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Is a Money Pit Going to Ruin Your Retirement?

Category: Financial and taxes in retirement

January 11, 2015 — We baby boomers are conflicted about retirement in so many ways. For example we spend a lot of time planning to find a place where we can pursue our dreams, yet fail to consider how those dreams might change in 20 years. We worry about our ability to have enough money to live comfortably in retirement, but overlook how much we are spending on the home we live in now. We recently came across a pair of articles that explored the latter phenomenon in depth: one from the Demand Institute (Baby Boomers and Their Homes), and MarketWatch (In Retirement, A Big House Can Lead to the Poor House). See end for links to these articles.

A Big Nut to Cover
The MarketWatch article by Jonathan Clements lays out in dramatic fashion just how much an expensive house can cost a retiree. The more expensive it is, the more it will cost you in interest (if you have a mortgage), maintenance, insurance, energy, and property taxes. So as the value of the home goes up, you have less money for a comfortable retirement.

Take the example from; of a home that costs $20,000 a year in property taxes, insurance, energy, and occasional maintenance. Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate, that means you need retirement savings of $500,000 just to cover your living expenses. Since those costs are directly proportional to the value of your home, as its value goes up so does the amount of retirement savings or income needed to pay for it. However, if you could downsize to a more efficient home and cut those costs to $15,000, you would “only” need savings of $375,000 to cover that nut.

Charles Farrell, chief executive of Denver’s Northstar Investment Advisors and author of “Your Money Ratios”, who is quoted in the article, illustrated the somewhat twisted thinking that people have about their homes. According to Farrell, they can’t seem to get out of their heads the idea that homes are a great investment; whereas once you are retired, most of the times they are a just a “money pit”.

Conflicted about size and cost
The Demand Institute explored the many kinds of conflicts that boomers when it comes to thinking about our next homes. Here are some of their key findings, along with the attendant conflicts:

Finding: Most boomers want to retire where they live now, usually called retiring in place
Conflict: Their homes aren’t all that age-friendly: only about half are single story or low maintenance, and only about one-quarter are considered accessible.

Finding: Boomers intend to upgrade the homes they intend to live in
Conflict: The upgrades they intend to make are mostly to increase their value by upgrading kitchens and baths, improving energy efficiency, and making repairs. Spending to make their homes low maintenance or for aging/health needs is lower on the needs hierarchy, although it shouldn’t be.

Finding: About one-third of boomers are planning to move in retirement, with the common wisdom that they will tend to want to downsize when they do so
Conflict: The study found that almost half (46%) intend to upsize (buy a bigger home or one that is higher value of the same size) when they move. Surprisingly, some 32% intend to spend more on their next home than the one they are in now.

Finding: The overwhelming majority of boomers (75%) who intend to move are looking for a single story home
Conflict: But most of these people also want a yard or garden, which means higher maintenance.

Finding: (this is from other research) About half of baby boomers are concerned about having enough money for a comfortable retirement
Conflict: Of those baby boomers who intend to buy a new home, about half expect to have a mortgage on it.

Bottom Line
Boomers who are concerned about having enough money for retirement should first look at how they can save money on shelter. Downsizing to a smaller and more efficient home, or even renting, might make the difference between a comfortable retirement and one that is stressed.

Before you spend money on improving your home spend some time thinking about what will make it more valuable to you for long term retirement. Would you be better off selling your current home and buying one that is more energy and maintenance efficient, and has the features retirees need (single story, accessible)? If you do stay where you are, make sure you leave enough money to get the features that in 10 to 20 years will be mandatory to your lifestyle.

For further reading
Demand Institute: Baby Boomers and Their Homes
In Retirement, A Big House Can Lead to the Poor House
The Retirement Piggy Bank You Are Probably Overlooking

Comments? What are your plans for your next home. Will you stay where you are, or will you move. If you are staying, do you plan on any improvements? Do you intend to spend more or less? Bigger or smaller? Will you get a mortgage? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Posted by Admin on January 11th, 2015


  1. Excellent article! But what about the cost to buy and move into a smaller more cost efficient place? That should be part of your calculation.

    by Lulu — January 14, 2015

  2. We’ve been hunting for a second home/retirement place for several years. We now have a larger home (3800 sf, 2100 on main floor) on two levels and want a one level home. We are finding that the one level homes around 2000 sf are feeling cramped so we’re now looking around 2500 sf. Not really “downsizing” much, but our personal comfort level is more important. And the newer homes are much more energy efficient than the older home we’ve been living in for 30 years, even though we’ve put on new maintenance-free siding, sealed leaks and insulated. The biggest reason for us to move is to escape the cold winters. I find I can no longer tolerate cold and snow for months on end, even with vacations mid-winter. To answer your questions, we will spend less on our new home than our current home is worth and we are cash buyers. We will keep our current home for at least 2 years to transition gradually, rather than move everything at once.

    by MARY — January 14, 2015

  3. We plan to age in place. We downsized to a one level home with a bedroom & private bath for the live in nurse/aid we will need in the future.. We are rethinking the nurse. By the time we will need her, we think a robot might the better choice. So all we will need is a large closet for the robot

    by linda — January 14, 2015

  4. My house is 1200 sf on 5 acres near Tucson, and I plan to downsize to a house half that size with a yard. I’m one of those who needs a garden and a space for my dogs. I’ve considered renting, but I want to have more control over my home space than a rental will give me. I have friends who rent, and they prefer it to owning a home, but that’s not me. I am able to retire in 2 years, so I’m in process of downsizing now and choosing where I’ll live (I am 85% sure of where I’ll be). I won’t retire with a ton of money, but I’ll have enough for the lifestyle I choose, which is similar to how I live now. My post-retirement employment focus is to find work that will allow me to travel now and then, and pay me to do it – including overseas.

    by Brickhorse — January 14, 2015

  5. I think the reason we don’t want to face the facts is that when you get over 60 you don’t want to think about the changes that will take place with your living situations. I think that the urban centers are the way to go for “aging in place” You don’t need a car, you can have everything delivered and there is no exterior maintenance. Yes there will be changes in the size and you may need to go visit Balboa Park to get your fix on gardening or have a deck garden but the pluses are numerable and you won’t need to rely on your kids to take care of you. We live in downtown San Diego and love it. No exterior maintenance and low low utilities. Walk to dinner, doctors, groceries, hair salon, parks and entertainment. It’s a paradise.

    by Marsha Shepard — January 14, 2015

  6. I downsized and bought a brand new energy efficient home on one level…1,500 sq feet with a small yard and no real maintenance, which I love! I was actually very freeing to get rid of all that stuff from my big home and get something much more manageable. I love owning my own place, tried the renting thing once, and it just did not work for me.

    by Loralee — January 14, 2015

  7. Typo..It was actually very freeing…

    by Loralee — January 14, 2015

  8. We presently own an old two story 2800 sq ft. house in CT which is very much a money pit. High taxes, high utilities, constant repairs and renovations and back breaking maintenance – leaves, snow, etc. Home values in our area are predicted to decrease. We will be retiring within the next 5 years and cannot afford to live here comfortably. We purchased a home this past summer in Las Vegas, NV. It is pretty much for us a dream house in a dream location. Half hour north of downtown in a beautiful gated non age restricted community surrounded by mountains. Home prices in this area are predicted to increase. Warm, dry and lots of amenities in the area – hiking, entertainment, sports, hospitals and not far from an airport so we can easily travel to see our kids. Ideally they can come visit us to get away from cold winters and we plan to do our traveling in the summer when it is very hot. Single story, 1700 sq ft. with a pool sized yard. It is low maintenance, low HOA fees, energy efficient, no state taxes. We have a mortgage after putting 20% down and it is now rented with a very efficient property management company. I believe a safer bet is to continue with the mortgage with a minimum cash investment. With all of the foreclosures and short sales all over you never know what the future brings regarding health, real estate markets, etc. in case we have to again relocate. For this reason I do not want to have a large portion of my cash in one basket – tied up in a house.

    by Karen — January 14, 2015

  9. We sold our 23 year old 1600 sq ft home and moved to a 2300 sq ft home in a safer community where the cost of living is less. We have a larger mortgage but the maintenance costs will be much less and we have a home that has a laundry room indoors, and is all one story.

    by Kathy — January 14, 2015

  10. After renting a two story condo in a small complex with neighbors on either side, it was the noise that did us in. The guy next door warming his Harley for 20 min in his garage next to ours under the master bedroom at 11pm at night more than once. The guy across the driveway getting a snoot full and singing “Temptation Eyes” for literally hours during the summer when the windows were open. I liked the concept of condo living but the inhabitants did me in.

