Retiring in Place – Part 3

Category: General Retirement Issues

September 23, 2014 — We recently had a suggestion from Charlene, who wrote that she “…would love to see some comments about people who have retired in place, why they made that decision, and how they are handling retirement without moving”. We think that is a great suggestion, so this article is part 3 of a series on that subject. Part 1 profiled “The Snowbirding Innkeepers“, while Part 2 took a look at the busy lives of a “Jane and Jack: Staying in Place and Very Busy”.

Rather than focus on just a few people, this article takes a different approach. To write it we searched through various comments from folks who decided to stay were they lived before they retired, and not move in retirement. To make it more complete though, we need your stories. Please use the Comments feature at the end of the article to tell us all how you are handling the “stay in place” retirement!

Some background
A few of Topretirements’s earlier surveys provide some background on this issue, chiefly the “Selling Your Home and Retirement and Preparation” survey from July 2013 (see end of article for links). Here are some of the key findings:
– 69% of our respondents “definitely” or are “likely” to move to a new home in retirement.
– Just about the same percentage is either thinking about selling their pre-retirement home, or has already sold it
– Just under 3/4 of respondents plan on moving out of state

In this regard we think the Topretirements membership is primarily made up of people who intend to move in retirement. That is a big reason why they visit this site. The general retirement age population is probably the opposite – the vast majority of them intend to retire in place, or at least near where they live now.

More observations
People who intend to retire in place tend to share many common attitudes or characteristics:
– They love their home and don’t want to move
– Many are strapped for resources – for them moving seems to be unachievable.
– There is another subset on the opposite side of that spectrum – they have enough resources to continue to live in a home that is more than they really need
– Many others who retain their pre-retirement homes are affluent or creative enough to be snow birds. They have an existing home that they love, but they get away for part of the year, usually to a warmer climate for the winter
– Many others have already moved to a retirement friendly home. They definitely don’t want to move again
– Most recognize that it will be their health or physical abilities that push them out of their homes
– In our opinion the happiest people who retire in place stay busy with volunteer work, part-time jobs, or hobbies – which is probably a lot easier to do in a place where they have always lived
– Part of the secret to a successful aging in place strategy is the infrastructure of the community you live in. If there is a cooperative Village movement, good public transportation system, and a strong senior program you have a much better chance of having a happy retirement living in your existing home.

Profiles
When we profiled Jane and Jack (Part 2) we found that this couple stayed in place after moving to a couple of different condos in the New Haven area. They belong to and participate in the Shoreline Village, an aging in place (Village) initiative. Jane stays busy as a successful potter and crossword puzzle addict. Jack follows many sports teams, loves the opera, and until recently was a ranked tennis player in the over 80 age group. They travel to several timeshares they own for a few weeks at a time, including one in NYC. They are doing a great job of aging in place.

Kelly and Demaris have a working retirement on the shores of Lake Erie (Part 1). They run an inn in good weather and travel south in their RV during part of the winter. They also spend time playing tennis, reading, and enjoying their grand children.

Our friend John is another example of a successful retirement in place. Long retired, he has a small bike repair shop out of his garage, repairs bikes for charity sales, and has worked for some town conservation organizations. His wife Barbara works part-time as an office receptionist, while also helping to care for their granddaughters.

A walk around the neighborhood
A walk around your editor’s small town neighborhood is instructive, because there are any number of retired in place people living in it. One or two homes show absolutely no signs of life. No car in the driveway, no paper delivered, no sitings, no visitors – and we never see the person(s) that lives there. We can only think their’s is a very lonely, isolated existence.

But others seem to have richer lives. Some seem happy to have an adult child living with them, while others are out working around the house or talking with the neighbors. Many are busy volunteering, working on town committees, in civic clubs, and/or with a wide circle of friends. They strike us as very happy with their decision to retire in place – even in Connecticut with its high taxes and cold winters.

At least think about the future
Living in your existing home might be the happiest place for you – we know it is for many. But before you irrevocably commit to that lifestyle consider for a moment that fact that you won’t be in your 60s and 70s forever, if you are lucky. At some point your house might just be too much for you, particularly for the day you live there alone. It’s better to plan for that day in advance, rather than to suddenly having to pull up stakes and move to a place or facility where you know no one.

