A little planning can be a big gift

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

Charles, sweet-tempered and kindly, sat in my office fidgeting with a ballpoint pen.

“My mom has never really been herself since her fall, and I found out she was having money problems only after I came across a delinquency notice for her property taxes. By the time I opened her bills, she was late on everything – mortgage, taxes, utilities, you name it. I need to negotiate with creditors on her behalf but she never drew up a power of attorney, so now I’m not sure what my options are.”

In my role as a reverse mortgage lender I’ve met with hundreds of aging homeowners and their families. I’ve seen homeowners who have planed extensively for their retirement years, and I have seen homeowners who have done very little planning. I have seen couples who saved extensively, but because they have lived 25 years longer than anticipated, their savings are running out. And then there are the couples who did everything right, but because they were financially assisting a loved one, they depleted their savings much more quickly than they ever imagined. And that scenario can be a huge bummer.

Following are some basic preparations to make before a crisis arises.

The first step is to record administrative information on one master list. Include on this list:

  • The name of your banks and other financial institutions;
  • The name of your pension plan, life insurance plan, investment accounts, CDs, health savings accounts and the like, along with account numbers;
  • All income sources, including Social Security, annuities, veteran’s benefits and the like;
  • All financial obligations, including credit cards, mortgages, car payments, and utilities, along with the names of the utility providers;
  • Usernames and passwords for your online accounts;
  • Copies of driver’s licenses, social security cards, healthcare cards, birth certificates, divorce decrees, death certificates and the like;
  • The names of primary care physicians over the past 10 years. Current physicians may well be different than the ones used in years past, and it can become important to have contact information for previous doctors.

The second step is to meet with an attorney regarding the following documents:

  • Power of Attorney;
  • Will;
  • Advance medical directive;
  • HIPAA release.

If these documents already exist, make sure they’re up to date.

Once you have collected this information, put it in a safe and secure place – and let a responsible party know where the documents are. Preparation is only helpful when the right person knows how to find the information.

In a utopian world there would be no aging, sickness, disability, or financial hardship. But in this world that is our lot, a little planning can be the most loving gift you can give your heirs – not to mention the fact that planning ahead can save thousands of dollars in legal fees should adult children need to become a parent’s legal guardian.

If you would like to look into how an FHA-insured reverse mortgage might help with your family’s financial goals, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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No one can whistle a symphony

Laurie Denker MacNaughton © 2018

Put a bunch of experience in a room and you’re going to get a good result, right?

Not even close.

This morning I read an interesting study: when surgeons are with a familiar team, outcomes are good. When the same surgeons are with an unfamiliar team, outcomes are…not so good.

The same holds true in sports – some teams with great players cannot get it together, while others achieve magical results with less stellar athletes.

And another sector studied? Financial services. Yup – financial services.

Turns out, team dynamics are hugely important. No amount of experience can replace the “magic” of an established, well-functioning team.

A few days ago I had a closing with a client whose reverse mortgage application had very big issues. In fact, he had been told by another lender he did not qualify. How did our team get him across the finish line?

It wasn’t just experience, though we have lots. Much of our success lay in knowing whom to turn to for what.

Reverse mortgage is a unique product designed to help meet financial needs in retirement. But there can be difficulties: homeowners may have several goals to consider. Extended family often has detailed questions. Online information can be outdated, uninformed, or outright wrong.

I would love to talk with you about how our reverse mortgage team may help you meet your retirement goals. Because as the saying goes, “No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra.”

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Did you know?

Did you know the average reverse mortgage borrower is not in financial distress?

Rather, the typical person doing a reverse mortgage is the retiring boomer who watched a parent’s financial situation later in life and is determined to avoid a financial crunch down the road.

And did you know there are two “flavors” of reverse mortgage, a refinance and a purchase?

Typically, the homeowner doing a reverse mortgage refinance is the baby boomer putting together a long-range financial plan.  The homebuyer using a reverse for purchase is looking to buy a home without pinning down a huge chunk of cash or taking on a new 30-year mortgage during retirement.

A reverse mortgage is not mysterious, nor exotic, nor any more complex than any other loan. It is simply a home loan repaid when the last title-holder permanently vacates the property.

