The tradition of leaving household items to family is fading – so sell your stuff now.
Your kids don’t want your furniture or collectibles? Great. Then the time for selling your possessions (who needs the clutter?) and lining your pockets is now.
The custom of leaving your furniture, household items, and even collectibles to your children and grandchildren isn’t as prevalent today as you might think. So why not sell items online and elsewhere?
“More people are likely to hand down mutual funds than what they have in their homes today,” says Kendra Hudson, a North Carolina-based certified financial planner based in Chapel Hill with Woodward Financial Planner. “I would also say younger folks have different tastes, and styles change when it comes to furniture or fine china or even silver. Today’s lifestyle is more informal, and parents find their kids aren’t as interested. I know that’s the case between my mother and myself. She has all sorts of things to pass down to me as her only daughter, but, personally, they don’t have the sentimental value to me as they do her.”
For that – and other reasons as well – many in the 50+ set are hitting eBay, Craigslist, and other means of selling used items to make some extra cold hard cash.
Some retirees do so because their 401(k) and other investments aren’t enough to take care of them once they’re out of the workforce. Others who downsize their homes as they grow older find that their new place, whether it’s a home, town home or apartment, can’t hold all of their possessions like they once did.
“With our client base of higher income earners, a lot of them are choosing to downsize when they get to a certain age,” Hudson says. “We see a lot of them going to continuing care retirement communities, and they have to shed a lot of possessions to fit the space. They tell themselves they have to get rid of a lifetime of possessions and furniture and all that stuff because they used to live in a 5,000-square-foot home or 3,000-square-foot and are now living in 1,200-square-feet or less than that.”
Many are finding that, like Hudson herself, it’s not that simple to find children or other relatives who want their possessions. “Families tend to be more spread out more across the country today than in the past,” she says, “because job opportunities and the economy prompted people to move.”
For many individuals trying to liquidate themselves today, there are plenty of more options than in the past, Hudson says. First, there are plenty of publications to read on the value of collectibles and plenty of appraisers who know the value of any ceramics, china or figurines.
“There are a lot more ways to get rid of it than there used to be,” Hudson says. “Many are on Craigslist or other online marketplaces and they’re also on eBay. I had one client, a new retiree, who was cleaning up the house and posting things on eBay. She said sometimes you could go online and only find one or two items similar to hers. She just made $500.”
Hudson cited one woman she’s come to know in recent years whose husband died 18 years ago at the age of 50. She’s 75 today and retired a decade ago from her position as a bank branch manager. She’s living month-to-month on Social Security, a $250-a-month pension, and two 401(k) plans that are less than $10,000 each. Obviously, money’s tight for her, but what has helped her take care of miscellaneous expenses is a model train collection left behind by her husband. It had a value of at least $20,000 at one time, and the women has sold off pieces of collections at trade shows to earn a few hundred dollars at a time.
Although Hudson has a better idea. For anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation where a spouse has died leaving behind a valuable collection, she says the best course is to sell it in its entirety as soon as possible if it can fetch a fair price. The best way to earn money for retirement isn’t selling items on a piecemeal basis but to gain a lump sum and invest it, she says. Besides, many times those items don’t appreciate in value.
“That $20,000 invested in the market 18 years ago could have grown into a good chunk of change that would be way more liquid than model trains,” Hudson says. “Things would still be tight for her, but she’d have a bigger cash cushion to rely on in the event a big expense arises.”
The key is getting a fair price for whatever you’re selling, and do your homework. “There are people who will take advantage of you if you don’t,” Hudson says. “If you have gold, you just don’t want to go on the shop on the corner like some did during the last gold craze when people were waving signs on the street corner. Make sure you’re getting the best dollar value you can for whatever you can.”