Still living with your parents? How to know when it’s time to move out

Ora Morison | 12/12/22 | Last Updated: 12/12/22 9:02 AM ET
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The Financial Post


Even though she’s putting more than half her salary each month toward her student debt, 26-year-old Kaitlin MacVicar still thinks she’ll be living with her parents for at least another two or three years.

Out of school for about two years, Ms. MacVicar has a full-time job working for the federal government in Ottawa. She thought she would be about ready to move out on her own by now but that dream is fading.

“I just don’t think I could even afford it,” she said. “Even if I paid the minimum [on my student loans], I would be having trouble.”

Like many in her generation, she doesn’t feel much pressure from her mother and father to grow up and move out. Parents appear all too willing to finance their children’s lives late in to their 20s, and the kids are comfortable living at home.

There has been a rise in co-habitation of all sorts since the 2008 financial crisis, said Lars Osberg, an economics professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Census data show young people are particularly affected by this trend, and their roommates of choice appear to be their parents.

In 2011, 42% of people aged 20 to 29 lived with their parents, up from 32.1% 20 years earlier.

While larger-than-ever student debts and high youth unemployment rates are often used to explain this trend, it’s also true that parents are facilitating much of the living-at-home-until-30 phenomenon, said Norah Foster, a credit counsellor at K3 Credit Counselling in Ottawa.

When Ms. MacVicar graduated, she had a brief conversation with her parents about eventual plans to become financially independent and move out, but said it was more “play it by ear.”

“[My parents] were very nice about it. They said I could stay as long as I needed to,” Ms. MacVicar said.

Support from parents can be great, said Ms. Foster. “But I still think there needs to be more of a push.”

Ms. Foster has counselled young people as well as parents and said she finds it’s actually the older generation that is more resistant to the idea of getting their kids to strike out on their own.

“It’s a tough sell,” she said. “To be honest, I’m more successful with the younger people. They seem to have more of a plan and a motivation.”

She believes pushing adult children to become financially independent is what will make them happiest in the long run. And she warns against giving them so much support, they are unable to eventually make it on their own.

Stay at home until your debt is paid, advises Ms. Foster. After that, as long as you have a job, it’s time to move out, she said.

From the outset, she says, it’s a good idea for young people to make a plan with their parents that includes a time frame for how much longer they expect to be financially dependent.

The only time Ms. Foster said she would advise a young person not to move back home is when they might incur “hidden costs” such as the cost of commuting from the suburbs to the city for work.

For Ms. MacVicar there is still some stigma associated with living with her parents.

“The older you get the more you’re judged for living at home,” she said. “People seem to think you’re mooching or refusing to leave the nest, but I don’t know, I don’t feel ashamed of it. To me it’s the right decision.”

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