"I Paid $48K Off In Debt" — Nearly Half Of Young Adults Are Living At Home, And This 27-Year-Old Just Shared Many Reasons Why

This post is part of a series to be more transparent with housing costs and pay in America. If you'd like to make the topic of money and housing a little less taboo, consider filling out this form to be featured. 

As housing and groceries continue to rise in cost, wages fail to keep pace. For regular-degular people, it can sometimes feel like we are in the great unknown regarding what we should be spending and what we should be getting paid.

A notebook with handwritten budget expenses and calculator on the side
Blazic27 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

And as life gets more expensive, talking about money still remains a bit of a taboo topic. I often have nagging voices — from employers and older generations — in the back of my mind telling me that talking about money should be completely off-limits.

Two images of a man pointing to a whiteboard. First image text: "Normalize discussing your wages with coworkers." Second image text: "The only reason it was ever considered 'rude' was so employers could get away with wage theft and unfair compensation."

So, let's begin slowly. We've started a housing and pay transparency series where we showcase people's homes, how much they pay for said home, how much they make, and any other interesting details (like the most precious thing in their home, the most expensive thing in their home, and, more importantly — their stories).

"Welcome to BuzzFeed's Housing + Money Transparency Series"
BuzzFeed

This week, we're featuring Nia, a 27-year-old who recently moved out of her family's home for the first time (go Nia!!!). Let's start with the basics:

A woman in a casual dress sits on a wooden swing in a forested park, smiling and wearing sunglasses and sandals, with a small crossbody bag

Age? 27

Pronouns? She/Her

Location? Atlanta, Georgia

Nia
The word "INCOME" in bold letters next to an illustrated money bag with a dollar sign
BuzzFeed

Occupation? Government Contracts Coordinator

Salary? $45k

Hours? Full-time

Graphic with bold text "RENT" next to an illustrated house

Own or rent? Rent

Rent cost? $1,095/month

Roommates? None

Utilities cost? "Water is included in rent. I pay $25 for Wi-Fi, $30 for electricity, and about $100 for gas."

TOTAL: $1,250

BuzzFeed
Sign with bold text "THE APARTMENT"
BuzzFeed

# Beds/baths/floors? "One bedroom, one bath, a living room, and a small kitchen on one floor."

Square footage? "I live in a duplex home that is 1,600 sq. ft. overall. My unit is 800 sq. ft. and shotgun style."

Amenities? "A washer/dryer that is not safe to use (I do laundry at parents' home nearby), oven/stove, fridge, and a driveway outside."

THE APARTMENT TOUR
BuzzFeed
Bedroom:
BuzzFeed
A neatly made bed with colorful pillows, a yellow throw blanket, and a decorative wall tapestry
Nia
Bathroom:
BuzzFeed
A bathroom with a wooden vanity, sink, toilet, and a shower curtain featuring various cheetah illustrations
Nia
Kitchen:
BuzzFeed
Modern kitchen with a gas stove, stainless steel refrigerator, tiled backsplash, and window with blinds over the sink
Nia
"Living room:"
BuzzFeed
Comfortable reading nook with a cozy armchair, a yellow throw blanket, a colorful rug, bookshelves filled with various books, and several potted plants

Pretty nice, eh?

Nia

Ok, now some fun stuff!

"MOST MONETARILY VALUABLE ITEM?"
BuzzFeed

"My electric adjustable desk that I use to work from home. It was $200 from Amazon."

A well-organized home office setup with a wooden desk, ergonomic chair, lamp, and wall art. The desk has a laptop stand, pen holders, and a candle
Nia
"MOST VALUABLE ITEM TO YOU?"
BuzzFeed

"My color-coordinated and curated book collection/bookshelf. It's my baby, my pride and joy."

A cozy reading nook with a mid-century modern bookshelf filled with books and decor, a chair with a yellow throw, a plant basket, and colorful rug
Nia

Ok, moving on to the nitty gritty...

