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Get Your "House" in Order Before You Retire

Get Your "House" in Order Before You Retire

| August 07, 2019
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“Does this spark joy?”

Millions of people these days are asking themselves this question about their homes and possessions thanks to Marie Kondo and her wildly popular decluttering book, “The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

Once the kids are moved out, it’s just you, your spouse, and whatever is still boxed up in extra bedrooms, the garage and the basement. Whether you’re looking for joy, a more aging-friendly environment or just a little less space and stuff to manage, you might be thinking about decluttering and “downsizing” into a smaller home before you retire.

But sometimes, less can be more: more hassle, more complicated and more expensive. Before you and your spouse order that roll-off dumpster and make a down payment on that condo down the hill or in Costa Rica, consider these important pros and cons of downsizing.

PRO: Make a Change While You Can Still Enjoy It

The younger you are during a downsize, the less help you’re going to need clearing out what you don’t want and relocating. And a clean, organized home can be a great “blank slate” as you start easing into your new life. You may want to relocate closer to grandkids, to a state with no income tax, or to a walkable community with recreation facilities and great restaurants.

CON: You Might Make a Change You Don’t Both Enjoy

Couples need to be very clear with each other about their expectations for what life is going to be like in retirement, and how each of you want to spend your time separately and together. A downsizing that moves you to a new community, away from friends, family and familiar comforts, can go from exciting to exasperating very quickly if both spouses aren’t committed to the adventure. One spouse might be happily teeing off or surfing, while the other is back in the empty house lonely and bored.

And while a smaller house without kids and clutter might mean more room for you and your spouse, it’s still going to be closer quarters than you’re used to. Is less  space going to provide you both with enough personal space?

PRO: Simplified Living

A smaller home means less upkeep. If you buy, you’ll probably pay less in taxes than you did at your larger house, although this may be tempered by your loss of the Colorado senior homestead exemption, which forgives half the property taxes on the first $200,000 of your home value. With less space to heat and cool,and no kids soaking up extra water, food and  electricity, your monthly bills will likely go down. If your smaller house is relatively new, it should require less upkeep and age well right along with you.

CON: Simple Isn’t Free

There’s a pretty good chance your current furniture isn’t going to fit or fit in at your new house. Our old stuff’s value is often mostly sentimental, so you’ll probably end up dipping into your nest egg to buy  new furnishings. Anything you don’t want to get rid of, you’re going to have to store, either in that beautiful, empty basement, or at a storage facility you’ll have to pay for. Your smaller home might come with higher taxes, depending on where you end up. What you save on taxes buying a condo might be offset by association and communal maintenance fees.

PRO: Living the Best Life Possible With Your Money

The best reason to consider downsizing doesn’t really have anything to do with decluttering. It’s not about managing space or what to do with all your possessions.

No, the reason to downsize is because that smaller home you’re thinking about will allow you to live the life you want to live in retirement. It’s because that home is going to give you the space to do the things you want to do with the people you love, while minimizing the things you don’t want to do anymore.

Does that idea spark joy?

Then let’s talk. Come in and tell us why you’re thinking about downsizing. We’ll run some numbers and discuss how a new, smaller home could open a big new world of possibilities for you and your spouse. 

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