Adult Dorms – The Solution for Broke and Lonely Adults?

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Would you consider living in adult dorms if it improved your cash flow and social life?

We live in communal arrangements in college. Many do it again as senior citizens. Why not live in adult dorms during our prime years, too?

I have had discussions regarding this topic twice in recent months.

First, in response to a social media post regarding a home inspection I had attended, a friend remarked that the home in question was big enough for multiple families. My friend was correct in his assessment. This 5 bedroom, 4 bathroom, 3500 square foot home would have provided more than enough space for me, Mrs. Superhero, my friend, his wife, and their teenage daughter. My friend even suggested that his family could live on the lower level.

Last week, I was touring homes with two investor clients who are looking to rehabilitate a home.  Our conversation shifted to Michael Jordan’s massive estate in Bannockburn, Illinois, which has been on the market for quite some time. The $14.8 million home features 9 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a full basketball court, tennis courts, nearly 33,300 square feet, and a $190,000 annual tax bill. My clients and I joked that we could purchase the home, along with 50 of our closest friends, and build an adult dorm community.

A few days later, an article headline from The Atlantic popped up in my Facebook feed:

Dorms for Grownups: A Solution for Lonely Millennials?

Before browsing the article, I thought to myself, “Is this really a thing?!”

Apparently, adult dorms may be the way of the future.

Adult Dorms

Saving Money Through Adult Dorms

It is no secret that housing costs make up the largest part of the average single millennial’s budget. Those costs obviously vary by location, but in many city neighborhoods, rental rates for small studios and one bedroom apartments can easily top $2,000 per month.

Many adult communal living arrangements seek to provide relief from high rent prices, offering nearly 50 percent savings to prospective tenants. Some spaces, such as WeLive and Purehouse in New York City, actually come at an increased cost when compared to a studio apartment. However, in a city like San Francisco, for example, communal living could surely cost less than the median rent price which currently hovers near $3,400 per month.

Adult communal living could no doubt help many adults save money if implemented wisely. The average adult could save on the following:

*food (through sharing costs and reducing food waste)
*miscellaneous social expenses (staying in vs. going out)

Perhaps the idea of adult communal living doesn’t seem quite so ludicrous at this point.

Communal Living as a Cure for Loneliness

It is no secret that the average person today is plugged in and reachable virtually 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Blame Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or simple human insecurity, but don’t deny the truth: many people abhor being alone, and technology is largely to blame.

Adult communal living appears to solve that problem (while potentially causing others- more on that in a moment). Think about it. Currently, if I find some rare free time and begin to miss interaction with others, I instinctively reach for my phone and text a buddy or two. If I lived in a community with other adults, I could truly satisfy my need for interaction and play some nine-ball or table tennis with the fellas next door.

That doesn’t sound half bad.

A communal living set-up would also lesson much of the sting of FOMO (fear of missing out) in our lives. If I wondered what my friends were doing without me on a Saturday night, I could investigate myself quite easily in many cases. After discovering that Brian and Dan were really just watching Making a Murderer for the fifth time in six months, I could relax and move on with my night. OK – who am I kidding? I would pull up a chair, shed a few tears for Brendan Dassey, and gripe about the incompetence of Manitowoc County. But I digress.

Adult Dorms Treat the Symptoms, Not the Problems

While we have seen that communal living has its benefits to those who embrace the lifestyle, I strongly believe that it is a system which treats the symptoms of money problems and loneliness without addressing the real problems.

Many people live in dorms for a portion of their college career, if not the entirety. I agree with the basic benefits of dorm living as articulated in a brief article on Kent University’s website:

*opportunities to develop relationships
*live in an environment which fosters personal and educational growth
*opportunity to learn and experience diversity, self-respect, ethical behavior, and social norms
*possibly save money
*possibly improve academic achievement

These benefits indicate a greater purpose for collegiate communal living. It encourages students to take the next steps in becoming responsible citizens. In my opinion, adult communal living stunts growth and prevents people from developing the independence needed to thrive professionally, socially, and financially.

If an adult faces financial troubles, it is most often related to irresponsible spending, insufficient income, or a combination of the two. At best, adult communal living seems to disguise social immaturity by rationalizing it in the form of “saving money.” It also enables young adults to avoid their ultimate fear of growing up and becoming fully-independent contributors to society.

As today’s progressive minded culture holds on to impractical social structures and rejects societal norms which have been developed and validated over decades and centuries, we would be wise to recognize the dangers of adult communal living. Financial woes and bouts of loneliness are deeper problems which cannot be masked by living like teenagers. This is treating the symptoms, not the problems.

Real Solutions to Financial and Social Problems

The solution to financial and social struggles begins with education. The average person does not understand how to deeply examine her own values and make decisions based upon a hierarchy of values. As a result,  he makes financial and social decisions in whimsical fashion. And the average adult is ill-equipped to manage the disappointment which follows.

A budget (or other method of tracking spending) is simple solution to financial struggles. By having a plan, the average person can avoid the unfortunate scenario of having too much month left at the end of the money. Coming face to face with financial problems and meeting them head on in this manner is the noble and responsible solution.