"WHY'D YOU PICK THIS PLACE ANYWAYS?"
BuzzFeed

Since this is her first apartment, Nia said she was limited in what she really wanted due to price but decided on her place based on affordability, location, and that it was a duplex rather than a large apartment building.

Map of Atlanta showing major highways, neighborhoods, parks, and surrounding areas including Smyrna, Buckhead, Decatur, and Sandy Springs

According to Zillow, the average one-bedroom costs $1,626 in Atlanta, and the average annual salary is $71,464, according to ZipRecruiter. In comparison, Nia's spending $1,095/monthly for rent (before utilities) on a $45k salary.

While Nia cannot afford the average one-bed, the amount she's spending on rent is pretty relative to her income — about 29% of her income on rent (compared to the comparable average of 27%). She's in line with the popular "spend only 30% on rent" rule (living in NYC, I could not say the same).

Still, Nia doesn't make enough yet (nor does the average person in Atlanta) to afford a home in the area. According to Fortune, the annual salary needed to afford a $400,000 home (the average in Atlanta) is about $127,000. Additionally, as many renters face, she's been met with some unexpected sacrifices and surprises in the three months she's been living here.

"WHY'D YOU PICK THIS PLACE ANYWAYS?"
BuzzFeed

She told BuzzFeed, "The unit looked so nice and charming on the surface, but living in it, I came to see that the home has a lot of structural issues (like pipes and vents) that a non-professional like myself is not trained to look for. It was built in the 1940s and has not had major renovations in a long time."

A ceiling with a ventilation cover and a small hole along with some visible water damage

She continued, "The property manager has been good about making the fixes, but it's super annoying to tell him what he should've fixed before putting it on the market."

Nia

"It's my first place, and I waited such a long time before leaving my parents' house, so it's a bummer, and I feel like I made a huge mistake...but I try not to get down on myself," she added.

Kitchen countertop with four white storage canisters in a row and a bottle of hand soap next to a sink

"I remind myself that it's just a matter of market and affordability, and [I should] just level up so I can live how I want."

Nia
"WHY'D YOU PICK THIS PLACE ANYWAYS?"
BuzzFeed

So, "leveling up" is in her plan for the future — despite only living here for a few months, Nia said she's looking to move out as soon as she lands a new job with a better salary or finds a better place at a similar price. However, looking for a new place hasn't been easy.

A person is sitting at a desk, viewing a website on a laptop, with a coffee cup nearby. The website displays interior images and text, suggesting property listings or design ideas

"I have a close friend here who owns a home and works in real estate," Nia said. "She keeps it real with me about my options with my current budget: (1) live on your own and slum it out, (2) get a roommate so you can live nice, or (3) go live in the mid-tier large apartment."

As for the roommate option, Nia said, "Absolutely not." She told BuzzFeed, "I had roommates throughout college and vowed to never do it post-graduating; I'd have to be with family or on my own. I've lost a best friend trying to be roommates." She said she'll move back home if she doesn't find something by the time her lease is up.

Like Nia, with the high cost of living, low wages, and the fact that one of the only ways to live alone is by living with roommates, more and more young people are moving back home or choosing to stay home. According to a survey from Harris Poll for Bloomberg, nearly half of people (45%) in the US aged 18 to 29 live at home with their families (the highest since the 1940s 😳).

A discussion around unpacked boxes in a living room, involving three people seemingly planning or organizing, associated with work and moving topics

Additionally, according to the poll, more than 60% of Gen Z'ers and millennials reported moving back home in the past two years, citing financial challenges.

Maskot / Getty Images
"WHY'D YOU PICK THIS PLACE ANYWAYS?"
BuzzFeed

As for herself, Nia told BuzzFeed, "I lived at home for several years because I liked the comfort of each individual contributing to everyone's livelihood and because my parents charged me low rent ($500 a month)."

She added"I would come home, and there's dinner. I never had to think about certain chores like trash or lawn. My household contribution was cleaning and sharing my car."

