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No shame: Moving home during pandemic gives Gen Z an opportunity to financially reset and save

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It's become an all-too-common story since the onset of the global pandemic, and it could define a generation. Since March, a record number of young adults have moved back home to live with their parents, either due to a job loss, furlough or pay cut leaving them unable to pay their rent, or as a result of colleges shutting down.

According to a report released by Zillow, a real estate marketplace company, as of June, almost 3 million young adults moved in with a parent or grandparent. It is believed that 80% of those who recently moved back home are Gen Zers, or individuals born after 1996. 

Figures like these have not been seen since World War II, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

A growing trend heightened by the pandemic

Gen Z has been hit hard by the pandemic. While most are not of voting age yet, half of the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23) reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a pay cut because of Covid-19. Gen Zers were also disproportionately affected by the virus-related layoffs

Yet young adults living at home has become more common in the past few years due to economic challenges; the pandemic has just heightened that trend. In 2018 about 25 million Americans ages 18 to 34 were already living at home, per a Pew analysis of data from the Census Bureau.

Nevertheless, having grown children at home can be substantially more expensive and is bound to create conflict from time to time.

Mariana Martinez, a family dynamic consultant with Wells Fargo Private Bank who holds a Doctoral Degree in Psychology, has seen an influx in clients asking how to best accommodate their adult children. Martinez herself has two adult children attending college online in her house and admits that at times it can create tension.

In the past when a child moved home, the expectation was that the arrangement would be temporary, but with the pandemic's uncertain future and the economic fallout resulting from it, it's likely that children could be staying home longer.

Old roommates, new rules

To avoid conflict, Martinez says it's important for parents to treat their child as an adult and to agree on a set of rules around things like visitors, meals and chores. Otherwise, she says, tension can arise from parents feeling like their child is taking advantage of their good faith.

As long as it's safe, give children space to see friends as well, she says.

Martinez also suggests adult children look for opportunities to express gratitude. "It can be magical. It reduces tension and opens channels of communication."

Martinez said that living together can also offer opportunities to establish a better relationship and more mature conversations. "It is no longer child and parent, but more of adult and adult. Both parties can learn more about each other."

Setting goals is important, said Martinez, but these goals need to reflect reality. Readjusting goals and communicating them can be a good way for young adults to have a sense of independence. 

An opportunity, not a failure

"Keep the mindset that a child moving home is not a failure. There is an outside event that has forced many to readjust. These are opportunities to set goals and work toward them," said Martinez. 

Derek Kurashima, a rising senior at the University of Southern California, was forced home after his campus shut down in the spring.

Prior to returning home, Kurashima was living off-campus in a house with a group of friends. Since USC has announced that it will be moving classes to an online format, Derek has decided to reduce his course load and take classes from his childhood bedroom." I've got no financial aid and a lot of student loans, a lot of debt. To me it was not worth really paying over $30,000 for the semester to just be on my computer."

Derek Kurashima
Derek Kurashima

While taking courses from home, Kurashima plans to work remotely shipping packages for the retail store he works for but admits living at home does have its pain points. "It's the frustration, I guess, of not being able to see my roommates and all my friends. I learn better when I can work with groups and study with other people, bounce ideas off them."

Uncertainty surrounds Kurashima's future. "For 2021 it's all dependent on how the whole pandemic goes. If it improves and the school opens up, then I'm going to move back there as soon as I can. If not, then I'm probably just going to have to tough through it and finish my college career at home online." 

But Kurashima sees a silver lining in his current situation: "I get free meals and my own room. I am saving around $800 a month in rent." 

A recent survey conducted for the Travis Credit Union found that out of the nearly 2,000 respondents, 73% said Covid-19 will reshape their financial habits in the future.

Kylie Moore, a content strategist at Digital Third Coast, the firm that managed the survey, said she expects younger adults to start saving money that would have been used for leisure activities, like travel or dining out. 

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An opportunity to reset

For many young adults forced to return home to their parents, the lost interaction with friends and colleagues can be draining. Luckily, technology has allowed many to stay in touch via video calls, online games and social media.

Lorelei Peck
Lorelei Peck

"Doomscrolling" — or the tendency to scroll or surf through bad news, even though that news is saddening, disheartening or depressing — has entered our pandemic lexicon.

For Lorelei Peck, who has been living with her mother and brother since late spring, social media has lost its luster. "I just kind of realized, like, it doesn't really matter right now, you know, like who cares. If you're out partying, eating out or like traveling right now, that's frowned upon. We have to social distance. There is no pressure to post anything, and that is kind of nice."

Martinez says it's important for young adults to carve out time when they are not using technology. "Read a physical book, exercise where it is safe, do arts and crafts. You need to give your brain a rest."

David Rau moved into his parent's home in Idaho about a month ago. Prior or moving home, Rau lived in Isla Vista, California, while attending Santa Barbara City College. "I lived in an apartment with six roommates. It's definitely a culture shock, but I'm learning to take matters into my own hands."

David Rau
David Rau

Rau is grateful he can live rent-free and sees this as an opportunity to build up his savings. "I'm not really a materialistic person. I am not spending copious amounts of money on groceries and eating out anymore. I'm still working, and all of that money goes directly to my savings now. I am saving every ounce of money I earn."

Between working at a bookstore and attending class online, Rau says he sees this pandemic as an opportunity and less of a curse. "I have the ability to come back home into an environment where I am safe and I have the utilities I need to be successful."

Martinez suggested that students rearrange their rooms to eliminate cues that remind them of childhood. "Its important to feel independent even under your parent's roof. Rearranging your surroundings will eliminate the cues of childhood. It's okay to put Mickey Mouse away."

Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on reopening schools
Former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb on reopening schools