Negotiating an important move successfully

The Art of Downsizing

by Gary Foreman

How to Conquer Debt eBook

If you live long enough, there will come a time that it makes sense to move out of the family home and into something smaller. You will be downsizing as it's commonly known. Your parents may be making the downsizing decision today or you may be considering it tomorrow.

To get some suggestions on how to downsize successfully, we interviewed Doug and Judy Robinson. Their site Senior Moves provides senior moving and estate services. Here's their advice on downsizing.

Q: How do you know it's the right time to downsize?

Doug and Judy Robinson: You know when the house is too big and the space is no longer needed. You no longer want to (or can) afford the maintenance of a house. You are tired of yard work because you have other ways you would prefer to spend your time. Finally if the stairs are becoming public enemy #1, you are ready for a new lifestyle.

The Art of Downsizing

Q: What is the most common misconception about downsizing?

Doug and Judy Robinson: Many people may be considering a new adult bungalow, but it can be more expensive than their older two-story house. Many believe that downsizing and moving far away to be near children and grandchildren is a great idea, and it will be easy. They don't realize they will be giving up their support system of friendships, doctors, place of worship, etc. This puts unrealistic expectations on family to spend a lot of time with them, not realizing that their children have their own commitments, such as jobs, kids' sports, and other things.

Related: Homeowners Insurance When You Downsize

Q: What do people overlook when downsizing?

Doug and Judy Robinson:

1. We often get calls from people who never realized they would live so long and spend much of their money. Now they need to downsize financially. Talk with a financial planner and be realistic about what you can afford.

2. Many people make decisions based only on emotions and never carefully consider the lifestyle that will work for them personally. When you know the lifestyle you want, it is easier to find the right accommodations whether it is a house, apartment, or retirement residence.

3. Large furniture usually doesn't fit in a smaller space. At times, people buy too much furniture prematurely and the decisions can be the wrong ones for the space they have.

Expert Interview: Does Home Ownership or Renting Make More Sense In Retirement?

Q: Are there certain things to keep or discard?

Doug and Judy Robinson: Each person is different, so there is no formula on what to keep. On the other hand, we have seen seniors move ten bottles of shampoo or excessive cleaning supplies because they had "paid for them." It costs to move all that stuff! Move what you love and use. Sell, give away, or dispose of the rest. It is the same with clothing and kitchen items. Keep and move what you love and use.

Have you started preparing for retirement?
Our pre-retirement checklist will walk you through the steps you need to take.

Q: Please share any tricks and techniques that can make downsizing easier.

Doug and Judy Robinson: Buy some half-inch removable colored dots. Choose one color and identify what will go with you. Use these five steps of downsizing:

1. Decide what to keep
2. Decide what to give to family
3. Decide what to sell
4. Decide what to donate
5. Decide what to discard

Choose a different color for each step of the process. Green means go. This is helpful for folks with some memory loss.

Downsizing can be exciting, and it can be terrifying. If you are dreading the change, it is harder to get through the process. On the other hand, if you are looking forward to the change, it is easier to get through the process because you have positive expectations.

Reviewed March 2018

Take the Next Step:

  • Have you decided to sell the family homestead? Know these tax consequences of selling your home in your 50s or 60s.
  • Determine if debt could derail your retirement and what you can do about it now. Our checklist can help you. Afterall, one of the most important ingredients for a comfortable retirement is to be debt free when you retire.
  • Use this tool to maximize your retirement by determining the best age to take your Social Security benefits. Don't leave thousands on the table by taking Social Security at the wrong time.
  • Subscribe to After 50 Finances. You've learned how to work smarter, not harder. This weekly newsletter is dedicated to people just like you. Subscribers get a FREE copy of our After 50 Finances Pre-Retirement Checklist, a list of everything you need to do to be ready for retirement.

Doug and Judy Robinson were "Downsizing Pioneers" in North America. Since 1996, they have helped nearly 4000 clients. Doug and Judy are the authors of the book The Best of the Rest - Downsizing for Boomers and Seniors and eight eBooks. They have been on radio and television numerous times. Their interactive and sometimes humorous presentations help people make better and more informed decisions. They are also available for consultations both by phone and through social media.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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