My husband and I are empty nesters. Does it make sense for us to stay in our home or to downsize? We are not walking distance from any of our kids and our home is larger than necessary given our current needs. We like the space to have the entire family over for yom tov, but that happens less frequently since coordinating schedules is increasingly difficult as our family has grown. I have friends who have decided to move into larger homes in order to accommodate their growing mishpacha. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what a sensible decision would be for people approaching retirement. Thanks!
Diane Hanau, New York
Determining whether to downsize is an important decision all retirees face. In most situations, moving to a smaller, more manageable home is the prudent and sensible approach. Deciding to move to a larger home, or “upsizing,” is generally short-sighted and ill-advised. Yes, it’s nice to have a larger home to comfortably accommodate your entire family for yom tov. However, as time goes on, these large gatherings will likely occur only sporadically. Designing your life around infrequent occasions doesn’t make much sense. Let’s explore some of the considerations for downsizing.
Aging: As one gets older mobility becomes a concern. Living in a larger home, and possibly one with different levels, makes getting around more difficult. It’s imperative to live in a home that is conducive for aging. This typically means a smaller residence and one that has a master bedroom, kitchen, and handicap accessible shower on the main floor. Moving to an apartment building, in particular, may be an optimal choice if possible. In such a scenario, most of the costs, and headaches, associated with your home’s upkeep will be covered through paying monthly maintenance fees. You don’t need to deal with separate plumbers, electricians, contractors and handymen when problems do arise. An apartment also has the added benefit of not having to deal with maintaining a property or shoveling snow in the winter.
Costs: Expenses are another compelling reason to downsize. Large homes cost more to maintain than smaller ones. Aside from general upkeep costs, the property taxes, insurance, and utilities can all be incredibly burdensome for retirees who are living on a fixed income. While someone is working, affording these rising expenses may be easier since their salary will likely also rise over time. However, when someone is withdrawing from a pension, retirement account, or social security, their ability to continue to afford these rising expenses will be difficult to sustain.
Simplicity: Another benefit to downsizing that is often overlooked is the opportunity to simplify your possessions by getting rid of stuff you no longer need. I can’t tell you how often clients will vent to me about needing to go through decades of mom and dad’s things after their passing or before moving them into an assisted living facility. Downsizing is a great time for retirees to go through their own things and dispose of items that they no longer need. It’s also a great opportunity to gift more sentimental items to children, grandchildren, or charity. Not only is it gratifying to give your cherished objects to loved ones who can benefit from their use, but it allows you to decide who gets certain items while you are of sound mind instead of having a third party distribute your property for you.
Opportunity to move closer to family: Finally, downsizing may give you the opportunity to move closer to your children or other family members. Over time, it’s common for families to scatter around the country or world, depending on where life takes them. Having family members nearby provides a support structure that is invaluable as you age. It helps provide regular social interaction, which is essential to maintaining one’s cognitive health. If one’s health begins to deteriorate, nearby family can more easily help with coordinating care and everyday tasks.
Many retirees hesitate when it comes to downsizing. They have often spent decades in their current home and created a lifetime of memories there. However, it’s important to not let nostalgia influence how you will spend the next phase of your life. Staying in your current home too long oftentimes results in selling the home later under less favorable or more challenging circumstances. The right choice will allow you to lead a fulfilling retirement, while the wrong one may lead to unnecessary stress and hardship. Choose wisely.
I wish you much hatzlacha in your decision!