Retirement Wizardry: Where the Smart Money Meets Reverse Mortgage Magic

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As 10,000 baby boomers a day turn 65 (a phenomenon that began in 2011 and continues through 2029), retirement savings — or the lack thereof — continues to be grist for financial columnists nationwide. And while writers tout the importance of scrupulous saving — this chart shows the median net worth of a householder aged 65-69 to be just under $200,000 — what these actuarial tables fail to take into account is the noteworthy John Lennon lyric: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Someone still shy of retirement age may have had every intention of going grandly into a well-cushioned old age, saving and investing diligently — and been wiped out by a health crisis not covered by insurance, an economic downturn, or an act of nature (e.g., fire, flood, tornado).

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 1.49.25 PMYou probably know at least one person who fits this profile, if not half a dozen. They’ve saved sincerely, and life intervened. With Social Security becoming benefit negative by 2020, and more seniors being urged to wait until age 70 to apply for it, the need for the reverse mortgage option is growing.

Yet many older Americans are still reluctant to tap their home equity. Lack of understanding typically underpins such reticence. Granted, the HECM is complex. But many older adults may need to take a step back initially, to assess what aging in place means, whether they are best suited to doing so, and how to begin readying their lives and home for the next life stage.

The rest of this post directly addresses your prospects. You are welcome to post it on your own reverse mortgage website or blog, or use the material in emails and presentations, to help open the reverse mortgage conversation.

Aging in Place with Aplomb

For people who are healthy and want to remain in their own home as they grow older, a reverse mortgage can help make this a reality. The first step is determining whether aging in place is in your best interest.

Here are 7 guidelines a homeowner can use to decide whether they want to age in place, and if so, whether to explore a reverse mortgage. Aging in place can serve you well if:

  1. You have sufficient equity in your home to qualify for a reverse mortgage, also known as a HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage);
  2. Your health is generally good, and you’re mobile;
  3. You have a network of local family, friends, and neighbors you can rely on;
  4. You drive — or public transportation is readily accessible;
  5. You live in a safe neighborhood;
  6. Your home can be modified to address changing needs;
  7. You’re outgoing, well connected, and able to reach out for social support.

A House That Adapts to Your Needs

Home modification is important, even — especially — if you’re healthy and active now. Our bodies and needs change over time. Someone who is spry in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s may be glad their house “ages with them” as they grow older.

A few simple home modifications can make a big difference. These features, elements of what’s known as “universal design,” can affordably retrofit your home for greater safety and peace of mind:

  • Grab bars, especially in the shower and bathtub;
  • Hand rails. People can slip at any age and take a tumble; as we age, this can result in a broken hip or worse;
  • Ramps. They can also be installed temporarily if someone needs to use a wheelchair for a short time, such as when recovering from surgery;
  • Door widening to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, and four-pronged canes;
  • Low thresholds to avoid tripping, and to make it easier to navigate with assistive devices (walkers, canes, etc.);
  • Kitchen and bathroom modifications to make cabinets easier to reach, floors less slippery.

Your Purse-onal PERS 

You may be familiar with personal emergency response systems (PERS), which are usually sold as a pendant, bracelet or watch you can wear to summon help in an emergency. Now there’s a PERS equivalent for your finances.

SilverBills, a startup founded by an attorney and CPA whose mission is to help people age with dignity and security, makes it easy to pay bills accurately and on time. The digital service deducts payments from your existing bank account or from an escrow account that SilverBills establishes for you with an FDIC-insured bank; they do not have access to your bank account. You also have a dedicated, specially trained customer support representative — a skilled “business assistant” to help ensure you’re protected from financial fraud.

Do You Believe In Magic?

Fans of the Harry Potter books may not realize that Hogwarts’ headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, also knew something about smart retirement planning. (That’s what happens when you live to be 150.)

For those of us with somewhat shorter potential lifespans, Dumbledore says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Even saving $25 a week at 5-percent compound daily interest will grow to $41,302 in 20 years’ time, a nice adjunct to your HECM loan.

Take heart (and inspiration) from an extraordinary 18-year-old, who saved $85,000 working part-time jobs since age eight — while going to school and volunteering at a retirement home, where she started a Cyber Seniors program to help residents learn technology.

So save what you can, be smart about managing your finances, and keep your wand handy. With equity in your home and a positive aging in place profile, the HECM option can transform money concerns into real retirement magic.

