Living in your childhood bedroom can pay off, even if it has aqua walls.
Enabled by remote work, a record number of young adults moved home to ride out the early days of the pandemic—and many stayed to save money as rents skyrocketed and inflation creeped up. Even some who didn’t initially boomerang back eventually did as the cost of living became too much.
It all paid off. More of them have now saved enough to afford to move out on their own, according to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) analysis of Census Bureau data. It found that 17.8% of adults ages 25 to 34 were living at home in 2020, decreasing to 15.6% in 2022.
“It is possible that moving home allowed these young adults a financial boost that they would not have had otherwise,” Jessica Lautz, NAR’s deputy chief economist and vice president of research, said. “It could have translated into savings, paying down existing debt, and working on their credit score and debt-to-income ratio.”
That certainly seems to be the case. Moving home helped 6% of student debt borrowers pay off or make a dent in paying off their loans. And an increasing number of these young adults seemed to have socked away enough cash to become homeowners: 27% of first-time homebuyers moved from a family members’ house into their own. In 1995, only 15% of people buying their first house did the same.
Lautz attributed this trend to the 14% rise in rents from 2020 to 2021; in short, millennials preferred to bypass today’s high cost of renting and fast track their path to homeownership even if it meant living with their parents.
It’s a strategic move for a generation who has had a notoriously hard time with homebuying. Graduating into the rocky job market of the Great Recession, shouldering a disproportionate amount of student debt, and facing a rising cost of living set millennials back in building wealth. Many delayed life milestones like starting a family and buying a home. As some were finally regaining their financial footing, a pandemic came, upending the economy with overpriced houses and 40-year-high inflation.
Many millennials were left looking to cut out costs where they could to achieve financial independence, whether it was living with their parents or getting a bit of help with paying the bills—especially with rent, per a survey OnePoll conducted for Chartway Credit Union of 2,000 Americans.
Now, some of these millennials plan to take advantage of such financial assistance until they’re cut off, the survey found. And a Morgan Stanley report found that some young adults—including Gen Z—who live with their parents spend their discretionary money on luxury items. Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey once called this cohort a “train wreck” for purchasing luxury goods.
But the truth is more complicated—most young adults aren’t sitting at home pining for name brands as much as they’re looking to save for the future and afford a place to live.
Despite the progress many of them have made in saving enough to move out, the number of young adults living at home is still higher than the historical average, which NAR says tends to be less than 10%. It’s a sign of stubborn inflation and rent prices that now have Americans working an extra extra six hours a month to afford.
That’s all to say, young adults are working harder than their parents to afford housing. In the end, it might mean living with the ‘rents to afford rent, or a lease one day down the road.
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