses) and the other is they have to move out at 30 years old. So far my oldest did that and is grateful for it. His wife does not coddle him and he is a better husband for it. My other son hasn’t reached the magic age of 30 yet, but he is planning on buying a house soon. I hope that this plan is to have my sons be independent and be better husbands for it.

    1. That sounds very reasonable to me. I agree with you that responsible money management is crucial and probably is a more important lesson to learn than just moving out. I know that living on one’s own is a tremendously useful thing to do and I have no doubt it makes him a better husband. I’m so glad Jason had a few years on his own before we moved in together because otherwise it would get frustrating needing to teach him how a household runs.

  5. I don’t think that moving out is the only way to become independent. I’m 20 and still live at home with my mother. Apart from next year, when I’m spending a year studying abroad, I will live at home until I finish my degree in 2016. I pay for rent and groceries, do most of the cooking and my fair share of the cleaning. Just because a young adult lives at home it doesn’t mean they are lazy or immature.

    I don’t want to sound condescending but when I think about my circle of friends at college, I feel a lot more mature than many of them who go out drinking and max out their overdrafts. When my mother was in hospital with a life-threatening medical condition for nearly three months last year, I ran the household, paid the bills and took care all the everyday stuff of independent adult life. I was my mother’s caregiver before and after she came home from the hospital. I took a leave of absence from university in order to look after her.

    I think that whole experience has taught me more independence and given me more life experience than being made to move out at the age of 18. So, while I definitely agree with you that adult children should not be allowed to live at home simply because they are lazy, what is right for one person isn’t always right for another. I didn’t feel ready to move out as soon as I turned 18.

    1. I hear you. Good for you for taking care of your mother and running the household. Your situation, though, is different than the ones I was picturing in my post. You’re obviously mature, capable, and organized, which is the opposite of the “twelve-year-olds in thirty-year-old bodies” that I’m talking about. My frustration is primarily with lack of responsibility and lack of desire to discover independence. Yes, adulthood might be scary for some, but it’s also great. Learning how to run a household is very important work, so you’re miles ahead of many others your age, I’m sure.

      1. Thank you for your reply. Sorry if I sounded a bit defensive in my comment!
        I think you make extremely valid points about the lack of responsibility. Sometimes I find it hard to relate to some of my friends (and maybe they find it hard to relate to me) because their parents do everything for them whereas the past couple of years have really shaken me up and then set me down a whole lot wiser.

  6. My parents have 6 children and are poor. After we each got a job after university (part-time or full-time job, didn’t matter), they charged us each a very small nominal monthly amount when we lived in their home. Probably more related to food cost that we would consume. But still, it was just a little reminder, we were adults and had to be accountable and contribute somehow. And a reminder, we really should have our own place.

    Now, if the adult child contributes regularily to housework, errands several times per week (outside of their own bedroom), it would be also a consideration plus maybe a small nominal monthly amount. I think rent is a very hard term and a lot of money …especially if the recent university grad, is trying to pay off a large student debt meaning in thousands of dollars (and they haven’t gone off to Europe during their school years. It astounds me how students can just take off like that when they are also in debt..).

  7. I’ve heard one tactic from my manager who is a mother of 2 adult children in their mid-20’s: when they complain the fridge lacks food, she responds: Well, go to the store and buy some groceries.

    She deliberately will not buy a whack of groceries until she gets cooperation

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