YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Boomerang Gang : For Many 20somethings, Returning Home Is a Necessity--and a Pleasure


For Mark Clairemont, being away from home made for a meager existence. Living paycheck to paycheck, moving from place to place, always with different roommates, he couldn't even afford to go to college. At the same time, his mother couldn't afford the mortgage on her home in Orange.

Their solution? Mark, 26, moved back home.

Clairemont, who works as a waiter while attending Rancho Santiago College in Santa Ana, lives in the six-bedroom house with his mother, Linda, his brothers Brian, 27, and Steven, 20, and friend Myka Morengo, 28. Other friends move in temporarily and pay $150 to $250 a month in rent.

"Paying rent on an apartment is like throwing away money," Mark Clairemont says. "Paying rent to Mom builds equity in the house. You can see the results of your spending."

The house is not heated, so each renter supplies a space heater in his room. There is a communal phone line, but for incoming calls only. Most tenants have installed phone lines for outgoing calls in each of their rooms.

Linda Clairemont's role is more of an apartment manager. The brothers don't let her know if they're going to be home late or out of town for a few days. "The funny thing is, when we first moved home, Mom used to feel obligated to call us when she was going to be late," Mark Clairemont says. "She doesn't anymore."

For some twentysomethings, the perks of living with parents outweigh the personal rewards that come from independent living.

"In their teens, they want to leave," says family psychiatrist David Jurro of Yorba Park Medical Clinic in Orange. "But consider where we live. They usually return home for safety and economic reasons."

Among older generations of Americans who left home to be independent, 10% to 20% return to live in their parents' homes because of medical or financial hardships. But more than 40% of twentysomethings who leave the nest with a high school degree or better boomerang back to living at home, according to authors Neil Howe and Bill Strauss in "13th GEN," a commentary about Americans born between 1961 and 1981 (Vintage, 1993, $11).

The authors say this generation was supposed to graduate from college, land jobs and move out of the house just as their parents did, but, unlike their parents, their job prospects aren't as rich, and they seem to get poorer the longer they're away from home.

Nationally, 18 million adults age 18 to 34 live with their parents, according to 1993 national census studies, making this the greatest percentage of adults to do so since the Great Depression.

"Many people live at home in their 20s," says Susan Thoreson, 23, a full-time student who works 30 hours a week for an events staffing company and lives with her parents in Huntington Beach.

She says she could afford living on her own if she took on roommates, "but living at home is so convenient," she says. "Everything is so expensive now. I would be very strapped if I lived alone, and at home I feel safe."

Does the prospect of paying bills, rent and living independently of their parents frighten young people? Or are the financial difficulties of contemporary independent living too much for this generation to weather?

"It's a big world out there and a scary place," says family therapist Jeri Ogden of Counseling Institute of Orange County Inc.

"Parents realize this and feel it's not cool to say, 'Get out, get on your own,' " she says. "Like with certain animals, parents have to push them from the nest, but this can produce a guilt trip."

For Jill Boultinghouse, 24, her parents' Laguna Hills home is a "pit stop" between jobs. Their swinging-door policy makes her feel comfortable enough to try various career possibilities. She is working full time managing a group home for teen-age girls.

"Someone could say I'm just buying time; that's a half-truth. The other half is that I'm keeping my doors open because I don't know what I want for sure," she says.

For Boultinghouse, returning home after college wasn't easy, just financially necessary.

Does living at home make her feel less independent? "No, because I have lived away from home during college, so I know I can do it. Actually, I just appreciate home."

For D. J. Guy, 24, living with his father and stepmother in Huntington Beach means he can maintain the material standard he prefers. "I can stay at home and afford a nice car or move out and drive a piece of crap," he says.

Guy has received his A.A. degree and works 30 hours a week as a grocery store checker. Almost all his friends from high school still live with their parents. "It would be financially tight to move out with roommates. Why bother?" he says.

For Guy, staying put does not mean home-cooked meals and free laundry service. He does his grocery shopping, prepares his meals and tends to all other personal needs. "I sleep at home, and that's about it," he says.

Tobin Sharp of Orange is living at his parents' home because "there is no reason to move out," says the 28-year-old full-time graduate student at Chapman University in Orange.

For Sharp, school is his priority. "All my money goes to Chapman," he says.

But he sees more than just the financial benefits of living in his parents' house. "I have a great relationship with my folks," he says. "It's neat to live with people you can talk to and somewhere you fit and are accepted."

Los Angeles Times Articles