    I am buying a ranch style house w/25 acres for my peace of mind and my peace and quiet.


    by Maureen — January 14, 2015

  11. We retired last summer and moved from a 2500 sq ft home in FL to a 2000 sq ft home in TX. Got rid of the mortgage. Got a cheaper cost of living, smaller yard, decent weather and lots of friendly people. When we built our previous home we made it accessible and all one story with full intentions of living there forever. Reality hit when we woke up one day and figured out a high mortgage meant we had to work a LOT longer. Now our home is 2 stories but with 1500 sq ft on the main floor that meets all of our needs in case we decide to live here after the 10 year plan. We plan to downsize again in 10 years if all goes as planned. This is just such a personal choice for everyone based on health requirements, financial and physical comfort.

    by Allison — January 14, 2015

  12. I am single and hope to find a small bungalow. Must haves: bedroom and good size bathroom on first floor, a porch and a small garden. Outdoor space is so essential to my happiness. The big drawback to renting in my mind is being at the mercy of a landlord. What if he/she decides to sell? I don’t want that stress. Also want to be close to hospitals and medical appts.

    by joan — January 15, 2015

  13. We downsized from a 2,000 sq ft 33 year-old home w/pool on a 14,000 sq ft lot with way too much yard care, aging roof and never ending repairs into a new 1600 ft / 5,000 lot in a CA 55+ gated community and couldn’t feel better. We wanted the 1200 ft model but they were all sold-out as demand for “small” homes is up now. Less is often more.

    by John H — January 15, 2015

  14. I presently rent and cannot wait to own again. I owned 5 homes in various locations as I moved for jobs. When I moved here I didn’t buy right away because of the housing market and still owning by home in Wilmington, NC…then other issues made me wonder if I wanted to stay in the job so continued to rent.

    Well, a roof leak for 2.5 years and a faulty furnace for 2 years until there was finally replaced after a CO emergency and several other less serious issues, I am ready for my own house again. And I want to downsize from the two home rentals…my purchased and rented homes ranged from about 1,000 sq feet to about 2,400 sq feet. would like about 1400, but with a basement that I can slowly have finished my way (for training my dogs…a big part of my social life). The lots in some of the places that I am interested in are very small hence the basement. I do not need a huge lot 1/3 acre would be ideal, but not options in most of the places that I am looking so the basement would be my “indoor yard” for training

    Just need to decide where since I do not have a “home” anymore after all the moves for jobs and no children and little family left to consider. Problem is that I do not have time to test drive locations. Although I enjoyed most of the places I have lived they may not be as suitable now that I am retired.

    I like this blog very much for all the places to consider. But it is obvious that it is different for us all.

    by Elaine — January 15, 2015

  15. Interesting enough, i cannot imagine life without gardening. I love the idea of having someone else maintain my lawn (detest lawn work), but to never work with trees, shrubs, and flowers again seems to me an impoverished life. How to get both???

    by ella — January 15, 2015

  16. Ella you can always have someone just do the lawn and you can do the rest. Volunteering is a wonderful way to indulge in gardening without owning. There are so many opportunities .

    by easilyamused — January 16, 2015

  17. We have downsized over the past 10 yrs in anticipation of our retirement. Although our home is old and small (1100 sqf) we replaced furnace, roof, and remodeled bathrooms and updated rest of house. It is maintance free and on small lot but we don’t want even the smaller cost of maintaining this when we retire in about 3 years. House will go up for sale and we will live in Destination camper on a permanent River site in the summer (we lease this) and then winter in either AZ or Fl, hoping to purchase in a 55+ retirement community with money we make from sale of the house. Can’t wait to be out from under the mortgage and all the cost of owning a house. We live in Midwest and cost of gas, elect, taxes are very high for the small town we live in, we will be living on a lot less once we retire and move. Thank you for bring the article as we have many friends who think they are going to be saving money by staying in the same home they have lived for 30+ years, and who wants to spend the remainder of their lives living where the winter weather is 6 months long and summer is usually 1-2 weeks!! Get out from under the mortgage and go enjoy life!

    by Cindy — January 16, 2015

  18. to John H. To me even a 1600 sq ft home is too big. A million years ago we raised 3 kids in a 1200 sq ft rancher with one bath now it seems like all these “old geezers” want bigger and bigger homes and I just don’t get it. We are moving “back” South and I will be searching for a small home in the 1000-1200 sq ft range. Use to be a old real estate saying “never buy a 2 br home”. I do not believe that is valid anymore and actually don’t care. Might even be a mobile home in a 55+ community. There great in Florida and have lived in them before. IMO = downsizing is the way to go and in the meantime the money you save by doing so will allow you finances to do other things in your life (beside taking care of a home) while experiencing this “short span of Life” on now everyday WHACO planet earth. Ever get a chance listen to the late George Carlins rant on “stuff”. I include houses in that “rant”.

    by Robert — January 16, 2015

  19. I have an oddball situation going on in my life and have no idea how to solve it without a lot of conflict. My Grandfather owned a tobacco farm in Kentucky and passed away in 2007. After his death, the farm passed onto the children which at that time there were 6 living children and my Mom was one. One sister passed away and had no children so that left 5 surviving children. My Mom passed away in 2013 and her share of the property passed to me. My one aunt and 3 uncles are all in their late 80’s and one is 91 years old. The farm had a home and a couple of barns but I am sure they are very dilapidated ready to be torn down. I have spoken to the uncle that is the Executer of the Will in regard to selling the property. They had it on the market for a while but they were asking too much plus real estate plummeted drastically. The aunt and uncles have dug their heels in and are ‘waiting’ for real estate values to go back up so they can sell it for more money. They had it appraised at $300k a couple of years ago. That would be $60k for each. Bottom line is that I want the property sold and want my money so I can have it for retirement. Plus, I briefly spoke on the phone with an attorney here in CT and his only advise was to get a lawyer in Kentucky to represent me. The property isn’t cut up into parcels so we all can have our own piece. It is about 80 acres. I am angry because my Mom didn’t get her inheritance in her life time and I am approaching 62 and the way things are going I may never see it either. Plus, as time goes on and the uncle’s and aunt passes, there will be more grandchildren involved. However, they have to split their parents inheritance. I am an only child so I will get 1/5 of the proceeds IF they ever sell it. Any body experience anything as crazy as this? I know there are laws that can force them to sell but they are all so old it might put them over the edge if lawyers got involved. Oh, and I tried calling the attorney that has handled the property and Grandfather’s Will but she WILL NOT call me back! I have called several times and not once has she called me! GRRRR! This property should have been sold 8 years ago! I get a tax bill every year for this property and it is very cheap. Most of the uncles and aunt could use this money. They are not rich! By the way, my Grandfather lived to be 110 years old when he died! I tried to tell my uncle who is in charge of the property that when Grandfather bought the property 70 years ago he probably only paid like $5K for the whole thing so the value HAS gone up over a 70 year period but he thinks it’s worth a million dollars. It is beautiful land but if it was appraised at $300K that is today’s value!

    by Louise — January 16, 2015

  20. Ella, not sure if you are looking for an over 55, but some of them have community gardens. Also some newer all age do as well. Not sure that this would suit you, but it’s a thought. Sorry that I cannot suggest any.

    by Elaine — January 16, 2015

  21. Louise, it doesn’t sound like this is draining you financially but you could ask them to buy you out of you’re share of the property. They may jump at the chance if they think the property is worth more than you do. If that doesn’t work, I think I would just wait until they are ready. Sounds like this comment is more about leaving your kids an inheritance. How would your mother feel if she thought you were pressuring her sibling’s in their golden years to do something they didn’t want to do. Type up a nice letter and send it out to the attorney and see if it can be resolved this way, if not I am sure you can use it in your 80’s.

    by Mona — January 16, 2015

  22. update on retirement adventure. wife and i made the leap and escaped the chains of MEXIFORNIA in SEPT 2013. sold the house and all the STUFF we did not need. put needed stuff in storage. jumped into a 5th wheel for a year. saw a lot of this great country, with more on our BUCKET LIST for the future. health issues along the way forced us into plan B. sold the 5th wheel and settled into BEAUTIFUL NORTH CAROLINA. renting a 2 level 2000 sqft townhouse for less than our old mortgage. great place with 4 seasons on schedule. staying active and relaxing. life is good and our finances seem to be covering our needs. we did a lot of planning and thinking prior to making the leap. with a little luck we may just have a nice retirement. good luck to all those who are making the LEAP.

