Living at home after college evokes a negative stigma, but it’s the reality for a lot of graduates these days, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about.
In fact, PEW Research reports that 52% of Americans aged 18-29 lived with their parents as of July 2020. That was an increase from 47% in July 2019, indicating that while COVID has certainly caused some people to move back home, most people who needed to live at home were already doing so.
Roughly half of the population aged 18-29 lives at home—and, according to that same report from PEW, the highest uptick was from those aged 18-24. That’s the student and recent graduate population, many of whom can’t find a job after college.
This many young adults haven’t lived with their parents since the Great Depression, for reference. It’s not the glamorous life that most of us want, but it carries many, many advantages for your early life after college.
Here’s the data-backed case for living at home (with tips to make it more bearable based on advice from qualified professionals after that).
Why moving back home after college makes financial sense
Moving home after college can put a strain on your social relationships (especially with your parents), but it’s a wise financial decision for many recent graduates.
- You pay little or no rent, which is the single biggest living cost for every household, on average.
- You can pay down your student loans faster.
- You can build up savings for a car and a property faster.
- You can buy yourself nice clothes for interviews and office work environments faster.
- You can job search without the added pressure of paying bills with money you don’t have. Interviewers can pick up on that kind of anxiety.
- If you get an unpaid internship after college, you can pursue it without going into further debt.
Living at home also carries benefits for your mental health. Specifically, your parents can provide a support network that you can’t always get from roommates or long-distance calls with your friends.
That’s qualitative, though. Here’s the data to inform your decision below.
You’ll pay little or no rent
First off, it takes longer for new graduates to find a job compared to established professionals. Specifically, recent grads take about 7.4 months on average, while everyone else takes about 4 months (according to Indeed).
Job searching is a soul-sucking endeavor on its own, but it also represents more than half a year of no income. How expensive is it to live when you’re under 25? Here’s the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Here’s what the average American under 25 pays for in a year just to live.
|Expense (under 25)||Cost (annual)|
Between rent, transportation, food, and utilities, the average fresh graduate could save $25,000 – $30,000 per year.
That’s a huge amount of money to save, especially if you’re still on the hunt for the best jobs after college to cover those living costs. 67% of the respondents in this age had some college education, too, so it’s likely to be highly accurate if you’re a recent graduate.
Why run your financial health into the ground and risk ruining your credit to pay for rent with money that you don’t have? Living at home after college will let you save the equivalent of a year’s salary.
You can pay back student loans faster
Student loans are no joke. Between four different sources, we can safely say that the average student debt after college sits between $28,000 and $37,000 per graduate.
That’s more than the average graduate makes in a year, fresh out of college, and before counting taxes.
Living with your parents can help you pay this down faster because you won’t have to pay for most or any of the primary living expenses that make life after college such a financial ordeal. Paying it back faster also reduces the amount of interest you’ll be charged, which lowers the overall cost of the debt, too.
There’s more than just student debt to worry about, too. The average household debt for Americans under 35 has increased substantially over the last 30 years. In 1989 it was about $23,000, but now it’s closer to $46,000, according to the Federal Reserve.
It’s common for adults to take out loans on cars and mortgages too, so the additional student debt will put a heavy strain on your financial well-being. Every dollar that would normally go toward rent or car ownership can go toward paying down your student debt sooner, freeing you up to pay for things that you’ll need in adulthood and the working world.
Internships are easier while living at home
Internships are popular in America, perhaps more so than anywhere else in the world. While most internships are filled by students still in college, 31% are filled by full-fledged graduates that have worn the cap and gown.
Internships can be solid opportunities to get your foot in the door with a company or an industry, but they come with two big caveats:
- 43% of internships at for-profit companies don’t pay anything.
- Interns who do get paid only make an average of $14 per hour (as of writing).
This means you’ll likely be making little or no money during your internship, if you land one. This brings us back to the first and second points, which is that you’ll need to save every dollar possible to stay afloat financially. Even the $14 average intern wage doesn’t come close to the average salary after college, which hovers around $20 historically.
The type of college you attend correlates strongly to your odds of landing a paid internship, too.
