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Home » Unemployment, Workplace Finance

Gen Y & their Boomerang to Nowhere

Last updated by on 27 Comments

The Boomerang Generation

“Generation Y” and “The Millennial Generation” are common labels for the generation of Americans born from the early 80’s through the early 90’s (no doubt a healthy proportion of readers of this blog, by the way)

This age group has also taken on some other monikers recently. Some of them not so flattering.

You’ve probably heard “Generation Why?”, “Generation Me”, and “The Facebook Generation” – all typically used in the context to point fingers at this generation’s cynicism, narcissism, or infatuation with virtual vs. in-person interaction, respectively.

But lately, there’s been a few new labels to join that group: “The Boomerang Generation” (in homage to the Boomers) and the “Go Nowhere Generation”.

In a recent national poll, 85% of grads said they planned to move back home. And the percentage of young adults aged 25-34 living in a multi-generational home has doubled from 11% in the early 80’s to 22% today. 40% of 18 to 24 year-olds live with their parents. Very boomerang-y, indeed (or maybe they never left).

But why? Let’s look at some possible explanations.

generation y boomerang

Generation Y Unemployment Rates

According to BLS employment data, 13.8% of those aged 20-24 are unemployed, which is up from a pre-recession low of 7.2%. Similarly, 9.8% of 25-29 year-olds are unemployed, vs. a pre-recession low of 4.5%.

In both cases, you’re looking at an unemployment rate of double, and that is down, because we’ve “recovered” (of course).

The actual employed-to-population ratio of each group tells an even bigger picture – at 61.8% and 72.8% respectively as of February of this year. That’s a whole lot of unemployed Gen-Y’ers, many of which aren’t even bothering to try to find a job. And it doesn’t even factor in those who are under-employed and can’t afford to live anywhere but with their parents.

I could see the scenario developing where a Gen-Y’er graduates with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt after busting their butt in school for four or more years, only to go on to having no success in getting an entry level job (despite the implied promise), becoming quite cynical or doubtful of the system, and at least temporarily throwing in the towel and moving back home.

Less Opportunity & More Cynicism

The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data.

Part of that can probably be attributed to the economy. Climbing the corporate ladder by moving across country has become harder with the lack of new jobs being created.

Corporate ambition has become a whole lot less desirable to many people as well. 70.8 percent of Americans want to be self-employed. I would expect that number to be even higher in Gen Y.

Move across the country for a 10% raise? Not as appealing as it maybe once was.

Less Physical Mobility

Another reason for less mobility might be increased transportation costs. When you don’t have a job, $4 per gallon gas can be severely limiting.

Economic or otherwise, excitement about getting a car has waned. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found: “About 87 percent of 19-year-olds in 1983 had their licenses, but 25 years later, that percentage had dropped to about 75 percent. Other teen driving groups have also declined: 18-year-olds fell from 80 percent in 1983 to 65 percent in 2008, 17-year-olds decreased from 69 percent to 50 percent, and 16-year-olds slipped from 46 percent to 31 percent.”

I’m probably too old to understand the sentiment of not wanting to be able to have the option of driving myself. But it is clearly a growing trend.

Is “Going Nowhere” so Bad?

“Going nowhere” as Gen Y was recently dubbed, is much less endearing than “boomerang”, and implies a laziness or undesirable lack of ambition.

That, however, is unfair to many. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to stay close to your roots. There can be strong financial incentive for you and your parents if you are splitting costs. And some people simply really like their family or are still closely tied to friends they grew up with.

Where staying put becomes troublesome is when:

  • the job search towel has been thrown in without expanding the search geographically.
  • the person who stays home returns or stays simply out of comfort and doesn’t have desire to push their own growth.
  • laziness or a sense of entitlement is the driving force.

I’ve seen examples of all three. And in every case, the narrative is not healthy or inspiring.

I was a boomeranger for 10 months. Years have gone by since, and like every boomerang that has ever left my hand, a return is highly unlikely.

Boomerang Generation Discussion:

  • Have you or someone close to you boomeranged back home to live with parents? Why? And how is it going?
  • For what reasons do you think Gen Y is becoming the boomerang or go nowhere generation?
  • Is this a temporary or longer term trend?

