Can a reverse mortgage create a financial safety net?

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

Can a reverse mortgage create a financial safety net in retirement?

In a word, yes.

This morning I received a call from a wealth manager who led off by saying he wasn’t “that familiar with reverse mortgages.” He specifically wanted to know whether a reverse mortgage could offer retirement-aged clients a measure of security during market fluctuations.

Here was my answer: the most familiar “flavor” of reverse mortgage is the line of credit. It’s an equity line that is repaid when the last person on title permanently vacates the home. Once the home is no longer the primary residence, typically it is sold and the loan is repaid; the homeowner, heirs, or estate get the remaining equity. End of story. No mystery here, nothing “too good to be true.”

Many wealth managers routinely recommend traditional equity lines. However, with a traditional line of credit, once homeowners draw funds they then have a monthly mortgage payment due. Because the retirement years can be a time when access to liquidity is crucially important, a monthly mortgage payment can create an increasingly unstable financial environment.

A reverse mortgage line of credit does not have a monthly repayment obligation. This means that if homeowners need a cash infusion, they do not pick up a monthly mortgage payment. Furthermore, the unused portion of a reverse mortgage line of credit grows larger over time, making more funds available for future use.

As is the case with other homeownership, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and home repairs must be kept current, and if there are condo dues or a homeowner’s association, fees must be paid on time.

The FHA-insured reverse mortgage is not exotic, mysterious, nor even particularly complex. It can be, however, a helpful financial safety net when life becomes unpredictable.

For more information on reverse mortgage, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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Market volatility and reverse mortgage

Laurie MacNaughton © 2018

If you’re even a casual market observer, Monday’s financial news grabbed your attention as the Dow plunged 1175 points, the biggest point drop in history.

As a result of the market turbulence, the first call I took Tuesday went like this: “In light of the market crash, should I do a reverse mortgage?”

So…a couple things here.

First, and perhaps most importantly, a loan officer is not the same thing as a financial planner, wealth manager, nor accountant; most loan officers are neither estate attorneys nor CPAs. Even if your particular loan officer does carry one or more of these designations, he or she should not be dispensing advice across disciplines, as conflicts of interest might quickly become an issue.

Second, even though 1175 is an uncomfortably large number, percentage-wise it’s not anywhere near a big enough drop to qualify as a market “crash” by any reasonable definition.

Third – and I want to emphasize this – if a reverse mortgage was a good fit before a market plunge, it’s a good fit following a market plunge. If it was a poor fit before a drop, it may well continue to be a poor fit. And for those urgent reverse mortgage sales pitches? It’s always a good idea to listen to a “sky-is-falling” message with a healthy measure of skepticism.

But this topic does suggest a very real question, namely what are some factors that make a reverse mortgage a good fit?

Optimally, a reverse mortgage is one part of a long-range financial plan in retirement.

Here’s what I mean: as life expectancies continue to increase, retirement is going to take more than just Social Security. It’s going to take more than a well-funded 401-K. In fact, it’s going to take more than a pension, an annuity, an IRA, or a bank account – or a reverse mortgage. But when added together, these can combine to create a long-term means of maintaining dignity and independence in retirement.

So, don’t panic. And certainly don’t get caught up in catchy sales pitches. But do understand your options – and how a reverse mortgage can fit into your long-range financial plans.

If you would like more information on reverse mortgage, 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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Reversing Years’ Worth of Skepticism

Even if they don’t adhere to it, most people have at least heard of the “bucket” strategy of saving for retirement. Basically, it’s a method of asset allocation, a way to diversify investments and save for the day you’re no longer working full time.

But here’s a question you might not know the answer to: for most people, what is the biggest – and best funded – bucket?  Cash equivalents? Fixed-income securities? Pension?

Answer: No, no, and no. For most people, the single biggest “investment bucket” is their home.

You can think about it this way: you might have designated several buckets. But if you didn’t put sufficient money into them during the working years, those buckets are not going to get you through retirement. However, most Americans paid into their home, even during the past few years when times were tough.

But here’s the problem: after spending years pouring the first fruits of one’s income into the home, that money is frozen, tied up in an illiquid asset. It’s an investment, certainly. But it’s not one easily converted into an income stream for retirement.

Increasingly, however, drawing upon that bucket by means of an FHA reverse mortgage is being recommended as a way to meet seniors’ financial needs during retirement.

FHA reverse mortgages have been around since 1988. But until recently, the financial planning community viewed them as the dirty underbelly of financial products.  It was the rare financial planner who saw any legitimate use for them whatsoever, let alone who used them in a strategic way.

However, within the past few years scores of scholarly studies have shown both the near-term and long-term positive impact of reverse on standard of living, financial portfolios, and estates.

In “How Important Is Asset Allocation To Financial Security in Retirement?” authors Munnell, Orlova, and Webb with Center for Retirement Research at Boston College state:

…[F]inancial advice…tends to focus on financial assets, applying tools that give prominence to the asset allocation decision. But most people have little financial wealth, and financial tools are often silent on the levers that will have a much larger effect on retirement security for the majority of Americans. These levers include delaying retirement, tapping housing equity through a reverse mortgage, and controlling spending [emphasis added].

