Managing Your Money

Retirement Living

Special Event:
Navigating Life Transitions – Trends in Downsizing,
Senior Living, and Home Care

Contact Tania for more info: 514-981-5795

There comes a time in the lives of many people when a change in living situation, or where they call home, becomes necessary.  Sometimes it’s due to age or health, other times it’s to make travel or life simpler.  It could involve downsizing to a smaller home, moving to a more practical or functional home, moving to a community of other retirees, or even hiring a live-in caregiver.  The decision to transition is best taken before it becomes forced, and ultimately made by others.  While for some it can be an exciting opportunity for change, others may find it overwhelming, emotional, and downright stressful!  We’ll look at some of the ways to make the decision and transition easier.

One of the situations that can make transitioning most difficult is when it becomes an involuntary transition.  One where, usually because of health, you are being forced, either by medical personnel or family, to live somewhere that offers care.  While this situation can’t always be avoided, such as in the case of sudden and acute decline in health, there are many times where being proactive can prevent such issues.  I have many clients who live in retirement communities, and most love it.  However, in one case, an older client with whom I was working with fell sick, ended up in hospital, and her son didn’t expect her to recover.  While in hospital, her son sold her house, and moved her things into a retirement home.  When my client did eventually recover and got out of hospital, she was completely distraught that all this had happened without her input. Even though it was a lovely residence, with excellent care and a safe environment, she was completely miserable and frustrated that she had had no say in any of it.

Communicate with family members, discuss various situations, and be realistic when considering age, health – both physical and cognitive, and abilities to take on the responsibilities of living alone.  Winter is often what pushes people to make a decision to transition, but then when spring comes the frustrations of owning a home in winter are quelled and soon forgotten…. until that is, winter comes again.  We spend a significant part of the year dealing with ice and snow, and the challenges and risks of injury increase as we age.  So consider that the decision to transition may be best done during those tough months of the year.  My mom decided in the middle of a harsh winter to sell her house and was happily moved into a beautiful retirement community nine months later, in November of the same year.  She was grateful to have done it just before having to go through another brutal winter.  She wished she had made the transition years earlier. Many residences have a great atmosphere and create lots of opportunity for social engagement which is so critical for well-being.

Financial concerns are another added stress in making such living transitions.  Whether it be downsizing, moving to a residence, or hiring a caregiver, thoroughly considering the financial impact will reduce much of the financial anxiety surrounding the decision.  The key is to have a comprehensive financial analysis which gives you the ability to try various “what if” situations.  Most retirees worry about out-living their money, unexpected medical expenses, and maintaining their lifestyle though retirement.  Attempting various “what if” scenarios “on paper” before actually living them, can give a tremendous peace of mind.  I have worked on many cases where people are better off financially over the long term after making a living transition.  It’s only one part of the decision, but it’s an important one.  Discuss this piece of the puzzle with a qualified financial planner as you begin to consider your options.

Other concerns that often hold people back from making living transitions are loss of space, independence, freedom, leaving good friends and neighbors, etc.  My mom was worried about feeling claustrophobic by moving from a house into a retirement residence.  She ended up choosing a large two-bedroom apartment with a spacious kitchen, living room and dining room, and two large balconies.  The idea of living in a small cramped apartment was only what she imagined in her head, when in fact there were many size and space options available to suit any needs. So, do some homework before developing preconceived notions. Of course, there are tradeoffs between owning and renting, living in a house or an apartment, living alone or with a caregiver.  There is often no right or wrong solution, it’s a question of finding the best fit for each individual situation.  “A recommendation for those that may be searching for a retirement residence is to take advantage of a complimentary meal for you and your family members that are usually offered to prospective residents.  This is a great way to not only taste their food but more importantly, to get a sense of the culture and environment of the residence”, suggests Matt Del Vecchio, founder and president of Lianas Services Senior Transition Support and host of Life Unrehearsed on CJAD 800.

Having a professional to guide you through the options and help you come to the best decision can avoid many pitfalls and alleviate a great deal of stress.  We will be hosting an event in the fall, bringing together some of the top professionals in this field. They will discuss topics ranging from downsizing and the stress of getting rid of stuff, to getting in-home assistance, and choosing the right residence to fit your lifestyle. To receive an invitation to this special event: Navigating Life Transitions – Trends in Downsizing, Senior Living, and Home Care, contact Tania at [email protected] or 514-981-5795.

Note:  My last article about summer employment seemed to bring back good memories, and I received many emails with fun and inspiring stories about first jobs and summer jobs, some as far back as 70 years ago.  Please email me your stories on any topic related to my articles, especially this month if you have experienced transition with your living arrangements.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 24 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a second opinion, private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at 514.981.5795 or [email protected]. Or visit our website at

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