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


27 Comments »
  • Matt says:

    I’ve seen both good and bad examples of Boomerangers. I’ll focus on the good for this post. I have a friend who went to a local university and lived with his parents while attending school. He then obtained a job locally and continued to live at home. He has lived at home for several years now earning $70k a year with zero living expenses.

    It’s not my cup of tea but I can only imagine what his investment accounts look like now.

  • Emily @ evolvingPF says:

    I’d like to see more discussion of the effect of boomerang kids on parents. I’ve read many articles on the topic and the considerations of the parents are not even mentioned, as if they are bottomless resources willing to shoulder any cost. My siblings aren’t boomeranging but rather have never left home, even though if they had left “on time” my parents would be empty-nesters now. I would say that the costs my parents absorb for my siblings are having a very negative effect on their finances – the additional food, (especially) car insurance, gas, medical bills, clothing, and other incidentals. Plus, my parents should have had the option by now of downgrading the size of their home. Even more importantly, studies of marital satisfaction show that it declines for couples after having children and only rises again when those children leave home. My parents are delaying the revival of their marriage due to the presence of my siblings. Based on the articles I have read on boomerang kids, they are only thinking of their own preferences and needs and are taking advantage of their parents’ love and care for them.

    • Emily @ evolvingPF says:

      P.S. I am not referring to the pockets of American culture for which multi-generational living is expected and the children support their parents, just the ones where the children’s reason for moving back involves an extension of adolescence by putting off becoming financially independent from their parents.

  • Laura Collins says:

    For what reasons do you think Gen Y is becoming the boomerang or go nowhere generation?

    A very easy question for me…I think our generation saw our parents and friend’s parents be unhappily consumed by their careers, not making their family a priority, and then saw the huge percentages of divorce occur.

    I think our generation is defining new priorities. You only get 1 life, enjoy it with your family and friends.

    • Jason says:

      Laura,

      You are actually onto something IMO. For many, there is just a clear lack of incentives to ‘do things the right way’. I would venture to guess that a large majority of the boomerangers are males, and in today’s age, males have been getting a lot of the shaft. Why try hard, rack up debt, and slave away at a corporate job with the most likely incentive being an overweight, bossy, feministing wife who can leave you for any reason at the drop of a dime due to no fault divorce.

      Charles Murray’s new book hits a lot on this topic, although his ‘answer’ of ‘man up’ misses the mark.

      • Laura Collins says:

        Divorce works two ways. Also, a feminist is someone that believes in equal rights for both men and women. Equal rights are important to wives, daughters, sisters, and men. The word feminist should not be used as an insult.

  • Emily says:

    For myself and other friends, I know that graduating on the tail end of economic burst in Spring of 2009, it was the first time in a long time, mayber ever, that the dream of going to college and getting a wonderful job was squandered. I and many of my friends had done all the right things to prepare to obtain a job post graduation, yet at the time there were no jobs avaialable. Thankfully, I was already employed as a part time employee of a large financial institution and they willing took me on as a full time post graduation. Six months later, I was hired by my current employer. I remain at home with a parent and we split the bills evenly. My purpose in remaining home is so that my mother wont have to struggle as much. Her job was on the brink of being dissolved and financially she struggled untill summer of 2011. She now is able to maintain her lifestyle on her own, yet we have collectively made a decision to stay put (me remaining at home) in order for us both to build up a more substantial savings. History and the businesss cycle repeats. To ignore this would mean to not be prepared (as much as we can be) for the unexpected the next time the economy has a “crisis.”

    In my opinion, our generation is in uncharted territory. The “American Dream” is harder to make tangible given the state of the economy and the results of actions by our predecessors. This generation is just now getting our feet in the water to re-negotiate our future. I would bet that the future will be brighter and full of life if our generation continues to push through these unprecedented economic challenges, negotiate our own terms of need versus want, re-direct our government to the basics and promoting small business ventures.

    Each generation changes the course for the next. This to me will not be the future of our children or our children’s children. We may actually be the first generation that “savings” is more important than acquiring.

  • Mike says:

    Is there a term for boomerang parents?

    With many older folks not being adequately financed for retirement, I wonder if the number of parents moving in with their children will increase as well.

