When you decide to commit to someone for life, it’s often said, you don’t just marry your spouse but rather you marry a family. When Jay Holmes got married a decade ago, he took it one step further: He married a family plan.
So when the news began circulating last week that former Trump administration strategist Stephen Miller was trying to block a subpoena for his phone records from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack on the grounds that he was concerned his cellphone provider would also hand over data for the others on his family plan (that is, his parents), Holmes came across a tweet that perplexed him. Another user had commented on the news: “This man 36 years old,” adding a “joy” emoji.
Holmes, 40 and a father of three sons, wasn’t sure what to make of that. He tweeted a response. “Is it that he shares a plan,” he asked, “or that he used that as his excuse?” Holmes never heard back.
It is time once again, apparently, to talk about millennials — who are adults now, many with kids and marriages and mortgages and favorite brands of lawn fertilizer — remaining on their parents’ cellphone family plans. The authors of the flurry of news stories in the 2010s defending the practice probably thought they had put the matter to rest when they came to a nearly unanimous conclusion: It saves money for everyone involved, so buzz off.
Of course, some parties might be saving more than others: According to a 2014 poll, 61 percent of cellphone users were on a group or family plan, but 13 percent of them reported never paying any part of the bill.
Miller’s apparent faux pas briefly brought tittering over a practical solution back into vogue. “He still on mommy and daddy’s phone line,” one Twitter user wrote.
“It’s confirmed. Trump’s White House was officially run by children,” wrote another.
For Holmes, this was the first time he had even considered being embarrassed by his cellphone plan. Plenty of his friends, he said, enjoy similar arrangements. “Not one time have I ever gotten grief about it,” he said, adding with a laugh, “I didn’t know that it was on the same level of, you know, living in your mom’s basement.”
Enough millennials have come to the same conclusion that Holmes’s family did, that adult kids remaining on the family plan is normal. For every social media post belittling Miller last week, there was an opposite “So what?”
“My 39-year old vascular neurologist daughter, and her husband, run their cell service through my family plan. Why shouldn’t they? And why shouldn’t Stephen Miller do the same thing?” one man tweeted. (The Washington Post has asked for comment from Miller.)
“I’m still on it and in my 40s,” one woman wrote. “If they kicked me off, I’d have to consider blocking them access to all my streaming services,” adding a “wink” emoji.
Whitney Hansen is a financial coach based in Boise, Idaho, and she specializes in working with millennials and young adults. Hansen said she frequently encounters clients who have stayed on their parents’ cellphone plans since adolescence. It’s especially common, she wrote in an email to The Post, “among mostly single 20-to-40-year-olds,” as it can be an effective way to reduce recurring household costs.
That said, Hansen often advises her clients to venture out of the proverbial data-plan nest and spread their wings into cellular adulthood. “It avoids the potentially awkward family dynamics and possible payment collection difficulties,” Hansen wrote. Plus, “it builds a sense of independence and financial separation that is healthy. There’s an emotional toll to feeling like you’re still financially tied to your parents.” It may also be advisable to have your own data plan if your digital activities (or your parents’) risk incriminating any or all of you if exposed in a congressional probe.
My dad kicked me off the family plan at 25 and then came back a few years later like...ok...actually this plan is cheaper with you on it please come back and just venmo me your share— Emily Jones (@ejreports) March 10, 2022
Still, for many millennials and emerging adults, there are only upsides to being tethered by the invisible thread of unlimited data. In classic parents-of-a-certain-age fashion, Holmes’s in-laws are loath to trade in the smartphones they’ve become accustomed to — so when the plan offers an upgrade, it’s usually Holmes or his wife who gets a new phone. Holmes summed up the situation in a classically millennial way: by quoting “The Office.”
“In the words of Michael Scott,” he said, “it’s ‘win-win-win.’ ”