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Thinking Ahead To When The Kids Leave The Nest

Dining & entertainment just blocks from many lofts.
Dining & entertainment just blocks from many lofts.

Recently a friend of 40+ years, living in suburbia, posted on Facebook she didn’t know what she’ll do when her two boys move out of the house.   I had to confirm with her, but the oldest is not yet 13.

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. This may occur when children go to college or get married. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents. Yet this doesn’t mean that men are completely immune to Empty Nest Syndrome. Men can experience similar feelings of loss regarding the departure of their children.

More mothers work these days and therefore feel less emptiness when their children leave home. Also, an increasing number of adult children between 25 and 34 are now living with their parents at home. Psychologist Allan Scheinberg notes that these “boomerang kids” want the “limited responsibility of childhood and the privileges of adulthood.” Children may also return home due to economics, divorce, extended education, drug or alcohol problems or temporary transitions. (Psychology Today)

From a 2011 story on Census data:

According to the data set, entitled America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2011, the number of 25 to 34 year olds living with mom and dad has risen among both sexes since 2005: the number of young men living with parents is up from 14% to 19% and the number of young women is up from 8% to 10%. The Census’ graphs indicate that the numbers of older Generation-Yers living under their parents’ roofs — a number that had already been trending up before the “Great Recession” — continued to shoot up following the financial meltdown of 2008, specifically from the beginning of 2009 onwards. (Forbes)

If this continues my friend may not find out what an empty nest is like.

My loft building has all age groups, including many Baby Boomers, that sold their suburban homes for a walkable life downtown. Not for everyone, but the 10,000 a day who turn 65 are impacting the marketplace:

America’s aging population is already placing different demands on the housing market and affecting what developers will likely be focused on providing, according to Terry Holzheimer, director of economic development in Arlington County, Virginia. He’s expecting to see more infill housing, more housing in areas that are walkable, and more pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods with high levels of services and amenities. (The Atlantic Cities)

Some of you will likely argue why empty nesters will keep the suburban nest rather than relocate to a more walkable area. Certainly, many will stay in the home where they raised their kids. Others, like neighbors of mine, will switch places. The kids now with kids of their own will move into the parents house and the parents will move into the kids loft.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. RyleyinSTL says:

    My father turned 60 last year and is retiring in June. He and my mother love living on their 10 acres way outside of the city. However they do talk about selling it all, not to head into the city core (not their thing), but to gain additional freedom…especially as it pertains to travel.

    • Everyone that reaches this age has their own idea about what retirement should look like. For some that means going to Florida, others a house on a lake. My neighbors like the ease of condo living, they have a HUGE motorhome they take take on “camping” trips throughout the year.

      • Eric says:

        The “traditional” issues keeping people away from the city are schools and crime. Schools are not an issue for this demographic, however crime certainly is. Are crime levels low enough downtown, and are we confident they will not rise throughout several decades of increasing frailty?

        • samizdat says:

          I keep hearing about crime in the City, but as a City resident, I’ve never experienced any such thing. Oh, sure, I hear gunfire, but truthfully, most of the time it’s the cops at the firing range off of I55. I don’t think crime is actually as bad as it seems, and sadly, as a white male, I am far less likely to be the victim of a violent crime. But, then again, I can take care of myself. Hell, even my wife has only experienced car theft (returned unharmed, both times), so I wouldn’t exactly say that crime itself is the problem. The perception of rampant criminal activities (not including that which occurs behind closed doors at City Hall) is mostly just that: perception.

          As for schools, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve read or overheard some young couple say they’ll need to move WHEN THEY HAVE CHILDREN, I’d be a wealthy man right now. Ok, slightly exaggerating here, but the point is made.

