The student debt effect: Moving back in with Mom and Dad

Graduation tassel on top of checkbook

For college students turning the tassel soon, graduation could mean moving back in with Mom and Dad.

Thanks to high unemployment among young adults and even higher student debt levels, 53% of those ages 18 to 24 are either currently living with their parents or moved back in temporarily in recent years because of the economy, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Moving back home doesn't have to be pure agony. These tips from Jenny Blake, author of Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, can ease the transition.

Set some parameters
One of the biggest problems recent grads face when they move back in is not having a clear understanding of what's expected of them and what they expect in return, Blake says. To ensure that everyone's on the same page, Blake suggests having a conversation early on that covers what parents expect in terms of rent, utility payments and household responsibilities.

"Getting clear on a few chores is a good thing," says Blake. Grads should "get clear with their parents on pulling their own weight and maybe going a little extra if they aren't paying rent."

Setting parameters early on is also crucial for parents, Blake adds. While graduates may have had a curfew or restrictions on houseguests in their younger days, those policies should be reexamined now.

Although most families can probably handle these matters verbally, those with major move-in anxieties may consider putting it in writing.

Make a deadline
Graduates need to recognize that moving back home isn't a free ride, even if no rent is charged. In exchange for a place to stay, graduates have a responsibility to search for jobs and to avoid freeloading if possible, Blake says.

"Even if the parent doesn't set a deadline to move out, it's a good idea for the graduate to do that for themselves," she says. "... (F)or the graduate, whether they have a job or not, really set some clear goals for themselves around what type of city they want to live in, where they want to live, whether they want to have roommates or not."

Having specific goals and deadlines can help both grads and their parents create a job-search strategy and financially plan for the future. Along with having a move-out date in mind, grads should also think about how much money they'll need when they're not living at home.

"Either save 50% of your paycheck, or calculate what the rent and what utilities would be, and save that at a very minimum" while living at home, Blake says. That way, when grads do move out, "they have a savings fund built up, and they're used to spending their paycheck in that way."

In addition to creating goals and a savings buffer, Blake also recommends that families schedule periodic checkups to evaluate how things are progressing.

Play nice
The good news is that having a grown child move home works out most of the time.

In the Pew Research Center study, only 12% of 18- to 24 year-olds who moved back home said that it was bad for their relationship with their parents.

The keys to making the new living arrangement work are compromise and communication, Blake says. When disagreements do arise, graduates should stay respectful and remember that their living situation is temporary.

"...(F)or the college graduate, ideally they can come from a place of gratitude. ... They get to live at home and save money and have a cushion while they look for a job. That's really a bonus, and it's really generous of their parents and family," she says. "... really remember that they're living in someone else's house now."

Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and sought-after speaker who helps others “wake up, live big! and love the journey.” She has been featured on Forbes.com, U.S. News & World Report, CNN.com and is nationally recognized as a leader among Gen Y. You can search for her popular book Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, on Amazon.com.