Multigenerational Households: Benefits for everyone

Millennials are shaking things up, in a big way!  They are being called boomerangs because more and more millennials are postponing getting out on their own and staying at home. According to the census bureau, one-third of millennials are living at home with their parents. While you may know the reasons for the statistics for this shift… prepare yourself for some sticker shock!

When our last child moved out, he was hit with the reality that he could only afford to share a house with a group of friends. Even then it cost him $400 a month for a tiny room. Maybe it was empty nest syndrome, but soon after he left I applied and accepted a job two hours away, so for two years my husband and I moved and lived in another state, but we kept our home. 

We knew that there were some issues going on at the house that our son was renting, and since we needed someone to watch the place in our absence, we offered him the opportunity to move back and care for the place while we were gone, he reluctantly moved back home.  When we moved back two years later, there was understandably some dissension as we all learned to acclimate to living under the same roof, again, as adults.  At first, our son was anxious to move and be on his own, but with his pay he only had three options rent an affordable place in a high crime neighborhood, rent a place in a safer area, and live hand to mouth, or stay put, save his money and work towards a better paying job, he chose the latter.

Pay Vs Cost of Living

 According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2016 33% of 25 to 29 year-olds are living at home. This is the highest percentage in 75 years. 

We are fortunate to live in a state with historically low unemployment and a fairly diverse job market. The downside is the competition for high paying jobs is stiff. I have a Bachelor’s degree and work for the State, and yet I only make $19.00 an hour.  Not that long ago $35,000 a year seemed like a decent salary, but after taxes and expenses, it doesn’t go very far. This below video clip from “Friends” says it all.

Rachael from Friends

Today, according to the census bureau, 41% of young men make $30,000 or less, but did you know that 41 years ago that it was only 25% of young men who made that same amount. In the 70’s one could buy a decent home for $30,000, now you’re lucky if you can buy a lot for that amount. 

The American Dream

The American dream – a little house with a yard and a picket fence – for many families the “American Dream” is just that, a dream. Research on home prices vs wages show that they have increased at approximately the same rate, but what they don’t factor in is the cost of other expenses that are equal to or more than a car or house payment for example student loans.  

Student Loans

Student Loans

My husband and I were the first in both of our immediate families to earn a college degree. We were considered non-traditional students, attending college later in life. In 2003 I completed a degree in Elementary Education.

Scholarships and Federal Funding helped, but I still graduated with what I thought was, a small student loan, especially in comparison to today’s student loans. Since our finances only allowed us to make minimum payments, it took 10 years to pay off my student loan. At that time, with a degree, I was sure that I would get a much better paying job, but my first teaching job only paid $18,000 a year.  

The cost of higher education has skyrocketed, eclipsing living expenses.  As more individuals are obtaining degrees, the actual value of higher education diminishes. I don’t want to shock you, but the cost of college education has risen by 213% in the last 32 years!

 

The Good News

Silver Lining

Where there are lemons there is lemonade, and where there are obstacles innovation. History tends to cycle for example; in the ’60s and 70’s bell bottoms were in and then they went out, and then they came back, and went away again.  Bell bottoms came about out of necessity they weren’t a fashion statement. Adding a piece of material to the bottom of jeans meant one more year of life out of those jeans. The same is true for generational households, families stayed together out of need but the benefits radiated beyond the immediate household into future generations to come.

Bell Bottom Jeans

If this happens to you:  your son or daughter or both come home for dinner and ask if they can move back home don’t freak out. Below are a couple of articles to help you navigate this new territory because rules, expectations, and boundaries are just as important now as they were when they were children. 

Joe Jessie author of Your adult children are moving home: Don’t freak out personal experience and tips for parents and their children.

Focus on the family  has a good article on setting boundaries to make the transition of cohabitating smoother.

Like Nebraska’s new tourism slogan: Nebraska “It’s not for everyone,” maybe living in a large generational household isn’t for you; however before you decide check out these 3 Reasons why it makes cents. (Yes, I used cents instead of sense on purpose.)

3 Important Reasons to consider a multigenerational family

Reasons it makes Cents

Finances$

Are you feeling the pinch, you are not alone?  Earlier I mentioned that 41% of young men in their mid 20’s earn  $30,000 or less vs 25% in 1975. It’s not just students that are feeling the pinch, over 55% of parents have taken out student or parent loans to help pay for college.  

Multigenerational households mean multiple incomes contributing to; household costs such as utilities, mortgage, repairs, food, and other miscellaneous expenses. This lowers the cost for everyone.

