When we hear the phrase ‘empty nester’ there are certain clichés that come to mind. They usually involve older couples, with a long happy marriage behind them, who’ve built a home and a family and are now planning their peaceful retirement.
But what if that’s not you? Divorce rates are increasing every year and parenting today looks completely different than it did when the parents of baby boomers got married. Contemporary family life is a glorious symphony of diversity with blended families, same sex parents, interracial couples, single parents, foster families and more all living together in mostly harmonious joy.
Today, downsizing takes on a whole new meaning and parents in their early 40s are waving goodbye to their children and rubbing their hands with glee at the chance for a whole new life, if the children leave home that is. There is an adjustment period of course when ‘those people’ you shared a house with for all those years move out, but rather than worry about what to do next, start think about which thing to do first! There are so many opportunities to be grasped and so much life to be lived, you just need to take the first step.
Creating a new version of your life, that embraces your new-found freedom and sets you up for a comfortable and secure lifestyle well into your retirement, is now your first priority. You have extra time to use, different property needs, changing financial requirements and that list of ‘one day’ stuff to work through. So make a coffee and start making lists because your ‘one day’ is finally here.
1.Use Your Free Time for Good Not Evil
Look, it’s ok to spend a few months binge watching Netflix and crying into your tub of ice cream but soon enough you’ll get bed sores and then you’ll realise it’s time to get out of the house. Why not get a dog? They are great companions AND you’ll have to walk it, so it’s a roundabout way of forcing you to get up and about.
We know ‘hobbies’ is a word from another time but finally being able to indulge your interests and passions in ways that expand your mind cannot be underestimated. Learn a language, take an art class, join a book club or learn to make fresh pasta - the possibilities are endless.
Of course, one of the most valuable things you can do with that extra time is volunteer. There are so many options for all interests and ages – from helping to organise community events to working in the canteen at the local football. You can donate some time at a nearby charity shop or even do some short-term foster care for kids or animals.
2. Travel the World and Broaden Your Mind
Your kids aren’t the only ones who can take a gap year – this may be your window of opportunity between having no kids at home and starting to care for grandkids. Doesn’t a week on a southeast Asian island with a few of your closest friends sound like bliss? Or maybe a European adventure – skiing in Switzerland, sitting on a beach in Italy or taking in some world history in Germany or France. Take yourself to New York, to Tokyo to Marrakech or Shanghai or just hit the road for a few days in the great outdoors right here in Australia.
Building regular travel plans into your life gives you goals and forces you to budget. Travel will broaden your mind like nothing else will and after all those years of parenting, surely you deserve some rewards?
3. Upgrade Your Lifestyle
Your lifestyle needs change once the kids have left home and you start to need much less space at home. Not to mention the madness of cleaning and maintaining rooms and things that rarely get used. Downsizing is a practical need but also a ritual to end one life stage and begin another. It’s hard to believe, but you won’t see your kids as much anymore and your time is now much more yours than it has been in a long time.
So why not consider relocating to a destination address? Living somewhere beautiful does wonders for the soul and a charming cottage or apartment by the sea with a spare room and a sofa bed might be just the thing to lure children to visit you for weekends away.
A smaller property in a destination location also gives you more flexibility to travel PLUS the possibility of additional income streams from short-term holiday rentals. Rent out your home for 3 months over summer and enjoy a white Christmas somewhere else, or escape the cold southern winters while a budding author rents your cottage to write their book.
4. Secure your Financial Future
If you sold your family home to downsize to something smaller, then you may still have money left to invest elsewhere. Make some time with a good real estate agent or property consultant and get advice about what to do next. Buying in destination locations may be your first point of discussion, or maybe you want to stay local, buy something practical to live in and put the rest into an investment property.
In theory, you should have a little extra cash flow with less mouths to feed – so now’s the time to take control of your personal finances. Talk to your agent about how you might best expand your property portfolio, by diversifying your investments in a way that gives you some freedom and flexibility, as well as great returns in the long run. This is your chance to fulfil your current lifestyle needs as well as create a financially secure future.
5. Get Educated and Broaden Your Opportunities
Whether they’re planned or not, having kids can steer you well off course from whatever long-term goals you had for yourself. You may not be a grandparent yet and many parents in their 40’s share the disbelief that they are actually adults, or that they even have adult children. So, if you can remember what you wanted to be when you grew up, why not give it a shot now?
You could do anything from weekend intensives to a full university degree. Maybe you can finally start that PhD or learn a trade like furniture making or interior design. Even if you’re time poor there are options – many modern parents have kids abroad – why not learn the native language of your grandchild to be? If you are interested in a new career as a property tycoon, you could attend some property investment seminars or start networking at business events.
Remember the decades that have passed and how much you managed to fit into that time? Well you still have the same amount of time ahead of you so don’t waste it! There is a new life after downsizing and it’s fully upsized in scope and possibility. You’re only half done and there is still so much more life to be lived. Well done on all that parenting, if you took that path, by the way! Now go forth and reap your rewards.
If you’ve recently downsized, how about sharing your experience and any tips with our audience?