In This Issue

All in the Family

Multi-generational households are on the rise

March 30, 2009
By Kayleen Reusser

When Jeffrey Mordan of Jeffersonville, Pa., bought a house in 2000 with his wife, Stephanie, he was excited at the thought of raising a family in the small, cozy home. But the Mordans found themselves overwhelmed at trying to maintain a home on Jeff’s salary as a private school art teacher, and the family’s credit card debt soared.

By 2003, the Mordans, along with their first child, Chloe, had made a move they hoped would help them control and minimize their debt. They sold their home and moved in with Stephanie’s parents in a nearby town.

The Mordans are not alone in deciding to live under the same roof with extended family members.

According to the 2000 census, nearly 4 million American households are made up of three or more generations living together. As Baby Boomers get older, experts predict three-generation households will become even more common.

Why multiple generations live together

Americans make this choice of living conditions for many reasons—among them financial need, cultural expectations, or health-related support. The majority of situations may call for adjustments to the household’s insurance.

ERIE Agent Mark Murdoch, owner of Murdoch Insurance & Annuities in Harrisburg, Pa., recommends that families living together communicate with their insurance agent about changes in living arrangements.

“If a couple’s child moves in with them after going through a divorce and the parents drive his or her car for convenience, they need to be aware of coverage restrictions,” he says. “If the child’s vehicle is available to the parents on a regular basis, liability coverage is limited to the owner’s policy, which in this case is the child’s.”

Murdoch also suggests clients in multigenerational households update their homeowner’s policies for additional items added by the generation moving in.

“If an adult child’s TV is stolen from the home of his parents and the adult child doesn’t buy renter’s insurance, he is only protected as a resident relative of his parents. The check for his stolen TV would be written to the named insured; in this case, his parents. If it is a happy household, that is not a big deal. But it can be uncomfortable, too.”

Memories made

After four years of living with Stephanie’s parents, the Mordan family moved 20 minutes away to their own separate residence. Even though it had not been a simple decision for the Mordans to live with Stephanie’s parents, Jeffrey Mordan says it was a great experience.

“I’m grateful to my in-laws for the opportunity of living with them,” he says. “We would not have as much of our debt paid off as we do without that chance. Plus, we developed many wonderful memories of being together.”

Kayleen Reusser is a freelance writer based in Bluffton, Ind. She’s contributed to several Chicken Soup for the Soul books and her work has appeared in Indianapolis Monthly and Parent Life.

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