Housing in Retirement: A Look Into The Decision

Gary Silverman, CFP® |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

Last week we looked at the trend for retirees to stay in their homes rather than downsizing to smaller places at or near retirement. The end of the article morphed a bit to a discussion of some other housing options. This was in preparation for today’s chat about my personal journey to my current residence.  A few points: Focus on the process, not too much on the specific decisions. Also, although I often use the singular “I” in this retelling, I shared most of this process with my beloved wife. When you are in the place to make the same decisions, you’ll be taking other people in your life into account, as well.

As I’ll be celebrating my 62nd birthday this year, the question of where we’d live from now until we’re dead was getting to be more current than future. While I had considered this question for decades (I am a planner, after all), it was time for some decisions.

I figured that the next house would be smaller, but not necessarily less expensive than our current one as we wanted a few upgrades. This led to the questions of what exactly we wanted in a home, how small is small, and whether we wanted to spend more than the return on our current home.

If you want to downsize in cost or upscale dramatically to a dream home, you’ll need to ask similar questions. It might even involve where in the country (or the world) you want to live. The more consideration done at this stage, the less likely you will be drawn to a home or town’s pleasing exterior and forget to consider what living in it 24 hours a day on your budget will really be like.

I had one nice attribute of our then current home…it was paid off. That gave me the option of buying the new home, updating anything I wanted to, moving, and then selling the old place. That way if something fell through on the purchase, we wouldn’t be scrambling for a place to live nor would we have to worry about the sale of the current home falling apart right before closing on a new property.

But just because I could do this didn’t mean I didn’t consider another possibility: Sell, rent for a while, travel a lot (easier to do when there’s not a house to take care of), then buy and settle down a bit. While we were only semi-seriously considering this, I did start checking around at what kinds of rentals were available, from duplexes to apartments to downtown lofts.

There are some really cool places that exist right here in Wichita Falls. Quite a few older downtown structures have been or are being converted into residential living places. Living in historic icons with upscaled interiors and just a short walk from a myriad of activities was tempting.

But first the questions: Will the residences fit our stuff, our lifestyle, our personalities, and our budget? That’s what I’ll examine next week.

Gary Silverman, CFP® is the founder of Personal Money Planning, LLC, a Wichita Falls retirement planning and investment management firm and author of Real World Investing