Although the housing bubble decimated home values, housing equity is still an important part of boomers’ portfolios. The Center for Retirement Research found that after disregarding Social Security and income from defined benefit plans, home equity makes up 30 percent of assets for clients in the top third of the income distribution.
In a fact sheet released earlier this month, the Center shows how a reverse mortgage affects the share of Americans at risk of a lower standard of living in retirement. By not opting for a reverse mortgage, the percentage of those at risk increased 10 percentage points to 61 percent last year. High-income households saw a similar increase; the percentage of those families at risk rose from 42 percent to 52 percent.
Despite the increased risk, only 2 percent of those eligible for a reverse mortgage chose one. The Center predicts that isn’t likely to change.
“Protecting home equity may be a luxury that future retirees can ill afford as Social Security replaces a smaller share of pre-retirement incomes and people rely increasingly on meager 401(k) balances rather than on traditional pensions.”