Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS ID #506562]

The topic under discussion was the cost of aging in America.

“How many here want to leave their kids an inheritance?” Nearly every hand went up.

“How many here are likely to have an inheritance to leave?” Not as many hands went up. In fact, not many hands went up, period.

The speaker, a Virginia Circuit Court judge, wasn’t asking these two questions of just any group; this was an assembly of some 200 attorneys, presumably a demographic with greater-than-average net worth.

As a reverse mortgage specialist, I would make this observation: not leaving kids an inheritance is one thing; having adult children bankroll parents as they age is another thing altogether. Zero inheritance looks great compared to adult children prematurely tapping their 401(k) so they can cover a parent’s medical bills. I know firsthand – I’ve been there.

According to a Pew Research study, more than forty percent of adult children with a parent aged 65 or older helped that parent financially within the past year. If percentages remain constant, the number of adult children bankrolling parents is likely to get worse, a lot worse, because by 2030 one in five Americans will be 65 or older.

This statistic becomes important when talking about reverse mortgage because, for many people, the go-to objection to is that the homeowner might not have equity left to leave the kids. But this is very flawed reasoning…on many counts. I’m going to point out just a couple.

First, current federal guidelines make it all but impossible for new reverse mortgages to deplete a home’s equity. But even if a homeowner were to use all available funds, this likely means there were no other funds to draw from – and that the reverse mortgage was a lifeline.

Second, an alternate scenario is that the parent does indeed have other funds but does not want to consume those funds, which presumably will go to the kids. Under either scenario the kids are the big beneficiaries. After all, every dollar of her own money mom can use to meet her financial needs is a dollar the adult kids do not pay out.

Of course, negative equity is by no means a foregone conclusion. There very well may be equity left for the kids. But is it true there might not be equity left for the kids? Yes. The pertinent issue is that the parent relieved the adult children from draining their own financial reserves – or at very least, the parent delayed the time the kids had to step in to help financially.

The critical nature of an aging parent’s financial decisions are likely to become ever more conspicuous as Gen X’ers themselves edge toward retirement and the solvency of Social Security runs low. Anything a parent can do to remain “self pay” throughout the retirement years is a blessing and gift to their heirs. And, thirty years’ worth of data shows that homeowners with reverse mortgages tend to enjoy significantly greater odds of financial survivability in retirement.

If you have questions about how a reverse mortgage may benefit your loved one, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

 

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