When Your Housing Needs Change
Maybe you have the perfect home—one that you've worked on for years to make exactly the way you want it. And perhaps you fully intend to stay in that house for as long as you live. You just can't imagine living anywhere else.
Many people, however, find that their housing needs change as they get older, and what used to be the perfect house is now something with which they're a bit discontented.
Builders are spending a good bit of time these days researching the wants and needs of baby boomers regarding housing. They're looking at the boomers' spending habits, lifestyle preferences, hobbies, number of grandkids, and so forth in order to be able to provide the perfect home for a potentially huge market.
Statistics show that more and more baby boomers are moving. The trend these days is not to buy a house when your children are young and live in it until you die or are forced to move. Middle-aged men and women are moving—not necessarily because they have to, but because they want to.
They no longer want to spend all day Saturday cutting grass and trimming hedges. Or they want to live in a house that's built on the edge of a golf course, making their favorite hobby more accessible. They want a smaller home, with features that may not have been practical while raising children.
Of course, some boomers will move to accommodate job changes. And some will move because their health is changing, and they want to make sure they've got a home in which they'll be able to live comfortably.
Let's take a look at some of the major reasons that middle-age people might consider changing their housing situations.
If you're in your mid-50s and you've developed severe arthritis in your knees, the practical thing to do is to start thinking about moving to a house where everything is on one level. The last thing you'll need when you're 65 or 70 is to be lugging heavy laundry baskets up and down your basement stairs to get to the washer and dryer.
Most people, however, are not eager to address future needs. And, as you can imagine, delaying action on housing issues can lead to serious problems.
We've probably all known people who have remained living in their homes much longer than they should have. This is a frequent dilemma of elderly people, who realize that the upkeep of a home is getting to be too much to handle, but remain unwilling to address the problem and make a move.
Often, by the time they finally admit there's a problem and start thinking of moving into an apartment or assisted living facility, the thought of relocating is so overwhelming that they simply stay put.
Don't Go There
If you see that your aging parents are falling into the wait-too-long-to-move trap, encourage them to consider finding a more manageable place to live before it becomes absolutely necessary. Waiting until they're forced to move limits their options and causes unnecessary stress.
Anyone who's ever moved knows it's not easy. It's mighty hard physical work, for one thing. And it can be an extremely emotional task. Sorting through a lifetime of possessions, many that hold special memories or significance, is a difficult job. Add to that the actual chores of packing and moving, and the thought of relocating can seem absolutely impossible.
Many older people get stuck in bad situations because they didn't take action soon enough. It's always better to address housing issues before you have to.
So if your arthritic knees are making it more and more difficult for you to get up and down those basement stairs to do the laundry, sit down sometime soon and give some thought to your housing situation. It's better to start looking for the perfect one-story home now, than to wait for 10 years and be forced to take whatever you can find because you can no longer manage steps.
More on: Family Finances
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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