Pitstone mum explains the advantages of charging your ‘boomerang’ child rent when they return home

Becky Wiggins with sons Sam (left) and Charlie (a second year university student).
Becky Wiggins with sons Sam (left) and Charlie (a second year university student).

Should parents of so-called boomerang children charge their offspring rent if they return to live at home?

Pitstone mum Becky Wiggins certainly thinks there are advantages to doing so and has been used as a case study by Skipton Building Society whose new research says 2.7m parents in the UK are taking on the financial burden of supporting their grown-up children into later life.

With an increasing number of older children returning home to mum and dad, 72% of parents admitted that household expenditure increased as a result, but just 41% say that they charge their adult children any rent to live at home.

Office of National Statistics figures reveal there has already been a 6% rise in 18-30-year olds living with their parents since 2007, indicating that parents may be putting their own savings aspirations onto the backburner.

The figures identified show that for those parents that do charge rent, £123 per month is the magic number. With UK private monthly rent currently averaging £943 per calendar month, moving home offers some significant saving opportunities for young people.

Becky, 48, founder of popular parenting blog, English Mum, and a freelance journalist, has two children, one of whom has recently graduated.

With property prices high, Sam, age 22, has returned to live at the family home while exploring his first career options and undertaking a number of temporary jobs.

Becky and her husband Jim have made the decision to charge Sam a “nominal amount” of £25 per week, which goes into their general spending bank account towards food and bills.

Becky says it provides Sam with “life experience and a sense of responsibility now he is an adult”, however is keen to highlight they only starting charging rent after he got himself a job.

She said: “It would be unfair to charge him while he was still on the job hunt, but he also benefits by being at home. Rents are really high where we are, being the commuter belt, about 30 minutes from London. I think a flat would cost in the region of £1,000 a month to rent.

“It can be easy to become blindsided by the excitement of having your boomerang child return home, and even easier to forget about the financial implications you’ll have to absorb to support them.

“With two grown up boys of my own – one of them a boomerang kid – I know all too well how much higher the weekly food bill can get when they come back to the nest. When my son came home, we had an honest and open chat, agreeing a rent figure that suited us both.

“For us this is £25 a week. It allows him to feel responsible, while saving money on the larger rents he would be paying elsewhere, but it also proves helpful for us.

“Whether it is asking them to contribute rent, or even just asking them to help out with the weekly food shop, car insurance, or petrol money – this can help make room for you to save for your own future, as well as helping them save for theirs.”

Aside from rent, Sam also supports with other tasks around the house. “He might for instance drop us at the station, or house and dog-sit whilst we’re away,” said Becky.

She added: “I save monthly in various accounts, towards holidays, emergencies etc. I also have a small personal pension.

“Sam returning home also prompted us to review our own financial situation, especially with regard to savings and planning for our future.

“For retirement, we would like to downsize at some point and be somewhere a little less rural. Jim is a pilot so can only fly commercially until he’s 60. I’ll probably keep writing.”

Jacqui Bateson, Customer Proposition Manager at Skipton Building Society, said: “There’s no question that increased difficulties in the housing market are causing strain on the sandwich generation. Two-thirds (66%) of the parents we surveyed believe that the current property market makes it much more difficult for children to leave home, and the majority are understandably supporting their families as they try to get a foot onto the ladder.

“As a parent myself, I know that supporting the kids, whatever their age will always be a priority – but it’s just as important that we’re saving for ourselves as well. Whether you’re 21, 41 or 61, saving for the future is just as important.

“Having the kids return to the nest is a good opportunity to have a broader conversation about money – we actually found that many parents (47%) tend to charge their children rent primarily to help them become more familiar with money management. It could also be a good time to revisit your own finances and thinking about how far you’re saving for yourself, as well as being there for your children when they need you.”

Statistics

> The average rent charged by parents for a boomerang kid varies across the UK, with London ranking the most expensive place for kids to live at home (£144 per month), and Leeds as cheapest (£91 per month).

> And parents are using the extra cash in a few different ways, with three in five (59%) spending more on food and groceries and just one in ten (11%) putting the money away for a rainy day.

