In the past five years, adults in the U.S. age 55 and older made financial gains, and many feel they will have a financially comfortable retirement, according to Freddie Mac surveys. In addition, 66% of them expect to age in place, which may further contribute to the housing supply shortage.

In two surveys, the first in 2016 and again in 2021, Freddie Mac sought to track the attitudes and perceptions of U.S. adults age 55 years and older in several key areas, including mobility in the housing market. When and how this population chooses to sell their homes has implications on housing supply and demand because:

Rather than following the typical pattern of selling later in life, and downsizing or moving to assisted-living facilities, nursing homes or with extended family, our survey results suggest this cohort prefers to age in place — and may be more financially equipped to do so.

Aging in Place and Transferring Wealth

Compared to the 2016 survey results, U.S. adults age 55 years and older today are doing better financially and more are confident they will have a comfortable retirement. The below charts visualize the five-year improvement in financial circumstances.

Table: Percentage of Respondents with Enough Extra Money to Go Beyond Each Payday

  2016 2021 Change
Overall 66% 72% +6 ppt
Homeowner 72% 79% +7 ppt
Renter 38% 38% 0 ppt

Table: Percentage of Respondents Very Confident They Will Have a Financially Comfortable Retirement

  2016 2021 Change
Overall 24% 34% +10 ppt
Homeowner 27% 39% +7 ppt
Renter 11% 14% +3 ppt

Today, 66% of this population report that they plan to age in place. Little changed from 2016, when 63% said the same. Given their reported financial gains in the past five years, however, they may be more equipped to do so.

When asked when they expect to move next, 27% feel confident they would move again, while 36% believe they will not move and 37% simply don’t know. These data suggest this population is in no rush to leave their current homes.

Regardless of their plans to move or age in place, 66% of survey respondents say they expect their home to need some degree of renovations to make the space livable for the long term if they were to age in place. Between personal savings and longer-term retirement and investment accounts, those who think they would need renovations to age in place say they are confident they could afford them.

Most homeowners age 55 and older also say they intend to take advantage of generational-wealth building opportunities, with 70% of homeowners planning to leave their current home, or money from the sale of their home, to their children or family members.

Renters, on the other hand, are less advantaged: 24% of renters believe they won’t be able to leave anything to their family at all, compared to 3% of homeowners.

This divide between renters and homeowners in this population underscores the long-term value of homeownership, as homeowners are significantly more likely than renters to feel more financially comfortable, confident they can retire comfortably, have long-term care paid for, transfer wealth to family, and live comfortably in their current homes into retirement.

The “Housing and Wealth Inequalities among Aging Americans” study, conducted online Dec. 20-31, 2021, included interviews with 2,249 aged 55 and older. It oversampled for Black and Hispanic homeowners and renters.

Interested in more consumer research? Gain insights into the housing market from surveys of homebuyers, homeowners and renters in Freddie Mac Consumer Research.