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What are your thoughts? Please leave your input in the Comments section below, and share this post on social media using the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn icons at the top of this page. Thank you!

Late-Blooming Genius: Gut Truth About the “Now” Old Age

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It’s a great time to grow old: the discovery of telomerase, the enzyme that replenishes the DNA on our telomeres (the tiny “shoelace caps” that shorten with age), is a massive step forward for longevity. And nonagenarians, no longer a novelty, are blazing trails in business and technology. Like 94-year-old physicist John Goodenough, who recently filed a patent for a new kind of battery that may revolutionize electric cars and end our dependence on fossil fuel.

Yet despite these breakthroughs, we’re far from creating a nation of brilliant centenarians. Why? Take a look at how we live, says Deepak Chopra, M.D. Our telomeres are at high risk if we:

  • Are exposed to severe life stress

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    How old are your DNA telomeres?
  • Have a history of being treated for anxiety or depression
  • Lack social support from friends and family
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle with no regular exercise
  • Suffer from chronic insomnia, or sleep fewer than 7 hours a night
  • Consume a diet high in fat, processed foods and sugar, without sufficient fiber and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Are exposed to cigarette smoke, pesticides, and other chemical toxins.

While seniors in their eighties and beyond may be exempt from some aspects of this list, it describes many Boomers, the oldest of whom are now past 70, to a “T”. And that doesn’t bode well for a healthy old age.

What we can learn from indigenous cultures

Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist, psychologist, and shaman, studied indigenous cultures in the Amazon and Andes for more than thirty years. To his surprise, he found zero cancer, zero heart disease, and zero dementia. What he discovered goes hand-in-glove with telomere research.

Seniors (or anyone, of any age) can “grow a new body using ancient healing secrets,” says Villoldo. “Modern medicine does not look after our health; it looks after our disease. If you live to be 85 today, 50 percent of the population will have diagnosable Alzheimer’s: a terrifying thought when you realize that 150 years ago, Dr. Alzheimer hadn’t even been born! A senior cannot explore higher consciousness, or even feel good about themselves, if they have Alzheimer’s disease.”

How can we prevent these extraordinary “killers of civilization”, so our health span equals our lifespan? In two primary ways, says Villoldo:

1)   Detoxify. We’ve been exposed to huge amounts of toxins in the last century: heavy metals such as mercury (in fish, dental fillings, and pollution generated from coal burning in China); lead plumbing, aluminum cookware, pesticides. Sugar is equivalent to a recreational drug; it’s eight times as addictive as cocaine. A century ago, we consumed five pounds of sugar per person per year; today, each of us eats 195 pounds of sugar a year! Sugar switches off the longevity gene in our cells. As we detoxify, we begin to trigger the natural production of stem cells in the body.

2)   Give the body what it needs. Omega 3 fatty acids and neuro-nutrients (superfoods) trigger the production of stem cells in your brain, says Villoldo. “You need to be able to feed your higher brain. The lower, limbic brain lives in scarcity and greed, is not able to forgive because of resentment and rage: this brain feeds on sugars. To get to the higher states of consciousness where you can dream your world into being with beauty and grace, you need to turn on the higher order neural networks, which feed on good fats: coconut oil, avocado oil. Once you engage it fully, the brain fog goes away.”

The plant medicines he recommends:

  • Curcumin (found in the spice turmeric)
  • Resveratrol (found in the skin of grapes)
  • Sulforaphane (a compound found in cruciferous vegetables, e.g., broccoli and cabbage)

All three are becoming popular dietary supplements. “In the laboratory, we found these plants switched on more than 200 longevity genes inside the cells, and switched off more than 500 genes that create disease: breast cancer, heart disease, inflammation.”

Surely you jest!

Ed Park, M.D., M.P.H., would no doubt agree with Villoldo’s assessment. Credentialed from Harvard and Columbia, Park didn’t think much about aging, or question prevailing doctrine, until his father was diagnosed with brain cancer when Park was 38. At that moment, he began studying telomeres. As the 19th patient and the first doctor to begin using a telomerase activator, his mission is to “convey a new, unified theory of aging and disease based on telomeres and stem cells.”

Yet despite his faith in telomerase, he champions the importance of gut-level healing. “If exercise and diet are the king and queen, the immune system is maybe the jester!” he says.

