When you’re working, raising kids and paying off a mortgage, you don’t have much of what people these days call ‘me time’.
Once you’re past all that, though, everyone starts talking about your ‘retirement lifestyle’ and if you haven’t thought about it before – probably because you didn’t have the time – it can be hard to know where to start.
But it’s important to consider what kind of life you want to live in retirement because while few people plan to spend their 60s, 70s and beyond in an easy chair watching TV, if you don’t plan anything else, that might be what you end up doing.
Plus, the conclusions you come to about how you want to live in retirement will have a big impact on whether you decide to downsize and if so, where to.
When you’re looking at properties – whether it’s a house in the ‘burbs, a fancy new apartment complex or one of the myriad of retirement community options – all anyone talks about now is ‘the lifestyle’ each option offers. If you don’t know what lifestyle you want, how will you know which bit of advertising to ignore and which to take seriously?
It might help to stop thinking about your ‘retirement lifestyle’ and go back to simply considering what you want to do more of (travelling or socialising, for example), less of (perhaps cleaning or driving longer distances?) or maybe stop altogether (mowing lawns, painting weatherboard and clearing gutters, to name a few).
For example, if socialising, recreational facilities or hobby groups would add to your enjoyment of life, a retirement community might be attractive. And they certainly all mention lifestyle in their brochures.
But every community is different and the lifestyle on offer is different in each – so you need to do your research. A good way to see what your life might look like at a community is to get hold of its social calendar and highlight the activities you’d like to participate in. Does what’s on offer match the life you pictured for your retirement?
In many cases, retirement communities have social activities that people living outside the village can attend, like happy hours, barbecues and open days. These are a great opportunity to meet some of the residents and get the good oil on what being part of the community is really like.
It’s what I call ‘the vibe’ and it’s really important.
Communities with lots of facilities and activities can be attractive, but bear in mind that the cost of these are shared among the residents. This isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re getting the use and enjoyment of these things, but if you’re not, you are still paying for them. On the other hand, of course, if there are a lot of residents in the village the cost can be very economical indeed.
Much of what is on offer within a retirement community you could access in a regular suburb or town (where you are sharing some or all of the cost with other ratepayers). Or you could seek out or start your own hobby group in your existing neighbourhood. In short, whether you can find what you want elsewhere is definitely something to consider.
In a retirement community, there’s no danger of ‘young hooligans’ spoiling your enjoyment of the amenities – a definite positive. But on the flipside, you may miss the vibe that comes from having children, teens and adults of all ages living together.
Even if you don’t need flashy facilities or absorbing hobbies to enjoy yourself, it’s worth thinking about how you want to spend your time and who you would like to spend your time with, because that can make the difference between choosing a new home in an entirely new area or remote location (perhaps a tree change or a sea change), deciding to move closer to family or to downsize close to your current home.
All these considerations of who and what can really help you answer the bigger downsizing questions. And don’t forget, there is no right or wrong when it comes to downsizing, it is all about finding the option that best suits you.