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Q: What Questions Should I Consider Before Downsizing My Home

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A: As retirement approaches, your lifestyle and priorities begin to change. Chances are the days when you wanted more space – the sizeable dream home with the backyard big enough to entertain a growing family – are long gone. Instead, many retirees are looking for convenience, simplicity and accommodations more suited to their needs as “empty nesters.” As you approach this new life stage, take time to assess how your current living arrangements suit your changing lifestyle.

Here are five questions to consider as you decide whether downsizing is right for you:

1.Does your home still have the right feel?
A big house that was perfect for a family may seem overly spacious with just one or two inhabitants. It may be time to consider a change if you find that there are under-used rooms in your home or if you’re ready for a new environment. However, if you are enjoying the freedom more space brings, then your current house may be just the right fit. That might also be the case if your home is a gathering place for extended family and friends.

2.Is the upkeep sustainable?
In general, a larger house requires more work and regular investment. As you move into retirement, you may want to reduce the stress of cleaning and home projects. If working around the house and yard is something you enjoy, it may make sense to stay put. But, a smaller home will likely be less of a burden, especially if it’s move-in ready.

3.Are you ready to de-clutter?
Moving to a smaller space is a reality check for many people. All of the things you’ve been accumulating and storing for years probably won’t fit in a smaller home if you decide to downsize. That means you need to spend time going through your personal belongings to determine what’s of real value and what can go. This can take time, so it’s a good idea to get started well before it is time to move.

4.Are there cost savings?
In many situations, a larger house can be sold for a price that is higher than the cost of a smaller home. This could result in a smaller (or no) mortgage and potentially some extra money in the bank. But it is not always so simple. There are costs associated with buying, selling and moving into a new place that could impact your retirement savings if you’re not careful. Evaluate how downsizing would affect your budget and review your situation with a financial professional before taking action.

5.Where are you spending your time?
If your retirement dreams include traveling, visiting family or owning a vacation property, you may be away from home more often in retirement than you were in your working years. Having a smaller home that is easier to maintain could make sense in these situations. Alternatively, you may be looking forward to staying put and finally having time to enjoy the home you worked so hard to maintain over the years.

Downsizing doesn’t need to be rushed. Consider your priorities and if you decide to downsize, give yourself plenty of time to do it right.

Christopher Zarra, CFP®, ChFC®, CFS®, is a Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Rockville Centre, New York. He specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 22 years. To contact him, www.ChrisZarra.com, (516)764-0951, 119 N. Park Avenue, Suite 307, Rockville Centre, NY 11570.

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