How I Money: Parents as Roomies and No Regrets
How one college graduate from the first “Class of Covid” is using living at home to get a leg up on her financial goals.
Disclaimer: Surabhi is not a client. She was offered a complimentary call with a licensed Betterment advisor (value of $299) and has a personal relationship with an employee of the firm. Because of this, she has an incentive to recommend Betterment which is a conflict of interest. Views may not be representative, see more reviews at the App Store and Google Play Store.
Surabhi didn’t plan on living with her parents after graduating college in 2020, but a global pandemic has a curious way of changing the calculus on life decisions such as these. Faced with a fully-remote work environment as a software engineer, with no commute and no co-workers to mingle with during lockdown, she figured why not? Spending all that solitude — and more importantly, all that money — living in an apartment in downtown Kansas City didn’t seem to make much sense at the time. “Everyone was just at home making TikToks,” she jokes.
So after receiving her diploma (in the mail due to commencement being canceled), she moved back into the house where she grew up, 20 minutes south of downtown KC. It’s where we spoke one icy winter day, warming up over a cup of tea made by her mom. Surabhi’s family — mom, dad and younger sister — are close, and that certainly helps on the cohabitation front. They have ample space to spread out, a privilege she’s well-aware of.
“A lot of stars had to line up for that [decision to move in] to happen, and I feel grateful for that situation,” she says as we speak in her living room. Pieces of art painted by her younger sister sit on the fireplace mantel. Before Surabhi left for college, the 7-year age gap between them made it hard to relate. But now the gap doesn’t feel so big. They’re spending time together and getting to know each other as peers. It’s one silver lining stemming from the curveball that Covid threw her. That, and a fortuitous head start on her saving goals.
“I want to be so financially set that I could live wherever I wanted.”
Surabhi’s living situation has become anything but rare. It became the norm, statistically-speaking, during the first summer of the pandemic. That marked the first time a majority of young adults (52%) lived with their parents, a rate not even seen during the Great Depression.
Some do so out of financial necessity, in which case, it presents a good opportunity to pursue early financial goals like an emergency fund. For others with more means, it can supercharge their savings for longer-term goals such as a home down payment or retirement. Either way, moving back in with your folks presents a unique opportunity to save on what amounts to the biggest expense for many people: housing.
Plenty of variables factor into the cost of housing, but three biggies stand out:
The topic of geography was top-of-mind for Surabhi in the months following graduation, especially as she watched some friends and fellow classmates move to bigger cities. And while she’s open to relocating in the near future, she sees her current setting as ideal for two reasons: It’s given her the time to reflect on what she wants out of her next move, and it’s given her the savings to start laying a foundation for more financial freedom in the future.
“I want to be so financially set that I could live wherever I wanted to and not worry about the day-to-day expenses as much,” she says.
To that end, Surabhi invests through a 401(k) and Roth IRA, maxing out both. She had the good fortune of being introduced to investing by a mentor in college, long before she had earned her first paycheck as a professional.
“He taught me about the market, its ups and downs, and all the intricacies,” she says. “It’s important to find somebody like that in your life, an unbiased third party who’s educated in these spaces.”
Not everyone has a person like that in their social circle, she points out. Emphasizing financial literacy more in school could help others, but for many investors, help comes in the form of a professional financial advisor.
We connected Surabhi with one of our own advisors as a thank you for her interview. Someone to talk about all the financial topics on her mind. And while it may seem from the outside looking in that she’s well on her way to reaching her financial goals, she knows there will be more curveballs along the way. Perhaps starting with that first rent check or mortgage payment when she eventually moves out.
“I will say, that’s going to be kind of a slap in the face,” she says with a slight smile on her face.