The retirement reality is hitting baby boomers much harder than expected. For many the family home (or should I say the equity in your home)  has become the hope of retirees, and downsizing is the buzz word in the financial community.

The idea is a good one. Sell your large 2,000 – 3,000 square foot home to buy a less expensive smaller home, town home or condominium and invest the difference to create income at retirement. 

Add to this many baby boomers are dealing with downsizing their parents, downsizing is an issue that many families will be dealing with for next 10 to 15 years. So the question if downsizing is such an easy solution … why is it so hard to do?

After 15 years in the financial industry I have found the same three issues that must be addressed before downsizing can work …

1. What Living Arrangements do you want in your new home / town home / condo?

Do you want to maintain a garden in retirement?  What about a guest room? Do still need recreation room downstairs? Take some time and make a list of what you want in your new home. (Then you can give this list to your Realtor before you go shopping).

Many of families I have dealt with in the last 5 years have purchased up when they moved to Kelowna,  and now the family home is too large now the kids are gone. A smaller home costs less to heat and cool, easier to clean and needs less stuff to make it a home.

According to a marketing presentation I attended in October, the average home owner takes 21 months to buy a home. Take your time, this maybe the last property you will purchase.

2. How Much Cash Will you Need from the Sale 

Most baby boomers are hoping to sell the family home and walk away with cash to create additional income in retirement, but how much will you need? If your answer is “as much as possible” you will more than likely ask too much for your home and sit on your over sized home while your neighbours move. 

If you need 85,000 to make your retirement plan work …. once you get an offer that works the decision is an easy one.  If you can get what you need, then it might make more sense to stay put for a couple of more years, change your income needs in retirement or buy a cheaper retirement home.

3. Good Plan + Good Options = Good Decisions 

When do you start planning?  Whether you are planning for yourself or your parent … as soon as possible. Once you have a plan in place that makes sense then you are ready to go.  You can adjust the plan along the way if you chose, but at least you have some thing to refer to.

Go back the financial game plan provided from your advisor/institution and have him/her update it.  How much CPP, OAS, private pension plans, and RRSP income do your currently have.  How much do you need to make any shortfall? Will you be debt free in retirement? Will you collect your pension early or wait until maturity? How you deal with each of source of income will have a direct impact on your needs for additional income in retirement.

Oh, and by the way, if your advisor has never done a financial analysis for you … it might make sense to find some one that will.

Downsizing yourself, or your parents is a process that can take months,  maybe even years to complete.  Make sure to review your options with your realitor, financial advisor and in some cases your accountant.

The sooner you look over your options the easier the decisions will be.

By the way if you have elderly parents and are looking for some help check out Two Places at Once. Val and David have had to deal with downsizing and caring for their own parents.
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