    by davefh — January 16, 2015

  23. Mary,
    When I read your post……I thought I had written it in my sleep! It’s nearly identical to our situation. We are renting in NE TN for three months while we search for property. It’s starting to look like we may have to build to get what we want. Someone suggested we check out “America’s Home Place.” Has anyone else heard of them?

    by Caps — January 16, 2015

  24. Louise- Getting a KY lawyer and asking him/her to write a nice letter either offering to sell your share for X dollars (anyone can buy) or explaining that the property has to be sold doesn’t have to be adversarial. After all, any increase in the price difference divided so many ways isn’t going to benefit them that much, and if anyone ends up going into a nursing home or getting divorced there could be significant consequences. (For ex., if someone ends up in a nursing home on Medicaid, the sale could be forced at a less advantageous time and under more stressful circumstances). Ideally, someone will buy out your share at a discount since there won’t be any realtor fees and closing costs could be minimized to get you out of this mess. And if the appraisal is $300K, the net return is not going to be that much after legal fees, realtor fees and closing costs anyway. There will also be taxes on any increase in value over the value when the property share was acquired which will erode their share. If they think the appraisal is wrong, they can always get their own appraisal whether you’re forcing a sale in court or they’re buying you out at a discount. Doesn’t sound like anyone is going to net $60K though.

    by Sharon — January 17, 2015

  25. Thank you Sharon and Mona in regard to your comments. I do agree it is no strain on me financially but as Sharon mentioned if one or more of the relatives need to be put in a nursing home on Medicaid that worries me that Medicare will put a lien on the property. I also don’t think they have insurance on the property which worries me to no end if someone should get hurt out there. Where will that leave me? My Mother wanted that property sold and she had some heated arguments with the uncle that is the Executor. My Grandfather actually had two farms and they had to sell one for him to remain in the nursing home he was in. He lived there for 10 years and paid for it all by himself with cash money and by selling the farm. Hiring an attorney and sending a friendly letter might be a good idea. The uncle that is the Executor is close to 90 years old and has a lot of health issues too. It just is getting to be a huge can of worms with them all being so old and more and more grandchildren will come into the picture to stir the pot. I think the uncles and aunt want to keep the property in the family because they all worked the farm as kids and young adults. The oldest uncle worked on the farm for probably 65 years and he has been the biggest obstacle; I think he feels it belongs to him. I hate to be the ‘heavy’ and have them all hate me but this has gone on way too long. The other thing that really irritates me is that I own 1/5th of this farm and I don’t seem to be included in any decisions on selling it. All I get is the tax bill once a year! I want OUT!

    by Louise — January 17, 2015

  26. Louise,
    You could offer to become the executor of your Grandfather’s estate and take over for the 90 yo uncle who may not last long since you are in the next generation and will probably be around longer. By the way, who becomes the executor for that estate when he dies?
    I DO think you need to speak with a lawyer who deals in estate issues. This sounds like it could get quite complicated.
    I faced a complicated issue from an inheritance from my mother when she died. It took a lot of head banging and several months before I could sell out of the inheritance. It made me aware that is area can become quite complicated so I set up my own personal living trust to avoid the problems for my heirs when I die. A word to the wise for all of us younger seniors; at some point we will be seriously old and need to think about what we leave behind!

    by Lulu — January 17, 2015

  27. Re: the topic of this article – move or stay.
    I have, for the present, chosen to live in my house. I am in a retirement area anyway. I work part-time relief work which supplements my income. I have a 1700 sq ft home with a small yard. I could garden, if I chose, but my back would complain. I have lawn help in the summer, but I pay them year around so that I can budget the expense. My house is 18 yo, but I have upgraded the energy efficiency and I have a leased solar system on my roof. (I love that system!) I am still paying my mortgage and have 7 years left. But just prior to retiring, I refinanced to a 3.75% 10 yr loan so the payments and interest are manageable. My vehicles are paid for and in excellent shape. I only drive about 7000 miles per year. The house has a hobby/work room which is the reason I bought it in the first place. It also has three bedrooms, so one is an office.
    I can travel as I wish, and decorate my house as the budget allows. And I often have fiber arts projects spread out in the work room.
    In other words, I have already downsized. And when it is paid for, it will be like getting a raise!
    And, I can’t really figure out where else I would go if I were to sell and move. Would I be able to find a situation as nice as the one I have for the same money? I think not.
    I guess I was thinking about how I would like to live if I weren’t working all along.
    My one recommendation, the one I gave my younger brother, is to try to pay off your mortgage before you retire. That’s usually the biggest chunk of your income and with it gone, you have more flexibility. And if you want to move, you will have cash in hand to buy elsewhere.

    by Lulu — January 17, 2015

  28. […] note: In our recent article, “Is A Money Pit Going to Ruin Your Retirement“, we reported on that most baby boomers want to continue to live where they do now. To that […]

    by » How to Prevent Slips and Falls from Tripping Up Your Retirement - Topretirements — January 17, 2015

  29. Hi Ella, and others who love gardening,
    Go to you tube, and check out “Larry Hall from Brainerd MN.”
    He has an interesting concept of how to garden more easily in smaller areas when you’re unfamiliar with the soil.
    We tried it last year because we thought we’d be selling our MN home before the tomatoes were ready. We experienced some reasonable results, without extensive work.

    by Caps — January 18, 2015

  30. Louise, I hope I didn’t offend you with my comments, that was not my intention. I agree it probably has sentimental ties for the family, especially the 90 year old uncle and he may feel guilty about selling it. My ex was in a similar position, he was the Executor and his mother had added him and his brother on her house, when she passed the brother moved in but still expected us to share the taxes, Ins and upkeep. My ex tried to get him to buy out his part of the house for $90, it was a decent house on an all sports lake and probably worth about $230 at the time, he refused and said he would not pay for what was rightfully his. At one time my ex was the only one on the house with her, she asked us if we would move there when she passed away and keep the house in the family, I agreed but he said no there was to much maintenance and we had just started building a summer place up north, so she added his brother. I had suggested she just leave it to his brother or nephew. Her wishes were kept, the brother lived there another 8 years until he passed away and my ex continued to share the cost of maintenance, taxes and Ins. The market had dropped in the meantime and the nephew bought it for $90 and remodeled it for his daughter.
    I would not want the liability either, push for the sale, it sounds like he will never be reasonable about it. I would bet everyone else will be relieved also, including your uncle. I am sorry your mom was not able to get her inheritance and I understand your point, but don’t let it stress you to the point it makes you physically ill, its not worth it. But I agree 8 years is long enough. Good luck and let us know how it turns out.

    by Mona — January 18, 2015

  31. Anyone planning on downsizing – or sizing up? How about the situation described in the research where the size of the new home might be the same but the cost is higher? Love to know what others are thinking about.

    by Admin — January 18, 2015

  32. Mona, no offense taken and I welcome the comments from you and any other who would like to put in their two cents. Plus, this is a good topic for those of you who have property and leave it to your children. You can see that it is problematic and some of the children want to keep it and the others want to sell it. There should be more direction in the Will so the ones who want to sell aren’t being held hostage to the others who want to keep it for sentimental reason, greedy reasons or unreasonable reasons. I am not a child of this inheritance but a grandchild and now it’s in the next generation and the mess continues like a never ending soap opera. My Mom will be gone two years in April and this is just nonsense. Another thing that I wonder about is that when I get the tax bill it is still in my Grandfather’s name as the property owner. Wouldn’t you think the lawyers would have changed the deed into the children’s names and as one child passes to update the deed? I am not a lawyer but this seems strange to me! Like I said, no one discusses ANYTHING with me and I can’t get the original lawyer to call me. I am definitely going to think about having an attorney write a friendly letter. I wonder if I could get a CT lawyer to send it to the KY lawyer? Or do you think I would have to retain a KY lawyer? It is very hard to work with lawyer over the phone and how to find one out of state!

