Share house at 61

More sin­gle se­niors are co­hab­it­ing to cut costs and im­prove their life­style

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS - Su­san Hely has been a se­nior in­vest­ment writer at The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald. She wrote the best-sell­ing Women & Money.

Ihave two sin­gle baby boomer friends, Amanda and Joanna, both aged 61, who presently live on their own but as they get older have de­cided to set up home to­gether. The two pro­fes­sion­als want their in­de­pen­dence and soli­tude but they also feel the need for the com­fort and se­cu­rity pro­vided by some­one they know liv­ing nearby.

“We re­alised we have sim­i­lar re­tire­ment needs and goals,” says Amanda. “We think we will be hap­pier and health­ier hav­ing some­one around rather than if we live alone.”

Part of their mo­ti­va­tion is fi­nan­cial. If they sell their homes and move in to­gether, they can free up some valu­able cap­i­tal to pump up their su­per­an­nu­a­tion and in­come in re­tire­ment. They may be able to af­ford to re­tire ear­lier or work part time. Co­hab­it­ing will also save them money on bills such as power. They will con­sume less as they will only need one wash­ing ma­chine, fridge, vac­uum cleaner and other goods. They hope they will be able to af­ford a nicer house than the ones they own separately. They are ex­cit­edly plan­ning for the next life phase, want­ing their new home to have both sep­a­rate and in­te­grated liv­ing ar­eas.

In­creas­ingly peo­ple don’t want to live in in­sti­tu­tion­alised se­nior hous­ing with rules, peo­ple they don’t know and as­pects they have lit­tle say in, such as the food or the staff. In­stead sin­gle baby boomers are us­ing their home as a cash box, sell­ing up, pool­ing re­sources and mov­ing in to­gether.

Co­op­er­a­tive liv­ing for older peo­ple is a well-es­tab­lished and grow­ing move­ment in coun­tries such as the US and Ger­many, with some peo­ple suc­cess­fully liv­ing to­gether for decades. They have been shar­ing their in­sights via blogs, sem­i­nars, books and ded­i­cated or­gan­i­sa­tions.

While there are some very suc­cess­ful co-hous­ing ar­range­ments in Aus­tralia, it is only be­gin­ning to be­come pop­u­lar. There are more sin­gle women liv­ing on their own than men. Women make up nearly 30% of women aged 64 to 75 liv­ing on their own com­pared with 18% of men. Fre­quently the fam­ily home is used as a cash box as they down­size to fund their re­tire­ment.

One book that ex­plores the chal­lenges, prac­ti­cal­i­ties and joys of mov­ing from sin­gle liv­ing to one house­hold is called My House Our House: Liv­ing Far Bet­ter for Far Less in a Co­op­er­a­tive House­hold, by Jean McQuillin, Karen M. Bush, and Louise S. Ma­chin­ist.

They ex­plain that there are plenty of lo­gis­tics to get right for stress-free co­op­er­a­tive liv­ing.

It is es­sen­tial to have the right chem­istry be­tween co-own­ers. Their goals, re­tire­ment plans and fi­nances have to line up.

Co-own­ers should be in a much bet­ter fi­nan­cial po­si­tion by co­hab­it­ing than if they lived on their own and the house needs to be a good in­vest­ment.

Work out what geo­graph­i­cal ar­eas in­ter­est each per­son and what they want in the home. Each needs their own space and prefer­ably their own bath­room and per­haps a sit­ting room/ study/work space. They will prob­a­bly share the liv­ing spa­ces such as a kitchen and lounge.

There are rules about noise, vis­i­tors and boyfriends or girl­friends stay­ing over. There has to be a ros­ter for the clean­ing.

It is a good idea to have reg­u­lar meet­ings to dis­cuss house­hold is­sues. Din­ner to­gether once a week is a must.

Co-own­ers need a hard-nosed, legally bind­ing agree­ment to cover the “what ifs” that can arise. For ex­am­ple, what hap­pens if one per­son de­cides to pull out of the ar­range­ment for any rea­son? Or when one per­son has a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter or dies. What if one per­son in­vites some­one to move in with­out the con­sent of the other or fails to meet fi­nan­cial agree­ments? Or if there are ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences?

Be­fore you com­mit to either rent­ing or buy­ing to­gether, you need to draw up the rules and sign them. There are some co-own­ing le­gal agree­ments avail­able that will draw up a bind­ing con­tract if you buy.

And, of course, you need to have an exit strat­egy if it doesn’t work out.

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