Should You Downsize in Retirement?

Make sure downsizing is right for you before you take the leap.

Let’s face it: the word downsizing often conjures up images of loss or failure. But what if the definition of downsizing in retirement really means a step up: freedom from hassles and overhead with the flexibility to do and be more of what you want in this next stage of your life?

Here are five things to consider before you put up the “for sale” sign:

1. Take the long view. The average retiree can spend 20+ years in retirement. Chances are your housing needs will change more than once along the way. Don’t worry about what you may need when you’re 90. Think about what you and your spouse/partner both want and can afford for the next phase of your lives.

2. Dream big. Have you always dreamed of living in a vibrant city or maybe in an ageless college town? Is country-club living or an island paradise on your radar? Put together a checklist of “must haves,” “nice to haves” and “definitely don’t wants.” Then see if downsizing adds up to the best fit for both of you.

3. Take a test drive. Once you have an idea where and what your new home wants and needs might be, try it on for size. Rent a house or apartment similar in size, style and location to that which you envision for your future through Airbnb (or another site) for a week or two. Feel free to experiment with a few different possibilities.

4. Work in retirement? If working is part of your retirement plan, make sure you live close to work opportunities that appeal to you. And, if being an entrepreneur is part of your plan (working retirees are now three times more likely than pre-retirees to be entrepreneurs), you might want a functional working office in your new home.

5. Family ties. The statistics tell the story: Many adult children boomerang back home at some point. Other considerations are proximity to current or future grandchildren, or ability to help out elderly parents. Think about your family connections over the next decade and factor that into your analysis of your home needs for your next phase.

These steps are a good starting place to determine if downsizing can peel away a layer of worry and responsibility while adding a whole new feeling of liberation.

Maddy Dychtwald is an author and co-founder of Age Wave, a think tank and consultancy.

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