Next, standing up to social weakness and overcoming the power of FOMO begins with recognition of the problem. Avoid negative influences, disconnect from social media and technology from time to time, and participate in genuine human interaction. This manner of self-empowerment is the real solution to loneliness.

Adult dorms are a fine idea on the surface, but they do not effectively help young adults fix their financial and social problems. Though they may be the way of the future, the tried-and-true societal constructs represent the best hope for adults to achieve financial success and social satisfaction.

What is your opinion on adult dorms? Is this just a phase that will go away in time? Would you live in adult dorms if given the opportunity? Why or why not?


16 thoughts on “Adult Dorms – The Solution for Broke and Lonely Adults?

  1. This is a really interesting post, Hero. Thank you!

    I tend to agree with your perspectives on all this, but I’ll mention a study that’s stuck with me for some time and may provide a relevant counterpoint.

    The study looked at predictors of friendship among incoming freshmen college students. Hypotheses that two students’ similar hometowns or sports interests, etc. would predict friendship were proven wrong. The only predictive variable? Geographic proximity in college living. Meaning that randomly assigned roomies had a better chance of being besties than two bros with identical backgrounds who lived in different dorm buildings.

    The point is that, with social issues at least, it would appear that treating the symptoms can sometimes be an effective cure for underlying problems.

    Anyway, thanks for this thought-provoking post. Great work as always!

    1. Ooooh, I love counterpoints! Thanks for mentioning this study, FL.

      I’m drifting a bit off topic now, but interestingly, geographic proximity had little to do with the closest friendships I formed while in college. I met my best friend on an Honors retreat before classes started freshman year, and we lived on opposite sides of campus. I thought this might deter our friendship, but distance has never played a role. Whether we’ve been near or far, we manage to pick up right where we left off each time we speak or meet up.

  2. Wow Illinois real estate taxes are steep, too bad for Jordan!

    I think it would totally be doable though. I know for my wife and I though that we were ready to get our own house when we had our first kid. Not that you need a house for kids, but that was the lifestyle we wanted him to grow up in. Thanks for the post!

    1. Thanks, JW. Having children throws an entirely different wrinkle into the mix. Maybe you and Lucy could find an adult dorm in London or Dublin. 🙂

  3. This is a great post and I enjoyed the way to analyzed the idea from all angles. I am finding our culture is always trying to find creative ways to push the ‘bucket’ forward without ever really addressing the problem. Whether its the high national debt, the low retirement savings, the fact the millions of students become boomerang kids after graduation etc.
    I agree with you communal living does not solve the problem of saving money, that is more the disguise then the solution. We need to start taking responsibility as a nation to make sure boomers, millennials and the generations after us are financially responsible. Unique and wonderful post!

  4. Absolutely, I would, for the duration of my life as a single, at least. I’d want some more privacy if I was coupled off.

    I think living in an adult dorm-like scenario would make it easier to meet likeminded singles who don’t want to blow cash on their own place. Living alone is so inefficient.

    However, I know many people who value their privacy and I think it’s sad that so many of them inevitably get priced out of their hometown and have the choice of either moving to a cheaper area or taking on roommates….or going into debt.

    Great topic.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, TJ. I completely identify with the “single life” qualifier you expressed.

      When I think back to dorm life in college, privacy was awfully difficult to come by. I’m not so sure I could give up the level of privacy I’ve grown accustomed to in the name of saving money. Yet, when forced to choose between sacrificing privacy and sacrificing my future retirement, I would feel pressed between a rock and a hard place.

  5. So interesting! We laughed about this with our friends once too when discussing lake properties in our area. The taxes are so expensive that we said we could split a big house and maybe be able to afford one! It’s interesting to consider the dorm idea. One thing I thought of was that toward your junior and senior year of college – many want to get away from the dorms. I agree with you about there being benefits – but it isn’t likely to fix much.

    1. I think laughter is probably the stock response when someone mentions adult communal living. Whether it’s a nervous response or truly amused laughter, the thought of living with adults is certainly amusing!

  6. This is so interesting. I can’t say it’s a topic I’ve ever pondered. The introvert in me says “no way”. Though I formed some great friendships in the dorms in college and benefited from them for a few years back then, I wouldn’t want to do the dorm thing again, even if it were to save me some money. I can find other ways to save! 🙂

  7. I had never heard of adult dorms, learn something new every day right? I don’t think I would ever go for adult dorms, I don’t get lonely that easily, now that I think about it.

    I always am able to find something to do to keep myself be busy and don’t have time to feel the loneliness or stress about it. I am content with the social life that I have currently too and I don’t know if I’ll change that perspective but as of right now, I’m content!

  8. If I were single, I’d consider it. I agree with Financialibre that dorms provide the perfect opportunity for forming friendships (and probably romantic relationships too). I recently read an article about friendship that said forming a strong lifelong friendship is best done in an environment where three conditions are met: 1. close physical proximity 2. frequent unplanned interactions 3. an environment that encourages openness.

    I met my husband in a dorm actually. He lived 2 floors down and helped me fix my computer… he knew the way to a nerdy girl’s heart!

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