Ask Paul: What do you really think about reverse mortgages?


Published on

Dear Paul,

I have much respect for your articles in Money and have just read your response to the couple who are concerned about managing their SMSF as they age. Although it doesn't apply to me, it's an interesting read. 

On finishing the article, another one popped up on my computer screen. It suggests that there is a way for homeowners to sell part of the equity in their home to supplement their dwindling retirement funds. My question about this article, which has alarmed me, is this: do you support this idea? Or am I reading it incorrectly?

ask paul clitheroe reverse mortgages good or bad

Some time ago I'm sure I read an article in Money about retirees taking a loan against their home where the interest accrues and is taken from the proceeds of the home when it is eventually sold.

I seem to remember you were not keen on the idea. It brought to mind a couple I knew who had taken a loan on the home with the interest-only option, and used the money to take the family to Disneyland! I was horrified with what they did. 

This current selling of equity in the home sounds just as horrendous as the previous plan for getting a loan. - Carla

Interesting question, Carla. Thanks for your kind words. I try my best to answer in a clear, consistent and unbiased manner, but here you have got me. You have picked up on my love/hate relationship with reverse mortgages, or home equity-style loans.

Where I hate them is "reverse compound interest", meaning your loan has interest added and it is taken from your estate.

I also hate them when people grab large loans and use them to purchase lifestyle items that add little value to a long life.

But I love them when I see older people with a valuable home taking, say, $1000 or $2000 a month to simply live a much better life.

Against a big city home in particular, $12,000 or even $24,000 a year is not likely to be a huge deal but, heck, that money can make their life much better while they live in their home.

I like this to be discussed in a family conference to ensure the kids understand what is happening. Incidentally, if the kids object to their parents living a better life in favour of a bigger inheritance, that also gets me really cranky.

I see many kids banding together to help mum and dad and preserve the family home, but that is a family decision.

Also, I always want the parents to seek independent legal advice before proceeding.

So, yes, done well at a later stage in life, I think these schemes can be brilliant. Done badly, they can be a disaster.

If later in life Vick and I were short of cash, we'd take out a small regular amount through one of these schemes in a flash!

Get stories like this in our newsletters.

Related Stories

Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Paul Dwyer
November 25, 2020 10.40pm

I would like to thank Paul for his honesty. When older Australians are fully informed about equity release, their concerns about age pension eligibility and future inheritance are quickly lowered.

It would be great to give examples of appropriate use and how future equity is forecast, so that reassurance can be given for a home loan that guarantees more consumer protections than any other home loan - a reverse mortgage

Robert Thie
November 26, 2020 2.34pm

Really? If living standard was the concern, why not remove the tax component from the sale of the family home.

Any loan can be called in, read the fine print. Would not happen they say. Really?

The aim of the game is to get your ( assets ) money in Their pocket.

They are very good at the game, because They make the rules!