Years ago, when my parents announced that first, Dad was retiring early (courtesy of his commitment to building his retirement from the time he was 19) and second, that they were selling the house, it was as if they were announcing they’d be moving to Mars. The first thing that came to my mind was, “You’re NOT selling my house.” It was one of those times when you hear yourself saying it and it’s as though your mouth is on autopilot. There it was and there was no way I could take it back.
Of course, all eyes turned to me. Mom and Dad laughed and said they knew it’d be hard on my siblings and me (in all fairness, though, we were adults), but that they’d carefully considered what they wanted their future to look like. For me and my siblings, this process felt a bit foreign. This was the home we grew up in. This was the front door that my first date walked through. This was the window where my sister made her entrance and exit on Saturday nights just to sit on the patio with her friends, but not wanting to get caught anyway. This was the refrigerator that housed Mom’s cheesecakes and this was the garage where Dad taught us how to check the tire pressure and change the oil (his two prerequisites for allowing us to get our driver’s licenses). It was home! Of course, once the shock wore off and we were able to better contain our sentimentality, we knew it made sense. We were now the adult children of retired parents…retired parents who’d just sold our house.
Most Retired Parents are Homeowners
Turns out, 70 percent of homeowners who are over the age of 65 paid their mortgages off years ago. They’d always been taught that the real American dream begins when the house is paid for. Turns out, that’s true; it’s just that they hadn’t anticipated their American dream would shift and that the house minus the mortgage is a ticket for adventure. It means options. Freedom. Good living.
In the case of my family, they downsized and “based” themselves in a smaller home closer to the coast. And they began traveling. A lot. They were able to pay cash, keeping them in the 80 percent of 41 million Americans over the age of 65 who are homeowners. As you might expect, this is the biggest demographic of homeowners, according to CFPB. These days, they’re still running the roads (something they accused us of doing when we were teens) and Dad still teases me, “Hey, we rode by your house the other day. You know the one: the one we sold?” It’s a big family joke, but I just wonder if my own mindset will shift once I get closer to retirement.
Change of Plans
Both of my parents admit this was the last thing they had anticipated. It never occurred to them that they’d not want to sit around on the porch, drinking iced tea and talking about the good ‘ol days. Bottom line: they worked hard for many years to raise their family, ensure their children received everything they needed and most of what they wanted; it was time for them to do their good living, even if their plans shifted over the years.
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