Reverse mortgages are increasing in popularity as a way to turn home equity into a liquid asset. Before you jump on a reverse mortgage, you need to understand the impact it can have on government benefits.
Reverse Mortgages and Government Benefits
The beauty of home ownership is found in the value of time. The longer you own a home, the more valuable it becomes to you as an asset. On one hand, you are paying off the mortgage over time, which is increasing the equity you have in your property. On the other, real estate tends to appreciate over time. This double whammy is what makes home ownership so attractive.
As your grow older and retire, converting your home equity into usable cash becomes an issue. Reverse mortgages are touted as a solution. A reverse mortgage is essentially a loan against your equity that does not need to be repaid until an event happens, usually the sale of the home. Essentially, you have reversed the process of a traditional mortgage. The lender is now giving you money in exchange for a piece of your home equity. You can get payments in lump sums, monthly or through credit lines depending upon the particular package you go with. As time passes, the equity in your home is reduced, but you have a solid and predictable monthly revenue source.
In recent years, the government has tried to find methods for reducing the amount of benefits they pay out to citizens. One of the factors they like to use is the asset value you hold. If you have a certain amount of assets, your benefits are reduced or terminated because they government takes the position you do not need them. An analysis of government benefits is beyond the scope of this article, but reverse mortgages have an impact.
Generally, taking a reverse mortgage on your home will not affect Medicare or social security benefits. This is true, however, only so long as you spend the full amount you receive each month. The magic number in this equation is $2,000 for single homeowners and $3,000 for couples. The government is always playing with benefit issues, so make sure you get up to date information on the situation. You want to understand what you are getting into, particularly if you are heavily reliant on Medicare for the payment of medical bills.
In general, reverse mortgages do not impact most government benefits. That being said, make sure to get an informed opinion on exactly what will happen before you agree to a reverse mortgage.