The case for a multi-generational household
Tae Kim

Tae Kim

The Case For A Multigenerational Household

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For the past eight year, my wife and I have lived in a multigenerational household with our two little children and my aging parents.  When we tell people of our housing arrangement we get a range of mixed responses:

Oh wow. That is so admirable. But I could never live with my parents. They are too crazy!

Really!?  Why!?

Man. You got a good setup. I wish I could do that!

The funny thing is, in the time period that we’ve lived together we’ve had the exact same thoughts.

It’s so great having my parents here.  They help out with the kids so much.

Oh my goodness.  I can’t handle it anymore!  When can we move out?!

Seriously.  Why are we doing this??  

We’ve definitely experienced all range of emotions during our multigenerational household journey.  We’d be lying if we were to say that it’s for everyone, but before you shut us down I want to share with you a few reasons why we’d ask you to consider it.

1 - Kids Are Exposed to Grandparents Wisdom

One of the big drivers to our decision to cohabitate was due to the challenge of childcare.  When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we racked our brains to come up with a workable solution to childcare.

Is there a good infant daycare nearby?

Should one of us quit our job to stay home?

Can we make the 30 min drive every morning to my parents to drop the baby off?

In the end, having my mother help with watching the baby eased our decision to cohabitate, however it also came with other unanticipated child rearing benefits.  My son is now seven and it’s fascinating to watch his interaction with my parents.

They are so much calmer and patient with him – something both my wife and struggled with as we try to juggle our careers as well as being first time parents.  Like any first time parent would admit, you make so much regrettable mistakes when raising children.

– You try to argue with a 2 year old.

– You lose patience when they don’t put their shoes on time​.

– You threaten them into eating their breakfast.​

However, my parents never lost patience with them.  They were calm. They listened.

It was such a blessing to see my children being exposed their grandparents wisdom and calm slow ways when I couldn’t provide it for them in a consistent manner.

Such interaction would have been only possible living under one roof where my parents got to spend so much time with their grandchildren.

2 - Allow Young Parents To Focus On Their Careers

Many young parents struggle with trying to juggle their careers while raising kids.

Oftentimes, one of the parents are forced to quit their jobs or significantly cut back their hours due to the challenge of trying to do it all.

I give kudos to millions of parents who are still able to hold down a full time career while raising their kids without additional family help.

I had to do it just a few times when my parents were out of town, and I could not sustain it.

Having my parents live with us gave us the ability to focus on our careers.

We could leave early in the morning trusting that my parents would be able to prepare the kids for preschool or daycare.

If work required us to stay later than normal times, we could trust that my parents would be able to help wind the kids down.

Now, we should never abuse this privilege, because our parents have a life of their own that we should respect.

But the times that they were able to support us with these help was tremendous to our careers.

It enabled both my wife and I to grow our careers and income during a time period when more was being demanded of us.

The growth enabled us to pay down our student loan of $105,000 in 3.5 years. You can check out our video about our student debt pay down here.

And it also helped us reach financial security in our 30s.

3 - Aging Parents Feel Young Again

The fascinating thing about my parents being so patient with my son and daughter was that it was a side of them I had not seen before.

Especially my father. I don’t remember him being very patient with my sister and I growing up.

Something about the grandchildren brought out a very calm and gentle side of him.

Just as cohabitation has allowed my children to benefit from being exposed to my parents wisdom, my parents have also benefited from the young ones energy, innocence and constant excitement.

They’ve told us that when the kids come home after school and are running around with pure optimism, they feel young again.

We also see this not just in multigenerational homes, but in many nursing homes around the country today.

These nursing homes are intentionally interacting with daycares, because they see the mutual benefit of having elderly with young children that bring so much life and energy.

4 - Financial Benefit of Multigenerational Household

There is an economic term called “Economy of Scale.”

Essentially, as you scale something, like a factory, you can reduce the cost of goods produced.

Similar concepts can be applied to overhead cost and multigenerational households.

It is much more cost effective to have one bigger mortgage than two smaller mortgages – of course this is assuming you don’t go out and buy the biggest house you can buy.

Instead of paying for two utility bills, you pay for one.

For food, instead of buying smaller quantities at the local grocery store, its much cheaper to purchase bulk at Costco.

For my parents and I, the financial benefits of living together have been tremendous – I have an article about more specific savings living in a multigenerational household here that you can check out.

My wife and I are able to own a home in very expensive Southern California. It would have taken us additional 10 years, if we were to have tried purchasing a home on our own.

In addition, my parents have been able to reduce their overhead housing cost as well.

Giving them more financial flexibility to spend money on things they enjoy, like going out with friends or spoiling their grandkids with candies.

5 - Increases Tolerance

One of our favorite sayings when it comes to our multigenerational household is that there is a cost to everything.

We can’t have both a built-in nanny and a spotless kitchen. We can’t have loving grandparents without some unsolicited parental advice.

However, despite the challenges of a multigenerational household, both my wife and I admit that we’ve grown so much from the experience.

We’ve become more tolerant of our generational differences. 

Instead of saying we’ll never understand why parents behave in a certain way, we had to learn to calm down and try to understand why they behaved that way if there was going to be any semblance of a peaceful household.

My parents grew up in a very different time and place.

Certainly growing up in a war torn country after the Korean War is very different from sunny Orange County.

Their perspective of food or time is very different from my wife and I. Just as they tried to understand our perspective, we had to learn to understand theirs.

Though the conflicts were not pretty, cohabitation forced us to work through them and helped us to better understand each other, connect at a much deeper level and become more tolerant and (hopefully mature) individuals.

If you also live in a multigenerational household and you have seen a different side of your parents with your own children, please comment below. I would love to hear if you agree with my perspective or if you have any new insight you’d like to share.

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Mr Financial Tortoise
Mr Financial Tortoise
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Yes! Multi generational living creates options we never would have thought about! So glad to hear that it’s working out well for you guys!

Mr Financial Tortoise
Mr Financial Tortoise
2 years ago
Reply to  Katie

HI Katie! Thank you so much for your kind words! And I’m so glad you found the interview useful! There are definite challenges to a multi-generational household but so much benefit to it as well!

2 years ago

We don’t have kids but decided to live with my in laws who work full time. It’s been an adjustment but overall a great move: we get to travel and not worry about our dogs, house is more organized, more family meals at home, financial savings and a deeper connection to one another. I also helped them streamline their financial planning and talk about money matters which is important. We have become their financial advisor in away. We may move out in 2 years because we want to explore and move to another state but for now we are good. Thanks for sharing this life hack multi generational living 🙂

2 years ago

Thank you for writing this! I just found you on the Choose FI podcast and really enjoyed hearing your story and advice. I plan to live in a multi-generational setting once I have kids and it’s really encouraging to hear stories from people who are living it. Thanks!