I can’t quite remember what caused me to part ways with my last roommate. It was 50 years ago and I have a vague memory of an unannounced party, a broken window and… finding my dog covered head to toe in ice-cream and hot fudge sauce? No… wait. That last part can’t be correct!
In any case, something bad happened and I swore to myself that I would never have another roommate. And, until I met my husband, I stuck to my guns, living frugally in small apartments and avoiding co-living situations of all kinds.
It wasn’t until I started Sixty and Me, a community of over 500,000 baby boomers, that I started to reconsider my position on roommates. In fact, the more I heard from other women like me who had decided to give living with a roommate a second look.
Here are 3 reasons to consider getting a roommate in the years leading up to, or during, retirement according to boomers who have already taken the plunge.
Probably the most obvious reason to get a roommate is to reduce your living costs. Not only can a roommate help you to cover your rent (or mortgage), but, they can also help with utilities.
As one of our community members, Susan W commented, “When I got divorced in my late 50s, I still had 10 years left on my mortgage. I fought with my husband to keep the house only to find myself at risk of losing it for lack of money to pay the mortgage and other expenses. So, I made the decision to get a roommate… at least for as long as I had a mortgage. Now, 15 years later, my house is paid off, but, I still have a roommate. I guess I really like having someone else around. And, the extra cash really helps, especially now that I have retired!”
As we have discussed before, an extra $500 in income is like having $150,000 in retirement savings. So, getting a roommate really can make you feel richer. And, this doesn’t even account for the income you can make by investing your rent or mortgage savings!
Loneliness is a big problem for older adults. How big? Well, depending on the study you read, between 33-40% of people over 50 experience loneliness some of the time. And, when I conducted my own survey of our Sixty and Me community members, 75% of them said that they occasionally felt lonely.
To be clear, being alone is not the same as being lonely. I know plenty of people who genuinely love the silence that comes from living by themselves. But, for the rest of us, getting a roommate can help to fight loneliness and keep us social.
As a community member, James A said, “My work has always been my life. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but, all those coffee room conversations and pointless meetings really did help me to feel connected. When I retired, I found myself alone every day of the week – except Sunday, when I went to church. A couple of years into retirement, a friend suggested that I get a roommate. I was pretty skeptical, but, I decided to give it a shot. The guy that I share my apartment with now is great. He’s not much of a talker, just like me. But, we get along and it’s nice to have someone to have a beer with while you’re watching the footie.”
When we are in your 40s, 50s and even 60s, most of us don’t think about the fact that we will one day lose our independence. Then, one day, it hits us. We take a fall down the stairs. Or, we slip in the bathroom and bump our head. Or, perhaps we find out that we are suffering from an illness. And, suddenly, we realize that our independence is at risk.
Getting a roommate can’t protect you from every possible injury, but, it can help you to get help quickly if the unexpected happens.
As Jane R from our community said, “It might sound crazy, but, I actually think my roommate saved my life. It was the stupidest thing. I was walking from my car to the house one evening when I slipped on a patch of ice and hit my head. My right arm was also in a lot of pain and I was pretty scared. I remember just sitting there looking up at the lights above my door thinking ‘This is it. I’m just going to die here in the snow.’ Luckily, Amy was in the kitchen and had seen the car pulling into the driveway. She came out to check on me when I didn’t come in after a few minutes and called an ambulance. We still live together and I will always be grateful to her for helping me that night. I don’t know what I would have done had I been living on my own.”
There are dozens of websites that claim to be able to help you find a roommate. Some of the most popular are Roomiematch.com, Roommates.com and Roomi. But, to be completely honest with you, I haven’t met too many people who have successfully found a roommate through these sites. They are simply too focused on Millennials and many also require you to filter through plenty of scam/spam messages to get to the real gems who might actually be a good fit as a roommate.
You may have a better chance with Silvernest.com – an online home-sharing platform that pairs boomers, retirees, empty nesters and other older adults with compatible housemates.
Most of the boomers that I know have found a roommate through their own network – either online or in their neighborhood. For example, if I were looking for a roommate, here are a few things that I would do.
First, I would reach out to my Facebook network. I would post a message on my Facebook page. Then, I would reach out to all of my friends who still live near me to ask for their suggestions.
Second, I would go for a walk around my neighborhood, knocking on doors and letting people know that I was looking for a roommate. Who knows, maybe one of my neighbors would even be interested in joining forces.
Third, I would post a “roommate wanted” notice at my local community center and in my church. And, speaking of church, I would also talk to my church’s leader to see if they have any roommate recommendations. Chances are they would!
Finally, I would look through my contacts on LinkedIn to see who might be able to recommend a roommate. Who knows? Maybe one of my colleagues would have found him or herself in a similar situation to me. Or, maybe one of their friends might be interested.
Deciding to get a roommate is a major decision… and one that should not be taken lightly. But, if you can deal with finding someone else’s socks in your laundry basket and the occasional box of old Chinese food in the fridge, getting a roommate really can help you to live a richer life in retirement.
It’s not just about the money. It’s also about the peace of mind that comes from having someone you trust around. And, who knows, your new roommate may even become a friend.
What do you think of the idea of getting a roommate in the years leading up to (or during) retirement? Do you have a roommate now? How would you describe your experience?