When we think of retirement, we think of having our homes paid off, maybe a bit of fishing, travel and time with grandparents. Unfortunately, for a growing number of retirees who are reaching their elder years, homelessness is a very real fear. Are we on the verge of a new trend of retired and homeless?
We know that millions of Americans face housing trouble. What many may not know is the elderly are struggling to make mortgage payments. Much of this stems from bad loans prior to the 2008 mortgage meltdown which was a big factor in the recession.
A full thirty percent of homeowners 65 and older, which equates to around 6.5 million Americans, were still making mortgage payments in 2013, compared to 22 percent in 2011. This, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, also highlights the median mortgage held by seniors that’s more than doubled since 2001. Today, it’s at $88,000 compared to $43,400 in 2001.
It gets worse; the number of Americans 75 and older still paying off home loans rose to 21 percent in 2011 from just 8 percent a decade before, according to Federal Reserve statistics.
Because home values were increasing, which meant easier mortgage terms and lower rates, many older Americans refinanced their loans or leveraged their homes as collateral to get cash. When 2008 rolled around, many found themselves owing more than the home’s value. A 2012 study by the AARP found that 1.5 million Americans 50 and older lost their homes between 2007 and 2011.
Many wondered how retirees could qualify for new mortgages or refinances. With many of the lending restrictions loosened, mortgage lenders were able to repackage dubious mortgage as securities to be bought up by investors. This, naturally, drove the housing prices up as pressure on lenders was increasing. They needed more mortgages to keep the wheels rolling. When it crashed, elderly Americans with fixed incomes were left in the cold.
Some have turned to reverse mortgages, which may or may not be the right solution for their needs. In recent years, many clients and their families have sought legal guidance on whether or not these were the solution that would right the wrongs. The reality is everyone’s needs are different. In some instances, they are ideal. In others, it could lead to future problems. In recent years, the government, and specifically CFPB, has focused on lenders involved with reverse mortgages. That’s helped some, but for others, their situations are dire and feel as though it’s the only solution.
We encourage any seniors or elderly to speak with a qualified estate planning attorney. This will allow them to get a clear picture on what these mortgages can and cannot do and what it means for them long term. Not only that, but there may be other solutions they’re unaware of. Many are concerned about asset protection. That’s understandable.
To learn more about your options or to protect your assets, contact our offices today. We stand ready to help you navigate the uncertain financial dilemmas so that you can get back to the business of enjoying your retirement.