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More multigenerational households

Multigenerational living is on the rise and the reasons, advantages and drawbacks are many — indeed, enough to crowd a house. Consider the Phoenix Metro area, which is hardly an outlier. There, multigenerational households per family households in Maricopa County hit 7.8% in 2020, above the national average of 7.2%, according to analysis of Census Bureau data done by Axios Phoenix.

A closer look at U.S. Census Bureau figures reveals that southeast California, far south Texas and northeastern Arizona rank among the hotspots for multigenerational living. Leading the nation: McKinley County, New Mexico at 18.9%. Overall, the 6 million U.S. multigenerational households in 2020 marked an 18% rise from 5.1 million in 2010, according to 2020 Census data.

And as those numbers grow, so too do the people inhabiting a single abode. Here’s how the prominent pros and cons break down.

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Pros: saving money, stronger family ties

The Redditor who observed that multigenerational living has spanned countless generations has a point. Many cultures have long embraced this lifestyle, and countless Americans carry on the tradition of their immigrant ancestors with significant positive consequences.

Italians who settled in Roseto, Pa. at the turn of the 20th Century showed resilience to heart attacks so pronounced that it baffled scientists. These people chowed on lard-soaked food, drank and smoked cigars. A 1964 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association cited multigenerational living as a major contributor to robust health and longevity.

Aside from the sense of well-being grandparents can bring the children of millennials, they also make for convenient babysitters. Assuming a modest sitter rate of $20 an hour over 16 hours a month, Grandma and Grandpa could save you more than $3,800 per year. And if they’re contributing to household expenses such as food, utilities and rent/mortgage, the savings can shoot much higher.

Cons: homefront tension, medical attention

But it’s a much different situation when cohabitation stems from guilt or financial peril. Whether parents badger their millennial spawn, or kids don’t want to abandon Mom and Dad, making extra room can awaken long-dormant family tensions — as with a parental history of abuse or addiction. Or, moving in one set of parents can leave the in-law child bristling at a perceived takeover of the abode.

The situation gets trickier when you and your brood have to move in with one set of parents. Regardless of whether it’s stated, you’re on their turf — which could mean counting the minutes before they treat you like a juvenile again. As of 2020, the Pew Research Center found that more than half of young adults (52%) lived with one or both parents; that includes adult children at the tail end of the millennial cohort.

Even if relations between generations are stable, the need for medical care can throw matters off balance. The Cleveland Clinic cites caregiver burnout as common among children who have to dress, bathe, manage medications and transport their ailing parents.

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A controversial solution: the retirement home

If parents choose a retirement home and can afford it, much wrangling can be avoided — but not always. Retirement homes can be expensive and quickly devour savings. According to assistedliving.org, independent living communities cost an average of $1,500 to $4,000 per month. In assisted living facilities, the monthly range skyrockets to between $3,500 and $10,500.

The subject sparked spirited back-and-forth on the Reddit chain. Those who’d rather not have their parents around posted comments such as, “Sorry mom, I’m not sacrificing my own personal well being and space because you don’t want to be in a retirement home.” Others said it was a financial obligation their elders would never pass on to them, as with the father who “explicitly said he refuses to be a ‘burden’ on us.”

There is, at the end of the day, the all-around notion of compromise — in which case you might find the drawbacks are Rover-sized. As one commenter noted, “The only downside is that one of their dogs does not get along with our dog.”

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Lou Carlozo Freelance writer

Lou Carlozo is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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