Using Reverse Mortgage to Supplement Income

At some point when I'm gone (currently 78), my wife (75) will need additional income to live on. Her options appear to be sell our current home and move into something smaller or take out a reverse mortgage and
live off the proceeds of that. My current income consists of pension - 35000, social security - 15000 , investments - 20000 and her social security - 10000.for a total of 80000. After my death, her income will be investments - 20000 and social security - 15000 for a total of $35000. I estimate that her expenses living in the current house will be about 50000. The house is worth about 600,000.
A reverse mortgage calculator for the new HECM "Saver" Reverse Mortgage (much lower origination fee than original HECM) in affect on Oct 4, 2010 shows that today I could take a lump sum of about $350000 or take monthly payments of $2500 for as long as my wife or I lived in the house. If monthly payments are taken, the interest on the loan amount can go up 2% a year to a maximum of 8%. The interest is not payable now but is added to the loan balance. If a lump sum is taken, the interest rate is fixed at the current rate and cannot be increased. Investing $350000 in high quality dividend paying stocks at 3-4% would appear to take care of the difference between my wife's estimated future income and expenses. Using the additional income available now would be used to make improvements to the house. Of course when interest rates go up, I would move some of that 350000 into laddered CD's. Interest earned from the investment would be taxable but monthly payments from the reverse mortgage are not taxable.
One alternative to the above approach is to do nothing at this time. When I die, let my wife and kids figure out the best approach to take at that time. The problem is what will the interest rates be at the time of my death? Not knowable at this time. However, when I run the above numbers through the HECM 1.51 program http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hecm/hecminst.cfm for calculating the reverse mortgage, it appears that the amount available decreases as interest rates go up. For example, If I use 8% as the rate of interest instead of the default 5% in the HECM calculator, the amount available in a lump sum and/or monthly payment decreases by 35 to 45 %. So If I do nothing now and rates are 7-8% when I die, my wife will have a lot less available to her then she would have if I took the reverse mortgage now. Am I doing that right?
I'd appreciate any comments on any of the above and please let me know of any errors in my thinking.
TIA
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On 11/1/10 8:23 PM, Njoracle wrote: (snipped - getting a reverse mortgage?)

I dislike the idea of a reverse mortgage. I'd say that at your wife's and your age, a downsize or move to a rental will make your lives easier. Is she comfortable with all the maintenance issues surrounding a house? Instead of the numbers you show, why not consider a downsize to a house worth $300,000? This would free up $275K or so. Put into an immediate annuity, it would get her $24,000/yr, far more than you could get on the $350,000 and avoid the snowballing interest cost. Joe
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It would also reduce operating expenses for the house, reducing the pressure for income. Financially, downsizing is a double win for retirees, more money in the bank, less going out. -- Doug
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I would think that, for a single retired person, a big house is more of a trouble than a pleasure.
i
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The reverse mortgage is one of those very creative ideas the banks and others in the financial industry came up with in recent times -- you know, sort of like mortgage-backed securities.
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On Mon, 1 Nov 2010 19:10:20 CST, JoeTaxpayer

Watch out Joe, you are beginning to sound like me. Seriously, well said.
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On Nov 2, 10:19am, "HW \"Skip\" Weldon"

There is another side to the advice to downsize in retirement. A lot of people would like to retain their larger homes and ample living space during retirement years. I would not want to move into a smaller house, if for no other reason than there would be not be room to put my "collections," -- all kinds of books, papers, CD's, DVD's, not to speak of sports equipment, stereos, computer accessories, etc. Without those things, increased cash flow in old age might be accompanied by emotional trauma and the steady decline often seen in retired people. Nowadays seniors want a more active retirement.
In olden times it was not unusual for people to live in the same house from the day they were born until the day they died. That is not common today, but perhaps an important goal of financial planning should be to accumulate enough money by the time of retirement so that downsizing would not be mandatory and it would be possible to continue with the same satisfying life style.
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Technology can help this. On a rather inexpensive 5 inch tablet, such as the 500 gigabyte ones made by Archos, you can fit an essentially infinite number of electronic books, papers, CD's, and DVD videos. You can output thru a stereo or big TV, but will find it surprisingly satisfying (maybe preferable) to view it handheld or listen while in your pocket. Furthermore it can hold a lifetime of photos and home movies, and also surf the internet.
I did a drastic retirement downsize and jettisoned about 80% of lifetime debris - it was a rather refreshing triage where you define what is important in your life. In my case it was a constructive move to a happier place once work constraints were thrown off. I guess many more "get used to the smell in the outhouse" and become complacent with what they're familiar with and who they know. For both those stay- at-home types and the wandering souls, I do agree that a physically active retirement is needed - the worst thing for your health is to take advantage of "relaxing time" and take an expressway to diabetes2 or whatever.
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Technology should help with the storage problem, but there are still those big TV screens, stereo speakers, computers, monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, etc. And I didn't even mention all the various equipment my wife has around the house for her hobbies, which is more than mine. Then, there is the question of pets, which are important for many people. My two dogs simply would not tolerate less space, and my wife and I would give up those dogs and move into a "no pets allowed" apartment or condo when Hell freezes over.
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Don wrote:

Exactly my position.
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Maybe it is available somewhere, I don't know, but if not, somebody should run the numbers comparing the cost of a reverse mortgage with that of a home equity loan or line of credit, taking into consideration the "hidden" advantages and disadvantages of each. My guess is that the reverse mortgage would actually correspond to a loan at a very high interest rate.
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The primary market for reverse mortgages is retired folks with limited incomes. These are exactly the same people who would probably *not* be able to qualify for a substantial home equity loan or line of credit. They simply don't have the income available to make the payments.

No, a reverse mortgage is *not* a loan, in the sense that you never have to repay it during your lifetime, while you are living in the house. You won't care about your finances after you are dead, if you don't have a need to provide a payoff to any heirs. As the saying goes "You can't take it with you".
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That is true in many cases, but often not. A lot of people think of leaving an inheritance to the kids as something of high priority. Of course, if you have no relatives to be heirs, it is a moot point. But then again a lot of people would like to leave substantial money to their favorite charity, church, school, etc. Then, there is still another more selfish motive: Some people like to use the eventual promise of an inheritance, or the threat of not getting one, as an incentive to keep the children in touch and coming around to visit a lot and acting nice.
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The more I think this over, the more it seems OK to me. With your realism and preferences, taking in the curent low rates to make them work in your favor, and (I think) reducing taxes, I don't see why not, if the loan can be repaid at any time without penalty should you or your wife decide later to move to an assisted living community to benefit from social activity.
I hesitate to differ with Joe and Skip, and I haven't studied details on reverse mortgages (possibly the ultimate ATM). On principle, I hate to borrow money because it pays a spread to the bank, but in this instance you describe, it seems like tax consequences may partially compensate for that spread, and when/if rates go higher, you might win on that as well.
Taking a lump sum would have worked very well 18 months ago, as stock market appreciation has been ~20%, or 6 months ago ~10%. Is it possible to do 50-50 lump sum and monthly? The rates should be much lower than a personal unsecured loan.
I hope I'm not wrong in thinking that a reverse mortgage does allow you to realize utility from your equity in your home, without moving out. The interest and consumption expenses are to your estate.
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dapperdobbs wrote:

The loan balance (principal + accumulated interest + PMI payments) must be repaid if you sell your house for whatever reason. The balance due is never more than the value of the house at the time of closing. That's what the PMI is for.

That is correct.
The interest and consumption expenses are to your estate.

Correct but never more than the appraised value of the house at the time of closing of the reverse mortgage.
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On 11/3/10 12:11 PM, Njoracle wrote:

Fair enough. You mentioned investments producing $20K/yr. Given that at your wife's current age an immediate annuity would give a fixed 8%, is the sale of that asset able to produce more (a lot more?) than the $20K? Your interest in the reverse mortgage implies a willingness to give up assets in return for some income. This may be a way to do just that while preserving the house completely. Please understand, I'm not judging the decision to keep the house, just trying to offer my alternatives. This one does just that.
I am 48, in a house with a 12yr old, and rooms we rarely use (living room, dining room) and an eye on the downsize, by 1/3 to 1/2. Joe
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JoeTaxpayer wrote:

Probably about $30K /yr. I wasn't anxious to consider that because there would be nothing left for the heirs when she dies.
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An annuity would be on the wrong side of current rates. Should your estate be taxable, the accumulated debt reduces it. (Thanks for the clarifications about total amounts of debt and PMI.)
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Why would somebody in their late 70s or greater need to leave anything to their heirs?
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Perhaps it is a matter of personal choice, or even love.
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