It is always good to hear real life stories that relate to your situation when going through some kind of transition in your life.
For this reason, we wanted to give you this case study for you to get an idea of what it could also be like for you.
Here you will get to hear from 3 retirees as they share their experience of downsizing in retirement.
We start with Josephine Walmesley and her partner John. Jospehine is 71 and her partner is 86.
This is what they had to say about their downsizing experience:
“We bought a house near the Pyrenees [mountain range in Europe] for €70,000 [£50,000] and have lived here for about 12 years,” Josephine says. “We have never strived for a high standard of living (whatever that is). In the UK, we didn’t have central heating or mains sewerage, so in that respect much is the same.
“Council tax here is lower – it comes to around €600 per year and our electricity bill is cheaper too, at around €1,000 a year. We rely heavily on wood for heating, which comes to about €400 per year.
“We have more usable money now even though we haven’t got an awful lot of money as we only have our UK state pension. We spend, on average, €70 a week and don’t go without much. We eat plenty of fresh fruit, veg and fish, and have a glass of wine with our main meal, of course – which probably costs about 50p a glass. We are also able to go out for meals a lot more than we used to be because they are affordable.
“As with all retirees, we think about the ‘what ifs’ more than when we were young – deteriorating health, especially mental health, could be the deciding factor that would make us consider returning to the UK and the bosom of the family. But the quality of life here is definitely better. We certainly wouldn’t be able to live to the standard we do here if we were back in the UK.”
Pauline and Bernard Knight (71 & 78) bought a “wreck of a house” in Mailhac, a medieval village in France, and spent 13 years meticulously renovating it!
They have since sold it, bought a boat and downsized their home in Kent to be closer to the shops and less reliant on their car.
“We thought it was silly to have two big houses, one in Dymchurch and one in France, so we sold them both and downsized,” says Pauline.
“In England, we moved house mainly because we were getting older and we wanted to be nearer the shops. We wanted somewhere where we could walk everywhere and not have to use the car. When we lived in Dymchurch we used the car almost every day. Now, we live in a three-bedroom house in Hythe, near my grandchildren.
“Moving here has saved us £70 a week on petrol but selling our big house didn’t release any equity – there was no spare money because we paid a similar price for the house we’re in now. Although I wouldn’t want a big garden again, having a house with a small garden has come as a culture shock.
“We still like it in France so we’ve bought a boat, which is moored in Ventenac. I love speaking the language and their way of life, but I wouldn’t want to live there – having grandchildren is a pull to stay here.”
David young, 78, is a widower. He is retired and, thanks to downsizing, has been able to get back into his love, sailing.
Selling the family home over 16 years ago, David downsized to a bungalow in the Medway and now spends most of his days on a 30ft boat as he cruises down the ‘Canal du Midi’ in France.
“When I was 62, I still had an £80,000 mortgage on our four-bedroom family house,” says David. “When the children had gone, we sold it and bought this bungalow for £75,000.
“I was able to clear the mortgage and still have some cash spare to completely renovate it as it was in a pretty poor state. It’s just been valued at £320,000 and I’d like to move as it’s too quiet here. There’s not much going on. The big excitement of the day is the postman walking down the street.
“I have always had a boat and in 1999, when my wife was alive and I was still working, we took it across the channel and moored it in the French canal system. When I retired, we set off south through beautiful villages and lots of locks. If we liked a particular place we’d stay there for three or four days buying the local produce, cycling to the bakers – it was a relaxing way of life. Every six weeks we used to catch a train to come home to see the family and then we’d go back again after a couple of weeks.
“Now, I go to the boat for two or three weeks every spring, summer and autumn. It’s my place in the sun – it just happens to float.”
This is just a drop in the ocean of people downsizing for retirement in the UK. There are many other reasons people choose to downsize as well.
Are you thinking about downsizing? We’d love to know!
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