Retirement house hunting: Think outside the saltbox

Think ahead to your retirement home. What if your “empty nest” were on wheels? Or a tiny solar-powered cabin? Or nestled on a sparkling bay in Honduras or Belize?

Retirement in America used to mean downsizing to a smaller but still conventional home, usually in a Sun Belt state or near the grandkids. Today, retirees are opting for housing choices that provide greater freedom and flexibility, while stretching their retirement income further.

Planning confidently for retirement means exploring every opportunity to live your dream within your means. Here are some fresh, modern alternatives to consider.

Hit the open road

Many retirees are pulling up stakes and driving away in recreational vehicles. Upwards of one million now live in RVs, and the ranks are growing.1 The initial cost is often lower than a house, and monthly expenses (utilities, insurance, upkeep) typically run thousands less per month. But it’s the flexibility that really appeals to older road warriors. Imagine spending a few weeks with the grandkids, then heading west to Yellowstone and later down to St. Augustine for the winter months.

Downsize big-time

Retirees are opting for “tiny houses” — dwellings of 400 sq. ft. or less — in a big way, with about 40 percent of tiny house owners over age 50.2 The simplicity of a tiny house aligns with the desire of many seniors to reduce lifestyle complexity and clutter. And if you can enjoy the tight quarters, you’ll save lots of cash. The cost is a fraction of a larger home.  Costs related to repairs, maintenance, and utilities are similarly downsized.

Resettle abroad

5 million American retirees live in foreign countries, and the number is accelerating.3 The reason? A high-quality lifestyle — favorable climate, affordable healthcare, and cultural opportunities — at a lower cost. Some popular destinations: Malta (300 days of sunshine a year), Malaysia (multi-cultural sophistication), Costa Rica (0.25% property taxes and year-round tropics), and Mexico (live well on less than $1,200/month).4,5

The online accommodation marketplace that disrupted the hotel industry, is transforming retirement living too. Adventurous retirees find they can live affordably anywhere in the world by renting apartments, condos, and houses from Airbnb hosts. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re comfortable schlepping your belongings from place to place, budgeting scrupulously, and embracing the unknown, it’s a marvelous way to see the world.

Find your niche

Hanging out with people who share your interests and lifestyle — what could be better? “Niche” retirement communities are springing up across the country. University-based retirement communities (UBRCs), for example, enable seniors (real seniors!) to take classes and immerse themselves in the college experience.4 There are communities for creative types, dog lovers, golfers, even nudists. It’s all about building friendships with people who share your passions.

With so many new options for retirement living, how to choose? Your attitudes toward spending, saving, and planning can help you determine which living arrangement might work for you. It could help to consult with a financial professional to help you weigh your options and come up with a plan.

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2023-158822 Exp. 10/2025

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