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How to Cut Housing Costs in Retirement

Most working households have just a few thousand dollars saved up for their golden years. It’s not much better for those close to retirement. Their median retirement income is just $12,000, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security’s report.

The lack of savings has left many retirees scrambling to cut costs. Among the biggest expenses for anybody is housing. The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s annual report on consumer expenditures finds that Americans spend between 30 percent and 38 percent of their annual income on housing.

But there’s an upside to the steep housing costs. When the price tag is big, there also can be a big opportunity for potential savings.

Here are six options for reducing housing costs in your retirement years.

1. Pay off your mortgage: You’ve probably been signing monthly mortgage checks for most of your adult life. Working to pay off your mortgage before retirement can be a boost for your budget. But, it’s important to crunch the numbers before you pay off that entire bill, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Your financial health might get a bigger boost if you direct that money toward your 401K instead. If you do pay off the mortgage, remember that you will still have some housing costs, including home maintenance bills and property taxes.

2. Downsize: If paying off your mortgage doesn’t make sense, you can still live mortgage free by downsizing. Retirees can sell their bigger homes for smaller quarters, paying for the new home in full with the money they earned from the sale of their original home. Smaller homes typically come with fewer expenses -- from cheaper property taxes to less expensive utility costs. In fact, by downsizing from a $250,000 home to a $150,000 home, seniors can save more than $6,200 each year. They also can earn money by selling off the furniture and other items that won’t fit in their new, smaller home.

3. Rent: Renting a home or apartment can be an attractive option for seniors, especially because landlords typically take care of property maintenance and landscaping. Just be prepared that landlords also can raise your rent or force you to move out without much warning.

4. Take advantage of property tax breaks for seniors: Some jurisdictions offer property tax breaks for senior citizens. In Washington, for instance, property tax exemptions kick in for homeowners at age 61. In New York, some communities offer breaks to seniors starting at age 65. Some communities even reduce the property tax when seniors offer up a little bit of their time. In tiny Duxbury, Mass., residents over age 65 can deduct up to $1,000 from their property tax in exchange for volunteer services. Contact your local tax assessor or municipal clerk to find out what breaks you might be qualified for.

5. Get a roommate: Loneliness is a leading concern for many retirees, especially for those who have lost a spouse or whose family live far away. A roommate can provide companionship and some cash to offset housing costs. AARP offers tips for seniors considering sharing their living space.

6. Consider a reverse mortgage: A reverse mortgage could be an option for homeowners ages 62 and up. They don’t require monthly mortgage payments, but they come with some risks, including the potential that you can’t leave your home to your heirs. Be sure you read all of the fine print.

Nobody wants to be bogged down by money troubles in retirement. Finding ways to cut your housing costs can help to ensure one of your biggest worries is how to spoil the grandkids.

The CESI Team is committed to helping you reach your financial goals. If debt keeps you from living the life you dream of, contact us for a free debt analysis today and get started on the road to a brighter future!

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