Scaling down a retirement lifestyle


When empty nesters think about changing their retirementlifestyle, they usually consider downsizing to a place with fewer rooms to heat and cool, less grass to cut.

But some retired and semiretired boomers have changed their lifestyle to the extreme, ditching their fixed residences for homes on wheels, going off the grid and finding other ways to live smaller.

They’re the kind of people Lloyd Kahn, editor-in-chief of Shelter Publications, features in his book, “Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter,” such as the elderly man who fashioned himself a home out of a 120-square-foot garden shed, or the 70-something woman who lived in a converted school bus.

Kahn says the current tiny-homes movement is a bit of a throwback to the late ’60s and early ’70s.

“It’s an idea that’s been around, but all of a sudden a lot of people are thinking in terms of getting smaller rather than larger,” says Kahn.

This trend doesn’t apply to everyone, of course. But Bankrate found four examples of people who altered their retirement lifestyle, ranging from the fairly typical to the extremely frugal.

Retirement lifestyle: A cozy apartment
Retirement lifestyle: A cozy apartment

Priscilla Kleinman, a retired teacher and Kenner, La., resident, shrank her living space by about 60 percent when she moved from her 2,200-square-foot home to a 900-square-foot apartment. She later relocated to another similarly sized apartment in the gated community where she now lives.

Kleinman and her ex-husband sold their home in 2002 after they divorced. Because the house was paid off, downsizing for Kleinman has actually meant an increase in housing expenses. She says her current rent, which she would only give as “more than $800 a month” for a one-bedroom, second-floor walk-up, is straining her budget.

“My rent is more than what we were paying in maintenance, insurance and taxes,” says Kleinman, who nevertheless appreciates not having to worry about the upkeep of her apartment.