Retirement-Is Downsizing Right For You?

| January 25, 2012 | 0 Comments

Retirement can be a scarey time for some. I found a great article that discusses important issues concerning retirement. Specifically, downsizing in retirement. Does this affect you?


Source of Information:

Downsizing your home in retirement can be traumatic. Not only that, expensive. I know. My wife, Sara, and I have done it twice.

See also: Downsizing your life.

The first time was when we moved from a five-bedroom house to a two-bedroom condo in a retirement community. We were in our 60s, working long hours at demanding jobs. Sara was tired of all the work a big house required. I no longer wanted to mow grass, rake leaves and shovel snow.

downsizing-stan-hinden-and-saraSara and Stan Hinden. — Michael JN Bowles

Now, two decades later, we have again simplified our lives. We now rent a one-bedroom apartment in an independent living residence that includes meals. We no longer have to worry about grocery shopping and cooking.

But it cost us quite a lot to get here, both in money and angst. Here are things to consider before making a similar leap.

Your old place. If you own your current home, you may have to sell or rent it before moving. But the depressed real estate market can make that tough. Think hard about the danger of being caught paying for two homes at once if you just go ahead and move. Sara and I happily escaped that burden — we decided to rent our condo, not sell it, and managed to find a tenant in a short time.

Moving costs. Unless you’ve got a dozen grandchildren willing to pack and move you, you’re going to have to hire professionals. The cost will depend on how much stuff you’re moving and how far. Sara and I moved only 10 miles. But we took most of our furniture and 90 boxes of belongings. We also hired a company to unpack it all and arrange our furniture and wall hangings. The total cost: about $4,500.

The new place. Once you move into your smaller home, be prepared to spend some money to make it comfortable. At our new building, we paid to build extra shelves for storage and extra clothes racks in the closets. We also bought a new microwave, a new TV and a new dressing table. That totaled about $3,700.

Your stuff. Paring down can be the hardest part — saying good-bye to possessions lovingly acquired over the years is a task mixed with sadness and disappointment. I still wince recalling how in the first move I trashed dozens of scrapbooks containing political articles that I had written for my newspaper over a 15-year period.

Once again, in this move, we had to choose between the things that we wanted to keep and the things that were expendable. The obvious “keepers” were items associated with significant events in our lives: the birth of children, graduations, weddings and memorable vacation trips.

Less important were our books. We had hundreds of them, so we donated most of them to the local library. An exception: books written by friends who had autographed them for me. Among these was State of the Union, a book of cartoons by longtime Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Block — known to the world as Herblock. On the flyleaf, he wrote: “For Stan, friend and colleague with all best regards from Herb Block.”

downsizing-a-room-full-of-furniture-in-a-boxMoving can be quite costly unless you have grandkids to help you out. — Ursula Klawitter/Corbis

Then there was my collection of political memorabilia. During 15 years covering politics, I amassed buttons, badges, posters, books, convention programs and more. I prized my Jack Kennedy press badge from the 1960 campaign.

Fortunately, my son Larry and his wife, Denice, saw my pain and volunteered to store the collection at their house.

A similar question arose with Sara’s dollhouse, which measures 6 feet long, 3 feet high and almost 2 feet wide. The house is fully furnished with craftsman-quality miniatures carefully collected during the past 10 years.

Happily, family saved us on this one, too: My son Alan and his wife, Gina, volunteered to move the dollhouse and its contents to their house, where they are caring for it as a family heirloom.

The little downsizing decisions were too many to count. For instance, if we were going to a place where most meals are provided, did we really need 37 pots, frying pans and cake pans? A lot of them went to charity.

And what about framed paintings and photos? Several of our paintings were done by my mother. Who wants to give away his mother’s paintings? Not me, for sure. We kept Mom’s paintings and gave away the others.

But even now, as I sit at the desk in my new apartment, I wonder if I could have been more vigorous in my downsizing efforts. I am looking at my 1994 Barbra Streisand concert souvenir coffee mug. On my former desk it held dozens of pencils and pens that I never used. When we moved, I dumped the pencils and pens but kept the mug.

I guess I thought it might be valuable someday.

Stan Hinden, a longtime reporter and columnist for the Washington Post, writes Social Security Mailbox for the AARP Bulletin.

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Category: Retirement

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