When is the Right Time to Downsize?

My buddy Rich Riley gets the credit for this Struming. We were recently talking and he suggested this as a topic, and it’s a good one. Rich is a wise man. Obviously in the COVID world we now live in, you might pause, and that’s understandable. But let’s assume for this Struming that we’ve moved through the current pandemic. One can only hope.

The answer to the headline question of when is the right time to downsize is…….it depends. But there are several factors I suggest you consider in making this decision. In fact, there are two mega decisions

–when to downsize?

–where are you going?

Be sure to give as much thought to both sides of the equation. It’s something Beth and I spent a couple of years thinking about before we pulled the trigger in 2016, and we were glad we did.

If you own your residence, the following are 7 things that you should consider.

1. Most importantly, are the spouses/partners aligned on the concept of selling? If not, stop and get on the same page.

2. Is there a specific goal of size you are looking to downsize to?

3. Are children still at home (or will soon be leaving)?

4. Are there grandchildren nearby?

5. If you’ve raised your children largely at one location, can you easily part with the many memories of the home where you lived?

6. Is the move based on reducing costs? Reducing space? Or a combination of these?

7. How easy/difficult would it be to sell your current home?

If indeed you are even considering downsizing, my advice to you is start planning and start throwing out stuff. Or have that mega garage sale you’ve thought about (but be modest in your financial expectations) and/or put stuff online. In any event, get rid of stuff. That you should start today.

And if you are selling your home through a real estate agent, ask for advise on the modifications of your home that will make it most attractive for sale. Some modifications might be inexpensive and have great perceptual value. Others might have great cost (kitchen, bathroom remodeling) and questionable payoff and remember, the buyer’s tastes are not necessarily aligned with yours.

In terms of where you are moving to, here are several things to consider:

1. Are you moving in your current geography, or relocating to a different area?

2. Do you want to buy or rent in your new location? Or does it not matter? Gotta do the serious math here and consider all factors. Rent vs. buy is merely a financial decision (and current tax laws don’t make owning as attractive any more)

3. Will your current furniture “fit” in this new location? BTW: In retrospect how important was that expensive furniture you bought years ago? At some point it’s best to spend more modestly on furniture.

4. Are you moving to be “near the kids”? Beware: the kids might easily move to another town for an employment opportunity, and then leave you in that new city/state questioning why you moved there. Therefore, you better want to be at the location for its own sake, not just for the kids.

5. Are you moving into “the city” (wherever that may be) to have access to the city things you long to do? (PS: be sure you really long to do them)

6. Does your favorite baseball team, say from the Bronx, play nearby (or come to town often)?

7. If you have children/grandchildren and seek “sleep-overs”, is there enough room for you to do so?

8. Are there theater/art/culture/sports nearby, assuming you have interest in them?

9. Are you trying to move to a warmer climate? Or are you considering dual residence?

10. Are you considering the merits (and downsides) of a 55+ community? Or a staged seniors community?

11. Do you want to live on one floor rather than multiple floors?

12. Is there good access to top healthcare in this new location, particularly if you are moving to a new region and starting all over with medical care?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Every person’s situation and finances are different. One thing is certain, moving is hard and it gets harder as you age. And momentum is always on the side of status quo in life. That makes moving harder, even when you’d really like to.

Therefore, start early and talk through the issues and start thinking and start planning. It takes work. But most people don’t regret downsizing once they’ve made the decision to do so.

Get moving.

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