You’re not as pretty as you used to be

Laurie MacNaughton ©2022

My client sat down, looked at my business card, looked at me and said, “You’re not as pretty as you used to be.”

Yup. That happened.

I laughed and said, “You’re right – that’s an older picture. I need to get new cards.”

After his comment, for the millionth time I had to reflect on the weirdness of aging.

Because aging is weird. Aging is confusing. And, frankly, aging can be kind of scary. Add money concerns to the mix and aging can be…really scary.

Many clients tell me they’re concerned – or even outright scared – about money. This concern, of course, is why they’re exploring a reverse mortgage in the first place.

This said, it would be a misconception to paint all my clients with one broad brush. Truth is there are many reasons homeowners look into a reverse mortgage – but there are roughly three categories of enquirers.

The first is a group I call the “pre-need planners.” People realize their income, savings, and investments are likely not to be sufficient as they age, and they’re looking for a tax-free source of liquidity for future use.

The second reason is debt. Often this debt was driven by a health emergency, and uncovered expenses were paid with credit cards. Now the crisis is past, and they’re left struggling with high-interest payments.

The third reason is in-home healthcare. These costs can be breathtakingly high, and it’s not unusual to see couples paying $22,000 per month for care. $22,000. Per month. Many of these clients went into retirement with hundreds of thousands in savings, but have simply outlived their money.

Many past clients have called to say their reverse mortgage has been a “miracle.” As blessed as I am to hear this, a reverse mortgage is not a miracle. A reverse mortgage is… well… a mortgage. As such, it will be repaid.

But rather than being repaid on a monthly basis, the loan is repaid on the back end, in reverse. This means homeowners can use their equity without picking up a monthly mortgage payment. The impact of having a tax-free “bucket” to draw on can be truly profound.

If your client, friend, or loved one would like to explore how a reverse mortgage may contribute to their financial wellbeing in retirement, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Oh, and that old business card? There’s a new one in the works.

I know a lady

Laurie MacNaughton © 2022

There it was again today.

You do reverse mortgages? I know a lady who had a reverse mortgage and lost her home.”

“I know a lady….” If I have heard this once, I have heard it a hundred times.

And you know what? Never do I ever doubt these stories. Never.

But you know what else? Two things can be true at the same time. The lady had a reverse mortgage? The lady lost her home? Both things may very well have been true. However, that does not mean the one caused the other.

Odds are high–in fact very high–that the lady in question forgot to pay her property taxes. But no one is going to ask that, right? It’s rude.

But you know who does ask? The FHA. In fact, the FHA keeps minute tabs on reverse mortgages, including data on the small number of homeowners who have lost a home. Top of the list? Homeowners who default on their property taxes.

Property taxes are not a function of a reverse mortgage. Nor are they a function of a traditional mortgage. Rather, property taxes are simply a responsibility of homeownership. Punto.

But that’s not an interesting story. “Elderly homeowner forgot to pay property taxes and lost her home.” No clickbait there.

“Elderly homeowner with reverse mortgage loses her home,” on the other hand, stirs righteous anger in our hearts. It smells of elder financial abuse, shysterism, and shameless exploitation.

But here’s where the true shame lies: most tax jurisdictions offer tax reductions–or even full tax waivers–for the elderly. Why is this information not made more widely available to our aging?

For those still paying taxes, most jurisdictions allow taxes to be set up as automatic, recurring payments. For some of our oldest homeowners, this may mean they need a helping hand setting up recurring payments. My own father, a truly brilliant aerospace engineer, never did master the personal computer. My mother was quite good on the computer, but she wasn’t in charge of finances.

If you have aging loved ones in your life, ask them if they would appreciate help setting up recurring property tax payments. Be mindful that the ability to keep track of dates, deadlines, and requirements may diminish as loved ones age, and that the “money talk” may be one you need to have on a regular basis.

If you would like more information on the role a reverse mortgage can play in your long-range financial planning, or in the life of one you love, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Rarely is a problem too large

Laurie MacNaughton © 2021

It looked like it was heading for a bad outcome: Robert sold his mother’s home and placed her in a care facility.

The problem? Mom was on Medicaid, and her formerly exempt asset was now quite a large countable asset, which spelled big trouble for her care options.

Fortunately, Robert picked up the phone and called an elder law attorney, who listed buying another home among potential cures.

Because Reverse for Purchase has notably easier qualification guidelines, Robert’s mother qualified even on her limited income. And…yesterday she closed on a lovely new home. She is scheduled to move in shortly before Christmas.

Rarely in life is a problem too large. More often, solution sets are too small. In this case, Reverse for Purchase was the perfect fit for a problem that had few other solutions.