    Mona, I can see that you and your ex went through a similar ugly circumstance too. This should be food for thought for those who have children. Don’t think they will do the ‘right thing’ when the time comes. Make the decision for them so they are forced to do the right thing. If one sibling is unreasonable, let them buy out the others. If the sibling can’t get a mortgage or finance the property, tough luck, the property gets sold!

    by Louise — January 19, 2015

  33. I was “fortunate” to be moved for work as I approach retirement, so I have been able to downsize in steps. I downsized about 1,000 sq. feet from our family home, and am aggressively going through stuff to try to eliminate things that won’t travel with me to my final retirement destination in 2-3 years. I plan on down-sizing to a home where the size will be less, and the cost will be higher, to be near family. I have a big, ridiculously detailed and unrealistic wish list (about 1,800 square feet with a den or library, sunroom, eat-in kitchen with a window over the sink, dining room and great room, two walk-in closets and a gas fireplace in the master bedroom). I know that I’ll have to give up a lot of things on my wish list because of the destination decision. There are going to be a lot of housing trade-offs for the location. I don’t want to put too much of my expected retirement income into housing though.

    by Sharon — January 19, 2015

  34. I have one other story that is an eye opener too. My girlfriend had an aunt that was basically a hermit, never married, but did work for years and lived in her parents home her entire life. Her parents died and she split most of the value of the property with her sister (my girlfriends Mom). The aunt and her sister had a falling out and the aunt supposedly went to an attorney and wrote up a Will leaving everything to her niece. Then the aunt recanted and said she told the lawyer she no longer wanted the will. So auntie never made a new Will and was satisfied that the other Will was no longer valid. Down the road the auntie dies and no Will can be found at her home or the lawyer she originally set up the Will with. So now, since there is no Will, the proceeds go to the next generation which was my girlfriend, her older sister and and older half brother. The estate was close to a million dollars not including the property. The property consists of two tumbled down houses that should be torn down. Anyway, fast forward about 8 months and the aunties lawyer miraculously FINDS the Will in her office basement not filed but just sitting on a cabinet for like 20 years! She then trots down to Probate court and presents this Will which states that the niece was named in the Will as sole heir to the fortune! OMG, the Probate Judge asked them to work out some kind of an agreement. Well, in the end, my girlfriend, her older sister and older half brother had to give back around $200k each and the niece got the property. So needless to say no one was happy with this situation but the niece. So, here is another example of a Will gone bad! The auntie wrote up this Will to spite her sister but they made up and she THOUGHT her verbal instructions to the lawyer, who was inept to say the least, were good enough. Hub and I have Wills but they were written back in 1991 and need to be redone. We have no children so that isn’t an issue on who gets what! If you don’t have a Will make one and if you have an old one update it!

    by Louise — January 19, 2015

  35. Admin: I wasn’t going to mention what i am hoping for in retirement as some on this site have such strong feelings that their views on downsizing (or not) are the ‘right’ ones, and mine are not ‘in sync.’ But, you asked, so here goes.

    I’ve lived in a relatively small (1200 sq. feet on the main floor) home for the past 35 years. It has 1 1/2 baths and no architectural features. I raised my 3 children here. Yes, we all fit; but how much more gracious and harmonious our lives may have been had we had more space i don’t know.

    When i retire i want a more spacious home (maybe 2000 sq. feet). I’d like a home that allows the outside in – lots of windows, screened areas to the outdoors, and like Sharon, a sunroom. I’d actually like my living area to end in a sunroom, no separation. And, like Sharon, i know i may have to give this up. While i prefer only 2 full baths, this could be a problem as most builders build too many bathrooms in my opinion. Who wants to spend one’s retirement cleaning bathrooms?

    I also want land around me. I love nature and want to feel its presence on a continual basis. See people when i choose. Community or not depends on land availability and house pricing. I am willing to pay fees for amenities if activities put me in touch with others while my lifestyle allows me the peace and privacy i want. Many wants will probably be unfulfilled, but that’s my dream.

    by ella — January 19, 2015

  36. Thanks, Caps. I’ll check it out! It’s gloomy, gray, and icy here today (NYS). Hope it’s far better where you are!!!

    by ella — January 19, 2015

  37. To Admin, you asked if anyone planning on downsizing or sizing up where the size of the new home is smaller but the cost is higher? That is my situation. Now I am a widow living in a beautiful 10 year old home that has lost at least 1/3 of the price we paid for it because of the real estate downturn and foreclosure issue. I want to move closer to my children and the home I want to purchase cost quite a bit more than I could sell my house for now. I would need to get a mortgage on the new house (do not have one now). I fear taking on debt at my age. Plus it is difficult to take the financial loss and then take on a financial burden for a smaller and lower quality house. However, I would be in an active adult community, in a house with less upkeep and closer to my children if I need their help. Like many people who are retired I worry about outliving my money. Anybody else have this situation? If so, how are planning on reconciling the dilemma?

    by Linda — January 19, 2015

  38. Ya, saw that on the news /;<(
    I got sunburned today when we went for our walk. 63 degrees! Nice

    by Caps — January 19, 2015

  39. I agree Ella. So glad I did not decide on a planned community when I was first looking. Retirement for me is 2-3 years off but, thanks to that fact, I am considering property outside of a “community” The pros and cons make it hard. Homes outside are considerably less for more property but I don’t want to be the “neighborhood watch” or wake up to loud music from cars or homes, neighbors sitting in their garages with the door open or a house painted with the local store’s “special of the month”. I want to remain active but don’t want to fight the crowds at the local gym and the texting women (usually) impeding my efforts to use the equipment and get on with my day. Furthermore, unless you move into a community with lots of land for newer building, the more affordable homes may be a little (or a lot) dated. I don’t mind the HOA fee if it’s not much more than $1,000 a year because, between myself and my husband, our annual memberships outside of our community cost that. But what about when I’m 80…or 90. Those retirement-to the-grave communities sound morbid to me, so they’re out. I’m hoping, before my retirement, us Baby Boomers will have influenced another retirement “model” that meets our needs and is less expensive. What about something that allows us to stop paying or pay a reduced HOA as we age and no longer wish to use the facilities but wish to age at home?

    by Veloris — January 20, 2015

  40. Veloris – I’m having my first experience with a HOA, and it’s making me re-think my intention to look at 55+ communities again. I’m in a mixed age neighborhood now, with about 150 homes. A group of housewives and a few retirees run the HOA. They do monthly inspections of each home looking for anything that might be untidy, unsanitary or unsightly. As a result, they’ve sent violation letters to a neighbor who had a gnome on a porch dressed in a football jersey, a neighbor who had some mold starting to grow at the bottom of their vinyl siding, a neighbor who left a garbage can out overnight on one occasion, etc. After I bought my home, the Seller’s realtor called them “HOA Nazi’s.” Yikes. They have even decided that the free township newspaper that is left in driveways once a week is clutter and are attempting to stop delivery in our neighborhood. I’ve been told these people switch out in bitter elections each year, and that there are constant arguments and feuds over control of the HOA. I’ve definitely learned how important it is to try to avoid communities where people are overly involved in their neighbors’ lives or in micromanagement. My current home is temporary until retirement in 2-3 years, but I dread getting into a similar housing situation in retirement.

    by Sharon — January 21, 2015

  41. Regarding reverse mortgages, I was under the assumption that anyone would qualify if you were the correct age and had adequate equity in the house. Today I spoke to a banking person and she told me only low income people qualify. People that had a limited income and were struggling with paying their bills and things. I was totally shocked! I don’t want one at this point but it has been in the back of my mind in the event we should need extra money down the road. I did a quick look up on line to see if I could find out if it was true and I don’t see anything that states you have to be poor to get a reverse mortgage. Does anyone have this information?

    by Louise — January 21, 2015

  42. Louise, You were given incorrect information about the Reverse Mortgage. The bank you spoke with probably doesn’t offer them. Google HUD approved Reverse Mortgage Lenders. You need to talk with someone that specializes in Reverse mortgages. You can have great monthly income and assets and obtain a Reverse mortgage.

    by Laura — January 22, 2015

  43. In contrast to previous comments about HOA fees, my husband and I visited possible retirement locations in Florida and South Carolina, before settling on a gated community in SC. In our travels, we noticed a huge difference between the state of the housing, lawns, neighborhoods, and most importantly, security in areas with no homeowner oversight group. We have lived our lives in a small town in New England with no security worries and relatively small neighborhood issues. We were stunned to observe the conditions as we traveled during our retirement search. We always talked to residents everywhere we traveled, not just the realtors or assigned “ambassadors”. Our plan quickly focused on finding a community with a friendly, but diligent, homeowner’s association with a reasonable fee. After asking for, and receiving the HOA bylaws and minutes of meetings for the past few years, and multiple visits and conversations with residents, we purchased In a beautifully maintained gated community with 24/7 security. We never would consider purchasing property without a fair homeowner’s association for maintaining the value of our home and peace of mind as we age. Just another perspective!

    by SandyZ — January 22, 2015

  44. Sharon,
    What a nightmare! Thanks so much for the heads-up! Wishing you a graceful survival of the next 2 – 3 years.

    by ella — January 22, 2015

  45. Laura, thank you for confirming what I believed all along that reverse mortgages are not just for low income people. The banking lady admitted she had not done reverse mortgages but I am so surprised she is so ignorant on the subject.

