If you’re thinking about starting your professional life by moving back home with your parents after graduation or have already done so, ask yourself this: Do the pros not only outweigh the cons, but substantially so?
If so, you have a lot of company. According to Monster's 2010 Annual Entry-Level Job Outlook, about 52 percent of recent grads live with their parents, up from 40 percent reported in the 2009 survey.
Why Go Back Home?
More often than not, the reason why many new grads are picking their parents as roommates is all about money.
“For as many as 40 percent of recent grads, it made smart economic sense to move back in with their parents, where life is comfortable and rent is either low or nonexistent, while they get their finances in order,” says Nicholas Aretakis, author of No More Ramen: The 20-Something’s Real-World Survival Guide. “Don’t forget that the average college student today graduates with more than $20,000 in tuition debt.”
Most new grads have important life plans that cost more money than the typical entry-level salary can cover. Take Bryan McCarty, a 2007 graduate of Wartburg College in Iowa. He recently accepted a writing job in his hometown of Cedar Falls so he could move back home until next summer, when he’ll be getting married.
For McCarty, the decision made sense. “I thought about the opportunity to build a stronger, more stable foundation for myself and my fiancee,” he says.
Pros and Cons of Living at Home
McCarty’s conclusion is reasonable, says Bill Coplin, author of 25 Ways to Make College Pay Off. But the financial argument has several potential downsides as well.
“First, the graduate lives at an unrealistic level of comfort, making a break for independence difficult,” Coplin says. “Second, the financial pressure to stick [with] a job and work hard is not there if he can quit and not become homeless. Third, it’s frequently a sign that the new graduate is unwilling to be an adult.”
Indeed, people might think “you still haven’t grown up or aren’t mature yet” if you still live at home, says 2007 Villa Julie College graduate Jessie Merryman, an office manager for Rovion in Maryland who lives with her parents.
Or you might feel that way about yourself, as 2005 University of Arizona grad Francis Reyes did after moving back home to San Francisco to start his career. “I soon learned that this decision hindered my intellectual and financial development as an adult, i.e., true responsibility,” says Reyes. “I felt as if the move back home was a regression. I became comfortable and lost the drive and focus to work on my career.”
So Reyes recently relocated to New York City, where he works in public relations. He says he has had not only “a rebirth in my career, but [also] a new lease on life and a clean slate.”
Make Living at Home Work for You
Your mileage will vary if/when you move back home with the folks. To enhance the pros and minimize the cons:
- Set a Mutually Agreeable Time Limit: “There has to be a clear timetable as to how long the [grad] is going to live at home,” says Carol Symons, a 2006 University of North Carolina-Wilmington grad who works in client services for Your Office USA. Shortly after graduation in May 2006, Symons began a graduate program. She figured out it wasn't for her and moved back home with her parents in Cary, North Carolina, for four months.
Symons’s last bit of advice: “Actively...be either pursuing a graduate degree or hitting the pavement looking for employment.”
- Make Sure You Save Money: “Not having to pay rent or buy food will literally save me more than $6,000 in the next year, if not more,” says McCarty. “Now, I can shift my focus to saving and creating a financial foundation for myself and [my fiancee].”
- Do as Much as You Can Yourself: Pay for your own food, or contribute to your parents’ mortgage payment each month. Handle your own comings and goings, and solve your own interpersonal problems at work. The more you can act like your parents’ renter versus their child, the more prepared you’ll be to leave the nest once and for all someday -- and fly.