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Empty Nesters: Move or Stay Put?

Do your homework before deciding where to live in retirement. These tips can help.

LET THAT COUPLE DOWN THE BLOCK relocate to Florida. Downsize? Not on your life. Retirement community? Consider that idea officially retired. You’re staying right where you are. The kids may have moved out—but that doesn’t mean you have to.

For many people, a longtime home represents staying connected to the things they love. In fact, 76% of adults 50 and older said they would prefer remaining in their current residence for as long as possible, according to a 2018 AARP survey.1

It’s easy to understand why older Americans might reject the notion of relocating or downsizing as they age. But the decision to stay put raises some inevitable questions. Could taking care of more home than you need eventually become a burden for you? What about your kids—will they worry about you living alone as you grow older?

Here are some suggestions to help you make this important decision.

Think ahead. “It’s best to talk openly about the pros and cons of staying in your house and the extra responsibilities it may mean for family and friends,” advises Missy Spickler, a Merrill Financial Advisor. Be honest with yourself. “If you do have to make modifications to your house at some point, how will you pay for them? What if you suddenly become ill?”

Planning ahead, she says, can help you stay in control of your future.

Don’t forget that homes age along with their occupants. A house that falls into disrepair could become downright unsafe.

Budget for home improvements. Don’t forget that homes age along with their occupants. A house that falls into disrepair may be more difficult to live in or could even become downright unsafe. A backlog of repairs and maintenance could also affect the value of the house.

In addition to upkeep, the house may need to be remodeled to accommodate your changing physical needs. You may want to create a downstairs bedroom, for instance, or install a stair lift.

To help cover the cost of renovation and home maintenance, Spickler suggests bolstering your income from Social Security, retirement accounts and pensions with investments that have the potential to generate steady income, such as dividend-paying stocks. “That way, you likely will not be forced to sell off long-term assets in an emergency.”

“You may also want to consider setting up a home equity line of credit,” says Bank of America Wealth Management Lending Officer Satish Peters. “This could help cover the cost of any home improvements you may need and could serve as a financial bridge in an emergency.”

Anticipate future health-care needs. Research what services are available in your community before you need them, urges Ken Smith, senior research scholar and director, Mobility Division, Stanford Center on Longevity. “You may someday require these services to help you stay independent.”

Involve the whole family. Ultimately, the decision to stay in the home you love isn’t yours alone. “Your family may be affected by your choice, so share your desires and concerns with them, and listen to what they have to say,” says Debra Greenberg, a director of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America.

Planning ahead while you’re still young and active can help you enjoy retirement to its fullest—in the home you fell in love with years ago.

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1AARP “Home and Community Preferences Survey,” Sept. 2018

This material should be regarded as general information on healthcare considerations and is not intended to provide specific healthcare advice. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact your legal or tax advisor.

Any opinions expressed herein are given in good faith, are subject to change without notice.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a brand name used by several Bank of America Corporation businesses, including,  but not limited  to, Retirement Services.

Bank of America Corporation is a financial  holding company that, through its subsidiaries  and affiliated  companies, provides banking and nonbanking financial  services. 

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