Sign "O" the Times


It’s a major hassle to enjoy your golden years when your mortgage is underwater:

“It’s a big problem coming off the housing bubble,” says Cary Sternberg, who advises seniors on housing issues in The Villages, a Florida retirement community. “A growing number of seniors are struggling with what to do about their home and their mortgage and their retirement.”

The baby boom generation was already facing a retirement crunch: Over the past two decades, employers have largely eliminated traditional pensions, forcing workers to manage their retirement savings. Many boomers didn’t save enough, invested badly or raided their retirement accounts.

In Las Vegas, Janet Snyder, struggling with a financial burden left by her late husband, is bracing for what happens if her lender proceeds with plans to evict her from her home in July.

“I’ll live on the streets, I guess,” she says ruefully, contemplating homelessness at age 74.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans says 30 percent of homeowners 65 and older (6.5 million people) were paying a mortgage in 2013, up from 22 percent in 2001. Federal Reserve numbers show the share of people 75 and older carrying home loans jumped from 8 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2011.


Want a simple tip for a happy retirement? Buy less house than you can afford, and pay it off as quickly as possible. Once your mortgage is gone, keep plugging your monthly payment amount into a retirement account.

This ain’t rocket math, but millions of seniors were fooled — and maybe wanted to be fooled — into thinking they could borrow and spend their way to riches and happiness. While they’re getting a painful lesson, in Washington that kind of thinking remains de rigueur.


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