The kids have left home and a new era of freedom beckons. How do you make the most of this exciting new life stage?
It’s traditionally called ‘empty nest syndrome,’ but that’s rather a wistful label for a time when freedom and fun beckon. These days most of us have energy, plans and health to spare when the kids leave home and there’s every chance their new chapter will herald an exciting one for you, too.
Make a ‘me’ plan
After years of concentrating on the kids, you might be out of the habit of putting yourself first, but Sydney life coach Muffy Churches recommends cheerfully embracing your newfound freedom. “One of the biggest challenges is learning how to refocus on self,” she says. “We get so accustomed to being present, available, and in service to the kids.”
She adds: “Ask yourself: ‘What are my passions and personal or professional strengths?’ ‘What do I love?’ Surround yourself with people you enjoy. Proactively connect, network, lunch and coffee, play sport and exercise.”
Extra space in the diary means you can catch up with friends, spend more time with your partner, and schedule activities for no other reason than because you enjoy them. You can stay out as late as you like without wondering what time the kids are coming home. And when you do stay in, you’ll have the remote control all to yourself.
Funding your freedom
There are many financial positives to a less populated household, including lower energy and broadband bills. Without your sport-mad or MTV-obsessed offspring, you may be able to reduce cable TV and Internet streaming bills by changing or even cancelling subscriptions.
It’s a great time to have a financial spring clean, too. “This is a good time to review your finances and think about your priorities,” says Miles Larbey, Senior Executive Leader, Financial Literacy, ASIC. “You should revisit your financial and lifestyle goals to make sure they’re relevant and achievable. You can start by working out how much money you have now, how much you might have in the future and where it’s coming from.”
It’s worth reviewing your super, Larbey says, to see if you can better suit it to your new life stage. And although retirement might still be a way off, it’s worth planning now to make sure yours is a comfortable one. “ASIC’s MoneySmart retirement planner can help with this. It will allow you to calculate your income and show how a few small changes, including additional contributions, can make a big difference over time to improve your retirement lifestyle.”
He adds: “If you have any outstanding debts, including your mortgage, now is the time to pay these down to reduce your financial commitments.”
Update your insurance
Your health requirements change as you grow older, so review your private health cover, if you have it, and make sure your policy still matches your age and meets your individual medical needs.
Laura Crowden from health insurance experts iSelect says: “A good place to start is by making sure you’re not wasting money on covering your kids who have moved out of home and on to their own policy. It’s also worthwhile cutting out benefits you are extremely unlikely to claim on. After all, there is little benefit in being insured for pregnancy when the only mothering you are planning on doing is ‘grand-mothering.’”
“And while you are getting rid of any unwanted policy features, take the time to make sure you are covered for things that you are more likely to need as you grow older, such as joint replacements, cardio and eye surgery.”
Edit your extras
“Ask your provider for an annual claims statement and see how much you’ve paid for extras and for which ones,” says Crowden. “This will give you a clear picture of the benefits you aren’t using but still paying for and also any benefits that are getting maxed out and leaving you with additional out of pocket costs.
“If you use lots of different extras services, it’s worthwhile investigating a flexible extras policy that combines your separate extras limits into a single annual limit for you to use across different extras services however you like.”
The downsizing decision
The family home might now feel too large, or you may be keen to liquidate some cash for travel, fun and a more comfortable retirement. “Selling your family home is one way to free up cash, which will give you an opportunity to diversify your investments,” says Miles Larbey.
“This is a big decision, which can present financial, emotional and practical challenges and it’s important you carefully consider your options,” he adds.
If the upheaval of moving house doesn’t appeal but you have more space than you need, consider renting out rooms, converting to dual occupancy, or just staying put and enjoying the extra legroom.
This was Carole Bentley’s preference after her two daughters moved out of their Sydney home. “I’ve always enjoyed decorating and design, but with every centimetre of this house serving a practical purpose for the last 20 years or so, I hadn’t done any,” she says.
“I converted both girls’ rooms into beautiful spare rooms; I didn’t spend a fortune, but I really enjoyed planning, choosing the accessories and channeling my inner stylist. One serves as my daily retreat now for reading and relaxing – and the girls enjoy the spaces when they come home to visit. We get more visitors, too!”
Celebrate your kids’ new life
Although the kids are no longer at home, your relationship with them can enter a rewarding phase as you take pride in their independence and achievements, and decide on new ways to keep in touch. And remember, they could be happier to hear from you than you’d expect. Says Muffy Churches: “When my own kids left home I held back on calling as I didn’t want to be too in their face. Eventually my son said: ‘Hey Mum, can we set up a regular weekly call? We go too long without talking!’”
At iSelect, we get that most people find choosing the right health insurance policy boring. But we understand that it’s really important to always have the right level of cover. Our expert advisers will give you the confidence to make the right call on health insurance for you and your family.
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