Estimate Time5 min

When an adult child moves home: 4 tips for success

Key takeaways

  • Get a clear understanding of your expenses, income, and retirement needs so you can provide support without putting your financial future at risk.
  • Set house rules that include any financial and non-financial expectations you may have for your child.
  • Keep in mind that there's no one-size-fits-all plan for when an adult child moves home. Consider your specific values, financial situation, and family dynamics when making decisions.

When Cheli English-Figaro’s son moved back home after college, she had a set strategy in mind: She and her husband would ask him to pay rent. They would then save the money—but not tell her son they were doing so—and give him that lump sum back once he was ready to buy a home.

“It was a way of doing forced savings,” she says. “I thought it was a good idea.” There was just one hitch: Her husband completely disagreed with the plan. “He wouldn’t hear of it,” she says. After much debate between the two, they didn’t ask their son to pay rent.

That was just one of the many family and financial dynamics English-Figaro had to navigate when her son moved back into their Maryland home. The experience led to her creating When the Nest Never Empties: A Handbook for Living with Adult Children and/or Elderly Parents.

“I wrote the book because we handled everything so poorly,” she says good-naturedly. “I wanted people not to do what I did.”

Challenges can easily arise when an adult child moves back home. Although it’s difficult to anticipate every possibility, you can avoid many issues by planning ahead, establishing clear rules and expectations, setting financial boundaries, and maintaining open lines of communication among family members.

If your child is boomeranging, here are 4 tips for when adult children come back home to live with you.

Fidelity Viewpoints

Sign up for Fidelity Viewpoints weekly email for our latest insights.

1. Formulate a support plan

“Think through how you want and are able to support your child,” advises Meredith Stoddard, vice president of life events planning at Fidelity Investments.

It’s crucial to do this as early as possible, ideally before a child asks to move back, says English-Figaro. This way, you’ll be prepared if you get this request.

If you share your home with a spouse or partner, it’s also critical to have frank discussions with the understanding that you may have differing views.

“I shouldn’t have assumed that my husband and I would agree on issues like how much a child should contribute to the household,” English-Figaro says. “That’s also a conversation we should have had earlier.”

Be sure to clearly understand your income, expenses, and retirement planning needs so you can formulate a strategy that doesn’t jeopardize your financial future. Once you’re clear on your numbers, determine what expenses you’ll cover and where you’d like your child to make financial contributions. Also, specify who will be responsible for which household tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, or yard work.

As you develop your plan, keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules around this. Levels of support can vary widely, depending on factors such as your financial situation, family dynamics, and cultural norms. “For some families, it’s assumed the adult child will continue to live at home or move back in, with the parents covering their expenses,” Stoddard points out.

Factor in what will give you the most satisfaction and consider what will be the most beneficial for your schedule. For instance, you might enjoy grocery shopping and preparing family meals, or you might opt to have your child do that once a week.

2. Discuss big-picture goals and desires

Ask your child about their personal and professional ambitions. Listen carefully, acknowledge what they say, and then share what you hope they will accomplish while they live with you.

Stoddard recommends using less-demanding words like “wish” to articulate your desires. For instance, you can say, “Our wish for you is that you’ll save money while you’re here and have enough to buy a house within 2 years.”

Share your aspirations as well—such as fully funding your 401(k) or buying a beach home for retirement—so your child understands your objectives and why you might need to set some financial limits on your support. “You can say something like, "We’re willing to support your move home, but we also have our own goals, like X or Y,'” Stoddard says.

This 2-way dialogue can foster mutual understanding. At the same time, you’re modeling responsible financial behavior by discussing how you plan to achieve your dreams. Additionally, it can be beneficial to share financial tips and resources with your child on how to develop a plan to reach their goals.

3. Outline the specifics of your living arrangement

Share the plan you created, clearly communicating expectations “on everything from rent to household chores to who’s paying for the meals,” Stoddard says. Aim to be as specific as possible. It’s best to have this discussion with your child before they move home, so they know what to expect.

Discuss specific timelines and milestones, such as how long you’ll allow a child to live rent-free or how much money you expect them to save during a certain period of time. Write up the house rules and keep them in a place where they are easily accessible.

Setting expectations and boundaries with someone you love can be difficult at times. Yet they can help you maintain your financial stability and enable your child to develop a sense of responsibility. “You can set a child up for success by encouraging them to stand on their own 2 feet and become more self-sufficient,” says Stoddard. “There can be a lot of pride in that.”

4. Maintain ongoing family conversations

Have regular discussions with your child to see if they need assistance in any areas and check their progress toward achieving their goals. At the same time, keep them informed of any changes that may affect the household, such as unexpected expenses that could alter the amount of financial support you give them.

Reflecting on her experience, English-Figaro says she should have had more frequent conversations with her son about his employment opportunities, especially since a job he was counting on didn’t materialize.

“I should have asked more questions,” she says. And if she could go back in time, she would have “insisted that he make frequent and more productive visits to his college career center.”

She also acknowledges that a parent can’t force an adult child to take any specific actions, adding that what a parent can do is offer advice and encouragement.

Ultimately, things worked out for her son. He landed a job, went to graduate school part time, and earned a master’s degree without racking up debt. He’s still living at home, now saving up money to buy his own house.

Ready to start saving or investing?

Choose from a variety of different accounts to help you meet your goals.

More to explore

This information is intended to be educational and is not tailored to the investment needs of any specific investor.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general and educational in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Tax laws and regulations are complex and subject to change, which can materially impact investment results. Fidelity cannot guarantee that the information herein is accurate, complete, or timely. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use, and disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC, 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917