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Golden Year Goals: Why a 55-Plus Retirement Community May or May Not Work for You

Katie DuncanOctober 17, 2022

Reviewed By: FINANCE WRITER

Golfball on tee in grass

If you’re helping your aging parents think about where they’ll live during their golden years — or seeking a place yourself — you’re part of a tsunami occurring in real estate. America’s 76.4 million aging baby boomers are hitting the stage of life in which they are looking for an additional level of support within their living arrangements.

For some, this means seeking accommodations in retirement communities designed for those age 55 and older. Such communities are generally attractive, accessible, and low-maintenance, and they offer a range of social and recreational services and other amenities. Depending on your situation, they may also have some drawbacks to consider.

What is a 55-plus retirement community?

People are used to hearing about how they should save for retirement, but many fail to consider the ways they can use their money once they get to that stage in their life.

One option for your retirement savings is a major one: moving to a retirement community.

55-plus retirement communities, also commonly referred to as active adult communities, are neighborhoods in which residents are primarily over the age of 55. Amenities and services offered in the neighborhood are geared towards retirees and older folks focused on living their golden years with ease and comfort.

What, exactly, a community offers will vary from location to location. However, there are a few things you can generally expect to find:

  • Modern homes: Homes in these communities are typically newer and ready to live in. No need to worry about fixing up a home to make it livable.
  • Help with maintenance and upkeep: Some communities have maintenance staff that helps residents with their homes, yards, and landscaping.
  • Village amenities: Neighborhoods may have pools, clubhouses, and other recreational facilities. On top of this, communities often have a calendar full of events and activities for people to take part in.

• Nearby necessities: Typically, you don’t have to go far to find grocery stores, restaurants, and doctors’ offices.

While you typically do not need to be 55 years old to purchase a home in one of these communities, most retirement community HOAs require that at least one household member be 55 or older.

Talk to a CFS* Financial Advisor

Want to take your retirement plans to the next level? Schedule a Amplify Wealth Management appointment with our colleagues at CUSO Financial Services (CFS).

Retirement Community Pros and Cons to Consider

When deciding whether or not a retirement community is the right move, consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Retirement CommunitiesDisadvantages of Retirement Communities
Safety, security, and accessibilityLess age diversity in the neighborhood
Less to take care of, such as lawn care and home maintenanceRules and routines
Community amenities and programsNo in-house medical care
Potentially lower costsHomes are typically smaller
Good locationsHomeowners association fees and requirements
Can be easier to transition to full-care facilities when needed

Advantages of Retirement Communities

Residents of retirement villages often love it for the following reasons.

Safety and Security

Retirement communities are often gated and have on-site security, giving you peace of mind over your safety and security.

Accessibility

No need to worry about making your home more accessible as you age. In a retirement community, your living quarters are likely to be highly accessible, with amenities such as single floors, zero-step entrances, wheelchair-compatible wide halls and doorways, lever-style handles, and easy-to-reach fixtures and controls.

Less Responsibility

You’ll no longer be responsible for grueling home maintenance chores such as yard work, snow removal, painting, or HVAC and plumbing upkeep. Some places also offer housekeeping services.

Community Amenities and Programs

You may have access to a gym, pool, sauna, hot tub, tennis courts and/or other facilities that can help keep you in good shape. Many retirement communities are built on golf courses.

On top of that, you should be offered a range of fun on- and off-site recreational and entertainment opportunities, often with transportation provided.

Potentially Lower Costs

Living in a 55-plus retirement community may seem expensive, but because it includes everything—including maintenance and in some cases, housekeeping—you might end of saving money. Once you calculate your new budget, including housing, food, entertainment, home insurance, repairs, utilities, and property taxes, you’ll have a better handle on whether you’ll see lower costs. Depending on the community, you may be able to prepay for your future residence and care.

Good Locations

The locations of retirement communities are often in enjoyable warmer climates and/or near active cities that offer plenty to do. Others are close to college campuses for those who enjoy lifelong learning.

Paves the Way for Full-Care Facilities

Going from standard independent living to a full-care facility can be jarring. A retirement community is a nice stepping-stone from independent living to assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.

If, one day, you should need a higher level of care, the process can be a lot easier if you have already downsized into a retirement community. Some communities may even have partnerships with assisted living facilities, which makes moving to a place with a higher level of care a breeze.

Disadvantages of Retirement Communities

Here’s what some people don’t like about retirement communities.

Less Age Diversity

One thing that many don’t like about living in a 55+ community is that everyone is, well, 55 or older. Some may like living only among people their age, but for others, this lack of age diversity can cause the community to lose its appeal.

Too Many Rules and Routines

Every HOA is different, and every community has their own rules. You may not agree with community rules and may miss the greater sense of independence you had before.

Some rules may restrict overnight guests, landscaping, property additions, and more. It’s not unheard of for complexes like this to restrict things inside of your home, like banning the use of candles or dictating the type of paint you can use. If you’re used to doing whatever you’d like, whenever you’d like, this level of restriction may be too much.

HOA Fees and Requirements

You get numerous extra neighborhood perks when you live in a 55-plus retirement community. Unfortunately, these aren’t free. HOA dues can be costly for those on a fixed retirement income, especially if you don’t plan for them in your budget.

Additionally, if you don’t plan on taking advantage of the amenities, services, and programs provided by the community, spending money on corresponding HOA fees can feel like a waste.

No Medical Care

Most retirement homes do not offer on-site medical care. If you require help with managing medications or at-home health care visits, consider other options that can provide a higher level of assistance.

Smaller Homes

Many retirement community homes are designed for one to two people to live in. While the idea of less to worry about and take care of is appealing to many, some have a hard time downsizing and adjusting to life in a smaller space.

Farther from Friends and Family

Moving to a retirement community may mean leaving people behind, which is always hard. You may make new friends, but being apart from loved ones may not be easy.

How to Financially Prepare for Your Golden Years in a Retirement Community

If you think a retirement community is the path you want to take, there are a few things to do before you start packing up boxes.

  • Determine your needs: Start by determining your needs and desires for a retirement community. What amenities and services are your must-haves? These types of communities can range from simple gated neighborhoods to large, sprawling complexes with an entire package of amenities.
  • Research: Next, research where you may want to live. Is there a retirement community nearby or will you need to relocate out of state? What do costs and fees look like in the communities that you’re interested in? Do you meet any additional requirements?
  • Assess: Take a look at your current assets and financial situation. Can you afford the costs?

A financial advisor can be invaluable in determining the feasibility of any plans you may have. They can help you create a financial plan that ensures you have funds to last you the rest of your life.

Get Your Retirement Squared Away

Everyone has goals for retirement. Maybe you want to live in a swanky luxury retirement community. Perhaps traveling is on your radar. Maybe you just want to be with your kids and grandkids. Regardless of your goals, the best thing that you can do right now is to start planning.

*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer Member FINRA/SIPC and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. The Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018.

Talk to a CFS* Financial Advisor

Want to take your retirement plans to the next level? Schedule a Amplify Wealth Management appointment with our colleagues at CUSO Financial Services (CFS).

Katie Duncan

Katie Duncan is a financial writer based in Austin, Texas. Her articles include financial advice for freelancers, homebuyers, and more. When she’s not writing, Katie loves traveling and exploring the outdoors with her friends and her dog, Poe.