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When Should You Kick Your Kids Out of the House?

In the summer of 1982 the world stood still in the Rust Belt of the United States. The economy sputtered, stalled and then declined in the second leg of a double-dip recession that sent the unemployment rate to the levels last seen in The Great Depression. 

In this economic void a future accountant was finding his way as he came of age in the early summer of that year. Working on a family farm in its last death throes, our wayward accountant was there in those last few months before the bankruptcy became final. 

With most of the animals gone and the fields untended, our hero and his uncle, Daryl, filled their days with 500 Rummy and throwing darts at a dartboard of a picture of the Ayatollah Khomeini (Google it). 

After the farm gasped its last breath, our hero worked in his dad’s business repairing silos. Anything to put food on the table. The pay wasn’t good. But anything above zero had its appeal.

The unsung hero, the listless future accountant, felt trapped. In the county he lived there were no jobs available. Employers would not even waste the paper to take your application. The answer was NO!

A way of life, farming, was no longer an option. Working in dad’s business was not appealing at any level, but the only choice at the moment. Turning a wrench in a business not his own was not a life he could foresee enjoying.

As the economy slowly climbed out of the economic malaise of the early 1980s, our hero quietly built several businesses. He sold imported goods at any retail outlet that would take his junk, ah, I mean products. He also prepared tax returns for other employees and vendors of his dad’s firm. 

After four years he amasses enough wealth, thanks to a soaring stock market supercharging his savings, to strike out on his own, away from the family business. He bought a car, a mobile home (hey, it was mine at least) and moved out. I was 22. (Notice the change in perspective in the story.)

By 1986 dad’s firm was growing and profitable. Hard work separated us from subsistence. The future accountant was now doing enough tax work to technically say he was an accountant, rather than a future accountant. A small steady income and a modest nest egg allowed our heroes eyes to wander to the horizon. And it was a crisis on the home front.

 

Living at Home

My story of early adulthood has many similarities to those growing up in the Upper Midwest of the U.S. at the time. Farm life was different from city living, of course. But the hardship was still significant. 

There was a massive diaspora of my high school class after graduation. Jobs were far away and if you wanted to start your adult life, travel was required. When the economy improved many came back to our rural community. It is hard to take the country from the boy.

The year I turned 18 was the worst year economically in the U.S. since the early 1930s, with my home town dead center of the disturbance.

Growing up on a farm had its advantages. We always had food and while we were poor, we always had something to do. The best part is I grew up with my extended family. My grandparents, uncles and nuclear family all snuggled on our family farm bought by great-great-grandpa Accountant when he moved to the U.S. from Germany in the 1880s.

Now the way of life was gone.

Back in those days the question this post title asks was simpler. If you grew up on a farm your would never really ever move out. And unless the kids were violent you never kicked them out.

Farm life in the U.S. is such a small subset these days it is hard to provide guidance on this issue for them. For the vast majority, in these much better economic times, the lament of many a parent is: When do I kick the kids out?

Kids were a massive benefit on the farm. In town it is a different story. Fewer chores mean the extra hands are not a necessity. Once the kids can fend for themselves, they become a burden. At least financially.

 

Missing the Kiddos

Parents sometimes find it hard to detach from the kiddos after they reach adulthood. If the kids are not kicked out on their 18th birthday they start to settle in. It then gets harder to pry them out the door at a later date.

Kicking the kids out is always a difficult discussion sure to raise dander. Do you consider the economy before giving the kids a firm deadline to vacate the premises? Do you allow for a certain level of resources (job, savings, accumulation of pots, pans and blankets) before the decision is made?

When I was 18 I was scared to death to move out because the economy was so bad. Four years later, with a good economy and some personal resources, I was out the door of my own volition. 

That created a crisis. Dad needed the help in the business. Finding employees with a farm boy work ethic was difficult by 1986. Both mom and dad enjoyed having the extended family together. Those farm roots are hard to break. 

Buying a car meant freedom and that triggered the crisis. Dad knew I would be gone soon now in possession of my own vehicle. It all ended well, however. I left, built a life of my own, and returned frequently. The family expanded for the better.

I suspect many parents don’t encourage their kids to leave sooner for the same reason. You love your kids and will miss them, annoying as they can be at times. There is also something disturbing about looking down the maw of being an empty-nester. As a parent of two adult daughters I keenly feel this emotion.

 

Healthy Habits

It might not be healthy for children to stay living with parent too far into their 20s. At some point they need to start their own life. Things are always tough starting out. Money is tight and expenses high. There are significant advantages to living at home with mom and dad.

Knowing the right time to prod the younglings out is more art than science. Too soon and they could catastrophically fail; wait too long and they become institutionalized. 

I have seen many young people forced out at a young age and the problems it creates. With nowhere to go they settle for whatever keeps a roof over the head and food on the table. That frequently leads to disastrous results.

