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Five Ways to Cut Housing-Related Costs in Retirement

Housing-related costs are often the largest component of retirees’ household budgets, so this article will address some of the key ways in which retirees can cut this type of costs.

1. Consider a Cheaper Location: Talk about trade-offs. The decision to relocate is a difficult one, particularly if it means venturing away from kids, grandkids, and longtime friends. It’s also worth noting that the highest-cost housing markets also tend to be close to other amenities that may be important to a retiree’s quality of life, such as cultural and leisure attractions. But if you reside in a high-cost locale and are assessing how you can make your nest egg last, relocating ought to be high on your list of considerations. By selling your high-priced home and moving to a cheaper location, you may be able to unlock a significant amount of equity while also reducing your housing costs on an ongoing basis.

2. Downsize in the Same Location: If you’re not up for relocating, you might still be able to save money by downsizing to a smaller home in your same geographic locale. Like relocation, this decision usually doesn’t come without compromise: Many people have a sentimental attachment to the homes in which they raised their families, and after a lifetime of accumulation, a move across town may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. And if you stay in the same geographic locale, your non-housing costs (food, entertainment, and the like) will stay the same. But even within a depressed housing market, you may be able to unlock valuable equity by selling your larger home, and your ongoing costs for taxes, maintenance, and utilities are also likely to be a lot lower.

3. Consider Combining Households: Thanks to the economic downturn, there’s a well-documented trend toward children remaining with their parents for a much longer time than in the past. But we may also start to see more people combining households later in life—grown children moving in with elderly parents, retired siblings moving in with one another, and so forth. Of course, such setups sound a lot simpler than they are in practice, but consolidating what would’ve been two households into one can help reduce costs greatly.

4. Don’t Pay for Care Until You Need It: Seniors are increasingly gravitating to so-called continuous-care retirement communities, which allow them a great amount of independence as long as their health allows but also provide for ongoing health care and other assistance later in life. Such facilities allow seniors to transition from one life stage to the next with a minimal amount of disruption–a huge attraction given the upheaval that often occurs when seniors move from an independent home to assisted living to a hospital and back again.

As sensible as such arrangements are, however, they carry significant costs. If you’ve run the numbers and think there’s a significant risk you could outlive your assets, a continuous-care retirement community may entail more costs than you can afford to bear, particularly if you don’t yet need any help. The decision to move into a continuous-care community is a hugely complicated one that should entail a full cost-benefit analysis.

5. Refinance: One of the best financial steps you can take in the years leading up to retirement is to pay down your debt, because reducing your fixed costs in retirement will reduce the income demands you make on your portfolio. But if you still have a mortgage and are preparing to retire or you’re retired already, refinancing ought to be on your radar. Mortgage rates have ticked up in recent weeks, but they’re still ultralow relative to long-term averages.

©2013 Morningstar, Inc.

 
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