So if this looks like it fits your retirement goals, or the goals of someone you love, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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No crystal ball

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

“My mother’s home was paid off, and at the time we thought a home equity line was going to be the best way for her to pay medical bills. But at this point the payment is crushing her – and she has new medical bills coming in. Looking back, what we really needed was a crystal ball.”

Truth is, a crystal ball would come in handy in much of life. It’s just that more is at stake when we’re dealing with our aging parents.

No honest lender is ever going to tell you a reverse mortgage is a universally good fit: there are older homeowners for whom the time has come to sell their home and transition into other housing. Some are better served by doing a traditional home equity line of credit (also called a “forward” line of credit). And there are those who benefit from drawing down monies under management.

But for homeowners who wish to stay at home and need to leave managed retirement accounts untouched as long as possible, or for those with Medicaid considerations, a reverse mortgage may be the perfect fit.

If you would like more information on how a reverse mortgage might help you or your loved one with retirement plans, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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How is a Reverse Mortgage different from an Equity Line of Credit?

Laurie MacNaughton 2017

Answer? In several important ways…

Silence of the “Silent Generation” extends to finances

Laurie MacNaughton © 2017

Yesterday I met with two couples, one in their 60’s and another in their early 80’s. The younger couple was discussing a reverse mortgage as part of their pre-retirement financial planning. The older couple, retired for years, has encountered serious health issues and is drawing down retirement funds at an unsustainable rate. They’ve also been late on their past few mortgage payments, which is likely to complicate their reverse mortgage qualification process.

Couples in their 60’s, couples in their 80’s – this is a pattern so common I had to reflect for perhaps the hundredth time: where are the couples in their 70’s, members of the so-called “Silent Generation”?

I can only conclude the following: 60 may well be the new 40 – but 80 is still 80. However, when you’re in your 70’s and still in the workforce, long past the age at which your parents retired, it can be hard to fathom that within a decade your finances may be stressed and your health may be less than stellar. A strong work-ethic and an uncomplaining acceptance of circumstances served the Silent Generation well…right up until it didn’t.

And here’s the real rub: if the couple I met who now are in their early 80’s had sought financial help five years ago, odds are they would not be in the straights they’re now in.

A reverse mortgage can help in several ways with financial survivability in retirement: it can pay off financing currently on the property. It can establish a line-of-credit safety net that grows over time. Or, reverse mortgage proceeds can be structured as a monthly stipend that arrives each month for as long as at least one homeowner resides in the home.

Reverse mortgages are not a fit for everyone – no one financial product is. But a reverse mortgage is going to play an important role in many homeowners’ financial health in retirement, particularly when used as part of a sound, informed, long-term retirement plan.

If you would like to explore how an FHA-insured reverse mortgage might help with your retirement plans or with the plans of those you love, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

 

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Ten Reasons Not to Read The Motley Fool

Laurie MacNaughton

Ok, enough is enough – what started off as sloppy journalism unbefitting a widely-read publication that purports to “help people take control of their financial lives” has become flat-out obnoxious as it spreads through the news channels.

I’m speaking about Peter Bennett’s poorly-reasoned, poorly-researched piece on reverse mortgage, published yesterday in The Motley Fool. The first time I was emailed a link and asked to comment I was willing to be forbearing: year’s end is historically slow in the financial markets, and doubtless the reporter was compensating by resorting to a favorite whipping boy.

Then I was sent the piece again for comment. And again. And…yet again. And pathetically, each was from a different news outlet. Apparently, fact-checkers for every major American publication are in Boca for the New Year, and left their cell phones in their hotel room.

So let me address some of most laughable, some of the most sensationalistic, and also some of the rudest and most elder-demeaning statements made by Motley Fool reporter Peter Bennett.

Bennett lists 10 reasons not to consider a reverse mortgage, and nearly each point becomes more fantastical. I have picked out his first couple points and last couple points, and analysed them sentence by sentence.

Point 1. High fees

Statement: Closing costs for a typical 30-year mortgage might run $3,000.

Reply: True. But they might not run $3,000. Closing costs are contingent upon many factors, and to pull a number from thin air is presumptuous and subject-matter ignorant.

Statement: For a reverse mortgage, they could run as much as $15,000.