Comments from our survey takers
We have copied selections from some Topretirements survey takers who commented about why they have chosen to retire in place. Here are many of their actual comments, which give a good reflection of the complexity of this decision:
——
What to do, what to do? Stay here until we’re close to or actually in our 70s because our parents will continue to need us nearby? Hardly palatable. Leave the area and let them fend for themselves? Eek. Not a good solution either.

In all probability, no matter how much we look around, we will be living in our current, single story, small, efficient ranch home until we can no longer care for ourselves. Reasons for this are financial and we have already updated, renovated the house to our liking and don’t want to have to redo at our age.

This will be my last move (Ed. note: there were very many comments just like this)

Who knows what’s around the next corner. Health could deteriorate, spouse could die or become ill, anything could make a change preferable.

I love my house. We’re very centrally located to services that we’ll need as we age. We would only move if the neighborhood became dangerous.

My house is paid for. It is less than 10 years old. I am within 10 miles of a major entertainment, restaurant, casino, water activity area. Cost of living is cheap. It is single story and very efficient energy-wise. Could have better local medical is only real drawback.

We haven’t made the choice yet, but once we do we’ll stay there for the rest of our lives (barring needing to live in a nursing home).

Friends and family live close. We love our friends and family and do not want to leave.

We’re hoping to be able to live on our farm and winter in Florida for many, many years after we retire but only God knows the likelihood of that outcome.

Staying in our current home, using time shares, and doing home maintenance(snow, lawn,etc.)is our approach for now. I am sure as we age together, we will modify our approach accordingly. Downsizing and paying HOA fees is not attractive to us right now. I happen to enjoy doing home maintenance but when home maintenance becomes problemmatic, I will look into contracting for those services myself. Plus the housing market in not profitable or positive to buy and sell right now. I enjoyed reading about others who have decided to stay in place and extend their current lifestyles while enjoying existing friends. I also agree that there are many, many places to see and rent accommodations for desired periods of time in the US and in safe foreign countries.

Now that I am alone, I read all these posts about people moving here and there. I am stuck now, I suppose. Where would I move now without my husband when I would have to make new friends, find new doctors, basically start over again by myself. I am still working, and even though I really wanted something smaller and more maintainable, I am thinking that I probably will stay where I am. Cannot afford these expensive condos in my area, and the maintenance costs are just about what I pay for taxes. Sometimes we run out of options and have to stay put. All these places that people talk about, though, sound great…..with a partner.

Bottom Line
As you can see from these comments, the decision to stay where you are can be just as complicated as the one to move to a new location. You have to evaluate what is important to you, thinking about the short term and what could happen in the long term. Good luck – we know that with some good planning you will make a smart decision!

For further reading
Snowbirding Innkeepers
Staying in Place and Very Busy
Is Retiring Near Your Family a Good Idea?
Members Getting Ready for Big Retirement Moves
Is Your Town Ready for Your Retirement (Aging in Place)
It Takes a Virtual Village to Stay in Your Home
The Case for Staying Right Where You Are

Comments
We need your stories to make this an even better article. Please use the Comments feature at the end of the article to tell us all how you are handling the “stay in place” retirement! Are you staying – or are you moving? We are particularly interested in comments from folks who stayed in place and are happy with that decision.

Posted by Admin on September 23rd, 2014

14 Comments »

  1. Thank you for the interesting article I found it quite informative.
    I would very much like to see more information on the cost of moving, people’s experiences and general suggestions on how to best approach that. For instance do people use storage facilities for part of that move do they tend to use rental homes temporarily until they find a suitable home in a new area.
    Thank you,

    Simon

    by Simon — September 24, 2014

  2. I’ve commented here a number of times about our having decided to stay where we are after much travel around the US in search of possible alternatives. But I’ve never explained how that came to be. I’ll repeat a little for completeness, but this is the basically how we came to “retire in place” and were able to make it work.

    We started our married lives with very little and felt we could not begin to deal with retirement until a major career change at about 35. With some good health luck and continuing to seize opportunities, we retired in 2003 after having had good jobs, with a small pension, 400K in savings and our house paid off (all by plan). Before retirement, we spent more than a year living at retirement income level and banking any extra to “test the life”. Since then, we have taken 3 major (and economical) US road trips (7000, 10700 and 8000 miles) plus other trips in and outside the US for fun and to explore other retirement options.

