Laurie Denker MacNaughton 
The respirator’s soft “chhhh…pffff” sounded in the background as Susan and I sat at the kitchen table. “Years ago,” Susan told me, “I promised Mom, come hell or high-water, I would let her die at home – and I plan to do whatever it takes to keep my promise.”
It’s one thing to say that. But what do you do when you’re overseeing care and medical needs outpace your ability to foot the bill?
Susan’s parents had not gone into retirement financially unprepared: they retired with federal pensions, Social Security and Medicare, substantial savings, little debt and no mortgage. But four years back, on Thanksgiving, Susan’s mother had a massive hemorrhagic stroke. She spent 3 weeks in the hospital, and another 30 days in rehab. But when she failed to progress in her recovery, she was discharged – and Susan, true to her word, brought her mother home.
First they utilized their long-term care benefits until the benefits ran out. Then they used their savings. When those were gone, Susan began tapping her own retirement savings to help cover her mother’s in-home medical care. This was clearly unsustainable, so Susan made an appointment with an elder law attorney, who suggested she look into a reverse mortgage for her mother.
In this case, due to the value of the home and the homeowners’ ages, the reverse mortgage will provide funds enough to cover another 4½ years of care, and the attorney is working to put in place additional benefits that will further stretch the reverse mortgage funds.
Increasingly, boomers face this same challenge: helping mom and dad finance care, even as they themselves labor to save for retirement. Reverse mortgage can play a significant role in helping balance this equation.
Is a reverse mortgage a fit for everyone? Of course not. No one financial product is.
But as we Americans age, nearly all of us will need every financial tool available, either as we fund our own retirement, or help mom and dad fund theirs.
If you have questions, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.
Laurie MacNaughton  ©2016
What a change a few years make. In this week’s FinancialPlanning online magazine, a publication for financial professionals, author Dave Lindorff writes in a piece entitled “Reversal of fortune: Home equity makes a comeback for retirees”:
…[A]dvisers…are starting to view reverse mortgages as an important part of the retirement planning process, particularly since a set of reforms were imposed by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2013.
The reforms he refers to are a tightening of guidelines surrounding qualifying for a reverse mortgage. Though many homeowners aged 62 or better still qualify, those with severe property tax default issues may have a harder time – or, in certain circumstances, may not qualify at all.
Lindorff goes on to cite FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, as an example of the financial planning industry’s change of heart toward reverse mortgages:
In the past, [FINRA] warned that reverse mortgages should only be recommended as a “last resort” for clients with no other sources of support besides the equity in their homes.
This past year, though…FINRA changed its recommendation.
The regulator now says only that reverse mortgages should be “used prudently.”
Not to pick on FINRA, but that is a little like saying, “Water can be beneficial to life, but only when used prudently.” I’m pretty sure any bona fide financial planner gets the fact that any financial tool should be used prudently.
Financial planners routinely recommend that their clients establish a line of credit to hedge against life’s unexpected events. But here’s the thing: the later in retirement an unexpected event occurs, the less able most people are to meet the month’s end payment that greets them once they’ve drawn on their line.
A reverse mortgage line of credit is not repaid on a monthly basis. Rather, the amount borrowed is repaid once the last person on title permanently leaves the home. The remaining equity goes to the homeowner or the heirs. And the difference between having a monthly payment and not having a monthly payment? It can mean the difference between staying in the home and having to leave the home.
Few government-insured financial products have ever been subjected to a beating like the FHA-insured reverse mortgage program has been over the 30 years since its creation. Nearly pronounced dead in 2012 when the last mega-bank stopped offering reverse mortgages, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker said to then-HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, “I do not understand why you do not shut the program down.”
And why did HUD not shut down the reverse mortgage program?
Because HUD saw what those us of who don’t share Senator Corker’s $89.7 million in net worth saw: mainstream Americans whose savings simply were not sufficient to meet their financial needs in an ever-lengthening retirement.
Lindorff concludes his piece by quoting Steven Sass, program director at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research:
Reverse mortgages make sense not just for low-income people who want to stay in their homes but also for wealthier retirees who have considerable equity but want to goose their income streams.
