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Ask Dave

Helping Her Start

Molly needs Dave's advice on how to handle her daughter moving back home after college.

QUESTION: Molly in South Carolina is trying to help her daughter out with her $22,000 in student loan debt. She is allowing her daughter to move back home, and isn't sure if she should charge her rent. Dave shares what he discovered after one of his kids moved back home after college.

Dave's ANSWER: I would do it indirectly. By that, I mean I would say to her that if she's going to live in your house, there are a couple of rules. She's coming back from college, and this isn't college. We don't live like college students here, so you are going to live by my rules if you live in my house. Coming in at 2 a.m. doesn't work.

The function of her life and the quality of her decisions are going to be to your value system. She needs to match those things up to live under your roof. That's what we did when we had a daughter move in with us right after college.

The second thing that I would tell you is, on the money side, I would not say to charge her rent, but tell her that the rent she is being charged is that the two of you have to be in agreement about her budget, which needs to show that she has very little social money and almost all of it is going toward the student loan. If she continues to do that, she has free rent. If she doesn't continue to do that, she has to move out.

The rent that you are charging her is to make her do what is smart for her. That's her only rent, but you get to monitor that and supervise it. Not because you're a control freak, but because you are the landlord and that's the rent. You are just leading her wisely.

You say that she feels she's being called to teach in a Christian school, but I would encourage her to be a Christian in the marketplace. Salt is a good thing, especially if she's an excellent teacher.

If she's going to make between $30,000 and $35,000, what if she lived with you for a year and paid off almost all of her student loan debt, and you guys just say this is a one-year plan. I don't want her living there much longer than one year if she's my daughter.

Here is what we discovered: We had one move in with us and stayed there five months after she graduated. It was the exact same situation except that there was no student loan debt. With this daughter, we actually get along with her extremely well and enjoy the hanging out and adult-to-adult conversation. We enjoy that with all our kids, but this one was not hard to live with. She could have stayed there five years and we would have been fine.

What we started figuring out is that's not good for her. When she goes and gets an apartment with a couple of friends and has to split up the bills and actually has to pay the light bill and buy her own groceries, a level of emotional maturity and dignity kicks in that just never happens in mom and dad's house.

I wouldn't take that away from her for more than a year, maybe. I want her out for her sake, emotionally and just maturity-wise after a year.