The last thing Caitlin Hipp would have expected as she prepares to turn 28 years old next month was to be living at home with her parents.
All she has ever wanted to do is be an elementary school teacher. Instead, she has been working through the red tape required to receive her teaching certifications four years after obtaining a degree in special education from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
She has $100,000 in student loan debt and is unable to earn enough as a part-time skating instructor and a restaurant server to live anywhere other than home.
“If there was something I could tell my younger self at this point is to basically not have any expectations because they are going to change,” Hipp said. “My dream after college was to come back, get a job, save enough money to buy myself my own car and have my own apartment, and be full-time working and be established and actually be an adult.”
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As it stands, she and her two younger siblings drive her parents’ cars. There are five members of the family sharing three cars. Their mom, Kris Hipp, has posted a calendar on the wall where everyone writes in their work schedules so the family can determine who can take a car and who needs to be dropped off and picked up.
To some degree, multigenerational households have always been a part of American life. But the number of adult children who have been moving back in with their parents – or never leaving home in the first place – has been growing steadily.
The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., recently reported that the year 2014 was a high-water mark in the unfolding living arrangements of young adults in America. For the first time since 1880, adults age 18 to 34 became more likely to be living with a parent than to be living on their own or with a romantic partner in their own household.
In 2014, about 32.1 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds lived in their parents’ home, with 31.6 percent married or cohabiting and living in their own separate dwelling. Prior to 2014, the most common living arrangement for young adults was to be in a romantic coupling (either married or cohabiting) living in their own household.
Pew researchers said 14 percent of young adults in 2014 were either living alone, were single parents or were living with roommates. The other 22 percent were living with aunts, uncles, grandparents, in correctional facilities, college dormitories or with other young adults – but their names were not on the mortgage or lease where they lived.
“Since the Great Recession, the job market for young adults got a lot of attention. Young adults took it on the chin,” said Richard Fry, a senior economist at the Pew Research Center and chief author of the study. “But then the job market recovered. It raises a question of why hasn’t their recovery in the labor market improved their living arrangement?”
UBS Financial Services, a Swiss global financial services company, released a report that suggests one reason for the growing number of adult children living with parents may be that nobody wants them to leave.
The report found boomers and millennials have redefined the ties that bind parents and children.
“Boomers viewed their parents as authority figures,” the report says. “In contrast, millennials see their parents as peers, friends and mentors. Nearly three quarters talked with their parents more than once a week during college. In return, boomers happily provide financial support well into adulthood, helping fund everything from millennials’ Netflix subscriptions to their health insurance.”
The UBS report said 74 percent of millennials get some kind of financial help from their parents after college.
“Letting go may not be what either generation wants.”
Ahmie Baum, managing director of wealth management at the downtown Pittsburgh office of UBS Financial Services, said he is not sure it’s true that millennials are faced with more challenges to make ends meet. He said people were saying the same thing about his generation when he was starting out.
“Our parents weren’t as interested in being peers, mentors and friends. They wanted us to get out into the world and get going,” he said. “Because the relationship has been redefined between boomers and our children, it sets the stage for us to provide additional financial support longer than we would have expected or received from our parents.
“In some cases, kids have good jobs, but live at home and save money and we want to help them out,” Baum said.
Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Group, said the number of young adults striking out on their own fell during the Great Recession. Although job growth for millennials since 2014 has improved, that doesn’t mean millennials have moved out, he said. “They may like living at home and being able to save money.
“There’s no doubt it has held back household formation and purchases on things people spend money on related to household formation and perhaps related to child-rearing,” Hoffman said. “But they are probably traveling more and eating out more if they don’t have a house expense or marriage.
“I don’t know if it represents a change in moral values. But it’s much more common for adult children to live in their parent’s homes because it’s becoming part of the culture. The question is has that wave peaked or plateaued?”
Hipp said it took her five years to earn her degree at Bowling Green because she switched her major to special education, figuring it was a more marketable degree.
She finished her bachelor’s degree requirements in 2012, came back to Pittsburgh to study for her licensing exam only to discover Pennsylvania had changed the teacher certification rules. The state had begun requiring duel certification for all special education majors.
“I enrolled at Pitt for their Primary Plus program to get a certificate as an elementary school teacher certified K-12,” she said.
A month ago, Hipp achieved her dual certification allowing her to teach. However, she recently enrolled in a master’s degree program at Pitt to become a licensed reading specialist. As long as she is in school, her federal and private student loans are deferred.
She has yet to make a full student loan payment. However, the interest is accruing and when the payments actually begin, they are bound to be a challenge.
“At this point, I want to be out of the house and established by age 30,” she said. “That is the ultimate end all, be all goal. It’s incredibly frustrating. I do love living at home because I get to save money. But I feel like a kid. I don’t feel like an adult. That’s what’s frustrating to me.
“It’s not even about homeownership. It doesn’t matter to me if I live in an apartment with three, four or five other girls. I just want to be able to feel like I’m progressing in life. I can’t wait to buy my own groceries. I want to be able to say I own this car. This is my car. I worked my butt off. I saved my money. I personally own this car.”