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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Boomerang offspring can affect parents’ retirement

STILLWATER, Okla. – For many years, parents have juggled sporting events, music practice, curfew violations and high insurance premiums on teenaged drivers. Now with the kids out of the house, it is the perfect time to invest more into retirement accounts and accumulate savings.

But just when those same parents are getting used to the empty nest and extra cash in their pockets, some may find their adult children moving back home.

“Adult children may move home for a variety of reasons,” said Sissy Osteen, family development and human science interim department head at Oklahoma State University. “Some may not have yet landed a job following college graduation. Others may have been laid off. Still others may move home and crash in the basement for a while in order to save up the needed down payment on their own place. Whatever the reason, parents need to know they aren’t alone. However, making sure these boomerang kids don’t have a detrimental impact on your own retirement accounts is crucial.”

Osteen suggests before kids move back home, take a hard look at the budget. More people in the house will result in higher utility bills and food costs. She said it also is important to establish rules, which may be determined by the amount of increase in the cost of running the household.

Cindy Clampet, OSU Cooperative Extension family resource management assistant specialist, said this new living arrangement may take some adjusting for both the parents and the adult child.

“These are your kids, but you have to keep in mind they aren’t children, and a certain level of responsibility is expected,” Clampet said. “Help them determine their budget and what they can afford to put toward keeping the household running. It’s important to break free of the ‘parents pay for everything’ cycle, especially if the child is working hard at a job and saving money or looking hard for employment.”

However, some kids may think they should have all the same things their parents have without giving thought to the fact their parents worked years to get to where they are now. This can be a tough situation to deal with in this instant-gratification world.

When it comes to household expenses, put together an agreement on who is responsible for what. Adult children may be expected to pay the difference in utility bills. Parents are not being unreasonable for charging rent.

“For parents who can afford to do so, put that money in an account and when your adult child is ready to get back into the world on their own, this can be their seed money,” Osteen said. “Keep in mind all transactions don’t have to be strictly on a cash basis. Parents who may have employed a lawn or cleaning service may be able cut out those expenses and the adult child take over various responsibilities as a way to contribute to the household. Other in-kind contributions may include painting, preparing meals, grocery shopping or doing the laundry. These types of contributions are important, especially if your children currently are unemployed and strapped for cash.”

Sitting down and going over the household budget can be an excellent teaching tool, especially for those kids who may not have a good grasp on money management. Parents need to point out where the budget will increase due to more people in the home and what the child’s responsibilities will be to cover those costs.

Clampet said it also is important for parents to outline items for which they are not willing to pay.

“Some kids may think moving back home is equal to staying at an all-inclusive resort. If your child has a penchant for a certain type of beverage or food that you wouldn’t normally purchase, make it clear those items must be their own responsibility,” Clampet said.

Once you become a parent, you always will be a parent. However, the key is developing that adult relationship as opposed to the more-familiar parent/child relationship. Most parents want to help their children no matter the circumstances, and letting adult children move back home is a great opportunity to foster this new dynamic.

“It’s our goal as parents to raise our kids and launch them into the world. However, circumstances may arise in which it becomes necessary for everyone to be back under one roof for a while,” Clampet said. “If you find yourself in this situation, be flexible, be supportive and be firm with your expectations. Set an end date and revisit your plan in a few weeks. But most importantly, don’t let your boomerang children change your own plans for your retirement years.”


Trisha Gedon
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
Oklahoma State University
136 Agriculture North
Stillwater, OK  74078
405-744-3625 (phone)|
405-744-5739 (fax)

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078