Monday, January 15, 2007

A New Phase for Kids And Parents - "Adultolescence"

Social Scientists have come up with a new stage of your kids' growth called "Adultolescence", describing a period following college that can last five or more years. No joke !

This was recently reported in Money Magazine.
Citing the statistic that 2 out of 3 college graduates return to live at home. Those kids are being called "boomerang kids". The article goes on to say why, and how this is causing a new stage of parenting which has financial ramifications galore for you as a parent - about $5,000 a year, on average, in assistance. Your kid is also affected emotionally because (s)he now may have to live under your roof and abide by your rules, which may cause huge conflict. Some situations translate into you shelling out money to run not only your household, but theirs as well. How they spend your contribution/loan/help can be a bone of contention as well. There's lots of guilt and other emotional issues that come out of all of this.

The article points out some astounding points:
How did adultolescence come about? Blame rising college costs and rampant consumerism. Today the average graduate emerges with nearly $20,000 in student loans and $4,000 in credit-card debt. Meanwhile, (s)he faces a world in which rents have skyrocketed over recent decades but starting salaries, adjusted for inflation, have dropped 17%. (S)he can't cut it, so (s)he falls back on the bank of Mom and Dad for support in the form of either cash or an invitation to move back home.
My husband and I actually think that their cited estimate of a graduate's debt is on the low side. Most of what we have heard suggests that it is a bit higher than $24,000 in loans and consumer debt. In general, parents are supposed to help their offspring weather this period and come out the other side standing on their own two financial feet. The article points our some tips and techniques to help do this.

Apparently there are two types of "Adultolescence" - one where you see it coming (so it is planned) because you know that their wages after college graduation won't cover their expenses of paying back student loans, etc., and so you have them come live at home so they can stash some cash for awhile. The other is unplanned, and is a result of the kids' inability to maintain independence for financial reasons. You end up paying to run your household as well as his, because it would be disastrous for him to come back to live at your house.

I find this interesting on many levels, and as a homeschooling parent, I believe most of us take great pains to make sure that our kids can function independently. We are often criticized for engaging our kids in helping out around the house, doing chores, getting a job, and learning other "life skills" as part of their homeschooling experience. Some of our kids attend colleges like community colleges early on, while living at home, so that they can accrue college credits and possibly minimize the cost of their degree overall. I also think that homeschoolers may have a better sense of who they are and what they want to do with their life, because they give it some thought; they have time to do that. This absolutely minimizes the time wasted in college deciding on a field of study. Homeschoolers, I think, are probably more intimately aware of what goes into working for a living and how a household should be run. I think we are more apt to share family financial issues and how to solve them, or at least deal with them. I think on average, most kids today are so detached from their families and their circumstances that when they have to leave the nest they don't know where to begin. They have become totally accustomed and dependent on their parents' care. They are clueless regarding financial obligations and the cost of their education, or the cost of living in general.

John Taylor Gatto mentions in his book, the "Underground History of American Education", at how long ago kids were expected to be on their own, and now how our education system purposefully extends childhood. He cites some stories which demonstrate how kids were so much more independent years ago.
Our official assumptions about the nature of modern childhood are dead wrong. Children allowed to take responsibility and given a serious part in the larger world are always superior to those merely permitted to play and be passive. At the age of twelve, Admiral Farragut got his first command. I was in fifth grade when I learned of this. Had Farragut gone to my school he would have been in seventh. You might remember that as a rough index of how far our maturity has been retarded even 50 years ago (i.e. when Gatto attended elementary school).
And yet, at that age Farragut was commanding a prize naval crew! There are many other examples of ordinary kids his age doing similar things at the time. This was not an anomaly.

Well, I guess my point is that despite the financial pressures of today (cost of living, cost of college, finding employment) in general, most parents aren't really training their kids to be independent. Some kids have cultivated a sense of entitlement, have never worked hard a day in their life, and do not have the tools to deal with adversity. The kids aren't realistic and are not prepared to lower their standard of living in order to be independent. It is quite sad really.

I am extremely proud that my 23 year old college graduate son is living on his own, is gainfully employed, and paying off his college debt, and can even be philanthropic at times. He's struggling in some ways, as we all do to make a living, but he is definitely his own person and in command of his own life, and he is most definitely NOT an "adultolescent". If he is reading this he should know that he has accomplished much, and he is absolutely a full fledged independent adult who has not fallen into a newly created paradigm.

I am equally proud of my other two grown children who are also gainfully employed and quite independent. They didn't want to "live in their parent's basement" and we didn't have to "push them out of the nest"- they merely wanted to go out in the world to pursue their own lives... and that is the point of becoming an adult.


Tamara said...

The prolongation of adolescence into early adulthood is a troubling development, and one big factor in my own decision to homeschool.

I'm not sure economics tells the whole story. The reality is, throughout most of human history most people have had to work very hard, for long hours, often for very little. Economic pressures are certainly nothing new (though you could argue that our material standard of living has increased so much, that it is much harder to attain that lifestyle on one's own).