    Both of us do some volunteering and have a couple of great hobbies that more than fill any spare time. We agreed at the time that retiring under the circumstances was somewhat risky, but we would accept the responsibility for doing our own investment management, planning, and home improvement and maintenance. We love our home but realize that it is more than we truly need (mostly because of improvements I did myself), however, all our explorations (before and after retirement) have not come up with a more attractive alternative.

    We both graduated from a nearby university and, 25 years ago, arranged to move back to the area to get my daughter in-state tuition and with the plan to retire here. (Yes, it was after that decision that we did all the exploring to find alternatives.) The first house we bought here was to be our “forever” house. We quickly grew to hate it. So we designed our own home and 22 years ago moved in here.

    This is the fringe of the Research Triangle area of central NC. Our home is very rural, but small cities and great hospitals are within 30 minutes. Although not specifically in our plans, it turns out that our small family has also settled nearby with large extended family only a few hours away. As many have said here at Top Retirements, NC has virtually anything you could want for retirees all within a half-day drive.

    This house was designed with retirement in mind. It is now (after numerous improvements) 3 levels with a main level and master suite upstairs, den and mother-in-law apartment downstairs. We intended the main level guest room as an option in case we could no longer manage the stairs. The apartment (where my mother lived for many years) was also a possible option to rent for income. While my wife says she will sell and move if I should die, I would likely stay with this as my base if the reverse happens — possibly moving into the downstairs apt with it’s accessible ramps, etc.

    At 66, we still do the upkeep, but realize that soon we will have to contract all that. We obtained a long-term care policy shortly before retiring, so that staying here in the future is feasible. The new plan is to install a staircase chairlift because neither of us wants to give up our bedroom with its woodland view.

    We early on established a long-range budget and have tracked expenses and stuck to it, so we’re doing well and despite a couple of years reeling from health issues, we should be able to continue. Our non-house expenses have been greatly reduced over the years. How many times do you need to change furniture or eat out — in our case almost none. Our parents were depression era, we were raised in the shadow of WWII and can only shake our heads at the “needs” and lack of appreciation for what they have that seems the norm in current generations.

    So in sum, though late starting, we had a plan, kept it flexible, but stuck to it. At the same time we have lived and continue to live life as it comes.

    Rich

    by Rich — September 24, 2014

  3. We have not removed staying in the general geographic area we now call home from the places to retire list. However, we do plan to leave our current house at some point and eagerly investigate all “senior living options” as they sprout nearby. So far, nothing here, or anywhere else for that matter, has resonated as “the place,” but looking is half the fun. With no kids or close relatives, we understand the value of being proactive.

    by Sandie — September 24, 2014

  4. My parent’s home required a renovation in order for them to age in place. Both bathrooms were rebuilt to accommodate a wheelchair and flooring replaced to ensure no tripping hazards and smooth surface for wheels. My father died less than six months after the work was complete and my stepmother then required 24 hour nursing care. I finished all the remaining planned work and sold the house in less than one month to a newly widowed elderly man who needed all the improvements. All renovation costs were recovered in the sale price. Making the home friendly for invalids and the elderly paid off and happily it was all put to use.

    by Cecile Marie — September 24, 2014

  5. My husband and I are struggling with this very issue right now. We own our home (rather, the bank owns our home), but the carrying costs and utilities are not workable in the event of my retirement (my spouse is already retired). We can live here comfortably on my income and his pension, but without my income the financial reality is we would have to dip into retirement assets to continue living here. Although we are not vehemently opposed to doing so, the home is getting older, maintenance is becoming more expensive and more difficult to do ourselves, and we can certainly move almost anywhere in the country for less money. The prevailing concern is our children and grandchildren, all within ten minutes of our current residence. While we realize the decision to stay or to go should not be made based upon what our children may or may not do, for the moment I continue to work and we continue to postpone the decision, waiting to see what will happen next. Should nothing change with the children, we will most likely sell next spring and move to a cheaper location, hopefully within a reasonable distance, and pay cash for the property so we can utilize our remaining assets to live comfortably for our remaining years. While we would both hate to move away, we simply cannot justify a large, non-energy efficient home on a fixed incomes that would require monthly asset depletion to stay afloat. The sad reality is we purchased this home too late in life, with too high of a mortgage, to afford us the luxury of remaining here beyond our working years. If I ever want to retire, we will be forced to move, period.

