Although financial experts urge us to think about retirement soon after we begin working as 20-somethings, most of us don’t think very much about retirement planning until we reach a certain age…you know, once we start feeling that age, with the usual aches, pains, and thoughts like, “They stopped recording good music in the 70s.”
The fact is that most people don’t like to think about planning for retirement. And with all the experts out there insisting we have to have at least $1 million saved up (right, that’ll happen for most of us), who can blame them?
But there’s one thing you can do right now that can only help your retirement plans: sell your big house.
A big house is nothing but a burden to anyone in their 40s or older. Here’s why you should sell, now:
A big house requires many hours of your time paying for it and keeping it up, hours you could be spending on the golf course or reading good books.
A big house usually means higher taxes, costing you dollars that you should really be putting away for retirement, especially if you have no pension or retirement account to speak of.
A big house encourages your adult kids to move back home, or to never leave in the first place. Times are tough, I know, but how will they learn to cope if they have your basement to hide in?
A big house lets you keep the clutter instead of dealing with it. One reason people postpone freedom in the form of downsizing their lives is that they don’t want to go through their possessions and make decisions about what to keep and what to give up. But if you don’t do it now, the job will just hang over your head until you (or your heirs) are finally forced to deal with it.
Big houses aren’t as popular as they used to be, thanks to smaller families and a lousy economy. Sell now so you don’t take a bigger loss down the road.
Big houses are often two-story or multi-level houses; at some point you’re not going to want to deal with stairs, or you may not be able to. So it’s unlikely that you’ll want to stay in the house in your old age.
If you have enough equity in your big house, selling it and using the proceeds to buy a small house, townhouse or condo will let you face future retirement with a paid-for abode.
I think that last point is especially important if you don’t have a pension waiting for you. The biggest item in most budgets is the mortgage payment or rent. Imagine not having to pay that someday if you have only a modest retirement income to live on!
We recently saw some distant relatives at a family gathering, people we hadn’t seen for years. One asked my husband why we had moved from our big house in the suburbs to a small house in a small town.
One of the things I love about my husband is that he’s honest and direct. He simply replied, “After my industry moved overseas and I had to close my business, we couldn’t afford to live in our area any more.”
Simple enough, right? But it’s very hard to admit that despite your best efforts, things aren’t going well financially. The responsible way to handle things is to be proactive and downsize willingly, before you’re forced to sell everything just to keep the electricity on. But there’s a huge temptation to pretend like nothing has changed.
It’s dangerous to live in denial. Many people face financial difficulties in these hard times, and some actually make things worse by using credit to continue a lifestyle that they can no longer afford. Even when they reach the end of their rope, and are finally forced to downsize to a smaller house and/or a less desirable area, they may try to keep the façade going by putting a little spin on the situation (“We sold our house because we’re going to travel a while before moving to the Hamptons.”)
Being honest about your situation means you don’t have to wear yourself out pretending that nothing has changed. You also free others who are having financial challenges to be open and admit that the smart thing for them to do right now is to downsize. Your example can show them that there’s nothing to be embarrassed about and that life goes on…..a happy life, too.
Years ago, I would occasionally see bumper stickers on cars that said “Don’t laugh. It’s paid for.” I’ve thought about putting a little sign with that slogan in my yard (don’t worry, my husband would never go for it!) But we love our little house, and we’re happy with it. No, we don’t live in the McMansion anymore, and we don’t live in the suburbs, either. But I’m being completely honest when I say we’re fine with that. Downsizing our life has actually made us quite comfortable. And we don’t care who knows it.
Carlotta is a woman who once had fame and fortune, who knew what it was like to live in luxury. But in the movie, she is no longer young and beautiful, no longer pursued by men who want to woo her with furs and diamonds. In fact, as her career wanes, she finally reaches the point where, as she tells her dear friend Oliver Jordan, “I haven’t got a sou!” Yet she faces life with courage, concern for others, and as you see in the clip above, a sense of humor.
The character of Carlotta is a role model for me. Over the last decade or so, the lousy economy has dealt my family some hard blows. We lost a business and had to sell our family home. Our income is nowhere near what it once was.
It’s often tempting to feel sorry for myself, and sometimes I do. But most of the time, I want to be like Carlotta. I want to face the future with a sense of hope and charity.
Times are challenging for many people these days. I want to help others by sharing what my family has learned, and by telling everyone that being proactive about change, especially change you didn’t ask for, is the best way to get through hard times and keep enjoying your life.
How encouraging this video is to those of us who won’t be retiring on a huge pension. Note how relaxed this man is and how he ended up doing this: sounds like it was for the joy of it, not because he’s financially limited. I love how he emphasizes the convenience of living like this. After all, a lack of housework, fewer things to repair and lower costs are all benefits of this way of living. What a great video!