My previous series discussed how extreme amounts of student loan debt are causing graduates to move back home with their parents these days. The truth is that there are other reasons why graduates move home after completion of their degrees which will be the focus of this series. What happens when they do will also be visited.
After finishing my PhD at the University of Michigan, my job prospects were slim due to the nature of my thesis project, the hiring requirements of the pharmaceutical/biotech industries at that time, and the overall economy. Newly conferred PhDs in the sciences were expected at that time to do postdoctoral fellowships before going on to pursue their careers in academia or industry. As fate would have it, there was an available position of interest in Albany, NY where my father lived.
My parents divorced in the early years of my life. As a result me and my father never lived together and saw each other only one to two times a year. This postdoctoral position would thus allow me to dually further my science career and allow the two of us to make up for the time we missed the previous 30 years of my life.
“You can stay at my place and you don’t have to pay any rent either,” Dad said which sounded great at the time. After struggling the previous six years as a graduate student, living rent free during my postdoc would give me the opportunity to save money and emerge from my postdoc on much better footing financially.
While earning a PhD or any higher level degree earns praise and adulation, the road requires great sacrifice and many graduates finish their degrees broke, in debt, and in poor financial shape, that is of course unless they come from wealthy families who have subsidized them throughout school. That goes for PhDs, Medical Doctors, Lawyers, etc.
How do graduates finish school broke, in debt and in poor financial shape? Simply put, many students are not thoroughly taught about finances by their parents and make decisions during school that hurt them later financially, in some cases living above their means for any number of reasons. Many are paying bills (food, shelter, clothing and transportation) for the first time and simply don’t know what they’re doing, as was in my case. Some don’t know how to delay gratification and seek to get and do things they can’t afford.
As described in Common Financial Mistakes You Make in Your Twenties on the website Young Finances, there are common errors people, in this case students make in their twenties. One of my biggest mistakes during graduate school was trying to use my meager graduate stipend and other means to win the love a significant other who cared more about being entertained than our collective future financial health. This wasn’t the only one but it was the biggest nonetheless.
In hindsight some of the money spent entertaining this person, could have been saved and invested. The two of us blew through my Citi Assist loan which was originally borrowed to supplement my graduate student stipend and make my life a little easier. After that relationship ended, the loan had to be paid back which it was, in large part due to living under my father’s roof during my postdoc.
It was great that my father wasn’t going to charge me rent but as will be described later in this series, nothing in this world is free and there are other forms of payment besides money, such as your personal health and your peace of mind, both of which can be compromised when moving back in with your parents as an adult. There are two distinct areas of discussion that graduates (and parents) need to consider when moving home which embodied my experience:
- Finances and contribution to the household (even if rent isn’t being charged).
- Maintaining a healthy relationship between parent and child now that both are older and the child is no longer a child, or has a PhD or other advanced degree.
These points will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent parts.