Do you have an ‘Artful Lodger’ lurking in your home? According to the Office for National Statistics, 3.4 million young adults in the UK – 88,000 of them over the age of 30 – live with their parents
What’s more, research by Fidelity shows that these fully grown ‘cost centres’ set their parents back by an average of £1,780 a year from (among other things) added hot water, fridge raids and the bafflingly speedy depletion of loo roll.
These stuck adults are mostly at home to save for a deposit on a house. I’ve known about ‘Kippers’ (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings) for a couple of decades, but in a distant sense, as I don’t have children myself – I’ve managed to avoid that particular drain on my finances. However, I have had what I call ‘Glutims’ (grandparents leaving utter tat instead of money) – I mean, really, postal orders and ice cream? Where was the trust fund, huh? Still, we all have our cross to bear.
But I digress. The point here is that one of the many imbalances in our society – the young suffering from the old taking all the goodies – means there’s an extra and enduring burden on the already squeezed middle-aged.
There must be a few parents who, musing in the garden shed (as far away as possible from the constant drone of Coldplay emanating from their 35-year-old’s bedroom), wonder if there is a government plot afoot to shift the burden of supporting today’s ‘youth’ onto the private sector, specifically mum and dad. The answer is yes.
The minimum wage was increased, not because of the warm feeling our government felt towards the low paid but because it realised that big business was effectively pricing in state support when it worked out its unliveable wages. In the same way, parents often find themselves enabling corporations to offer barely paid internships to graduates who should, by rights, be given an actual job. The government is doing nothing to help here. But as older people vote in those purporting to run our country, they will be rewarded with better state pension payments, while young people, who are less inclined to vote, will continue to lose the benefits and tax breaks that could make living easier for them. Such is politics.
Even if a job appears after the internship ends, even one in the City pushing serious numbers about, that still won’t help your progeny get a deposit on a home.
Independent think tank Resolution Foundation says a third of millennials will never be able to buy a home. It’s especially tough to save in a big city, where most of your hard-earned goes on rent, bills and ‘the bloody commute’.
That said, Fidelity research points to a dangerous trend alongside ‘youngsters’ staying in the comfortable bosom of their families: their parents’ strong desire to keep them there. Fidelity reports that half of parents love having their ‘children’ at home and wish they could stay forever.
But if you suspect that your big kid is growing in rather than up because of the imprisoning comforts of home, there are a few things you can do to encourage them to spread their wings. Make their domicile a true ‘renting in the big city’ experience: sponge the walls of their bedroom each day to create a ‘persistent damp’ effect; ensure the furniture is mis-matched and scuffed, the windows stuck down and the pipes loudly burst into action at about 4am; turn the house into a facsimile of your student digs with plastic boxes of delicious food in the fridge labelled ‘mine, do not touch’; and invite in random, odd-smelling strangers to party with you until the small hours and steal the kids’ breakfast in the morning.
Talk regularly about how helpful it is to have them at home, because this will mean you won’t ever have to go into care, as they will be there to wait on you hand and foot 24/7, just as you have with them. “Think of the savings we’ll make on night nurses,” you can coo.
You could also sweeten the pill by stumping up some actual cash (if you have it) to help with a deposit, becoming a guarantor for their mortgage or letting your savings ‘rest’ in their offset home loan to enable them to pay off their debt much more quickly. You can still keep their room free for them, complete with half-chewed teddy on the bed, but there’s nothing like paying your own bills, replacing your own light bulbs and dealing with your own dicky boiler to make you appreciate all the more the comfort and tranquillity of spending a day or so with the folks. The kids will enjoy visiting even more, but with their own home, they’re guaranteed to leave.
Jasmine Birtles is a financial journalist and founder of MoneyMagpie.com.
Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.