The Financial Burdens of Retirement Have Begun Affecting Housing Options, Reports Show

Senior couple in front of their homeThe Baby Boomer generation has known for a while now that the stress of preparing for retirement can make the entire process seem barely worth it.

Health costs have been rising despite the focus on healthcare reform. Nationwide corporations were hit pretty hard during the Recession and their employees’ 401k retirement funds have seen the brunt of the financial mess. Few Americans even plan on retiring before the age of 60; as the Washington Post notes, an Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) study found that only 9% of Americans in the workforce plan on retiring before turning 60.

But the biggest cost during retirement? Housing.

As Time contributor Donna Rosato recently reported, another EBRI poll study found that the cost of housing amounts to about 40% of all spending for the average American over 65. In truth, the real estate market isn’t entirely to blame. In fact, the real estate industry has just begun gaining strength ever since the stock market crash and consequent Recession. The real problem for retirees is being able to find affordable housing that fits their needs.

The majority of senior citizens end up with physical disabilities or serious health concerns — about two-thirds of Americans over the age of 85, Rosato states, have developed some sort of disability, and many of these physical and mental disabilities make it difficult for people to navigate their communities, and even their own homes.

Rosato’s article provides a amusing approach to the problem: a bit like “baby-proofing” your house, you can “age-proof” your house (or the house of an aging relative, neighbor, friend, etc.) before developing a disability, thereby allowing you to stay in your own home for as long as possible.

Some “age-proofing” strategies are simple and cheap, like installing automatic night lights. But most of the suggestions in Rosato’s article involve major renovations; something like a renovated first-floor bedroom and bathroom can easily cost thousands of dollars. For someone already considering retirement, finding the money to make these renovations and having the physical energy for labor-intensive tasks is easier said than done.

Housing arrangements for seniors may look expensive on the surface, but if you’re able to find a good facility that provides the services you need, this option can certainly be better in the long run.

As long as the cost of living goes up, the cots of retiring is certain to rise as well. But “solving” the problem of costly housing isn’t going to happen by suggesting one strategy. A renovated house might work for some, but it certainly isn’t the only solution that will work. It will take some planning, but finding an affordable (and safe) living space is possible.

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