Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Granny’s House Means to Me and Her Economic Security

The following blog was authored by Alyssa Best, Senior DC Program Associate at Wider Opportunities for Women.

In the past 6 months, I’ve experienced the excitement and anxiety of becoming a first-time homeowner – packing up my items to move into a much bigger space – and witnessing my 89-year-old grandmother, “Granny,” sell the house she’s owned and occupied since the 1960s – packing up her antique and treasured items to move into a small, one-bedroom senior living facility.

I have to admit that it’s been hard for me and others in the family to come to terms with the fact that Granny won’t be living the rest of her life in her house, which has served as the cornerstone of family celebrations and holidays. I grew up a mile from Granny’s house and spent much of my childhood playing in the house and the “swamp” out back.

Despite all of these happy memories, I’m excited that Granny will have a new place to make friends and have people to look out for her. Most of all, the sale of Granny’s house (which was paid off years ago) means that she will have additional savings to draw on as she continues to age. While Granny collects other retirement benefits, the sale of this asset provides a huge cushion enabling her to live comfortably and to receive quality medical care.

Even when Granny lived in her house, her expenses were significantly lower because she owned a home without a mortgage for many years. According to Wider Opportunities for Women’s Elder Economic Security Initiative™, an owner without a mortgage pays on average $376/month compared to a renter paying $705/month. It’s easy to see how once homeowners have paid off their mortgages and continue to age in place, there is a greater opportunity for their savings to accumulate over the long term.

This Memorial Day, I’m visiting my grandmother in her new apartment for the first time. It’s going to be a strange experience driving to a new place and seeing familiar furniture pieces configured in a new and unfamiliar space. Most of all, I will miss my grandmother standing by her porch waving goodbye as I pull out of the driveway. However, I can have peace of mind knowing that Granny is being taken care of in this next phase of her life as I drive to my new home – an asset that will hopefully contribute to my economic security for years to come.

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