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Monthly Archives: August 2013

A great reverse mortgage idea: Take a credit line now

Money in home 1August 22nd, 2013  |  by Elizabeth Ecker Published in Reverse Mortgage

I’ve got a financial proposal that is probably going to surprise you. Take out a reverse mortgage at age 62, even though you don’t need the money. In fact, take it especially if you don’t need the money. There will never be a better time. Terms will change in October, but the light is still green for people who want to use the strategy described here.

Reverse mortgages are called Home Equity Conversion Loans (HECMs). They’re designed to provide you with cash at a later age, to help pay your bills if your other savings run out. Normally, the smart play is to wait until your mid-70s or early 80s to take the loan. For some readers, this remains the right choice, as I’ll explain below.

But there’s a valuable new opportunity at hand, for borrowers who don’t need extra money now. You borrow as early as age 62 and take the mortgage in the form of a credit line instead of all-cash. You can borrow against the credit line at any time, but you don’t have to take the money now. More important, this credit line grows every year – greatly increasing your borrowing power in the future.

Before I go any further, let me give you some HECM facts:

At present, the credit line comes with one of two adjustable-rate loans – the HECM Standard, which provides a larger loan, and the HECM Saver.

With HECMS, you don’t have to make monthly payments, as you do with a regular loan. The mortgage doesn’t come due until you leave your home permanently. When the house is finally sold, the proceeds go first to repay what you borrowed, plus the accumulated interest. If there’s money left over, it goes to you or your heirs. If the house sells for less than the loan amount, the Federal Housing Administration, which insures HECMs, covers the lender’s loss.

Why take a HECM now? Because mortgage interest rates are so remarkably low. The lower the rates, the more you can borrow against your home equity. If interest rates rise, five or 10 years from now, you won’t be able to borrow nearly as much.

As an example, take a mortgage-free house worth $300,000. At this writing, a 62-year-old could get a $152,658 credit line on a HECM Standard, at an interest rate of 4.07 percent (including the mortgage insurance premium). If rates rise by 3 percentage points, you could borrow only $77,659. With a Saver ARM, which charges lower fees, you could borrow $131,029 today but only $47,329 if rates rise go 3 points higher..

But – and this is a big but – borrowers should not take out the full amount in cash. You’d be leaving nothing to help pay your bills in your older age. If you’re a spender, don’t take a HECM until your mid-70s or 80s.

If you won’t spend all the money now, a HECM credit line gives you tremendous financial flexibility. You owe interest only on the amount you actually borrow. For example, if you use $10,000 to take a trip, interest is charged on that modest amount, not on the entire credit line.

The magic in a HECM credit line is that your borrowing power isn’t fixed, says Jack Guttentag, founder of Mtgprofessor.com, a comprehensive mortgage information site. Your available credit rises every year, by roughly the mortgage interest rate.

For example, take that Saver $131,029 credit line. If mortgage rates plus insurance stay at today’s 4.07 percent , your borrowing power will rise to $196,710 10 years from now (assuming you’ve taken no money out). On the Standard, you could get as much as $229,182. The higher rates go, the more you can borrow.

As for the HECM’s upfront fees, I consider them worth it. They let you nail down a large pool of future borrowing power, at a time when inflation will have driven your expenses up. Our sample HECM Saver would cost about $5,771 and the HECM Standard, about $11,741. The fees can be rolled into the loan.

For a quick look at how much you might be able to borrow with a HECM, check the calculator at reversemortgage.org.

So what’s happening in October? The government will merge the Standard and Saver into a single program, says Peter Bell, head of the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association. Limits will be placed on the amount of cash a borrower can take out in the first year. But you’ll still be able to take the maximum in a credit line. The fee might be a tad higher but all the benefits will still be there.

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Navigating The Retirement Labyrinth

Senior Couple 2

Retirement planning can be confusing. Here are some major milestones on the retirement timeline:

Age 55. If you leave your job after age 55, you can begin taking penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals. Withdrawals from traditional 401(k)s will be taxed as income.

Age 59 ½. IRA withdrawals are allowed without penalty and are taxed as income.

Age 62. Social Security eligibility begins, but your checks will be reduced 25 to 35 percent if you begin claiming at this age. If you are under full retirement age and you work and earn above the annual earnings limit of $15,120 in 2013, excess earnings are deducted from your benefits.  If you plan to continue to work, benefits are also reduced by 50 cents for each dollar you earn above $15,120 in 2013.

Age 65. Medicare eligibility kicks in. Beneficiaries may sign up for Medicare Part B during a 7 month window around their 65th birthday, beginning 3 months before the month you turn 65 and ending three months after. It’s a good idea to sign up right away because your Medicare Part B monthly premium increases 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Medicare Part B, but did not enroll. If you or a spouse are still employed and covered by a group health plan after age 65, you have 8 months to sign up after you leave the job before the penalty kicks in.

Age 66. Baby boomers born between 1943 and 1954 are eligible to receive full Social Security retirement benefits at age 66. For boomers born between 1955 and 1959 the full retirement age gradually increases from age 66 and 2 months to 66 and 10 months. The month you reach your full retirement age, your benefit checks are no longer reduced if you continue to earn income from work.

Age 67. For those born in 1960 and later, the age you can receive full Social Security retirement benefits is 67.

Age 70. Your Social Security benefits further increase by 7 to 8 percent each year you delay claiming up until age 70. After age 70 there is no additional incentive to put off collecting.

Age 70 ½. Those aged 70½ or older must take annual required minimum distributions from retirement accounts. The proceeds will be taxed as income. Seniors who fail to withdraw the correct amount must pay a 50 percent tax penalty and income tax on the amount that should have been withdrawn.

Contact your financial planner to discuss your specific situation.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Uncategorized