I also see many parents in my office with older kids still living at home (upper 20s, 30s and older). There is usually some disappointment their children have not moved on. 

My oldest daughter is looking down upon her 25th birthday soon and the youngest is 19. I have strongly encouraged the oldest to consider moving out. However, serious medical issues have had me encouraging her to stay at home where it is cheaper to live and there is a built in support group in case she needs emergency medical help. 

The youngest still has time to decide. At 19, and also with serious medical issues, she is still finding her way and building wealth while she decides.

Both girls have jobs and help around the house. There are no drug, alcohol or other inappropriate behavior to concern us. Having the girls at home gives the home a full feeling. 

 

When the Kids Must Move Out

Yes, you will miss the kids when they move out, but you will adjust to your new freedom. And odds are they will come back often, seeking your advice and for companionship.

However, you must insist the kids move out at a certain point or you will harm them, perhaps irreparably. They can’t truly grow up until they are on their own.

You bounce better when you are young. Struggle is a natural part of growing up, moving out and finding your way in the world. There will be scars. That is the natural order of things.

It hurts. Life hurts! You fought through the difficulties when you were young. It is how you got where you are. A bird never learns to fly sitting around in the nest.

There are a few exceptions. My daughters have medical issues that have me second-guessing my advice. (More about this in the Thanksgiving Day special post.) 

As parents, you know if your kids are better at home for a bit longer or if they should move out. There are instances where it would be unsafe to have your kids on their own.

But don’t let that cloud your judgment. The medical or other issues need to rise to a level where holding your kids back (allowing them to stay living at home) is the only viable option. Lazy is not a medical condition. 

Your kids also need to see the real world and how it works. Earning an income, paying bills, buying a home, investing and building their own family happens out there away from their childhood home. Mom and dad are always a phone call away for help, moral support and advice.

The best thing for you and your children is to move them out as soon a they are able. (Notice I didn’t say ready.)

Here are guidelines to help you decide when it is time to move the kids out:

  • College: College is expensive enough, but it is still a good time for the kiddos to spend time out on their own. Lessons you shared with them as they grew up will hold them in their stead. If they are ready for college they are probably ready to live away from their parents. Just make sure they are moving into a safe environment as 18 is a tough age to strike out on your own.
  • Age 25: After college (if they attended college) the kids sometimes move back home as they transition to a new job and/or family life. By age 25 most kids should be encouraged to see the world solo or with a significant other. Remember, they can’t really start their life until they leave home. 
  • Money: Finances are a consideration. Out in the world bills accumulate automatically while income takes effort. Starting out there are few reserves to take the kids through a rough spot. Parents have resources accumulated over a lifetime. The kids are starting at Day 1 in their wealth accumulation adventure. Hopefully they got a mild head start saving and investing while still living under your roof.
  • Health: This is always a difficult decision. My oldest daughter would be on her own by now if not for serious medical issues. We still insisted she live in a dorm while attending college. Once her health improves she will be required to move out.
  • Keep an open line: The kids moving out is not a funeral! Make sure your child understands you are always there for them. Be slow to enable when financial difficulties arise, as they always do for the young. They need to learn to fight their way through it. You can always provide moral support and guidance. When the chips are down the kids listen to mom and dad better than ever. Who ever knew mom and dad knew so much?
  • Visit: Just as moving out is not a funeral, it isn’t a divorce either. You get to talk to each other as much as you want. When I left the nest at the ripe old age of 22 I came home every Sunday to spend with family. The days and time have changed when visiting happens, but there is still a lot of visiting (and card games). I get along better than ever with my folks. As a kid I needed to break away. Having broken away I feel a strong affinity to extended family. It is the way things are supposed to be.
  • Safety net: While it is never a good idea to give your kids a free ride, helping out is one of the most important tasks remaining to a parent, or should I say, grandparent. I discourage bailing out the kids financially except in the most dire of circumstances. Medical would be an easy call. I’d help. But babysitting is a real benefit to all involved. The kids, now parents themselves, can avoid a major expense in childcare, while you get quality time with the grand-babies. The best part is that they go home at the end of the day. I’ve heard grand kids are better than kids. I’ll let you know once I find out. (Hint-hint, girls, if you are reading this.)
  • Be firm: Some kids try to wedge themselves in tight. It is not healthy for all involved. You, as the parent, must be firm! At some point, the kids must move out. Do not enable poor behavior. They don’t know what they want or what is good for them. They will find it out there.

This may be the most important financial decision you help your kids make. Staying at home past curfew is a bad idea. I understand you will miss them. It still must be done.

The last part of parenting is watching your children grow and explore as adults. They will surprise you in so many ways. They with have tremendous failures and incredible successes. 

