CFPB Releases Senior Mortgage Debt Report

A growing number of seniors are in debt, and it’s not a pretty picture as they head into retirement, according to a new “snapshot report” released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Wednesday. 

Older Americans are facing challenges that include more mortgage debt, less affordable housing, and greater risk of foreclosure, reveals the report, which does not include reverse mortgages.

The CFPB also issued a consumer advisory reminding older consumers approaching retirement to figure out their mortgage pay-off date and consider their retirement income and expenses. 

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“A home can be a place of security for older Americans in their retirement years – a roof over their heads as well as a valuable asset,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “But as more seniors carry significant mortgages into retirement, they put themselves at risk of losing their nest eggs and their homes.”

Around 80% of the 41 million Americans age 65 and older are homeowners—the highest homeownership rate among all age groups. While their rate of homeownership has remained constant in the last 10 years, the CFPB says, the percentage of older homeowners who still have mortgage debt has increased. 

Reasons for that include the “refinancing boom” of the 2000s and a general trend among Americans to buy their first home later in life—often with small down payments—along with borrowing against home equity for various reasons. 

The CFPB’s Snapshot of Older Consumers and Mortgage Debt report was generated with data gathered and analyzed from the Census Bureau, Federal Reserve, and consumer complaints submitted to the CFPB, among other sources.

Highlights of the report include the number of older homeowners carrying more mortgage debt into retirement climbing from 22% in 2001 to 30% in 2011. The rate more than doubled during that time period to 21.2% for homeowners age 75 and older.

The amount of mortgage debt has also increased. Median mortgage debt for seniors increased by 82% between 2001 and 2011, from about $43,300 to $79,000. At the same time, many senior homeowners accrued less home equity than their age group did a decade ago.

“This decline in home equity may have an outsize impact on older Americans, for whom home equity is frequently their primary or even only asset,” says the CFPB. “The result is less financial security and greater financial risk.”

While the CFPB cautions against “dipping into” home equity, the snapshot report on senior mortgage debt does not include reverse mortgages or home equity lines of credit.

Access the report here and the Consumer Advisory here.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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  • Naturally seniors face more debt, they face it in every area imaginable.

    Look at our national debt, over $17 Trillion dollars and rising each day. Why not a debt increase for seniors, why not for many American’s?

    The CFPB is quick to advise but many seniors have not had choices, look at what has happened since year 2000. The CFPB blames much of it on the refinance boom in the 2000’s.

    What they don’t mention is that the flood gates of credit availability that opened wide up in1999, thanks to a bill President Clinton signed that did away with most of the Glass Steagall act!

    Anyone could borrow money on homes, credit cards or just about anything that required borrowing. Our economy grew and grew from 1999 right up to the crash of 2008.

    People had more mortgage programs available to them from, sub-prime to no income no assett loans, 125% loans and you name it there was a program for everyone, borrow, borrow and borrow was the name of the game.

    The big problem was the economic growth we so enjoyed was a false growth, stimulated by the greatest amount of debt in the hands of the public in the history of our country!!!

    Seniors were effected more than most, 401-K’s went under, seniors lost Billions in their retirement savings and more! Equity in their homes were salvation for so many of them and reverse mortgages were a saving grace haven for many.

    Today the reverse mortgage is not easy to obtain for those with high mortgage debt so even the reverse mortgage of yesteryear is not a haven for the senior like it used to be.
    In short, I don’t by the CFPB’s reasoning for why the senior is in debt as much as they are in today’s environment.

    John A. Smaldone

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