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Boomerang Nation: How to Survive Living with Your Parents...the Second Time Around

Overview

You can go home again! Boomerangers are on the rise. Named for the nearly eighteen million 18- to 35-year-old Americans currently living at home, this rapidly growing phenomenom is becoming a way of life for many college graduates and adults looking for a rent- and hassle-free way to get out of debt and plan a course of action for their futures.
Written by Elina Furman, who happily survived living at home the second time around, this timely, information-packed guide offers ...

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Boomerang Nation: How to Survive Living with Your Parents... the Second Time Around

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Overview

You can go home again! Boomerangers are on the rise. Named for the nearly eighteen million 18- to 35-year-old Americans currently living at home, this rapidly growing phenomenom is becoming a way of life for many college graduates and adults looking for a rent- and hassle-free way to get out of debt and plan a course of action for their futures.
Written by Elina Furman, who happily survived living at home the second time around, this timely, information-packed guide offers Boomerangers — both practicing and aspiring — wisdom on how to cope with the practical, economic, emotional, and psychological realities of moving back in with Mom and Dad. Furman debunks popular myths, such as that college graduation marks the beginning of domestic and financial freedom, and offers dynamic action plans, proven strategies, and practical advice on:

  • Taking the plunge — are you ready to move back home?
  • Making a financial plan and sticking to it
  • Discovering the hidden benefits of living at home
  • Determining whenter you have a Cool, Reluctant, or Perma-Parent
  • Maintaining privacy
  • Setting and following house rules
  • Handling the stigma
  • Dealing with sibling rivalry

With special chapters on brainstorming new career objectives and dating under your parents' roof, and featuring inspiring tales from the trenches by independent and successful Boomerangers, Boomerang Nation proves that not only can you go home again, you can survive and thrive there.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"When you quarterlifers move back home — and you will — make sure you have this book by your bedside."
— Abby Wilner, coauthor of Quarterlife Crisis

"A lifesaving resource for anyone young, broke, and contemplating the unthinkable. With this book, moving back home doesn't have to mean that life as you know it is over. Furman shows us there is such a thing as the light at the end of your parents' driveway."
— Jason Anthony, coauthor of Debt-Free by 30

Library Journal
This is an essential read for young adults considering moving back home. Its greatest strength is the author's firsthand experiences as a boomerang kid. With considerable wit and honesty, Furman normalizes moving back home, offering throughout practical advice about the emotional and psychological realities. She addresses issues such as dealing with the stigma of moving home, dating, maintaining privacy, and financial planning. The overarching message is that moving back home is not really that bad; in fact, there are numerous benefits.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743269919
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 5/3/2005
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 0.51 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Elina Furman has written and cowritten more than twenty books, including The Everything After College Book, Generation Inc., and The Everything Dating Book. She lives in New York City and can be found on the web at www.boomerangnation.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Boomerangers Unite!

After school, my parents didn't blink an eye when I told them I'd be moving back home. They kind of just shrugged their shoulders and handed over the garage-door opener. It's funny, because I remember how different things were for my older sister eight years ago. When she wanted to move home, my parents freaked. They thought she had lost her mind, that she was having some kind of nervous breakdown. They even blamed themselves for being horrible parents. I think it helps that a lot of their friends now have their kids living at home, too. They're much cooler about it now.

— Amanda, 24, Arlington, VA

Good news! Most people moving home today will find that the stigma of living at home has all but disappeared. Having come out of the basement, boomerangers are proud, loud, and not afraid to show the world that they mean business. With so many young adults opting to return to the nest around the world, it's become clear that we boomerangers are not going away anytime soon.

While there may not have been any overnight breakthroughs, there has been a slow and gradual acceptance of boomeranging. Over the years, the nuclear American family has evolved to the point where we can barely recognize ourselves, steadily morphing into a model European family, where multiple generations live and even thrive together under one roof.

