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Even State Legislatures Look to HECM as Recommendation…

shutterstock_Money under lock & key 49213123State Campaign Points to Importance of Reverse Mortgages in Long Term Care

 

March 17th, 2014  |  by Elizabeth Ecker Published in News, Retirement, Reverse Mortgage

A state and federal initiative launched in 2012 has resulted in a report to lawmakers on long term care financing including the use of reverse mortgages to help Americans fund longevity.

The Own Your Future initiative in Minnesota was launched in 2012 to make recommendations to state and federal lawmakers on paying for long term care. Between 2005 and 2009, 26 states each sponsored Own Your Future campaigns to educate their residents about long term care challenges and make them aware of options and planning methods.

In Minnesota, the campaign was expanded to include an ongoing public awareness campaign throughout the state; efforts to make more affordable and suitable long-term care products available to Minnesota’s middle-income households; and evaluation of possible changes to Medical Assistance (MA) to better align with and encourage private payment for long-term care.

Among the recommendations developed by the state initiative: the use of reverse mortgages. An advisory panel has accepted the recommendations of the subcommittee with a separate set of recommendations having been sent to Congress.

“The Lieutenant Governor [Prettner Solon] has assured us that now that the report is out, it’s not a report that sits on the shelf. Action will be taken,” says Beth Paterson, a Minnesota originator who was appointed by the state’s governor to serve as the reverse mortgage representative on the advisory panel.

The report covers 11 recommendations, narrowed down from 16 that were considered, toward solving long term care funding problems for older Americans.

“The current long-term care financing marketplace consists of insurance products, home equity options  such as reverse mortgages, and health and retirement savings plans,’ the report states. “None of these products has seen widespread use recently due to a number of factors, including the perception of their stability, their safety and their benefit levels.”

Specific to the reverse mortgage market, the report indicates, are public perception challenges that are making it even more difficult for reverse mortgages to gain a place in the long-term care conversation.

“The market for reverse mortgages (RMs) is likewise in a difficult position,” the report writes.”Recently, state and federal  agencies have changed regulations governing the program to address consumer issues with the program, but the perception persists that RMs, as currently constituted, do not have adequate consumer protections.”

Advocates have developed action items for helping the perception around and access to reverse mortgages among Minnesotans.

Written by Elizabeth Ecker

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Financial Times: Reverse Mortgages Can Be Lifesavers


March 5th, 2014  |  by Jason Oliva Published in News, Retirement, Reverse Mortgage

The financial planning community is warming up to reverse mortgages, with some advisors finding them to be “lifesavers” for some clients in tight circumstances, a Financial Times article suggests.

As reverse mortgages overcome historically negative perceptions with the help of recent program changes and new consumer protections, Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) have also begun to gain more recognition from financial advisors in mainstream retirement planning.

Dana Anspach of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Sensible Money told Financial Times she recently recommended a reverse mortgage to a widow in her 80s whose home was paid off and was supplementing her Social Security with a home equity line of credit.

“Anspach used a reverse mortgage to pay off the HELOC, wiping out $400 a month in interest payments and providing additional monthly income of $200,” the article notes.

Other advisors are recognizing that the tax-free proceeds from reverse mortgages can allow clients to postpone Social Security usage as part of a “post-retirement tax saving strategy,” which can keep clients from withdrawing too much from IRA or 401(k) accounts.

“The bottom line is that reverse mortgages are not longer only for retirees in dire straits. Advisors ‘should be looking at every aspect of income, including home equity,’” said CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth Marguerita Cheng in the article.

Read the Financial Times article

Written by Jason Oliva

 

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Reverse Mortgages Can Benefit Retirees, Both Wealthy and Not

Move Can Help Retirees Keep Investments Until Right Time to Sell

By Kelly Greene, WSJ
Jan 16, 2014 4:29 p.m. ET

Home = Cash 2Reverse mortgages aren’t just for people struggling to keep their homes anymore.

The loans also can work for well-heeled retirees looking for a buffer to keep them from selling investments at the wrong time, according to academic researchers. And Congress last month gave a boost to the type of reverse mortgage that works best for that purpose.

Reverse mortgages let homeowners who are at least 62 years old borrow against their home equity. The loans don’t have to be used for a specific purpose, but typically are used for home modifications, repairs, medical expenses or home care that elderly people might not otherwise be able to afford.

