Raising kids is expensive. For middle-income parents, the cost of raising a child to age 17 can be over $230,000, according to 2015 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And that doesn't include potential higher education costs and continuing financial support of offspring into their 20s.
What the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear, however, is just how family budgets are impacted by young adults returning to the empty nest. Myriad additional expenses arise as young people move back into their parents’ homes for a variety of reasons. Among them: their own job losses, the ability to work remotely and save on big-city rent, graduation from college into a diminished job market, or leaving college campuses as they shut down for virtual learning. Whatever the situation, some parents find that emerging adults suddenly at home means absorbing the expenses that go with them.
Depending on where you live, costs will vary across the country but, overall, supporting kids can get expensive, says Jeffrey Dew, an associate professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.
Household costs for families
Considering common household expenses such as housing, food and transportation, the average annual cost for a household of three in the U.S. is roughly $63,000, according to 2019 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Supporting a family was already expensive and the pandemic put many families on a bumpier financial roller coaster, says Jesse Ketterman, a family and consumer sciences educator at the University of Maryland. Sudden financial fluctuations, such as uncertainty over stimulus checks and jobless benefits, made it difficult for families to plan for stable finances. For working families, the household budget suddenly had to absorb more.
Groceries and utilities are examples of costs that go up for a household when young people return home, Ketterman says. College students or early career professionals may have paid their own costs while living alone but shifted those costs back to their families. In addition to basic needs, parents may be funding work equipment, transportation, and increased car or other insurance, all of which add up.
Of course, student dorm rooms or starter apartments could be a cost saving that mitigates additional household expenses, says Ketterman, as could young adults who have a job and contribute to their family's income. Two incomes supporting one household will be cheaper than supporting two households, says Ketterman.