What used to be seen as a social taboo has now become a commonly accepted life passage. Attitudes have significantly changed, bringing with them an entirely new way of looking at adulthood. No longer do we set a rigid timeline for how long it takes to mature, establish a rewarding career, or start a family. And judging by this chart, it's clear that many of us aren't in any rush to get to the finish line. According to the 2000 census:

1970 12.5 million 18- to 34-year-olds live at home.

2000 17.8 million 18- to 34-year-olds live at home.

Going by the sheer size of this demographic, it's clear that boomerangers can't be pigeonholed into one neat stereotype. They come in all shapes and sizes, from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures, and are equally diverse in their views about what brought on the sudden change in their lifestyles.

Sociologists, economists, and psychologists have been scratching their heads, analyzing various statistics to figure out what brought about this unexpected shift. And after much research and painstaking data collection, the following emerged as some of the main contributors to the explosive boomerang phenomenon.

  • Financial problems, like high credit card and school loan debt
  • A tight job market and lack of opportunities for recent graduates
  • A reluctance to grow up and accept adult responsibilities
  • A delay in the average age for marriage for both men and women
  • The prohibitive cost of housing
  • Illness or death of parent
  • Breakup or divorce
  • Close, best-friend-like relationships between parents and young adults
  • Multiculturalism and its emphasis on intergenerational living
It's the Economy, Stupid!

The American Dream is not what it used to be. According to recent statistics fewer and fewer high-school-age children expect to have it better than their parents. And with good reason. In light of the recent recession, the high unemployment rate, and the exorbitant cost of housing, most of us consider ourselves pretty lucky just to be able to squat at our parents' place after we graduate or find a pink slip where the holiday bonus should have been.

The 1990s saw many of our hopes rise and fall in the span of five years. When the technology sector was booming, companies couldn't seem to create new positions fast enough. The rallying cry was "Hire, hire, hire!" But with the dot-com bust of 2001, the same companies changed their tune to "Fire, fire, fire!"

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 10.9 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds were unemployed in September 2003, versus 6.7 percent in September 2000. The jobless rate for 25- to 34-year-olds rose as well, from 3.7 to 6.3 percent in that same period.

One day I was living the good life, really good, and then everything crashed. I had about half a million in options and then I was down to zero — overnight! Suddenly, I couldn't afford anything. It was good-bye shopping, good-bye expense account, good-bye weekly manicures and pedicures, good-bye apartment. Months went by and I still couldn't find work. I finally broke down and took a part-time at a clothing store (something I swore I would never do). But there was no way I could afford to live in the city on what I was making. Luckily, my parents lived close by and took pity on me. I honestly don't know what I would have done if it wasn't for them.

— Lesley, 27, Austin, TX

Simply put, the middle-class lifestyle of our parents that seemed so readily attainable has gradually revealed itself as a mirage in our new economy. All the fruits we expected as our birthright — cars, houses, health insurance, job stability — now seem like relics of an idealized and out-of-reach past.

Cash Pad

Anyone who's ever thumbed a nose at the younger generations for being shiftless, aimless, and incapable of supporting themselves clearly never experienced the degradation of answering an ad for a $1,000-per-month apartment only to find a hovel with no windows, heating, or fridge. While bustling cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco beckon to recent graduates with the promise of greater opportunities, culture, and creative fervor, these very same environs are virtually uninhabitable for anyone making under $40,000 or $50,000 a year (and let's face it, most starting salaries are far lower).

Sure, we often hear of young people living like sardines in up-and-coming neighborhoods and eating ramen noodles by candlelight. But when faced with the prospect of shelling out more than half of their monthly salary for a fraction of the amenities, many young adults are opting out of the shabby chic living phase in favor of the plush and comfy confines of their family homes.

