One of the biggest challenges facing retirees is how to bridge the gap between ever-rising expenses and virtually stagnant Social Security checks and other sources of income. While we are all finding ways to be more frugal, many folks still fall short every month.
In a recent issue of Miller's Money Forever, our team took an in-depth look at reverse mortgages, something many retirees turn to for extra income. I can safely say that for the vast majority of our readers they are a poor investment, but not necessarily a bad idea.
In a nutshell, in exchange for a reverse mortgage on your home the bank sends you a monthly check until your 100th birthday. There are some up-front fees, and with each monthly check your mortgage increases. You must, however, continue to live in your home as your primary residence. If you move out and sell, any remaining equity after the sale is yours to keep. At the same time, if the mortgage is higher than your home's selling price, you don't have to make up the difference.
It sure sounds nice, and yet the only way to turn a reverse mortgage into a great investment is to live a good, long life and stay in your home. The odds are stacked against you, as you must outlive your actuarial lifespan by a good five years or so to make it a good investment. And what if your health takes a turn for the worse, and you need to move into an assisted-living facility? Those checks will stop coming.
With a reverse mortgage, you're bargaining with your home, which for most folks is a large part of their personal wealth. You will never learn if your investment turned out to be good or bad until you die or move out.
Fortunately, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing counseling is mandated for 95% of reverse mortgages. The counseling is quite worthwhile, and I recommend it to any retiree who's struggling to meet monthly expenses.
Our team worked with the HUD agency in Orlando while researching our reverse mortgage report, and they were a tremendous help. I never knew how many state and federal programs were available to help keep seniors in their homes. The good news is that you cannot be turned away if you cannot pay the normal $125 fee.
Any senior who is struggling to keep his or her finances together should take the time to meet with a HUD counselor. Even if a reverse mortgage is not right for you, they have many other options that may better suit your needs.
In speaking with the HUD counselor and through our own research we found that many seniors are turning to reverse mortgages because their bills are stacking up while their income is drying up. A reverse mortgage may be a good solution for you under very particular circumstances, but if you're finding your income isn't keeping up with expenses then it's time to seriously consider changing your income strategy. Most seniors do this several times during retirement.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.