    by Laura — September 24, 2014

  6. I’m 65 and in good health.Within the month we will have 99% of out 2200 sf 2 story home remodeled. We’ve been taking it room by room and it’s getting just the way we want it. My wife says that yard work, snow shoveling (100″ a season) and getting up on a ladder are starting to be out of the question. Last week a long time local company sent us a flyer explaining their “Lifestyle Living program” here’s the gist of if it
    Here’s a list of just a few of the LLP Services offered!

    Lawn Mowing
    Landscape Design
    Maintenance
    Handyman Work (Minor Carpentry, Cosmetic Repair, etc.)
    Gutter, Deck, and Driveway Cleaning
    Minor Electrical Work (Outdoor Lighting, Patio Fixtures, etc.)
    Irrigation/Outdoor Plumbing
    And Introducing our Contractor Concierge Service! ?Let us Screen and Manage Outside Contractors for you!

    I have a feeling it a la Carte so I can still mow my lawn but can sell my ladder and big honkin’ snow blower. This may be the ticket to staying put for 20 years in the home that we love.

    by mike — September 24, 2014

  7. When I turned 65 my wife and I explored moving From Virginia to the Villages in Florida for a few years. We enjoyed our time there, but we changed our mind one day when a real estate agent mentioned that many people move to the Villages for ten to fifteen years and then move on to either independent/assisted living, or back to their old State or near family members.

    That was the day we decided to retire in place. We have everything we need and/or want in Virginia and can afford to travel the world when we want. My part time work is easier from our current location, our network of friends keeps us anchored here, and until our perceptions on local crime/safety drastically change, or a hurricane knocks out our beautiful Inter Coastal Water view, we will stay put.

    by Ackerman's — September 24, 2014

  8. I used to dream of escaping to some other place but I find that I am very comfortable now in the house I’ve lived in since 1980. The neighborhood where I live is one of the oldest in Baton Rouge and after all these years in it, the neighborhood is one that people want to move into. Every time I have repair work done, I get an offer to buy the house or the repair team will say “oh my God, I love this place.” Which is weird because it’s an old ranch house that needs major repairs. But it’s comfortable and I’m embarking on renovations to make the repairs and add a few upgrades.
    I thought when I retired last year that I would sell and spread my wings or move closer to my kids, but they’re not finished moving around the planet yet. Then I took on a parttime teaching job and everything just suits me.
    I still drive so the not-so-great public transportation here is not an issue. I keep hoping that will change as promised. The good news is, if needed, I can catch a shuttle from near my house that drops me right at the building I teach in at LSU. Haven’t needed that yet, but it’s there.
    My cost of living is very low here, Louisiana weather is rarely very cold and I have lots of friends here.
    I suspect that I’ll eventually move near my kids, but maybe not. I think it would be easier on my kids to have me closer to friends who can help rather than to have to rely on them for every thing down the road.
    Staying in Baton Rouge.

    by Freda — September 24, 2014

  9. Laura, I could have authored much of your post. At 62, DH & I have nearly finished paying off our mortgage, but not near enough to stay here if we choose to go ahead with our plans for early retirement next year. Our home is bigger and needs more maintenance / updating than we really want to invest, so our plan is to move.

    Yes, we love this home and will greatly miss it, but not enough to trade another 2-3 years of our lives to pay it off, have all the necessary work done, and still fund our retirement. If we DID pay it off and had the work done we could definitely afford to live here, but just barely. And who wants to live “just barely” when there are other options?

    We’re frankly tired of working and are willing to sacrifice the big house for a few more years of leisure time.

    Like you, we live in a very expensive part of the country. Even after paying cash for a smaller home we would still free up $250K – $350K that’s currently frozen as dead equity. Part of that money will nicely finance the early part of our retirement and delay our need to tap into long-term retirement funds.

    We have children, grandchildren and elderly parents very nearby, so moving more than perhaps 30 miles away isn’t on the table, not that we would particularly want to do so. Less home maintenance and more travel opportunities definitely hold appeal though.

