Bringing the picture of retirement to life, The New York Times reported on challenges faced by Susanna Wilson, a 70 year old homeowner in Grass Valley, California who struggles to get by each month on Social Security and limited part-time work. The review of options available to her, according to a financial planner, include considering a reverse mortgage to bridge the gap.
"I can never retire," Ms. Wilson says in describing her situation. In suggesting the reverse mortgage, the financial planner, Elizabeth Rutter Baer, admits she has never recommended one before, but notes that Ms. Wilson is the "ideal candidate."
It could not be amounted to a glowing recommendation for reverse mortgages, but what is of more importance is the power of the imagery of Ms. Wilson's experience. Examining her situation, the article personalizes challenges that many older Americans face as they reach retirement years, and the limited options they may have.
Beyond the statistics of the number of people reaching retirement age who have not saved enough for retirement, and the declining confidence in their retirement accounts are people like Ms. Wilson. Her story represents the situation of countless others and provides a different perspective as to why reverse mortgages should be included in the retirement planning discussion. Baer, stands as a typical financial planner, admitting that the reverse mortgage usually is not a part of her planning, but now has a picture in her mind of the ideal candidate. It may be a narrow viewpoint, but it's a starting point, and allows the reverse mortgage into her thinking.
Relating the story of a single individual accomplishes something that statistics can't, it provides people with a way to connect to the story. It serves to shift the debate. Rather than discussing what a reverse mortgage is, or isn't, the focus turns to what options are available to those like Ms. Wilson. In that light, a reverse mortgage fits naturally in the discussion, regardless of preconceived notions.