Can You Live at Home and Gain Independence?

Q: Dear 40-somethings,

I recently graduated from the University of Iowa.  I can stay here, live with my friend, pay my own rent, wait tables, gain my own independence by hard work.  OR I can move back to Chicago, live with my dad, find a new job, save money that would otherwise go to rent until I have enough to rent a place of my own.  So which do I choose?  The pros are greater for a move back to Chicago, but I am still hesitant nonetheless.

A: Dear 20-something,

This is a tough one. There are definitely benefits to both. My first reaction was to say…live “on your own” in Iowa. There is so much you learn from being independent from your family and learning to stand on your own two feet as this 40-something woman notes:

“I would absolutely recommend moving out because one of the beauties of this culture is the notion of being able to stand on your own feet and being independent. And creating that environment for yourself. That is critical.”

While living at home will allow you to save money, in many ways it can stall your path to adulthood.

“In our work we find the greatest predictor of “growing up” is when parental underwriting is removed (Mom and Dad stop paying the bills). Any guy or girl that’s still being subsidized is less likely to seem grown up, regardless of age.” – Scott Hess, VP insights, TRU Insights

But, in your case there is also a benefit to living in a bigger urban city. The caution for staying in Iowa City would be that you continue to hang out in the same circles doing the same thing.  Of course the University of Iowa attracts a wide artistic and intellectual community and Iowa City a different kind of quality of life and lower cost of living than Chicago.

But you can also experience the rich culture and diversity of Chicago while living at home. While the University of Iowa has an international population of 8%, the ethnic population in Chicago is vibrant.The 2000 census showed 21.7% of the population was foreign born; of this, 56.3% came from Latin America, 23.1% from Europe, 18.0% from Asia and 2.6% from other parts of the world. And this has only grown.

Many 40-something women encourage young women to experience different cultures and types of people:

Getting different perspectives by seeing how other people live grounds you. I think seeing other cultures educated me beyond anything I’ve ever read in a book at school. Their perspectives, whether it’s people from other countries or people near my business on East 30th Street who live in the inner city help you see yourself better. And I think I have much better ability to deal with people in the larger community and at work by understanding different attitudes. – 40-something, Cleveland

At the same time, urban centers have become a destination of choice for young college graduates, according to an analysis by CEOs for Cities.

“The fact that young, educated talent is increasingly attracted to Chicago makes the city more appealing to companies looking to relocate or expand here,” said Rita Athas, President of World Business Chicago. “Chicago is positioning itself well for tomorrow’s economy by offering recent grads relatively high salaries, low cost of living, and an unmatched quality of life.”

In many ways, living at home could get you on a faster career track and enable you to move out on your own fairly quickly. Depending on where you live in Chicago you could certainly meet lots of new people, which could really expand your view on life, particularly if your Dad is supportive. The family dynamic is important. Will you fall into old routines and regress to the role of the “little girl”? Or will you take care of yourself and respect that you are an adult moving home? What makes you hesitant? This from another 40-something woman on staying home:

“If your parents are not bothering you take advantage of their help. If your parents are supportive then I see no reason for you to move out. Continue to live with your parents, continue to save money, and when you are 110% ready to move on your own, then you will know it.” -40-something, New York City

My biggest question for you is, where will you grow the most? In the familiarity of your college town with your roommate but on your own…or in the comfort of living at home but putting yourself out there to get a new job? Where will you make an effort to experience new people and places and push yourself to continue to learn new things? The second question is what you want to do career wise? Are there career opportunities in Iowa City that intrigue you? If not I would say go for the new job, save money and some of it to go explore, make new friends and experience new parts of the city.

In the end, listen to your gut. Good luck!


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