          (btw, I only used the allcaps as a sub for italics)

  2. JZ71 says:

    Given the anemic recovery in employment and the implosion of home values during the recession, many empty nesters are facing more years of working and less mobility than they anticipated prior to 2008. Change, whether it’s to an urban condo, a retirement community in Florida, an RV or a “villa” in suburban St. Louis, depends on the ability to sell, at some sort of profit, that empty nest. Repeated refi’s or medical costs may have depleted someone’s savings, or they’re just getting old and cranky, but the alleged allure of walkable, urban neighborhoods may not be enough to offset the perceived safety and comfort of suburban living. Renting something smaller, close to family, friends, church and familiar shopping and services may be a better option than a wholesale change to something completely new. Add in financial realities – death of a spouse, divorce at a later age, dependent kids needing ongoing care, personal medical challenges, little or no retirement savings – and finding the cheapest option may be the only “choice” many people will have. You’re right, loft living is “not for everyone” – the good thing is that we all have options.

    • While a downtown loft isn’t for everyone, a place where someone else takes care of maintenance becomes very appealing. Years ago I sold an exurban villa near Wentzville to a single retired widow, exactly what she needed at the time.

    • RyleyinSTL says:

      Despite living in Saskatchewan and therefore living outside the economic depression (at least locally). There was a point there a few years ago (08/09) where my Dad would call after a bad day at the stock market and say “looks like I need to work another 3 years now,” or “make up the spare room, Mom and I need to retire there.” However in the last number of years he took a very personal interest in whatever types of products they have their money squirreled away in and began (still with some guidance from his money guy) managing much of it himself, daily at times. The result, he was able to retire at 60 just like he had planned originally. I think that there are a good number of others his age that have been able to make up much of the ground they lost during the opening years of the depression….thus being able to live however they like during the golden years. Saying that, as you mentioned, there are going to be a good chunk of Americans (perhaps more than we previously would have thought) that are going to need the absolute cheapest way to live when retiring. No doubt a social issue we will have to address soon.

        • RyleyinSTL says:

          Living on 15k/yr for a decade or two sounds like a nightmare….no matter how much closer that might bring retirement. Still, if it suits that guy, more power to him.

        • moe says:

          It all boils down to proper planning and quality of life. Too many in all age brackets have failed to prepare for the future, be it medical bills or retirement or college. And quaility of life varies. It may work for some to live off $15,000 a year and others couldn’t live off $150,000 a year.

          • Eric says:

            It boils down to getting lucky and not being bankrupted by medical bills.

            Also, a college student living off $15k/year knows he/she will soon be able to enter the job market and earn much more. An older person living on $15k/year will find it hard to reenter the job market and supplement that amount.

          • samizdat says:

            Re: medical bills. So, how does one prepare for cancer, with so-so insurance and no job? My wife and I have put out over $20,000 cash over the last four years for diagnosis and treatment. And I’m one of the lucky ones. 62% of Americans file for bankruptcy protection due to medical issues. Multiply that $20,000 by how many millions who have experienced the same issues–or worse–and we’re talking about Billions of USD not entering the economy in a productive manner. There’s your economic recovery right there: in the hands of corporations.

            College? So, as a 49 yr old, how am I supposed to prepare for college, thirty years after my prime college years are gone? I attend trade school now, and I am hoping to get back into industry, in the field of automated controls, but it’ll end up costing me over 13,000USD when it’s all said and done. Not including interest, which, being a student loan, could begin to capitalize if I fall behind. (thank you CongressWHORES–‘Puke and Dim wings of the National Party–for that). Oh, and as a student loan, I couldn’t file for bankruptcy protection if I wanted to. Pretty much unlike any other loan product…anywhere…ever.

            Retirement? HA! Wages have remained stagnant–or have fallen–in relation to inflation for the last forty years. 401k? Only worth the companies in which it is vested. Pensions? Pffft! Corporations have been mismanaging (and stealing–see bankruptcy as a way in which to out ‘n’ out steal or shed pensions…er, I mean, “legacy costs”, lol) pensions for the last forty years, even though pensions are a deferred payment of actual wages earned over the life a worker. In other words, refusing to properly fund and maintain pension plans is pure theft, no ifs, ands, or buts.

            Our country as it is run today is designed to leave its citizens in penury at nearly every turn. Human suffering? Not a problem, as long as some continue to profit from it.

          • moe says:

            Gees…talk about missing the point. There are always exceptions but the bottom proven line is that many people today fail to plan and save. period. Too many live paycheck to paycheck, or use payday loans, etc. The medical system is another issue altogether. But for the majority, yes planning helps.

