How to Use a Reverse Mortgage to Your Advantage

One of the most common fears that people harbor as they near retirement age is that they will not have enough money to maintain their lifestyle after they stop working. With the volatility of the stock market and the uncertainty of other investments, it’s easy to understand why some workers are concerned that they won’t recoup recent losses before they are ready to retire.

If this sounds like you, the best option you have is to step back and review the whole retirement picture. That means going far beyond the performance of a particular mutual fund or other investment instruments and thinking about things from a more philosophical perspective.

The money you live on after retirement is the reversal of all the saving and investing you’ve been doing since you started working. Everyone understands that, but sometimes we get a narrow view of just what defines an investment at that point in our lives.

It’s easy to think that 401(k) accounts, IRA’s, bonds, or other cash investments are the only factor in our post-retirement income. But the fact is that anything we own could potentially represent a source of money for us.

That doesn’t mean that on your 62nd birthday you empty the house and have a massive yard sale, financing your trip to Ireland with heirloom jewelry. But it does mean that a high-dollar item that has held its value can be liquidated when you no longer want or need it, and that money can help cover your retirement.

What’s the single biggest item that most of us purchase? Typically, it’s our home. We pour money into a mortgage for as long as 30 years, then hold on to it in non-liquid form until we pass it on to our heirs.

This doesn’t mean you stick a ‘for sale’ sign in the front yard and move into some tiny cottage. Quite the opposite. You can retrieve some of the money you’ve invested in your home by taking a reverse mortgage.

Before you jump to conclusions about spending your kids’ inheritance or selling yourself out of your home, spend a little time learning more about reverse mortgages.

Reverse mortgages are a great tool to re-capture some of the value of your home instead of leaving it tied up. It allows you to avoid the old conundrum often associated with aging farmers. The agriculture world says that you live poor and die rich because you invest money into hundreds of acres of land, expensive structures and equipment, and the farmhouse itself, but never get any of that money back. After you die, the farm may sell for a shocking amount of money–none of which goes to you.

It’s true for homeowners, too. You build or buy a home that’s suitable to raise several kids, entertain friends, and host grandchildren for long summer weekends. You make repairs, increase energy efficiency, and update styles to keep a modern look. Then one day you’re gone, and the house is sold off to the benefit of your heirs.

That’s not to say we necessarily begrudge our children all the money that we have. Most parents are very happy to know that they can pass along a financial windfall. But it makes no sense to have a tidy sum going to the kids and grandkids someday when you’re struggling to pay the gas bill in that large house you built for family and friends.

Getting a reverse mortgage can help you avoid some potentially unpleasant decisions, too. Some people make bad choices with their retirement dollars. Maybe you have. And now that you’re running out of time to make up for it, it’s tough to swallow that you are going to lag behind on standard of living compared to co-workers who get their gold watch the same day you do.

Of course, one of the worst things you can do in life is to put all your attention into keeping up with the Joneses. What works for them may not be the route you want to go. But if you do find it uncomfortable to think that you haven’t made as much for your retirement as others have, it’s at least a beneficial yardstick to decide what to do next.

You can avoid the discomfort of this situation by looking at a reverse mortgage. It can be more beneficial at tax time, provide less worry for you, and insulate your money from some of the crazy things that can happen to investments.