Not only are skyrocketing rental prices squeezing us out, but the housing sales market is equally unwelcoming. Chew on this: The National Association of Realtors estimated that the cost of a home rose by 500 percent, from 1973 to 2004, to a median price of $156,200. Not only that, the typical starter household income for that same time period increased only 300 percent, to an average of $42,228. What does it all mean? It means that our salaries just can't keep pace with the rising cost of housing, and many of us feel that there's no way we'll ever be able to experience the dream of home ownership. Unless, of course, we save for a down payment by moving home with Mom and Dad.

Take Stan, for example. After graduating with an MBA from a top school, he moved to San Francisco to start his mid-six-figure-salary job. Stan could have had his pick of any number of deluxe apartments overlooking the city. Instead, he opted to move home with his parents for two years in order to pay off his $75,000 school loan and start saving to buy a place of his own.

I figured if my parents were cool enough to give me a free ride by letting me crash at home, I could pay down my school debt in a couple of years. That's pretty good if you think about it. If I really buckled down and saved, I could even scrape a little bit toward a down payment on a condo. If I had moved straight into my own apartment, it would probably take me more like eight to ten years to get to that same point. I figure it was a compromise worth making.

— Stan, 28, Santa Rosa, CA

School of Hard Knocks

Stan's story, while surprising to some, is hardly unique. Rising school loans and tuition hikes play a huge role in the evolution of the boomerang culture. According to the Department of Education in 1980, federal Pell grants accounted for about 77 percent of the cost of a four-year institution. Today, that number has slid to a paltry 40 percent, and getting one of these grants is tougher than ever. With the new changes in the eligibility requirements made by the Department of Education, about 84,000 incoming students will be excluded from the program entirely. With Pell grants falling faster than Britney Spears's record sales and universities raising tuition fees due to a lack of state and federal support, many have to work overtime to make ends meet.

In the past, a high-school diploma was enough to land a middle-class income and lifestyle. Your dad or granddad graduated from high school, landed a job at the local steel mill, and was able to provide for a family of three. These days, a high school degree won't get you much. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, college graduates earned 80 percent more than people with only a high school diploma. So in order to match the standard of living enjoyed by our parents, we have no choice but to buckle down and get an advanced four-year degree.

On top of being virtually mandatory, a college degree now takes longer than ever to acquire. While most students used to breeze through the curriculum in a four-year period, that time frame has gotten considerably longer. On average, only one-third of students who enter four-year colleges straight from high school graduate on time. With so many students transferring schools, switching majors, and taking time off to work, many experts have established six years as the new, more realistic graduation timeline.

Tempting as it is for us to dawdle on campus for five years or more, we rarely acknowledge the damage it's doing to our bank account until it is too late. After six years of kicking and screaming, most of us will be saddled with an average school loan of $18,000.

For many students, paying off their school loan on an entry-level salary is a formidable feat. After the monthly installment is paid, the rent handed in, and the bills mailed, there's just not enough money left to go around. So is it any wonder that when faced with the prospect of paying off their school debt and living on our own, many of us are opting to return home in droves?

Debt-Free by 60

With escalating school loans, credit card companies aggressively marketing on campuses across the country, and almost no education available on the topic of credit, the financial picture for many young adults is bleak at best. It's gotten to the point where experts are calling us "Generation D" (for debt) or "Generation B" (for bankrupt). And with more than 615,000 people age 35 and under filing for bankruptcy in 2000 (according to a Harvard Law School study), it may be time to admit that we may indeed have a problem managing our money.

Caught up in a highly consumptive culture where the message is to "charge now, pay later," many young adults are finding themselves knee-deep in debt before they've even held down their first full-time job. According to a Nellie May study published in 2002, over 83 percent of college undergraduates carried credit cards; the average debt for graduating seniors is now estimated at around $3,000.

But young people aren't spending just on late-night pizza fests and high-tech gadgets, either. With the rise in tuition fees and less financial aid to go around, many college students are using credit cards to pay for their education. Not a good idea, of course, since the interest on school loans is considerably lower than that offered by credit-card companies.