You can say reverse mortgages need to be part of the retirement plan discussion.
Indeed. As we Americans age, nearly all of us will need every financial tool available to get through retirement with as much independence and dignity as possible.
Give me a call and let’s talk. I always love hearing from you.
Laurie MacNaughton ©2016
It wasn’t yet noon, but already I had had the same conversation with two separate homeowners:
“It’s not that you have insufficient income; it’s that the first fruits of your income are going right back out the door to pay your home mortgage.”
“It’s like you know me,” the caller said.
Know you? No.
Intimately know your situation? Absolutely. I see it every day.
It boils down to this: retirement + mortgage payment = not a good combo for many older homeowners.
Nationally, most homeowners of retirement age owe nothing on their home by the time they retire. In the greater Washington, D.C. area, however, that is less likely to be true because many homeowners moved to the area as consultants after spending much of their successful career elsewhere. This means many homeowners go into retirement with years yet to go on their mortgage. An alternative – but common – scenario is that homeowners paid cash for their home, and now have much of their net worth tied up in a pricy, illiquid asset.
And the breathtaking irony is this: the same gifts and skill packages that enable homeowners to work into later life can also set them up to falter financially if health fails abruptly and catastrophically, or if any one of life’s many other vagaries ensue.
Back to this morning’s conversation: this homeowner, indeed a consultant, has a home conservatively valued at $1,000,000. He and his wife are in their mid-70’s, but still have 15 years to go on their mortgage. His health is still robust, but his wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. Their fear is they will encounter uncovered medical costs that will consume their investments. It was their financial advisor who suggested they look into a reverse mortgage in order to free themselves of their monthly mortgage payment.
Is a reverse mortgage a fit for everyone? Of course not. No financial product is.
Is a reverse mortgage going to play a part in the long-term financial wellbeing of many retiring – or retired – homeowners? Absolutely.
If you have a family member, client, or colleague who would benefit from knowing more about an FHA-insured reverse mortgage, give me a call.
I always love hearing from you.
Laurie MacNaughton ©2016
Ok, so we’re not exactly dealing with breaking news when we see Harvard’s housing research team reporting a shortage of senior-appropriate housing.
In fact, everywhere we look we see evidence of the shortage in senior-appropriate housing: Warrenton, Leesburg, Middleburg, Reston, Oakton, Arlington – pretty much everywhere you look in the greater D.C. Area you see new construction. But many of the new homes are multilevel “starter castles”…as I call them.
Harvard’s Center for Housing Policy study, titled “Housing an Aging Population,” backs up observations with numbers, and they’re a bummer.
Among other things, the report documents:
Within the next couple decades the population aged 65 and older will increase 120 percent. Over the same period the number of our oldest Americans, those aged 85 and older, will increase more than 200 percent.
Wowzers, right? But here’s where the report gets really scary:
- The need for appropriate housing will radically outpace the availability of appropriate homes.
- One in four households aged 85 and older spend at least half their income on housing.
- Housing challenges are particularly severe for older adults with very low incomes – and most household incomes decline after the age of 85.
The takeaway? Pretty straightforward:
The number of older adults is rising. The need for affordable senior-appropriate housing is rising. But affordable options are not rising.
Not everyone can age in place. That’s just the hard truth. However, for those whose can age in place, everyone involved benefits. But we need to urge our communities to support construction of appropriate housing.
We can do this.
It’s just a matter of doing it.
Is it just me? Am I the only one who finds telemarketers’ Reverse Mortgage ads just a little “off”?
I logged into my email and up popped a Reverse Mortgage ad – and I was left with this feeling: Reverse Mortgage is the USB cord of the mortgage world. It fits everywhere!! It fits everyone!! Call now!!
But as a Reverse Mortgage Specialist, I can say with unqualified certainty: before doing any kind of financing, there are things you’ll want to consider.
In this short video, I walk you though a few of these considerations.
Feel free to call if you have questions. I always love hearing from you.
Laurie MacNaughton [NMLS 506562] is a freelance writer and
Reverse Mortgage Consultant with
Southern Trust Mortgage.
She can be reached at: 703-477-1183 or
Visit Laurie MacNaughton on YouTube
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 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