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The Ultimate Downsize – Get Down to a Suitcase and Hit the Road

Category: Work and Volunteering

September 7, 2014 — We are happy to read that more and more baby boomers are taking a pro-active role in downsizing. They are doing it intentionally, tackling clutter room by room and not adding on new stuff either. But how about the ultimate – getting rid of just about everything – including your house – and hitting the road? More than a few boomers are choosing this path.

In 2013 there were over 360,000 Americans who receive their Social Security at non-U.S. addresses, which was a 48% increase over 10 years before. Of course that doesn’t include hundreds of thousands more who travel either for long periods – abroad or in the U.S. – but still retain some kind of base in this country.

A consistent comment we hear from folks who have done it is that downsizing is “liberating”. One of the obvious benefits is that once you don’t have a house and “stuff” to manage you have a lot more money to spend. Plus, you have the time to do what you want – like travel or volunteer (or both!). The NY Times recently profiled Lynne Martin, author of “Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New World, And Saw the World” in “Retirees Dump Their Possessions and Travel the World”. Ms.Martin and her husband unloaded their California home, found a new owner for their dog, ditched most of their possessions, and now travel the world using short term rentals (using Their experience has been that the money they saved from not owning a home has opened up a new world, without having to tap their savings.

The article profiles other retirees like Stacy Monday, who has different tactics for enjoying the unencumbered retirement lifestyle. Ms. Monday claims that she sometimes spends less than $150 a month by volunteering at non-profits in exchange for room and board, or taking on odds and ends jobs. She writes a blog, Barefoot Lovey, which will give you an idea of her experiences and approach. It also has a tip jar!

Non-profits galore
Many of the folks who choose to live the nomadic life take extensive stays that involve volunteer work with some type of non-profit. Some of those visits are in this country, while others are in foreign destinations. Nonprofits that facilitate these jobs include Nomads on a Mission in Divine Service, RV Care-A-Vanners, and Global International (see end of article). In some you might get room and board or other benefits for your service, while with others you might get a gig like teaching English in an interesting country abroad. Topretirements has profiled several retired boomers who now volunteer as a traveling way of life. Those include Mary Anne Johnston (below), who found her work on literacy in Guatemala particularly rewarding. That job was set up through through Rotary International.

Barbara Traynor is profiled”How to Live for Free as a Second Career Volunteer“. Barbara has enjoyed numerous jobs both in the U.S. and abroad including organizations like Heifer and Russell Cave National Monument. Some have gone on for months and have covered her living expenses. Her blog, Second Career Volunteer, has some great accounts of her various adventures.

Hands across the sea

Harriet and students on Union Island

We wrote about Tom and Harriet Linskey in “Seafaring Couple Starts International Literacy Program“. Although they started off by retiring on their boat and cruising the world, they morphed that into a more purposeful retirement that focuses on bringing books and reading to poor children in the Caribbean.

Class A Motor Home

We’ve also done multiple articles on people like Betty Fitterman, who spent the early years of her retirement on the road with the RV Lifestyle.

How long can you do it?
We think there has to be some kind of shelf life to living on the road. When we get really old we will probably need a home base. But in the meantime, it sure beats cleaning out the garage for the 5th time!

Do you think you could downsize the point where you have no home, not even a storage unit, and hit the road? Where would you go, and what would you do? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

For further reading:
Global Volunteers website
Global Volunteer Network
Adventurous Retirements Blog (Topretirements) – profiles many types of retirement gigs
Work and Volunteering Blog at Topretirements

Posted by Admin on September 7th, 2014


  1. Very funny. As I was reading this blog, I noticed that the margin ads that came up were for furniture and other “stuff” that I had been shopping for over the weekend. Keeping downsizing in mind, I don’t think I’ll get more “stuff” right now after all.

    by Ted — September 8, 2014

  2. My husband and I plan to sell everything and buy a small RV. We want to see our beautiful country while we are still young enough to get around. We will probably settle in Florida when we are tired of traveling. Lots of homes are sold fully furnished in 55+ communities. We aren’t that attached to a piece of furniture. Our kids don’t want the antiques, so why keep them?
    We can’t wait to travel and if we don’t like our neighbors, we can take our home and leave!

    by Sunny — September 8, 2014

  3. For most folks this would be very hard to do: (1) give up all your possessions? What about hobbies you’ve developed over 30-40 years? I’d be hard pressed to get rid of all my “stuff.” (2) They “..found a new owner for their dog..” Our dog is part of our family. We would never just find it a new home. (3) Travel the world? Sounds fun for about 3 months then I would miss all the comforts of “home.”

