When your kids move out of home, it’s a good time to re-evaluate your finances and plan for your twilight years
As an empty nester, you face the bittersweet time when your grown kids have moved out and you now need to rethink your lifestyle. At this stage in your life, it’s a good idea to review your home loan and your financial well-being to ensure that your mortgage is meeting your needs and you can set yourself up comfortably for retirement.
Trading in a high-interest home loan for a lower rate can generate substantial monthly savings that can be cashed into a retirement account. Refinancing is not only an opportunity to lower your monthly repayments, it also provides an avenue to build equity or access equity in your home. Switching to a new lender may also enable you to upgrade or reconfigure your family home so it better suits your lifestyle.
However, make sure you speak with a financial adviser before making a move.
What you need to consider
- Finance options. If you’re preparing for retirement, you may want to opt for a home loan with lower rates and fees or a loan that allows you to access equity. As a result, you may want to opt for a “no frills” home loan or a line of credit or home equity loan. Fixed rate loans may also be ideal because it will be easier for you to plan for your future knowing your repayments will remain unchanged throughout the life of the loan.
- Length of time until retirement. The number of years you have until you plan to retire will have a big impact on whether or not it makes sense to refinance. For instance, if you have another 10-15 years until retirement, you may want to shorten your term and lower your repayments before you leave the workforce. However, if you’re planning to retire within 5-10 years, keep in mind that a lower interest rate does not always justify the decision to refinance. Refinancing may extend your loan term, which means you’ll be paying interest for a longer period of time.
- Debt management. You need to understand whether or not you will retire with debt. If you are refinancing to a 30-year mortgage and intend to retire in 15 years, you need to think about how you will service the loan for the 15 years in which you are not receiving an income.
How empty nesters can go about refinancing
- Assess your needs. As an empty nester, you’ve probably moved beyond the most expensive stage of your life – you’ve paid off your kids’ school fees, you’ve got a steady super balance and you’ve built up considerable equity in your home. You need to carefully consider your lifestyle and budget needs. Can you afford to hold on to your family home? Should you consider downsizing? Or do you want to expand your property portfolio?
- Get your finances in order. If your kids have vacated the family home, now is an ideal time to speak with a financial planner about how you can build wealth for the future. Refinancing is a viable option for many empty nesters, but you should also think about how you can leverage your super savings as an effective retirement tax strategy.
- Chat to your lender. Most borrowers don’t realise that they can negotiate their interest rate with their existing lender. Simply make the phone call to your bank, as they may be willing to negotiate a more competitive rate. The home loan market is competitive and saturated, and most banks are willing to negotiate to retain your business. However, if it’s a different loan type or features that you’re after, then it may be time to switch.
- Calculate refinancing cost. It’s important to carefully estimate the switching cost. You may need to pay a discharge fee, which could range from $150 - $350 as well as government charges to exit your current mortgage. If you have a fixed rate, you’ll need to pay a break cost. With your new loan, you’ll need to pay upfront costs such as application fees or legal fees charged by the new lender. You can use our switching cost calculator to get an estimate of your total refinancing costs. Remember to consult your trusted accountant or financial planner to help you through this stage.
- Compare home loans. Speak with a mortgage broker to discuss the type of loan that will best match your borrowing needs. Maybe you need to take out a line of equity loan to fund a renovation or travel plans, or perhaps you need a loan with no ongoing account-keeping fees. A mortgage broker has access to a panel of lenders to help you find a good deal and even negotiate the mortgage terms on your behalf.
Compare line of credit home loans
Refinance or downsize?
Many empty nesters are faced with the decision to either refinance their home loan or downsize if their home no longer meets their needs. When weighing up the financial viability of both options, you need to evaluate the costs of refinancing and compare this to the cost of selling your home and moving into a smaller place.
If you decide to refinance, you’ll need to calculate your switching costs to see if refinancing makes financial sense. This will include any discharge fees you need to pay to your existing lender, any government charges as well as any upfront application fees charged by your new lender.
If downsizing seems like the best situation for you, then you’ll need to forecast the cost of selling your home and then buying another property. When selling the property, you’ll need to set aside funds for an agent’s commission, advertising costs, the lender’s discharge fees and removalist costs. Use our property selling calculator to get an idea of the costs involved.
Speak to local real estate agents to see what similar properties are worth in your area, and consider value-adding activities such as minor upgrades or renovations that may help you achieve a higher sale price.
Next, you’ll need to consider whether your house is sellable and whether or not now is the right time to put it on the market. Factor in the time and money required to sell your home and move into a new property such as stamp duty (if applicable), conveyancing fees, inspections, the lender’s upfront fees and lenders mortgage insurance (LMI).
Becoming an empty nester can bring about mixed emotions, but make sure you think about the quality of retirement you’d like to have and plan accordingly. (Fingers crossed your kids won’t be “boomerangs”!).