I'm with you on this one. The most important thing we can teach our kids is how to live on their own, independently. The 20's can and should be a wonderful, productive, exciting time. We owe it to the kids to help make the most of it.

News Agent said...

Maybe the simple reason overlooked is a lack of jobs that move into livable wages. No college student I met ever had a desire to live at home and this was the last thing they expected after college. It also takes two decently paid wage earners to afford to live these days. Would you feel like starting a family if you can’t afford to even take care of yourself? What I see from this generation is an act of responsibility for their situation and a failure of the older generation to understand global labor arbitrage. Instead of looking around the world and dealing with politics you blame your children for something they have zero power over because so many of you sold out to the political, educational and corporate lies you hear.

I suggest if you really care about your children stop blaming them. The Boomers blamed their parents for the worlds ills and have become far worse selling out their children’s future and putting them on an endless treadmill of debt, education retraining and lack of options that degrade and humiliate them into nothingness. Now you blame your children for something out of their control. Wake up! You sold your children out in the name of globalization at all costs.

Income Lag? Blame China
In most developed countries, wages as a proportion of total national income are currently close to their lowest level for decades.

The Nation – Long-Term Jobless find a degree just isn’t Working

The number of long-term unemployed who are college graduates has nearly tripled since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, statistics show. Nearly 1 in 5 of the long-term jobless are college graduates. If a degree holder loses a job, that worker is now more likely than a high school dropout to be chronically unemployed.

Since the 2001 recession, about one-fifth of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months -- and that proportion has steadily crept up even as the unemployment rate has fallen. The percentage of jobless who are chronically unemployed is even higher in California -- 23.3% last month, versus 20.5% nationwide.

The Bell Tolls Differently for Wall Street Tycoons v. Middle Class
"By our estimates, the real compensation share of national income for the so-called “G-7 plus” (the US, Japan, the 12-country euro-zone, the UK, and Canada) fell from 56% in 2001 to what appears to be a record low of 53.7% in 2006. (Note: Due to a lack of harmonized euro-zone data prior to 1996, the compensation share cannot be extended before that period; however, based on BIS calculations, the slightly narrower construct of the wage share of G-10 national income is currently lower than at any point since 1975)."

Words to Research:
Global Labor Arbitrage

Your children are being hammered by greed as corporations force everything towards the lowest common denominator around the globe and yet you want to set ground rules of them paying rent and pushing them out to be independent. Why don’t you just take a club and bash them some more. They did everything you told them in order to have a bright future and you were wrong. Education is worthless in a globalized society where labor is slave cheap in developing countries. Your children can’t compete because it is impossible to compete with someone making 4 dollars a day. Just be happy you still have a job but don’t count on SSI, Medicare or a decent retirement, as we will have to make the hard choices simply out of survival, which means cutting you off.

Judy Aron said...

oh boo hoo.. let's blame someone else, and why not greedy corporate America. oh puh-leeze.

First off,I didn't say it was totally the kids' fault. Besides the fact that there ARE jobs out there, (my son didn't have a problem finding one)I think you have forgotten that personal responsibility is also an issue here.. My son worked hard at getting a job - unlike many of his friends. He observed that many of his friends got useless degrees that they paid a huge price for and now they are stuck. He observed that many kids have no plan in general and also that they don't even know what they want to do to make a living. I have also heard countless employers whining about how most college kids are unbelievably uneducated, ill-equipped, and unreliable. There apparently is a dearth in work ethic as well.

Please don't go blaming this solely on those evil corporations. Part of the problem is that kids are learning to take on great debt and think they can worry about it later. They don't figure out that they can get educated in less expensive ways - like attending a community college for the first two years of school, etc. Plus many of them are not interested in saving money because they just have to have that High Def TV now.

There is plenty of blame to go around here - you can blame the corporations but I say that we as a culture have lost total sense of fiscal responsibility in our lives and have become content with mounting debt and then whining when we don't have the income to pay for it.

I believe personal responsibility is a major factor here in managing ones financial life. You can cite all the employment statistics from now to forever. Bottom line is that if you can't work for yourself, then you have to assess the market place regarding the higher level skills that employers are looking for and prepare yourself to meet it. While getting said skills you shouldn't be mounting debt with no set plan on how to pay it off.

There is no reason in this world why a college educated person who has a meaningful degree should be waiting tables or working at Burger King. If they are, then they need to relocate to an area where their specialty is in demand.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Judy, I agree with you.

My 21 year old is in her junior year of college. She has lived at home to save on debt, which means functioning as a productive member of the family as well. She has chosen to do so, although it probably crimps her social life--she has to follow house rules--in order to save money now and keep her debt low. By attending college near home, she has sacrificed a desire to leave the state, but she has been able to take advantage of the New Mexico Lottery Scholarship, which pays tuition for 15 hours per semester for 8 semesters.

