Sorry, Generation X and millennials, but the house you grew up in probably isn’t your parents’ dream house. Neither is that retirement kennel you want to put them in.
As baby boomer parents stop being polite and start locking their now-grown children out of the house and calling real estate brokers, a survey discovers that they’re ready to live on their own terms. According to the survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, 57% of homeowners ages 49 though 67 plan to move out of their current home. A full 70% of those who do believe the house they retire in will be the best home in which they have ever lived.
“Baby boomers are known for being a hardworking, trailblazing generation,” says Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. “As they have done with every other major life event, they are marching head-on into retirement with big plans and no desire to change pace.”
Wow, even for real estate, that’s a lot of flattery to heap on what’s already a bloated pile of historical ego and overinflated cultural self-importance. But that’s how you get a generation that throws around terms such as “retirement lifestyle” and “retirement lifestyle plan” — which 49% of confident baby boomers say they already have scrawled out somewhere — perhaps in a file on an aging Gateway2000 desktop or in that legal pad from the office supply closet that they used to “take notes” during the last monthly meeting.
So what does a “retirement lifestyle plan” entail? Well, for one in four baby boomers surveyed, it means buying a second home to use as a vacation or guest house until they retire, at which point 69% are willing to make huge renovations to turn that house into their dream home. Meanwhile, a full 31% of boomers are more likely to sell their house now than they were five years ago. Not only are they confident in a recovering housing market (albeit one still fraught with foreclosures), but they’re ready to pull the trigger before the economy decides to wipe out their equity again.
Where they go from there is still anyone’s guess. A full 39% want to live in a small town or rural community, while 26% want to fill in all of those empty-nest flats in amenity-laden buildings springing up in various U.S. cities. Only 27% would commit to a traditional 55-and-older retirement community, mostly because a full 72% would like to stay in the state where they live now.
Retirement doesn’t mean they won’t be working, however. A full 28% of boomers say they’ll never retire, while 46% are ready to move on to less stressful part-time work. Many know they really don’t want to do a lot of housework again, as 42% plan on moving into low-maintenance homes when they make that next stop.
If there’s anything the boomers seem to like less than retirement homes, however, it’s the idea of having to share their homes with anyone but their spouses ever again. After having cared for aging parents, children and, in some cases, grandchildren, 83% say they don’t want any more family moving into their home from this point on. They’re not just retiring from work at this point, but from just about every task they’ve been pressed into doing.
If that sounds great to Gen X and millennials, they can just forget it. The Pew Charitable Trusts notes that Gen Xers born between 1966 and 1975 lost 45% of their wealth during the recession. According to a 2012 Insured Retirement Institute report, only a third of Gen Xers are “very confident” about having enough money to live comfortably during retirement, cover their medical expenses and send their kids to college.
Just 41% have figured out how much they’ll need to save for retirement. Among those who have saved, half have amassed less than $100,000. The IRI study also noted that during the recession, 15% of Xers made early withdrawals from their 401(k) plans, 23% stopped contributing to their retirement accounts, and 22% stopped contributing to college savings plans.
Oh, and moving on to a dream home usually requires having a home to move from. According to the Census Bureau, in the first quarter of 2005, 70% of older Gen Xers (ages 35 to 44) owned homes. In the fourth quarter of 2011, that figure had fallen to 62%. Among younger Gen Xers (under 35), it dropped from 43% to 38%.
It hasn’t recovered, either. Professor Glenn Crellin of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington notes that, on the whole, less than 60% of Gen X owns a home. That’s well below the 70% to 80% rates of the three preceding generations. It’s in huge amounts of debt and it hates its job — the same job millennials wish they had.
Baby boomers may be the last American generation that can dream about retirement with any remote hope of it becoming a reality. Enjoy it, folks.