    Takes a unique person/couple to do this. For most of us it is not practical.

    by glenns — September 8, 2014

  4. I guess my biggest concern has to do with health. I’m afraid if you have health issues this may be difficult, if not impossible. It isn’t the stuff in your house, but it is the stuff in your life, like friends, neighbors, doctors, etc. I moved to AZ in April, away from all my friends (NY) and family (Seattle/SF), then got sick. Had a heart attack in June, developed Atrial Fibrillation in August and had a stroke. Now I can’t drive. Had no one to care for my dog, bring clothes to hospital, etc. it has been really difficult. You don’t build that stuff overnight….friends, neighbors, support network. I would love to be in Europe with a backpack but don’t see how I can unless I have a health miracle. And I’m 65.

    by Ginger — September 8, 2014

  5. Very wise, Ginger. Brings to mind cruising in Florida in the winter, when retirees are a significant number of passengers. Medical emergencies (including death – yes, those ships have refrigerated arrangements) happen more frequently than you would expect. One officer told me that they have 1 or 2 deaths of elderly passengers almost every cruise on the larger ships in the winter. I still travel for business, and travel is getting physically harder for me almost every month at this point. You never know when (or where) you might have a medical emergency. I don’t think I would be prepared to leave a support system, my doctors, dentists, etc. to take my chances on the road for any length of time.

    by Ted — September 9, 2014

  6. Sounds like fun for a year or so! We have often thought about cruising in our own boat for a year or so. After reading several books written by couples who’s did this, we took a hard look at our own tolerance for weather emergencies on the ocean, unexpected and sometimes costly or. catastrophic mechanical breakdowns, and the loneliness of just your true love 24/7 for a year, we decided that we were not thinking logically about our romantic dream of full-time living aboard a boat! Thanks for the article about “hitting the road” – I suspect “hitting the water” would be similar!

    by SandyZ — September 9, 2014

  7. HI Ginger,
    Wow, I just read about the illnesses you have had in the last few months. I think you do deserve a Miracle. Here’s to a Miracle for Ginger’s Health. I know these things do happen so I am seriously asking for a miracle for YOU. Are you the one who was telling us about where to get good outdoor clothing at a place online. I love that sort of thing but now do not know where the site is. I am wising you all the greatest, best, loving HEALTH that is possible ever. I love you and know you deserve all of it.
    Thanks for always being here for all of us. We need you.
    Lovingly, Your friend in NY, Elizabeth~ 😉 {{{{{HUGS}}}}} <3

    by Elizabeth in NY — September 9, 2014

  8. We love this idea and plan to do it in a few years. Sell the house and almost everything in it. We will rent studio or one bedroom apartments for two weeks to a month in towns that interest us. If it doesn’t fit in the jeep its not coming. Unlike the other couple thought we will not get rid of our dog, and there is NO reason to. We have found dozens and dozens of places that allow him. We are in New England and we plan to start here, head west and then do it again on the way back. We will plan it so we never have to see winter again. We figure it will take us 18-24 months. When we are done then we will decide where we want to call home. No point in keeping the furniture or most of what is in the house now if we have no idea where we will land. Excited about the whole idea!

    by Mary — September 10, 2014

  9. I have to agree with glenns and Ginger. This is a nice dream for many, but a practical nightmare in the making for most. We recently took a two-month trip that we hugely enjoyed, but for us there is nothing like home and we will stick to one or two week trips from now on. Another good result of our trip is that we did confirm that where we live is where we want to be. No more dreaming of AZ or CO!

    As for Ginger, yes, I’m sorry to hear your story, but it’s one that many of us encounter as we reach those years of declining health and physical resources. For some it may start 10 or more years later, but for most, the 60s can well become a difficult time of recognizing your new place in life. For us, heart attack and surgery, significant life-changing-allergy, and general physical breakdown (despite an active life) have us feeling much different at 66 than we did at 60. Remove all your life structure, and where are you? It you can handle it and are young enough, go for it. But at retirement age, it pays to give some concern to the future.

    by Rich — September 10, 2014

  10. Rich,

    Would you be interested in expanding on your comment “No more dreaming of AZ or CO! ”

    My DW & I have been looking in the CO direction.

    by Bill — September 10, 2014

  11. Bill, My wife and I have traveled several times in and around AZ and CO. Out interest goes back at least 40 years. We are “from” NC and retired here, but both states continued to attract us — especially the areas near Sedona, AZ and central CO. Last year my wife was diagnosed with a tick-induced allergy called alpha-gal. She is allergic to meat (beef, pork, all mammals — not fowl (chicken, turkey) or fish. The allergy can and has caused her to go into anaphylactic shock and the ONLY possible remedy at this time is for her to never get bitten by another tick — hopefully that might reduce her sensitivity. So we had been considering other life options such as moving or taking long-term trips to other locations (the snow bird thing). This summer we spent three weeks each in AZ and CO. Both are attractive and I would be happy to visit at any time.

    For us, summing AZ came to this: windy, dusty, dry and red/brown. CO is more difficult. Very diverse, it is beautiful and, where we stayed in Silverton/Dillon a near paradise place. But winters are extreme (that was always a probable definitive “no”) and I personally discovered that wonderful as the place is, I was unable to adapt to the elevation. This is not a problem for most. In my case, we stayed at 9600 feet and on any repeat visit, I will not make that mistake again. We finally left a little early because I could not stand the constant gasping for breath. (I was never affected by other altitude sickness symptoms. So it was that simple. Clearly there are other options in CO, but the areas I like best have the elevation. (8000 ft. appears to be my limit. I also had an issue during a brief trip to Switzerland 15 years ago.) My problems may be related to heart disease and lung problems, but my advice to you and anyone is the same as Top Retirements repeats endlessly — if you are interested in retiring to any area, go spend some significant time there (more than just a week or two — we had done that previously) before making a final decision. You can never tell in advance just what factor may make a place unacceptable to you.

    And BTW, we also learned that extended time away from our home is not something either of us want (we are NOT snowbirds). In the last 11 years we have taken two 5-week trips and this two month trip. In each case, we ended up returning a little early because, to us , our home (while not perfect) is where we love to be. But we always felt the desire to explore to be sure we didn’t pass up “the right place”. Now we are absolutely sure NC is that right place.


    by Rich — September 10, 2014

  12. I just so appreciate all the posts and varying perspectives regarding all the different choices and the reasons for choosing your directions in life. As our pending relocation to a warmer area is now only within months…….I am thinking I will miss the grand kids the most of all. We intend to purchase a new home soon, and while it is very exciting, it is also a little disquieting. Mostly, however we mearly have to recall last winters weather to get back on track!

    by Caps — September 10, 2014

  13. This article just added a few more samples to the buffet table of retirement possibilities in addition to many legitimate concerns. After going through the ordeal of surgery and chemo for breast cancer at age 48 my attitude shifted in many respects but one important area was downsizing so that I could take an early retirement. My 800 sqft condo and garage is all I need. I can now travel when I want but I can return to my home, family, friends and medical support. Sometimes just downsizing is all that’s needed. I’m 63 now and for today I enjoy good health but I do know what it’s like when you get “that” call.
    I don’t live in fear but my past health experience keeps me in reality and helps me plan accordingly. I love this site…I can just take what I need and leave the rest. I learn the most by the honest feedback from readers.

    by Ann — September 10, 2014

  14. Enjoying everyone’s take on this exciting and ambitious option. I have been considering the vagabond life after retiring – have been a world traveler all my life and have lived in both India and England. I have decided on a sweet compromise – pick a home base I will enjoy, integrate myself into people, activities and family there while scheduling month-long trips abroad to places I want to experience living – Paris, Singapore. Barbados, Martha’s Vineyard, Florence, a long cruise. Yes, pricey and you must be healthy, but there are many ways to skin a cat. I hope to do this for as many years as suits. When the romance is spent, then I still have that wonderful home base for the chapter after that. Keep living and chasing dreams – keeps us young. I read recently, ‘Currency in the retirement realm is how interesting you are, how much fun you are to be around, how good a story you can tell, and how good you feel about the life you are living!’ Stay curious and grateful. Best to all. Enjoying everyone’s take on this exciting and ambitious option. I have been considering the vagabond life after retiring – have been a world traveler all my life and have lived in both India and England. I have decided on a sweet compromise – pick my home base, integrate myself into people, activities and family there while scheduling 2-3 month-long trips abroad to places I want to experience living – Paris, Singapore. Barbados, Martha’s Vineyard, Florence, a long cruise. Yes, pricey and you must be healthy, but there are many ways to skin a cat. I hope to do this for as many years as suits. When the romance is spent, then I still have that wonderful home base for the chapter after that. Keep living and chasing dreams – keeps us young. I read recently, ‘Currency in the retirement realm is how interesting you are, how much fun you are to be around, how good a story you can tell, and how good you feel about the life you are living!’ Stay curious and grateful. Best to all.

    by Linda — September 10, 2014

  15. This comment came in from Joan:

    Thank you for sending the latest information. It sounds like things I can sink my teeth into.

    Please send more as you find them.

    I really like the idea of selling everything and going on the road. Unfortunately, don’t want to do that alone, unless there is a group doing it. What a thought. A group going on the road together. If you know of anything like that, or come across that please inform me. I do seem to want to do things “out of the box” for retirement. Last real chance to fly in the wind, if you know what I mean.;

    Thanks again.

    by Admin — September 10, 2014

  16. Dick and I just rented out our home for two years and signed a one year’s lease for a furnished home outside Tucson. We are trying that on to see how we like it. Most of our stuff is going to consignment or auction. We are driving out with what fits in two vehiclrs, including our cat. Clothes and Dick’s golf clubs are in the mix. We’ve been waiting for our house to sell when really good tenants fell from heaven. We hadn’t really thought about renting, but are excited about moving forward. We expect to travel a lot, Hawaii and France are both scheduled. We’re using Airbnb and not spending a lot to go. Barbara

    by Barbara — September 10, 2014

  17. I worked with a woman in the 1980’s who lived in one suitcase. She would rent a fully furnished apartment. She would review her belongings (mostly clothes) every January, by putting them into the suitcase and closing it. She made a very healthy salary, and her method of living allowed her to buy a large property, build a green, off the grid, home.

    She was only 38 when she retired, never having to work another day in her life. I really admired her, as at the time, my “possessions” were beginning to own me.

    We are now in our 60’s and have begun an extensive effort of reviewing everything in our home with the thought “Would you pay to have it moved?” If the answer is no, then it is donated to organizations who hold tag sales to benefit their activities. There is a great deal of satisfaction in re-purposing “things” that attach to you. Our rule now is if you add something, you have to give something away.

    by Lynne — September 10, 2014

  18. Elizabeth in NY… is the best. Sometimes, especially in spring. And thanks for your concern! (This comment was in reference to where to look for outdoor clothing online)

    by Ginger — September 10, 2014

  19. I love to read the variety of comments. We are in the process of reviewing our possessions because we will be moving to our retirement home in Arizona. It is amazing to see how much stuff we accumulate that we never use. So it’s actually not that hard to get rid of a lot it.
    We love to travel but we also love our home life. We are in our 50ies and hope to stay healthy enough to have an active lifestyle, meet new people and enjoy our hobbies. We also know that you can’t take anything for granted but you can’t live your life worrying about what may happen.
    Moving from a really green state like Virginia to the desert will be a big change, but like Caps said remembering the last winter only confirms our decision.
    Leading a vagabond life would appeal to me but I love having my dogs and cats around me more.

    by Petra — September 10, 2014

  20. Being in the Foreign Service for over 25 years, living in 10 countries and visiting a total of 80 countries to date, I plan on retiring in the States after I buy that house where my “stuff” will find a permanent home. Having to move every two or three years, has forced me to weed through things regularly. Last thing I want to do in retirement is go around the world with one suitcase. I can volunteer in my own backyard instead of traipsing all over the world.

    by Deborah — September 10, 2014

  21. Rich,
    My husband and I have lived in Cary, NC for 32 years. We’ve had a great life here, but want to retire closer to the coast. May I ask where you live in NC? I am truly happy that you know you retired in the right place.


    by Jill C. — September 10, 2014

  22. Rich,
    Thanks for the response and the suggestions. We are reading and learning here daily. We want to find the right place. Definitely like your suggestion about long stay first.

    by Bill — September 11, 2014

  23. Jill, Sorry, can’t help you much as I live about 20 miles west of Cary. :<) If I move from here, it will be to western NC.

    For me, I think the problem of deciding where to retire, even after I was retired had a lot to do with having been a military brat. When your life is spent moving every few years, it can be hard not to look forward to the next place. But we've been right here more than 20 years now, and having "been around" I'm finally sure this is it. But still I look forward to the next horizon — even if only for a week or two.

    Bill, happy to try to help. I agree that this is likely the best places for a retiree (or pending) to find ideas and get info.

    Deborah, you're experience is closer to mine — I moved frequently even as an adult. All I can say is "beware the wanderlust" — and love it!


    by Rich — September 11, 2014

  24. Gosh! This is a subject so relevant and fraught with emotion. I can’t imagine not having a home base near to family and friends. I experienced being far from “home” and loved ones early in my life having moved to Boston from the Midwest with a not-so-great husband and two very young children and spent almost two years in virtual isolation. Lonely doesn’t begin to describe my sorry emotional state. I dropped in to see the owner of a dry cleaning shop every day just so I’d have someone to talk to other than an infant and an eighteen-month-old toddler. I treasure my family, friends, even the casual acquaintances that I say Hello to on daily walks. Our lives go by so quickly — it feels like there are so few days left to enjoy those I love — so why would I want to pack up to travel around surrounded by strangers again. Been there. Done that. Not going to do it again.

    by Pat Kennedy — September 11, 2014

  25. Ginger, I already know about LL Bean and love it but what about the savings. I do like their things but some can be quite pricey~ Thank, I know we get what we pay for. (My Dad’s Mantra!)

    by Elizabeth in NY — September 11, 2014

  26. One thing for sure is “Different Strokes For Different Folks.”

    by Bubbajog — September 11, 2014

  27. Editor’s note:
    We moved a sub-thread on pets that was developing here to a new topic post – “Pet friendly communities (or not)” See

    by Admin — September 12, 2014

  28. I usually read comments to Top Retirements articles only once or maybe look for a response if I comment, so this is the first time I’ve read them for a period of days. What a diverse set of comments on so many issues that concern us! And it’s just a sample of what we face when we consider how to retire…

    Pat talked about not ever wanting to leave her home base (family, friends, etc.). As a former career counselor and personnel manager, it reminded me of the advice I would give people who were looking for new employment or considering a job change — the most important aspect of any job is the people you will be surrounded with. It’s very difficult to replace a good job (or living) situation. You start again from scratch just getting to know people, proving yourself for who you are and what you do, and establishing secure relationships. That doesn’t come easy or without trials. Be sure you want what you ask for.
    (Rich had some wonderful comments about the pets issue, which we have moved to the new topic – see above link).

    by Rich — September 12, 2014

  29. Oops! While I was commenting! :<) I guess you'll have to move one more…

    by Rich — September 12, 2014

  30. Elizabeth in NY…the best travel clothes come from the Travelsmith website. Yes, these clothes are pricey but last for years.

    by Ginger — September 12, 2014

  31. I would like to hear more about downsizing and the best way to do it. A good discussion on “tag and estate” sales especially from those who have had such. The good and the bad, what to look out for? How to evaluate a good company that handles tag & estate sales? Amount charged? Best time of year for a sale? And other things one needs to know.

    by Dean — September 12, 2014

  32. I agree with Ginger about Travel Smith–I love the clothes I purchased from them. I do, however, carefully read the reviews first. I use a core color which is usually black and use jackets scarves and jewelry for color and to change the look. Works for me and costs a lot less money. Stick with mostly classics and you can’t go wrong.

    by Jennifer — September 13, 2014

  33. THANK YOU so much for mentioning my name and book in your BLOG. I have been a long-term, long-distance volunteer for going on 10 years. I have met so many wonderful colleagues in my travels. I am home in NY from June-Dec 30th, usually spending the New Year with friends in Charleston, SC. From there I travel to my chosen volunteer destination. It is a great lifestyle, frugal and free from responsibility other than my given duties. If anyone wishes to know “how-to”, please access my website – it’s all there, the what, why, when and HOW! Hope I meet some of you on my travels.

    by Barbara M Traynor — October 3, 2014

  34. Can anyone offer good ideas on what to do with financial statements? Between my Hub and I we receive around 7 or 8 financial statements each month. I enjoy looking at the numbers but it is becoming a burden storoiong them. 8 statements a month times 12 months equal 96 envelopes with statements inside. At one time I made a 3 ring notebook and put the statements in it. The book filled up in no time. Each statement has about 5 pages. I keep them for about a year then take them to a shredding event but just storing them for the year is beginning to annoy me. Right now I have last years statements in a box waiting for the shredding event next month. I don’t think the accounts can be combined to receive less statements. Does anyone have and good ideas or are well all in the same boat with this paper clutter? Maybe Staples has some kind of a storage system. Or maybe my box is good enough!

    by Louise — April 8, 2017

  35. Louise concerning your paper fad (just kidding) several of our monthly statements give you the option of going ‘paper less’ & you only get statements online to verify. You then can print out if you must have paper or set up folders online or within your email & keep the info there. This has worked very well for us & might be an option for you to check out.

    by Sue M — April 9, 2017

  36. Hi Louise. I thought one had to keep financial documents for at least 7 years? Perhaps that is no longer the rule of thumb. There is a lot of paper with those statements! The companies I use offer a paperless option. Perhaps your companies offer the same? I prefer good, old paper hard copy, and I use my shredder frequently. And a big box for storage comes in handy…….

    by Lynne — April 9, 2017

  37. If you can’t opt for paperless statements, you can buy a cheap scanner to attach to your computer and just scan them in. Then you can dispose of the paper statements.

    by LS — April 9, 2017

  38. Louise, I highly recommend going paperless. I no longer get bills or financial statements in paper form. My brokerage firm keeps the statements available online for 7 years. My bank keeps them online for at least 3 years.
    Same with credit card companies. And, at least with American Express, you can request copies of old archived statements. You can also download them to your computer if you wish. Just make sure your computer has a good backup system. I use Carbonite. I just pay them a small annual fee and they do all the work, no effort on my part is needed. My kind of system!

    by Linda — April 9, 2017

  39. I cannot seem to let go of the paper statements. What happens when the power goes out or why should I use up MY ink and paper to print them out? What happens when you have and IRS audit and have to prove these accounts? What about your executor – how are they to find them?

    Anyway – I keep a binder with a statement from every account we have. I trade out the old ones for new ones during the year then keep the final statement, along with the relevant tax stuff at the end of the year. I shred the old ones and those bits go in the recycle bin.

    Hope that helps.

    by Holly — April 10, 2017

  40. I am a bit like Holly and like to see the paper statements. My Hub is not entirely computer literate so he would never find the file on the computer. Plus, our financial advisor can print out anything we need with a snap of a finger. So these statements are not all that important to keep. I guess I will just do what I have been doing and segregating them into a box and shredding last years statements when the shredding event comes around. I have a scanner and could easily scan them but not that motivated to waste my time. I thought maybe someone had a unique method to store paper statements. Appreciate all who responded and offered ideas!

    by Louise — April 10, 2017

  41. I don’t use up my ink and paper to print them. I don’t print them. If the power goes out, it is usually temporary. I can also access them from a device that is not plugged in, such as a laptop. My executor can find them in two ways, by contacting the brokerage firm or whatever or by looking on my computer, where they have been downloaded. My executor is my daughter and the accounts are TOD accounts.

