I used to have a vision of my children turning 18: Me with a sentimental tear running down my cheek as I load up the U-Haul and they move out of my house for good, off on their journeys as adults.

I used to have a vision of my children turning 18: Me with a sentimental tear running down my cheek as I load up the U-Haul and they move out of my house for good, off on their journeys as adults.

Statistically, I can kiss that dream goodbye. The number of adult children living and staying at home has reached a record high, according to the Pew Research Center, with 56 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. still living with their parents, and 32 percent of adults 18 to 31 living at home, the largest percentage in four decades.

Half of parents with adult children also are paying for costs such as cellphones, insurance, food, housing and pocket money for kids who've moved out, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, to the tune of $5,000 a year on average.

Parents' intentions are good. "Sometimes these choices don't seem like choices. They seem like obligations," said Bob Cochran, a certified financial planner with PDS Planning in Columbus. No one wants their children to do without, "but this puts families behind the eight ball," he said. "Do you pay for (Junior) or do you save for retirement? You have to compromise somewhere."

These expenses come at the time when parents should be concentrating on saving for their own retirement and paying off debts and mortgages. Instead, 26 percent of parents are taking on more debt, 13 percent have delayed a major life event (like downsizing) and 7 percent have delayed retirement in order to support their adult children. And, according to the American Time Use Survey, each adult child living at home adds an additional eight hours of labor to a parent's week.

"We tell our clients they have got to stop paying for their adult children's car insurance and all those other things or they're not going to be able to retire," said financial advisor Peggy Ruhlin. "You have to get the (children) to the point of independence."

All families are different, but experts recommend some basic ground rules.

Set clear expectations and expect them to contribute. Your adult child needs to contribute, whether financially or through additional chores. For example, my sister lived at home until she was 27, and our parents made it clear she could stay only as long as she was in college, home before 2:30 a.m. on weekends and paid the utility bills.

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as severe medical issues, adult children should have a job or be earnestly looking for one - even if they have college degrees and all they can get are jobs flipping burgers. Junior should be managing his money by saving or paying down debt, as well.

Junior also needs a plan for eventually moving out and becoming independent. Otherwise, the lure of cable TV and a refrigerator full of food may become too good to leave. Junior should also be developing and pursuing career- and job-related goals via internships, classes and training.

Finance only needs, not wants. If your child needs help beyond just food and shelter, don't get suckered into paying for "lifestyle" expenses. Footing the bill for your kid's gym membership or a weekend away with friends is a ticket to the poorhouse. Expenses and circumstances vary by family, but take some time to determine what is an actual need.

Don't go into debt for Junior. Don't take on more debt or more loans in order to provide for your adult child. This is the stage of your life when you need to be thinking about your own financial well-being first. You've made it through diapers, braces, graduation and the SATs. You deserve to save for your own future and spend some money on yourself for a change.

-Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek who writes about personal finance, banking and insurance for The Columbus Dispatch, bankrate.com and middlepathfinance.com.