Parents whose grown children are living at home — and experts say their numbers are growing — can face a complicated question: whether to charge rent, and how much.
Circumstances vary from household to household.
For Terri Gifford, a self-employed mom in New Rochelle, New York, who renovates old homes, it wasn't an easy decision.
Gifford and her husband, Peter, agreed with their 23-year-old son, Brian, that he'll pay them $300 a month in rent. He has lived in their house for two years, since he graduated from Harvard. At first he didn't have a job, and now he works as a paralegal in a law firm, gearing up for his marriage in November and taking the Law School Admission Test in October.
"He's not making a ridiculous amount of money," Gifford said. "I didn't really want to charge him rent, but Brian wanted me to. He felt better about it. I didn't think $300 was a crazy amount of money. My son wanted to contribute, and we came up with an amount where he felt like he was contributing, but that he wouldn't be broke and could save for his future."
According to a Pew Research Center study in July analyzing U.S. Census Bureau data, millennials — defined as those ages 18 to 34 in 2015 — are now less likely to be living independently of their families and establishing their own households than they were during the depths of the Great Recession, which began in 2007.
In the first four months of this year, the share of young adults living in their parents' homes has increased from 24 per cent to 26 per cent, despite the uptick in employment and full-time jobs since 2010, according to Pew. The study doesn't take into account rent, or an increasing number of Generation Xers — ages 35 to 51 — who have also moved home with baby boomer parents.
With another, younger son who's away at college and her husband working long hours in construction, Gifford, 56, said the rent Brian pays goes mainly toward expenses, including food. She loves to cook, and Brian, in turn, does a range of errands, from filling up her gas tank to going shopping and helping with the dog. He'll be moving out after his wedding, she said.
"It's definitely an adjustment, having an older child living at home. I can't ask as many questions," she said. "But he's a great kid. He's very independent, and very family-oriented. ... I think Brian is pretty appreciative of the fact that he saves money, and I help him out quite a bit."
On the border between millennial and Gen X, Raven Brown, 35, has lived with her mom in her mom's three-bedroom apartment in Manhattan since 2009. Brown is a PhD student in public and urban policy at the New School, and also works as a researcher. She wanted to help her mom, who has chronic health problems, and she also has huge school loans. She's been paying more than half of the apartment's $2,200 a month rent since February.
"We talked about it, and it seemed like a good amount. She likes to have me around!" Brown said, laughing. "Paying rent feels the same as not paying rent. It's helpful to my mom... . We're a close family."
Rossana Alvarado, 41, a stay-at-home single mom with an 11-year-old son, Noah, and a 17-month-old son, Oliver, first moved back in 2008, after losing her job, to the four-bedroom house that her 75-year-old mom, Consuelo Martinez, and 71-year-old stepdad, Al Martinez, own in La Puente, California. She moved out in 2014, and then came back last July.
"The negative part is that it's embarrassing," Alvarado said. "Everyone will tell you not to be so embarrassed, that it happens to a lot of people. The good feeling is my mom felt like a mom again. I was given this chance to bond with her, and I'm happy Noah and my mom have bonded beyond what I could ever hope."
The first time around, her rent to her parents was set at $500 a month, she said, and then it increased to $600, with food costs included, when she came back. She receives disability income monthly.
Her mom and stepdad, a retired electronics technician, bumped up the rent because there was another mouth to feed: her new baby.
"To me, there aren't any complications charging rent. I love Rossana very much," said Al Martinez. "The understanding was, 'I'm helping you. You're helping me. I would have you here for free if I could afford it.' I'm retired and don't have an income, except social security and one small pension and my wife's social security. Charging rent is a given."