    I read an article today in regard to using a reverse mortgage to delay drawing Social Security. Letting your savings grow and your SS will grow the longer you delay. I really like that idea, plus, it is tax free and you could appear to be impoverished for Federal Tax filing depending on what other income you claim. Which could also help keep you under the wire for Obama Care upper limit of $62K per year. However, I would want to pay the money back to pay off the reverse mortgage once I was able to get the higher SS payments. It would be a LOT of money to pay back for delaying SS for say 4 years. Would have draw money out of savings to pay it back so not sure if the reverse mortgage strategy is all that great in the end for the purpose of delaying SS just to have a humongo mortgage hanging over your head.

    by Louise — January 22, 2015

  46. SandyZ,

    I am from New England too. Can you let us know the name of the gated community in SC that you found? I am also interested in SC and have looked quite a bit on the internet but not in person.

    by Louise — January 22, 2015

  47. Sharon, so sorry your HOA isn’t working out. I have pulled up the HOA Rules and Regs and other documents of several 55+ communities I am looking at. Unfortunately Board members change and so can the rules. What’s working now may not be working later. Often, with self-governing, members “make” rules that are not sanctioned by R&R’s or CC&R’s but since, in most cases, there’s apathy among the homeowners, whatever a Board member says is considered gospel by the community. In my present HOA, not only am I on the Board but, when I purchased, I went through the various docs and highlighted what I thought was important. Most homeowners don’t complain until something rubs them the wrong way, then they pay attention. When rules are made/changed (at least in CA), a notice has to be sent to the homeowners. You can google the HOA rules for your state and see what the procedures are for the type of activity you mentioned and call them on it if it is not being followed. I believe there are huge fines by the State as well as suits for mismanaged HOA’s. Additionally, management companies are tasked with the legality of it all but, if you have a management company that is only in it for the money, you’re in just as bad shape because they won’t monitor the activities of your HOA. We had that problem prior to creating a new Board. Members paying family members for (supposed) services, the management company not taking homeowner calls, and so it went until we fired them and found a company who would follow the rules and make sure we followed them. Being on the Board or, at minimum, attending meetings, and knowing what your docs say is the only way to ensure a well-run org. And, if your voice isn’t big enough, knowing the direction your HOA is going gives you the opportunity to bail before it’s too late. Home values are affected by how well a HOA is run.

    by Veloris — January 22, 2015

  48. Louise – we are leaving Kennebunk Maine for Dataw Island, near Beaufort SC. There are many gated communities in the Beaufort, HHI area, in a variety of price ranges, and a variety of fee structures. Treat yourself to a trip to the area, with a stopover in Charleston, an hour and a half north of Beaufort!

    by SandyZ — January 23, 2015

  49. Linda – We had the experience you are speaking of. We sold our home for approx 25% less than we paid. Our current home doesn’t cost more but we certainly lost a considerable amount of money in the process to move closer to family. We aren’t promised even tomorrow and family trumps all IMO. In addition, we didn’t get a home even near the quality of our previous home but it is something we had to compromise on to move. There are always choices to make. Perhaps a home that isn’t exactly what you want but in the right location could be an option for not having a mortgage. If you don’t have a mortgage now, remember that every penny you get from your current home is cash that can also be used to negotiate the price on another home. Best of luck to you.

    by Allison — January 26, 2015

  50. Veloris,
    Thank you for your very informative post. Apparently, there’s much to be aware of before buying into an HOA/POA community. I will be diligent and follow the directives you suggested.
    Thanks again!

    by ella — January 27, 2015

  51. I forgot to mention in my pros and cons of outside vs inside a community that, if I purchase a home outside of a 55+ community, I will probably have to pay school taxes. I believe, and I may be wrong, that 55+ communities are exempt from this ridiculous tax at our ages.

    by Veloris — January 28, 2015

  52. Veloris: I don’t know of any state where 55+ communities are exempt from school taxes, at least in the states where I’ve lived so far (NY, PA, CT, SC). Perhaps someone else knows of a place where they’re exempt? Communities supposedly like 55+ communities for many reasons, including the fact that they don’t burden schools with more kids that need to be educated and they are perceived as lowering crime, but find to their dismay that the 55+ residents don’t want to fund the schools and other community amenities (there’s an interesting discussion on this issue in the book Leisureville: Adventures in a World Without Children).

    by Sharon — January 29, 2015

  53. Veloris: “Ridiculous” tax? These are our grandchildren you’re talking about. I for one am happy to contribute to the next generation, just as the previous generation helped me out. We all pay taxes for things we don’t directly use–it is part of the social contract we all benefit from.

    by Carolyn — January 29, 2015

  54. Carolyn,
    I think that what Veloris meant is that at some point we should be exempt from paying a school tax. I don’t think he meant that it’s a ridiculous tax. (Please correct me if i’m incorrect, Veloris.) I know that in my area in NYS, many seniors must leave their lifelong home because the taxes are too high. If they no longer had to pay a school tax, many could remain. Just my 2 cents.

    by ella — January 29, 2015

  55. Here in NJ school Tax is about 75% of property Tax. Even at 62 yrs i am paying 10,000 a year. Hopefully will be leaving this state within 5 years.

    by Tony — January 30, 2015

  56. Ella,
    I agree 100% on your comments. I live in CT and this state is over the top with school taxes. I also agree that we should pay school taxes and like you said up to a certain age. There should be a cut off at some point for seniors for reduced school taxes or eliminated entirely. I for one was educated in public schools as well as my Hub and have paid back for 44-45 years since we were 18 years old. Plus, my hub and I had no children in the ‘system’ and of coarse no grandchildren either. So, at some point in time you would think seniors could get a break. I would also be interested in finding a place where seniors could live and not pay school taxes at our age. I think we have done our fair share and have contributed to many generations at this point in time. But, unlikely we seniors will ever get a break!

    by Louise — January 30, 2015

  57. If you rent, you generally don’t pay any property tax (at least directly) that are used for supporting schools in your district.

    Some years back I remember a big blow-up about school property taxes in Lake Havasu AZ. That is a big retirement community and the residents were rebelling about paying for schools. I don’t remember how that came out.

    by LS — January 30, 2015

  58. In our town we have had this ongoing issue of ‘pay to play’ sports for years. One year the kids parents have to pay something towards each sport a kid plays and the next they don’t have to pay. It is another reason our taxes go up. The parents are always outraged when they have to pay for their kids to play sports. I happen to know this one woman who used and abused the system while there was no pay to play sports. She had 3 kids and she had them in every sport known to man. Including Karate which she did have to pay for as it was a non school activity. She had it in her head her kids would get an athletic scholarship for college. Not sure how that worked out but why should the taxpayer have to pay for such extreme abuse of the system? I believe that each kid should be able to play one sport per school year for free. Then, let the parents pony up for additional sports. I am sorry that some parents can’t afford to pay to play but we taxpayers are not the schools piggy bank. Our town just shut down a school due to declining enrollment of children. So, just recently they did the school budget and it is higher than last year! Amazing they can justify closing a whole school and the budget goes up! Wow, I must have missed that class in school! 1+1 used to equal 2 but with this new math I guess it equals 3!

    by Louise — January 30, 2015

  59. I am single and have no children. I have owned five houses in five different locations and, of course, always paid school tax for your children and grandchildren…just the way it was and is. I never resented it The theory is that it will be their generation that pays for us.

    So far that is not happening. Wish I had been able to take advantage of Roth…I do have a very small Roth, but they came a bit late for me and in some jobs I could not use Roth. So the younger folks will not even have to pay taxes on their retirement so again not supporting others.

    However, I hope that technology will continue to bring improvements to my life! And beleive that some of the school taxes contributed to that. I am looking forward to self driving cars!

    by Elaine — January 30, 2015

  60. This thread has meandered a bit, and I wanted to add my two cents about school taxes.

    My children went to private schools so they didn’t benefit directly from school taxes. That said, I absolutely do not resent school taxes, including supporting sports programs. Those children will be my future doctors, nurses, caregivers, neighbors and friends. Quality educations, sports programs, arts & music enrichment classes and other “extras” have been well-proven to help create good citizens.

    When I was a child all of that was included in the public school system, meaning that the taxpayers of the 1950s & 60s generously provided that to me. There were plenty of “three letter” athletes back then also. If some of today’s families find it beneficial for their children to be in school sports throughout the school term, I have no issue with that.

