The Empty Nest Just Got Full

by Jason C. Steinle


            “What’s next?” Carol wondered last year as her youngest child walked across the stage and received her high school diploma.  It was hard for Carol to believe she had devoted the last 22 years of her life raising her children. 


            Well, before Carol or any of you with graduates gets lost in fantasies of converting junior’s bedroom into a home theater, pottery studio, or workout gym, call the contractor and put a hold on that order. According to a poll 61% of college students plan to live with their parents after graduation. The percentage planning to stick around for more than a year also inched up to 24% in 2003 from 19% a year earlier. 


There goes the home theater…at least for now. Did you also realize today's middle income families spend approximately $170,460 on each child through the age of 17. However, parents continue providing support well beyond that age: approximately 23 percent of that amount in the 17 years following. 


Why are today’s quarterlifers—teens, twentysomethings, and early thirty year olds—staying so close to home? Is life today just plain harder than it was a generation or two ago? According to the over 350 quarterlifers I’ve interviewed the top two reasons they shared are:


1.                  Quarterlifers feel overwhelmed with all the possible choices they have as they leave the protection of home and academics for the first time.  In the midst of looking for a perfect career, making new friends, choosing a place to live, searching for the right partner, contemplating a family, and questioning the meaning of it all they retreat back home for the comfort of the familiar.


2.                  Quarterlifers expect to have the same quality of life today that their parents achieved after 20-40 years of work. As a result, like the prodigal son, quarterlifers over extend themselves financially and return home when the money is gone.


So what advice can you offer the quarterlifer in your house? (Hey, if nothing else do it for your future home theater)  The following four questions were offered by one of the guest experts on my television show.


  1. What is the worst that could happen?
  2. What is the best that could happen?
  3. What is most likely to happen?
  4. Can I live with the worst in order to have a shot at the best?


By teaching these four questions to your quarterlifer, he or she will be able to keep his or her choices and finances in perspective and maybe…just maybe you’ll be able to start on that remodel.



All Rights Reserved 2005


Jason C. Steinle is the host of The Steinle Show talk radio and television programs, author of “Upload Experience: Quarterlife Solutions” which is available at, and a practicing chiropractor at Health and Harmony, PC in Evergreen, CO.