Reverse mortgages are being touted everywhere because they are very profitable -- and those are just the ones that are being done legitimately. But the Federal Trade Commission also warns us that reverse mortgages are one of the areas with the biggest problems of scams among the elderly. There are many reverse mortgages that are improperly done and there's a huge amount of con artists hanging around these things, so I tell people to avoid these things completely.
But whenever we're in a situation where we start borrowing on assets in our 70s, we're just needlessly playing games with the inevitable. I prefer that you just look at your situation and deal with the inevitable. If you're 72 years old and all you have is the house, and you can't afford to eat, yes, it's a very emotional decision. You might have lived in that house for 50 years, but you probably need to sell that house and you'll probably need to move into a home that's smaller so that you can free up some cash to eat with.
If there is one critical message about debt and retirement that you'd like to emphasize most to Bankrate's readers, what would that be?
Avoid it and get out of it as quickly as possible. Debt is just a financial death knell, and if it adds risk to the life of the 32-year-old parent of three children, it adds tremendous risk to the life of the 72-year-old retiree.