The loan is due, with interest, when homeowners move out, sell the home, die or fail to pay property taxes or homeowner’s insurance premiums. The homeowner’s heirs typically sell the house, pay the balance and keep whatever is left. At least 595,000 households have an outstanding reverse-mortgage loan, according to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, a Washington industry group.

In the past, many financial planners recommended reverse mortgages for their clients only as a last resort because fees were relatively high—as much as 5% of the loan amount. That changed a few years ago, when a new product was developed by the industry and insured by the Federal Housing Administration called the HECM Saver, which typically has lower upfront borrowing costs than earlier types of reverse mortgages. (HECM stands for “home equity conversion mortgage.”)

With lower borrowing costs, some planners are finding new ways to use reverse mortgages to avoid selling depressed investments or to lower tax bills. “Retirement is really about cash flow,” says Martin James, a certified public accountant in Mooresville, Ind. “Even for a person who’s got their mortgage paid off, it’s nice to have a line of credit sitting there.”

Earlier this year, the HECM program was eyed by federal lawmakers as a financial risk to the FHA, and lawmakers considered curtailing the program. The bill, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, is intended to give the Department of Housing and Urban Development the leeway to make changes to keep the program going, probably after Oct. 1, says Peter Bell, chief executive of the lenders’ group.

Getting a reverse mortgage takes some due diligence on the part of homeowners and their families. Big-name banks largely quit the business in the aftermath of the financial crisis, leaving smaller companies and independent brokers to make the loans. Some financial advisers have been accused by regulators of encouraging elderly homeowners to put their reverse-mortgage proceeds into questionable investments, such as annuities with steep penalties for cashing in.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said last year that it would coordinate with other regulators to root out reverse-mortgage scams, monitor the market closely for deceptive and abusive practices and consider further measures. Interested in tapping your home as a security blanket?A few things to consider:

 Your house could be a reliable credit line. If your home-equity line of credit gets canceled, a reverse mortgage might be a good substitute.

Three certified financial planners at Texas Tech University in Lubbock and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania published a paper last year in the Journal of Financial Planning that recommends using a reverse-mortgage line of credit to meet retirement-income needs during a big market drop, rather than selling investments. “A few years ago, we were starting to get calls from clients saying, ‘Hey, my line of credit’s been canceled.’ They have plenty of resources, but that was an emergency pot of money,” says John Salter, the paper’s lead author. “It doesn’t do you much good if the bank’s going to pull it before you need it.”

The researchers used what they called a “standby” reverse-mortgage strategy, meaning the reverse-mortgage line of credit served as a source of readily available cash when retirees’ portfolio values dropped below the level where they could meet their goals.

Using a portfolio worth $500,000 and a home value of $250,000, among other assumptions, the researchers found that using a reverse mortgage’s line of credit significantly improved the chances the portfolio would last through the retiree’s lifetime, because it reduced the risk of having to sell investments when they had fallen in value.

Tapping home equity could lower tax bills. Some retirees pay off their mortgages with taxable withdrawals from their 401(k) or other accounts. Yet they might be able to lower their income taxes by using reverse mortgages to pay off their traditional mortgages, Mr. James says, if they have substantial equity. That means they wouldn’t need to withdraw as much tax-deferred retirement savings, which are subject to income tax and can bump retirees into higher tax brackets.

Plus, without investment distributions needed to make mortgage payments, they might be able to keep their overall incomes under the income threshold at which Social Security retirement benefits are taxed, Mr. James says.

He also is looking at using reverse mortgages as a “bridge” to Social Security, allowing retirees to delay taking Social Security and increase the size of their monthly payments—and those of a surviving spouse—down the road.

Consult an expert. Before you start talking to lenders, consider getting advice from a reverse-mortgage counselor certified by HUD to learn more about the options and mechanics. The National Council on Aging and other nonprofit groups sometimes offer such counseling, often at reduced rates.

There is a directory of reverse-mortgage counselors at hud.gov. Click on “Talk to a Housing Counselor” and then “Search online for a housing counseling agency near you.”