For the most part, young adults are in the dark about bad credit habits. They'll max out one card only to apply for a new one or pay off the minimum of one card by charging it to another. Caught up in a vicious spiral of spending and debt, many twenty- and thirtysomethings are finding that the only way to get out of the cycle is to take cover at home while paying off their balance.

Delaying the Inevitable

With all the goalposts of adulthood — housing, economic independence, employment, completion of education — getting harder and harder to achieve, it's not surprising that so many of us are choosing to turn back instead of run ahead.

Adolescence used to be defined as a time of personal struggle for identity that ended with the choice of a career and a spouse. Among the markers on the chronological road to adulthood: Get a job at 18 or 22. Get married between 18 and 23. Become a responsible adult. Have kids. Today's generation questions such handy definitions. Boomerangers ask, "Isn't making decisions for yourself a vital part of being a responsible adult? How is blindly trying to live up to society's expectations indicative of adulthood?"

The current generation is living in a time of shifting realities and downgraded expectations. Stripped of the sense of entitlement that characterized our younger years — that feeling that the world owes us a better lifestyle than our parents enjoyed — many boomerangers now believe that it's best to go with the flow and not push too hard or expect too much when forging a personal or professional future.

In today's rigorous economy and dynamically changing world it becomes difficult for many recent graduates to acclimate and adjust to a new environment in which they must support themselves. With this life change often comes anxiety, confusion, and an overall lack of direction. I for one didn't know what I was going to do with my life or what was being offered in the employment world. Going home gave me a haven to get my life together and make decisions as to which paths I would take.

— Steve, 23, Philadelphia, PA

The twenties are increasingly becoming a time to explore, experiment, and self-actualize. With many of our parents wishing that they could have benefited from a similar pressure-free zone in which to explore career options, relationships, and identities, they are more than willing to support us financially and emotionally as we go through one transition after another.

"I call it the self-focus age. It's the one time in life where you can decide for yourself how to live, without having to compromise or get someone else's permission. The focus is on your own self-development," explains Jeffrey J. Arnett, a professor of human development at the University of Maryland and the author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties.

If adolescence is defined as the time between puberty and being saddled with responsibility for other people, then maybe 30 really is the new 20, as so many recent polls and social scientists have expressed. Take the "Coming of Age in the 21st Century" study conducted by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC): When asked at what age someone becomes a full-fledged adult, most people answered 26. But the truth is that even by the age of 30, most of us have yet to pass through the five major transitions of adulthood:

1. Finishing school

2. Leaving the family home

3. Establishing financial independence

4. Starting a family of one's own

According to one study conducted in 2000, only 46 percent of women and 31 percent of men have successfully achieved all the above by age 30. The truth is, many boomerangers don't really begin to understand the reasons behind getting married, having children, and throwing themselves headlong into a career until much later. The master plan of job-spouse-kids seems robbed of personal meaning, abstract, far-removed and sometimes even undesirable. As a result, many boomerangers live out the Peter Pan existence, making the idea of "extended adolescence" an all-too-popular reality.

Now I think the whole thing about being an adult is twisted. Their idea of a normal life is taking a job you hate, saving money just so you can go on vacation. My parents may not think I'm an adult because I don't have a stupid desk job so I can be bored, miserable, and depressed and be able to buy a sweater at the end of each week. But who cares?

— Heidi, 27, Newport, RI

These new expectations for the onset of adulthood have had a profound effect on the number of young adults who bid their overpriced, modestly priced, even dirt-cheap apartments farewell when the going gets tough. Living with Mom and Dad in return for peace of mind may not seem like such a bad deal, especially at a time when the boundaries between childhood and adulthood are becoming progressively more blurred.

Bait-and-Switch

Faced with an enormous debt load upon graduation, many of us are in no position to pick and choose when it comes to accepting a job right out of college. In fact, most recent graduates report having to take the first job offered. Fortunately, today's young adults are finding that they can safely take a leap into a new, more satisfying career path without having to toil in unfulfilling occupations.

