Thursday, July 28, 2011

"yes - I live in a basement the neighborhood I grew up in..."

Parental support and it's boundaries can often define the intersection of adolescence and adult-hood. With employment prospects coming up short after college graduation, many of us are choosing (or are forced to) delay flipping on our blinkers and pulling out onto the highway of adulthood.

I could definitely rant about how unfair it is that some people have basements within commuting distance of good jobs. Or I could tell you about how a real self-starter would do whatever it takes to avoid having curfew reinstated at age 22. I would absolutely tell you all those things if it were 2007 and we were seeing this trend. But it's not 2007, and I was lucky to spend my first 6 months out of college on my cousin's pull-out-couch. I think we're asking the wrong questions, and yelling about the wrong problems.

The real question is: How can we live in our parent's basements and still become adults?

1. Pay Rent. It shouldn't be an equal share of the mortgage or anything like that, and it doesn't even have to be on par with local housing prices. However, putting at least 15% of your income towards the roof over your head will do a lot for your self esteem and your argument against that pesky curfew.

2. Establish Boundaries. Plan for only 1 or 2 "family activities" per week. Certainly, you will see each other more than this, but Mom shouldn't be holding dinner for you to get home and Dad shouldn't expect that you are going to work in the yard with him unless it is pre-planned and mutually agreed upon.

3. Work. Looking for a job is not a job. Take whatever you can get – fast food, retail, customer service – any of these will suffice. Working gives you something to do, money to burn (since your rent is so low), and improves your interview skills for when you actually do land that meeting at MyDreamJob Inc. Customer service jobs in particular will hone those interview skills.

4. Bring in your own food. If you are having some friends over to play videogames or get ready for a night out, don't drink your father's beer or eat your mom's secret stash of cookies. Go to the store and buy your own. Be respectful of the fact that your parents only planned to feed you for 18 years. That extra money has to come from somewhere, and that place is probably their retirement savings. You will pay this back later when they can't pay their nursing home fees.

5. Know when it's time to leave. It's great that you can stay at home to save money, but you need to cut the cord at some point. Set concrete goals that you want to achieve before you can support yourself, and when you've met them, hand over your house keys and hit the bricks. If your house is anything like mine, someone will be yelling "write when you get work!!" every time you leave the house until those goals are met.

Moving back home has become a reality for many of us "young professionals". I don't think it should be an embarassment. Sometimes, it's a really smart decision to avoid or pay off debt. So let's attack the stigma and find better ways for families to live together at different stages in life.

I would never laugh at my Dad's beer,

Double E

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