Is it time to downsize your life?

I’m a boomer–some say a boomer-in-denial–and proud of it!  As a demographic group, we have been a force to be reckoned with our whole lives, and will continue to be for probably another 30-40 years.  The oldest boomers will begin to turn 65 in 2011!    Millions more of us will hit that milestone every year through 2029!  We’re going to be around for awhile and Gen X, Gen Y, Millenials, and those who come after will have to deal with us and our challenges as we age.

One thing that we will all have to deal with is our housing.  There are a myriad of issues surrounding that, but I want to focus on one that many of us are ready to really think about–downsizing.  And by downsizing, I mean our lives and our lifestyles.

The recent economic downturn has hit many boomers hard where it hurts the most–in our pocketbooks!  Many have seen their retirement savings dramatically reduced or wiped out.  Most of us who own homes have seen the value of our homes take a dive–how badly depends a great deal on your local market.  Many of us are finding ourselves with empty nests–I count myself in that category!  Some have health concerns which cannot be ignored.  What to do??

One thing to consider is downsizing. When my last chick left the nest for college, I found myself in a big house all by myself with 3 kitties for company!  I had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a formal living, and formal dining room that were just really functioning as spaces to put furniture in.  They were not in use on a daily basis.  My activities were mostly confined to the family/TV room, breakfast room, laundry room, kitchen, and master bedroom/bath.  But I was paying to heat, air condition, and maintain all that extra space, as well as a big yard and landscaping that got little to no use.  The solution?  Sell this big house and find something smaller!

I did that, and bought a smaller house in the same general area of town.  I’ve loved my smaller lifestyle!  It’s just so much easier!  Do I miss my old house?  Sometimes.  During the holidays when I have 1 or more family members visiting, those extra bedrooms and bathrooms would sure be handy.  But not enough to pay all year long for 2-3 nights of convenience!   When I was debating whether to sell my formal dining room furniture, my son provided the reality check I needed!  “Really, Mom, why do you want to keep something we only use once or twice a year??”   Good point!  I took a picture of it and sold it!  Now, when I miss it, I just look up the picture and enjoy fond memories.

So, how about you or someone you love?  Is it time to start the downsizing process?   Here are just a few of the decisions you will have to consider.

1. Rent or buy? So many things factor into that decision!  Your budget, your lifestyle, your health.  Do you have pets you love?  Many rental properties do not allow pets or restrict their number and/or breed and/or size.  How about your budget?  Renting may save you money on taxes, maintenance, insurance–you’ll need to take a good look at your numbers to determine that.  How’s your health?  Are you able to live independently and take care of things on your own or do you need assistance?  Will you be able to take care of cleaning and other maintenance on your own and will your budget allow you to hire work out if necessary?  How about your hobbies and interests?  Do you like to travel?  Renting may allow you to just pack and go when you want to.    There are other things to consider, but these will be major factors.

2. Less space I think this is one of the biggest concerns many people have about downsizing–what to do with all my stuff? There are lots of ways to reduce your accumulations–I’ll do a post on that in the next few days!  But the basic premise is this–stuff is stuff!  It can be replaced, and you don’t need everything you’ve ever owned!  I bet most all of us could get rid of at least half of what we own and never miss it!   So think about what you have in your current home–do you use it all the time or just once in awhile?  Or do you just keep it around to remind you of somethng you did or someplace you went 20,30,40 years ago???  Take a picture of it and get rid of it!  Too much “stuff” can be a burden, and besides, it’s expensive to move it and store it!

3. What about my current home? Should you sell it, give it to your kids, keep it and use it for a rental property?  There’s no right answer, of course.  It all depends on your particular situation, but whatever you think about doing, seek professional advice from your financial advisor, your attorney, your family, and a real estate professional so you are fully aware of the pros and cons of your options.

There are other things to consider and your ultimate decision will depend so much on the details of your particular situation.  This is definitely NOT a one-size-fits-all decision!   But it is a decision we will all have to make eventually, and by starting to think about these different factors now, you will feel less overwhelmed when the time comes to finally take action.

I hope you’ll find your decision as rewarding and empowering as I have!  As a matter of fact, I’ve started to think about whether it’s time to do it again!  Good luck, and contact me if I can help!

All the best!