Editor’s note: The family we described in this article are not real, they are hypothetical. However the kinds of problems they experienced are real and painful. For a variety of reasons, more and more Americans are living in multi-generational households – 31% of those aged 25- to 29 in 2014 were living in households with parents and/or grandparents.
January 3, 2107 –June and Jim thought that their exquisitely laid retirement plan was solid. They had done so many things well – they had set up a regular savings plan, hired a good financial advisor, thought about how they would stay busy, and even made some scouting trips to potential retirement destinations. But due to circumstances they never imagined, June and Jim are worried that their retirement dream is probably finished – before it even started.
The problem wasn’t with the couple’s plan, it was their adult children. Margaret had been a great student and athlete in high school and even into college. But she lost focus somewhere along the line, and even though she graduated with a B.A. she couldn’t land a good job. So she moved back home, where she remains, not making enough to move out on her own, and her parents haven’t have the heart to ask her to pay rent. That was 5 years ago.
Justin also did well until he finished high school. Towards the end of that he came home kind of dreamy and smoky. He never left home, although he did father a child along the way. He borrowed money from them, and hasn’t repaid it. June and Jim are helping to raise the child. After many unsettling situations it became clear their son was addicted to drugs, and the parents have already paid for 2 unsuccessful rehabs.
When it became clear that their carefully laid retirement plan was in jeopardy, June and Jim met with their financial advisor. She warned, unfortunately, that unless they took drastic steps, they were never going to be able to retire in the style to which they had planned.
The advisor pointed out three big problems that needed to be addressed:
One, the adult children were both financially dependent on their parents. They had nowhere to live and could not support themselves.
Two, because of point #1, the couple did not have the retirement savings they had planned on. Instead, as they leave their peak earning years behind, they had spent that money on rehabs, loans, legal fees, etc.
Three, even if they had the money to do so, they can’t move to the active adult or 55+ community they had hoped to. Downsizing isn’t an option because there wouldn’t be enough room, and age restrictions might prohibit their children and grandchildren from living in a 55+ community.
Some of the problems boomers have with their adult children
Our hypothetical couple above experienced most of the problems that boomers experience when their adult children fail to live independently. Here is a more complete list (maybe you could add some more):
– Living at home as adults, sometimes without paying rent
– Borrowing or asking for large sums of money
– Addictions and rehab
– Raising and caring for grandchildren
– They might be financially independent, but have cut off contact with you or other family members
It is hard to predict when a child will fail to be able to live independently. Sometimes the ones you never expect fall into that category, while others show signs of trouble from an early age. Special needs children are yet another challenge that many parents manage with love and sacrifice.
Another difficult problem occurs when adult children stop having contact with their parents, or refuse to let them see their grandchildren. These situations are usually complex and there might be plenty of room for blame. If you experience this situation you should examine yourself to see if you have a role in the problem. Counseling might be a very useful thing to save a terrible situation.
What to do
We are not psychologists and would not deign to give advice. Adult children who are not financially independent can jeopardize your retirement happiness. Your life is important too. Talking with a qualified mental health or family counselor is always a good idea. The act of talking with someone else and getting an outside opinion can be enormously helpful.
In addition to these articles there are many helpful books and magazine articles on the subject:
Help Your Adult Child Move Out -Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out
Stop Enabling Your Overly Dependent Adult Child
Kids Who Don’t Launch
More Adult Americans Live with Their Parents and Grandparents
How to Close the Bank of Mom and Dad
My Wife Gives Our Son $25,000 a Year, What Should I Do?
Do you have experience dealing with this problem, and do you have any suggestions for how to manage it? If so please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. To maintain a sense of compassion on this difficult problem, please try to keep to your own personal experience (not your neighbors) and stick to practical rather than judgmental advice.