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Do You Plan to Downsize in Retirement?

For some, the simplicity a smaller residence offers is a key to enjoying their golden years.

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen - October 16, 2019

You might have a dream of what your retirement will look like—more time to travel, some well-earned relaxation, maybe increased time for some of your main hobbies. And you may even know where you want to spend your retirement years—a small beachfront town, perhaps, or within the heart of your favorite city.

But one thing that tends to escape some soon-to-be retirees’ minds is what that living space will look like. Do you still need a 3,000-square-foot home with five bedrooms, or would an upscale townhome better suit your retirement lifestyle?

Here are some important considerations for all empty nesters and retirees when determining whether to downsize in retirement.

Compare different scenarios—and set your priorities

You may feel ready to move into your retirement space tomorrow, but in reality, you’ll need to give yourself time to consider the logistics of downsizing before you actually do it.

Start by comparing the scenarios that deliver on your downsizing goals. Evaluate the pros and cons of different home options, such as single-family, townhome, and condominium, based on your objectives for scaling back.

Here’s how it works. Pick out a smaller home in a location that you’d realistically consider buying as a way to estimate actual homeownership costs, such as property taxes, heating bills, maintenance, and any upgrades you may need to do later to accommodate you as you age. Then, do the same research on other types of residences, such as condos or townhomes. Also consider what your life will be like in the future and how that will impact how you want to live. You may have no problem taking a flight of stairs every time you want to get something from your bedroom now, but will a single-level home be more suited to your physical abilities in the future?

Evaluate the pros and cons of different home options, such as single-family, townhome, and condominium, based on your objectives for scaling back.

Ultimately, the comparison will help you identify the downsizing option that delivers on your priorities. It may turn out that you value the maintenance-free amenities that a condo affords. Conversely, you might find that a smaller single-family home where you aren’t in quite as close proximity to the neighbors is more your style.

Purge—and bring in help if you need it

Downsizing can bring new possibilities for the future, but it also quite likely requires parting ways with items you’ve accrued over the years. When those possessions are attached to important memories, purging can be difficult. But keep the process in perspective.

At some point, things you’ve collected over the course of your life will become a burden to you—or someone you love—if you don’t start simplifying your life.

If you struggle to downsize, consider hiring a professional concierge moving service. They assist clients with the entire downsizing process from start to finish, including guiding them on what items they should throw out, donate, sell (and how to determine whether an item has monetary value), or bring to the new smaller space. Some may also help facilitate charitable donations and manage similar moving needs.

To keep yourself on task, consider your downsized home to be very expensive square footage. What things are so valuable that they’ve earned a spot in that high-demand space? Surround yourself with the items that bring you the most joy and that you want to see every day.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a freelance writer covering personal finance, career, and small business news. Her work frequently appears in USA Today, ForbesWoman, Real Simple, and Yahoo! Finance.

Image by iStock

Additional Resources

Life changes can have a major impact on your finances. Our advice can help you keep your financial goals in sight.