    Even if I didn’t believe in this particular social contract, from a practical standpoint it makes a lot of sense. It’s a whole lot cheaper to educate children than it is to support them (welfare) or worse, maintain them in prisons.

    by JayCee — January 30, 2015

  61. Sorry if the word “ridiculous” incensed some of you. I meant “ridiculous” in terms of our child-bearing years and the requirement to continue to support the school system. I think those of us who have had children, have given more than our fair share, not only for ours but, as Louise mentioned, for others. Unfortunately, schools are putting out too many young people who aren’t excelling and are becoming part of the government dole – something we can’t avoid when it comes to taxes. But that’s a subject for another discussion. The public school system appears to be a “money pit”. Kudos to the young people who survive and move on to higher education. But, If we have to pay, then give us tax rebates that balance our contribution, based on age. If that happens, looking outside of a 55+ community would be enhanced.

    by Veloris — January 30, 2015

  62. I don’t think anyone resents paying into the system for school taxes. We all benefited from getting a public education. However, after paying school taxes for 45 years we have definitely paid our dues and then some. It would be nice to have some extra money in our pockets once retired. Not everyone has tons of money saved when ready to retire. If towns were to give tax relief to retired persons, they could afford to pay for their drugs and buy enough food to get by instead of visiting the food banks. Many seniors just don’t have enough money to get by. Of coarse we cannot solve this issue on this forum. Towns do not have enough money to let Seniors off the hook. Our High School wants artificial turf for sports. They say we are behind the times…what happened to natural grass? It is a gimme, gimme society these days. If they get the artificial turf it only lasts so many years then it’s time to put more down. Another money pit. It’s high school sports, not the NFL!

    by Louise — January 30, 2015

  63. I am almost 65 years old, and received my education through the Los Angeles Unified School District: Elementary through High School. I then graduated college through the California State University System; as did my son. I am grateful for the education I received and believe that I do have a responsibility to that system. I know what is available today within the Los Angeles Unified School District is nothing compared to what I received 50 plus years ago. This massive school district is basically running low on funds. Many more students; and less people paying their fair share of taxes.

    by Bubbajog — January 30, 2015

  64. On the other hand this from another blog.


    One day you’ll be old as dirt and on that day, the government will rise from the ashes and help pay for your medical expenses (maybe). Thankfully/unfortunately you’re not there yet. For now, you’re on the other end of the stick, forking over a chunk of your paycheck to help current old people pay their medical expenses.

    Just depends on where you’re standing.

    by easilyamused — January 31, 2015

  65. I would like to comment on the attitude displayed by many comments here that certain housing requirements are “necessary” to be happy. Many people comment that they need a garden, or more space….etc.

    I retired recently at 63. I seemed to be in reasonable health and, although not well off, thought I could manage financially with what I had and part-time work. Then reality intervened.

    In the last year I have spent over 13 weeks in hospital, and many more months sick at home. I have had heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, stroke, pneumonia, kidney problems…you name it.

    Here is the reality: you can be happy anywhere if you choose to be. Garden or no garden, space or no space. You really should start thinking of the reality of your aging body and concern yourselves with creating a sustainable lifestyle that will work regardless of your health. Your garden won’t matter when you spend large parts of the year in hospital or in bed. What will matter is having a bed, having neighbors who will grocery shop for you, having an easy maintenance home.

    I rented my big house in NY and now have a very small mobile home in a 55+ mobile home park in Tucson. I am so lucky I made the choices I did. My situation is not perfect (have to drive to grocery store and doctors) but close. My living expenses are low and affordable. Nice neighbors who are helpful. Low maintenance. I think my health is slowly improving but still have months of work to really get better. So happy I’m not worrying about yard, garden, maintenance. Amazing how happy you can be just walking your dog on a pretty day.

    by Ginger — January 31, 2015

  66. Children, going to school now, will be future income earners helping to pay our way.

    by godsgirl — January 31, 2015

  67. Very good points, Ginger. I’ve read some of your other posts on this site and so am familiar with your story.

    Many of us are struggling with the “Do I stay or do I go?” dilemma, but you sure distilled it to the essentials. If we don’t have sufficient funds to pay our overhead, plus have human emotional and light caregiver support in place, we will be (as we said in the 60s) screwed, blued and tattooed. That support can come from long-term relationships if we retire in place, or new ones if we move away, but either way we need to remain heavily invested in human beings. We are a species with a lot of interdependencies.

    Having a low maintenance home would surely be a blessing during times of infirmity.

    I see the complaints about paying school taxes as being very similar to the squawking by people in their twenties about paying FICA. Their justification is the possibly very correct belief that SS will not be in place when they are ready to retire so why not let people invest those funds themselves, and in their own names. But here’s the thing… I don’t pay school taxes so my children will be educated, I pay school taxes so that ALL children will be educated. They don’t pay FICA for their own benefit, they pay FICA so ALL that seniors (and the other SS beneficiaries) in this country won’t be penniless.

    If elders are permitted to opt out of paying school taxes, thus not supporting young families, would it not be equally fair to allow young families to opt out of FICA, thus reducing the current stability of Social Security?

    In my opinion, paying taxes a la carte, choosing to support that which we perceive to be immediately personally beneficial, is a dangerous and slippery slope.

    by JayCee — January 31, 2015

  68. Just to make it clear – i didn’t say anything about whether seniors should or should not be paying school taxes. I just said that many persons in my area have been forced to move due to the high cost of taxes. I did not make a proposal as to a possible solution, although i can think of several. This discussion has become quite heated and i wanted to make my position (or lack of one) clear.

    by ella — January 31, 2015

  69. FICA is insurance. And, like all insurance, we pay “just in case”. Where would most of us be if we had had the choice whether to pay or not? As a divorced mother of 2 I can say, without a doubt, if I had had the choice I would be in serious trouble at 66. I am glad it was mandated. But, at 60, 65, 70, 75, in light of the issues many of us will be facing, without much relief from the government, paying school taxes, is a slap in the face. As far as I’m concerned, we’re the last generation that funded SS. We worked hard, as did our parents. It is hoped, but doubtful, that future generations will ever be able to fund SS like we did.

    by Veloris — January 31, 2015

  70. Good points JayCee and Ginger. Ginger nice to see you, I think about you often.

    by easilyamused — February 1, 2015

  71. Reading the above comments I feel like I have to weigh in. I love living in our ridiculous 2800 sq ft. with 3 sets of stairs, 4 sunken rooms, entry stairs of 5 stairs in all entries to the house. You can imagine why I want to get into a smaller ranch.

    My home is in a very small town, but in a beautiful location. With 2 acres of land, my closest neighbor is 1 acre away from my home. There is an open space behind and to the other side of us. Additionally, protecting our privacy is a row of evergreen trees.

    I’ve been insistent that we move as soon as my husband retires, mostly for the stairs issue. Our state and local, federal and sales taxes and maintenance and will take up at least one of our annual Social Security payments

    We have been frugal (no fancy vacations, no jewelry to speak of, but have been up to date on electronics), but we have excellent retirement funds. I am expecting higher taxes on my saving, more costs for Medicare – think large deductions for those who have saved. I don’t mind paying for education and betterment of my town.

    But I’m (annoyed) with some of the postings here… It was hard to save money. We saved 3% from our paychecks starting when we were married, 40 years ago. You’ll think we must had very good savings to live in this home. We got lucky in the real estate market when we bought the place and, put an addition on the house;, and then lost most of what we put into it. We paid off our 30 year mortgage and we refinanced only once, moving to a 15 year loan, never taking any money from the refinance.

    I would like to love to live outside of this state (one of the most heavily taxed state in the country). Will we do it when he retires? I’m not sure.

    I love Ginger’s comment about renting her NY home. One of my husband’s cousin does just that. She cannot sell the home (I think she is being unrealistic about the price she wants), and lives in her motor home both in FL and when she it at her own house. I don’t think we will be landlords, especially when we will live out of state.

    It is hard enough to figure out to get my husband out of the house, let alone find a place he will want to live, as he craves a similar environment.

    Any thoughts for 2 acres wooded, 6 miles to emergency, 20 miles to 3 excellent hospital, and two hours to either NY or Boston hospitals. I haven’ found it yet.

    by Lynne from Connecticut — February 1, 2015

  72. Easilyamused…nice to be here! Things were pretty dicey for awhile but I hope I am on the upswing now, if my heart will just behave. I’m just struggling along now to get better. Trying to plan ahead. My current tenants are moving out next August and I’m thinking I may have to go to NY to get house in order and find new tenants. Before that I’m trying to get better and hoping I might be able to save enough money to travel a bit in the summer to get out of the worst heat.

