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Retirement: Is it time to start downsizing?

Before you decide to downsize your lifestyle, make sure you have a clear vision of what you want.

By Carla Seely, Vice President of Pension and Investments, Freisenbruch-Meyer Group.

Imagine that glorious day when your children have grown into adults and the “Bank of Mum and Dad“ has FINALLY closed for good.

Now imagine your house is free of clutter, you have a nice healthy balance in your pension and investments and, most importantly, you just handed in your notice at work because you are ready to retire!

For most of us, that is the vision when starting retirement; however, a lot of us who own a home haven’t really thought about what we are going to do with our home as we get older. It is important for this “big picture” to create a plan about how you intend to deal with the family homestead while you are of sound mind and body.

You may find that, like a lot of couples who become “empty nesters”, the large family home where you raised your children is simply too big for two people. In addition, you may find that the large family home is costing you too much in maintenance and taking up more of your time than you would like. It might make more sense for you to start looking at different accommodation. Before you make a decision to adjust your living arrangements, you should think about the pros and cons, making sure that any change you make will continue to fit your lifestyle.

What does downsizing involve? It may mean selling your existing house and buying something smaller with less upkeep, or it could simply involve reducing the number of belongings you have accumulated.

Let’s first look at reviewing your possessions and matching them to your new lifestyle. Downsizing can be a scary thought, but if you think about what you really use in your home on a daily or weekly basis, it amounts to a fraction of what is in your home. There is nothing worse than a home cluttered with unused furniture and a whole lot of crappy knick-knacks that your children laugh at when they come to visit.

Where do you start in downsizing your belongings? Why not start with the areas of the house you are currently not using and work on removing large items first. I have found that the easiest way to start the downsizing process is to use differently coloured stickers to mark what you want to keep, what special pieces you want to offer family and friends, and what you want to sell or throw away.

Once you downsize your belongings, you may discover that the family homestead is a little too big for one or two people. If that is the case, then downsizing your home makes the most sense.

There are many options available:

  • Moving to a condo or townhouse.
  • Moving to a retirement village.
  • Renovating your house to better fit your lifestyle, perhaps creating an apartment on the side of the house which you can move into and then renting out the larger house.

There are plenty of options for condos and townhouses on the island. Working with a realtor to help you with that search once you have determined your requirements would be your first step.

If you are looking at a retirement village, then you will need to look off the island as currently that type of facility is not available in Bermuda. Once you have decided where you would like to reside
geographically, then you can start your search for a retirement village.

A retirement village is different from a nursing home. A retirement village is a community-based
lifestyle that suits different types of people and which incorporates recreational facilities, restaurants and cafés. The residences within the community are either condos or semi-detached cottages that are within walking or golf-cart distance to a main lodge. A retirement village feels more like a holiday resort that captures the next chapter in your life as opposed to the traditional perception of the final chapter in your life.

Now before you say anything further, it’s not your obligation to pass along your homestead to the next generation – it is your choice. But if you choose to, then make sure you have enough money to cover all the expenses that will be incurred by owning it. You are going to need to save extra during your working years to be able to keep up your homestead during your retirement years. I always suggest, if you can afford it, to put extra away in your pension each month through voluntary contributions: that way, when you reach retirement, you will have more money to allocate for these additional expenses.

At the end of the day, before you decide to downsize your lifestyle, make sure you have a clear vision of what you want and what you need to do in order to achieve it. You can’t turn back once you have sold the family homestead or downsized your possessions.

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