            College? Student loads are designed to help pay for schooling. Yes tution and such has increased expotentially, but that is no excuse for taking out loans for cars, dining out, a fancy apartment, etc. Taking out $100,000 for a degree in history then complaining that there are no jobs in history or getting a job in some unrelated field and blaming it all on student loans or the economy or such is all deflection from blaming themselves for not proper planning (and yes students today have planning tools ranging from parents to coaches to the internet to help guide in making wise choices). I have an intelligent friend that has a masters in renesance arts and over 150,000 in loans…and no job even closely related to that field. When asked why he followed that route….he thought it would be fun, never gave a care that one day the loans would be due.

            Retirement….sure, i’ll admit there are plenty of issues that a person has no control over. But home appreciation (2nd loans) or 401k accounts were not suppose to be charge accounts for new cars, vacations, etc.

            Now one can nitpik about $20,000 in medical, or a depressed economy that prevents one from getting a job, etc. But there will always be exceptions to the rule. Thats’ not what my post was about. It was about the majority not planning for their future as much as they can over items that they do have control over. It’s about making wise life choices and wise financial choices.

          • samizdat says:

            Moe, with all due respect, with more and more wealth concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer people, the number of choices will continue to dwindle. As if there are that many options to choose from these days. There is very little by way of wiggle room for the average middle class or poor citizen. At one time, a worker could literally walk out of a job he or she didn’t like, and find a new one in a matter of weeks, if not days. Now one hears about millions who haven’t found jobs, even after months–years(!) of searching. Or if they have a job (or two), it pays for s***, with no benefits, no vaca, no sick days, paid or otherwise (how’s that influenza, Mr. or Ms. Customer? Oh, and how many state legislatures are now attempting to pass laws pre-empting munis from passing mandatory paid sick leave laws? At least a half-dozen: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-bottari/alec-paid-sick-leave_b_3007445.html; thank you…again…Koch Bros). Costs for everything have skyrocketed over the last ten years, but as I noted, wages have not. Wise choices are one thing, but when the options available preclude wise choices (escalating cost of education…everywhere), what is one to do? Most states have been dropping taxes on the wealthy and corporations (our own Confederate State of America, Missou-rah!(tm), is right along with that crowd), and so the cost of a state education has risen steadily over the last five years due to that.

            I see that you chastise your friend for getting a degree in something he loves. Why? Why, in an exuberantly wealthy society like ours, can he not find a job? And the anecdotal references to irresponsible behavior regarding mortgages and vacations ignore the massive fraud visited upon many of these purchasers by the mortgage cos themselves, and their brokers. And these cases are not anecdotal. Millions of reams of paper have been printed about this. MERS, anyone? And I would argue that our society’s worshipful notions of money, and its acquisition, have distorted how many of our fellow citizens view business relationships, ie, whatever it takes to make a buck is perfectly acceptable, even if it is illegal (Note: see Wall St. economy-collapsing Ponzi scheme, for another example, besides mortgage fraud; the two are veryclosely related, as the bundling of mortgages, some good, some out-and-out fraudulent, was one of the reasons for that collapse). Adjustable mortgages and interest-only loans notwithstanding (let’s not forget how the come-ons of MarketingPRopaganda played a role in this), the vast majority of homeowners did nothing wrong, and yet they are punished, while banksters go free. What choices did many mortgage-holders have, when the economy tanked–through no fault of their own–and they lost their jobs, and then their house?

            My point is this: choices are one thing, but in a society which has been limiting the number of options based on a dwindling number of available choices for the last forty years (see: stagnating wages, higher costs…for everything, fewer opportunities for advancement up the ladder, etc.), wise choices become increasingly difficult to come by. Plus, I have noticed that when it is disingenuously stated that the “world has changed”–vis-a-vis, opportunities for jobs and advancement, technology (automation) and offshoring, etc.–no one seems ready to acknowledge that as those choices have become scarce, so has the impact from fewer choices seemed to proportionally increase. Indeed, the world has changed. But, apparently, that seems to ignore the fact that as the world economic landscape has changed, so has the ability to make rational choices changed. And not, in the case of the latter, for good.