    When I decided to purchase a condo in Florida while I was renting for the winter, all the information I needed was available online. I could not have done it had I been depending on paper statements which would all have been in Minnesota.

    I did get audited. I simply printed out the requested information and sent it in. End of problem.

    In the end, everyone must do what makes them comfortable. I held on to my paper for years. Took me a while to wean myself from it, but I’m glad I did and thrilled to be rid of all that paper!

    by Linda — April 10, 2017

  42. Tempting as the idea is, we love our dog, and some household things would be expensive to replaced at today’s costs. Downsize everything to fit in a 10′ by 8′ storage room, as living in a smaller 1200 sq ft home is a big difference say after 2800 sq ft.home. Last rented apartment was only 820 sq ft. I wouldn’t keep the living room furniture…I will buy new. I have moved enough to know, keep all records 7 years back. We have yearly placed them in an office box and label the year. That is only 7 boxes.

    by DeyErmand — April 10, 2017

  43. Something else to think about is that you could need to pull up several years of bank statements, brokerage statements, 529 statements, real estate tax receipts, and copies of tax returns for a Medicaid application down the road. I kept paper documents, which was a blessing when we had to submit a Medicaid application for nursing home care. We were required to provide three years of ALL financial records in our state, and my lawyer suggested we have five years of records available in case any questions arose. Among other things, we needed to identify all cash flow expenses in excess of a threshold amount and review them with the lawyer before submitting the Medicaid application. She said that many of her clients go through a nightmare with banks and brokerage houses to get copies of financial records. Not only do some of them take forever to respond, but some of them charge by the page to provide old statements. I am starting to keep documents in pdf format on my hard drive, and am backing them up on disks by year (kept with tax returns in a file cabinet). It’s really cutting down on the binders!

    by Kate — April 10, 2017

  44. Kate, very eye opening!

    by Louise — April 10, 2017

  45. I seriously doubt many of us will ever be eligible for Medicaid. In that unlikely event, 3 years of statements are generally available online. If you don’t store them on your computer.

    by Linda — April 11, 2017

  46. I’ve also needed by old statements for a tax audit. In the event of death or disability, it could also be desirable for the executor or administrator to be able to be given prompt access to financial records. (Online access will be restricted after death.) The more complex your finances are, the better it is to keep statements yourself and not just rely on the financial firms to get copies. (And verify their fees for copies, if they only let you access one year of statements online like mine). Keeping opies of financial records electronically with backups seems like a good option to get rid of the binders.

    Louise – I hope you’re right about few people needing Medicaid, but I don’t think that’s realistic. From the site: “Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 4.6 million low-income seniors, nearly all of whom are also enrolled in Medicare. Medicaid also provides coverage to 3.7 million people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare. In total, 8.3 million people are “dually eligible” and enrolled in both Medicaid and Medicare, composing more than 17% of all Medicaid enrollees.” The numbers speak for themselves, and that’s before baby boomer need the program.

    In my experience and from talking to numerous people at the nursing home and at Alzheimers functions, Medicaid becomes the primary payor for nursing home care. My spouse’s care was $8K/mo, plus extras – and he needed skilled nursing for almost four years. Of course, other events can also require extended skilled nursing. My father-in-law needed skilled nursing following a stroke ($10K a month), and one of my parents was in a hospice facility for $12K/mo. When you look at the average retirement savings for baby boomers, it’s clear that it won’t take long before many of our peers will be eligible for Medicaid — assuming, of course, that the program continues in this political climate.

    by Kate . — April 12, 2017

  47. Kate, Correction, I was not the person who said anything about few people needing Medicaid. Please refer back in the comments.

