4 strategies for empty nesters

Have your kids left home? Time to refocus on your priorities.

Article published: August 21, 2023

In this article:

  • Map out a plan for how long (and how much) you’ll still support your grown children
  • Refocus on your retirement goals and strategy
  • Reassess your housing situation
  • Update your estate plan

The moment you’ve been working so long and so hard for is here: The children have flown the nest. It’s a huge achievement for all of you, one that comes with a mix of pride and bittersweet feelings. It’s also a tremendous opportunity to refocus on your own goals and make sure you have a plan in place that will see you through to retirement and beyond. Let’s break down the road map for financial planning in the empty nester phase of life.




Have an open and honest conversation with your kids – and yourself

It’s important to set some guidelines around how much – and how long – you will continue to support them financially. As parents, our instinct is always to care for our children and help them as much as we can. But at some point, if you haven’t done so already, the best thing you can do for the young adults in your life is to help them become financially independent and see how their expenses impact their savings. It doesn’t have to mean cutting off all funds all at once, but depending on the child’s age, living situation and employment status, together you can start to map out what that path looks like. The goal is to get them on their way and start to redirect some of that money back toward your retirement. Which brings us to our next step ...




Renew your focus on retirement

Let’s be honest, kids are expensive. And now that they’ve moved out, that means the money you’ve been spending all these years on tuition, clothing, food, school trips or soccer uniforms can all go back into the retirement pot.

If you’ve been putting off maximizing your retirement savings until “someday” and the kids have moved out, it’s time to put that plan into action.


Catch up: If you’re older than 50 and have a 401(k) or 403(b), you can make catch-up contributions to your retirement plan of up to $7,500 in 2023. The same is true for most 457 plans and the federal Thrift Savings Plans.

Review your investments: Your investment goals and risk tolerance can change over time. Check in with a planner to help make sure your portfolio is aligned with where you are – and where you want to be.

Develop an income withdrawal strategy: How much will you need to live on in retirement? What’s the most tax-efficient way to take withdrawals from retirement accounts like your 401(k), IRA or brokerage accounts? Again, a conversation with a wealth planner can help you refocus on your strategy for the future.




Is it time to rightsize?

Without the kids living at home, you may want to consider “rightsizing” your residence. The place may feel empty, or maybe it feels like too much work to maintain it without those extra pairs of hands. Deciding to sell is a major decision, so discuss it with your planner first to make sure you’ve got a clear picture of how this may affect your financial situation. But if you do, part of the proceeds can be used to boost your savings, pay for long-term care insurance or invest in a new residence that would help you as you age. What’s more, if your new home is smaller, you might benefit from lower utility costs, property taxes and insurance. If you do decide to stay put for now, keep the rightsizing question open for future consideration. Regardless of what you decide now, the ultimate question of where and how you will live is an important foundation of financial planning in your empty-nesting years.




Help safeguard your legacy with estate planning

Once your children are adults and out of the family home, it’s time to review your estate planning. The dual goals are to protect your wealth and to provide for your loved ones after you’re gone. This can be achieved with a combination of having updated legal documents in place, reviewing your insurance policies, identifying charitable causes you may want to leave a legacy to, and – again – having an open and honest discussion with your children about your wishes. A financial planner can help you set out the steps in updating your estate plan and work with your attorney or tax accountant to help ensure everything is in place.

Above all, enjoy it. Empty nesting can bring mixed emotions, but try to remember that it’s the culmination of everything you’ve worked for to help your children succeed. Take the opportunity to discover new hobbies, pursue new interests and maybe even continue your education using an overfunded 529 plan. (Consult with a planner on how you can do this.) It’s a new chapter for you, and it’s time to focus on planning for the retirement you want.

The information regarding estate planning should not be construed as tax or legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Neither Edelman Financial Engines nor its affiliates offer tax or legal advice. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to include your qualified tax and/or legal professionals in these discussions and decisions to help determine the best options for your particular circumstances.

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