It would make retirement easier if I could reap enough equity when I sell my current house to buy the next, and perhaps last, one with cash.
That would reduce my housing expenses to property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. Since property taxes now account for more than one-third of my monthly mortgage payment, that would mean saying goodbye to New Jersey.
Insert your Garden State insult here. I'm not from around here originally, so I won't be offended.
Until recently, I've written about navigating the retirement years dispassionately. My parents never made it to retirement, and my grandparents lived with their daughter and son-in-law, so my personal experience is limited.
Lately, however, I've been pondering the words fixed income with considerable trepidation. I've also written voluminously about millions of Americans who have seen their retirement nest eggs scrambled by the burst housing bubble.
My concerns about housing affordability and retirement appear to be shared widely. A new study by the Center for Housing Policy in Washington finds that older adults are more likely than younger adults to have housing-affordability challenges.
As a result, the aging of the population is likely to increase the overall proportion of the country with severe housing-cost burdens.
I've written recently about the difficulties low- and moderate-income people have, here and elsewhere in the country, paying rental-housing costs. This study suggests that older adults with low and moderate incomes often lack access to "meaningful housing choices" — for example, moving into a multifamily development that would provide the services an 85-year-old might need to continue living independently.
In addition, the study contends, many older adults lack access to affordable services that could help them continue to live in their homes.
My Aunt Lena, who turns 98 June 22, still lives in her own home, though not as independently as she did a year ago.
At 93, as a passenger in a car that was T-boned by another, she broke her femur. After seven weeks in a nursing home, she was back in her house by herself, almost as active as she had been before the accident.
Last October, the freak Halloween weekend snowstorm cut power where she lives for eight days. The first night, she walked to the bathroom in the dark, missed a step, broke her hand and hip, and lay there overnight, unable to reach the medical-alert button.
She came home in mid-January, able to use her hand again and get around with a walker. The difference is that someone is with her round-the-clock now.
She can no longer cook for herself — or others, which means more to her. Aunt Lena's chief regret about the accident is all that the sauce and meatballs she had frozen thawed in the outage and had to be thrown away.
For soon-to-be-retired people who hope to pay off their mortgages or somehow not need them anymore, the Center for Housing Policy report is not encouraging.
Though 65+ homeowners are more likely than younger homeowners to have paid off their mortgages, many of them nevertheless have high housing-cost burdens.
The incomes of older adults tend to decline with age, but property taxes, maintenance, and utility costs all tend to rise over time for both older homeowners and renters.
Accumulated savings can help, but these, too, diminish with age.
So if I live to be Aunt Lena's age, I'd better think about working at least part time somewhat longer than I'd planned.
In the meantime, I'm planning to bring her homemade ravioli next week. I'm just waiting for the lab results for her sauce.
Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, firstname.lastname@example.org or@alheavens at Twitter.