She is majoring in chemistry and is applying for an internship at Sandia National Labs this summer. They will PAY her for the internship--and pretty well for a college student. They will also hire her when she finishes her degree if she works hard during the internship.

All of this requires a certain amount of planning now, as well as working summers in order NOT to go through adult-o-lescence later. We did two things to help her: we have allowed her to live at home during college so that she does not run up a lot debt. We have advised her that she will not be allowed to live at home when she graduates.

If she chooses to work for Sandia after graudation, they will in turn pay for graduate school, giving her the opportunity to get advanced degrees while working and without running up debt. That means more hard work--but that is something she has become used to doing.

Anonymous said...

"I have also heard countless employers whining about how most college kids are unbelievably uneducated, ill-equipped, and unreliable. There apparently is a dearth in work ethic as well."

It is traditional economic logic that if the wages drop such that value of labor is diminished people return home to work with family until labor is of value to maintain a living. Returning home when jobs don’t pay the bills has been common through out history. At one time there was no problem with this, but in America it is now stigma and youth are blamed for the economic condition. I guarantee if there were jobs truly needed the price of wages would rise such that youth would be jumping and fighting for positions. This isn’t the case because the wages are simply stagnant or not there.

--- Page 114, Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Bantam Classics
“The liberal reward of labour, as it encourages the propagation, so it increases the industry of the common people. The wages of labour are the encouragement of industry, which, like every other human quality, improves in proportion ot the encouragement it receives. A plentiful subsistence increases the bodily stength of the labourer, and the comfortable hope of bettering his condition, and of ending his days perhaps in ease and plenty, animates him to exert that strength to the utmost. Where the wages are high, accordingly, we shall always find the workmen more active, diligent, and expeditious, than where they are low;…”

It means that you have to pay people a wage that they find of actual reward beyond simply going to work for works sake. It also means people only go to work for that which they find of appropriate reward for their effort. And all the time we hear from business in America the constant whine of I can’t find cheap labor. The answer is you have to pay them more! It is simply supply and demand!!!

--- Page 94-95, Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, Bantam Classics
“We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbors and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things which nobody ever hears of. Masters too sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people…”

Through out history it is has been the common practice of business owners to drive wages down, even below a markets living wage.

The corporations have more than enough tools at their disposal to train and fix this issue. They simply don’t want to pay for it. I hear business owners whining more than the youth you seem to blame in our society. I seem to remember the 60’s generation being known as a bunch of rejects as well, interesting how things change.

And that quote of yours is exactly that, a bunch of whining business owners not taking responsibility and asking society for a free ride. Funny how it is okay for them to whine and you believe it, but wrong for this generation to seek gainful employment instead of simply working for works sake.

Judy Aron said...

Oh please spare me..
Kids are getting idiot degrees in things like Aboriginal Sciences and they expect to get meaningful employment that pays a lot of money? That's why they can't find a real job and end up working in a low paying McJob.

I have seen enough people with lame majors waiting tables and expecting to make a wage that will pay off their student loans. That's just not realistic. And the reason they get these lame majors is because they aren't willing to take the tough courses.

One has to look to get educated in a field that actually has some demand.. there is where supply and demand comes in. Some degrees are a dime a dozen nowadays. Ever hear of market glut?

Meanwhile good money can be had in many other fields.

And since when does business owe you a living? Since when does anyone owe you anything? That's why you have a choice of employers.. to find the one that offers you the most for the work you wish to do. Jobs may require relocating too.

And if you don't like the way the market works (ie.e employers trying to pay the least for work done and workers trying to find the most pay for what they wish to work for) then go into business for yourself.
Lots of people have done that throughout history as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't have time to write a long drawn out piece of writing, but simply put, this article and the whole idea that kids should move out and live on their own as soon as they graduate lest they be a financial burden upon their parents, and lest they not learn to be independent, is strictly a cultural/societal belief which is not the way the rest of the world functions. In many cultures, from as far back as we can find in historical records, children stayed at home until they got married, no matter what age they were. And today this is still the case in various cultures and countries throughout the world. Just because American sociologist say it’s so doesn’t make it so, and just because many white upper-middle to upper-class Americans suddenly decides to kick their kids out at 18 or after college, doesn't mean it is the way it should be or that it is the best way to raise a child to adulthood. There is no hard proof that living at home until marriage stymies’ an individual’s ability to learn how to be an adult either. Many families live together even after marriage with the wife moving into the husband’s home and becoming part of his family (along with parents and grandparents). how to be an adult either.

Judy Aron said...

"is strictly a cultural/societal belief which is not the way the rest of the world functions" ... Really? Says who? Some Sociologist? I think it depends on the family and the over 18 person in question. Quite frankly our 18 year olds are barely able to fend for themselves. They are amazingly immature and have been made dependent and spoiled by their families and society in general. Have you been to a college campus lately? These kids can't take care of themselves..they have little to no "life skills" - I think that's a problem. An 18 year old in the 19th century was far better equipped to deal with the realities of life then these kids are today.