Remember When? Mortgage Debt and the Older Homeowner

Laurie MacNaughton – July 7, 2015

Remember when paying off your mortgage before retirement was a thing? Remember? Now, barely 40% of homeowners aged 60-65 live in a paid-off home.

But remember when seventy was old? Today I know seventy-year-olds who have started second careers, who run marathons, or who take ten days off work to volunteer in health clinics in Kibera.

It’s just a different world we live in – different opportunities, different expectations, different needs.

But there are attendant challenges in this new world.

No matter how gifted, how fit, how determined, at some point most people either have to slow down or just plain want to. But here’s the thing: if you’re still paying on your home, the first fruits of your monthly income go right back out the door to pay the mortgage. Also, like everyone else, most people in their 60’s or 70’s saw steep investment losses during the recession, losses that are harder to recover the older you are.

Added to the mix are these facts: boomers, in general, had babies later, and many are still footing kids’ college tuitions in the years when previous generations were saving for retirement. People also relocate more often, and later in life, so by the time they retire many people haven’t lived in their home 30 years.

If we had a magic wand, most of us would get rid of our mortgage debt. If granted three wishes, we’d gain back what our 401k lost – and add to it a mound of gold. If we had a genie, we’d have her undo that adverse health event. But needless to say, most people will have to look to other solutions.

Last week I met with a retired medical doctor. In addition to running a thriving medical practice, he had taught at one of the nation’s preeminent universities – until he suffered a stroke three years ago. “I never thought I’d be in a position of worrying about money,” he said to me.

“I have a substantial amount of equity in my home, so I tried to get a line of credit to help with cash flow. But I was told I couldn’t qualify because I’m no longer working. I really didn’t see this coming.”

Fortunately, the loan officer at his bank understood reverse mortgages. She gave the retired doctor my name – and it looks like he’ll be able both to get rid of his monthly mortgage payment and establish a line of credit for use in the future.

“When [the loan officer] first said ‘reverse mortgage’ I just about had another stroke,” the doctor told me. “I really thought she was nuts, because I was under the impression the bank owned the house with a reverse mortgage.”

His comment was one I hear so often it made me want to print up a cue card. It would say the following:

No – the bank doesn’t own the house.                                                                                                                                No – you don’t have to move if you use up your line of credit.                                                                                             No – the kids don’t have to pay back the reverse mortgage.                                                                                              Yes – you can sell the home and move if you want to.                                                                                                      Yes – you can always call me even after your loan closes.

A reverse mortgage is a home equity loan for the years when having a monthly mortgage payment can be a back-breaker. It can be a miracle for adult children struggling to bankroll their parents’ longevity. It can make aging in place possible.

A reverse mortgage is not a fit for everyone – just as homeownership is not a fit for everyone.

But as I’ve said many times, no one is going to get by on just their Social Security. No one is going to make it on their 401-K. Few are going to survive on their pension, their annuity, their IRA, their bank account – or their reverse mortgage. But when added together, all these combine to create a long-term means of maintaining dignity and independence in retirement.

If you would like to explore how an FHA-insured reverse mortgage might help during retirement, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] is a freelance writer and a Reverse Mortgage Consultant at Southern Trust Mortgage. She can be reached at: 703-477-1183, or Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com

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