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This August my youngest son Colby will attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison to study mechanical engineering.  That event will begin a new chapter for me and my wife Marci – we will be joining the ranks of proud yet nostalgic parents whose kids have all left home.  It got me thinking about how our finances and family dynamics might change now that we will be empty nesters.  Since I learn best by the “case-study” method I thought I would share the top four changes that I can anticipate as this new chapter unfolds.  Perhaps these will resonate with you if your baby birds have also flown the coop.

1.      Our Household Budget

As the parents of two extra-large-sized boys we anticipate that our grocery bill will drop precipitously!  Our sons both have meal plans at college so food costs for them are now relatively fixed.  We plan to drop a few TV-streaming services that the boys used and notify our auto insurance company that both of them are off to college (and driving much less).  Our gasoline bill may be lower and we will likely sell a family car that was primarily used by the boys in the summer.

On the flipside, some of our expenses may rise.  We are planning on celebrating Thanksgiving in Nashville Tennessee this year since both of the boys can fly there as easily as flying home.  We also hope to attend some Parents Days and sporting events at both of our boys’ colleges, which means increased costs for plane fares and hotels.  I think our overall household expenses will fall despite these potential cost increases.

2.      Space in Our Home

Many empty nesters consider downsizing once the kids leave home.  I don’t think Marci and I are quite there yet.  We are both quite happy with our careers and we don’t see moving out of the area as particularly attractive.  Our home is one story, not too big, and has a great backyard so we are not motivated to make big changes yet. 

That being said, we have started talking about re-purposing the boys bedrooms!  They might not appreciate sleeping next to all of the home gym equipment I plan on installing in their rooms, but that’s too bad.  Marci has her eye on converting one of the rooms into a home office.  She and I don’t intend to keep our boys’ bedrooms intact as shrines to their childhoods.

3.      Saving for Retirement

Each month for the last 18 years I have made contributions to my sons’ 529 college savings accounts.  Those accounts are how we will pay for college expenses.  Now I can re-purpose those monies to personal savings to help make our retirement more secure.

4.      Family Communication

Marci and I have an established communication routine with my older son Grady – we FaceTime each other every Sunday.  It’s a chance for us to see how he’s doing, whether he is going to the gym regularly, what he is eating and whether he has found a girlfriend yet!  I envision the same will happen with Colby – it will be exciting to see how his freshman experience unfolds.  Grady was a real victim of the pandemic in that his freshman year of college was via zoom for the first quarter and he was in full lockdown for the second quarter.  I’m hopeful that Colby’s experience will be more normalized.

Meanwhile, I’m really looking forward to re-connecting with Marci!  So much of our lives over the last 20 years has been focused on the boys and our calendars have been entirely dictated by their schedules.   Now we can take a spontaneous trip or enjoy a night out without worrying about school calendars and extra-curricular activities.  It is a new chapter in our lives that I can’t wait to read!