          • moe says:

            You touch on a number of very serious and very true subjects. I’m not denying that those do not exist. However…..you and I and everyone else…we have only 2 choices….complain and hope (on the slim chance) that things will change or plan as much as we can with what resources we have or reasonably hope to have. It really is that simple…..in theory. IN practice it means knowing your strengths, weaknesses, earning potentials, debt load, etc. And sadly yes, there will always be the possibility that situations occur that our beyond our control.
            And it is society’s worship of money that has caused many of our problems. Do we really need 10,000 sq foot homes? much less 2 or 3 of them? the latest iPhone?, the biggest flatscreen?, the newest car? That’s my point. There really is no one out there to say Hey Mr. samizdat, you really can’t afford that or that is an unwise decision. Instead its here’s some money and some extra money as well and we’ll charge you 500x what it costs us to give it to you (but don’t worry about that), then when the bill is due it’s too bad, you should have known better. Every high school should be offering at the minimum a basic personal finance course.
            And while I’m all for someone getting an education for fun and or a job and or multiple or advanced degrees…..if that’s what they want to do, go for it. But then that doesn’t give the person the right to come back and blame the banking system, the lack of jobs, etc when the bills come due. And in my friends example, it wasn’t that he couldn’t find a job. It was any job in the art field was either underpaying on the basis of home, car, and student loans combined, or would require him to move which he did not want to do.

          • RyleyinSTL says:

            I think Moe has a point here. We have 65 years to prepare for retirement (on average). Our monetary situation, at all stages of our life, is mostly a product of our own personal choices….which is basically what the USA is all about, isn’t it? I look after me and you look after you.

            Don’t get me wrong, compared to other western democracies I have lived under, I think the USA puts more people at a disadvantage by default….but yet it paradoxically ends us spending more public money, per capita, on some programs (healthcare as an example) than some other western nations, while getting less for it in return. The thing is if you want to improve on this you have to be willing, as a nation, to pay for it. Everyone has to agree to chip in. If we don’t, what do we all really think we can expect?

            American public schools are one area that I feel is particularly disappointing/good example of this. Kids are the future and intentionally shitting on them is just wrong but yet funding seems to be heavily linked to the wealth of the surrounding neighborhoods rather than being standardized at a state or federal level. If you’re poor, screw you! While not an American ideal, what I think you’ll find other countries have realized, is that by making sure ALL children get the same high quality education we ALL end up benefiting.

            But again, for better or worse, this is what the USA has chosen for itself. Some people have a huge hole to dig themselves out of but that should not come as a surprise to anyone who was born here. The upswing in the USA is, if you get out of that hole, there are better ways here to keep more of your money compared to comparable nations…American dream stuff. Every system has its advantages and drawbacks, take the time to understand them and adjust your actions accordingly.

            The federal government is completely bankrupt, assume you’ll never see another dime from them and plan life appropriately.

          • JZ71 says:

            More like 50 years (unless you plan on retiring at 80) – we don’t get to pick our parents or the economic strata we’re born into. Still, your point is valid – starting in high school, we all make choices that will impact the rest of our lives . . . .

  3. JimB says:

    Don’t wait until retirement – do it now – it’s really awesome. This winter, moved downtown (Paul Brown Building) with my family of five and we are lovin it. The kids are havin a blast. Everything is in our backyard now. We can walk or metro to just about everything we need. We’re saving so much money and we’re surrounded by so many resources and culture. There is always something interesting going on…and sports everywhere. I know I sound like a STL commercial, but we are really enjoying it and should have done it earlier. It has changed our lives for the better.

  4. Simon Nogin says:

    Could not agree more with your last sentence. My parents are already getting frustrated with their wonderful house in West County, though the kids aren’t yet finished with school (1 finishing grad, 1 in the middle of undergrad) over easter my dad stated he imagined one of us moving in to the house while him and mom moved closer to grand and the symphony by the time they retire. Funny considering I’ve been looking at lofts in that area for when I graduate!


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