Friday, 11 April 2014
Retirement Living Reality Check
In March, Better Home and Gardens Real Estate released a new survey about where baby boomers intend to retire that is getting some media attention. The big surprise, they say, is that the boomer generation does not want to live in Sun City and its equivalents.
Surprise? A zillion surveys over recent years have already told us that and in this one, only 27 percent say they will choose 55-plus retirement communities.
Here are some other highlights:
57 percent will leave the homes they now live in and
72 percent of those will remain in the state where they now live
39 percent want to move to a rural community such as a farm or small town
26 percent are aiming for an urban, metropolitan environment
Survey results on at least one question confirm the baby boomer reputation (deserved or not) for self-centeredness:
”...83 percent – do not expect family to move into their home in the future, indicating that any 'house guests' will be temporary.”
Those guests include both parents and grown children – no granny flats for this generation.
Of those wanting to move to a new home, 69 percent are willing to upgrade or renovate to fit the home to their needs but most of all they want low-maintenance homes. (Who doesn't?)
25 percent intend to buy a second home for retirement.
Really? All of this seems wildly optimistic to me - on the part of the boomer respondents themselves and the real estate industry promoting the survey results to their constituency. Median savings of the boomer generation is about $120,000. That won't go far.
The survey doesn't really tell us anything about boomers overall and here's why: it was conducted with 1000 respondents age 49 to 67 who were self-selected by answering an email inquiry. And, it's designed for people in the real estate industry who want to build and renovate homes for old people.
So we have an impossibly rosy picture of those 77 million boomers living it up in pricey, big-city condos or on rural gentleman farms with leisurely weeks at their second homes at the shore or in the mountains.
What are these folks smoking? 2008 changed everything. Millions of boomers were forced into early retirement or are working at much lower salaries than before the crash or they have lost their homes to foreclosure (illegally or not) or are struggling with underwater mortgages or all of the above. (No one talks about this stuff anymore but it is still real.)
As a Businessweek story noted:
”Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and in the aftermath many also lost their jobs at a critical point in their productive years.”
So I thought that today, we might get some real retirement information from people who have actual experience at it – those of us, usually a bit older than boomers, who have lived through the retirement transition – a lot of whom, even though not boomers, live with the effects of 2008.
A couple things that occur to me:
Except for the wealthy, buying a second home is out of the question.
Every elder fears losing the privilege of driving but it happens and it's good to live in a city, town or neighborhood that is walkable and has good public transportation. Farms do not meet those criteria.
I doubt that as many as in the survey will find it possible to sell their homes in the near future and will need to adjust their attitude about remaining where they are now.
All of us, young people starting out, mid-life earners, boomers facing retirement and those of us already retired - live in a post-2008 world that is not as affluent as this silly survey implies.
It is a much more serious world for the 99 percent now with fewer choices that must be made more carefully than in the past.
What, for you who are already retired, is the reality you would want people soon to retire to know about life in retirement? Did you need to adjust your expectations? If so how? What's working for you and what is not?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sondra Terry: The Giving of a Tallis