Twentysomething, College-Educated And Moving Back In

Melissa Jenkins and her mother, Diana, in the room she is sharing with her younger sister. Jenkins said she doesn't have enough money to move out yet.
Melissa Jenkins and her mother, Diana, in the room she is sharing with her younger sister. Jenkins said she doesn't have enough money to move out yet. (By Greg M. Cooper -- Associated Press)
By Megan K. Scott
Associated Press
Saturday, May 17, 2008

When Melissa Jenkins received her college diploma last year, she was ready to get on with life -- and move in with her parents.

The 23-year-old from North Reading, Mass., was saddled with student loans from her years at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and felt she had no solid career prospects.

"It didn't make sense for me to move out on my own," she said. "I didn't have the appropriate funds. I was searching for a career path."

Nearly half of students graduating this spring are expected to move back home, said Susan Shaffer, co-author of "Mom, Can I Move Back in With You? A Survival Guide for Parents of Twentysomethings." Their number has remained pretty consistent since the dot-com bust, a result of financial and social pressures unknown to previous generations, she said.

The economy isn't entirely to blame: This year's job outlook is better than last's, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, with companies planning to hire 8 percent more recent graduates this year.

Still, wages for new grads haven't kept pace with inflation, and rising student loan and credit card debt and a troubled housing market make a return to the nest more likely, experts said.

Today's twentysomethings also have better relationships with their parents, experts say. They don't mind trading in their independence, and their parents are okay with having them come home.

"It's become the norm for recent grads to move back home," said Alexandra Robbins, author of "Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis."

According to 2006 census figures, 46.7 percent of women and 53.7 percent of men ages 18 to 24 live at home, although those numbers include college students living in dorms. For ages 25 to 34, 14.3 percent of men lived with their parents in 2006, compared with 10.9 percent in 1960.

Twentysomethings can't afford to be independent these days, Robbins said. "Even before this latest downturn, this generation was not earning the same wages that their parents earned, taking inflation into consideration," she said.

Of course, starting salaries have never been high. Even baby boomers made low wages in their first post-college gigs, said Anna Ivey, an admissions and career consultant.

But 73 percent of today's graduating seniors will leave college with student loan debt, at an average of about $23,000, according to the Student Monitor spring 2008 recruitment study. The average outstanding balance on undergraduate credit cards was $2,169, according to a 2004 Nellie Mae survey, the most recent year available.

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