  • Broke Guy says:

    As a member of the Millennial Generation, I think most of what the article says is absolutely true. HOWEVER; I think most of the problems this generation is facing is pure laziness. When I graduated in June 2011, I didn’t all of sudden start looking, I had been looking/applying for months. I was lucky enough to land a job the day I finished my degree. Many of my peers/friends are either unemployed or extremely underemployed. Many of them didn’t care about grades during college, they didn’t become involved in activities, or do internships. They were lazy, incurred a lot of debt, and instead of taking ownership, they blame the system. My generation expects to be handed things. They started looking for jobs the day after graduation because they expected some flashy job to be waiting for them.

    The American Dream is possible. It’s simple. Go to college. Do well and stay active. Work part time, find scholarships, and grant money to help pay for it. Work hard to find a good job. Don’t give up and spend your time in a park protesting.

    • Alana says:

      That’s not the experience I had. I went to a good school with a lot of motivated kids and while most of us (myself included) landed on our feet after pounding the pavement and contacting people we interned with or worked for, a good number (far too many, in my opinion) are underemployed or felt the need to go back to school after a year or 2 of looking. Sure there are lazy kids, but I don’t believe that marks our entire generation. Nor does the existence of some lazy kids confute the notion of a broken system.

  • Marisa says:

    Thanks for pointing out how unfair some of these articles are. Articles like these tend to hail our parents’ generations as being remarkable while talking as if we’re snot-nosed brats cruising on our parents’ dime. I’m not saying that there are some of us who AREN’T (I went to school with my fair share), but to put it in perspective my parents didn’t graduate school saddled with credit card / student loan debt (in the early 80s). They got out of school and had jobs available. Their parents had saved and put money towards their education.

    On the flip side, I worked full time through college,supported myself completely, graduated with only about 10K in student loans and quit the job I had to move cross-country back to where my extended family lives. I graduated in 2008. The market had essentially just collapsed. I stayed with family and ended up rooming with them. It took about 3 months to find a job (even with some experience and a degree) and had to wait for insurance to kick in six months after that. I didn’t even have credit card debt until I graduated, at which point I had a lag in health care coverage and student loans came due. As of now I’ve tooth-and-nailed my career into some upward mobility, will have my credit card paid off next month and potentially my student loans paid off by early next year. This, however, would not be possible without “boomeranging” and living at home to cut costs significantly.

    It is what it is. It happened and now it’s a matter of picking up the pieces. It’s not ideal but my family and I are pretty independent of one another so it’s not miserable. It’s not sexy to live at home in your twenties but given that I have the opportunity it is financially SMART.

    They can call use the “go nowhere” generation if they like, but who raised us? Our entire generation didn’t collectively get to this point magically.

    • Pampibon says:

      Though I do not live at home, I completely understand those who do. I share a 2/1 apartment with a housemate to help with the expenses although I have been working for the past 5 years since I graduated (I’m 25 years old).

      I agree with those who see the Boomerang trends as positive and I like Marisa’s comment about being raised by Baby Boomers – so who’s pointing the fingers?

      Many times, we were given what I consider to be un-sound advice.
      I can remember my uncles advising me to purchase a brand new car ($10-$15k) approx. 2 years after I had been working because it was a sound investment. Or consider universities that welcomed credit card companies to “lobby” to students on their campuses. I remember students signing up for cards to receive a free t-shirt or towel w/ their school’s logo.

      I think (and hope) it will become a long-term trend so that when we become parents, we’ll remember that it wasn’t so bad living at home for a couple of years to be on sure footing and advise our kids to only become independent when they can REALLY afford it.

      Thanks for a great post!

  • Leslie says:

    3 POINTS…
    1. This reminds me of my research on the multigenerational housing attitude here versus another country… maybe they (anywhere other than the US) have it right to maximize income and living expenses. However this is engrained from an early age and sometimes religiously required. Were Americans encouraged to move out earlier from the parent’s house to bolster the economy and encourage spending? I’m talking about decades of influence to get folks to move out of their parent’s house after college.

    2. Are we Gen-Yers aiming for the most attractive degrees to garner jobs?

    3. Parents moving home could be more likely too as the economy continues to “downsize middle management” – but the parents’ now have had to shoulder burdens for aging grandparents and boomer-ranging children. I do admire them – but I can only imagine now what will happen when the Baby Boomers retire and their retirement funds are lower due to the economy and the boomerrang (GenY) children that have/ want to support them. Where are we going to be at career-wise with this newfound perspective about finances? Thank GE Miller.

