Even before the coronavirus pandemic tanked the economy and caused seemingly the whole world to retreat to the shelter of home, more and more people were living in multigenerational households.
Seniors were increasingly moving into the homes of their adult children when they could no longer safely live on their own. Meanwhile, millennials, still reeling from the Great Recession, were moving back home just to make ends meet and, maybe just maybe, save for the future.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, those trends only accelerated. And, as infection rates remain high and the economy struggles to recover, it looks as though multigenerational living will be around for a while.
While having everyone together under one roof has its advantages, especially in the face of a global health crisis, it’s not without its stresses. Here’s how seniors and millennials alike can make the most of this time living together, however long that may be.
Finessing the Finances
One of the major reasons millennials move back home is finances. Even with a college degree, young adults are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their heads above water, especially the majority of college grads saddled with student loan debt.
Nearly 17% of young adults aged 18 to 34 were living with their parents by the end of 2018. When the coronavirus reached American shores, that already record high number again soared: nearly three million young adults are reported to have moved in with a parent or grandparent between March and May of 2020.
It’s not just millennials who are finding themselves burdened with debt. Approximately 79 million Americans are struggling with medical debt, which is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. And because your risk of illness and injury increases as you age, it’s the older generations who are typically most vulnerable to medical debt.
Making It Work
Living in a multigenerational household has a lot of benefits, but it takes strategy to make it work for the entire family.
For example, sharing household expenses can help seniors and millennials avoid the financial strain of maintaining a home alone.
Creating a monthly budget that factors in potential medical costs is a great way to avoid medical bills, and it’s a much more feasible goal when you’re sharing household expenses between your family. Best of all, if you already have medical debt, you may be able to arrange a payment plan that helps you pay off that debt more quickly, cutting the interest you would pay in the end.
Likewise, instead of trying to manage fluctuating utility costs in a particularly harsh winter or sweltering summer, each member of the household can contribute their share of the utility expenses.
As the number of occupants in a home grows, so too does the home’s energy consumption. So it might be a good idea to sign up for a prepaid utility plan. With this plan, your family will pay a flat monthly rate based on your home’s average annual energy costs. That means no unexpected spikes in your monthly bill to blow your household (and personal) budget!
While it’s important for seniors to use this opportunity to share household expenses as a means to tackle any financial challenges they may be facing, it’s even more important for young adults.
For millennials, whether they’re waiting out the pandemic or working to build the nest egg with which they’ll start their independent life, finessing the finances is a central component of a larger and longer-term plan. Seeing today as a stepping stone to tomorrow can help you enjoy your time back at home without feeling dependent or powerless.
Unlike millennials, when seniors choose to move in with their adult children or grandchildren, chances are that health considerations are a determining factor. While this was true long before the COVID-19 outbreak, seniors’ needs became particularly urgent as the nation went into lockdown.
For vulnerable populations, such as the aged, the need to self-quarantine in the face of the pandemic is especially acute. But extended, unrelenting quarantine can be incredibly lonely, especially for seniors who live by themselves. And that loneliness is not only painful, but it can be emotionally and physically dangerous for seniors, In fact, loneliness among seniors is estimated to carry as much health risk as smoking 15 cigarettes each day!
Even as lockdowns lift, millions of seniors will still need the in-home care of their children or grandchildren. This can be a wonderful opportunity, though, not only for the senior receiving care, but also for the younger one who gives it. In fact, for millennials who may be looking to forge their future professional path, the chance to care for a loved one at home may be the stepping stone to a rewarding career in nursing or medicine.
As millennials learn to manage their loved one’s medications and medical appointments, to assist with their personal care, and simply to be the source of empathy, compassion, help, and hope their loved one needs, they may be building invaluable experience for the rest of their lives.
Living in a multigenerational household might not always be easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding. As families forge bonds and create memories that will last a lifetime, seniors and millennials alike can use this precious time to build the safe, secure, and happy future they deserve. For seniors, this is the chance to live their golden years surrounded by those they love. For millennials, it is a chance to relish this time at home and use it as a bridge to their future.
About Beau Peters