Lack of retirement savings and help with chores may lead more to consider renting out extra space
by Lisa Ward
Think sharing a home is just for college students and millennials?
Renting out a spare bedroom, even for a few days a month, can yield serious benefits for older homeowners, financial and retirement experts say. In addition to more income and companionship, it may give seniors stretched by high housing costs a way to stay in their homes longer.
Only about 2% of older people currently live in a household with someone other than a family member, a percentage that has stayed relatively constant for decades, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. But experts expect those numbers to rise, driven by economic need, demographic changes in society, and online services that make it easier for lodgers and homeowners to connect.
One reason seniors may be increasingly likely to share their homes is a lack of retirement savings, according to Alicia H. Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research and a professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management. More than half of all working-age households, and 43% of those in the top-third income bracket, haven’t saved enough to replace their income in retirement, Ms. Munnell says. For many, renting out a spare room thus offers a way to help pay the bills each month.
Deborah Hirshfield, a 67-year-old retired art and music teacher in Evanston, Ill., says she began renting out a room in her condo six years ago when she discovered her pension payments were going to be less than she had hoped. Ms. Hirshfield, who rents the room to postdoctoral students working at nearby Northwestern University, says the extra income has allowed her to stay in the home where she has lived for the past 25 years. She finds her tenants through places4students.com, and gets help vetting applicants and drawing up rental agreements from Open Communities, a nonprofit that advocates fair-housing policies…