As your nest empties and the often dreamed-about retirement or golden years approach, many of us find ourselves at a crossroads. After decades of hard work and putting others first, finally being at a point to savour the fruits of your labour can be equal parts exciting, confronting and confusing. And that’s because there’s a lot to consider. Our priorities change as we age; our financial situation shifts, and so does our desire to clean a previously bustling, now empty, five-bedroom house.
So, you might be wondering why is downsizing a common path, how to approach it, and perhaps most importantly, what you have to look forward to with your newly found freedom.
As we age, our priorities shift. That once useful extra space can simply become another area to keep tidy and clean, and our desire for simplicity and ease takes centre stage. Downsizing is both a practical and liberating step that has many benefits. Here are just a few reasons for its appeal:
- Financial freedom – downsizing is a common way to reduce living expenses that can become overwhelming upon retirement. It’s also a smart way to free up funds for investment or adventure.
- Simplified lifestyle – moving from a large family home to a more compact residence will reduce the physical demands of maintenance, reduce stress and free up your time.
- Greener pastures – whether it’s a lifestyle community, closer to family or a more desirable neighbourhood, downsizing can open the door to the change of scenery that you’re craving.
- Reduced clutter – shedding unnecessary ‘stuff’ is liberating and practical. It encourages you to focus on what matters and let go of excess.
- Adventure ready – moving to a ‘lock up and leave’ style home opens the door to a more mobile lifestyle. It removes many home-related barriers that can get in the way of adventure.
- Estate planning – downsizing can be a means to simplify inheritance processes.
- Social factors – lifestyle communities offering social activities, shared amenities, and a sense of belonging can be a huge drawcard for downsizing to a retirement community or retirement-friendly neighbourhood.
How to make the transition to a smaller home
While the thought of sorting through years of accumulated possessions and boxing up your life can induce panic, it’s entirely possible to make it a smooth and seamless process with a bit of careful planning and organisation. Here are six crucial steps for a smooth move into the golden years:
- Define your goals – Be clear on your key reasons for downsizing, having a crystal-clear understanding of your core motivations will ensure that these reasons remain your guiding principles throughout every step of your decision-making journey.
- Start early – Rushing the process can be stressful and can lead to making hasty decisions you might regret later. For the best outcome, give yourself ample time to chip away at it – drawer by drawer, room by room.
- Make a plan – Downsizing is a process. Start with your end goal and outline each step you need to take to get there. Set specific sub-goals and deadlines to keep you on track for moving day.
- Sort, declutter and prioritise – Overwhelmed with how to sort through your belongings? It’s helpful to categorise things into three groups: keep, donate/sell, and discard. Be honest with yourself about items you no longer need or use, and be clear on what keeping something for sentimental reasons really means.
- Document and digitise – The process of downsizing is a great opportunity to create a digital inventory of your possessions (particularly valuable or sentimental items). It’s useful for insurance purposes and reassures you that nothing has gone astray in the move. You can also use it as an opportunity to declutter paper files. Discard what’s no longer necessary and digitise records that must be kept.
- Review finances – Take a close look at how your decision to downsize impacts your household budget and financial goals. It could form part of a long-term financial or investment plan, and if it doesn’t, now is a good time to review and map this out. As with any property investment, a solid financial plan is crucial to success.
The golden age – what lies ahead?
Whether you call it the golden years, retirement years or the third age, there’s plenty to look forward to in the later stages of life. Here’s where you’ll strike gold:
- Freedom from work – often, one of the most liberating aspects of retirement is the freedom from the daily grind of work. You’ll have more time to pursue your passions and interests or dabble in lesser-paid employment that you really enjoy.
- Time for hobbies and creativity – it’s time to pursue those hobbies and interests you might not have had space for earlier in life. Whether gardening, writing a book, painting, cooking, or learning a language, it’s yours to explore.
- Travel and adventure – long-awaited trips, adventures, and even relocation are on the cards for many, with flexible schedules and increased financial freedom broadening possibilities.
- Family time – whether you’re a parent or grandparent, freeing yourself up to be more regularly involved with family is rewarding and priceless.
- Learn and be curious – lifelong learning is an exciting part of the golden years and hugely beneficial for cognitive abilities as we age. Whether you take classes, attend workshops, or pursue a degree in something you’re passionate about, staying curious and learning new things is great for introducing fresh perspectives and ideas.
- Reconnecting with friends and community – with more time on your hands, it’s fulfilling to reconnect with old friends and build new relationships with people who share your interests. You can also consider giving back to your community through volunteer work or mentoring.
- Practice self-care – often slipping by the wayside earlier in life, and something that should be prioritised even more as we age is an increased focus on health and wellness. This could be as simple as a daily walk, scheduling regular exercise like swimming or cycling, committing to healthy eating or a daily meditation practice.
- Financial security – if you’ve planned and saved well, the golden years can offer financial stability and the opportunity to indulge in experiences you may not have been able to afford earlier.
- Savouring the simple and creating new rituals – is this finally the time to stop and smell the roses? The golden years allow you to slow down, savour life’s simple pleasures, and create new rituals. Whether it’s a leisurely morning coffee while reading the daily paper, soaking up sunsets, regular ocean swims, or literally stopping to smell the roses on your walk – enjoy savouring the simple.
- Build a legacy – share wisdom, experiences, and values with younger generations by passing on family traditions and stories or, more formally, by engaging in speaking events at universities or schools.
Downsize your home in your golden years, upsize your lifestyle.
Downsizing your home as you approach your golden years can lead to a more manageable lifestyle. And when carefully planned, you’ll enjoy increased freedom from financial pressures and, ultimately, have more time to do the things you love. Remember, you don’t have to face this time alone – speaking with a financial advisor can be hugely reassuring, and the First National Real Estate team can assist you with selling your home or even finding the right property for this time in your lie!
The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial, or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial, or real estate decisions.