Of particular interest to many financial planners is that, when set up as a monthly payment option, a reverse mortgage basically annuitizes the home – and it’s a considerably bigger annuity than most people would have been able to establish in the years they were supporting their family, helping with college tuitions…and paying their mortgage.

Rick Gow, wealth manager with the independent investment firm Lara, Shull, and May in Falls Church, Virginia, cites the example of a 66-year-old with a house valued at $400,000.

After subtracting closing costs, the retiree could receive a tax-free, monthly check of $1,252 for as long as the home remains the primary residence. By the time the homeowner turns 85, disbursements would total more than $289,100; by age 95, the total payouts would be over $435,600.

If the homeowner were to take a onetime, lump sum payout, he or she would receive approximately $256,800.  A third option would set aside that amount in a line of credit, the balance of which grows over time, tax free.

There is also a newer, reduced fee FHA reverse mortgage, called the HECM Saver. The over-all payout is less with this option, but Gow points out the lower closing costs make it a good option for some.

The majority of Americans fear running out of money in retirement more than they fear death, according to a May, 2012 AARP bulletin. In an America where 10,000 boomers a day turn 62, the FHA reverse mortgage has an increasingly pivotal role to play in retirement planning.

I always love hearing from you. Call me at any time with questions.

Laurie

Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank · 20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com · www.middleburgmortgage.com/lauriem

Visit my Informational Blog at https://middleburgreverselady.wordpress.com/

Babies Don’t Have Dumb Ideas

When my daughters were teenagers I often said the biggest difference between teens and babies is that babies don’t have dumb ideas yet.

But both teens and babies have this in common: just a couple years later, both are more capable, more independent, and better able to care for themselves.

It’s tough to acknowledge, but I now have to add my mother to the comparison.

My mother is probably the most gifted person I know: brilliant, beautiful, funny, well read, extensively traveled, graceful and poised.

But she is getting old, and her proficiency in daily tasks is falling away at a relentless pace. And, unlike either babies or teens, a couple more years is not going to make the issue any better.

NPR Morning Edition’s Jessica Smith, in “Baby Boomer Money Squeeze Worsens, Multi-Gen Households Rise” (June 6, 2012), writes,

Roughly 78 million baby boomers are moving into their retirement years now. At first, they will be the “young” old. Legions of retired boomers soon will be walking around the mall, volunteering with community groups and taking grandchildren on trips.

At first, that can be good for the economy. But this immense generation, born between 1946 and 1964, will keep aging. Based on current medical outcomes, most of the people who live beyond age 85 will end up with dementia or other disabilities that require costly care.

Here’s how fast the numbers will ratchet up: In 1990, only about 3 million Americans were over the age of 85. Today, the figure is 6 million. By 2050, the United States will be home to about 19 million people older than 85, according to U.S. Census projections.(http://www.npr.org/2012/06/05/154001412/baby-boom-money-squeeze-is-set-to-get-tighter)

Almost 20 percent of advanced elderly Americans now live with their aging adult children, putting tremendous pressure on “leading edge” boomers who are hitting traditional retirement age. Boomers tended to have fewer children, later in life, which in some cases has resulted in their still having dependents at home at a time previous generations would have been saving intensively for retirement. Additionally, many middle-aged parents find themselves helping grown children who have lost jobs, homes, and businesses – the classic “sandwich generation” squeeze, made more intense by a prolonged recession.

We are a becoming a nation of the old and the older, the squeezed and the very squeezed.

Writes Ms. Smith, “For individuals, families, local government officials and federal taxpayers, this demographic shift will drain dollars and attention, and force extremely difficult decisions about living arrangements, as well as end-of-life care.”

When we have these talks about taxes and government, what kind of numbers are we talking about?  The primary number to watch is the national debt: in 1970, when boomers were young, the national debt ran about 28 percent of gross domestic product. It now stands at 70 percent.

And, as in the case of my mother, a couple more years is not going to make this issue any better.

According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Medicare will remain solvent until 2024. Starting last year, Social Security already began paying out more than it takes in.

As former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker, a federal spending expert says, “Government has grown too big, promised too much and waited too long to restructure. It is going to spend less over time … which means that individuals will have to plan, save and invest for the future.”

Plan, save, invest…and take out a reverse mortgage, according to research put out by Boston College in May, 2012.

….but more in my next piece about several watershed reverse mortgage articles published this spring by major research institutions.

Laurie

         Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS# 506562] · Reverse Mortgage Consultant · Middleburg Mortgage, a Division of Middleburg Bank ·                   20937 Ashburn Road, Suite 115 ·Ashburn, Virginia 20147 · 703-477-1183 Direct · LMacNaughton@MiddleburgBank.com www.middleburgmortgage.com/lauriem

Visit my Informational Blog at https://middleburgreverselady.wordpress.com/