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More than one in three retirees still carrying mortgages

By Andrew Rickard | March 07 2016 10:14AM

Most people used to pay off their mortgages before they retired. That has changed in recent years.

Research from LIMRA reveals that in the United States in 1989, only 11% of homeowners between the ages of 65 and 74 were still paying down their mortgages, with an average balance of $29,000. By 2013, the number of households with a mortgage had increased to 43%, with the average debt totaling $136,000.

A mortgage at age 75

What’s more, even those over the age of 75 are now carrying more debts. LIMRA says that 20% of this group (which is about 2.7 million households) had mortgage debt in 2013, up significantly from 1989 when only 5% carried a mortgage.

While in the best circumstances a couple's combined retirement income will allow them to pay the bills, LIMRA notes that if one of them were to die, the survivor could have trouble meeting his or her monthly obligations.

When one spouse dies

“Among 65-year old couples, 75% of the time one spouse will outlive the other by 5 years or more and for half of these couples, one spouse will outlive the other by 10 years or more. The notion that both will die within a year of each other only happens to 3% of couples,” notes LIMRA. “As the number of retirees with mortgage debt grows, there is an opportunity for advisors and carriers to help couples develop strategies to mitigate that risk in retirement.”

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