What do you picture when you think of an adult who still lives at home with their parents?
For many, it conjures up an image of a stereotypical loser, the man-child who’s still playing video games in his mom’s basement, groaning when she interrupts by coming downstairs to do the laundry.
For students on the cusp of graduating, it may bring about a sense of panic — please, dear (insert deity here), let me find a job so I don’t end up there.
But to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychologist quoted in this week’s New York Times Magazine cover article, these adults aren’t giving up by moving back in with mom and dad: They’re creating a new economic plan.
The magazine’s story, “It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Are Here to Stay,” glorifies this shift in culture that’s seeing more and more college graduates move in with their parents post-graduation.
It’s also completely wrong.
It is harder to make it economically in the U.S. than it was when our parents or grandparents graduated from high school or from college, if they went. As the Times points out, graduating into a recession has negative effects on people throughout their lives, and the American workforce is inundated now with many highly educated people competing for relatively few jobs.
However, the key word there is competing. Getting a good job and cracking into the top 20 percent of wage earners takes hard work, and that can’t be accomplished by sitting at home and relying on a parental safety net.
Staying at home during college isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is going home after it if you don’t have a job lined up out of school. Both are more financially sound than racking up thousands of dollars in student loan debt or other bills. However, it should be a stop on the journey to financial independence, not the final destination.
It can be easy to forget sometimes, but (with the exception of the few preteen prodigies running around campus), we’re all adults. College can provide a safety net and a gradual transition to the real world, between the University effectively acting in loco parentis and parents continuing to assist many students with their financial needs, but it doesn’t last forever.
In the end, it comes down to American virtues of independence and rugged individualism and other buzzwords that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Chevy ad. Whether you’re working your way through this summer or taking it easy back at your parents’ place, take some time to appreciate what they’ve done for you, and then think about how you’re going to take care of yourself.
After all, if Sting’s kids aren’t going to see any of their rock star dad’s money, we don’t have any claim to our parents’ everlasting financial support.
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