Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life: When the Road to Success Leads Back Home

Despite our best efforts, sometimes grown children aren’t quite ready to enter the real world.

The day our children move out of the house, graduate from college, or land their first full-time job isn’t always-or even often-the day they achieve independence. Life is full of twists and turns, and even young adults with the best laid plans can veer off course, turning to their parents for support when things get tough. One study, conducted by Arizona Pathways to Life Success, says that half of recent graduates ages 23 to 26 depend on their family’s financial support to meet their current needs.

There are many reasons why an adult may want or need to return to their family home. Difficulty finding a job after college ranks high on the list, but divorce and layoffs could factor in, too. And of course, you’ll want to help. But what happens when your soon-to-be divorced son escapes into video games, instead of searching for an apartment? How can you make sure your home is a launching (or re-launching) pad rather than an endless vacation?

You may be willing to welcome your children back home with open arms, a full refrigerator, free laundry and more, but there’s a fine line between helping and enabling. So what's a loving parent to do? It seems the answer lies in boundaries.  And the time to set them is before your children lug their suitcases back over the threshold. Let’s take a look at some of the things to keep in mind if you or someone you know finds an adult child heading home again.

Be Realistic
Returning home as an adult doesn’t carry with it the same benefits and privileges of childhood, for good reason. As parents, it might be your instinct to give your loved one as much as you can-the way you’ve always tried to in the past. But many adults supporting family members overestimate their ability to give and don’t think about how long they’ll be paying to feed another mouth.

Worse, many don’t think through what it could mean for their futures. They raid their own savings and retirement accounts, often using more than they intended to, and ignoring the fact that they may not have as much time to make up for the losses. Remember, too, that having less than you’ve planned for can greatly affect your quality of life in retirement.

To avoid this, try sitting down for a few hours as a family. You’ll need to discuss whether or not you can (or will) fund your child’s nonessential, such as trips, cellphone, entertainment and clothing expenses. If your new housemate is able, ask them to pay rent, help with bills or split the chores to ease the financial and physical burdens. Doing so reinforces responsibility-with the added benefit of putting into practice essential budgeting and money management skills. Creating a financial plan with your son or daughter also could help keep disagreements in check later on. Try turning to your advisor for help determining how you can strike a balance between assisting your children and making progress toward your own goals.

Should your meetings get a little contentious, try taking a break for a few hours, or even postponing the conversation until a day when everyone’s spirits are higher. As money issues arise, ask your advisor if they can offer some financial education to your children. Their objective guidance, along with your support, might be the push your loved one needs to rejoin the real world. Wherever your conversations end up, focusing on the love that you share will help guide you toward the right path for your family.

From "Amy & Dan Smith's Planning for Life" column appearing monthly in the Blue Ridge Leader, Loudoun County, VA.

The foregoing article contains general legal information only and is not intended to convey legal advice.  For legal advice regarding estate planning, the reader should contact his/her lawyer.

Daniel D. Smith is a partner in the law firm of Smith & Pugh, PLC, 161 Fort Evans Road, NE, Suite 345, Leesburg, VA 20176. (Tel: 703-777-6084, He has practiced law in Loudoun County since 1980.