She continued, "I also saved up so much money. When I finished college, my credit was terrible, and I had nothing to my name. In about two years, I got my credit to excellent and got good at managing my personal finances."

Credit scores: TransUnion 751, Equifax 758; both excellent. Next check tomorrow. Scores calculated using VantageScore 3.0. Time: 2:37. Battery: 100%. Wi-Fi on

She said, "I was happy with the results [of living at home] and decided to stay longer, as I couldn't come up with good reasons to leave. Sometimes, friends and family would ask me about my dating life. It never suffered. (Though I did prefer to date people with their own place!)"

A family of three, with a man and a young man kissing a woman on either cheek, stands on the porch of a house. A rainbow drawing is visible in the background

In Nia's case, despite wanting to save as much as possible so she could go straight into homeownership, she eventually decided to move out for her comfort. "I decided to go ahead and rent just so I could experience having my own bathroom and living room," she told BuzzFeed.

Still, before she moved, she set some goals beforehand to be comfortable with her move. She said, "I made sure I had enough savings to cover all my fixed payments and rent for at least one year. I did this because I watched people get laid off; I had been scared of being next (when I was in corporate). Also, what if something happens to my unit or I decide it's no longer a good idea for me to stay? I wanted to be able to afford to break the lease."

Overall, Nia said she's grateful to have been able to stay with her parents to get a good financial footing. She said, "I thank them every day for contributing to my strong financial start because though it's not been easy being on my own so far, it hasn't set me back."

Still, I'd wager that if the cost of living — from college debt to rent — weren't so high, living at home wouldn't be the first choice for many young adults. For many, it's simply the only option to get a start in this world (and for many others who don't have support at home, it's not an option at all).

"WHY'D YOU PICK THIS PLACE ANYWAYS?"
BuzzFeed

Compared to other major US cities, I find that Atlanta gets a pretty solid rap regarding the cost of living (aside from healthcare). An Axios report noted that Atlanta's relatively low cost of living is attractive for "people who want the perks of being in a major U.S. city without a high price tag."

Twitter: @AtlWinKnee

And Nia said that despite the early challenges of moving out, she's pretty happy overall in Atlanta.

She told BuzzFeed, "Regarding work, I'm excited about what I can do with my skill set and where I can go next. Despite the low pay, this job in government contracts was the best career move I've made thus far. I also have my own bathroom and living room — the main things I wanted! I was adamant about not having a roommate, so I'm grateful for that, too. There's room for improvement, but I think 18-year-old me would be very impressed."

Still, while Nia said she's getting by in Atlanta, it's not exactly like she's living large with her salary. She said, "My city is no longer affordable if you're trying to live in luxury on your own with an entry-level salary of $40k–$50k."

She clarified, "This is not including those in tech, healthcare, or other in-demand fields where the starting salaries tend to be much higher. My friends in those fields do great here."

Because most of her family, friends, and professional network are nearby, Nia said she will probably stay in Atlanta to be near her support system. But after researching jobs and the cost of living in other cities (Chattanooga, Tennessee; metro-Phoenix, Arizona; Huntsville, Alabama; Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, to name a few), she said she could see herself relocating if she knew for a fact she'd be living with better opportunities for career growth and homeownership.

Bar chart showing average home values and average salaries for six U.S. cities: Raleigh, NC; Phoenix, AZ; Charlotte, NC; Atlanta, GA; Chattanooga, TN; and Huntsville, AL
Alana Valko / Zillow / ZipRecruiter

Buuuut...that's it from Nia! Round of applause to her for being transparent about salary and rent (love to see it), and why living at home is sometimes a necessary choice now to get ahead as a young adult. 👏

If you like this series and are on board with more salary, rent, and housing transparency, consider filling out this form to be featured. Whether you have an average apartment, a designer pad, or an Amazon tiny home, we wanna see real people's places and hear their stories. So consider sending in — can't wait to hear from ya!