Staying at home for longer leaves parents counting the costs

More adult children are remaining in the family home today in comparison to years gone by.

More young adults are living at home for longer, not able or willing to leave the nest.

It's an issue for many parents who want to their kids to stand on their own feet, but are unsure how much they should be pushing their adult children to be independent.

Millennials, those aged between about 18 and their mid-30s, have been copping bad press lately.

They have been accused of demanding instant gratification and growing up in school environments where every child wins a prize. They are labelled lazy and narcissistic with social media leaving them clueless on how to deal with real life.

Others say the criticisms are unfair. "There's a common misconception that today's youth are lazy and can't be bothered to find work, happily sitting at home under the protection of mum and dad," says Steve Shepherd, chief executive of TwoPointZero, a career coaching consultancy.

"Yet the job market is significantly harder to crack than 30 years ago and much of the advice we see young people receiving is out of date."

Shepherd argues pushing young people out of home too early would see youth unemployment and under-employment increase, and lead to a cycle of debt or welfare.

Enthusiasm returns

Scott Tangey thought he would likely work in foreign affairs, possibly as a diplomat. But after graduating more than a year ago with a good degree in German, Chinese and international studies, he went off the idea.

"I was feeling kind of lost at sea," Scott says. "Being a diplomat was the only answer I had when asked what I wanted to do with my life," says the 23-year-old from Melbourne.

He has been working in casual jobs, like data entry and waiting tables, and found it hard to work out what he wanted to do professionally. He turned to TwoPointZero to help him identify areas that suited his interests and passions.

"I've done a bunch of tests to assess what may be a good fit from an emotional and intellectual standpoint – something that I can do well and would be happy doing," Scott says.

He has identified skills that he has picked up during his studies and identified professions where he can put those to good use.

"I have a short list of potential career options – a mixed bag – including journalism and teaching," he says.

He intends to move out of the family home once he secures full-time employment. Though he does not pay board, he "keeps his end up on chores".

Kim Tangey, Scott's mother, says parents can help their kids with careers advice but it is decades since they entered the workforce themselves and the workforce is constantly changing.

"They have so many directions that they can go and new types of jobs are being created," she says. "Ultimately, they have to follow their passions. All you can do is give them enough support to discover that along the way."

Pessimism

Surveys are revealing a lot of pessimism among Australia's young adults. 

The 2017 Deloitte Millennial survey of those in 30 countries shows that only 8% of Australia's young believe they will eventually be financially better off than their parents. That compares with an average of 36% across the developed world.

The unemployment rate among young Australians is already double the national average at more than 13.3%, while one in four working young Australians are underemployed, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Shepherd points out many of the entry-level jobs their parents used to get on the career ladder no longer exist, replaced by automation, offshoring and the "gig economy" of casual work.

It is not only harder to get a first "proper" job, but the difficulty of owning a home, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, is likely to be contributing to Millennials' pessimism.

CoreLogic figures show the median dwelling price (units and houses) in Sydney is $850,000 and $640,000 in Melbourne.

First-timers are coming-up against deep-pocketed investors at auctions who are borrowing against their existing properties. Even renting in Sydney and Melbourne is expensive.

Mark McCrindle, a social researcher who has his own consultancy, McCrindle Research, says it is not surprising Millennials are feeling a level of discontent. "They are recognising that despite their hard work they are being left behind and are worried about income equality, as they are feeling it first hand," he says.

Work changes

It takes young adults an average of 4.7 years to transition from full-time study to full-time work, compared with one year in 1986, according to the Foundation for Young Australians.

Shepherd says parents invest a lot in their children's education with the expectation that schools and university will prepare them to move straight into work. But the reality is that there are not enough graduate jobs to go around, and it is hard to get them.

McCrindle says the best way for parents to help their children stand on their own feet is to emphasise to them how important it is for them get work experience while they are still studying.

"The more real-world experience they can get through part-time jobs they have as they study, the more they will future-proof themselves," he says.

"It gives them resilience and confidence and develops those skills which are transferable to any job, like communications skills."

Parents should be supportive of them getting that broader perspective while at high school – it is not just about getting the best university entrance score, he says.

Charging board

Tony Rigby, a financial planner with AMP in Brisbane, has two children at home, an 18-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son. Both his children are studying full-time at university and he is expecting them to stay at home for several years yet.

"It's tempting to say to your kids that you will pay their HECS debt, for example, but parents should not be embarrassed to say they cannot always assist their kids financially," he says. "You can't be the bank of mum and dad with no ground rules."

If you can't afford it you can't afford it, and a lot parents in their 50s have superannuation account balances that are not that high, he says.

Rigby says when the kids get some work, charge them a small amount of board. "You could even put the board money into your mortgage offset account and give it back to them when they need it for something, like a deposit on a property," he says.

If the adult child returns to live at home to save money for a house deposit, for example, then help them to do that, he says. If needed, show them how to do a budget and encourage them to stick to it.

 

This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 19 February 2017. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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