Reverse mortgage can be valuable retirement tools, but they need to be used responsibly. Like many other financial products, the effectiveness of reverse mortgages is only as good as the judgement of the borrowers who use them.
For homeowners age 62 and older, a reverse mortgage can provide an additional source of cash flow to supplement retirement savings. With a reverse mortgage, borrowers receive proceeds from the lender in the form of their home equity.
These funds are considered loan advances, not income. Because of this, they are not subject to state or federal income tax. These loan proceeds can be used to meet any expenses a borrower might have, such as paying for medical care, in-home long term care, or making home renovations to better accommodate aging needs.
It is completely up the borrowers for how they want to spend their reverse mortgage loan proceeds. Be advised that although an infusion of funds can help support a comfortable retirement, retirees should be careful with how they use their home equity.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using a reverse mortgage to supplement your retirement income:
Mistake #1 – Wasting loan proceeds on non-essential purchases
Reverse mortgage loan proceeds can be used to meet a variety of spending needs in retirement. Whether that means footing the bill for outstanding medical expenses, or simply increasing your monthly cash flow, there is no restriction on how borrowers choose to spend their loan proceeds.
It’s important, however, that borrowers spend their loan proceeds wisely. Home equity shouldn’t be used to go on a spending spree, or to make impulse purchases that aren’t practical for your retirement plans.
Think twice before throwing down on that expensive vacation or new sports car. If your personal savings fall short of covering such lavish expenses, take it as a sign that your home equity is better spent on more essential items or activities.
If you spend down your home equity too quickly, you may also put yourself at higher risk of running into financial troubles later down the road.
Mistake #2 – Failing to pay property taxes and insurance
Reverse mortgage borrowers are responsible for the ongoing payment of their property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. Although a reverse mortgage works differently than a conventional mortgage loan, both require borrowers to maintain timely payment of their property taxes and insurance.
A failure to continue paying these mandatory obligations will trigger the reverse mortgage to become due and payable, thus requiring the loan balance to be repaid.
In the past, some borrowers burned through all of their savings and spent down all of their reverse mortgage loan proceeds, leaving little left over to afford their property taxes and insurance payments, causing the reverse mortgage loan balance to become due and payable.
Thanks to recent regulations that took effect over the last year, reverse mortgage lenders now conduct a financial assessment of every loan applicant to ensure they are able to successfully tap into their home equity, while still being able to afford paying the taxes and insurance associated with their properties.
Depending on your financial standing, you might be required to “set aside” the money to pay for these expenses through a “LESA” or Life Expectancy Set Aside. Ask us for details.
Mistake #3 – Not telling family members about your reverse mortgage
Getting a reverse mortgage, like many financial decisions, is a decision that should not be made without thoughtful consideration.
While it is important for retirees to do their research on reverse mortgages to be sure this is a product that’s right for them, it is equally important that they include family members into their plans.
A common mistake reverse mortgage borrowers make is when they don’t tell their loved ones about their loan. Since the reverse mortgage loan balance becomes due after the last surviving borrower dies, it can be an unpleasant surprise for adult children when they receive a letter in the mail telling them that their parents’ reverse mortgage requires repayment.
The surprise can be even more unpleasant if the borrower’s heirs lived in the house with them and then find out that they must settle the loan balance following the death of their parents.
By simply having a conversation with loved ones about your plans to get a reverse mortgage, borrowers can easily avoid any misunderstandings and make the proper arrangements for repaying the loan balance when the time comes.
Before getting a reverse mortgage, do your research to find out if this financial product is a good fit for your particular retirement plans. If you’d like to learn more about reverse mortgages, contact us today for more information.
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