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How to (gently) toss your boomerang kid

Call them slackers. Call them lazy. Call them a trend -- one that Hollywood is noticing. The recent release of "Failure to Launch," a movie about a 35-year-old yacht salesman who, despite working, dating and owning a nice car, still lives in his parents' home, echoes a shift in American living arrangements.

More and more adult children are returning to -- or never leaving -- their parents' nest.

When financial educator Ruth Hayden counsels couples on how to cope with "boomerang kids" who suddenly return to the nest, she speaks from experience. Three of her four kids returned to roost for varying periods, including her 30-year-old daughter who just packed up after a two-year stay.

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"It was hard to have her here, because she was used to an independent life, and we were, too, but it was the right thing to do," says Hayden, author of "For Richer, Not Poorer: The Money Book for Couples." "I was the one that said 'Come home, get stable and let's figure this out.'"

It's no secret that twentysomething postgrads are returning home in increasing numbers to recharge, regroup and pay down their college loans.

No, they're not slackers happily sponging off the folks. Instead, they're caught in a supply-and-demand job undertow created by the aging of the baby boom generation and the increasingly mobile labor force.

They're no happier about the situation than you are.

But there's a difference: They have their whole lives to save for retirement, while you may only have a few short years left before the buzzer sounds. Their temporary money squeeze could put your golden years in jeopardy, especially if you are in the "sandwich generation" that also shoulders the financial weight of aging parents.

Everyone, it seems, knows a boomerang kid. You may even have one or two. The question is: How do you get rid of them?

It's not as hard as you might think. If you're up for a little tough love, you can send your fledgling winging off into the world sooner rather than later -- and with a much greater chance of a soft landing.

Crowding the nest
According to the latest Census Bureau data, 56 percent of men and 43 percent of women ages 18 to 24 live with one or both parents. Some never left, while others made a tactical retreat from a sluggish job market where, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment among 20-to-24-year-olds rose from 6.7 percent in 2000 to 9.4 percent in 2004.

As the great boomer demographic exits the workforce, downsizing companies are becoming more selective in hiring to offset the risks of a more-transient workforce.

"One reason that people in their early twenties aren't really entering real careers is that the companies don't want them yet; they want people who are a little bit more mature, more settled down," says Steven Mintz, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of History at the University of Houston and author of "Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood."

"Businesses don't want to train them just to lose them."

Concurrent with economic uncertainty, housing prices, particularly on the coasts of the United States, have skyrocketed, leaving entry-level professionals with fewer acceptable housing choices. Combine this with parents who manage their children like stock portfolios (colleges refer to these hovering sorts as "helicopter parents") and you have the perfect conditions for boomerang behavior.

 
 
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