Priceless advice for village life

19 Jun 2023

This article was originally published in Australian Community Media, and written Noel Whittaker.

If you’ve ever investigated moving into a retirement village, you will know how hard it can be to crunch the numbers and understand the financial implications.

There are fees you need to pay to the village when you move in, while you live there and when you leave. And the exit fees, in particular, can be complicated formulas that involve paying a percentage of your original purchase price or future sale price, sharing capital gain or loss, renovation costs, sales commissions and guaranteed buybacks if you unit doesn’t sell within a timeframe. The complexity is multiplied if you are trying to compare payment options, properties or one village with another. And you also need to work out what each option means for your age pension, whether or not you will qualify for rent assistance, how much money you will have left over to spend or invest, and what it can mean for your contribution to a home-care package.

My good friend and co-author, Rachel Lane, has created a software program designed to take the financial confusion out of downsizing to a village, and it’s proving to be a big hit with operators and seniors.

“My motivation was actually very simple,” she says. “Almost every person I spoke to who had downsized to a retirement village (including my own grandma) said the same thing: ‘My only regret is not moving sooner’. I wanted to remove the financial confusion. Confusion about village fees, age pension entitlements, rent assistance and home-care package costs leads to inaction. And the delay isn’t just weeks or months: for many it is years. Those are the years they could have spent enjoying the lifestyle that retirement villages offer.”

Rachel understands the complexities of the financial arrangements and knows how impossible it seems to people who do it every day.

“Unfortunately, many people who are thinking of downsizing to a village simply can’t work out what it all means for them, financially speaking. In theory, people can work out the village costs from the disclosure document, use an age pension calculator and then go to the MyAgedCare home-care costs estimator. But in reality, it’s virtually impossible, even for those comfortable with numbers. And the difficulty multiplies if they are comparing different homes, different contracts or one village with another.”

So what does Village Guru do?

In a nutshell it gives you a personalised report showing the ingoing, ongoing and outgoing costs of moving to a village, plus an estimate of your age pension and rent assistance entitlements and home-care package fees.

It can compare different payment options (if the village offers them), different units in the village, or one village with another. So, if you are considering moving into a retirement village, ask for a Village Guru report. It’s free and it makes sure you understand the numbers before you sign on the dotted line. There are already hundreds of village using the software, from big providers like Ingenia, Aveo, Australian Unit, Bolton Clarke and Anglicare, to more boutique options like Living Choice and Sencia. And if a move has just seemed too hard, ask for a Village Guru report from the village you are considering moving to — it will make the move a whole lot easier.

Noel Whittaker is the author of Retirement Made Simple and other books on personal finance. His advice is general in nature and readers should seek their own professional advice before making any financial decisions.