Reply: True, but they might not run $15,000. There are many, many factors that determine closing costs, and in some cases closing costs could be, well, the $3,000 Bennett seems fond of.

Statement: That’s a lot of money just to access the equity in your own house.

Reply: Says who? If closing costs are this high it typically means there is a “forward” mortgage being paid off. A monthly mortgage payment is the single biggest monthly expenditure for most seniors, and a refinance that reduces their payment $70 a month just isn’t going to do the trick as far as putting them on solid financial footing. What they need is NO monthly mortgage payment, and a financial buffer. A reverse mortgage is the only main-stream refinance product available that can provide both, and that creates a solution to the cash flow problem so common during retirement.

Statement: Reverse mortgages come with more regulations than a regular mortgage so that accounts for some of the additional fees.

Reply: Baloney. Check your facts, Mr. Bennett.

Statement: Lenders also charge more because they claim they take on unique risks, in that reverse mortgages aren’t based on your income or credit score.

Reply:  Again I say baloney and check your facts. Or, better yet, cite your references.

Point 2. Property taxes and homeowners insurance to pay

Statement: With a reverse mortgage, the property remains in your name.

Reply: Score one for the “B” – he got this one right.

Statement: And because the property is in your name, you are responsible for paying all property taxes.

Reply: Um, do you know how this works, Mr. Bennett? They’re already paying property taxes themselves if they have no mortgage, and if they do have a mortgage, they’re escrowing for them. They’re already paying. This is not a new concept for a homeowner aged 62 or older. AND, many older homeowners qualify for a property tax reduction or for a property tax waiver. Their reverse mortgage does not impact their eligibility for this.

Statement: The lender also requires that you continue to carry homeowners insurance.

Reply: This is also not a new concept for a homeowner. And it is really rather demeaning to suggest the mature, experienced homeowner is not aware of homeowners insurance.

I’m going to skip several points here, each of which contain line after remarkable line of trash talk. But the last two points are so bad I can’t skip them.

Point 9. Stringent repayment rules

Statement: Typically, when the last remaining borrower living in a reverse mortgage property dies, the FHA requires loan servicers to send a letter showing the balance of the loan due.

Reply: No “typically” here: the servicer is required to send a statement of the balance due.

Statement: Upon receipt, the heir or estate administrator has 30 days to declare whether the loan will be repaid or the home sold.

Reply: By federal mandate there is an automatic 6-month period to sell or refinance the home, with two additional, six-month extensions possible.

Statement:  If no decision is made, the lender can initiate foreclosure proceedings.

Reply:  If no decision is made on any financed home, the lender can initiate foreclosure proceedings – and no 6-month grace period is tendered in the case of a “forward” mortgage. It’s just plain rude to imply homeowners and their families are unaware that homes with financing have to be dealt with.

Point 10. Heirs get less

Statement: As every month passes, the homeowner with a reverse mortgage sees debt increase and equity home equity (sic) decrease.

Reply: This is an appalling presentation of half the story. The amount the lender has lent collects interest, which will be repaid along with the loan, once the last person on the mortgage has permanently left the home. However, if homeowners have a line of credit, that line accrues a compounding growth month over month – imagine it’s a lump of bread dough sitting on the counter, getting bigger over time. The line of credit will grow even if the home goes down in value.

Statement: That equation doesn’t benefit heirs, so if you planned on leaving your heirs a little something, it will probably be very “little.”

Reply: Want to know what really doesn’t benefit heirs, Mr. Bennett? Adult children of aging parents burning through their own retirement funds at a double pace as they struggle to help finance their elderly parent’s longevity. If that older parent, however, can be self-pay through the end of life, his/her adult children stand a much greater chance of enjoying financial survival in their own retirement.

So to the armchair critics of reverse mortgage I say this: check your facts. Do your research. And don’t sit in judgment on those striving to maintain their own independence and dignity during retirement.

If you have questions regarding reverse mortgage, or would like to receive published research on the contribution reverse mortgage can make toward financial survivability in retirement, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [506562] is a freelance writer and Reverse Mortgage Consultant with Southern Trust Mortgage.

She can be reached at 703-477-1183 Direct or Laurie@MiddleburgReverse.com