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Downsizing can be a difficult but important decision

Where to live is one of the most important financial and emotional decisions one makes during the later stages of life.

Housing expenses are the largest budget item for people aged 55 and over. Many people choose to age in place, but aging homeowners can usually improve their household finances by selling their existing home and downsizing it to a smaller location, perhaps a townhouse or condo.

St. Paul cartoonist Rob Kirby captures the ambivalence of downsizing in his new book “Marry Me a Little.” The terrific graphic memoir describes her experience of marrying longtime partner John in 2013, shortly after gay marriage was legalized in Minnesota.

There is a scene in the memoir where he and John debate the merits of selling their single family home and downsizing to a condo.

“No more backyard,” Rob said sadly.

“No more raking. No more shoveling,” John replies.

“Much less space,” says Rob.

“At our age, downsizing is big! Also: comfortable,” says John.

“Now we depend on building management to get things done,” Rob remarks.

“Free of financial/emotional responsibility,” says John.

Sound familiar?

One of the reasons downsizing isn’t particularly popular is that homeowners often don’t save much on the purchase price when targeting a downsized home. The math has become even more difficult with the supply of scarce tiny homes and condos in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

Generally, a certain amount of money is saved. But the biggest benefit of downsizing is that it frees up time.

Time is incredibly precious, especially with age.

Some suggestions if you are considering downsizing:

  • Take the step before you need to, then move on to the rest of your life.
  • Downsizing requires planning and research. You’ll want to run the numbers to determine your total savings from the move.
  • Carry out a neighborhood audit. How convenient is the reduced house for buying groceries and other necessities? How close is the new location to your network of family and friends?

Rob and John found a condo they liked and “before we knew it, we had a deal.”

Their experience offers another insight into downsizing: Once they bought the condo, John remarked, “We can do most of the moving ourselves. We don’t have a lot of stuff anymore. »

In an asterisk, Rob notes dryly: “This, unfortunately, is never true.

Rob is right.

But once you’re done with the move, you still have more time to do other things.

Chris Farrell is a business contributor to the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

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