Keep the kids in the loop. When Mr. James broaches the idea of a reverse mortgage with clients, “the first thing they do is wrinkle their nose,” he says. One big reason: Many parents want to leave their home, often their biggest asset, to their children as their inheritance.

Mr. Salter acknowledges that leveraging the family home can be “a touchy subject.”

Still, he contends that many adult children “don’t really want the house” and that they are eager for their parents to use their assets to have “a better rest of their life.”

Besides, Mr. James says, “you still have costs associated with selling the house. You may not get as much as you think you’re going to.”

“Using a reverse mortgage allows for a little more diversification,” meaning retirees could leave other investments with potential for better returns to their families, Mr. James says.

“My first answer, when people ask how to approach the kids, is to ask them if they have an extra room in their house for their parents,” Mr. Salter says.

 

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Retirement Planning in the Age of Longevity

To the degree that people reach old age mentallysharp, physically fit, and financially secure, the problems of individual and societal aging fall away.”
— Laura L. Carstensen, Founding Director
Stanford Center on Longevity

reverse mortgage news

Amara Rose   November 19, 2013

According to a recent Stanford Study on planning for retirement at a time when we’re living longer than ever before, confidence in the ability to retire comfortably — or even to retire at all — is at a new low. Pitfalls include:

  • Failing to plan for retirement
  • Underestimating expenses
  • Underestimating the number of years they will be retired
  • Retiring too early
  • Failing to save

The biggest challenge is failing to plan for retirement at all, researchers say. Only a third of adults in their 50s have ever tried to devise a retirement plan…and only two-thirds of those who have tried have succeeded.

Even among those who do save, fear of limited resources tops the list of retirement concerns. According to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2013 Workplace Benefits Report, in a nationwide survey of more than 1000 employees from companies of all sizes:

  • 80% experienced an increase in health care costs in last two years (this may change under the Affordable Care Act)
  • 56% are saving less for retirement as a result
  • 85% feel they’re not saving enough
  • 60% believe it will be “very difficult” to ever save enough to support their standard of living once they retire
  • 79% would give up 5% or more of their salary if it meant having reliable income to help them live comfortably during their later years (38% would give up 10% of their salary — or more).

Though neither research report mentions reverse mortgage as a viable option for older adults once they reach retirement age, given the monetary concerns now facing those in late middle age or nearing retirement, this group appears to be a ripe market to consider the possibility, assuming someone owns a home with sufficient equity to qualify.

Yet continuing to earn isn’t the only reason for seniors to postpone retirement, says U.S. News & World Report, which suggests there are a number of good reasons to retire the idea of retirement for a while yet, such as:

  • Enjoying one’s job. While boss-bashing makes for humorous cartoons and water cooler conversation, people who love what they do need not retire just because they reach a certain age. Boomers, especially, are aging (and perceive aging) much differently than previous generations. A professional hair stylist, for example, is still booked months ahead because she takes time off to travel. At 67, she has no plans to retire anytime soon.
  • Improved health. Contrary to popular belief, working longer may actually enhance later life health: one study of nearly half a million French workers found that every additional year of work before retirement lowered the risk of dementia 3.2 percent.
  • Marital accord. Women have long maintained that once their husbands retire they’re underfoot all day and at loose ends, which can wreak havoc on a marriage. The longer at least one partner continues working, the better it may be for marital harmony. The extra income is a bonus.

By balancing data on the necessity of planning for retirement with the positives about continuing to work, you can present a more informed picture to potential reverse mortgage prospects to help them make the best possible decision for a secure future in the age of longevity.

About the author: Amara Rose View all posts by Amara Rose is a personal and business coach with a broad background in health and positive aging. She holds a social welfare degree with a gerontology emphasis from Penn State, and has written extensively about senior housing, elder health and nutrition, lifelong learning, and the spiritual dimension of aging. A seasoned marketing copywriter, Amara has wordsmithed everything from blogs to brochures to web content. Contact Amara at amara@liveyourlight.com to learn more.
 

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INFORMATION FOR ADULT CHILDREN OF AGING PARENTS

Following is some helpful information when you are considering an FHA HECM for your parents:

House-safe• More Americans fear running out of money in retirement than fear death. With increasing life expectancy, it is easy to understand this fear. Increasingly, long-term retirement planning includes a reverse mortgage as a means to increase cash flow and address income shortfalls in retirement. Nearly one quarter of homeowners say long-term financial planning was their reason for originating their HECM.

