College Graduates Share the Highs and Lows of Moving Back in with Their Parents

Living with Mom and Dad again usually entails endless free food and never writing a rent check. It can also make you feel like you're back in high school.

by Molly Kay
Jun 7 2018, 3:53pm

Photos of Grace Chang, Libby Collyer, and Roy Rosas, courtesy of them.

Three months after graduating from Georgia State University in 2016, Grace Chang decided to move back in with her parents because she couldn't afford to live on her own. Even though the geology major had found a job straight out of college as an entry-level data technician earning $39,000 a year, she quickly recognized that moving back to her childhood home in Woodstock, Georgia made “the most sense financially,” she said.

“It didn’t make sense to be making barely enough to survive,” said Chang, now 23. Not only does living with her parents save around $800 a month in rent, it’s helping her make a dent in her $50,000 in student loans. “Paying off student loans is already stressful enough. Having to factor in rent on top of that is enough to break a person.”

Chang is one of the millions of young adults living with their parents after college. Nearly a third of Americans aged 18 to 34 do so versus just a quarter back in 1975. And among that group, one in four are neither working nor going to school. In a much-publicized example, one unemployed 30-year-old, Michael Rotondo, refused to leave his parents house in New York until they successfully sued to get him out.

That's an extreme case, of course. And considering the crushing student debt many grads face—the average student loan payment is $393 a month—it’s hardly surprising that a rent-free living arrangement is worth the loss of independence that comes with sleeping in your childhood bed and living under the watchful eye of your parents.

The perks of living with Mom and Dad

Libby Collyer moved back in with her parents in Dallas in 2014 when she couldn’t get into medical school after graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans. She spent two years to work as an EMT back home and was able to save $12,000, which, along with help from her parents, she used to get a master’s degree at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

Libby Collyer with her Dad on her graduation day in 2014.

For Collyer, now 26, moving back home after college “really strengthened my relationship” with her parents. It also came with some culinary advantages: “At home, it was open access to a full fridge of expensive meats and cheeses, like steak and brie—it was great.”

Forget about privacy

Collyer says the downside to living under the same roof as her parents was the barrage of questions they asked about her new boyfriend. The first time she went out with him, he picked her up at her family home, and when he knocked at the door, her parents were “all up in my business,” she said. As their relationship progressed, “I couldn’t spend the night with him without my dad asking me tons of questions the following morning,” she added.

“I almost get treated like I’m back in high school, even though I was independent in college,” Rosas said.

Roy Rosas, 25, has a similar problem with setting boundaries with his parents. “I almost get treated like I’m back in high school, even though I was independent in college,” Rosas said. He says his parents are “really nosey” and constantly ask what he’s doing when he’s not at home.

The 2016 graduate of the University of Wisconsin has been living at home in Beloit, Wisconsin since he graduated because he has been unable to find a full-time job. His parents cover all of his expenses including roughly $170 a month toward his $40,000 in student loans.

Taking baby steps toward moving out

After being unemployed for a couple years, Rosas now works part-time earning $8.25 an hour as a social media specialist in the travel industry. But not being able to support himself has put a strain on his relationship with his parents. “There are times where I lash out or my parents lash out at me because they question my degree and my work ethic. They didn’t see how much time I put into applying for jobs only to be rejected time after time, never even landing an interview.”

Even though he has a job now, it doesn’t pay enough for him to move out. “I have friends talking about retirement funds and I don’t even have a savings account,” he said. “There are times where my situation makes me feel really low.”

Roy Rosas on vacation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after graduating from college in 2016.

Despite the struggles, Rosas says he tries to remind himself that his current living arrangement is temporary. “Everyone moves at different paces, so try not to compare yourself with everybody else," he said. He hopes that his current part-time job will lead to a full-time gig—so he can finally move out and find his own place in Chicago.