Strapped Twenty-Somethings Move Back with Mom

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American students are leaving college with more than just a degree these days.  On average, graduates are entering the "real world" some $20,000 in debt.

Without the funds to live on their own, many graduates are returning home -- their parents' home.

Cathy Stocker, co-author of "The Quarterlifer's Crisis," says the trend of moving back home might be a good solution.

"Why spend a lot of money on rent as a twenty-something when you're still trying to pay off educational debt, when you may be trying to put some money aside for graduate school, when you may be just trying to start off on the right foot financially?" she asked.

Not-So-Empty Nesters

Todd Townsend is 25 years old and still living with his mother.  He moved back into her home in New York's Adirondack Mountains after finding himself $50,000 in debt, primarily from student loans.

For many young adults, moving in with mom isn't their first choice. But Townsend felt he had few other options.

"I really pushed and tried to figure out what other situation I had at my fingertips," he said. "Where else could I go? What else could I do?"

Since 1970, the number of young adults moving back home has increased 50 percent. Nearly one in five twenty-somethings move back in with their parents at some point.

Family Tensions

Like many parents, Darsie Townsend is taking on unexpected costs since her son moved back home just when she thought she was done paying his expenses.

In order to accommodate the incurred expenses that come with her son's return, Darsie is actually charging him minimal rent. She is also struggling to define her new role in her son's life.

"I'm a mom and I don't sit still very well," she said. "I'm always doing things, so he was yelling at me because I was doing his laundry."

"I think my exact words," he said, "were, 'Mom, I'm a grown man. Let me do my own damn laundry."

Safety Net

With the support of family, Townsend and many other young adults are slowly digging themselves out of debt.

He now has a job at a hotel and is starting to put a dent in the $50,000 hole he dug. While he's thankful for the free food and laundry his mother's home provides, he says he wants out as soon as possible.

"If I'm here in a year, I hope that somebody -- a friend, a brother or even my mom -- kicks me out," he said. "I hope somebody shows up and drags me out of this house."

With thousands more dollars to pay off, it's going to be an uphill battle for Townsend and the thousands of young adults like him. For some, the safety net of the parent's nest is the only option.

Joe Knaeble, 25, is also deep in debt. But unlike Townsend, he has a wife and daughter to support. They have moved in with Knaeble's mother.

"Maybe other people can view you as a failure because you couldn't hack it living on your own," he said. "But when the bills are so high and you have a family now, sometimes it's the only way to go."

Digging Out

Generation Y has become synonymous with Generation Debt. Over the past decade, the average debt of post-college adults has increased over 55 percent. With student-loans hovering over their heads, many young adults are stuck in limbo, trying to become adults, but unable to support themselves financially.

For families with youth in debt, here are some steps both parents and kids can take to make the stay at home into a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Set a move-out date -- Make a realistic timeline for departure.

Take on some responsibility -- Whether it's paying a nominal rent fee or taking on household chores, both parties will feel like they're getting something out of the situation.

Work together to restructure debts -- Neither the parent nor the child can be expected to take on thousands of dollars in debt alone. Parents shouldn't bail out their kids, but can work with them to avoid new debt.

Respect boundaries -- Young adults moving back home should respect the house rules, but parents should take into account that their child is an adult now and may have to revise rules set in place from the last time they were living at home.

ABC News' Blair Soden contributed to this report.

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