It didn’t take long after Warren Bland retired as a professor of geography at California State University, Northridge, for him and his wife Sarah to realize that 37 years was enough of suburban life. Too much driving and not enough entertainment were two big factors in their move to downtown Portland.
“You don’t need the big suburban house. You don’t need two or three cars. And you can pocket some equity,” says Bland.
For empty-nesters, moving downtown has the obvious allure of trendy restaurants, ample entertainment, quick commutes and a spare bedroom in a place your kids will actually want to visit. Even so, it’s not all upside. Along with their attractions, metropolitan hubs such as Philadelphia, Seattle and Chicago can be costly, lonely and crime-ridden.
Moving downtown “can be a very emotional decision for a lot of people,” cautions Daniel Worthington, head of AXA Advisors’ San Francisco branch office. “You really have to map out the increased expenses and the potential savings.”
The first step in calculating whether a move downtown makes financial sense for you is to consider how much space you need. A good rule of thumb is to assume that you can halve the size of your previous living quarters and still get by comfortably. If you were in a 3,000 square-foot suburban home, 1,500 square feet in a two- or three-bedroom condo should do you fine in a city center.
Before moving to Portland, Bland evaluated everything from housing and transportation costs to crime rates and health care access. He was so meticulous, in fact, that he turned his evaluation process into a book, titled Retire In Style, that analyzes the offerings for retirees of 60 cities.
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