Boundaries for Boomerangs: Successfully navigating life and money when your recent college grad returns home

Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by BrianAJackson/iStock / Getty Images

With the sights and sounds of spring in the air, we’re just weeks away from another big season:  graduation!  If you’re a parent or guardian of a soon-to-be-grad, you know that after the diploma is earned and perhaps a celebration party has been thrown, there comes the reality of “what now?”.  Has there been discussion about him/her returning to the nest “for a little while”?  These so-called “boomerang” arrangements where the child goes out to college and then returns home afterwards are not all that uncommon.  Indeed, Gallup reported in 2013 that 14% of young adults aged 24-34 are currently living with their parents.  If this is the plan at your house, and unless you’ve made an honor roll-worthy effort of communicating expectations (if so, go you!), there are likely a herd of questions when it comes to what that new life under one roof will look like.  And make no mistake, life does look different at 23 then it did at 18.

Maybe you’ve considered questions such as: how long are they staying?  What are the expectations?  Do I charge rent?  What stuff do we still pay for?  So how do we navigate all this?

Years ago, my brother-in-law, Mike graduated from college in his home state and was interested in a migration to Minnesota to look for a job.  Mike is a great guy, and we all quickly landed on the idea of him staying with us for a while.  But before finalizing the deal, we decided to get as much as possible on the table up front to minimize frustrations so that we’d all still like each other when he moved on.  Enter the Expectations Document.

While we had zero interest in being Mike’s surrogate parents, we felt that for his own growth and sanity (and for ours) that we better put some thoughts on paper to help us figure out a sustainable living plan.  As we look back on what turned out to be a successful arrangement, we feel that the key was focusing on the big stuff and keeping the form to one page.  It touched on (mostly financial) areas like:


Mike was welcome to any groceries in the fridge and to any meals we ate together at the house.  Mike was responsible for purchasing ingredients and cooking one dinner a week for the household.

Photo by karenfoleyphotography/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by karenfoleyphotography/iStock / Getty Images


We recognized that we’d do some stuff separately and some altogether.  We also clarified that if Mike joined us for a dinner or movie out, for example, he would pay his own way unless discussed otherwise.

Job search:

Mike would actively be job hunting.


We implemented a graduated rent schedule to cover groceries and other incidentals (and to incent eventually moving on!).  The first two months were rent free and then it went up each month until it capped out.  We offered a refund of his last month’s rent once he was on his own.

After discussing the provisions, we each signed it, and Mike moved in.  We ended up really enjoying the time together, and Mike successfully moved out about six months later.  I recently asked Mike what one thing could have been better about the arrangement and he responded that “no continental breakfasts were included”.  Not bad.

What about you?  For veterans of these arrangements, any tips to share?  Feel free to email suggestions to me at  For those approaching this scenario for the first time, send me a note and I’d be happy to email you our “Expectations” document to adapt for your own use.

There are plenty of other financial areas to consider, such as, who pays for vehicle expenses, cell phones, gym memberships, health insurance and the like, but hopefully this got you started.  If time at home with your own Boomerang graduate is in your future, take proactive steps around expectations to create a good experience and it can be a wonderful way to help each of you “graduate” through this next stage of life.

Charlie Bolognino is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ (CFP®) practitioner who specializes in helping emerging and growing households figure out their money.  He’s the owner of Side-by-Side Financial Planning, LLC, based in Plymouth, Minnesota.

This column originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of The West Metro Expert Advisor, a real estate circular distributed near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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