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.
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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
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