Recently, we came across an article in the Nine/Fairfax press about a family that left the confines of locked down Melbourne to move to unlocked regional Victoria. The family left the city during the extended 2020 lockdown, and the move looked like a great one when Melbourne (but not their new region) was plunged back into a long lockdown in 2021. But, as the author writes, now that city life is opening up again, they are experiencing some regret.
This type of regret may end up being quite widespread. You may have also heard of what is being called the ‘Great Resignation.’ This has been largely a US phenomenon so far, with a record number of people quitting their jobs in August 2021. But many people are anticipating a similar experience here in Australia, where our vaccination program and thus recovery from the pandemic has been about six months behind the US and European experience. Interestingly, in the US, while many of the people resigning have moved to other jobs, it seems that at least some of the large numbers of people who have resigned have actually retired from the workforce.
Given how difficult many people have found living through the pandemic, it is not surprising that a lot of big decisions are being made right now – what job to do, where to live, who to live with, etc. But we would urge a note of caution. History tells us that it can be risky to make permanent decisions in response to temporary situations.
Sure, the pandemic has caused many people to reappraise what is important. For some people, especially property owners, it has also provided an unexpected boost to their personal wealth. But it is also very true that many people are quite exhausted and feel a need to make a change so that they can get their sense of balance back.
Tired minds need to be managed with caution. Tired minds can make tired decisions. Tired minds can easily fall into the trap of thinking that ‘the grass is always greener everywhere but here.’
Our advice before making a big decision like selling or buying a home, or quitting a job, or taking early retirement, is never to rush that decision. Firstly, take some time to rest up and get your mojo back, so you are making decisions in as happy a frame of mind as possible.
Secondly, if you are contemplating something big and permanent such as a move to the country or retirement, can you give that decision some sort of test run? Can you rent a place in a country town for a year, to see what it is really like living somewhere different to everything you know? What are the other people like? What is the place like when the weather is bitingly cold in winter or stiflingly humid in summer? How easy is it when you need a doctor or a dentist? What are the schools like if you have younger children? What is it like working from home on a permanent basis in a place where you don’t know many people?
The same can go for retirement. Can you take leave for an extended period to see if you really like playing golf three times a week? Or can you work part time to see if you (or your partner!) really are ready for a whole bunch of free time?
The trick is to make your experience as close as possible to what it would be like if this was your permanent situation – but without actually making things permanent. Remember, real estate agents in coastal towns love the summer months when people are on holiday and imagining that the holiday town is this good all year round. But when summer ends, no one wants to buy any more.
It can also be worth remembering that selling your current home and buying a new one can cost up to 8 or 9% in transaction fees such as real estate agent fees and stamp duty on a new purchase. The costs can really rack up if you find yourself having to do the reverse move in a year or two’s time.
Taking time to make big decisions is always a good thing to do. In what for most people is the biggest decision they will ever make, the law actually stops them from rushing. In Australia, once two people decide to get married, they need to wait at least 30 days before making the legal commitment. That’s right: the TV show ‘Married at First Sight’ is made up because you cannot marry someone on the spot! (Sorry if that was a spoiler).
Getting good advice about the move is always a good idea as well. So, if you are feeling the itch to make some changes, why not give us a call and we can talk through your situation with you? Let us ask you some friendly questions to help get your thinking straight. When it comes to financial management, a stitch in time really does save nine.