Forget Downsizing

By Marilyn Murray Willison

June 8, 2018 5 min read

For many of my baby boomer peers, the most-dreaded activity on the horizon is the possibility of being forced to downsize from where they currently live to a smaller residence. The prospect is so distasteful to me that I have actually begun writing a new nonfiction book devoted to the unpleasant topic of divesting ourselves of the treasured items that personalize our living spaces.

So, imagine my surprise when I stumbled across a 2015 Merrill Lynch and Age Wave study ("Home in Retirement: More Freedom, New Choices") of almost 6,000, including over 2,000 baby boomers, that discovered a sizable number of older Americans are choosing to move into larger homes rather than following the traditional pattern of downsizing. One of the unexpected developments is that baby boomers have begun looking at new locales where they can either relocate to or — if they are happy where they now live — acquire a second home. Those second homes are increasingly for the express purpose of hosting visiting family members or friends.

The primary places where upsizing or second homes seem to be most prevalent include California, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington. And according to Juliette Fairley of Financial Advisor, the study included the following key findings:

—Thirty-three percent of retirees upsize in order to have a home that is large enough (and comfortable enough) for friends and family to visit.

—Twenty percent upsize so that family members could live with them.

—Nineteen percent just want a more prestigious home.

—Thirty-nine percent would like to move to the South Atlantic region.

—Twenty-five percent prefer a mountainous region.

—Sixteen percent prefer the Pacific states.

Obviously, there's been a pretty major shift in how older Americans now view their golden years. According to David Leland, managing director of a Boston Merrill Lynch office, financial planning has never been more important for senior citizens. "The old game was that you retire when you're 65 and die when you are 66," he says. "Now I have clients who are 99 and 102."

The Merrill Lynch study also included these key findings:

—Sixty-four percent of retirees are likely to move at least once during their retirement; thirty-seven percent have already done so, while 27 percent plan to.

—The top reason for moving is to be closer to family members.

—Half of the retirees questioned about their last move say they didn't downsize, and 30 percent of them moved to a larger house.

—Sixty percent of retirees plan to stay in the same area, while 40 percent see retirement as an opportunity to live in a different part of the country.

For people over the age of 65, their home's emotional values far exceed its financial value.

Nearly half (47 percent) of all home-renovation spending ($90 billion annually) is from homeowners who are over the age of 55.

As the baby boomer population continues to age, more and more people will be entering their retirement years. During the past decade, the number of nursing home residents has declined while the number of people who age and receive care at home has increased. This development will impact how homes are designed and what resources will be needed as America recalibrates its needs for an aging population.

Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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