They’re back

Even before graduation ceremonies commence across the country, parents who had hoped their adult children would go to college so they could get a better-paying job and set up their own households are realizing a hard truth: Their kids can’t afford to live on their own, so they are returning home.

Recent statistics from the Census Bureau show that the recession reduced the rate at which Americans set up new homes or apartments by at least half, reports The Washington Post’s Michael A. Fletcher.

In addition to the Census Bureau findings, a recent Pew survey found that 29 percent of parents with adult children report having a child who has moved back in over the past few years.

Robert Denk, assistant vice president of forecasting and analysis at the National Association of Home Builders, said the biggest driver of household formation is a young adult moving out on his or her own.

“This has to happen,” Denk said. “You can postpone moving out of your parents’ basement. You can postpone leaving your group house situation. You can postpone proposing to your sweetheart. But you can do these things for only so long.”

So, how do you make the transition from living at home to on your own?

Amanda Lily, online producer for Kiplinger.com, recently offered advice to young adults on how they can establish financial independence when they are still getting help from their parents (Parents, I suggest you send this to your kid if he or she is planning to move back home):

-- Create a financial support plan. Before accepting money from your parents, go over your finances, create a budget and then negotiate with your parents about how much they can afford to supplement your budget. “If you can evaluate your financial situation accurately, your parents will see how responsible you are and may feel more comfortable providing you with the financial assistance you need,” Lily wrote.

I’d like to add something to her advice for parents: Don’t blindly give money without knowing the details of your kid’s financial life. Ask to see a budget. Ask to see information about their pay. If they balk, simply point out that people receiving financial assistance should be transparent about their finances. If they don’t want to give you the information, don’t give them any money.

-- Set goals. You might be living at home or accepting financial assistance from your parents to pay down debt. If so, come up with a timetable for when you plan to pay down or pay off the debt. Share the goals with your parents. This creates accountability for both sides. My advice to parents, periodically check up on the timetable. Ask for proof that debt is indeed being paid down.

-- Stop taking money. If you pay off a bill sooner than you plan, let your parents know so the spigot can be turned off. The point is to become as independent as you can as soon as possible.

This week’s Color of Money question: What do you think of the trend of young adults returning home to live with or live off their parents? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state and put “They’re Back” in the subject line

Here’s Your Diploma. Now Where’s Our Donation

Students about to graduate won’t soon forget their schools. That’s because many private and public schools are asking new alums for donations, and graduating seniors are giving at what are described as record rates, reports The Post’s Jenna Johnson.

“The goal is not only to collect extra funds, but to instill in students a sense of obligation and philanthropy that will make them lifelong donors,” Johnson writes.

Alumni are being encouraged to give to a general university fund, scholarship program, a department or student club that was a major part of their education, Johnson writes.

Besides, schools aren’t expecting five-figure or even three-figure donations. Typically donations are around $20. Of the $30.3 billion donated to colleges and universities in 2011, $7.8 billion came from alumni and the rest from foundations, corporations and other sources, according to the Council for Aid to Education.

Celebrity Cash

Nadya “Octomom” Suleman has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, claiming she has $50,000 in assets and $1 million in debt, reports the Associated Press.

All Suleman’s children were conceived through in vitro fertility treatments. Her octuplets are the world’s longest-surviving set.

“I don’t think you can get farther, deeper down into the rock bottom, than we are at this point,” Suleman explained in an interview with HLN’s Dr. Drew. “[My kids] are healthy [and] safe. They don’t feel it. I do. All the weight is on my shoulders.”

Suleman’s children may be too young to know what’s going on now, but soon enough they will feel the weight of their mother’s reckless decision to have so many kids without a long-term means of supporting them.

Feedback to Kindergarten Loans

I received a lot of responses to last week’s Color of Money question: “What do you think of the trend of well-heeled parents taking out pre-college loans to pay for their child’s private-school tuition?”

The National Association of Independent Schools found that roughly 20 percent of families that applied for aid to pay private school tuition for their children from kindergarten through 12th grade had annual incomes of $150,000 or more, according to 2010-11 data, reports Annamaria Andriotis of Smartmoney.com.

“If they can’t afford to pay for kindergarten, how do they imagine they will afford the next 16 years of schooling?” said Andrea Sherman of Chevy Chase, Md. “Do they anticipate simply accruing debt for 16-plus years like some kind of perverse reverse mortgage? I hate to think what the compounded interest would add up to, but I doubt seriously the child would ever earn enough ‘extra’ to recoup the investment. In a time when financial advisors are questioning the wisdom of accruing debt for college, this seems way over the top.”

“Insane!” is what Kelli Denard of Chicago says of the kiddie loans. “If it’s that serious, instead of spending all that money on tuition, the parents could either: have one work and one stay home to home-school or hire a tutor,” Denard said. “I understand that parents want the best education for their children. I have, however, heard that some parents pay tuition for private school because they want their children -- actually it’s the parents -- to network with people of high status.”

Laura Sell of Durham, N.C., said she and her husband send their children to private school, “but we certainly don’t pay for it with loans. We scrimp on vacations and dinners out. We drive ten-year-old cars. Pretty much my entire salary goes to the tuition for the two of them. But if one of us lost our job and we couldn’t afford the school anymore, it would be off to public school with the kids. We love the school but it’s not worth sacrificing our retirement or our credit rating for it.”

Nadine Wong of Beaverton, Ore., made a great point about how delusional some parents can be in thinking that an expensive grade school will increase their children’s chances for scholarship money.

“Come this fall, my husband and I will be putting two kids through college, and in the near future a third one will be on his way,” Wong wrote. “Like any other parent, we want the best possible education for them. However, our take on those parents who want to take out loans to pay for K-12 education and [who are] betting on scholarships: Don’t.”

Wong is right. Very few students receive enough scholarships and grants (including state and federal need-based and non-need-based aid) to cover all college costs, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.com, which provides some of the best financial aid information available online.

Of the students who were enrolled fulltime at four-year colleges in the 2007-08 school year, only 0.3 percent (not 3 percent but 0.3 percent) received enough scholarship money to cover the full cost of attendance.

Only about one in 10 undergraduate students in bachelor’s degree programs wins a private scholarship, on average about $2,800 a year. Turns out students from private high schools win just slightly more scholarships and other merit-based aid than students attending public high schools, Kantrowitz points out in his book “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.” And the money they do win is hardly enough to compensate for the higher cost of private school tuition.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and home town; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

 
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