If they ever reboot the TV show Thirtysomething, the characters should live at home with their parents.

The late 1980s drama was about a group of people in their 30s juggling children and careers. In a remake to reflect life in the 2020s, they would live at home and juggle their expenses so they could afford to pay rent to their parents.

Do you think, parents of the nation, that you and your children are done with tough conversations after covering sex, booze and drugs and how much time they spend on their phones? Maybe not. Adult kids are living at home into their 30s and even 40s these days, and they’re often being asked to pay rent.

The results of a survey in the Carrick on Money newsletter offer some insight into how families are managing the “rent talk.” Fifty-two per cent of the 968 participants said they charge their adult kids rent. Just more than half charge their kids $500 or less and another 27 per cent charge between $501 and $1,000.

The rationale seems very much tied to a parental feeling that adult kids need some guidance in understanding the ways of the world in a financial sense. Half of parents charging rent said they do it because their kids should learn how to budget for fixed expenses.

Another 16.6 per cent are saving the rent money on behalf of their kids, with the intention of handing it back to them later. And 11 per cent of parents charging rent said they do it because they need the money. In households where rent isn’t charged, it’s common for adult kids to help with utility and grocery bills and do household chores.

Overall, there’s a sense that parents are feeling some frustration with their adult kids living at home. While just 3 per cent of parents had a formal rent agreement with their adult kids, only 63 per cent said their kids paid in full and on time every month.

It’s not like the rent being charged is a huge burden. Close to 42 per cent of parents said they charged a symbolic amount, while 6 per cent charged a percentage of salary and just 5 per cent charged an amount tied to actual rental rates in their city.

I kind of wrote the book on adult kids living at home – it’s called How Not to Move Back in With Your Parents: The Young Person’s Complete Guide to Financial Empowerment, and it was published in 2012. Back then, adult kids were moving back home because a tough job market wasn’t producing enough decent-paying jobs for them.

A big issue today is the high cost of housing, for both rent and home ownership. The survey results give us some insight into the burden this cost puts on parents. One-third of participants reported having two, three or even four adult kids living at home. Asked for the age of the oldest adult child living at home, 18.3 per cent said it was from 30 to 39 and another 4.5 per cent said 40-plus.

These numbers suggest a new leg in the story of adults living at home. Back when I wrote my book, millennials moving back home were the “boomerang generation.” That glib phrasing faded as it became normal for young adults to return for a pit stop en route to financial independence. Today, the phrase multi-generational living seems most accurate.

In some cultures, family members of different generations commonly live together. Economic necessity will drive a wider acceptance of this arrangement because it’s so effective in dealing with the high cost of living, notably housing. Thirty years from now, I wonder if The Globe personal finance team will be surveying to see how many adult kids never managed to move out of their parents’ home.

Kudos to parents for how they’re handling the financial aspect of multi-generational living. The idea of symbolic rent is smart because it gets across the idea of personal responsibility while ideally leaving an adult child enough money to put aside for moving out later.

Another good idea, at least for parents who can afford it, is saving the rent money received from an adult child. Added to a home down payment or used for first and last months’ rent, this money could speed your adult kid on their way to financial independence.

The Globe and Mail, June 28, 2023