Financial Literacy - Smart borrowing
Chris Farrell
Ask why you need a loan

q_v2.gifThere's currently a lot of advertising for reverse mortgages. What do you think about these products and what should folks watch out for?

a_v2.gifRight now, there's a lot of bad selling going on for reverse mortgages, and there's also a lot of "bundling" going on, tying a reverse mortgage to taking out a new annuity at the same time. So, there's just a lot of really bad stuff and you are right to be wary about reverse mortgages.

The way I look at a reverse mortgage is (that) it's on your list of financial things, but it's toward the bottom of your list. People typically want to stay in their home as they get older. And downsizing, which I recommend, is probably the way to go, and that's likely going to become the trend. A reverse-mortgage is your safety valve, but it's at the bottom of your list.

The problem is that people often put it at the top of the list.

“A reverse-mortgage is your safety valve, but it's at the bottom of your list. The problem is that people often put it at the top of the list.”

Reverse mortgages are hard to understand; they are very expensive; there are high fees. This doesn't mean you don't take out a reverse mortgage. But you've really got to make sure you understand how it works and whether or not it's the right option for you. A lot of times it might make a lot more sense to move into a rental or into a smaller place.

q_v2.gifWhat final thoughts about debt and borrowing would you like to impart to Bankrate's readers?

a_v2.gifThe main thing is that I still think the old-fashioned distinction between "good debt" and "bad debt" is really true and it's really useful.

Most of us can't buy a home without taking out a mortgage. We'll never be able to save the money it takes to buy a home with cash -- and there's nothing wrong with that. It's an investment. But you should be conservative with your investments. If you have to borrow to pay for your education, that will pay off for your lifetime. Again, you don't want to overpay and you want to be smart about it.

Where we get into trouble is on other aspects of our lives -- credit card debt, the home equity loans, the second mortgages -- trying to raise our standard of living too fast.


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