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Is a Tiny House the Big Solution for Your Retirement Plan?

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The tiny house movement may seem like a young millennial sort of thing, but it might just be an ideal solution for your retirement. That’s what a growing number of bloggers and retirement commentators seem to be noticing. In fact, tiny house experts estimate that about 40 percent of tiny houses are inhabited by older adults.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the typical new American home has been getting bigger and bigger. In 1973, the nationwide average house size was 1,660 square feet. In 2020, the average size has grown to 2,261 square feet. (And, Zillow says the median size of all single-family homes is 1,600–1,650 square feet.)
Tiny houses are much much smaller than these averages. Tiny houses are not just small suburban bungalows as compared to McMansions. Tiny means very small. In fact, some tiny homes are no larger than 100 square feet. That’s about the size of an average house’s bathroom.

If you’re stuck thinking about how difficult it would be to live in your bathroom, step outside of that for just a moment. A tiny home doesn’t have to be that small. Many are closer to 400–500 square feet. However, that’s still less than a quarter the size of a typical American home.

Think you could live in that amount of space? A lot of people do, and many of them would never go back.

There are a few key reasons retired people are pursuing tiny homes.

Tiny homes are the ultimate downsize. Home equity is the biggest source of wealth for most people. Cashing out your regular home and moving into a tiny home can dramatically improve your retirement finances.

Retirees talk a lot about downsizing. Moving to a tiny home is downsizing big time.

Tiny homes are smaller, which means that they require less resources to build and keep running. They have a smaller physical footprint, but also a smaller environmental footprint.

Retirees are often told to pare down their possessions now. After years of perhaps raising a family, acquiring a lot of possessions and maintaining big homes, the idea of fewer things and less stuff to deal with can be very appealing.

Retirement can be a great time to simplify and focus on the things that are truly important to you. Tiny living can help you do that.

Homes require care and maintenance. The things in our homes require care and maintenance. Making our homes smaller and having less stuff gives people more time and energy to focus on the things that are really important to them: grandchildren, friends, travel, hobbies, etc.

A tiny home does not mean slowing down though. It’s more about freeing up time and having fewer responsibilities. When you think about it like that, a diminutive home could very well equal liberation. With less square footage, you could have more time and money to do whatever you want.

Tiny homes can help you achieve many different kinds of retirement aspirations:

Granny Unit — Literally: Being near grand kids is a top priority for many in retirement. Would you consider moving into their backyard? Depending on zoning laws, building a tiny home on your adult child’s property can be a cost efficient way to live as you can typically tie into their utilities.

Tiny Home Community: Senior living communities often feature smaller homes — whether condos, mobile homes or small apartments. Tiny home communities are like that, but the domiciles are tinier with perhaps more communal features and variation in the style of homes.

Tiny Vacation Homes: Not everyone downsizes for retirement. In fact, most retirees report wanting to keep their social connections and continue to live in their family home.

However, many also aspire to spending more time “on vacation.” Perhaps a tiny vacation home is the answer.

A Tiny Home on the Road: RV-ing has long been a popular pursuit for retirees. RVs are built with light weight materials and are designed for life on the road. Tiny homes can be built on a trailer for full mobility, but they are typically made with higher quality materials. These more home-like materials are heavier, making them suitable for travel, but not as much as an RV.

A Tiny Home Base for Wider Travels: Maybe you are ready to give up the three bedroom home for world travels, but want to maintain some kind of base. Could a tiny home can provide a comfortable place to come home to.

Moving to a teeny tiny home is a HUGE leap. Here are a few resources to help you learn about the tiny home lifestyle.

There is no shortage of TV shows devoted to finding and living in tiny homes. Here are a few popular options:

Tiny House Hunters (HGTV): This show takes the house hunters format — an affable buyer visits 3 options and chooses 1 — and goes tiny.

Tiny House, Big Living (HGTV): Learn about people and the decisions that lead them to tiny homes and the features they build into their itty bitty places.

Tiny House Builders (HGTV): See what Derek Diedricksen builds into his micro masterpieces that make the most of their surroundings.

Tiny House Nation (Netflix): Traveling the U.S., host John Weisbarth and expert Zack Giffin are helping families prep for the tiny lifestyle and create hypercustomized mini homes.

Tiny Paradise (HGTV): Couples build tiny homes in idyllic locations. From a glass house on the beaches of Mexico to a Colorado mountain retreat designed out of a sheep wagon, these adventurous homeowners follow their dreams to build their own small slice of paradise.

Tiny Luxury (HGTV):This show follows husband and wife duo, Tyson and Michelle Spiess. Together with Michelle’s two brothers and their wives they run the country’s top high-end tiny home-building company. They make luxurious custom homes that can all hit the highway so their clients can live however they want, wherever they want.

Terrific Tiny Homes (Amazon): Explore quirky and unique tiny homes.

Trying out a tiny house can reveal more about what it’s really like than any measurements and paper planning ever could.

Below are a few resources for trying out tiny living in a tiny home.

Tiny House Vacations: This site lets you find and rent tiny homes all over the United States.

Tiny Houses on AirBnB — Sharable has amassed a list of 25 particularly charming tiny homes that are available to rent via AirBnb.

Tiny Rentals in All 50 States — House Beautiful identified tiny rental homes in all 50 states.

Tumbleweed Homes has tiny home rentals in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, and New Hampshire.

Trying to live out of an RV or a boat might be another way to try out living in a tiny space.

If renting isn’t an option, there’s also a tried-and-true way to get a feel for just how small one of these homes really is. In the RV enthusiast community, the standard recommendation is to tape off the square footage on the floor in your home and then spend a few days living in those confines.

Let’s say you are enthusiastic about living in a tiny space. There are other aspects of life you will want to consider. For example:

  • Your stuff: Are you ready to downsize your possessions?
  • Aging: How will your tiny home need to adjust as you get older?
  • Visitors: Can you accommodate visitors or entertaining in your tiny space? Is that important to you?

Find a Builder: A quick Google search shows that tiny house builders are everywhere nowadays. It’s more a matter of choosing one than finding one.

Build Your Own: Some people choose to build on their own, which gives total control but might come with other issues such as permitting and labor. If that’s a route that you want to go, websites such as Tiny House Build and scores of books on the topic are emerging all the time.

Buy a Kit: There are kits for assembling a tiny home. Allwood is a popular option with, get this, free shipping. Choose your option and they’ll deliver everything you need to build it on your own.

Buy a Prefabricated Option: A mail order home? Yep. There are companies that will deliver a completely finished home to you. Here are a few companies with prefab homes for sale:

How Much Does a Tiny Home Cost?

Forbes says that the average tiny house costs up to $400 per square foot, which is much more than a traditional home. That puts a tiny house in the $60k to $100K range.

However, your actual price tag will depends on amenities and whether you build it yourself, buy a kit, or hire a builder. And, the home itself may be the least expensive aspect of your tiny home. Where to park it is a more complicated and perhaps more expensive proposition.

Downsizing in a major way to afford retirement.

Could a tiny house work for you and your retirement? The NewRetirement Retirement Planner can help you document your current plan and enable you visualize ways to improve your finances. For example: input your current housing situation, then try out downsizing into a tiny home as an option – you will immediately be able to see the impact your housing choices have on your retirement finances, now and in the future.

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