For example, if you’re paying $1,200 towards a mortgage, and 3 people are contributing, your share of that $1,200 is now only $400. It’s like paying for an Airbnb at the cost of a hotel, albeit an expensive hotel but you get the point. Split the rest of the expenses in the same manner, and everyone experiences the relief. Or consider taking the extra $800 you’re saving on the mortgage and put it towards paying it down faster!

Sharing the costs

Family

Family History

Some of you may be saying, “But I can’t stand my In-Laws, my Mom, etc. ….” That is certainly a valid point. I had a tumultuous and rocky relationship with my In-laws. On the other hand, what if the reason we don’t have better relationships with our families is that we have the option to leave? If you had no choice, no options would we adapt, survive even thrive I bet that we would?

Finances are probably the main reason that families find themselves cohabitating. Between mortgage payments, student loans and car payments childcare is another expense that takes a bite out of paychecks.  Childcare is expensive, REALLY expensive, I’m talking car or house payment expensive. Living in a multigenerational household not only helps to ease the financial worry of childcare, but parents can also rest easy knowing that their child is being cared for by someone they know and trust.

Who loves your children more?

 

What can a family give our children that childcare providers can’t?

 A trove of valuable information, from real life experiences, trials, and error, family history, and so much more just waiting to be shared. This information is more than anecdotal it is priceless because contained within these stories and experiences is a roadmap of valuable information, lessons, and guidance. Imagine the wisdom that could be passed down to our children and the knowledge they would gain.  This isn’t anything new ancient cultures and religions have been doing this for centuries.

Skills: I remember the first time my Mom taught me how to make empanadas. It was a recipe that she only made once a year, on Christmas. She could have just given me the recipe and left me to figure it out on my own, but if she had I probably would have failed because empanada dough has to be kneaded to just the right elasticity, I still remember the feel of the dough it was so smooth and pliable.  It’s not something that can be explained, you need to actually do it. Everyone has valuable information to share don’t let that information go to waste, even if you are not living in a generational household, plan out how and when you will share that knowledge with your family.

I learned this first hand when my vehicle of 15 years broke down.  My Dad and all of my paternal uncles are skilled mechanics, and by skilled, I mean self-taught, hands-on, quality mechanics. 

Generations passing down skills

I have a memory of being outside one day, near the shop where my Dad and Uncle Gene worked on cars. Uncle Gene had his head buried under the hood intent on whatever he was fixing when a car drove past on the dirt road.  He paused and listened for a moment, and thoughtfully announced what was mechanically wrong with the passing car just by what he heard. Even if that car had been brought in to be worked on, he didn’t need to see a car he worked on vehicles by touch and memory. Gene has tunnel vision and has had for all of his life. If I had learned those skills when I was young my wallet wouldn’t be $3,000 lighter! Passing on a lifetime of learning, building up self-confidence through competence. These memories and skills will be a part of your child’s life forever.  In a multigenerational family;  skills, stories, knowledge, and memories are passed down from one generation to the next.

Passing down skills generation to generation

Support

Whether you are single, married, with or without children no one is immune to life’s curve balls. No matter how old you are everyone can benefit from a different perspective and the more the better.  Add in a healthy dose of lifetime experiences, and those curve balls become a lot more manageable.

Families Supporting Each Other

When I worked as the Program Director for a suicide and substance use prevention program for urban Native American youth, one of the first things I researched was protective factors for youth. Why is it some kids seem to be more resilient than others? Two things stood out to me: 1. Community and 2. Having more than one significant person to talk to.  

Families make up communities each family is its own little community. A  multigenerational family provides your child with someone else they can talk to because let’s face kids don’t ALWAYS want to talk to us. Who better to have them confide in than family?

When your child doesn’t want to talk to you.

Right now I am so fortunate to have our two youngest living with us. I know they want to get out there in the world on their own, but they are here with us now, and while they are I will cherish every moment, every conversation, and every interaction because these moments are invaluable.

 I truly believe that multigenerational families not only positively impact the immediate family, but they will also impact society for the better.

We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and input on this topic

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2 Comments

  • Heather

    Great article. This is so true, I have had my adult children cycle in and out of the house as they went from college to jobs and to other jobs. It’s a great safety net. My children have also lived with both sets of grandparents, and occasionally uncles/aunts as well. They helped out with babysitting, and in the case of grandparents with elder care. My in-laws would have had to move to an assisted living facility if not for the fact that their granddaughter stayed with them in their last two years, allowing them to stay in their home until they passed away. It is a blessing and a financial reality of today’s economy, as well as an opportunity to connect as a family.

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