In these days of corporate mergers, mass layoffs, and constant reorganizations, company loyalty has gone the way of the dinosaur. The idea of having one job your entire life is pretty far-fetched. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we're moving through jobs with lightning speed, with the average person holding down 9.2 jobs between ages 18 and 34.

While most employers used to view job hoppers as disloyal employees with commitment issues, the stigma of playing career leapfrog has decreased over the years. Today, some corporations even consider these people to be proactive challenge seekers and look down at candidates who stay at entry-level jobs for too long. In a 2000 JobTrak survey, 27 percent of recent graduates expected to leave their first job after one year, and only 22 percent thought they would stay longer than three years.

I had originally gone to film school and planned to become the next big female director. So first there was the two-year stint at the movie production studio. When that didn't work out as planned, I switched to new media and spent three years working at corporate websites. It was fun for a while, but I realized I could never be happy working at a large company. I finally decided to go off on my own and start a career as a freelance writer. I could never do that if I hadn't decided to move home with my parents for six months. It takes time to build your resume and portfolio. Who knows? I'll probably end up staying even longer. But what's the alternative, staying in a job I hate or am bored with just because I'm scared to move back home?

— Stacy, 25, Akron, OH

No doubt about it, the twenties are all about staying fluid. Everything is constantly shifting, including friends, career goals, and living arrangements. There's just no telling where one will end up from year to year. Young adults who are bored, frustrated, or uninspired by their jobs are grateful for the chance to quit sooner rather than later. And if moving home to their parents will allow them to find more fulfilling work, then that's a compromise many of them are more than willing to make.

Old-World Values

Greeks, Italians, Asians, Russians...many of them are living in a three-generation household — and liking it. As more immigrants pour onto our shores, we're seeing a major overhaul of the traditional family unit. While Westerners tend to raise children to be more independent and self-sufficient, other cultures still place a greater premium on cooperation and communal living. And with this influence from our friendly newcomers, the strictly American notion of "be all you can be, so long as you don't do it in my house" value system has undergone a dramatic shift.

Culturally, both my parents are Peruvian. It's common to move out when you are married, but before then it doesn't really make any sense and really isn't accepted. My parents live close to the city and I have always worked in or around the city, so financially it didn't seem like it made sense to move out until I was married. I think it's my own decision, not because I can't afford living on my own, but I feel like I am making a wise and responsible decision and in the long run I will be more successful than my friends. My parents have always respected the fact that I've decided to stay and save money and that I honor our culture and their wishes.

— Mary, 30, San Diego, CA

The common conception is that the majority of ethnic families are from lower income brackets and need to live together in order to make ends meet. And while that is sometimes the case, it's hardly the whole story. Statistics show that many of these families aren't living together strictly out of necessity. Young adults from middle-class immigrant families choose to stay home for many other reasons, including family intimacy and emotional support. It's a cultural value that they're not so quick to toss aside as soon as they land on U.S. soil.

I was happy to be back with my family after a few years away from them. I was living with my mother, father, my two brothers, my sister. The relationships definitely changed. My family is very close and for me to be there is good because I felt really energized by that. I saw what's more important in life — having a family and being close. I appreciate the values they have and the respect they show each other. My aunts who moved away from the family are very different from us. They have both been divorced. I feel very lucky that my parents are still together for 30 years. My parents care for me, do stuff for me, and help me when I need it. You have their love and their care, and you appreciate what you have.

— Sandra, 29, Valley Stream, NY

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

We've all heard the little ditty about Jack and Diane, the sweethearts who married right out of high school. And while that used be the norm, the idea of getting married in our early twenties seems completely alien to many of us. If jumping from one job to another is any indication of our ability to commit, then it's not at all surprising to find out that our personal relationships are often equally if not more precarious. Many young adults view their twenties as a time to figure out what they want once they're ready to get married. Shacking up, dating, playing the field — it's all part of finding out who we are. And with marriage being postponed longer and longer, it's not surprising that we find ourselves creating bonds with our existing families rather than forging new ones.

