Boomerang Commuters

Boomerang Commuters


In April 2011, FoxNewsInsider coined the phrase “Boomerang Commuters” to describe the growing trend of two-career, two-households, two-city family units. Creamer (2011) reported on this dramatic rise of commuter marriages in The Sacramento Bee.Current statistics suggest that almost three million American couples fit the definition of commuter couple: “Men and women in dual-career marriages who desire to stay married, but also voluntarily choose to pursue careers to which they feel a strong commitment. They establish separate homes so they can do so” (Rhodes, 2002).

Why has the number of commuter couples risen from around half a million couples in 1980 to this new high? Some believe that the economy has driven many couples to split to find jobs as the unemployment rates rose in the recent past. Others suggest that it may be more a sign of the rise of working women. Rates are higher among professional, academic and white-collar workers than in lower socioeconomic circles. In the past, the poor in society have endured long separations to find work. The new commuters, however, seem to be a phenomenon of education and relative privilege (Creamer, 2011). The average age of commuting spouses is 51, and the average length of marriage for commuting couples is 22 years (Bergen, 2010).

Marriages, and families within these commuter arrangements, face complex and unusual challenges in family resource management. While it may facilitate financial resource acquisition, separation and maintenance of multiple living sites can be mentally and physically demanding. The demographics of this group indicate that very young children are not part of the mix, but this age group is part of the “sandwich generation,” serving as support for their young adult children and their aging parents.

Weisser (2006) suggests three strategies to help commuter couples swing the dual reality. First, tap into any support employers might provide. Some may provide expense accounts for travel, meals, housing, and utilities to employees. If Internet access is crucial to job performance, the company may provide an allowance to the employee for such service. Second, use all relevant mileage plans—flights, car rentals, hotel charges, restaurants. Finally, be diligent when managing the finances within these living arrangements. Don’t forget to keep long-range financial plans in the picture.

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