Downsizing 101 for Seniors
You’ve decided to downsize. Congratulations! Whether you are downsizing into a completely new home, decluttering your current humble abode, or downsizing an area of your life completely unrelated to real estate such as finances, this is a chance to start a whole new chapter in your life that many report to be marvelously liberating. It doesn’t take much to start the process, but it can be overwhelming. The key is in the planning so that you are able to enjoy your golden years to the fullest.
Finding Your New Home
Before you take the plunge and pick out your new home, be sure to do your research into whether your retirement savings will fund your downsizing, or if you’ll need to find additional sources of financial support, even outside of a mortgage. It’s exciting to house hunt, but it’s important to make sure you’re only looking for places within your budget! When it comes to shopping for a mortgage, a worthwhile option to look into is a conventional loan if you’re still working. By taking out this type of loan, you can avoid having to pay for mortgage insurance. However, you will need proof of income and good credit (generally a credit score above 620).
Your current house made sense for you when you bought it, but now it’s time to find a home that makes sense for you today.Make a list of what works for you in your current home, what doesn’t work, and how you’d like to see yourself living in the future, whether that’s closer to your grandchildren or living in a warmer climate.
If mobility is an issue, you’ll only want to focus on single-story homes.If you’d love to say goodbye to mowing the lawn but don’t like condo or apartment living, you may want to consider a patio home. These are detached or semi-detached homes that often have amenities like pools and tennis courts, and outside maintenance is typically provided. Consider that down the road, you may prefer walking to your nearest store or doctor’s office rather than driving 20 miles.
If you’re thinking of moving to a new town, spend a few nights there first. It’s better to get a feel for where you might be living before taking the plunge.
What to Do with a Lifetime of Stuff
You can downsize your home without actually moving. It’s what is referred to as de-cluttering. You’ve collected a lot of stuff over the years, but purging and getting organized can create a calming environment, not to mention free up space so you don’t have to have a junk room. Sorting through all your belongings is hard, both physically and emotionally. Here are some tips from professional organizer Sara Getzkin, who has appeared on TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive:”
- Don’t try to tackle too much at once. Getzkin tells her clients, “Let’s carve out three hours and see what we get done. Then, you are going to rest and not even think about this.”
- Prepare three bags or boxes and label them “Keep,” “Toss,” and “Sell/Donate.”Put away what’s in your “Keep” pile at the end of the day and throw out what’s in your “Toss” pile.
What about all the nostalgic items, like your children’s art projects or report cards? Psychology Today suggests photographing them. By taking pictures of them, you can still have them on hand. Once you’ve taken the photos, add them to your computer in a folder called “Nostalgia.”
Take Control of Your Finances
Retirement is the big goal we are all saving up and planning for. Whether you are getting close or have already retired, this doesn’t mean your financial planning should cease entirely. Financial security is a lifetime goal, and one you will need to work at even during your golden years. Take a look at how much you have saved up and determine how much you can withdraw each year without using it up completely. Now is the time when you are free to travel and try out new hobbies, but don’t forget that you may need some extra funds set aside for future medical bills, home renovations to age in place, or assisted living. With all that free time, maybe you could explore a side gig such as woodworking or painting to make some extra cash to ease your mind and fund the fun times. If you haven’t done so already, partner up with a financial advisor who can offer you an objective opinion and expert tips on navigating your senior years. A second set of eyes can prevent you from making a costly, irreversible mistake.
Following these tips will help your downsizing feel like a step up. With some extra planning, you can successfully downsize your home, items, and/or finances with ease. Then, you can truly enjoy your golden years, minus the unnecessary stress.
Guest Post by Michael Lonsdon