Downsizing a Baby Boomer from an Empty Nest
Baby boomers who have have completed the task of child-rearing (or are in the home stretch) start to think about that empty nest. Mrs. GoTo and I are semi-empty nesters. We have two sons working and living on their own. The third son is still in college so he still lives with us on breaks and during the summers. But the complete empy nest is in sight.
So Mrs. GoTo and I have started to collectively think and talk about the possibility of downsizing. The downsizing issue involves lots of different factors. These are some of the downsizing factors that we have thought of:
If we are going to downsize, when should that be? Because we still have one child who lives at home part-time, should we wait until he finishes college, finds a job, and is able to support himself in his own place? If we can avoid it, we don’t want to cause son #3 any emotional trauma while he is still in school. Also, we are concerned about the economy. For all anyone can tell now, jobs could be hard to come-by when he graduates. We would like to be still living somewhere that he can feel comfortable staying and saving money until his employment status is stable.
Another factor in the “when should we downsize” analysis is real estate valuations. Should we wait until home values in our area rebound to pre-2008 levels? Or is that a non-issue because anything we purchase in a downsized home will also have appreciated? Our hope and plan is to have enough cash from the sale of our present home that we will not need a mortgage on our downsized home. This takes interest rates out of the equation.
Where should we downsize? We have no desire to experience the trouble and expense of selling our present home, moving to a downsized home, and then having to do it again in a few years. That could happen, for example, if our sons marry, relocate to some other part of the country, and then we feel the urge to move closer. Or, we may decide on our own that a different geographic environment is more to our liking when we are no longer tied to where I work.
One unique aspect of our “where to downsize” decision is my wife’s horse. She is very attached to it so we need to live somewhere close to a pasture where the horse can live. I suspect that other baby boomers may have location issues that are similarly unique to them.
Another downsize location concern is that we already own a vacation home that we intend to keep. Right now we are only 90 minutes away from our lake house. I would hope that any downsizing decision we make would not take us farther away.
So, our first downsize location decision will be an important one.
What kind of downsized home would suit us? Do we look only at detached single family homes? (That lawn care issue raises its ugly head!) Do we consider an active adult community where exterior yard maintenance is included? How about a condo, with no yard at all? Maybe a rental until we know what our long term future is? This is a very difficult issue for us because we have lived in a traditional single family home with a yard, etc. since 1980.
Although not an issue for us right now, some baby boomers may have concerns about caring for elderly parents. If there is no long term care insurance available, caring for your parents in your home may be the best or preferred option. Thus, a downsize decision needs to consider the possibility of needing room to care for a dependent relative.
Can we downsize in expense as well as size? Many of the residential communities that I see promoting themselves to baby boomers and empty nesters feature smaller homes but larger prices. Luxuries and amenities abound. Condominiums are notorious for this on our area, with selling prices running as high as $300-$400 per square foot. Right now, I have no interest in trading down our larger house for a smaller residence with a larger price tag.
What to do with all of our stuff? Part of the trauma of downsizing is realizing that you have accumulated too much furniture and other items to fit into a smaller home. A lot of this “stuff” falls into the “memories” category. So first there is the emotional decision that some of it has to go. Then comes the practical part of actually getting rid of it – yard sales, junk yards, giving it to our children. Even though I am tired owning and maintaining so much stuff, I don’t like even thinking about the process of disposing of it.
What about household pets? Like many baby boomers and retirees, we have pets that we have become quite attached to. These are two black labs. Although they are house dogs, they need a yard or other convenient outdoor space where they can exercise and take care of their dog business. It is unlikely that we would make a downsize decision that would not accommodate and consider our dogs.
These are some of the downsizing and retirement living issues that we are considering. What about you?
Photo credit: Luis Alves
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