• Nearly half of homeowners considering a reverse mortgage are under age 70.

• About two-thirds of HECM borrowers want to extinguish monthly mortgage payments to make more money available for daily needs. Another way of saying this is that most homeowners have a traditional mortgage – which is paid in full when they close on their reverse mortgage.

• The percentage of workers aged 55 or older who are still employed is up to 40%. However, staying in the workforce can become increasingly difficult as people get older.  Proceeds from the HECM may provide provide tax-free funds and may allow older homeowners to retire

 

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Navigating the Retirement Labyrinth

misconRetirement 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 October 9, 2013 in Retirement, Seniors

 

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As Housing Market Thaws, Seniors Once Again Willing to Move

bigstock-Sold-Home-For-Sale-Sign-Home-1893969A surge in consumer confidence, rising home prices and sales, and faster selling times for properties on the market are all positive signs for the senior housing industry. It’s enough to make some market analysts believe seniors have finally reached the seventh stage of recovering from housing market-related grief: acceptance and hope.

“About two years ago the market was in shock, going through the stages of grief, aligned with the housing market,” says Michael Starke, owner and managing director of senior market feasibility firm PMD Advisory Services, LLC. “They were in [the] denial, bargaining [stages]. But now the majority have moved into a period of acceptance. There is a lot more willingness on the part of the senior to start looking at moving. They’re more confident about the ability to sell their home.”

Part of that includes adjusted expectations as to what their homes are worth, he adds, and based on more than 100 focus groups PMD Advisory has conducted on about 1,500 seniors around the country, many now feel they can sell and get a fair deal—even if it’s less than what they might have gotten four to five years ago.

“It’s a trend I’m excited about,” Starke said. “Seniors seem to be in a place of acceptance about their economic situation and their home values. The activity level is starting to move, and that’s a really good sign.”

Existing home sales rose in April to the highest level since November 2009, according to the National Association of Realtors, up 9.7% from the previous year.

Properties are also selling more quickly, on the market for a median 46 days in April compared to 62 days just one month prior—the fewest days since the NAR started monitoring it in May 2011.

The slow but steady recovery of the housing market is good news for the senior living industry, and Chris McGraw, senior research analyst at the National Investment Center (NIC) for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry, noted that existing home sales are a better indicator for the independent living market than are home prices.

“At one point in time, the relationship [between housing prices and occupancy] was very strong during 2006 and 2009 when pretty much all economic data was plummeting,” said McGraw. ”Since 2009, the relationship hasn’t been quite as strong, because when you’re looking at occupancy, there are a whole lot of factors going into play.”

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Chart credit: NIC—NIC MAP & Case-Shiller Home Price Indices 

Since bottoming out at 86.8% in the third quarter of 2009, independent living reached 89.3% as of the end of the first quarter of 2013, according to NIC data. Meanwhile, home prices increased 12.1% in April 2013 compared to the previous year—the most in more than seven years, according to CoreLogic.

However, independent living census is still below pre-recession peaks of 92.5%, reached in the fourth quarter of 2005 and again in the first quarter of 2007, and while there appears to be a correlation between occupancy and home prices on the recovery side, there’s more to the picture.

“Housing does play a piece, but it’s not the sole driver,” McGraw says of independent living occupancy.

The supply of new units is one piece of the puzzle, according to him, along with the performance of the stock market and its impact on seniors’ retirement portfolios, employment rates, consumer confidence, and the economy in general.

New construction for senior living stalled almost completely in the wake of the recession, but with a robust U.S. stock market spurred by low interest rates, capital is less constrained, say developers.

Another positive: consumer confidence reached a six-year high in May of 84.5 on the Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index.

“The surge in consumer confidence is exactly the type of economic jumpstart the Federal Reserve intended to result from its aggressive policies,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist at Surveys of Consumers at Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan, in a statement.

But there are caveats, including unemployment rates hovering at 7.6% through May 2013 and a recent report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve finding that household wealth still lags behind pre-recession levels when factoring in inflation.

“It will take actual and repeated income increases,” Curtain said, “rather than simply a renewed optimistic outlook for consumers to permanently revise their income expectations upward.”

 

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