    It looks like my situation isn’t all that unique, since you’re spelled out my situation almost to a tee.

    by JCarol — September 24, 2014

  10. I am single and 67. I read all the comments and articles, but they all see to be about married couples. I plan on staying in my one level home in North Carolina as long as I can. I’ve been here 19 years. A friend wants me to move out to northern California near her, but she is busy and married and younger, so I would basically be by myself starting over with doctors, dentist, bank, groceries, friends, support group, etc. and it seems overwhelming. At least here, I have people I can call to join me at the movies, go for a bicycle ride, go to the dog park or for a walk. I don’t think (at my age) it is wise to be going places alone. I don’t want to start over in a place where I only know a married couple.

    by Lynda — September 24, 2014

  11. I can’t thank you enough for responding to my question about retiring in place. The article and comments have been so helpful! Lynda– I, too, am single (widow-10 years) 67 and retired. I moved to The Villages 5 years ago after forced retirement, totally alone. I knew no one at all. I did meet some very nice people and totally enjoyed all the amenities but came “home” every 4 or 5 months to be with my children, grands, and friends that I missed…I would stay for an average of two months and then return to The Villages. I have gone back and forth for 5 years and now realize I’ve spent some of my retirement funds to have two places and now have to chose my “forever” place, hence my original inquiry. Although The Villages is more affordable than my original home state of NY, I believe the opportunities to enjoy the interests I love, the ability to be in NYC or the vineyards out east within an hour or two of my condo, public transportation available when I eventually need it, the closeness of family (about an hour away), being with lifelong friends, and incredible health care when needed is tipping the scale toward NY. I have to be honest…even though I’m fortunate to be in good health I’ve never been totally comfortable being so far away from family in case of a health issue while I’m in a Florida. New doctors there have been very disappointing! I’m hoping to be a snowbird for five more years by renting instead of owning. I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively out of the US and now look forward to seeing our beautiful country in retirement. My condo is paid for and all the heavy maintenance is taken care of for me – very important for a single lady! The best thing about condo living is I can lock the door and go away for any amount of time without worrying about the lawn or shoveling or anything! With careful planning I figure I can stay independent for about 30 years if I continue in good health and that’s long enough for me! Thanks to all for their comments…

    by Char — September 24, 2014

  12. We’re newly retired (ages 62 and 61) and have no plans to leave the city we’ve lived in for the past 40 years. Two thirds of our kids and grandkids are within a 20 minute drive of us. The others live within 3 hours of us. Our house is large and sits on an acre, but for now we can handle it. We also own 31 acres on family land about 200 miles away in the same state and plan to build a second home there soon. We are looking forward to the joy and work of keeping our place to live and creating a new place to go to, plus we plan to travel and mark off the places on our bucket list. We realize our “independent years” are numbered, but while we’re healthy and independent, we’re shooting for the moon!

    by Betsy — September 24, 2014

  13. We are probably 5 years away from retirement at age 62 and are reading up on all we can thus our interest in this newsletter. We have thought about “where” to retire and determined it will be here in the house we’ve owned and raised our family in since 1981. Our two grown married daughters and our grandchildren are nearby (1 in town the other 40 minutes away) and for that reason alone we have no interest in leaving this area. In addition we love our house and have recently completed some great renovations to make it more comfortable for us and appealing to our grandkids. We joke about this, that as many of our friends are planning to downsize, move etc, we’re the only ones putting money into our house. Also, we are the central location for hosting most holiday celebrations of up to 30 people (family and friends). We can’t imagine not continuing this role for many years to come. Although we live in an expensive (and cold) part of the country, a very close Nirthen NJ suburb to NYC, we feel we are adequately prepared for retirement in the time frame we’ve laid out even with the costs in this area.
    We do plan on traveling more utilizing our several weeks of timeshares.
    Keep up the great articles and advice…we are getting educated.

    by Brian — September 24, 2014

  14. I am “aging in place” at age 76. There are lots of activities here, but most require
    driving and many are at night. None of the responses mentioned retirement after
    giving up driving. I would love to live someplace with music and outdoor activities
    etc. that are walkable. Taxis too expensive. Have tried the public, affordable, taxi
    service, but requires going places an hour early as it runs hourly. Many people
    depend on family and friends, but I do not like to do that all the time.

    by Constance Birch — December 6, 2014

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