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Planning Retirement Online

Lifting the Lid off Retirement

Jeanne Davis.jpg (7321 bytes)Lifting the lid off retirement is a regular series written by Jeanne Davis. Jeanne is the author of “How to Plan Your Successful Retirement” and has published numerous features on midlife and ageing issues in The Guardian, Woman’s Realm and other national publications. For many years, she was a director of AARP (The American Association of Retired Persons) a membership organisation with 33 million members that represents the interests of people 50 and over.    




Where you live will be just as critical to your contentment as an adequate income in retirement.  There are numerous options to explore and the time to do so is now.   Jeanne Davis continues her series


Should you stay on in your present house?  Do you think it is too big, too costly to run? Perhaps if you sell and buy a smaller place you can realise some capital to invest and draw on for income in retirement.  Maybe you’ve always dreamed of retiring abroad to blue skies and a sun-washed villa or to a honeysuckle covered cottage in the country. 

Before you make a any decision, try the following quiz.

Tick the appropriate box as it relates to your present location and to your potential move:

     Yes              No

_____ _____ Affordable housing
_____ _____ Affordable utilities
_____ _____ Conveniently located shops, public transport, doctor, library, pub
_____ _____ Friends nearby
_____ _____ Family nearby (if not, convenient buses, trains available)
_____ _____ Social clubs, religious organisations of interest
_____ _____ Adult education
_____ _____ Entertainment (cinema, theatre, etc.)
_____ _____ Restaurants, fast food places
_____ _____ Pleasant, considerate neighbours
_____ _____ Adequate police and fire protection.
_____ _____ Acceptable traffic pattern (not noisy, congested, unsafe)
_____ _____ Acceptable climate year-round
_____ _____ Acceptance of pets (and enough space for them)
_____ _____ Employment opportunities (appropriate part-time or full-time jobs)
_____ _____ Other:  ___________________________________

If after listing the pros and cons, you are still on the fence about what to do, take another look at the financial implications of moving. Consider the expenses involved in both selling, moving, buying. If you’re planning to sell to release capital, include in your calculations these expenses and the sums involved in paying off a current mortgage plus a new mortgage, if required.  If you move from a more expensive area  to a less expensive one, remember that  you’ll find it difficult to go back







Rather than sell, you may consider adapting your present home.  Here are some possibilities


Convert one of your rooms (perhaps a spare bedroom) to a study or home office. If you share with a partner or spouse, one of you may want to work at home.  Besides, you’ll both need some space to call your own.  You may be spending much more time at home together than during your full-time working days.


  • Convert one of your rooms (perhaps a spare bedroom) to a study or home office. If you share with a partner or spouse, one of you may want to work at home.  Besides, you’ll both need some space to call your own.  You may be spending much more time at home together than during your full-time working days.

  • Plan for a downstairs bathroom.  When you’re older you may not want to or be able to keep climbing stairs.

  • Redesign the garden for easier upkeep – extend the paving or areas of lawn to save you the tasks of weeding, planting.

  • Investigate ways to make the house more energy-efficient.  You may need to get better insulation to prevent heat loss.  Check your heating system.  Could it be more efficient?

  • If repairs are needed or likely to be needed in the next few years, do them now while you’re still earning. The same applies to renewing expensive appliances or furniture.

  • If you do feel the house is too big and you have spare rooms, consider letting out one or two for extra income, or converting an area into a flat.  But look carefully into rental regulations and the pros and cons of becoming a landlord.   




      You may want to extend your lease or buy the freehold of your property for long-term security.  Recent leasehold reform acts have made it much easier to extend a lease, buy a freehold or get protection from a greedy landlord.  Call the Department of the Environment Publications Line on 0870 1226 236  for booklets that explain your rights. 




     Use the checklist quiz above if you are thinking about retiring abroad.   But  pay special attention to the costs of living (some retirees go joyously abroad thinking they’ll enjoy a higher standard of living only to return home a few years later thoroughly disillusioned).  Also focus on the cost and quality of health care.  Will the health care programme meet your later needs?  And that very nice climate?  Year round?  Perhaps the blue sky turns grey and the sun-washed villa becomes cold and draughty at certain times of the year.   It’s best to make a trial run first.  Rent in the area before buying and spend as many months there as you can. 

      Those with experience advise the importance of getting good legal advice before buying a property abroad.  Check inheritance laws.  Check with your local tax office on your UK tax liability. Above all, don’t sell your present house until you’ve done all the homework




Retirement housing or “sheltered” accommodation covers a wide span of options. It usually means housing that is purpose-built or converted specially for older people, for rent or to buy from local authorities, housing associations or private companies. But some housing marketed as designed for the 55 plus is barely different from ordinary housing.

Features vary widely.  On some premises there is simply a manager who provides limited service and a 24-hour alarm for emergency use.  On others there is a resident warden.

Retirement developments are usually within easy reach of shops, public transport and other services and in a relatively flat area.  Special design features might include level or ramped access, wide doorways , waist- high sockets and switches and a walk-in shower with a seat.



Age Concern provides many useful fact sheets on housing, financial help with repairs and adaptations, help with heating, tenants rights.  Call Age Concern’s information line 0800 009966 for details.

For more extensive information on helpful organisations, associations and government offices, see Good(non) Retirement Guide 2000,  by Rosemary Brown, Enterprise Dynamics Ltd. 




To view previous articles in this series - see the laterlife-interest index page 


laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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