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July 10, 2023
The decision to downsize for retirement can be an emotional roller coaster, hugely exciting and a massive financial event. While some people buy bigger, grander or more expensive retirement homes, downsizing for retirement is often the savvy strategy – especially for those of us who have not quite saved enough for our golden years.
The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies has found that approximately 40% of retirees move after retirement.
Here are 15 tips for successfully downsizing (or up-sizing) for retirement. Relocate for a profitable, comfortable and happily ever after!
Before you even think about where you might move, establish goals for downsizing. You probably want to have two goals:
How much money do you want to release from equity or save every month on mortgage payments? (If up-sizing, how much can you comfortably afford to spend?)
What is important to you about this move? Friends, family, healthcare and senior services, weather, activities, amenities, etc…
Transamerica research found that the following are the most important criteria for retirees deciding where to live:
Keep these goals in mind at every stage of your relocation and stick to them.
Use the NewRetirement Retirement Planner to model your relocation and immediately see the impact on your short and long term finances.
Timing is everything. However, there are a lot of factors to consider: housing values, the strength of the real estate market, interest rates, and – of course – your lifestyle goals.
If you are downsizing early on in your retirement, then you will want to be careful to manage your money for the long haul. Delaying relocating can usually help preserve your wealth.
You can relocate across town or to the other side of the globe. You may want to look at the best places to retire lists. There are lists for anyone and everyone: best weather, best medical care, best for hippies, cheapest places to retire and more…
And, you have so many different options for the kind of home you will live in: a smaller house, a tiny house, an apartment, house boat, RV, a less expensive community with bigger homes, senior living center or over 50 communities and more…
Some people even downsize to a cruise ship a hotel or other unexpected locales.
In retirement, one or all of these 3 things are usually important to happiness: travel, grandkids and leisure activities.
When downsizing, you really want to make sure that you think through how the move will impact these “big 3.”
Will downsizing enable you to afford to travel? Are you near an affordable airport if flying is in your future? Have you considered renting out your home to help you pay for trips? What is the rental market like where you are moving?
So many people opt to stay in the family’s long time home because they want their grandchildren to experience what their own children experienced. However, grand kids don’t always experience the family home in the way you think they will – if at all (depending on where they live).
If you are committed to moving, have you considered how the new location will impact the kids and grandkids? Will you have room for everyone to visit?
Think about what you like to do. Make sure wherever you live affords you those opportunities.
Buying and selling homes can be an expensive and volatile endeavor.
Talk to a few different real estate agents. Find out how each one would approach the sale. What – if anything – do you need to do to get the best possible price (painting, repairs, staging, other)? How would they price your home and why? How does their proposed asking price differ from what they think will be the actual sales price?
See if you can negotiate the commission of the agent who will be helping you sell your home.
Too often we underestimate how much it costs to buy the home we really want. Research your options carefully.
There are tons of online home search options that can help you get an idea about what is available. However, there is no substitution for talking with an experienced real estate agent and touring houses yourself.
Buying and owning a home can be expensive: down payments, closing costs, taxes, insurance, maintenance and upkeep are significant costs. It may be cheaper for you to rent and renting keeps all of your home equity available for monthly cash flow.
Housing is one of the biggest levers you have for achieving a secure retirement. For most people, their home is more valuable than their retirement savings.
As such, you want to make sure that you have a retirement plan that enables you to model your downsizing options.
The NewRetirement Planner lets you try out different relocation possibilities and immediately see how it impacts your finances now and into the future. You can model downsizing now or at some point in the future. You can also change your monthly expenses for different time periods in retirement.
The more real you can make your future move ahead of it actually happening, the more successful you are likely to be.
Imagine what your new life will be like. Think about all the different things you like to do and imagine doing those things in your new location.
Better yet, spend an extended vacation where you think you would like to move. If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t be afraid to switch plans.
Can’t afford this kind of vacation? Can you arrange a house swap? Or, could you do a short term rental on your current home while you are trying on your new destination?
When making a downsizing for retirement decision, you will want to look at total home ownership costs. If you are downsizing to save money, you need to be careful about your decision making.
Besides the value of your home, you will want to compare all of the other costs associated with where you are now to where you want to be:
You probably don’t want to move to a much smaller house only to find that everything else in your new home and community costs a lot more.
CNN has a cost of living calculator. It allows you to compare your current town to where you want to move and see how your spending would change for: transportation, groceries, utilities and healthcare.
Beyond housing, healthcare and transportation are what will cost you the most in retirement.
Once you have an idea about how your cost of living will change, plug those numbers into the NewRetirement Planner as well to see the impact on your retirement security.
Healthcare deserves special mention. The availability and costs of healthcare and healthcare outcomes are not even across the United States or World.
In fact, within the United States there is a 21 year difference between the counties with the longest average life expectancy (87) and those with the lowest (66). Learn more about how where you live may determine how long you live.
Also explore the best states for healthcare.
If you are moving out of state, you’ll want to compare your current tax situation to the place you will be downsizing for retirement. A few things to think about:
Downsizing for retirement is not the only way to save money on housing.
Get Creative: If you like your current lifestyle, you might want to explore renting out a room in your existing home. Or, is there a way for you to turn a garage or other space into a studio apartment? Renting out your entire home when you travel might be another option.
VRBO and Airbnb are really easy ways to turn your home into income.
Reverse Mortgages: If you want to stay in your existing home, but need to improve your finances, a reverse mortgage may be a good option for you.
For better or worse, many of us get attached to things. One of the most difficult aspects of moving – especially downsizing – is sorting through your possessions and paring down what you own.
A few tips for this difficult task:
One of the biggest complaints people have about retirement is that they miss a regular routine — the way having somewhere to go every day organized their lives.
This can be compounded when you move to a new location — everything is new. Therefore, it is important for you to develop new routines as soon as possible when you move. Set up a regular coffee date, join clubs or volunteer.
You may have planned your move carefully, but watch your budget closely in the first few months after you move. You may be surprised by what you are actually spending.
Be sure to update your retirement plan after a few months in your new location. Compare what you predicted you would spend to what you are actually spending after downsizing for retirement.
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