Paying the price to stay at home

More adult children are living at home but Hatch reporter Tayla O’Brien found not all agree with paying board.

We’re all told that millennials will never be able to afford a home – you know, because of all the smashed avocado they eat – so where are young people living?

It turns out the number of those choosing to stay at home is on the rise, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggesting that over half of adults aged between 18-24, still live with their parents.

An analysis of the most recent Census estimated that over the past five years, the average person in their mid-20s stayed at home for up to six months longer.

Following virtually no increase between 2006-2011, the proportion of 20-24 year-olds living with their parents grew from 41.4% to 43.4% between 2011 and 2016; and for 25 to 29 year-olds, from 15.7% to 17%.

NSW has the highest percentage, with nearly 114,000 25-34 year-olds living in the family home in Sydney alone. Victoria and South Australia followed.

Hatch@Macleay survey

In a Hatch survey of 35 young people, almost 70% stated that they still live in the family home.

According to the Foundation for Young Australians, there are a number of factors which influence millennials’ living arrangements.

Young people are now 1.6 times more likely to complete Year 12 and 1.7 times more likely to finish university, than their parents’ generation.

“We’ve never had a more educated population,” the Foundation writes.

While today’s young adults are more educated, they are paying more than double for a Bachelor Degree than they did 20 years ago.

And not only are they taking on more debt, they’re also experiencing smaller pay increases than at any other time in the past 30 years.

The transition from full-time education to full-time employment is also taking longer.

It now takes on average 4.7 years to gain stable employment. And, as a result of this, youth unemployment rates are double the national average, with one in four young Australians facing underemployment.

According to career coaching and advisory firm TwoPointZero, this inconsistency of employment is one of the biggest challenges facing students and graduates.

“Going through university, there are people who are really clear about what they want to do and where they want to go, and others who are really uncertain or unsure,” the company writes.

"They get a degree but they don't know what to do with it or if it is the right one for them. They say that they are staying at home because they simply have to, not because they want to." TwoPointZero

Work is an integral part of an individual’s identity, and having to rely on parents makes many young people feel as though they aren’t meeting expectations. TwoPointZero sees this as a major factor causing stress and anxiety for their clients.

“Once you’re in your twenties and onwards, being able to have that independence and break away from home is definitely something most young people aspire to.

“There’s no question that they would love to be able to come home at four in the morning without your mum asking you where you’ve been, or not having to ask to borrow the keys to the car.”

And then there’s housing affordability.

On average, young people now need to take on a home loan that is 134% of their disposable income, compared to 32% in 1988.

It now takes the average Sydney homebuyer 15 years to save a deposit compared to just six years for their parents.

Of those Hatch surveyed, the most common reasons for under 25s still living at home were cost of living, and convenience. Parents also highlighted the cost of living as the primary reason for their kids staying at home, followed by simply not wanting to let them go.

Should parents charge board?

When surveyed, almost half of the respondents said that parents should charge their kids board when they live at home as an adult, and 37% said that they should only be charged if they are working.

Parents who charged their kids board said the main reasons they made them pay was to teach them life skills and to cover household expenses.

For those parents who didn’t charge board, the main reason was to give them an easier start in life, or because they felt a duty of care to look after them.

For Steve Shepherd, charging his kids board is teaching them about the cost of living and giving them a gentle step into the real world.

“Plus the fact that he [his son] is 6″4, eats twice as much as me, downloads far more Netflix and spends longer in the shower,” he said.

He believes it’s a good discipline to get kids into, but he thinks that their consistency of employment needs to be taken into account. “In reality, when you move out of home you’re going to have to pay for everything” he said, “and it’s going to be a lot more than you’re paying at home.

“Me and my wife tagged his board payments as a percentage of his income, so if one week he works 30 hours he will pay more than another week when he works 15 hours.”

But Steve believes “kids” staying at home for longer can have a negative on family relationships. “It’s natural as a parent to want the best for your children, but there’s a thin line between us thinking we are providing guidance and them thinking we are nagging them.

As a parent you’ve got to balance out what mistakes are okay to let them make, and what mistakes you need to step in and help them out [with].”

“At the end of the day, we aren’t going to evict him if he can’t pay. We still love him and don’t want to see him going hungry or anything like that.”

But what does the future hold? While Steve doesn’t think it’s going to get any easier, he also thinks it’s part of the learning experience. “I don’t think the steps my son has gone through are necessarily any different to the ones I went through 30 years ago,” he said.

“At the end of the day, for us, it was just about creating a supportive culture around them.”

Hatch took to the street to find out it others agreed. Their responses are below. – Tayla O’Brien

(Graphics, featured image and video by Tayla O’Brien)