If someone you know is in need of options, give me a call. I always love hearing from you!

I feel I’ve lived a miracle

Laurie MacNaughton © 2021

Margaret was 75 when she inherited her mother’s ranch-style home. Because the home had a perfect aging-in-place layout, Margaret and her husband decided to sell their current home and move into the smaller, single-level property. Their current home sold quickly, and they began packing for the move.

But then one tragedy after another struck: Margaret’s husband died suddenly. Margaret lost her job when her employer closed his doors. And then, just days later, the inherited home burned to the ground. And, as fate would have it, the home was uninsured at the time.

Margaret moved in with family while she had the home rebuilt, and funded the construction with proceeds from the home she and her late husband had sold. However, the funds didn’t cover the full cost, so she tried to get a loan to cover the remainder. In the meantime, the contractor finished the work and placed a mechanic’s lien against the property.

She tried lender after lender – but the loan amounts fell far short of what she needed. After all, she was living on just Social Security and a state pension. Though her income was by no means meager, she could not qualify for a loan large enough to pay the contractor.

Months went by, and finally Margaret consulted an attorney regarding her options.

His recommendation? Look into a reverse mortgage.

With a reverse mortgage there is no requirement to prove the homeowner can make a monthly mortgage payment, and consequently Margaret qualified for a far larger amount than she had with a “forward” mortgage. The reason? A reverse mortgage has no required monthly mortgage payment.

The lender must verify the homeowner can cover property charges, including property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, routine upkeep, and condo or homeowner’s association dues, if applicable.

Today Margaret is living in her lovely new home. She has paid all her debts and has no required monthly mortgage payment. When I spoke with her recently she said, “I feel like I have lived a miracle.”

A reverse mortgage is not a miracle – it’s a mortgage. It’s a mortgage that’s repaid on the back-end, in reverse. However, it’s a mortgage that can accomplish results other mortgages often simply cannot.

If you are – or someone you know is – in need of options, give me a call. I always love hearing from you!

Forbearance-to-Foreclosure Pipeline

Laurie MacNaughton © 2021

She’s 78 years old.

She’s 78 years old and heading into foreclosure.

How did she get here? How the HELL did she get here?

A year ago, as allowed for under the CARES Act, she put her home into forbearance. Now one year on she’s newly widowed, meaning she’s got half the income and all the debt, and her home is coming out of forbearance in just a few weeks.

According to correspondence from her mortgage company, she also has a $69,000 lump sum due on her existing mortgage come September 1. If she cannot come up with that amount, per her mortgage company, her home is headed toward foreclosure. She has tried to refinance both with her current lender and with several other lenders.

But here’s the thing: it can be very difficult to refinance if you are not currently making payments. This means many thousands of our seniors may soon be in dire distress.

So back to our 78-year-old.

This past week her banker mentioned the possibility of refinancing using a reverse mortgage.

To answer your question: yes.

Yes I can qualify her.

Here’s why: with a reverse mortgage she does not have to have income enough to make monthly mortgage payments…because with a reverse mortgage there is never a monthly mortgage payment required. Rather, the mortgage will be repaid on the back end – in reverse – when the home is sold. All remaining equity belongs to the homeowner, the heirs, or the estate.

Because homeowners still own their home, they continue to pay homeowner’s insurance, property taxes (unless tax-exempt), and HOA or condo dues, if applicable.

We may well be in the calm before the storm. But our older homeowners currently in forbearance do not have to lose their homes if they can refinance using a reverse mortgage.

Please, please be proactive in asking the hard questions of your loved ones currently in forbearance. You know, as do I, that many older homeowners are not comfortable asking for help – until they’re out of all options they know to pursue.

Do please pass this message on to lenders, bankers, planners, attorneys – anyone in your life who deals with older homeowners.

And do call at any time if you have a client, friend, or family member aged 62 or older who wants to talk. I’m always available.

LIBOR, Schmibor – who cares?

Laurie MacNaughton © 2020

In September Ginnie Mae announced home mortgages, including reverse mortgages, would switch over to the Constant Maturity Treasury, or CMT, from the current LIBOR index. The move came fully one year earlier than anticipated.

So first, who cares?

Turns out, lots of people care. Indeed, global markets have been preparing for the transition for a number of years.

But also turns out…not a lot of consensus exists on exactly what the migration will mean for the average household.

Why the move?

The intent to move away from the LIBOR was announced after the index was found susceptible to manipulation. In fact, depending upon who you talk to, a small group of insiders almost brought about an end to civilization as we know it. Hyperbole notwithstanding, it’s widely acknowledged that manipulation of the LIBOR contributed significantly, almost catastrophically, to the 2008 worldwide credit crisis and global recession.