Internships represent an important career stepping stone for many students and graduates, so “not doing them” probably isn’t a realistic answer for everyone. Living at home after college can put them in positions to gain the work experience they need for a paid job without incurring crippling financial penalties.
Tips on living with parents after college
Living with your parents after college can be more difficult than before you started college. That happens after four years of personal growth.You’ll probably find some aspects of home life hard to swallow at first:
- Your independence may be restricted
- You’ll have less privacy
- Dating becomes harder
- You may need to go out to see friends
The same parent-child dynamic from your high school days won’t work. Follow these pointers to create a new norm in which everyone can get along:
- Be respectful and level-headed with your parents.
- Firmly but gently make sure you are being treated like an adult. No tantrums or shouting matches, though.
- Respect your parents’ boundaries and the household rules. If some seem silly, make a respectful case for trying out some changes.
- Share your plans about next steps with your parents. If you don’t have any, then let them know you need to decompress for a few weeks before forming a plan.
- Accept advice on how to find a job after college with gratitude, even if you don’t agree with it. It shows respect, controlled emotions, and a willingness to listen.
- Help out around the house. Clean dishes, do some grocery runs, mow the lawn; even small stuff can go a long way toward a smooth transition.
It’s also important to watch out for depression. While moving home is a savvy financial move, it’s easy to compare yourself to others who may have landed a job and are living independently right away. It’s exactly the kind of psychological self-sabotage that makes social media so dangerous. If you’re feeling demotivated or “unworthy,” then you need to talk with someone about it.
What parents can do to make the transition better
Sometimes parents can be difficult to live with even after making a valiant effort to meet them halfway. It happens. Dr. Bryn Jessup has some tips for parents to make the transition easier, too.
- Don’t assume your kid is becoming a “loser” for moving home after college. It makes a lot of financial sense and the job market is more saturated than ever.
- Set expectations and boundaries on things like personal space, the division of labor (chores), and, if necessary, a plan to move out with a job offer in hand.
- Don’t baby your kids or try to pen them in. They’re moving back from college and are growing into full-fledged adults. It’s a process, and freedom helps it along.
- Have kids help prepare meals, run some errands, or even to contribute to the bill if they aren’t completely strapped for cash.
- Set up a timeline for how long your child can (or should) stay at home.
- Let them find their way without nagging or micromanagement. It becomes a mental burden the moment you ask or tell someone to do something.
- Quietly keep an eye out for depression or another mental health issue. Job searching is a soul-sucking journey for many recent graduates.
What to do at home after college
It’s pretty common to have no direction after college. You’ve been working toward graduating for four years, only to have it all come to an abrupt end in the middle of the year—and that’s not even hiring season for most businesses outside of the tourism industry.
Here are some ideas on what to do after college for your next step.
Create a financial plan: Most recent graduates have a big debt and no income to pay it off. Moving home is a big first step (and a wise one), but there’s more you can accomplish. Think about what steps you can take to earn money in the short term and the long term, such as getting a survival job and putting together an aggressive savings plan.
Revamp your resume: Ever wondered what a resume should look like after college? Most grads just wing it, and that’s part of why they struggle to find jobs for 7 months or longer. Learn how to quantify your resume to punch far above its weight and land interviews faster.
Find real work experience: Can’t get a job without experience, but can’t get experience without a job, either? It’s a classic catch-22. You don’t need to wait to be given experience, though—you can go out and grab it for yourself. Build a portfolio and beef up your resume by helping out local businesses, consultants, and non-profits. The help is usually appreciated.
Build a portfolio website: Nothing says “going places” like your very own website. It shows that you’re serious about launching your career and taking on new challenges—and that you put an effort into presentation. In short, it’s about creating a personal brand for yourself, and it pays off. I was hired because I had one.
Take a gap year: Taking a gap year after college can encompass many things, and it usually refers to doing something non-academic before joining a graduate program. Every other blog out there telling you to travel seems ignore the costs, but you can do other things—like getting a low-key job to build savings, teaching English abroad (or remotely), and taking professional courses.
That’s everything you need to know about living at home after college. It saves a ton of money, letting you pay off student debt faster, and it gives you a base of operations to plan your next career steps. Half of young Americans do it for a reason!