More Retirees Carrying Mortgage Debt

September 8, 2014

More Americans are expected to still owe on their mortgage by the time they reach retirement. The share of Americans 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Loan balances have also nearly doubled: The median amount owed has grown from $43,400 to $79,000 (adjusting for inflation).

Some analysts are blaming the refinancing boom in the early 2000s for adding to mortgage debt. During the housing run-up prior to the meltdown, a large number of Americans took advantage of the chance to make smaller down payments as well as purchase vacation homes, which heightened mortgage debt, according to a 2012 analysis by lead researcher John Gist at George Washington University's Institute of Public Policy.

Indeed, Gist found that older Americans with housing debt have the highest rates of refinancing. Also, more than half of those born between 1946 and 1964 refinanced in 2004 and 2007. They also tended to take home equity loans more than younger generations.

The mortgage debt may force more Americans to stay in the workforce longer. About 65 percent of home owners with mortgages are still working at age 64 compared to 54 percent of those who do not have housing debt, according to an analysis by Urban Institute researchers Barbara Butrica and Nadia Karamcheva.

Having bigger mortgages that stretch later into life is a trend that will likely stay, particularly as Millennials wait longer to purchase a home, Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, told Bloomberg.

"A lot of today's Millennials are entering the market quite a bit later than their parents, so just by definition, they're going to be carrying more debt later in life," Khater says.

Source: “Retiring Boomers Still Have Mortgages to Pay Down,” Bloomberg/Businessweek (Sept. 4, 2014)