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Moving Back In: Forming a Multigenerational Household

multigenerational family

Recently, I attended a birthday party for the son of a friend of mine. Conversations about dirty diapers and sleepless nights were expected, but one conversation in particular really struck me. While discussing a nearby property they had seen for sale, my friend's mom (a married woman) suggested to my friend (a married man with 2 children) that their two families buy the property and all move in together. And she was dead serious.

As it turns out multigenerational households are becoming more common. What might have once been a stigmatized idea has, for many families, become a viable option loaded with potential benefits. True, an arrangement like this wouldn't be without its concerns. Privacy would certainly be an issue as would how decisions affecting the entire household would be made, but the long-term and short-term opportunities might be enough to outweigh the negative aspects of this type of living arrangement.

The most obvious benefit is savings. The amount of funds two separate families would have to put into two separate houses would be much more than what they could spend on a shared house with two family's incomes—even if the shared house was larger and more expensive than any house they would be able to afford on their own. Repairs, utilities and all other costs would now be split amongst a larger group easing the financial burden on everyone. Those willing to share automobiles could eliminate entire car payments and insurance obligations, not to mention gas costs and parking problems.

It's an unfortunate and unavoidable truth that many things will become more and more difficult in our later years. Some may find themselves in a position where it's difficult to live alone, but don't want to sacrifice their freedoms or incur the costs associated with assisted living or a retirement community. Living with family could be the perfect bridge for this gap. In the case of my friend's mom, she is still a very capable individual, and while she's likely got many active years ahead of her, she sees this as an opportunity to take advantage of those years. She offered home-cooked meals and free babysitting (a service I understand from my friends who are parents to be a selling point in itself). In return, miscellaneous household chores that might become too strenuous for her like reaching high-up items or moving heavy furniture can now be handled by the younger members of the house. And for her the unlimited grandkid time is a priceless perk.

The second generation certainly isn't being shorted on the deal. In the case of my friend and his wife, I know the demand of two young boys makes it difficult to have a personal life. The readily available sitters make it possible for them to free up a night or two in their week without the additional expense or stress of finding someone trustworthy to leave their children with. The relief on their finances means they can devote some of the saved money to the children's education or recreational activities like sports and hobbies. And for those that aren't parents, saved money could mean a lavish vacation or investment opportunities.

Before making any big decisions about whether combining your household is the right move for you, make sure you weigh all of your options.

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