How a Reverse Mortgage Could Be Right for You Now, Not Later

Seniors couple and advisor.
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With many experts and investors predicting stocks to continue falling this year — eventually precipitating a bear market — and inflation continuing, many people are looking for some sort of financial safety net to hedge against what may come.

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And for some people, including savvy investors and financial planners, a reverse mortgage could be the answer.

What Is a Reverse Mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is similar to a home equity loan, with a few important differences. In both cases, the borrower taps into their home’s equity for money now. With a home equity loan, the borrower pays back the lump-sum loan through monthly mortgage payments.

With a reverse mortgage, however, the loan and interest doesn’t come due until the home’s last owner dies, sells the house, or leaves for more than one year.

Homeowners can tap into their home equity with a reverse mortgage in one of three ways:

  • As a lump sum payment.
  • Fixed monthly payments (which can often be used to fund retirement).
  • As a line-of-credit to use only when needed.

Some reverse mortgages pay interest on the untapped money in your line-of-credit, according to The New York Times.

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Why Are Reverse Mortgages a New ‘Trend’ in Finance?

A reverse mortgage has traditionally been viewed as a last-resort for homeowners over 62 who are desperately in need of retirement income — and who have no other options but tapping into their home’s equity. But today, with so much uncertainty surrounding other investments (including stocks and real estate), a reverse mortgage could help anyone looking to bolster their emergency reserves, according to a recent NYT article.

The NYT shares the story of 75-year-old Marjorie Fox, a retired financial planner and a widow who took out a reverse mortgage to bolster her $150,000 cash reserve. She made the move in case she needed money “when the stock market is down and it could be an inopportune time to sell assets.”

Fox also has multiple other forms of income, including an individual retirement account, maturing bonds, Social Security benefits, and a survivor benefit afforded by her late husband’s pension. The reverse mortgage is solely a back-up plan — one which she has used for a few unexpected financial expenses so far, per the NYT.

Is a Reverse Mortgage Right For You?

A reverse mortgage can help retirees avoid withdrawing from investment accounts early in their retirement, a scenario which can create additional tax liabilities and fiscal shortfalls at a later date. You’re not only losing investment funds, but you’re also losing all the potential interest those funds could generate. If a portfolio is already down due to a bear market, it makes it even harder to rebound from early withdrawals.

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Experts interviewed by the NYT recommended that retirees over age 62 — at least those with a portfolio of $500,000 to $1.5 million in investments, not counting their home — should consider a reverse mortgage. If they see their portfolio shrinking, they should consider taking out a reverse mortgage and either living off those funds or creating a line-of-credit for emergency expenses.

The earlier you take out the mortgage, according to said experts, the more time you are afforded to build your line-of-credit investment as interest accrues.

These experts also recommended using a reverse mortgage as a “bridge” for retirement expenses, so you can delay claiming Social Security benefits until age 70. Some people use their 401(k) as a bridge to delay withdrawing Social Security benefits — but, again, you may not want to tap into investments in a down market. A reverse mortgage could potentially fill the budgetary gap.

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However, the NYT also warned that a reverse mortgage is not always the right decision. It’s wise to speak with a financial planner knowledgeable about retirement and reverse mortgages to make the best choice for you and your family.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of GeekTravelGuide.net, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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