"No one talks about looking forward to a nice nursing home in retirement," said Judith Chipps, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. "Many of the facilities for retirees are fantastic places, but the vast majority of people want a solution where they stay in their own homes."
While the financial condition of the average American heading into retirement is not very good, most people feel optimistic about their housing situations.
A recent survey of more than 3,600 Americans across income, age, gender and ethnic groups by Merrill Lynch and research firm Age Wave found that 81 percent of the respondents over age 65 were homeowners, and 72 percent of them had fully paid off their mortgages and had average home equity of $213,000. Additionally, 66 percent of the retirees in the survey said they felt free to live where they wanted to.
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"We often think of housing in retirement in terms of disability, but the way retirees talk about it is in the context of freedom," said Ken Dychtwald, president of Age Wave. "They've reached the point where they don't have to live where their kids go to school or near work. They can live how and where they want to."
That feeling of freedom and choice generally characterizes the first 10 to 15 years of retirement, he added. To that point, 64 percent of retirees in the survey said they had either already moved in retirement or expected to at some point.