My daughters have always amazed me. Their interests are so varied and so different compared to mine. Soon it will be time to open the cage door and insist they fly on their own. I gave them all I can teach them. Experience is the final teacher.

Your job is mostly done as a parent at this point. Now you can enjoy your kid’s successes and encourage them when they fall. You also have time to explore things that interest you that having kids didn’t grant the time for. 

You also have more time for friends and that wonderful significant other you love. 

It is a mark of a life well lived, seeing your children enter the real world.  They are also the future. They will design it in ways we never dreamed of. That is what makes the world such a wonderful place.

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. karen young on November 25, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    Hey thanks for this. Living in Hawaii, the cost of housing is so high that many kids continue to live with parents, even after marriage. but this is a good reminder not to enable them and make it so comfortable they don’t want to leave.

  2. VSC on November 26, 2019 at 9:02 am

    I’ve lived in other countries, Italy, for example, where families add on to their houses or buy the ones next door, so that all the generations live in close proximity, if not actually together. There are pluses and minuses, of course, and this has been changeing since the 1990’s a bit, but there wasn’t a stigma associated with multi-generational households when I lived there.

    I currently live in a HCOL, ‘Nice’ area with a strong immigrant community where families have pooled their finances and bought neighboring houses, taken down the fences & built breezeways connecting the properties to have effectively one family home. You can’t really tell from a casual glance from the street – but you can see the homes are connected if you look closely. I think that’s brilliant! I would love this for our family!

    My Grandma moved in with my Dad & me when my Grandpa died (35 years ago) and they lived until she passed away. My boyfriend and I lived in the ADU on the property until we moved out of state for work, but I came back 3 years ago with my daughter after a marriage separation and lived with my Dad until he passed. My boys are home with me now, one in & one post college. My Dad & I were a great comfort to my Grandma – and I adored her with all of my heart. We both did. While it was sad that things didn’t work out in my marriage, my daughter and I added so much love, care, & company to his life! He was a bit lonely before we came back to live with him, not to mention that he was being taken advantage of financially by many ‘friends’ who were actually stealing cash & writing fraudulent checks on his accounts.

    I love seeing my sons every day & they, though in their 20’s, are being invited into the accounting of & responsibility of our household

    As long as everyone is contributing and can work out conflict in healthy manner, why “kick them out”? Why make family feel uncomfortable & unwanted?

    I don’t get it.

    • Ramona on December 2, 2019 at 3:35 pm

      I feel the same way, but, again, I’m also European. We do live 2-3 generations under one roof and LOVE it. My daughter is just 5, but the thought of not living together is devastating already. The plan is that, if we are healthy and she WANTS to, we could live together or next-door. I can take care of their kids, when she’s having a family, so that the youngsters can still enjoy life. Family is a huge deal for us and it’s normal in my country to stay together as much as possible, help the offspring with everything, from food to helping with rent payments or even buy them a house.

      As we’re already pretty old (OK, not that old, but over 40, respectively 50), we really don’t care about ourselves anymore. I find great joy in spending as much time as possible with my daughter, even if it means having to work from home and try to get my online business off ground once again. We’ve lived our lives and reached our potential. Then we left everything back in Europe and came to the US, just because we know that, even if it’s hard for us to start from zero, it’s a huge step forward for the kid. And I hope we’ll be around for many years to help her achieve everything she dreams about.

      Maybe she’ll want to start a new life on her own, after college, it is possible and we’ll respect it. But I do hope we’ll be able to be by her side and support her as much as possible.

  3. Karl on November 26, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly. I “grew up” significantly by moving 250 miles away to go to college. I had no clue how much I depended on Mom & Dad being “right there” to help if things went south.

    I think they equipped me pretty well financially (lessons on being frugal and avoiding debt, etc.), but maybe cut it short on chores, cooking, etc.–general “life management” stuff.

    But yes, the various factors of medical issues, etc. need to be carefully evaluated when deciding to kick kids out. I’d add that parents should consider soliciting outside counsel (friends, a pastor, etc.) to make sure they don’t have blinders on about something they are inappropriately letting a kids stay at home for. I think my sister would have been drastically better served getting kicked out a few years before she moved out.

  4. Mike on November 26, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    We started by charging rent after our kids finished their “4 years” of college. We gave them plenty of warning so they had time to mentally prepare. To determine the amount, we checked what a room would cost in our area. So in CA it was $600. Then we raised it each year so that by 25 they were up to $1200, the cost of a studio apartment in our area. We didn’t need the money but we did this to help them transition to independent living. It worked great! Other friends have done 1/3 of income. This makes sense too.

    • Keith Taxguy on November 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

      Mike, it is always hard charging the kids rent as they start out, but it is the only way they learn how the real world works. The rent I collect from the kids is invested. At some point they will get it back, they just don’t know that now.

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