or should we call it “Right Sizing”?
Downsizing, is associated with numerous emotions, some good
and some bad. We associate the term with
“small”, “cramped”,” losing our home”, “end of our life”, as well as many other
negative emotions. Only a few of us
associate the word with something positive.
Those who do, think of downsizing as “right sizing”, or finding a life
style that is just right for them at that point in their lives. They associate the term with freedom, freedom
from caring for a house which is too large and freedom to begin a new life.
In this article, I would like to offer some suggestions as
to how one might want to approach the subject of downsizing. First, and most important, we need to
recognize that downsizing is not necessarily associated with the aging
process. Yes, that is often the time
when we feel forced to consider taking this step, but looked at another way,
this becomes one more step in the process of goal setting, which something we
have been doing most of our lives.
Typically, downsizing tends to occur when we are on the
brink of a major change in our life. This could be as a result of our children
becoming independent and moving out of the house, the death of one’s parents, a
major job change, or the contemplation of retirement. This is the time when we must set new
goals. Begin by asking yourself the
Am I able to live the way that I would like to
Am I happy living in my geographic area?
Am I enjoying the freedoms which I cherish, i.e.
the freedom to travel, etc.?
Is my life wearing me down with obligations such
as caring for a house?
Second, once you have the answers to all of these questions,
take a pencil and paper and write down your goals. Identify how you would like to live. This is your brainstorming moment. As you write, don’t filter your
thoughts. Don’t fret over whether or not
you can afford these things. That comes
much later in the process. Include
things such as how much you would like to travel and where you would like to
go. Do you want to live near
family? Is it important to you that you
be able to help your children and grandchildren, both physically and, or,
financially? Consider asking a friend to
join you in your brainstorming sessions.
Once you have completed step two in the process, proceed to
step three. Make a five year plan. Yes, a five year plan, not a ten year or a
fifteen year, or a lifetime plan. Five
years is about the maximum number of years for which one can plan. Anything beyond that, is too much of an
unknown. With your five year plan in
hand, begin to explore your options.
This stage can be a lot of fun as long as you consider it an adventure. Check out Condos, apartments in your favorite
city, Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) or the new over fifty five
communities. Go visit! If they have a dining option, check out the
food! Mingle with the residents. If it’s an apartment in the city, check into
public transportation, health care options, etc.
As part of this process, don’t forget to evaluate where you
are living currently. Does it meet your
needs? Do you like it? Why are you moving? Often times the only reason people move is
because they are no longer able to take care of their house. If that is the case, ask yourself whether you
could hire people to do the work. One
word of caution: DO NOT MOVE BECAUSE
YOUR CHILDREN OR WELL MEANING FRIENDS TELL YOU TO DO SO. Only you can honestly evaluate your
needs. Too often I hear people tell me
that they love their house but are being told by their children that they are
too old to stay there alone. Remember,
there is a lot of help available both for health care, as well as physical care
of your house. If your house has stairs,
consider installing a chair lift.
However, if your health is such that you are no longer safe in the home,
or it’s having a negative effect on the quality of your life, then it’s time to
consider making a change.
If finances are an issue and you would like to remain in
your house there are alternative options such as a reverse mortgage. Notice that I am using the term “house” and
not “home”. There is a reason I do
that. Often, at a time of change in our
living arrangements, we confuse these two terms. We are sad to leave our “home”. We confuse the building with all our
wonderful memories; bringing home our first born, coming home after that great
promotion, getting together with good friends.
Those things don’t change. Those
events are the definition of “home” and are part of our soul. We never have to leave those memories
behind. They travel with us.
Finally, once you have developed a plan which meets your
goals, it’s time to seek the advice of an experienced financial planner. This will be the person to help you figure out
the financial parts to all of this and how to make your plan a reality. It is important to find someone who is a
planner and not someone who is trying to sell you products. Things to consider during this process:
Do I have to modify my plan to make it work?
What if anything do I have to trade off to make
my plan work?
Is my plan flexible enough to meet changing
needs, as well as a catastrophic illness?
Do I have sufficient medical insurance and a need for Long Term Care
Once you have completed these steps, you will be ready to
plunge into the next big adventure of your life. Welcome this change with enthusiasm and
excitement. Consider yourself reborn
into a new life of endless adventure.