A recent article over at Elite Daily, titled “Nearly Half of All 25-Year-Olds Are Living at Home With Their Parents,” starts like this:
Think your life is a mess because you’re 25 years old and still living at your parents’ house? Don’t worry; according to statistics, nearly half of people your age are complete messes, too.
Translation: “If you’re 25 and you live at home, your existence is deprived and pointless. You’ve probably given up on life or committed a heinous crime. Likely both.”
The rest of the article goes on to not-so-subtly shame those who live with their parents (or other older family members, but I’ll say parents from here on for simplicity’s sake).
“Harder,” “dismal,” “insane,” “not a chance in hell,” “out of reach,” “sad,” and “complete mess” are just a few of the words and phrases used to describe the plight of millennials who either never left home or were forced to move back.
The author of the piece points out that student loan debt, a lackluster job market, and expensive housing are conspiring to keep millennials at home. And while it’s true that hardships are a reason people live with their parents, they aren’t the only reason. The article does a disservice to those who live at home, or are considering it, in its failure to point out any of the benefits.
A perusal of the article will leave you thinking Elite Daily reprinted a section of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” in which a father and son try to survive in a dreary, post-apocalyptic, jobless future. While living at home presents challenges, I’d argue that it’s a whole lot better then the media often make it out to be.
I lived at home every summer from 2005 to 2011, and then for a full year during 2012. Looking back, there were far more positives than negatives. Here were the main benefits, from my perspective:
The median price of a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, my hometown, is currently $1,800 per month. Prorated for a three-month summer stay, that is $5,400 per summer. So I saved as much as $32,000 during my summer stays and $21,600 in the year I spent at home in 2012.
That’s a total of over $50,000. Those costs would be lower if I had lived with roommates or bought a studio, but the point is: I still saved thousands of dollars.
That’s “fully stock your emergency fund” kind of money. That’s “retire early if you invest properly” kind of money. That’s “rounds of drinks on you every time you go out” kind of money!
Wait, don’t do that last one unless you plan on never moving out.
But that kind of money can be instrumental in getting your career off the ground. If you’re looking to start your own business or build up an emergency fund, living at home to supercharge your savings is not pathetic, it’s smart.
This mentality also makes sense if you’re simply trying to save up to be able to afford your own place. Sure, San Francisco, the city Elite Daily goes to great lengths to single out as being particularly unaffordable, is expensive. But that means we should cut people even more slack if they want to live cheaply for as long as possible before signing their own lease.
Furthermore, San Francisco is just one 47-square-mile city with 837,000 people. There’s a vast country out there with a great variety of more affordable housing options. The main study cited in the article even points out that people in Alabama are able to move out faster because housing is affordable in that state.
There is currently no mandate that I’m aware of forcing millennials to live in San Francisco or New York City, even though it feels like that sometimes. If you really want to move out, it could be a good idea to start looking into lower-cost-of-living areas.
There were more than a few times that living at home gave me a much-needed perspective on what it means to be a responsible, hard-working adult.
This was especially true after I finished up my professional basketball career in 2012 and moved back home to contemplate what to do next. I felt a sense of existential angst. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
This led me to be a little lethargic. I would wake up late, scroll through some job listings, watch some TV, think about sprucing up my resume, walk the dog, watch some more TV, and before I knew it my parents would both be getting home from work.
As soon as I saw one of their cars pull into the driveway, I would hop up, quickly change to my least-smelly shirt, open my computer, and pretend to be doing something important. My parents both worked long and hard. The thought of them seeing me in my pajamas watching “The Simpsons” at 5 p.m. horrified me. They’d come in the front door and we’d have an interaction like this:
Mom: “Hey honey, what’d you do all day?”
Me: “I WALKED THE DOG SOME PEOPLE PAY FOR THAT I’M BASICALLY SAVING YOU MONEY BY BEING HERE I’M BEING PRODUCTIVE I SWEAR.”
My defensiveness wasn’t fooling anyone, but my parents never called me out on it.
They didn’t have to say anything about how I should be doing more to try to find employment. Their discipline and work ethic spoke louder than words. After a while, I started following their example and tackled my job hunt with much more professionalism.
It can be difficult to find a decent job, and I was grateful that living at home provided me with a safe place to take my time and figure things out. I took a free internship, followed by a job I was overqualified for, and then bided my time until something better popped up. Only then did I move out.
Free Change of Perspective
When I realized I was going to be living at home for a year or more, I was a little disappointed. I bought into the idea that only failures and Europeans lived at home in their mid-20s. But, after a while, I was able to shift from dwelling on my perceived inadequacy to appreciating an opportunity. I had free home cooking, constant companionship, an awesome dog, and a basketball hoop in my front yard. Life wasn’t so bad.
And rather than feel like I was joining some exclusive club of losers, I felt strengthened by the fact that many of my peers were in the same situation. I knew I was in a transitional phase. Many people before me had been here, many after me will do the same. It’s better to accept the reality and work with it than to moan about how life is hard.
Finally, living at home also helped to solidify the idea that I didn’t need much to be happy. If I had a small room, the Internet, and food, I was set.
I don’t regret living at home when I was 25. It was the best thing for me to do at the time. The only real downside was that it can make dating a little tricky, but even that’s not impossible. If you own your situation and exude confidence, rather than trying to hide something, most people are completely accepting. You’ll find sane people don’t limit themselves to dating homeowners in San Francisco.
I like to imagine a future in which there is no stigma for living cheaply with family or friends while you figure out your next move. Promoting a dogma of shaming those who live at home will only make people more likely to overextend themselves while trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. This can cause serious financial consequences.
Also, the article never mentions the idea that living at home, surrounded by family, can be a fulfilling experience. Never again will you be in such constant contact with the people closest to you.
I found living at home also meant much more interactions with cousins, aunts, uncles, and close family friends. These people will be a little harder to make time for once you’re living on your own. Savoring those experiences allows you to feel how lucky and loved you truly are, no matter what sort of peer pressure you’re facing.
Twenty-somethings need to start seeing the idea of living at home as a tool, not a hindrance. And let’s please stop whining about our plight. The son in “The Road” doesn’t complain about having to live at home with his dad, and he’s being harassed day and night by murderous marauders. We could all learn from that example.