More older Americans buried by housing debt
By: The Associated Press June 2, 2015 – NY Daily Record –
WASHINGTON — Al and Saundra Karp have found an unconventional way to raise money and help save their Miami-area home from foreclosure: They’re lining up gigs for their family jazz band.
They enjoy performing. But it isn’t exactly how Al, an 86-year-old Korean War vet, or Saundra, 76, had expected to spend their retirement.
Of all the financial threats facing Americans of retirement age — outliving savings, falling for scams, paying for long-term care — housing isn’t supposed to be one. But after a home-price collapse, the worst recession since the 1930s and some calamitous decisions to turn homes into cash machines, millions of them are straining to make house payments.
The consequences can be severe. Retirees who use retirement money to pay housing costs can face disaster if their health deteriorates or their savings run short. They’re more likely to need help from the government, charities or their children. Or they must keep working deep into retirement.
“It’s a big problem coming off the housing bubble,” says Cary Sternberg, who advises seniors on housing issues in The Villages, a Florida retirement community. “A growing number of seniors are struggling with what to do about their home and their mortgage and their retirement.”
The baby boom generation was already facing a retirement crunch: Over the past two decades, employers have largely eliminated traditional pensions, forcing workers to manage their retirement savings. Many boomers didn’t save enough, invested badly or raided their retirement accounts.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans says 30 percent of homeowners 65 and older (6.5 million people) were paying a mortgage in 2013, up from 22 percent in 2001. Federal Reserve numbers show the share of people 75 and older carrying home loans jumped from 8 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2011.
What’s more, the median mortgage held by Americans 65 and older has more than doubled since 2001 — to $88,000 from $43,400, the financial protection bureau says.
In markets hit hardest by the housing bust, a substantial share of older Americans are stuck with mortgages that exceed their home’s value. In Atlanta, it’s 23 percent of homeowners 50 and older, according to the real-estate research firm Zillow. In Las Vegas, it’s 26 percent.
In the worst cases, hundreds of thousands of older Americans have lost homes to foreclosure. A 2012 study by the AARP found that 1.5 million Americans 50 and older lost homes between 2007 and 2011.
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