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Downsizing as an Empty Nester

Downsizing as an Empty Nester
Downsizing as an Empty Nester

For now, your job is done. You’ve given your kids the wings to fly the coop and begin building their own lives.

Whether they’ve left for college, moved to another state for a job, or are ready to marry and start a family, you have graduated to the empty-nester phase of life.

This next chapter can offer many opportunities, but it may also involve some difficult decisions, such as whether to downsize your family home. Although it can be hard to leave behind all those memories, it may also have a huge positive impact on your finances and lifestyle—and lead to an exciting new beginning.

Older couple moving houses

Financial considerations

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, it’s estimated that by 2038, 10.1 million people will still be living independently into their eighties and nineties. If you aim to be one of them, downsizing can be a great way to cut back on your expenses, boost your funds, and bolster your retirement years. Here are the biggest financial factors to weigh when determining if this is the best solution for you.

Financial status

Whether your monthly expenses have continued to increase over the years or you’ve recently faced an unexpected major life event, such as divorce or the death of a spouse or partner, you may be feeling like your finances are a little tight. This can make now an opportune time to downsize. While it can be costly to move, selling your home for a smaller, less expensive place will likely lower your monthly mortgage payment and property taxes and reduce your homeowner’s insurance. This can, in the long run, increase your disposable income and help you save money.

Home equity

If you’ve owned your home for several years, you’ve likely accumulated substantial equity, particularly given the rise in home prices over the past few years. This can be a great reason to downsize, as the proceeds from the sale may be more than the cost of your new home, giving you some cash left over to add to your nest egg.

Home maintenance

The larger your current home, the more costly and dangerous the maintenance of it can be. For example, if you’re older and must climb on your roof to clean the gutters, you may be putting yourself at risk of a serious fall. Downsizing can cut back on these maintenance requirements, saving you both money and potential injury.

Older men playing games at table

Lifestyle considerations

Aging out of the neighborhood or having longtime friends move away are often key reasons for downsizing. However, other factors, such as health complications or wanting to be closer to family, can influence when and where you want to downsize. Take the time to consider what type of lifestyle you want during your empty-nester years and what needs you may require down the line, then decide which type of downsizing is right for you. Though there are several options, below are two main ones that may provide exactly what you’re looking for.

Active adult communities

If you’re a recent empty nester, an active adult community populated primarily by other empty nesters like you could be an ideal solution. These planned communities are designed to offer a wide range of amenities and activities to help older residents maintain an active lifestyle. Social and cultural gatherings, golf, tennis, pickleball, and a well-appointed clubhouse and exercise center are some of the many perks you can generally expect. In addition, because the homes in these communities are usually maintenance-free, they’re perfect for a turnkey lifestyle.

Aging in place

In contrast, if your long-term goal is to remain in your home as you get older and receive in-home care, downsizing to a one-floor single-family home or condo may be your best choice. Unfortunately, surprisingly few homes are designed to accommodate physical independence, and most require some modification to make them more accessible, safe, and comfortable. So as you begin your home search, consider looking for one where you can reasonably integrate a universal design for your living space—wider doorways, stepless entryways, multilevel or adjustable counters, grab bars in bathrooms, and accessible drawers and cabinets, to name a few.

Older couple walking older man carrying moving box

If you’ve decided to downsize, research your options to understand home prices and market trends and determine what you can afford. Whether you’re motivated by a lower cost of living, a desired change in lifestyle, or health challenges, be sure to contact your real estate agent to assist you in exploring all the possibilities.

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Kimmer Plunk

Based in Memphis and serving clients in West Tennessee and Northwest Mississippi. Serving others is a reward of its own and part of what makes me happy, and I've been doing that for 30 years through various activities including Girl Scouts, PTO, various board positions, unhoused ministry, and professional, award-winning teaching. I treat others the way that I want to be treated including being readily available, listening to your desires, answering your questions thoroughly, and walking you through the home purchase process. My ultimate goal is to see that you find the home of your dreams and experience the least amount of stress during the process.

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