  • Dustin says:

    As a Gen Yer, I have seen some friends of mine fall into this category.

    Notably, I had a friend graduate from Marquette University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is an incredibly intelligent individual and immediately landed a great paying job out of college. He still chose to live with his parents for a year after graduating and rather than paying rent or a mortgage he was paying $1500/month on his student loan debt of nearly $100,000. Staying at home for a year allowed him to pay down his debt with larger monthly payments greatly helping the amount of interest he will be paying over the next 20 years.

    I see much of the problem (if you want to consider it that) stemming from parenting. Many of the parents don’t want to see their kids go off to college, many pay the entire college tuition (big mistake), and many welcome their kids back with open arms.

    Out of the % of adults that move back in with their parents post-college, I would like to see the % of the parents who welcome them back with open arms.

  • Jonathan@Friends and Money says:

    I think that the current global financial squeeze is causing many grads to rethink their perception of debt, which in turn has led increasing numbers to explore cost savings. The main cost saving is accomodation and as such I firmly believe that this is why people are increasing moving back home. The lower the cost base, the more they can save for the future.

  • Melissa says:

    Great post, G.E. Like Emily mentioned, I too graduated in May of 2009, right after the big bust. Like Emily, my friends and I had done all the “right things” in high school and college- actively participated in clubs, got internships, networked, visited the Career Office on a regular basis, etc…. and yet, for the majority of us (my engineering and accounting friends not included), there were no jobs upon graduation.

    I had the very ‘interesting’ problem of not being able to move back in with my parents even if I had wanted… after my HS graduation, my parents promptly sold their house, retired, and moved to a retirement community. I would not have been able to live there with them because it was for 55 and up.

    So I moved to the closest big city to them, so that I could still get some free food, occasional ‘extra’ money, and free laundry ;) I hustled my butt off to land a job within 2 months of graduating and, while slightly underemployed, I accumulated a small savings.

    However, because of my ambition and the poor job market, I decided to incur more debt (yes, I know you don’t recommend this, and I agree with you) to pursue a specialized Master’s degree…

    I’m lucky to say that I know live in a house and, two weeks after graduating with my Master’s, I have a very promising, lucrative job.

    My experience is certainly not like everyone else in my generation (2009 college grads particularly) BUT I think the pessimism regarding our generation is misplaced… my friends and acquaintances who worked their butts off, networked, went on to higher education, and pursued jobs in growing fields HAVE gotten their close-to ‘dream jobs.’

    That said, I think it also matters where you move. Apparently there are some parts of the country where hiring is up, and other parts where hiring maintains stagnant. I got lucky that I moved to a city that happens to be hiring, but I can understand how that limits people my age if they move in with their parents but live in a city with poor opportunities for jobs.

  • MoneySmartGuides says:

    I find it interesting that so many recent college grads aren’t willing to move for employment. In North Dakota, they can’t find enough people for the work. With technology today, you can move virtually anywhere and still stay in touch with friends and family. And, who’s to say that if you move to start your career, you can’t one day move back home and get a job there.

  • Ryan @ LifeFreshOut says:

    I know a few people my age (24) who have returned home after school. Some have gone back because they just didn’t have a plan for what they were going to do after school. Others, because they liked their friends they had grown up with and decided that staying with their parents was worth it. And a few would rather not be home, but couldn’t find employment that could sustain them.

    One factor that I’ve seen firsthand is for some young people who have found their lifelong partners in college not being able to pick up and move to an area that might be better for their career aspirations if their partner cannot do the same. In that case they have returned home, building up some work experience while waiting for their dream job in their current location.

    As others have said, having graduated in 2009, I’ve seen many people who went to top schools with initial plans of going into the finance industry have their dreams effectively erased as they were in the midst of graduating. It also spread to others in fields you wouldn’t initially think were related. I was planning on going to graduate school, so I was able to wait it out a year, but even then things were still tough. I started my job search in March and didn’t get an offer until August, in a seemingly growing field.

