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If You’re Thinking of Downsizing for Retirement Living, Plan Ahead and Do it Right

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Downsizing – moving into that smaller, better-organized, better-located retirement residence that’s just right for you as you age – is a popular topic these days. We’ve presented dozens of articles here on the AgingOptions blog about where and why to downsize. But here’s an article we’ve found on the MarketWatch website that we think does a good job of telling readers how to downsize. If downsizing is on your Retirement To-Do list, this article is a helpful place to start.

(We do offer one important caveat, however. This article talks about choosing to downsize, and it does a good job, but when it comes to retirement planning your housing choice is just one element. We urge you not to undertake a potentially costly move without making your decision as part of a comprehensive LifePlan. Read on and we’ll explain below.)

Downsizing: Definitely Not a Spur-of-the-Moment Decision

“When planning for retirement one of the primary decisions every retiree has to make is where to live,” writes MarketWatch columnist and financial planner Melody Juge. “Will you stay in your current home or will you move? For most retirees, downsizing is the probable option.” When done properly, the decision on when, where and how to move into a well-selected and well-designed living space takes “years of thoughtful consideration,” Juge says. Retirees typically evaluate a long list of questions: how much do you like the community in which you’ve been living? How important is it to be close to family and friends? How expensive is the community to which you’re moving? Will the medical care you need – or might need – be readily available and covered by your insurance plan? These questions are just the beginning.

The timing of your move can also be a critically important issue, says MarketWatch. “Downsizing and moving during retirement is a massive undertaking but with the proper planning can turn out to be a productive, life enhancing adventure. If you know that you will be selling your current home and moving to a more suitable residence for your retirement years, the sooner you make the decision and start the process the more manageable it will be for you.” Here at AgingOptions we agree with this advice, because we’ve talked with hundreds of seniors who waited too long to move, only to find the process much harder than it might have been if they had acted sooner. We echo the article’s advice: “Don’t wait. A move at age 70+ will not be easier than a move at age 65.”

Getting Into the Downsizing Mindset with These 10 Tips

Author Melody Juge offers her ten downsizing tips “to help you get in to the moving mindset,” as she puts it. Indeed, these suggestions might be a good place to start the conversation if you and your spouse find the whole idea of moving just a bit overwhelming. We’ll briefly share these ten tips, but we suggest you read the MarketWatch article for the details. There’s also a group called the National Association of Senior Move Managers whose members might be a helpful resource. You can search their membership database by zip code.

  • Choosing Your New Location: “This requires much communication” between you and your loved ones, says Before you make a major move, try visiting for an extended stay, and make certain you’re moving for the right reasons. For example, don’t assume your favorite vacation town is a great place to live. Also, don’t move to be near family if it’s likely they might end up being relocated due to job demands.
  • The Downsizing Process: Be prepared for emotional and physical challenges as you begin to purge. You should expect that some of your “treasures” may end up being donated to charity, so keep careful records, including photos of larger or more valuable donations, for the IRS.
  • Organizing and Managing: This idea from MarketWatch is worth a try – label your items with a colored sticker: “white to keep, blue to give to charity, yellow to gift to children or friends, red to toss and green to sell. Make an effort to embark on this process far enough in advance of your move so you have the time to change your mind — back and forth — as you decide what to keep or what to purge.”
  • Choosing a Real Estate Agent: Having the right agent can make all the difference in the sale of your home and the purchase of a new one. Take your time and choose wisely.
  • Packing it All Up: We’ve all made this mistake before! Use smaller boxes, and label them in detail, using a large, easy-to-read label. Clearly indicate which room the box goes to.
  • Hiring a Mover: An important reminder from MarketWatch: “The people at the moving company who you make the initial arrangements with are usually not the same folks that will be arriving on moving day to do the actual move.” Make sure you put everything in writing as part of your moving contract to avoid costly surprises later.
  • Labelling Your New Rooms: Each room in your new home should have a large sign that matches the label on the box. “Do not assume that the folks moving you will be thinking of careful placement of your boxes as they deliver them into your new home,” says the article. The more specific your instructions, the better your results will be.
  • Renovate and Remodel First: Planning new paint, new carpet, new window coverings or some other upgrades? Do them first, before moving day. Trying to paint and move at the same time is a recipe for mess and frustration.
  • Your Moving-Day Emergency Kit: We think this is a great idea from MarketWatch. Before moving day, assemble items you might need: a box opener, lightbulbs, extension cord, shelf paper, bathroom tissue, paper towels, hand soap, screwdriver, scissors, flash light, charging cord for your phones and laptop, felt tip markers, a yellow pad, and even a few nightlights to place in the bathroom and hallways. You’ll be ready for almost anything.
  • Time to Adjust: Cut yourself plenty of slack as you adjust to your new locale, and keep up a spirit of adventure. “Your new home will be your nest for many decades to come and it represents new beginnings as you embark on your retirement journey,” says MarketWatch. “It is your time now. Enjoy the ride.”

Housing is Just One Part of the Retirement Picture

As we said above, housing is a critical component of a good retirement plan, but it’s only a part of an overall strategy. You need to prepare yourself financially so you don’t outlive your money. Then there’s medical insurance and everything that pertains to preserving your health and planning for long-term care. You need to protect yourself and your loved ones with a sound legal framework. Then there’s a step many retirees overlook: you need to communicate carefully with your family to make certain they understand your wishes and will support them. The only retirement planning tool we know of that does all this is a LifePlan from AgingOptions.

If you’re ready for a fresh approach to retirement planning, we invite you to join Rajiv Nagaich of AgingOptions at a free LifePlanning Seminar, an information-packed few hours where many of your questions will be answered. Visit our Live Events page for a calendar of upcoming seminars, then register for the event of your choice. You’ll be very glad you did. Age on!

(originally reported at

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