A little bit about me: I’m 23 years old and I graduated with an economics degree from a top state school in Texas. In my own little way, I think I’ve had success. After college, I moved to New York City for a job in a media start-up. And after almost a year of working and living in New York, I decided to take an adventure that would last for 6 months. I’m now in the idle stages of that adventure and in the next coming months, I will once again depart for another big traveling adventure.
But right now, I live at home with my parents. And I say that without any shame or disgust.
Here in the US, we have a culture of independence where young people are perceived to have more success given their status as car owners, renters, and having a stable job. Why wouldn’t we? After all, these are signs of success and an implication of a life that’s going in the right direction. So I get it when my friends give me confused looks when I tell them that I moved back into my parent’s house. But I don’t care. In my mind, I see absolutely nothing wrong with this. I don’t care about the stigma and I certainly don’t care about what they think.
The numbers are unprecedented and it’s very hard to ignore. In an article in the Huffington Post, the number of millennials living at home with their parents is at a record number of 21.6 million. That’s the equivalent of roughly 1/3rd of all 18-31 year olds.
That figure could be misleading, but assuming that 21.6 million is an accurate one, then the numbers really speak for themselves. The numbers tell a one-sided story, mainly, that young Americans are incapable of supporting themselves due to dismal job prospects coupled with high costs of living and financial constraints. This is a haunting message indeed, but instead of tackling the issue head-on, we’re exacerbating it by labeling such a phenomenon as taboo and an indication of failure.
This is the beginning of a new trend in America and there’s nothing wrong with it. When I was in Australia, I met up with a friend who was 26 and worked for HSBC’s corporate finance department. He lived in Sydney and was more than capable of living and paying for his own stuff, but he didn’t. He lived with his parents and practically everyone he knew did the same. Why? Because there was no need to sacrifice half a paycheck if he didn’t have to. Living at home is perfectly fine for them and no one looks down on someone who isn’t capable of living independently. In other words, they could care less about other people’s perspectives if that meant they were saving money and making progress in other areas of their lives.
I’m not condoning living with your parents with the intention of freeloading off their resources and taking advantage of their kindness. What I’m trying to emphasize is that moving back home is not a big deal and anyone who tells you so, is probably insecure. There’s a lot of reasons why moving back at home can do good to your bottom line, and I’m not just talking money.
For one, moving at home will give you breathing room. This is the perfect time to look for the job that you want because you have very little financial obligations. Be honest with yourself about your job prospects and ask yourself whether you are really doing it for the money or for a deeper sense of purpose. You’re young now and you don’t need to put much pressure on yourself when it’s unnecessary and unwarranted.
Second, while living at home, you have the perfect opportunity to save money. Realize that it’s not about how much you make but about how much you keep. Living at home will allow you to save up potentially every penny you make if your parents are willing to clothe and feed you. Otherwise, you get free rent anyway and that normally accounts for 20-30% of one’s paycheck. This is a crucial time in our lives and it’s important to transition seamlessly and carefully.
I made the mistake of transitioning quickly and recklessly when I moved to NYC. I lived on couches, closets, and costly subleases. It’s not a bad thing to do but it wasn’t necessary and I simply did it because I wanted to move and live in NYC without even having a job prior to relocation.
In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed that in Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, it’s not at all a big deal to live back at home with one’s parents. I’m sure the dynamics are different but it’s about time we change our views on cohabitation. There’s already so much uncertainty and distraction in our lives that adding burden in the form of a general notion can do very little good in our lives. Sometimes it sucks to be at home because Mom and Dad are always gawking at us trying to get us to do chores, but for what it’s worth, it’s really not that big of a deal.
Our generation needs to be empowered and not looked down upon. It’s sickening to see condescending article after article about millennials moving back at home. I’m sure there’s a faction who move back at home because they are lazy and irresponsible, but they’ve got bigger issues to tackle other than just independence. But we shouldn’t belittle those who are working towards achieving great things, and just need some time and assistance in the process.
I don’t live at home to simply feed off my parents. I do it because it’s a sacrifice for a greater cause in the future.