When I wrote my 10th book, Clark Howard's Living Large for the Long Haul, I relayed the stories of 50 Americans who were making ends meet during the recession and in its aftermath. One of the stories that generated the most interest was that of Cesar, a 24-year-old college graduate who moved back in with his parents -- even while making good money. Below is an excerpt.
It's Saturday morning at the Bonilla household in Glendale Heights, Ill., and the TV is showing highlights from last night's soccer match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Maria Bonilla, 51, is making scrambled eggs, toast, and quesadillas. Like many Mexican-American women her age, she's the foundation of her family and she works tirelessly inside the home but never out of it.
Her husband Eli, 60, sits enjoying a plate of frijoles and Mexican rice along with his daily coffee before he's off to work. He recently retired from three decades as a construction worker pouring concrete. Now he works part-time at a Nissan dealership because he's too bored to just sit around and who couldn't use the extra money?
Meanwhile, the couple's 24-year-old son Cesar is enrapt in the game highlights.
Come Saturday night, Cesar will take the field himself at a nearby indoor soccer arena. He wears a turquoise blue jersey and squishes the synthetic turf beneath his cleats playing mid-field for a local team modeled after Barcelona. It's one of several soccer clubs he's a part of.
Soccer -- or fútbol as it's called by Spanish speakers -- is the core of Cesar's weekends and he's played since the age of seven. Because he lives at home, he's able to tow mom and dad to his games. His 20-year-old sister Jeanette comes along too sometimes when she's back on the weekends from college.
"I usually have games Friday-Sunday," Cesar says. "By living at home, I'm able to bring my parents with me to my games and often go out to eat afterwards."
Cesar is among a generation of boomerang kids -- an adult child go out to college, graduate from school, and make a roundtrip right back home typically because they can't find a job. It's become a common phenomenon since the Great Recession
Only in his case, Cesar isn't wanting for good work or good pay.
He graduated from Northern Illinois University in May 2011 and began working five months later in October 20011 at public accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in downtown Chicago.
While his father Eli labored for decades with finishing trowels and premium high strength alloy screeds to smooth poured concrete, the tools of Cesar's trade are Excel spreadsheets and ProSystem fx tax software for CPAs.
Cesar earns about $60,000 doing tax compliance for corporations and wealthy individuals.
So why is he living at home? This is not a case of a failure to launch. Rather, it's smart and strategic planning, the kind of delayed gratification that can lead to scored goals on the soccer field or money in the bank.
"After graduating, I had about $50,000 in debt so instead of moving to the city as many of my peers and co-workers did, I moved back home," he says. "By living at home, it lets me save money, pay down my debt, [and] gives me a chance to finally help out my parents by taking responsibility on a few bills after years of them taking care of me."
Cesar is responsible for household expenses like the cable and Internet ($175) and groceries for the family ($200 every couple of weeks). His other expenses include a $40 cell phone bill and a monthly car note (including insurance) of $333 for the 2006 Cadillac CTS that he bought used a few years ago.
The Bonillas live in a two-floor townhome with two bedrooms and two baths about 40 minutes west of Chicago. On their walls, the sad eyes of La Morenita (Our Lady of Guadalupe) gaze toward a nearby picture of Santo Niño de Atocha -- her baby-faced son dressed in pilgrim's clothes, his small child arms offering bread to the world weary and a guzzle of agua from a hollow gourd.
Like other Hispanic cultures, Mexicans are very big on family and moving back home after college is quite typical, Cesar tells me.
"As children become young adults and are able to support themselves and contribute to the household, it shouldn't be a problem for a young adult to still live at home as long as they put in their fair share at home," he believes.
"With that said, this principle needs to be thought/communicated by the parents early on in order to avoid 'free-riders' and lazy young adults, as many parents are afraid of their children turning into."
No threat of slacking on Cesar's part, though. He has a laser-focus on his goals, which include paying down that $50,000 in student loan debt and saving up for a place of his own in about two years.
"I plan to save about 20 percent of my pay check and use the rest for bills and my loans which hopefully will knock out much of my current debt," he says. "When I'm finally ready to take the next step and live on my own, I want to make sure I have an emergency fund, additional savings, as well as a smaller debt burden."
"By living at home, I think I can accomplish these goals while I help out at home at the same time. At the end of the day, this will build a sound foundation that will help me for the rest of my life and will let me take care of my future adult responsibilities."
Like a lot of people his age, Cesar likes to party it up when he's not doing serious accounting.
Fortunately, he has a nice little accord with his folks in that respect.
"I feel like I have the liberty from my parents to party it up as much as I want and go out on the weekends. I believe since I have proven myself to be a responsible young adult, I have gained their trust to do as I wish and go out as much as I want, which is important while I enjoy my twenties," he says. "The benefits of living at home and building a financial future outweigh the cons of partying while living at home with parents."
His younger sister Jeanette is also attending Northern Illinois University (NIU) just like he did, though she's pursuing a business degree.
"After living in the dorms her freshman year, she now rents an apartment on campus and is responsible for rent and utilities," Cesar says. "In order to pay her bills and have some money for herself, she comes back home on the weekends to work at her part time job."
By the time Jeanette graduates, Cesar will be off on his own in his own place. And he'll have used his time wisely to take those first steps into adult responsibility by living at home.
For more money-saving tips, visit ClarkHoward.com. Money in Your Pocket. Advice You Can Trust.
Reprinted by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,
A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Clark Howard, 2013.