A few alternative indices were in the running as LIBOR replacements. Most explanations regarding the choice of the CMT are excruciatingly technical – I unsuccessfully tried to find a truly good Cliff’s Notes version – but here’s the Federal Reserve Board’s stab at it:

“Yields on Treasury securities at constant maturity are determined by the U.S. Treasury from the daily yield curve. That is based on the closing market-bid yields on actively traded Treasury securities in the over-the-counter market.”

The general idea is that the CMT accurately reflects the “actual” cost of money; furthermore, the CMT can respond quickly to economic conditions.

What does this mean for you, and for your clients?

If your clients have a loan in process – depending upon the closing date – they may be asked to sign another loan application. We all may well see credit card companies and mortgage servicers contacting us with new disclosures. According to some analysts, there could be short-term market turbulence.

I readily acknowledge I am not an economist. I am not investment advisor. Nor am I an expert on global markets, an investment banker, a possessor of a crystal ball; I am a loan officer. But I am also an avid consumer of financial bulletins, articles, and newsletters, and I believe this much is certain: the markets ultimately will determine whether the CMT index is the best index for the years to come.

But as clients’ increasingly frequent questions have forced me to seriously research the topic, I have grown ever more confident of this: you, and I, and all our clients will weather this transition just fine.

And…I will close with this: if you have questions regarding how a reverse mortgage might improve your client’s financial outlook in these unsettled times, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

Born in 1960? Sound the alarm on a glitch in Social Security

Laurie MacNaughton ©2020

If you are a baby boomer turning 60 in 2020, here’s something you need to know: without a legislative fix, your lifetime Social Security benefits are very likely to be permanently reduced, even if you wait to retire until full retirement age.

Reduced. Permanently. Permanently reduced.

The reason for this is due to the formula the Social Security Administration uses to calculate benefits. The Social Security Administration, according to its website, takes a “snapshot of average wages of every worker in the country and factors it into your benefit calculation.” This means benefits are based upon average wages across all sectors of the economy. Due to COVID-19, wages are projected to be down nearly 6%, as measured by the Average Wage Index (AWI). And, because each subsequent year’s benefits are based upon the recipient’s first year’s benefits, this cohort can anticipate reduced benefits for the rest of their lives.

The news gets even worse for wage-earners with significantly higher-than-average incomes as, dollarwise, they stand to lose much more.

Then there is the knock-on effect. For survivors claiming a deceased spouse’s benefits, their monthly benefits will also be permanently reduced, as will those claiming Social Security Disability Income.

So, how did this problem arise?

Social Security was updated in 1977, and at that time no provision was made for dealing with a crisis that wrought devastation upon nearly all sectors of the economy – like, say, might occur with a global pandemic. There was ample warning indicating protections needed to be added when the dark economic times of 2008-2009 served as a shot over the bow. However, because the AWI fell only briefly and relatively insignificantly, no legislative action was taken to correct the glitch that came to light.

There is a proposal afoot to fix the problem. On August 4, Congressman John Larson (D-CT), Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, published an op/ed in which he calls upon “Republicans in Congress [to] join with House Democrats and correct this anomaly with the Social Security COVID Correction and Equity Act.” Chairman Larson’s proposed act would patch this hole and prevent a reduction that would have lifelong effects on a cohort already suffering financially on the doorstep of their retirement years.

Boomers have always been known for getting things done. But it’s hard to accomplish a task if there is no awareness the job needs doing.

Contact your congressperson, and let him/her know the time to fix this is now.

If you do not know who your congressperson is, you can find that information at Your future benefits – or the benefits of one you love – are riding on this. And the clock is ticking.



Reverse mortgage and later-in-life divorce

Laurie Denker MacNaughton © 2020

According to the US Census Bureau, the rate of divorce has been falling for the past 25 years across all demographics – except for adults over the age of 60. Among this age group, the divorce rate has nearly doubled in the same time period.

Though the reasons for divorce remain fairly consistent across all age groups, those going through a “silver divorce” may face issues specific to aging.

Typically, the greatest challenge facing long-married couples is division of assets. This can become very involved at any time, but there may be additional considerations later in life, in part because there simply has been more time to accrue…well…stuff.

For most couples, the single most valuable asset is the marital home. In a divorce, typically the marital home is sold and the proceeds divided per the Property Settlement Agreement. However, a job, proximity to specialists, or failing health may suggest moving is not the best option for one party.

If one spouse is intent upon – or is in need of – staying in the home, one way to accomplish this can be by means of a reverse mortgage.

