Housing debt is affecting the retirement plans of a growing number of seniors. Paying off a home mortgage prior to retirement has traditionally been a key part of many people’s plan for their golden years, but today many seniors find themselves still in debt in their sixties and seventies.
According to the Office for Older Americans, part of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 2013 there were 6.5 million seniors paying a mortgage, or 30 percent of all seniors. That is an increase from 22 percent in 2001. Data from the Federal Reserve show that 21 percent of people age 75 and older were carrying home loans in 2011, up from 8 percent in 2001.
Along with the number of seniors with housing debt, the average debt amount is also growing. In fact, according to the financial protection bureau, since 2001 the average debt has more than doubled for people age 65 and older, from $43,400 to $88,000.
The effects of the Great Recession and accompanying collapse of the housing market are still being felt, and many older homeowners are still “underwater” on their homes, owing more than the home’s value, especially in the cities hardest hit by the housing bust.
Housing debt leaves seniors in a difficult situation: what was supposed to be a nest egg can actually hinder their retirement plans. There are no easy solutions, but seniors are addressing the issue in various ways, such as by working in retirement or downsizing their home and lifestyle.
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