10 tips for successful downsizing in retirement

Embrace this new phase of life.

  • By Melody Juge,
  • MarketWatch
  • Budgeting
  • Financial Planning
  • Living in Retirement
  • Budgeting
  • Financial Planning
  • Living in Retirement
  • Budgeting
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  • Living in Retirement
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When planning for retirement one of the primary decisions every retiree has to make is where to live. Will you stay in your current home or will you move?

For most retirees, downsizing is the probable option.

Evaluating where you want to live and how you want to live during retirement can take years of thoughtful consideration. There are many questions to be asked and answered: do you want to live in the same community, will you move to be closer to family and friends, would you be more comfortable with a different style of home, how much space will you require, are you aiming to lower your taxes, maintenance and long term affordability?

Also consider access to quality medical care and choosing an environment that offers convenient, effortless living.

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. Don't wait. A move at age 70+ will not be easier than a move at age 65.

To help you get into the moving mind-set here are 10 tips for successful downsizing in retirement:

1. Deciding where you want to live

Will you stay in your community, will you be moving to another town to be close to family or friends? This requires much communication. I have clients who executed a cross-country move only to find that their daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren upped and moved away 14 months after they arrived — their son-in-law was offered substantial career advancement on the other side of the country.

If you are thinking about retiring to one of the many well-advertised retirement communities/cities in another part of the country, be sure to take an extended trip and check out all the perceived advantages of life in the new area. Make sure that the offerings are compatible to your expectations and lifestyle before you make the move.

2. Downsizing

Getting rid of all those things you have collected over the years can be emotionally challenging. Don't assume that your children want your stuff. Be sure to ask first. Gifting items to others or donating to your favorite charity is a way to repurpose useful things that you no longer need. Be sure to obtain receipts when making charitable donations; no matter how small, this will serve you well at tax time.

Remember, your donation receipts have to be itemized, dated and signed by the charity. As added proof of your deductible donations, in preparation for tax time, I recommend taking photos to go along with your itemized list.

3. Creating a system that will make your efforts organized and manageable

Downsizing is often easier if done over time. As a suggestion; go through the house labeling each item with a colored sticker. For example: 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. For valuable collectibles that you no longer have use for consider contacting an auction house.

4. Choosing a real-estate agent

Hire a real-estate agent that is willing to work with you on the timing of the sale and the staging of your current residence for the best possible price. Some retirees I have visited with have had disappointing results simply because they did not pick the appropriate agent.

5. Packing all those boxes

Use smaller boxes and be detailed in your labeling. Create a complete description of what is inside each box and securely adhere the label to the box. For example, let's say you are packing books; your label on the outside of the box should tell you what books are on the inside; cook books, craft books, picture books, novels etc.

Additionally, create a large label for each box identifying what room it belongs in; kitchen, pantry, master-bedroom, guest room, den, home office, garage, attic etc.

6. Hiring the movers

Cheaper is not necessarily better. When researching your best mover option be detailed in what your requirements are and thoroughly understand exactly what you are paying for; put every detail in the written contract.

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.

7. Labeling the rooms

Prior to moving into your new residence label each room with bold signs that coordinate with the larger labeling on your boxes: kitchen, pantry, master bedroom, guest room, home office, garage, attic etc.

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. The more definitive your instructions and the more organized you are the better your results will be.

8. Renovate first

If possible, have renovations such as new carpeting, window cleaning, window treatments, floor resurfacing, deep cleaning etc. done in your new residence before your move in day.

Lay plastic or paper on the floor in each room and give instructions to the movers that they place the boxes related to the room on the plastic/paper. This will help keep things tidy and organized as you begin to unpack, room by room.

9. Make a moving-day-emergency-kit for when you get to the new house

Have 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, markers in red and black and pad of paper.

Plus, invest in a few nightlights to place in the bathroom and hallways in your new home; these will serve you well until you get settled and have adapted to your new layout.

10. Don't push yourself, stay within your budget and make it fun

Be sure to keep your car filled up with gas; if you are moving to a new area it may take some time to get acquainted with the location and hours of operation of various services.

Your new home will be your nest for many decades to come and it represents new beginnings as you embark on your retirement journey. It is your time now. Enjoy the ride.

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