Daniel Lin/Daily News-Record via AP/File
James Madison University graduating seniors show off a variety of cap decorations during the university's 2015 commencement ceremonies, Friday, May 8, 2015 in Harrisonburg, Va. When graduates come back home to live for a while, it's important to have a realistic budget in place.

No more empty nest? Six tips for parents when grads move home.

Is it possible that empty-nest syndrome will soon be a thing of the past? Tips for when a new or recent graduate moves back home.

In a perfect world, parents would start saving for college soon after the delivery of their bundle of joy, but with the demands of the present moment, new parents can’t always save for the future. A couple’s lifestyle and expenses incurred while raising a child often trump saving for college.

Of course, many parents want to help their children in any way that they can, at any age; but financially supporting grown children by dishing out loans or cash gifts can be risky. You don’t want to jeopardize your own retirement.

Here are a few tips to consider if your child is moving back home.

1. Pay off debt.

The first order of business for you and your child is to start paying off the student loans. If you co-signed for your child’s loan, you are on the hook if your child defaults. It’s not uncommon for college graduates and their parents (as co-signers) to have over $100,000 in debt. If neither of you can make the monthly payment, then get in touch with the lender to discuss your options. Remember, if your son or daughter has federal loans, it’s the government’s job to work with you.

2. Don’t touch your retirement plan.

Do not cash out your 401(k) plan to pay down your student’s debt. Because you love your child more than you love yourself, you may be tempted to use retirement funds to help reduce his or her debt load. Don’t. You may end up having to move in with your kid and his or her family when you’re older.

3. Charge your child rent.

If you’re financially strapped, you can apply the money to the cost of feeding another hungry mouth in your house; otherwise, apply it to the student loans.

4. Insist that your child get a job.

Even if his or her ideal job is not attainable right now, your child should start working. I’ve had clients continue to support their kids long after graduation, paying their rent, car payment, cellphone bills and more. Meanwhile, the new graduate was not working, but instead searching for the perfect job. While each party knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, they became caught in a vicious cycle with tangled-up emotions of guilt, shame and remorse. Trust me, this is not healthy for you or your child. Almost any kind of work is better than doing nothing; employers notice if an applicant has been idle for a period of time. And besides, how can your child pay you rent without a job?

5. Decide on a budget with your child and make sure it sticks.

That means your child may have to forgo some “luxuries” such as Netflix or the latest iPhone. Don’t lose the ability to afford your lifestyle to bankroll a lifestyle that your child couldn’t otherwise maintain.

6. Set a reasonable goal for when your child will move out.

This could possibly be when the loans are paid off. It will give you and your child the financial freedom you each desire. He or she may be able to buy a home, or at least live independently, and you can secure your retirement.

Being careful, or even strict, about how much support you provide your children isn’t just about teaching them how to manage their finances and be self-sufficient. At the end of the day, you don’t want to burden your children by relying on them to take care of youfinancially.

So before turning on the “vacancy” sign at your empty nest, ask yourself: Can I afford this? Will supporting my child undermine my own financial security? Ultimately, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others, and that includes kids returning to the nest.

This article first appeared at NerdWallet. Learn more about Jeff on NerdWallet’s 'Ask an Advisor.'

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to No more empty nest? Six tips for parents when grads move home.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today