Two-thirds of singles in their 20s now live with their parents – here's how it affects their lives
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Donald Hirsch, Loughborough University
Gone are the days when living at home in your 20s was seen as an embarrassing sign of arrested development. Today, 63% of single adults between the ages of 20 and 29 live with their parents, as do just over half of 25- to 29-year-olds. This inevitably raises issues about how families share costs, and what sort of living standards both older and younger generations can maintain in this arrangement.At the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, we’ve established a Minimum Income Standard, based on what income members of the public say is necessary for a person to meet their material needs and participate in society. According to our latest research, a single person living on their own in a rented flat needs to earn at least £18,400 a year, rising to £27,000 in London, to reach this minimum standard. We found that, for young adults with modest means, high housing costs and difficulty saving money are the main motivation for living with parents. As well as saving on rent, a combined household can share the cost of council tax and water bills, save on heating and potentially save money by bulk buying food and other goods. Our research identified potential savings of about £7,000 a year, as a result of a single person living together with their parents, rather than separately. Arguably, living this way also makes efficient use of the UK’s limited housing stock, by keeping family homes fully occupied. Yet our research – based on focus groups of young adults and parents who live in such situations – identified some thorny dilemmas within these living arrangements, particularly where they are not a temporary transition, but may last for years.
A difficult dynamicThe parents we spoke with saw sharing the family home as a way of helping their sons and daughters to get established. Some hoped it would assist them to save for a deposit on a house, or take other steps towards independence. But many parents couldn’t help observing cases where their children leveraged this help to spend far more than they expected, for example by buying the latest technological
Paying their wayThese tensions emerged most clearly in discussions about how much young people living with their parents should contribute to household costs. Both the young adults and parents taking part in our study agreed that, while parents would pay most household bills, they should receive some contribution from the young adult in the form of a regular “board” payment.
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The hidden costsYet these calculations make some important assumptions about the parents’ situation. One is that the parents themselves are well off enough to provide a decent home, which is adequately furnished and heated. The calculations also assume that, because parents had a bedroom available when their son or daughter was growing up, they would still have it when they reach adulthood. Keeping a spare bedroom can imply serious additional costs for less well-off families. They might have to maintain high rates of private rent or be unable to downsize to ease the transition to retirement. Those living in social housing will be under pressure to downsize to avoid the bedroom tax if their son or daughter spends time living away at university, for example. As more young people in their 20s are living in the family home well into adulthood, it’s crucial to remember that not all parents own their home and have plenty of spare space, as well as the financial resources to support their adult children. What’s more, if it becomes more common for people to live at home with parents even into their 30s, this will begin to affect parents’ retirement plans. The transition from work to retirement is typically managed with the help of a reduction in housing costs, or the opportunity to draw on housing assets by downsizing. As future pension prospects wane, housing choices in retirement will become even more important. If the parents are still sharing a home with their children when making these decisions, they may need to become more disciplined to negotiate a fair contribution towards the costs of keeping a room available for their sons and daughters to live in. Yet our research shows just how hard that is for parents, who will never see a son or daughter as a paying lodger, but always as part of the family. Donald Hirsch, Professor of Social Policy, Loughborough University This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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