Retirement Planning: Our Best Tips for Finding Your “Forever” Home
What comes to mind when you hear the term retirement planning? Probably determining how you will pay for your final decades on the planet. What is not often discussed is where you’re going to live those decades out. But this is arguably almost as important to consider in your planning efforts.
Retirement Planning: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
One good place to start: do you want to stay in your current home? If so, you’re not alone. A recent AARP survey found 76% of adults 50 and over intend to remain in their existing home as long as possible. i
If that’s the case, you should plan for that event. Here’s the problem: most renovations are done purely for aesthetics. Too often, people later encounter a health problem and are forced to move because their home is not wheelchair or walker-friendly.
So if your plan is to stay, consider some renovations now to make the home age-proof. That could include ensuring that the main floor has all the living spaces you need, widening hallways and adding ramps or safety equipment to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. You can also look to install an elevator to make the entire house accessible if, at some point, you cannot use the stairs.
Get Help from Aging-in-Place Specialists
With an estimated 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, modifying homes for aging is big business. ii The sheer numbers involved have created resources that previously weren’t available. The National Association of Home Builders, for example, maintains a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program. You can find professionals in your area online at nahb.org/nahb-community/nahb-directories/local-associations-directory.
Want to Go? Find the Right Spot
On the other hand, maybe you’re ready to start fresh. You might want to go somewhere warmer, cheaper or closer to your grandkids.
If that’s the case, be sure to do your research. Moving is expensive, not to mention unpleasant. If you make a mistake, it can be costly on many levels.
Many retirees think they will love living in Florida since they vacation there every year. But living somewhere and vacationing there are two very different things. Is the local vibe what you are looking for? Are there like-minded people nearby that are easy to meet? Do you have close access to the activities, entertainment and dining you like most?
All these things matter. And unfortunately, many of those are not easy to discover on a short trip. That’s why I recommend that you rent in that location for a month. It’s easy with Airbnb these days. You can often find a home that’s right in the area you’re targeting.
Then, do everything you usually do: grocery shopping, exercise, dining out. If you’re a walker or biker, put the local trails or walkways to the test. If you like golf, hit the course as well as the driving range a few times to get a sense of the people you’ll encounter. If you like coffee shops, go spend some time in local ones and strike up some conversations. Check meetup.com and meet the local hiking group (or whatever interest you have).
Be sure to consider the seasonal aspect. If you were no longer a tourist there, would all those visitors drive you crazy as a local? If you are looking at a ski community, make sure you’re prepared for the winter and mud season as well as the summers.
Finally, check out the local healthcare resources since you may need more of them down the road.
Put it to The Test
After you decide on a town, you need to pick a location. This can require some care too, as different neighborhoods can provide a very different experience.
My favorite tip? Pick a walkable area. You won’t want to be driving everywhere as you age. Walking is healthy and will keep you younger.
Think about small things too: how close is the grocery store? What is the availability of local services such as lawn care and handyman services? How easy is it to travel from that location or for loved ones to visit you?
Pick the Right Home
Then, be sure to pick the right house or condominium that will serve you well in your later years. For example, choose a single-story house or find one with the master bedroom on the main floor. Or, find a house you love and plan to renovate and add those accessibility features mentioned earlier in this article.
Another solution growing in popularity is to opt for 55 and older communities that offer built-in support systems. Those can simplify your life later with easy access to specialized services that can make life easier. Plus, you’ll have a community of peers in your age group, making meeting new people and establishing friends that much easier.
Invest the Time to Avoid Expensive Mistakes
Yes, it’s a fair amount of work and it is a very difficult decision. But consider this: making the wrong choice repeatedly can be one of the most expensive retirement planning mistakes. It happens more often than you’d think. A recent Wall Street Journal article chronicled the journeys of retirees who had miscalculated and moved multiple times. The financial impact is high between commissions, seller’s costs, market changes, and moving costs. That doesn’t even take into account the sheer hassle of multiple moves. Few in their 50’s and 60’s want to consider the possible accessibility issues they could face later in life, but nobody wants to move in their 80’s due to poor planning decades earlier.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to retirement planning than just numbers. So invest the time to figure out where your forever home should be. That way, you can spend your golden years having fun…not boxing up your stuff and moving again.
Questions and Consultations
If you have questions or if you’d like to schedule an appointment to discuss your finances, contact us today.
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