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Should you rent or own a home in retirement?

Whether you rent your home or buy, it’s always good to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

During my live online chat last week, two questions came up about retirement.

I put the questions to the team of Color of Money retirement coaches that I’ve assembled to help me help you with your retirement concerns.

Retirement for renters
Q: Do you have any advice or suggestions regarding saving for retirement for renters who don’t have plans to buy a home? I’m in my 40’s and have been satisfied with renting thus far. I am wondering what strategies one should consider in my situation. I am not sure if/when I will buy a home. Is this a huge mistake on my part?

Jean Setzfand is a senior vice president of AARP Programs that produce interactive educational programming designed to address health, wealth and personal enrichment concerns for consumers 50 and over.

Setzfand: Whether you rent your home or buy, it’s always good to start saving for retirement as soon as possible, especially if your employer provides a matching retirement plan.

Regarding your decision to rent or buy, though your personal preference may be the main driver, a recent study Out of Reach 2016 ( by the National Low Income Housing Coalition highlights the lack of affordable housing across America and the high cost of renting, especially in the DC metro area. Of the states ranked most expensive to rent a two-bedroom apartment, DC ranked 2nd; MD ranked 5th and Virginia ranked 11th.

Not only is affordable rental property harder to find, you don’t have the advantage of building home equity when you rent vs. buy a home, which is an asset that may provide you some financial support in the long run.

Why the decline of the homeownership rate is good news

Fidelity Investments published an article that outlines five questions you should ask yourself when you’re debating renting vs. buying. They are:

· How long are you planning to stay where you are?
· Do housing prices always go up? (This addresses the misconception that housing prices only go up, not down.)
· Are you “throwing away money” on rent? (Addresses many of the hidden costs of owning a home.)
· How much will you save on taxes?
· Are you comparing apples to apples? (Stresses that you should factor in the complete cost of ownership, not just rent vs mortgage.)

Check out the interactive calculator that lets you plug in your own numbers to see the difference that buying or renting might have on your long-term finances.

Here’s another good article on the topic: Retirement living: renting vs. home ownership

Michael Edesess is an economist and mathematician and chief strategist of Compendium Finance. He is a co-author of “The 3 Simple Rules of Investing: Why Everything You’ve Heard about Investing Is Wrong ― and What to Do Instead” and author of “The Big Investment Lie.”

Edesess: It’s not a mistake not to buy a home. If you have been satisfied with renting, there’s no reason not to continue in that fashion. Investing in buying a home has risks and potential rewards just like any other investment. The rewards to home buying have actually been considerably less than those of investing in the stock market. Nevertheless many people prefer to own, though the reasons could be circumstantial or psychological.”

If you own a home, check out these articles:

Retirees, should you buy or rent when downsizing?

Is it better to buy or rent in retirement?

Send your questions: Join Michelle Singletary Thursday at noon for a weekly financial chat

Saving during retirement
Q: My husband and I have safe pensions that will cover all our expenses in retirement and a considerable nest egg, but we probably won’t be able to continue to save like we have all our lives. Do people usually continue to save in retirement or is that the time to draw down our savings (or leave it alone in case of emergencies)? I can’t get my head around this because I’m so used to saving. We don’t have anyone to leave the money to if that’s a consideration but, of course, hope to leave some to charities.

Carolyn McClanahan is a physician turned certified financial planner. McClanahan, who founded the fee-only Life Planning Partners based in Jacksonville, Fla., concentrates on how health intersects with personal finance, including long-term care issues.

McClanahan: Your savings habit is serving you well. It is not uncommon for great savers to have difficulty when it comes time to start using the resources they have worked so hard to obtain. For some, money becomes the object when it really should be considered a tool to help you enjoy life.

After you’ve consulted with an hourly financial planner to determine if you have enough for emergencies, health care costs, and potential long-term care costs, decide how the money left over can bring you the most joy.

You mentioned charity — instead of waiting until you die, start giving to charity now! That way, you’ll get to see the fruit of your hard work. In my experience, clients enjoy giving to local charities and small organizations where their dollar can have the most impact and where they can potentially become involved in volunteering for the charity. Giving improves our sense of well-being, and a better sense of well-being leads to better health, so it is a win-win for all involved.”

Edesess: “From what you say the only reasons for continuing to save would be to bequeath more to charity, and because you have psychologically gotten used to it. It might be hard to change and become a spendthrift, even if you can financially — and after all, there’s no reason why you have to spend money, just because you can.”

Here’s an article from Fidelity “How long can I make my savings last” with a section on setting up a portfolio to allow you to spend and save.

Retirement rants & raves
In this feature your voice matters. This is a space in which you can rave or rant about anything related to retirement. So what’s on your mine about your retirement or your planning for retirement? (I would especially love to hear from young adults.)

Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants & Raves.”

Last week I asked: What’s been your experience with buying or using long-term care insurance?

“I was one of those federal employees who purchased long-term care insurance several years before retirement in 2010,” wrote Raylene Canby of Sammamish, Wash. “There were very modest premium increases until last year when my monthly bill went from $155 to $351! Needless to say, I’m glad I was sitting down when I opened that letter. The choices were to pay it, quit the policy or to change the policy to one providing significantly less care. I chose to continue the existing policy, which provides care for an unlimited number of years, which is no longer offered by any long-term care insurer.”

Cindy Estep from Annapolis, Md., wrote: “The firm I work for offers long-term disability insurance for which I pay a monthly premium. The only reason I signed up for LTDI is because the policy is convertible into long-term care insurance without having to have a medical exam. Of course I will need to continue paying the premium after I retire — assuming of course I can afford the premiums. I would like to pay off my mortgage. Instead of a monthly mortgage payment, I’ll be paying for health insurance and other medical expenses.”

Live chat this week
Join me on Thursday, April 27 at noon (ET) for a live discussion about poverty in the U.S.

I’d like to continue the conversation I’ve been having with readers about some recent columns I’ve written on the topic, including an essay I selected for this month’s Color of Money Book Club. Read the review: The next face of poverty could be yours

What do we as a society owe the poor?

I spent my childhood on Medicaid, and Trump’s plan to roll it back is disastrous

I wrote about being a child on Medicaid. A reader called me the N-word.

Click this link to participate in the discussion.

Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include a first name and last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.