With so many of us getting on and off the relationship roller coaster, it's not surprising to find many boomerangers returning home after a particularly bumpy ride. While the exes left in our wake may not have been "the ones," the feelings of loss and emotional isolation that often follow are still just as poignant and painful. The comfort of home never seems so appealing as when we're feeling down for the count and incapable of picking ourselves up. And spending some time with our parents is often just the antidote we need to mend our broken hearts.

I was living with my boyfriend in Manhattan the summer before my last semester in college and I decided to end the relationship after I graduated instead of moving back in with him after school. I felt a little defeated, both because my three-year relationship didn't work out and because I had to move home. It was a really big blow. I also felt very comforted to be around my family for support. I think they were happy that I wasn't staying with that particular guy. My parents have always been clear that my brother and I are welcome in their home no matter what happens.

— Dana, 26, Ballston Lake, NY

Friends for Life

Whether it was The Breakfast Club motto of "never trust anyone over 30," James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, or the beats Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince laid down in "Parents Just Don't Understand," the tension between old and new generations has been well documented. And for good reason. It used to be that parents and teenagers went together like oil and water. We expected to fight over every little issue, and vehemently guarded our turf with signs reading "Keep Out" and "Parent-Free Zone."

Not that we could be blamed, of course. The parents of yesteryear didn't understand our music, our clothes, or our choices. Worst of all, many of them didn't care to. The idea of being friends with their kids just wasn't that important. But that's all in the past.

For many boomerangers, the big question today isn't whether you can afford to live apart from your parents, but whether you would even want to.

My mom and I have pretty much everything in common. We both like disaster flicks, eating sushi with our hands, going to swap meets, and conspiracy theories. It's like having a best friend and parent all wrapped up in one. Funny thing is we weren't even that close all through high school or college. When I moved back home from Boston, after being laid off from a magazine, I lost touch with a lot of my old friends from the city. Luckily, my mom and I got really close, really fast. I never expected that I would enjoy being with her so much.

— Trista, 23, Portland, ME

It's not just people in their twenties and thirties who are embracing the youth culture. It's our parents, too! Go into any shopping mall across the country, and it's like a Stepford parent convention. Parents are dressing, talking, and even walking like us. Let's face it, many parents have become cool. They understand our need for privacy, our need to take risks, and our need to find ourselves. In fact, most of them understand so well that they find themselves living vicariously through us as we zip from one adventure to the next.

Paradoxically, the more freedom our parents gave us in the past, the more likely we'll be to cling to their apron strings. When there's no one or nothing to rebel against, most young adults find their parents to be more than adequate companions.

With the war on terror, the poor economy, and the general sense of fear and insecurity sweeping the globe, home has become the last safe haven for many young people looking for a little stability. But sometimes it's not fear or economic hardships that are driving us home so much as a general desire to be around those we love most. And with parents providing so much breathing room and the freedom to be ourselves, many boomerangers are suddenly finding that home has truly become the one place where the heart is — or, at the very least, the one place with free cable.

Copyright © 2005 by Elina Furman

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: The Boomeranger in the Basement

1. Boomerangers Unite!

2. Ready, Set, Boomerang!

3. Meet the Family, Again!

4. There's No Place Like Home...or Is There?

5. Get Over It! Battling the Dark Side

6. What Color Is My...What?

7. Ka-ching! Minding Your Money

8. Friends, Lovers, and Attractive Strangers

9. Closing Time

Acknowledgments

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2006

    Very insightful

    The author really relates to the issue she presents in her book, and her advice is extremely helpful to the young people in the same predicament. There shouldn't be any shame or discomfort attach to this complex situation that takes hold on the generation of young and talented people who strive to achieve financial independence, as she proves in the book it's becoming harder and harder in a present state of economy in the US

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    quick, funny read

    i just got this for my little sister. but i ended up reading it cover to cover...it really drew me in and had some great ideas...i just wish i had it when i lived with our parents two years ago :)

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