Should Your Mom Get a (Platonic) Roommate?

The following is a guest post from Janet Stanton Burt of Goal Investor.

Goal InvestorHousing can be more expensive for singletons than couples, but increasingly, single adults aged 50+ are stretching their retirement dollars by living as platonic roommates. Living with housemates not only saves money, it has social benefits, too. Would a roomie be the right option for your mom or dad?

Positive Impact

It might sound surprising that people well beyond college years are doubling up with roommates, until you consider the advantages:

  • Roommates help curb costs. Taking in tenants or splitting housing costs with others can significantly reduce monthly housing expenses, or increase income if your parent’s house is already paid off.
  • Roommates reduce social isolation. Loneliness has a powerful impact on health, according to a University of California San Francisco study. Aging adults who identified themselves as lonely had a 59% greater risk of health decline over six years, and a 45% greater risk of death than folks who socialized regularly.
  • Roommates can provide assistance if needed. You and your parent gain peace of mind from knowing housemates are close by in case of emergency.

Different Options

There are actually a few different options for older people who choose to live with platonic roommates:

  • The landlord-tenant model: the adult homeowner rents a portion of the house.
  • Co-housing model: a group of friends rents or buys a house together.
    The exchange-for-services model: an older person rents rooms at reduced rates in exchange for companionship and household help.

The easiest way Mom can find a roommate is if she already has a friend, sibling or acquaintance in mind. If your parent doesn’t have any would-be roommates, a professional shared housing service can screen potential housemates for compatibility, verify personal references and run criminal background checks.

Driving Forces

What’s behind the co-housing trend? For starters, there are more single Americans than ever before, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. More adults are choosing never to marry, and the divorce rate for adults age 50 and over has doubled since 1990.

Meanwhile, a growing number of older adults find they need to stretch their retirement dollars. A significantly larger percentage of people over 65 are carrying mortgage debt than in the past decade, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and some seniors are still paying off student debt!

Combine those factors with baby boomers’ desire to avoid nursing homes and “age in place” and it’s clear why home-sharing appeals.
Do you know what your living expenses might be in retirement? Goal Investor can help you figure out what you’ll need.

Golden Girls

Women in particular are availing themselves of the roommate option, perhaps because they’re far more likely than men to live alone later in life. About 4 million American women aged 50+ already live in households with at least one other woman in the same age group, according to AARP, and that number is expected to rise.

Living with friends is not only fun, but platonic roommates may also help women lower their long-term care costs by helping them live independently, longer.



Potential Pitfalls

While there can be many benefits to living with roommates, here are three caveats to consider before Mom moves to Florida and sets up housekeeping:

1. Seek professional advice.

Check to see if the homeowners association and local zoning rules allow property owners to rent rooms. An insurance agent can tell you if you need to alter your homeowner’s policy coverage when roommates move in. Consult a lawyer before purchasing a home with others.

2. Get on the same page.

Incompatibility can turn a financially advantageous living arrangement into something just not worth the hassle. SharingHousing.com’s DIY guides have some great talking points for discussing expectations and choosing compatible roommates.

3. Safety first.

Placing an ad for a roommate could be dangerous. Use professional services to screen roommates, and ask for references and criminal background checks before consenting to live with someone.

Unforeseen snags may arise, but thoughtful and thorough planning give co-housing arrangements the best chance for success. When roommates click, living together can alleviate financial and emotional stress and help your parent enjoy an independent and socially connected retirement.

What type of living situation would suit you in retirement? Goal Investor can help you figure out whether you’re saving enough to afford to live alone or you’ll need to take in multiple roommates just to pay the cable bill.

This information is provided for education purposes only and is not intended to provide investment or legal advice. SEI does not claim responsibility for the accuracy or reliability of the information provided.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

4 Comments

  1. My wife and I already are testing out the landlord-tenant model. We’ve had a renter in our basement for over 3 years now. It’s worked out well, for the most part, but I wouldn’t necessarily enjoy it in retirement. The one way I could see it work in retirement is if you have a good management company. I don’t think retirees need the added stress of something going wrong and needing to fix it immediately. If you have a management company for the space the tenant can call them and they can take care of any maintenance/emergency needs.

    • Great point about balancing the desire for additional income with direct management which implies some level of daily involvement and stress.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation, my friend.

  2. I’m kind of in that situation right now, where I really could take on a roommate of sorts. And I can certainly understand the benefits of doing so. But I think I just value my privacy too much. I like to go out with friends though. I don’t know, something to think about. Nice article James!

    • Great point about privacy. My guess is that would be the biggest negative for most people. For the 50+ individuals that are in retirement who can get past the issue of privacy, I think the first two positive impacts – curbing costs and reducing isolation – can be significant reasons to go the ‘roomie’ route.

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend and adding your thoughts.

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