With banks and bonds paying next to nothing in the way of interest on savings, more retirees are wondering if they should use their retirement savings to invest in real estate. These seniors are wondering if they should use their $1 million in retirement savings to invest in an income-producing property. There are some risks, but the rewards could be worth it.
Q: I used to listen to your radio show in Atlanta when I was working. I’m now retired and I am concerned about my investments. I have no confidence in the U.S. economy.
I have roughly $1,000,000 in retirement savings in an investment account. I own my home free and clear, and have no other debts. My wife and I are 63 years old. She has a pension and I’ll take social security when I turn 66.
We are thinking of buying a different house and renting ours. The rent would net us about $1,350 per month. We would then buy another house for about $250,000 and pay for that in cash. I think that having more money in real estate assets would be safer for us. What do you think?
A: The level of risk a person is able to take or wants to take with retirement savings is a very personal decision. We usually don’t advise our readers on the amount of risk they should or shouldn’t take but rather try to highlight the potential upside and downside in their decisions.
For example, let’s say your current home is in one area of Atlanta and your other home is on the other side of the metro area, or in the mountains in northern Georgia. If the two properties aren’t near each other and your tenant needs quite a bit of hand holding, you could find it time consuming and annoying being a landlord.
Living in a home that you own is quite different than becoming a landlord of your former primary residence. For that, you need to make sure you want to be a landlord and are willing to deal with tenants, their issues and the possibility that you might not have a tenant if you can’t rent the property.
All of these issues are also “risks,” but you might have more control over the risks in vetting your tenants and by deciding how to price your home for rent. You said you have $1,000,000 in an account. You’d have to decide how to invest that money in a diversified way to help you out into your retirement years. The purchase of real estate is not a liquid investment, but if you have a good tenant and you have good cash flow from the home, that cash flow can help supplement your retirement income far beyond what you’d get in stocks or bonds, and certainly more than you’d get in cash.
One thing for you to consider is what your home is worth and if you sold the home what you would do with that cash. If you invested the cash, what return do you think you’d get from the cash? If you leave the money in a cash account, you know you’d end up with close to zero income from that cash but you’d end up with about $16,000 per year from your tenant—assuming no big expenses are needed to your former home. In addition, you’d hopefully see some additional appreciation in your home value.
You could consider investing in more real estate, as you have the cash for it, and handling your real estate as a side business. Here again, it’s risky to put too much faith in the power of real estate. There are no assurances for anything but given what we have lived through from before the Great Recession through today, you could see real estate and stock values plummet but then rise again. Some real estate has done better than others and some stocks have done better than others.
So while we like real estate, we encourage you to run the numbers, become knowledgeable on how to market real estate, understand how long it takes to rent homes in your area, see what might need fixing in your home and then decide whether becoming a landlord is right for you.
Ilyce Glink is the Publisher of ThinkGlink.com and the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. This column is © 2017 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin.