“If you say that you are mine, I’ll be here ’til the end of time. So you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go?” ~ Mick Jones of The Clash
Question: I’m trying to weigh out the pros and cons and financial costs of either staying in our home as we get older or considering a continuous care retirement community/assisted living situation. What items should I consider?
Answer: Not being sure of what your age and health status are, it’s never a bad idea to think about what the future may bring. Today’s quote is from a 1982 song by The Clash. It’s hard to believe that this was released 30-years ago, proving the point that time flies much faster than we think. Planning for the future starts now, and thinking about the next stages of life is a reality.
The familiarity and comfort of our homes are why most of us would prefer to age in place rather than relocate. Affordability is a critical element in the decision-making process, yet only one of many factors. Social life, access to medical professionals, proximity to family and friends as well as safety and security play significant roles in determining what’s best for you going forward. This choice will likely influence mental, physical and emotional health. With an overwhelming number of factors to consider, a checklist of considerations may be helpful in making this important decision.
There might be modifications you’ll need to make to your home to make it safer to stay put as your needs change. Grab bars, handrails, anti-slip flooring, levered faucet and doorknobs, and ramps are relatively affordable adaptations that may make your home safer as mobility levels change. A full bathroom remodel, door widening and raising or lowering countertops and cabinets are more costly adaptations. These are one-time expenses that should be considered when making a decision. Costs can range from $100 for small projects to $15-$25,000 or more for larger conversions.
Consider your monthly budget and don’t forget to include exterminators, landscapers, pool maintenance as well as homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, utilities, housekeeping assistance, groceries, gym membership, and entertainment costs if you’re considering staying in your home.
Next, you’ll want to want to estimate the costs of relocating. This could start with visiting various communities to get a feel for the culture and find out what is included in the costs. This will help you perform an apples-to-apples comparison to calculate your monthly budget in an assisted living or retirement community.
It’s challenging to assign values to the abstract factors and nonfinancial costs of living alone in your home. For some, there may be an implied stigma of giving up your independence when relocating. If either the “stay” or “go” option is feasible from a dollar cost standpoint, the next step is to weigh and prioritize the conceptual aspects contributing to finding the optimal quality of life in retirement. This part of the process may actually be trickier and you could benefit from input from others who know you and your overall situation.
If aging in place is the right fit for you, it might be time to gather information and pricing for home modifications that may improve your safety. Falls can be serious, and even small changes in your home can make a big difference in preventing these common injuries.
On the other hand, if moving to a retirement or assisted living community makes more sense, start the process by visiting possible locations and getting your name on waiting lists for any of your top choices. Often, due to high demand, there are waiting lists for apartments, which could prevent you from getting into your first choice as quickly as you hope.
Don’t forget to include your financial advisor in your plans to help you examine your budget, assets, and income for either scenario, and we can also walk you through any insurance or programs that could aid your financial situation, such as long-term care insurance. Finally, it’s important to remember there’s no cookie-cutter way to decide where to live in retirement. We have worksheets to use as a starting point to help you get you thinking about this and help make the process less overwhelming. Just let us know if you’d like to receive the planning worksheet information—we’re here to help. Stay focused and plan accordingly.
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