How to Rightsize Your Retirement

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Articles, Uncategorized

About a third of Americans between ages 50 and 64 plan to move within the next five years or so, according to a survey by the Demand Institute. Some baby boomers – especially those who have been renting all their lives or who never moved up from their starter house – actually plan to spend more on their homes in retirement. But more often than not, the baby boomer move will involve downsizing. They will trade in the old family home for smaller digs, perhaps in a less expensive neighborhood.

Putting the old house on the market and clearing out decades worth of possessions can involve a lot of work and emotional unrest. Many people who do not plan to move actually cite their overwhelming amount of possessions as a significant reason they are staying put. But there are enormous benefits to cleaning out the clutter and changing to a simpler lifestyle. It helps to think of a move not as downsizing, which suggests sacrifice, but as a liberating choice that points us toward a less stressful and more rewarding lifestyle.

But whether we’re moving across town, across the country or not moving at all, we shouldn’t let our future lives be weighed down by our past commitments or former obligations. The best solution, for all of us, is not necessarily to downsize or upsize, but to rightsize. We should choose a home, neighborhood and lifestyle that allows us to pursue our true dreams in retirement.

Here are a few suggestions inspired by a new book by Kathy Gottberg, “RightSizing: A Smart Living 365 Guide to Reinventing Retirement”. She also blogs at Smart Living 365 about making “conscious choices for a better lifestyle that more closely fits your new needs in retirement.”

Step off the keep up with the Joneses treadmill. Some of us have our self-esteem wrapped up in the size of our house or how fashionable our neighborhood is. But at this point in our lives, we should be beyond such superficial comparisons. It’s not what you have that’s so important, but what you do. So stop trying to impress your friends and neighbors, and start enjoying life as you want to live it.

More freedom in your life. A smaller home brings lower house payments in terms of taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance. It also means less clutter, less work and less stress. Maybe you can even get your new home without a mortgage. The money you save on your home can be used to finance the things you like to do, whether it’s travel, a new hobby, helping out your children and grandchildren or shoring up your retirement savings.

More time to do the things you want. The bigger the house, the more maintenance you have to do. The more stuff you have, the more you have to clean, store, fix and find. Once you rightsize your life for your new stage – with no kids, no job, no obligations – you can spend your time doing the things you enjoy. You no longer take care of things for other people, but have the time and energy to pursue your own interests and passions.

A more friendly neighborhood. If you give up the big suburban yard for a little patch of cityscape, what you lose in lawn maintenance you gain in convenience. It saves time and it’s more fun to walk to the corner to get your morning coffee and hook up to wi-fi, compared to climbing in the car and fighting traffic for 15 minutes to do the same thing. Also, many people benefit from a closer-knit community, and develop more friends when they’re walking the dog in the neighborhood or frequenting a local restaurant rather than ranging over miles of suburban highways. One caveat: If you’re sensitive to noise or bothered by the idiosyncrasies of nearby neighbors, maybe your smaller home should be in the country, not the city.

You have everything you need, and nothing you don’t want. The key to rightsizing is to stop living for other people and to live for yourself. Stop putting off happiness for some later date, and start living the life you’ve always dreamed of right now. You are no longer tied to a job and an office, so you don’t need to live within commuting distance to work. You can go to the seashore, the mountains, a small city or large metropolis, or even to a foreign country. Rightsizing means keeping the things that are important to you, shedding everything that has become a burden and focusing on the things that enhance your current and future life.