I guess our kids live with us forever now

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

My first thought when hearing the news last week that the median home price in California had topped $900,000 was, “I guess our kids live with us forever now.”

The record number, released May 17 by the California Association of Realtors, is actually $904,210. You read that right. That’s up 5.8% from the March median figure, and represents a 11.4% jump from a year ago when we all thought things were nuts at $811,510.

I mean, who can afford to buy a home here? Certainly not non-trust fund, recent middle class college grads.

So where do we go from here?

I always imagined my retirement as depicted in the television ads for financial advisors or erectile dysfunction pills: a fit, gray haired couple laughing joyously as they stroll hand-in-hand through some generic European coastal sunset scene, sipping coffee, skin glowing, wearing shoes they definitely didn’t get at Ross.

But increasingly, that doesn’t seem likely.

My retirement looks like it’ll be more of an ad for a cut rate regional all-you-can-eat seafood buffet. “Tuesdays are two-for-one (shrimp excluded) at Trawlers!”

Yes, I am beyond lucky to own a home in Southern California, thanks to my hardworking mother, who left me hers. The plan was to hold on to it as it appreciated, as homes in SoCal tend to do, and when I check out, I’ll pass it on to my kids. This process, I’ve heard tell, is the base component of generational wealth. What parent doesn’t want to be part of that equation?

But it may not be possible to honor my mother’s wishes.

Owning a home has always been the reliable, A1 traditional source of security for us aging Americans. It remains so, but the benefits of said security seem to be morphing from the best thing you could possibly leave your children to a bank to be tapped to cover the astronomical cost of assisted living. I hate to bum out my fellow old folks, but we’re living longer, and except for the lucky few, it ain’t pretty.

Recent experience has made it clear that a couple in Southern California can expect to spend as much as $10,000 a month on assisted living, sometimes more if your needs are more acute. How can any of us geezers keep that up for longer than a couple years before it all comes unraveled, and the home we thought we were leaving to our kids becomes the figurative property of Fluffy Arms Senior Care, Inc.?

There is a solution, but it won’t make many readers happy: since most of our kids can’t afford to buy a home near where they grew up, why not offer them a chance to be “stay-at-home kids”? A Pew Research Center poll found 25% of Americans ages 25 to 34 lived in a multigenerational family household in 2021, up from 9% in 1971. Similarly, 2022 U.S. Census Bureau figures indicated there were 4.8 million multigenerational households in the U.S. This seems to be where we’re heading, especially here in California. They’ve been doing it in Europe for generations, and it’s most common in China and India. Proponents tout the benefits, including emotional support, companionship, and shared expenses.

I imagine it would work like this: “Kids, you can live and raise your kids here, and we’ll somehow adapt to the tight quarters. Maybe we’ll build an accessory dwelling unit. But, when things get weird, and we’re wandering off down the road in our pajamas, you’re on. That’s the deal. That’s the tradeoff. Are you in or out?”

Barring some miraculous escalation in median household wages, our California kids just might have to throw that “American dream” business out the window with respect to home ownership. This idea touches on a touchy topic for the elite: according to a U.S. Senate report from January, CEOs from the 350 largest publicly firms in the United States make nearly 344 times the average wage of their typical employee. And this gap has only widened in recent years. In the 1970s, this CEO to worker ratio was more like 20 to 30 times. What’s a recent college grad to do when the deck is so demonstrably stacked against them? Everyone gets a trophy, yes, but not everyone gets to be CEO. Something’s gotta give, and it just might be our long held ideal that home ownership is the be all end all measurement of success in America, at least in California.

That is, unless we can somehow turn back the clock and get nostalgic for our humble, close family roots.

My kids had best get ready for being annoyed by my obsessions and quirks not for just 18 or 21 years, but if I’m lucky (and they’re not) maybe 40 or more. The eye rolls are already pretty common around here as it is. Imagine when they’re all in their 40s and I’m 80-something. Will we still be arguing over what happened to the ice cream sandwiches or who’s laundry that is rotting in the dryer? We just may find out.


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