'Life isn't free': When adult children should pay board

Fi Skrzypnik still lives with her parents but owns an investment property.
Fi Skrzypnik still lives with her parents but owns an investment property. Photo: Supplied

When Fi Skrzypnik was in her early 20s, she paid about 14 per cent of her income in board to live with her parents.

But when Ms Skrzypnik, now 29, bought an investment property near the family home in the Blue Mountains three years ago, her parents told her to stop paying board and put the money into the mortgage instead.

"I am very fortunate to have wonderfully supportive parents who I know are proud of me for working really hard and saving, and being able to put that towards a long term asset for my future," said Ms Skrzypnik, who works as an accountant in Glenbrook.

Harry Ramage and Nikki Vischschoonmaker are living with Nikki's dad in Ryde while they save for a house deposit.
Harry Ramage and Nikki Vischschoonmaker are living with Nikki's dad in Ryde while they save for a house deposit. Photo: Janie Barrett

"They joke that they know it’ll be my turn to look after them when they’re old, but I absolutely know that I will and what I am saving now will help me do that."

Meanwhile, when Sydneysider Nikki Vischschoonmaker asked her father if she and her fiance could move home to save for their own place, "he couldn't say yes quick enough".

But he had one condition: the couple would be chipping in to the household by paying board, "to teach them that life isn't free".

Ms Vischschoonmaker, a 25-year-old who works in social media, and her fiance Harry Ramage, a 27-year-old video producer, had been renting.

"After we got engaged we realised that renting while saving for a home isn't sustainable forever. We're not extravagant people, but it was still almost impossible," Mr Ramage said.

The pair moved in with Nikki's father Mark in the family home in Ryde a month ago. Nikki's twin brother Dylan and young brother Ben also live there, with all three children paying $70 a week in board.


It is far less than Sydney rent, where a room in a share house can attract more than $300 a week, and a fair bit less than the amount Kathryn Fitch, a certified financial planner with Evalesco Financial Services, recommends her clients charge.

Ms Fitch said $100-150 a week in board was an appropriate level of board for adult children in full-time work. Her job often involves advising clients who aren't saving enough for retirement while supporting multiple adult children living at home.

"[The parent] might be working part time or winding down to retirement and their kids might even be out-earning them," Ms Fitch said. "They just need permission from us to have that discussion."

Ms Fitch said many parents were happy enough to waive board altogether if there were a genuine deposit on the horizon, given property prices are beyond the reach of most young Australians.

Australian Institute of Family Studies figures released in May suggest almost half of men aged 20-24 are living under their parents' roof, while just under 40 per cent of women in the same age group are doing so.

Cultural backgrounds are also a factor. More than eight out of 10 young adults in the 20-24 age group of North African/Middle Eastern, Central/South Asian and South-East Asian heritage live with their parents, according to AIFS figures.

AIFS director Anne Hollonds said for many families from non-English speaking backgrounds, "having two or more generations living in the same home simultaneously is very much considered the norm," and there would be "expectations and obligations" for the different members of those households along with that.

For Anglo-Australian families, children were moving out of home at a later age than they did a few decades ago. Cultural expectations were shifting because of the scarcity of cheap accommodation in capital cities, the tendency for people in their 20s to be in insecure work or continuing study, and a delay in partnering.

"Over the decades parents have come to accept that it doesn't happen as early as it did in our day," Ms Hollonds said. Parents did not necessarily view it as a burden, unless their financial circumstances or relationship difficulties made it a struggle, she said.

Parents want to help

Steve Mickenbecker, financial expert at comparison website Canstar, said board was a good deal for young people. "Board is a lot cheaper than paying rent," he said.

Mr Mickenbecker stressed the importance of a firm understanding between all involved parties – including the time that they will live there, how much they will pay per week, and their savings target.

"Parents ask for board for two reasons; one is that the child is earning money and should be contributing, but the main reason is that it's a discipline and it teaches independence and prepares them for the real world," he said.