  • Penny says:

    I am GenY—bought my own home when I was 22 (don’t even ask me what it’s worth today). Anywho—in my case, the reason that I am in a multi-generational family is because my Mom chose to move into my basement when she encountered marital problems.

    ….Take that “Boomers”

    Also: I can see why lots of adult children live with their folks simply because lots of people need to pool their resources to afford everyday expenses like food, transportation, insurance, and shelter. Ideally, it’s a temporary “win win” for everyone involved.

  • chris says:

    What are we supposed to do exactly?

    All my life there has been deforestation, species going extinct, pollution, ecosystems destroyed, war, rising poverty, rising cost of living, rising inflation.

    The world that we are inheriting will be 5 degrees warmer, with half the clean water, half the arable soil, half the trees and twice the population.

    How ridiculous that we are expected to follow the traditions of industrial capitalism on it’s path of self-annihilation. How ridiculous that we are supposed to be overjoyed at the prospect of ‘contributing’ to this life long nightmare.

    I wish I was simple minded, and could be entertained with money, materialism and the myriad of other distractions this culture has to offer.

    Until we examine the internal contradictions of capitalism and the unresolvable problems it creates due to the nature of it’s very design, we won’t have a future worth living in.

    We have to stop thinking about how we as individuals must conform to the system, and instead change the system itself.

  • LR says:

    For female millenials, there is pressure to get married because female millenials make less money and more prone to being victims of violent crimes like rape and kidnapping, especially if they are single. They need a husband to protect them.

    • jim says:

      LR,
      Are you serious? Female milenials do not need a husband to protect them. Afraid you might be a victim of crime? Get a concealed weapons permit – only after you have taken the requisite course. Make less money than their male counterparts? Give me a break. Find what you excel at and then do it. This “victim mentality” is the only thing holding you back and it’s all under your control.

  • andy says:

    From the X point of view: Generation Y= cynicism, narcissism, or infatuation with virtual vs. in-person interaction, respectively.

    From m(Y) point of view: Gernation X= teacher’s pet to “the man”, feels threatened that y colleauges can do your job better, because we are more enthusiastic, over-educated, confident that we CAN do your job better, technologically more advanced and thus more efficient. Careful what you say about the generation that will be crafting the legislation that affects your retirement.

    (btw- this is not directed at the author specifically) and it comes from a hard-working american who sees good ideas from the left and the right, but fails to find leaders on either side.

  • jim says:

    Wow – I just stumbled across this and the anymosity that is coming across just blows me away. I’m a boomer – had (and still do have) “ranger(s)” who needed a safe place to land until they could get themselves up and running in this economy. Neither of them are loads – 1 male, 1 female. Both did exceedingly well academically and both worked during their undergrad, altho we paid for all their tuition, books, rent etc. I think it was harder on them to move home than it was on us to be “re-nested”. They didn’t like that loss of independence, but unless and until you can financially support your independence, you’ve got to lean on loved ones. Lets not start another class warfare. There are enough problems with this country.

  • Erin says:

    I finished with two degrees in August of 2008. I moved back home because my mother was financially unable to take care of herself and the best job in the area was as a cashier at a supermarket. I assure you I never once took advantage of my mother, and if I could have avoided any feelings of obligation would have left her to her own devices as I started my career elsewhere. I do however have to point out that at least at my high school we were told frequently by all the staff that as long as we went to college we’d be guaranteed a successful career,we wouldn’t even have to work for it, whatever we wanted would just happen for us. So I don’t think it’s fair to blame Gen Y for believing the lies they were fed their whole lives.

  • Dara says:

    I moved out of state in 2007 to look for work in a neighboring state. It took me three months to find a job; I landed 13 interviews and was offered 2 positions at the same time. It was hard, considering I had gone straight from undergrad to get a Masters…only to find that while I was ready for the job market, it was not ready for me! I lived with my maternal aunt for those 3 months. Mind you, I had been searching since Jan, before graduation, and was not employed until October. Without the help of my family and my paltry savings, I would’ve been forced to move back home to FL. Moving cross country only works if you have already landed a job or have folks to help you while you’re looking. I know bunches of people who moved to ATL because of the promise of success, only to find that the job market was not as friendly as they thought. Thankfully, I have thrived here, almost six years post-grad, and with no further threat of the boomerang

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