How to Create a Game Plan for Your Boomerang Kid

Editors' pick: Originally published May 19.

Congratulations, college graduates. You've got fresh diplomas in hand and a keen eye on making your mark in the world, as generations before you have done in exactly the same situation.

But there's a big difference - previous generations of college graduates didn't owe nearly as much as a 2016 college grad will owe on his or her student loan, and that scenario will have a ripple effect on today's college students.

According to the website Student Loan Hero, the average class of 2016 graduate now has $37,172 in student loan debt -- a 6% increase since 2015. Compare that to 1996, when the average college graduating senior faced only $12,850 in student loan debt, according to The Institute of College Access and Success. Thus, it's no wonder that 37% of U.S. college graduates will be back bunking with mom and/or dad, according to data from the American Institute of CPAs.

Virtually all of those surveyed in that demographic told study researchers that "high student debt" was to blame for their living situation.

Financial experts contacted by TheStreet say those "prodigal" sons and daughters are hardly to blame. In fact, some consider a move back with the folks a smart financial move.

"Today's boomerang kid effect is a positive sign that college graduates are financially conscious of their new debt and are showing responsibility in wanting to be prepared for their financial future," says Leslie Tayne, author of the book Life or Debt and founder of the New York City-based legal services firm Tayne Law Group P.C.

Tayne offers some good guideposts for parents and college graduates once again sharing the same roof and insists that setting some good rules in place is her top priority. "Before your child moves back home, it's important to have a plan set for them," Tayne advises. "Establish guidelines and boundaries - how long do you expect them to live with you, will they be paying rent, and will they be contributing to new bills like the phone bill? Then, have a conversation with your child about these expectations before he or she moves in so everyone is on the same page to avoid confrontation."

While a college grad son or daughter is back at home, Tayne also urges parents to use the time wisely and educate their offspring on how best to get them back on their feet, financially.

"While Millennials may be good at saving, parents should help provide their children with guidance and direction," she says. "Some college grads may not be ready to handle all of their debt at once. It's not a parent's job to help pay their debt but to help them get through it."

Tayne says parents should help their college grads work toward paying down all of their debt, including any credit card debt, as much as possible. "If that means lowering their cell phone data plan so they can put more money towards their debt, then so be it," she says.

Some parents may want their at-home college grad son or daughter to contribute to the cost of living with an agreed upon rent, notes April Masini, a New York City-based author, speaker and founder of the popular "Ask April" online advice site. That's O.K., she says - just make contingencies, first. "If you want to collect rent from your boomeranger, make a plan for late payments and periods of time when the kid may stop paying," Masini says. "If you don't, you'll feel like you're being taken advantage of. Make sure that this is a mutually greed upon plan -- not a punitive act."

"This isn't just a boundary; it's a way for the kids to start practicing adult responsibility by getting a bill and paying it on time," Masini adds.

Also, don't jump head-first into a prodigal child living arrangement without considering how it will impact your own financial life as a parent. "If helping your children means that you won't be saving for your own retirement, or it will severely affect your ability to do so, you should reconsider your decision," says Dave Lafferty, a partner and senior financial advisor at Wescott Financial, in Philadelphia. "If you do agree to pay off your children's credit card debt, make it very clear that it is a one-time occurrence. If your children think you will cover the bills when they can't pay them, they will never learn the risks of credit."

In addition, if you agree to loan your children money, consider charging them interest. "This should encourage them to repay the loan in a timely manner," says Lafferty.

There's no reason both parents and prodigal college graduates can't make a living arrangement work. The stakes are different this time around, but a good understanding of what everyone is bringing to the table can pave the way for a good landing spot for the short term and a good financial education for college grads for the long term.

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