One of the hallmarks of the American entrepreneurial mentality lies in the familiar saying, “Find a need and fill it.” That’s what a growing number of businesses are doing around the nation as legions of aging baby boomers – and their parents – undertake the daunting task of downsizing and moving. This recent article in the Wall Street Journal caught our attention: it’s called “Ready to Downsize? There’s Plenty of Help.” “Entrepreneurs find there is good money in helping boomers and their parents relocate,” reports the Journal. “Downsizing is becoming big business.”
Obviously moving companies have been around for many decades, but what’s different about today’s growing group of senior movers is their focus on an older clientele. “It’s all about demographics,” says the article. One firm on the East Coast serving the Baltimore-Washington region has been in existence for barely a decade and has grown 50 percent per year since it began in 2006. “There’s more business than we can handle,” company founder Kimberly McMahon reports. Besides the basics of packing up a senior’s belongings and moving, this company (called Let’s Move) helps clients get rid of belongings they no longer need or have room for, and makes sure these clients are comfortable in their new residence, to the extent that they often hang pictures and even make the bed. Let’s Move has served more than 5,500 clients in the past eleven years.
There’s even a trade association called the National Association of Senior Move Managers (or NASMM – their website is here) with over 1,000 members – businesses who last year generated $225 million in total revenue. Another company, called Caring Transitions, is a franchiser of senior relocation services – it has grown since 2006 to 178 franchisees. The demand for these services shows no signs of abating, because the first wave of baby boomers is barely into their 70’s, and their period of downsizing and relocating is still years in the future.
Demographics are the key driver of growth, according to officials from the NASMM, in more ways than one. Not only do today’s 80-year-olds need help with relocation, but their baby boomer kids are often too busy juggling work and family to be able to provide much assistance. “A third-party professional is often the best option to do this kind of work,” says the Journal article, “especially when a relocation becomes necessary due to a crisis. Even under the best of circumstances, it’s a difficult task.” In the words of NASMM executive director Mary Kay Buysse, “Going through a lifetime of possessions and taking a house that’s 2,500 square feet and moving to a 400-square-foot assisted-living community, it’s not easy work. It’s draining for everybody.”
It’s not only the physical work, but also the emotional pitch involved with a senior relocation that often makes it easier to use a third party service. “The stressful emotions can be another reason why many people turn to professionals for help,” says the Wall Street Journal. A qualified and empathetic senior moving company can serve as “a trusted intermediary that can help families avoid friction at a sensitive time,” says one caregiving consultant. Of course, the key word in that description is “trust.” Seniors can be especially vulnerable, especially during a move which can be physically, emotionally and mentally taxing. Companies that belong to the National Association of Senior Move Managers undergo a training program and must pass required tests. NASMM also handles customer complaints through what the Journal article calls “a peer-review commission.” Seniors and their families need to make certain any moving company is bonded and insured, with solid references, positive online reviews, and a clean record with the local Better Business Bureau.
What about the cost? “The service isn’t cheap,” the Wall Street Journal acknowledges. Some companies charge a pre-determined fee while others bill on an hourly rate. According to the Journal, total costs can easily run between $5,000 and $10,000. While that may seem steep, the better companies provide comprehensive service, helping clients decide what to throw away, donate or sell, then packing and moving, and often holding estate sales and preparing the vacant home for sale. The other good news, if you’re moving to a retirement community, is that some of these communities help cover downsizing and relocation services as an enticement to new residents, according to the Journal article. This may be something a prospective resident can negotiate with a senior community to which they’re thinking of moving.
So once you’re ready to move, a relocation service that specializes in the senior market might be a perfect choice for you. However, there’s a deeper question in all this talk about relocation: have you really taken the time to plan carefully for your housing needs in light of all the other critical aspects of your retirement years? Too often people make a poor and hasty housing decision because they haven’t taken a comprehensive look at how housing choices, medical needs, financial security, legal protection and family communication all have to work seamlessly in harmony with each other. You may have all the help in the world to make your move as seamless as possible, but your new dream home can turn into a nightmare if you don’t plan ahead thoroughly and comprehensively.
The answer to this dilemma is a LifePlan from AgingOptions. Only a LifePlan weaves these five threads together so they function interdependently, allowing you to protect your assets as you age, avoid becoming a burden to those you love, and escape the trap of being forced against your will into institutional care. We encourage you to take just a few hours and join Rajiv Nagaich at an upcoming AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. Simply click here for our currently scheduled seminars – then register online or contact us by phone during the week. There’s no cost or obligation whatsoever.
Are you considering a move? The first move you need to make is to join Rajiv at a LifePlanning Seminar soon. Age on!
(originally reported at www.wsj.com)