THE BLOG
05/14/2013 09:45 am ET Updated Jul 14, 2013

Retirement by Design: Negotiating Your Second Act

Regardless of chronological age, boomers are an intrinsically youthful generation -- and we all like to "talk about our generation" any chance we get. Since an increasing percentage of the American population is over the age of 65, this group is redefining the meaning of retirement lifestyle. Don't call them senior citizens -- boomers view themselves as young, vibrant, and active.

Boomers grew up with a spirit of optimism -- utopianism even. Many applied that energy to their careers, becoming not only dreamers, but also overachievers. Having lived the dream during their first act, they have high expectations for their second. With changes in healthcare and lifestyle, baby boomers are living longer than their predecessors. As they approach "retirement", they are not the least bit retiring; and, their elevated expectation level influences their future daily living requirements.

Great Expectations -- A Second Act to Outshine the First

As in their earlier years, boomers are approaching the second phase of life with significantly different expectations and perspectives than their parents' generation. They remain active in their communities. Many continue to work well past 65, some even launching a second, or third, career. As this energetic, tech-friendly demographic ages, experts project that demand for all types of retirement housing will increase substantially.

Boomers want far more than just attractive, low maintenance living communities with the old standbys of water aerobics, shuffleboard, and the early-bird dinner at 5pm. They want a lifestyle of their own design - one that's more exciting and adventurous than their parents' retirement.

By embracing a willingness to sell their old homes, boomers free themselves up to truly enjoy their next phase of life, many with an alternative living arrangement. They include a smaller home, a 55+ community, a smaller condo or apartment to facilitate spending more time traveling, or possibly a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) to leave the burden of upkeep behind them. They have a lifestyle vision for their later years, not a pre-packaged, overprocessed retirement solution. The boomer vision often includes a free-and-easy lifestyle, where residents can "turn the key" and go off for fun and travel, without having to worry about who is going to cut the lawn, remove the snow, or fix the roof.

Secondly, they want to be able to entertain, invite their children or close friends over, wherever they land. The features that they demand often include:

  • Wi-Fi Internet services
  • On site activities including:
  • Swimming
  • Full fitness center
  • Golf
  • Tennis
  • Custom décor and upgrades
  • Access to health care assistance
  • Access to dining on-demand
  • Ample storage space
  • Onsite maintenance
  • On-demand transportation
  • Travel coordination services

This list represents only a fraction of the possible elements boomers want to make their post working years the best ones yet.

Lifestyle Design - Proper Financial Planning to Design Your Dream

As a wealth advisor, it's my job and my personal mission to help clients get what they want and need when it comes to protecting and growing their assets. Equally important, they need help coordinating and carrying out major life decisions.

According to the National Association for Realtors, retirees who decide to move do so when their existing home becomes a liability because of size and accessibility issues. Many empty nesters, approaching age 65, are confused about what to do after selling their trophy home. They find themselves overwhelmed by the task of securing the ideal retirement living environment. I find that my clients increasingly come to me asking for guidance in designing the optimal combination of features and benefits in their newest living arrangement. They know what they want, but don't know how to go about getting it.

Additionally, these clients need an objective advisor to act as their advocate during negotiations. Clients can try it themselves, but that's tricky. Many of them lack the negotiating skills and do not understand the many nuances involved. A professional advisor knows what questions to ask and can negotiate better deals while remaining objective. Remember, the goal is to put the savings back into clients' pockets for use later on in life.

What A Boomer Wants, A Boomer Gets

First, let's talk hard cash savings. In every case, without exception, we've been able to negotiate significant savings for the client - reaching well into the thousands of dollars. Many people don't realize that most, if not all, the upfront costs of continuing care retirement community (CCRC) living are negotiable. Wall Street Journal Personal Finance columnist, Kelly Greene, interviewed me as the authoritative voice on the topic in her article Retirement Homes for Less.

Next, let's talk negotiating perks and upgrades - the icing on the cake. Here's just a small sampling of the agreements I've helped clients secure when closing on their retirement housing choices:

  • One community agreed to allow our client to move it and not pay several months charges because the clients' hadn't yet sold their home. This was a "win-win" as the clients were able to transition their personal belongings, make gifts to their children, and negotiate a better price for the sale of their home.
  • Another client who had a passion for cooking and serving dinner to her many friends, received a professional grade stove and dishwasher installed in the unit's kitchen prior to move-in, compliments of the CCRC.
  • One of the most interesting additional amenities I secured for a client was a golf-cart-for-life commitment. The CCRC agreed to provide the client's cart of choice pay for all necessary maintenance and repairs as well as replace the cart if ever needed. We also negotiated lights and a canopy for the cart to protect her on rainy days.

These examples represent just a few of the possible perks that retirement homebuyers can negotiate during this life transition. They may not seem significant to, say, your typical Generation X crowd, but for these new retirees, they are the icing on the cake.

Takeaway: Don't settle for décor, layout, amenities, care accommodations - anything -- that doesn't fully meet or exceed your ideal vision for your next phase of life. You worked hard for the first act of your life. Now, let your second act work for you!