Older homeowners are likely to have equity enough in the home for the proceeds from a reverse mortgage to pay the departing spouse’s portion of the marital share. This often makes retention of the home possible, without saddling the spouse remaining in the home with a monthly mortgage payment.

A reverse mortgage will not work in every “silver divorce.” But in many divorces involving homeowners in which at least one party is aged 62 or older, it’s one of the few ways a Property Settlement Agreement’s financial mandates can be met without selling the home, depleting financial reserves, or acquiring a monthly mortgage payment in the retirement years.

Divorce is no one’s “Plan A.” But as the classic line goes, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

If you would like more information on how a reverse mortgage might help you or someone you know, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.

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Don’t tell the kids

Laurie MacNaughton © 2020

When she called Saturday I was pretty sure I knew what the conversation would involve.

“We’re both in our 80’s, my husband is four years into an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and our kids live in Nevada. The biggest thing is our investments are getting low.” And then there was this: “But we don’t want our kids to know.”

We don’t want our kids to know. It’s one of the worst statements I hear in the course of my job.

A couple things about this. First, I’m a parent. I understand about not wanting to worry kids, adults though they may be. But I’m also a lender who frequently talks to adult kids worried about their parents.

Would you like to hear how that side of the conversation goes? It’s something like this: “My wife and I live in Nevada but my aging parents are in Virginia. We’re worried about their finances – but they won’t talk about money.”

The risk to adult kids is this: if you do not help parents with the solution, it may get to the point where you are the solution. And odds are good you’re not really the best solution. I have seen adult children quit their job to become a caregiver. I have seen tension in marriages, finances under strain, 401(k)s prematurely tapped. The risk to aging parents is that if your finances are deeply stressed by the time you involve your kids, it’s almost guaranteed they’re going to have to help.

Nobody is going to say the money conversation is anything other than awkward for many people. Talking about money is not fun. But talking about overdue bills is even less fun.

These are anxious times for many, and times may well continue to be anxious for many months to come. There is little we can do to eliminate stress caused by world events. However, there are steps you can take that may greatly reduce hardship, whether you’re an aging parent or the adult child of aging parents.

Three recommendations I often make are the following: first, awkward as it may be, talk to family. These conversations do not get easier over time, so just do it.

Second, pre-crisis, the homeowner should speak with a qualified financial planner, accountant, or elder law attorney who can help put together long-range plans.

Third, the homeowner should consider using the home as a source of retirement funding. Several options exist here, including selling the home and downsizing, renting out a portion of the home, or doing a reverse mortgage.

If you have questions about how you or one you love may benefit from a reverse mortgage, or if you would like contact information for an elder law attorney, accountant, or wealth manager, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.


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Reverse mortgage or HELOC?

Laurie MacNaughton © 2020

In years past homeowners routinely turned to traditional equity lines to cover unexpected expenses. However, tightened credit qualifications have put this option out of reach for many older homeowners. Additionally, a traditional line of credit requires homeowners to make a monthly mortgage payment once they withdraw funds – and, in accordance with the terms of many lines of credit, the more funds withdrawn, the higher the monthly mortgage payment becomes.

It’s not new news that a reverse mortgage can serve as safety net during times of financial turbulence. In fact, longstanding research demonstrates that a reverse mortgage can relieve unsustainable drawdowns when retirement funds are under pressure. Some experts actually call a reverse mortgage a “buffer asset” due to the significant role it can play in wealth preservation.

Here are three advantages a reverse mortgage can hold over a traditional line of credit:

The first is that a reverse mortgage is a home equity loan. I could pretty much stop there and you would know more than most. However, it’s an equity loan with a few unique features. Most obviously, a reverse mortgage is not repaid on a monthly basis. Rather, it’s repaid on the back-end, in reverse, once the home is sold. Just like with any other home sale, after the loan is repaid all remaining equity belongs to the homeowner or the heirs.

Second, a reverse mortgage line of credit cannot be called due, canceled, or frozen the way a HELOC can be. A reverse mortgage line of credit is established at the time of closing and it’s there for the homeowners’ use regardless of market conditions. This makes it a powerful hedge against economic turmoil, as the value of the credit line does not decrease even if housing values fall.

Third, the unused balance in a reverse mortgage line of credit actually grows larger over time. This little-known attribute can add significantly to the amount available in the line of credit.

The takeaway is this: a reverse mortgage can lessen pressure on investments and create an asset source outside the investment portfolio. This may give other assets time to recover lost value as markets stabilize.

If you would like to discuss how a reverse mortgage might benefit you or one you love, give me a call. I always love hearing from you.


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