Aging and the income value of housing wealth
The potential of reverse annuity mortgages to increase the current income of the elderly is analyzed. We conclude that most low-income elderly also have little housing equity, although this is not always the case. In general, a reverse annuity mortgage would substantially affect the income only of the single elderly who are very old -- whose life expectancy is short. On the other hand, if the transfer were in the form of a lump sum amount -- rather than an annuity -- the payment would increase the liquid wealth of most elderly families by a large fraction. Thus legislation that would facilitate the market for reverse mortgages could improve substantially the financial status of a small proportion of the elderly. But the specter of a large number of poor widows with vast amounts of "locked-in" housing equity does not reflect the reality. Most low-income elderly have relatively little housing wealth.
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National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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