Adam warned the mother that she was putting her own future in jeopardy: When she retired, Adam told the woman, her savings would last just five years. Only when the mother saw on paper how much of her salary was going toward the children and how little to retirement, Adam says, did she start to wean the kids off the dole and save more for herself.

Denise Leish, a financial adviser in Silver Spring, says she's noticed that it's often a son who returns home and stays for years. In fact, two-thirds of the boomerang kids identified by the census were men.

Before a child moves back in, parents and offspring need to have an adult conversation so everyone knows what to expect.

Children should be required to contribute to the household. They might pay rent, the utility bill or chip in for groceries. If they don't have a job, they should at least pick up chores.

Make sure children have a game plan and a timeline for how long they will remain at home, says Robinson, the Bel Air adviser. For example, the child might stay home for one year while returning to school for training.

"If you force them to contribute to expenses and hold them to that or give them a timeline, it forces them to have that incentive to get a job or get a higher-paying job," Robinson says. "If you continue to give, give and give without having them giving anything in return, that's not good for anyone."

Everett, the Woodbine mother, says she hasn't asked her children to pay rent or set a deadline to move out.

"It's very difficult to do that with the economy as it is," says Everett, who is director of government contracts for a group representing office furniture manufacturers.

She and her husband will likely delay retirement a few years, she says, but that's largely because of other big bills in recent years, for college, health care and car repairs.

The mother says having her children home again gives her "peace of mind," but she acknowledges it's difficult for them.

"At this point of their life, they feel they should be able to afford to live on their own," she says. "They are both frustrated."

Justin, 22, and Rhiannon, 21, work two part-time jobs each and pay for their cars and other personal expenses.

Rhiannon moved back in with her parents a year ago and plans to remain there while attending community college starting next year.

Justin graduated recently from Hood College. He expected to land a job as a police officer but is bumping up against hiring freezes. He says he might go back to school if nothing in his field of study opens up within a year.

For Rhiannon and Justin, living with their parents is an adjustment. Rhiannon says she misses the feeling of independence.

Justin says, "It was tough having to get back into the routine of having to take into account parents getting up in the morning to go to work at 6 when a roommate didn't get up until 9 or 10 for class."

But it could be worse.

"It's a roof over my head," he says. "I can't complain."

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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