    I agree, Medicaid is how most people stay long term in a nursing home. In 2013 my Mom was in a nursing home and the cost was $12,000 a month. At that time Medicare was paying and she didn’t live long enough to start using up her savings. It is 4 years since she died and I can only imagine what the cost is now. Not too many people can pay those costs for very long. They will end up on Medicaid for sure.

    by Louise — April 12, 2017

  48. Sorry Louise. Whoops, I meant to type “Linda.” I guess I’m starting to have some old age moments. Would you believe my brain is full? I need to downsize and get rid of stuff in it! First thing to go will be all of the professonal stuff, worries about deadlines, industry training and technical information, and office politics. Whooo Hooo. It’s been a long 45 years with interesting work (I even have a personal Donald Trump story LOL) …I just wish I could figure out where to retire, since my retirement is getting very, very close now. This site is great to hear other people’s thoughts on retirement, and I always read what you post — your posts are very thoughtful. And by the way, the Easter decorations are going home with the kids this weekend….holidays are a great time to downsize by making kids take stuff when they’re visiting!!!

    by Kate . — April 12, 2017

  49. Does anyone have suggestions for how I should dispose of inherited bric a brac? Some, I know, is marked and worth something, the other items not so sure. I called an auction house and could enter some items into an estate sale. Is this the best way to go? What about the other items that I’m not sure have much value? Don’t want to bother with shipping them via ebay.
    Any ideas?

    by Staci — April 13, 2017

  50. Staci, I have that exact problem (what to do with all the STUFF from parents’ estate). Moderator: can we have a new forum on this topic?

    by Barbara — April 13, 2017

  51. Staci, et al, There is no easy answer for that – eBay, or another sale/auction site, appears to be the best place and that takes time. I have had things listed for over a year before they sold. Just depends on who is shopping and when. I have let go of a lot of stuff over the years at yard sales and by donations but you generally don’t get much for them.

    You might be interested in this article: Sad but true. Good luck!

    by Holly — April 14, 2017

  52. If you have children, offer the ‘treasures’ to them. Take pictures for yourself.

    Offer them to sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, other relatives.

    Give to Goodwill, you can deduct the value from your income tax.

    Offer them to your local Animal Welfare to sell at their annual tag sale for them to make money to run the non profit.

    There are lots of charitable organizaitons that have tag sales during the year, libraries, food banks, hospitals, churches, etc.

    Find an Ebay assistant, they will sell it for you and they get a percentage of the sale and they ship it for you.

    Take it to a ‘Picker’. They will sell it for you and you will make around 60%, they make around 40%.

    Another idea would to be to ‘repurpose’ an item. I have seen some really interesting transformations of things. This one thing comes to mind. Taking a musical instrument and repurposing it into a side table lamp. I saw a trumpet made into a lamp and it was amazing. If you have costume jewelry, maybe you could do something creative with the beads. If you have children, you could take the beads to a craft person and have a new bracelet, necklace, cuff links and make special gifts for them. You get the idea. might be a resource to find a craft person.

    Have a tag sale.

    Ebay and etsy to sell items. Does require a little work and if you never have done either, it could take way too long to figure it all out.

    The last idea I have is just to take pictures of everything and put them in a really nice photo album then donate all the items. We just cannot hang on to everything and we should not guilt ourselves to keep things that we have no use for. If you donate you can get a tax deduction, get rid of the clutter and feel good because you helped an organization make some money for less fortunate people or animals. If the value of the things are very little to begin with, it will be a huge chore to try to sell them one at a time.

    Just my 2 cents worth!

    by Louise — April 14, 2017

  53. Some ‘repurposing’ ideas!

    by Louise — April 14, 2017

  54. My wife and I just downsized from our 5 bedroom 1.25 acre home to a nice apartment until she retires at the end of the year. Downsizing is never easy, we found that a charity called Bridging they take furniture, kitchen wares, and many items including bed mattress and box springs if they are not stained and in good shape. It helps people that need help and you get the tax deduction. I will tell you that you must pay $150 to have the truck and persons that take the items out of your house or garage. You can drop off items at one of their locations at no cost. Check out their website at: Just another avenue to look at.

    by Bruce — April 14, 2017

  55. Holly, that was a great link. Thanks.

    by Barbara — April 14, 2017

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