A good house is more than a place to live; it's typically a person's largest asset at retirement. Yes, there are taxes and upkeep to consider. And it's expensive to buy and sell and move, which is why you shouldn't even think about buying until you've settled down and plan to stay put at least five years (and preferably 10). House values rise at an average annual rate of about 5% over long periods. In investment terms, though, the gain is more impressive because you only put down 20% and fund the rest of your purchase with a tax-deductible loan. Decades later, even if you never sell the house (and thus do not realize the gain) you still have a valuable asset. Borrowing against home equity is the cheapest money out there, and in an emergency you can always take a reverse mortgage if you absolutely refuse to downsize. "Owning a house is a good decision at this age if it fits into your cash flow and lifestyle profile," says Kevin Meehan, financial planner at Summit Wealth Advisors in Itasca, Il. "But not if you over commit and have no money for other savings."