    Lynne from Connecticut….sounds like you got yourselves into a tight spot. The kind of property you have is only appealing to niche buyers. If you have time, and price it right, you might find someone. But if you like it there and have adequate savings, why move?

    by Ginger — February 1, 2015

  73. Sandy Z
    What is the name of the community that you purchased a home in on Dataw Island? I can’t seem to find any 55+ communities on Dataw Island. We currently have our home here in NC up for sale and are considering that area for our retirement years. The research has only just begun.

    by Journey15 — February 2, 2015

  74. Thinking of down size but what one do with life time of collections of antiques, furniture, silver wares, and such? Kids do not want anything. They do not have time to polish silvers and want more modern comfort. I look at all the stuff I have and have no idea of how to get rid of them in order to down size. Any suggestion????????

    by Mingchen — February 2, 2015

  75. Mingchen:

    Am right there with you except my “things” are in boxes from the last move and sitting in the dining room – no storage – no place to put them and I’m really sick of moving them (have moved 3X in last 8 years – grrrrrrrrr!) So, when you get your answer as to how to “unload”, please share!


    by KL Soper — February 2, 2015

  76. Mingchen…..when my two aunts died, I had to clean out their houses for sale. It was very hard to dispose of their things. I sold what I could, gave away, and trashed things. It took me weeks. Weeks out of my busy life. Used my vacation two different years, cleaning out their houses. Do you want to force that on your children? The sad truth is….no one wants your stuff. You can get rid of it, or force someone else…your children, nieces, sisters….to do it for you once you are gone. I am in the process is f getting rid of my stuff now. Just face it….it will all be trash someday.

    by Ginger — February 2, 2015

  77. Lynne,

    Your situation is so similar to what we went through, although my husband retired a few years before I did, and he was the one who wanted to move. We had 5 acres, two houses, a barn, pool, and so on. I loved it! Very small town and 30 miles from a hospital; 55 miles from a shopping center and medical specialists. We are retired public school teachers, saved our $, and paid off the 2 story home we built before I retired. I was hoping to enjoy our rural property for a few years but my husband’s health issues made staying where we were too difficult.

    We spent 18 months actively searching for a retirement solution, smaller house with minimal maintenance, close to hospitals, airport, etc. Fortunately we were able to buy before having to sell our home, which was on the market for 8 months before a sale went through. The move was traumatic for me, as was downsizing. I’m in the same situation as Mingchen – our kids want very little of our silver, crystal, china and antique furniture. My niece and daughter took some to sell on EBay, LOL!

    Two years later and I’ve made friends in a small city, live a bit closer to my kids, and enjoy a much smaller house with one third of the utility and tax bills we had before. We travel a lot and will for as long as we can. Yes, I miss the mountains and privacy sometimes, but I tend to focus on what we have to be grateful for. Good luck – there are many things I wish I’d done differently in terms of downsizing sooner and better box labeling – but overall the move has been a good one for us.

    by Marianne — February 2, 2015

  78. Lynne,
    Your home sounds lovely. Have you spoken to a realtor about your prospects? I live about 1 1/2 hours from NYC, and am surprised by the number of young families who want to relocate here (much lower taxes than Westchester County or Long Island) and are willing to commute to work. Not all to the city, but in that direction. You may find the same is true in your area, and that your home is a dream-come-true for some lucky family.

    by ella — February 2, 2015

  79. Mingchen: I’m in the same boat. I used one of those companies that sells stuff on Ebay, and did pretty well even with them keeping 40% of the sales price. I can’t believe what people paid for stuff like my old high school ring, Barbie’s and some other stuff that definitely isn’t going to my retirement home. The company was selective about what they would take to sell on Ebay. They showed up with IPads and did a lot of research as they went through stuff. For ex., I had some costume jewelry of my Mom’s that was probably 80 years old, which still had its tags. They said that stuff just didn’t have enough value to warrant trying to sell it.

    I took a lot of stuff to Goodwill. I called the Salvation Army to come and take some furniture (they will only take furniture that is in great condition). I packed up chemicals, oils, old paint, and other stuff from the garage and took it to a hazardous waste disposal event (cost me about $150, which was a bargain). I used 1-800-Junk too. They say that they do recycle some items. They came a few times, as I kept trying to eliminate stuff (I paid them about $1000 total for their trips). I gave some things to people. For example, since my plan is to end up in a newer condo instead of a house, I was able to give a lot of yard stuff and tools to my handyman. The cleaning lady took the snowblower, and the guy that cut my grass took my old lawnmowers. I took countless trips to the library to donate books. Yes, I am still saving some stuff like the sterling silver and the crystal that I know my kids don’t want. Maybe someday I’ll use the Minton bone china as my everyday dishes LOL. I can’t believe the quantity of stuff that I’ve collected over 40 years! I’ve gotten my stuff substantially reduced, but I’m still working on it a little bit at a time. My kids suggested giving things away on Craigs List, but I’m not comfortable with doing that.

    It’s a long process. I am working on closets now, getting rid of clothes. I am also learning that my kids are a lot smarter than I am. There were some boxes of toys that I thought my kids would want to keep for their own children, but my kids said to take them to Goodwill. Maybe they’ll wish they had kept them in a few years, but I doubt it….speaking as someone who still has my 60 year old, beat up Teddy Bear in the attic. I guess he’ll go with me into retirement. Some things are worth keeping :-).

    by Sharon — February 3, 2015

  80. Journey15 – to answer your question about Dataw Island – here is the website:
    There are many other gated or not, but planned communities in the Beaufort area. Fewer towards Charleston, but many between Beafort and Hilton Head Island. 3 new communities are in the approval process in Beaufort, so you will have many choices to research! it seems that newer communities are moving away from including a golf course, as they are expensive to maintain, thus higher fees. Just depends on personal choices and how you plan to spend those precious years of your “next chapter”! Good luck and enjoy the process!

    by SandyZ — February 3, 2015

  81. Marianne and Ella, both of your postings we helpful. If you don’t mind, could you post where you live now, as having a reference to a specific place will help me in getting my husband to the point of moving.

    Ella, two of our closest friends are realtors. They have agreed to list our house. As we are close to the University, our town is home to a number of professors, administrators and graduate students. We think someone like that will buy the home.

    Sharon, I don’t have children, and the 15 nieces and nephews don’t seem to have any interest in grandparents things (both mother and mother-in-law gave us “stuff”, some of wish we never saw.

    A few years ago we rented one of those 18 foot dumpsters. It seemed crazy, but we were able to throw away many things like pieces of wood, machine stuff from shed, and anything we hadn’t used in the two years prior. We have our yard and snow handled by someone. Surprise, we filled all 18 feet of it, we didn’t need stuff like a rake with the metal out of shape.

    I learned something from one of the TV home shows: create 3 piles, keep, toss, and not certain. When the piles are complete, toss the items then you go through the keep pile. More than likely you will find more things that you don’t need to keep. The not certain has to go through the process. Either you keep it or toss it. Nothing you have will end up not certain. We plan to do this again. A lot of things will be donated, but I think we can get rid of a lot of stuff in a 12 foot dumpster.

    Suggestions for where to donate, in no particular order: Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, Salvation Army, a homeless shelter that arranges new living quarters, a women’s crises center. Once I called the town and asked if they had anyone who needed furniture that we were going to replace. The young man who came to get the furniture said their apartment suffered a fire, and that his wife was about 4 weeks to delivery. I’ve never felt as good as I did when we gave a sofa, love seat, kitchen table, 4 chairs, all in a white leather. I have kept his “thank you” note, as it always reminds me of how lucky we are that we have the things we have.

    Hopefully, this process will help clean the house of the “not certain, and toss it” categories. This will help the executors when the time comes, or if we relocate, this can only lower the cost of the downsized move.

    by Lynne from Connecticut — February 3, 2015

  82. Most of the comments above are right on! Hub and I have rented dumpsters, big ones, called 1800 Got Junk, taken trips to Goodwill, donated furniture and household things to an organization that helps people in need. We even donated paint and stain to an organization like habitat for humanity. We get tax deductions for most of it too. I would avoid 1800 Got Junk if you have room for a dumpster in your yard. They charge a LOT and a dumpster can fit so much more. We rented a HUGE dumpster for around $300 and were able to keep it for two weeks. After two weeks it was $5 a day extra. We kept it a few extra days. We have lived in this house for 40 years this year and it is full and we never had kids. Even with three dumpsters over a three year period and all the donations, plus, I sell some stuff on ebay, my house it still full of stuff! I think it reproduces like rabbits! There is a Vietnam Veteran organization that will pick up stuff too. I get postcards from them occasionally but have never used them yet. So many organizations to donate to. You might call your local animal welfare too. They might have a summer tag sale to make money and could sell your stuff.

