NEW YORK (TheStreet) — This year, 42% of U.S. college graduates plan on moving back in with their parents, and 43% of that number say they expect their folks to "pay for the majority of their living expenses," according to a report from Accenture.
For parents, that's a heavy dose of "yikes" and "double yikes." Many may have expected that with a college degree in hand, junior would be moving on and out of their parents' homes.
The news gets worse for mom and dad: Only 18% of 2013-14 college grads pay their rent and living expenses themselves, and 36% say they "share the debt with their parents," while 11% expect their parents "will pay off their student loans," Accenture says.
For embattled parents who need to set some ground rules for college graduates coming back home, the watchword is discipline — as in, install some firm rules and stick by them.
The fact is, many "prodigal kids" expect it.
"I graduated from engineering school in 2014 and promptly moved back in with my parents as I continued working on my company," says Amos Meeks, chief technology officer at Lilypad Scales, a company that develops easy-to-use weight scales for wheelchair owners. "We have a great relationship and everyone is happy with it."
"I even tried to move out once and they discouraged me from doing it and asked me to stay," Meeks adds.
Meeks says that from a returning son or daughter's perspective, it's best that the young adult contributes to the household in some way. "While I don't pay rent, I do all of the cooking – which my parents don't have much time or desire to do – and some of the cleaning," he says.
Many of Meeks' peers seem to agree. Like a lot of people his age, Jason Bauman, a junior associate at Philadelphia-based Trinity Insight from the Class of 2008, had to move back home after he ran out of money. "I was lucky enough to have an apartment for the first two years out of school, but then I had to move back home because the job I got nearby didn't pay enough for the insane rent of the area," Bauman says. "I think the stereotype of people living at home because they're lazy is on its way out, but it's a hard one to counter."
He advises his peers to treat parents' homes like apartments where the parents are the landlords. "Treating your parents' place like an apartment includes a few things," Bauman says. "Paying rent is one of them. It doesn't have to be the going rate for a room, but it should be something non-trivial. That also means paying them before you pay for 'nice to haves' like new clothing and technology."
Contributing to the house in other financial ways makes things smoother, too, Bauman adds. "Buy your share of shared supplies, like food, household goods and entertainment," he advises. "You don't have to buy everything or an even portion, but buy something. If you have a favorite meal, you should buy it yourself and buy your parents' favorite meals every now and then. Not only is this responsible, but little things go a long way."
Social rules need to be in place too, some parents say. For Pamela J. Sams, president of Jackson Sams Financial Services in Herndon, Va., that meant keeping a lid on all-night excursions with friends. "As a parent and financial advisor, I like to keep a curfew," Sams says. "College students are used to coming and going as they please, but now they are back at home, so should adhere to the house rules about coming in late at night."
"The same goes with having company over late at night," she says.
Some parents have a plan to teach their kids a life lesson — and reward them for learning those lessons. "The best concept I've heard that I plan to put into effect if my college kids choose to move in after graduating in the next year, two years and four years, is a simple one," says Cari Shane, a principle at Sasse Agency, a Washington, D.C, boutique public relations firm. "If they move in, they pay rent. That rent, unbeknownst to them, gets put into a fund and upon moving out, they're given that rent money back to use as a down payment for their future home purchase."