> The top reason for moving back in with Mum and Dad was not to save for a house of their own (22%), but rather to nurse a broken heart after splitting up with partner (31%). Other reasons included being in between education or a next life stage (26%) and job-hunting (13%). Meanwhile, finishing university and hitting the third decade are the trigger points, with kids most likely to return home aged 21 or 22, or 30.

Becky’s Top 10 advice tips for managing your finances

1. Celebrate their achievement!

First things first, you need to celebrate their achievements and see their return home as a positive. So many times, returning home is seen as some sort of failure, but in this financial climate, it’s something that a lot of young people are going to have to do, so there’s really no stigma attached.

2. Acknowledge this may be a difficult time.

Whether they’re job hunting or starting their first job, your boomerang kid is probably already going to be saddled with quite a large amount of debt, whether that be student loans, overdraft or even money owed to you. They might not even have particularly wanted to move back home, so be empathetic to their situation and acknowledge how they’re feeling.

Remember, it’s also a bit of a transition period for you too. After being a couple for so long, having them home takes a bit of getting used to (the general noise level, having their mates back around, the extra washing and ironing, etc.).

3. Talk, talk and talk some more.

Being completely open (and non-judgmental) about money suits everyone best. If the kids are worried about money, it’s easiest to get everything written down and chat about a plan for managing the debt.

With my child, Sam, we found that sitting down and chatting about everything he was worried about (getting a job, the end of his 0% student overdraft, etc) made it easier to reassure him that it was all manageable, and it suited us to attack it together and come up with a workable plan to pay off his most pressing debts, and also sort out a savings account for him to start putting money away for the future.

4. Agree a rent figure that suits everyone.

Talking about money can be boring but chatting openly is a great way to work out how you can come to a solution that suits everyone. Obviously with them moving back in, the bills are going to go up (Skipton found that the average boomerang kid increases household outgoings by an average of £86 a month, or £1,032 a year), so it makes sense that they contribute to the household purse.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of loving having them back and not asking them for money, but if you’ve already had a chat about finances, it makes it easier to come to a rent figure that suits everyone. Plus, paying rent is good practice for managing bills when they finally move out into their own place.

5. Help with other things.

Another mouth to feed (especially one with a midnight frozen pizza addiction) is always going to add to the food bill so another way of asking them to contribute could be getting them to help out with the food bills, or even to shop for and cook a specific meal at home once a week, a great time for everyone to get together.

I think we often forget that it’s not a one way street – it’s brilliant for us having the kids home, whether that’s being here to look after the house and dog while I’m travelling for work, or being here to pick me up from the station if I’ve been in London for meetings. It’s a two way street.

6 Sneaky savings.

If you’re in a great financial situation and really don’t feel like you need the money, another way to look at it is that’s it’s a great way to save money for your kids. If you’ve agreed a rent figure, you could always save the money in a savings account for them. This could be a great way to help them save to pay off their student overdraft, or even save for their first house deposit.

7 Don’t feel bad for asking.

After 18 years of providing for their every need, we all fall into the trap of feeling like we need to parent our kids forever, but honestly, having talked to my kids, it’s the last thing they want. Now you’re all adults, they understand that you have your own finances to think about (oh hey, retirement, you’re coming up very fast there in the distance) and that it’s unrealistic for you to provide everything for them. Have an honest conversation about what’s possible, and don’t forget to actively plan to ensure you’re saving for yourselves at the same time.

8. See if you can help in other ways.

If they’re off to job interviews or starting a new job, they might initially need help getting around, or if they’re lucky enough to already have a car, help with car insurance or tax.

9. Don’t ignore your own finances.

Don’t forget, as well as being a completely new situation for them, having adults instead of children is a big step for you. It’s a great time to have a look at your own finances, and take stock of your savings, pensions, mortgage and plans for retirement. Many parents choose to downsize if some of their kids have left home, or maybe, like us, are considering a move to somewhere cheaper now we don’t have to worry about being in the specific school catchment area. Take the opportunity to delve into your own money as you’re helping your boomerang kids with theirs.

10. And finally… look at the positives

Congratulations, you’ve created a fully functioning, responsible adult! Plus, you’ve still got them all to yourselves for the time being, so enjoy spending time with your boomerang kids, without all the associated worry that you used to have about exams and agreeing times for them coming home. We love having our kids at home and feel it’s a privilege to enjoy them a little longer before they head into the big wide world!