    This is my breakdown:
    Clothes and household gadgets to Goodwill
    Junk from garage, attic and sheds to dumpster
    Furniture and usable items like shovels, vacuum cleaners, computer screens, etc to a charitable org for people in need
    Paint, stain in cans or spray cans to an org like Habitat for Humanity

    We have a recycle center in our town but have never used it.

    Oh, and another idea to get rid of your junk is to get in touch with some pickers with a store and have them sell it. They get around 40%. They can be very fussy though! I had a brass chandelier that was plain jane and they said forget it, they can’t sell them! LOL! So I took it to Goodwill!

    by Louise — February 4, 2015

  83. We seem to have created a new (and very interesting) thread here. For folks who want more on the topic of Downsizing, we have a whole series on it, including dozens of comments. Go on over there for more:

    by Admin — February 4, 2015

  84. Lynne,
    Sorry, i’m still in frigid and snowy NY, so i can’t offer any inspiration to you or your husband. I am planning a trip this spring to check out SW Virginia, No. Georgia, Western NC, and Eastern TN. Seems like a lot for one trip; might not get it all done. Keep me posted concerning how things go with your house. My best to you,

    by ella — February 4, 2015

  85. Ella, the areas you mention are all the places I want to see, as well as northwestern SC. A friend lives there and swears it is a great place to live. Let me know how you do. We are in a wind chill advisory tonight temps -2, with a wind chill of -25 to -30. This is absurd!

    by Lynne from Connecticut — February 5, 2015

  86. […] further reading Is a Money Pit Going to Ruin Your Retirement Using Your Home to Pay for Retirement Affordable Places to Retire on the Waterfront (2 Part series) […]

    by » How to Find a Retirement Home for under $50,000 - Topretirements — March 23, 2015

  87. Hi Lynne,
    I just saw your post today from Feb. 5th. Isn’t it great to realize those temps are done for a while. Now if only spring would decide to reveal herself!
    I’ll give you a full update once i go. I considered NW SC, but don’t know if it’s too hot in the summer for me, and if the mountains are too low there (mere hills). Where is your friend?

    by ella — March 24, 2015

  88. Very interesting feed!! Am so confused right now as to where to move to! Right now we are in the Monterey Bay, Ca
    and still owe a hefty amount on our house. It is a 2 story, 2,000+ sq ft home on an acre of land. We hope to walk away from this house with enough $$ to put down 1/2 on a $250,000 smaller home. Would like a small yard as we have a dog and will always have a dog and love to do a little gardening. Having grown up all over the country I don’t consider myself a Californian and more of a Southern girl as quite a bit of time was spent there. The thought of a 55+ community horrifies me as my husband and I consider ourselves young, hip 65 and 66yr olds. Husband will work for 2 more years ( probably) and then where? Like this part of the world but so freaking expensive. When we sell there is no way to buy into anything here. No family here in California so that is not an issue. Have visited Beaufort, SC and it is very charming. Also looking at Asheville, NC. Have to admit I’m a bit nervous about moving somewhere new and making new friends ( tho very social !) This current house is not an option for the future….too much upkeep. Also it is usually chilly and foggy here on the coast….nothing is perfect, I know! Want it all….water, trees, nice weather, culture, walkability, etc, etc!!! Feeling a little stressed about all the changes to come and like many of us it’s difficult to imagine myself 80-90 yrs old and what my needs will be then. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone else? Thanks for letting me vent!!

    by Jean — June 4, 2015

  89. Has anyone tried mini homes…either mobile or stationary? I know this was mentioned before, but anyone actually lived in one? This would work for me, but I am wondering about the challenges and expenses. I think “parking” one permanently (like mobile homes) might mean you would be in the middle of nowhere.or paying high rent

    for example:

    by elaine — July 2, 2015

  90. Hi Elaine:

    I too am sold on the tiny house movement. I like a well designed upscale looking one (check out Wheelhaus). The problem is where to park it. It would be nice it there were safe park model communities where all the tiny homes were of the same quality and look. A gated community would be even better. Now one can often sees a nice park model parked next to a junky looking one of lesser quality and design or a trailer. If you can find a place to park it for a reasonable price, possibly even off the grid, then half of the problem is solved. The idea is that if it is on wheels or can be moved then you would not be charges property taxes–at least that is what I have read. If anyone knows of great communities for these park model tiny homes please give a shout out.

    by Jennifer — July 3, 2015

  91. I’m also interested in the tiny house movement. I’ve lived in less than 400 sq ft in the past, and it worked for a variety of reasons. I agree that parking the mobile tiny house is an issue, because many places haven’t caught up to more alternative living styles. I wonder if Top Retirements could do some research and an article on tiny houses: living in one, parking one, drawbacks and benefits, etc., for those of us who are seriously considering this as a retirement alternative. That would be helpful to me. There must be communities that have zoned for tiny houses.

    by Elaine C. — July 3, 2015

  92. Great idea for a new topic? we are also wondering about that possibility. As a permanent place or possibly buying permanent little smaller and have a ‘tiny’ house as a getaway.

    by Carol — July 3, 2015

  93. I agree Carol, this would be a great idea for a new topic. Perhaps there is a tiny house community that is charming and has amenities and perhaps a shared green space for gardening with amenities as well. Security or a gated community would be high on the list form me as I am a single woman. I also feel the community should be appealing with high quality tiny homes.

    by Jennifer — July 4, 2015

  94. Do you know what states you can buy a tiny house and where they are located in what cities or do you have to buy your own land and have one built?

    by kathy4161 — July 5, 2015

  95. One reference for the “pocket community” concept is from the architect and author Ross Chapin. More than 40 have been built throughout the US. Go to:

    Here is another link about tiny houses:

    Jan Cullinane, author, The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement

    by Jan Cullinane — July 6, 2015

  96. I discovered last night that there in a TV show “Tiny House Hunting”. It is on channel “FYI,”. They defined tiny as less than 500 square feet.

    by elaine — July 7, 2015

  97. Watched the show. I didn’t work hard my whole life to live out my final years in such a small box. I wasn’t surprised that college students were shopping for one, since presumably it’s more desirable than a dorm room. (But not by much….in my opinion.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Habitat for Humanity and similar charities construct them for the homeless.

    On the other hand, I guess I could see a possible market for a community of tiny houses in a resort area, if the community had really great amenties (not for full-time living, but ok for sleeping). The competition would probably be small condos or apartments , trailer parks and RV parks.

    by Ted — July 8, 2015

  98. I am a closet minimalist who is in process of coming out. My dad, who is 89 this month, is a minimalist, but he doesn’t know it and would suspect the label as subversive. He is extremely active, drives all over the country, manages his finances, runs three households, and is strongly spiritual. He’s my retirement role model. He likes a house with space, empty and expansive space. A multi-thousand square feet house with nothing in it is his idea of a great retirement home. He eschews stuff to the point of horrifying his sister. He has everything he needs, but no more. I like a few more feathers in my nest, but who knows how I’ll feel in 24 years?

    A tiny house in retirement for me represents freedom to pursue my passions, less housework and financial overhead, and an alternative lifestye that not only embraces but also relies on community because one cannot stay in a little box (no matter how charming and loved) without going stir crazy. For me, expansive space means being outside in nature or community gathering places, or strolling through a farmer’s market, or quietly writing in a snug corner of a quiet cafe – expansive within my mind. Having all my needs met in a small sustainable structure could permit me a better ability to live expansively outside its walls. Some tiny houses I’ve seen online even manage to create a minimalist feel to them, which for me is better than ice cream.

    I believe there’s a market, Ted, as you say, for resort tiny homes in a beautiful location with expansive community gathering places that bring people together to share and be neighborly, either for a week or for a lifetime. Someone could make a lot of money – maybe I should write a business plan. I’m looking for those communities online so I can go visit, because I think staying in a tiny place before actually committing to one is a good idea. I have more thoughts on this, but for now, that’s enough.

    by Elaine C. — July 8, 2015

  99. […] of older Blog Posts, especially Is a Money Pit Going to Ruin Your Retirement, recently had quite a run of interesting comments about tiny homes. We have reprinted many of them […]

    by » Are You Ready to Join the Tiny House Movement in Retirement - Topretirements — July 13, 2015

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