The housing market is changing for Americans living in their retirement years.
The popular image of the typical retiree household is moving to an adult retirement community in a warm climate. Think golf course, Florida and Arizona. People are still making the move, but the share of retirees reporting they have moved within five years after retirement is down from 23 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2015. "Perhaps more tellingly, even when retirees do move, they are most likely to move within the same county," writes Matt Fellowes, chief executive of the investment advisory service United Income in his report, "The State of Retirees."
Fellowes adds that older Americans increasingly live in the suburbs of major cities (such as Los Angeles) or in city centers of less crowded cities (like San Antonio). Older Americans are choosing to stay closer to family, friends, and employment opportunities. The value of the local community is being rediscovered by an aging generation. I think two forces in particular are behind the trend.
First is the growing number of older Americans working well into the traditional retirement years. Retirees are experimenting with different ways to stay attached to the economy, including self-employment, entrepreneurship, part-time work, flexible jobs, and encore careers. They are reluctant to leave behind their network of colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and other relationships developed over the years.
Second, multigenerational households are making a comeback. About 64 million Americans — 20 percent of the U.S. population — lived in multigenerational households in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. That's up from a low of 12 percent in 1980. The shift partly reflects that older parents and their younger adult children generally get along. They want to be near each other.
Caregiving is another factor. Grandparents help with child care as their older millennial children become parents themselves. The adult children assist their aging parents with everything from grocery shopping to estate planning when their parents start becoming frail or needing help.
The personal finance implication of these trends is for people in the early retirement years to evaluate their living situation and make a plan. For example, if you want to age-in-place, does your current home need remodeling so that it's easier to navigate with age? If you plan on downsizing, perhaps you'll want to investigate options close to your current home.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace," commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.