Being relatively new to the workforce is hard. For many young adults, that means earning a less-than-stellar salary and grappling with student loan debt. It's no wonder, then, that nearly one out of every three people aged 18 to 34 is living back home with his or her parents. In fact, the percentage of young adults living with parents in that age range has increased by almost 19% over the past two decades, according to data from Comet Financial. And while some might argue that that's the easy or lazy way out, it's actually a smart financial decision that could end up paying off in the long run.

Why do so many young adults move back home?

Today's younger workers aren't just moving in with their parents to snag the home-cooked meals they enjoyed as kids; they're doing it to save money. That's a reason cited by 87% of those who opted to live with their folks rather than buy or pay rent of their own. Meanwhile, 43% of younger workers moved back home because they were overwhelmed by the level of student debt they were carrying.

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But it's not just self-serving reasons that prompt young adults to move back home. An estimated 27% did so to help their parents out financially.

An easy way to bank some extra cash

Given the cost of buying or renting property these days, it's easy to see why moving back home holds so much appeal. Home prices have been rising twice as fast as income growth, while the cost of renting is rising at its fastest pace in almost two years. Today, the median rental costs $1,445, representing a nearly 3% increase from just last year. Given the general shortage of affordable housing, it makes sense that nearly 33% of young adults would rather save their money than stretch themselves financially.

Let's imagine you're faced with two choices: Rent a home, or return to your childhood one. If the latter move saves you $1,445 a month, you're looking at a potential annual savings of $17,340. But remember, it's not just rent you'll save on. Unless your parents ask you to chip in for utilities, you'll also avoid paying for heat, electricity, water, and cable, to name a few. And those expenses combined could easily wind up saving you another $3,000 a year. All told, you might easily bank $40,000 -- or more -- just by living at home for a two-year period.

What might you do with that kind of money? For starters, you can use it to build an emergency fund -- something 23% of Americans currently don't have. Without that safety net, you're effectively forced to borrow money when an unplanned bill lands in your lap, so you should aim to sock away a minimum of three months' worth of living costs in the bank.

Another good use for that money? Shaking your student debt. The average Class of 2017 graduate came away $39,400 in the hole. If you're able to live at home for two years and save $40,000, you'll be able to knock out that sort of balance and have a touch left over for a little treat to celebrate paying it off.

In fact, there's a host of smart things you can do with the money you save by living at home, whether it's building a retirement nest egg or accumulating funds for a down payment so that when you're ready to leave your parents' place, you can buy one of your own. So if you have the option to move back home, do it, at least for a limited period of time. You'll be thankful for the financial flexibility it buys you later on.

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