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Home sweet retirement fund

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Posted: 6 pm ET

Home is where the money is for many middle-income people who are struggling with retirement planning.

While many boomers don't have big retirement savings funds and their pensions are skimpy or non-existent, even after the real estate meltdown, their homes are still a big asset.

The National Council on Aging has set up a website,, to help people who are in this position evaluate their options and decide how to best use home equity to achieve a wide range of financial goals.

Many people fail to think strategically about their home equity and, as a result, live less comfortably in retirement than they might if they had used this resource better, says Barbara Stucki, NCOA's vice president for home equity initiatives. Finding someone qualified to help isn't always easy.  "Many financial advisers aren't used to thinking about how to use home equity as a retirement asset because they are accustomed to working with people who have greater retirement resources," she says.

Start by taking the "Quick Check" evaluation on the site's main page. Quick Check asks you questions about your situation, then offers dozens of resources, including information and links about reverse mortgages, home equity loans, family trusts, family equity sharing, as well as other ideas such as remodeling or adding a caregiver suite.

There is also advice on selling a house, including tax considerations and the impact of the sale on eligibility for Medicaid and other government benefits such as help paying for Medicare. These can be very complex issues, and it's easy to overlook important aspects of them, even if you are an experienced money manager.

This site is aimed at people whose income is less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For a couple, that would be about $38,000 in annual household income. But even if you earn more, there is lots of very useful advice here that is hard to find elsewhere.

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