His 5-point prescription for increasing telomerase activity without supplementation:

1)   Practice peace, love and understanding

2)   Focus the mind on your breath: this puts you in the moment and relaxes you

3)   Laughter: Dr. Park ran into an old flame he hadn’t seen in 25 years, and she “hadn’t aged a day. She laughed at the end of every sentence,” he says. Similarly, a 112-year-old lady he had the pleasure of meeting was telling dirty jokes and cracking people up!

4)   Gratitude: being able to go with the flow and make something positive out of whatever happens

5)   Sleep! Deep sleep, for at least 8 hours a night, allows the body to repair itself. It’s a myth, he says, that older people need less sleep; the exact opposite is often true.

Exceptions that become the new norm

Ninety-year-old Louise Hay, a mentor of mine for 30 years, writes, “I have come to learn that premature aging begins in your mind. A San Francisco medical school discovered that the way we age is not determined by genes, but by something called the aging set point — a biological clock that exists in our minds. This mechanism actually monitors when and how we begin to age by how we think. The set point, or aging clock, is regulated in large part by one important factor: our attitudes toward growing old.

“For instance, if you believe 35 is middle-aged, this belief triggers biological changes in your body that cause it to accelerate the aging process when you reach 35. Isn’t it fascinating! Somewhere, somehow, we decide what is ‘middle age’ and what is ‘old age.’ I have this image in my mind that I am going to live to 96 and still be active, so it’s very important that I keep myself healthy.”

If one or more of your reverse mortgage clients is envisioning an encore career well beyond what used to be “retirement age,” the new wisdom about gut health, telomeres and mindset may help you support their evolving perspective. An 82-year-old restaurateur and techno DJ, for instance, is having a blast. One young club patron enthuses, “She’s got this energy that goes beyond age, that can equal any person here.” Sumiko Iwamuro has been running her restaurant for 60 years, but only started DJ’ing in her 70s — after a year of training.

reverse mortgage newsWhat are your thoughts on creating a health span to equal our lifespan? Please leave your input in the Comments section below, and share this post on social media using the Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn icons at the top of this page. Thank you!

What Matters Most

A 70-Year Old’s View


Can you imagine us, years from today, sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be seventy…

-Lyrics from Old Friends by Simon & Garfunkel-

How times change. Simon and Garfunkel recorded these lyrics nearly half a century ago (1968). And while today, far fewer people may be sitting forlornly on park benches at age 70, reaching this milestone can still feel “terribly strange” — and sound a wake-up call for those of us yet to reach it.

I met a lovely, lively almost 71-year-old artist at the library the other day. Our hour-long conversation ranged across topics from where we’ve both lived (California and back East), to second careers, to our respective fathers’ adoption of computers and the Internet late in life, to how she perceives time now that she’s 70. It was like a crash course in Becoming Ripe.

Although Nina (pronounced with a long “i”) is in good health, teaches art part-time and thrives on seeing her two-year-old and four-year-old grandkids blossom, her words when we discussed books surprised me. She said, “I only want to read the classics now that time is short.” While I admired her dedication to great literature, I was perplexed by the latter part of her statement.

The Possible vs. The Practical

reverse mortgage news“You could live another 25 years!” I exclaimed, expounding on the Third Age that today’s older generation enjoys. And while she acknowledged this as a possibility, she then told me that both her parents had dementia — her mother with early onset at just 59 — and died by their mid-seventies. I asked whether she’d read Still Alice, a fictional account of EOAD (Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease) or watched the movie, but she said no, it hit too close to home. “I might only have four or five good years left,” she quipped. Her words carried a sobering subtext.

This potential reality brought me up short. How much time do we squander, thinking it’s boundless — especially in an era of relentless texting? Certainly most of us have a different perspective by midlife than we did in our twenties, when we’re only looking ahead. If you’re a reverse mortgage professional on the far side of 50, do you have a sense of finitude? If so, imagine how much more pronounced it is for your clients in their seventies, eighties, or nineties.

Yet acceptance of this end game can also laser-focus our purpose and actions. Nina loves her husband, her children and grandchildren, her art classes, her friends, and seemingly everything else about her life now. With minimal reading time available, she chooses to focus on what will enrich her mind and her life. Our brief connection was a clarifying moment for me, as bracing as a deep dive into winter surf.

I came away from our conversation feeling I’d been gifted with a peek into my future. Think about how you spend your time. If some area of your life is not fulfilling, now is an excellent time to change it. You may have decades of life ahead. Why waste any of this precious time on activities that don’t nourish your heart and soul?