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The proverbial 'empty nest' may not stay empty for long if a new subculture called boomerangers can help it. The term boomerangers refers to post-graduation adults who choose to return home to their parents instead of seeking their fortunes elsewhere. According to the most recent census figures, over 18 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 currently live in their childhood homes. As that number continues to grow, sociologists and other interested parties are trying to make sense of it all.
Boomerangers are not necessarily unemployed or unmotivated, but many of them are simply underfinanced. The starting salaries for many entry-level jobs is often so low that young adults cannot afford to pay off their student loans and credit cards while simultaneously managing an independent household. The answer for boomerangers is painfully obvious -- return home temporarily until their incoming wages outweigh their outgoing expenses. The idea of becoming an independent adult may have to take a backseat to the realities of life.
Some parents embrace the concept of boomerangers, even if it means reliving a role they thought they had abandoned forever. Having an able-bodied adult in their home means more security and less dependence on others for routine chores and errands. Some boomerangers find themselves taking on the role of caregiver for aging parents, which can mean a significant savings compared to assisted living facilities. Boomerangers often pay their fair share of rent and utilities, although this practice may not be as universal as some parents may hope.
The controversy surrounding boomerangers is often more social than financial. Society in general favors a traditional progression from dependent child to independent young adult to responsible married couple. Parents who have successfully raised their children should have the right to enjoy their later lives without the responsibility of parenthood. The phenomenon of boomerangers definitely throws a monkey wrench in this traditional machinery. In a world in which entry-level jobs have been outsourced to other countries, more and more adult children may feel the need to regroup and rethink at home.
Experts suggest that parents dealing with boomerangers set definite boundaries and expectations. Rent and other financial responsibilities should be clearly defined and put in writing. The arrangement should be seen as temporary, in order to avoid a sense of entitlement or laxity on the part of the adult child. Boomerangers shouldn't necessarily be treated as freeloaders, but neither should they be encouraged to abuse the privilege of free room and board. Once the boomerangers have reached a point at which their outstanding expenses are manageable and their income is sufficient for independent living, they should recognize the need to leave the nest once again.