When Virginia Carolan, a retired Columbia University administrator, found that her New Jersey home required more maintenance than she cared to put into it, she began to think about downsizing.
Because she liked her neighborhood and didn’t want to make a move she would later regret, Carolan, 66, began renting an apartment a few towns away. She slowly divided her belongings among her new one-bedroom pad, a storage facility, and a charity before putting the home she’d lived in for nearly four decades on the market.
“People said, ‘Why not move to Florida?’ or ‘What about Manhattan?’ but I didn’t want to buy something and then think, ‘I wish I waited and really thought this through,’” she says.
Uncertainty about making the right retirement moves is rife among the vast baby boom generation. With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day for the next 18 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, one thing that isn’t being downsized is concern about where and when to retire.
Mark Patterson, founder of Failsafe Retirement and a retirement blogger, says he recommends seniors experiment with downsizing before they commit to it.
Practicing what he preaches, Patterson and his wife are in the process of moving from their 4,500-square-foot, three-level home in Nashville, Tenn., to a 1,500-square-foot condo in a rural area two hours away. The Pattersons have spent the past 1 1/2 years splitting time between the two spaces.
Patterson says because they built their home in 1980 and have “a ton of equity” in it, the retirement plan he’s put together now includes selling that property and investing those dollars to generate income. While the couples’ original intention was to live in the home “forever,” repairs and general upkeep became more expensive and bothersome than they had imagined.