Frank Piemonte over at River Communications, a company that handles public relations, marketing, and corporate communications for many prominent clients, sent me some info that was new to me. He says that according to the Senior Sentiment Survey from Financial Freedom, some one-third of senior homeowners are carrying mortgage debt on their primary home. We’re talking about seniors aged 62-75. And of these seniors, 59 percent indicate they still have 10 years of more before the mortgage is paid off while 27 percent have more than 20 years left on their mortgages.Financial Freedom commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct this, its third annual study on the opinions of senior citizens in the U.S.

Looking at views on retirement and retirement planning, the study says that senior citizens overall appear to be prepared for a modest retirement and don’t feel the need to use their home as a means to supplement their retirement income. In fact, about six in 10 seniors look at their homes as a retirement asset although a full 60 percent do not plan to use means outside Social Security, pensions, or cash as a way to supplement their retirement income. Rather, the primary intention is to leave their homes to heirs, as indicated by 42 percent of seniors. About one-fifth will sell their homes and move.

It is also interesting to note that the vast majority (71 percent) do not have or do not plan to have any debt in retirement. What you can take away from this is that seniors appear to take a conservative approach to spending in retirement, but don’t appear to be concerned about debt or having the resources to supplement their retirement living expenses.

Financial Freedom says that when these seniors are asked why they are still carrying a mortgage, 34 percent say they never paid off the existing mortgage, followed by 21 percent who took out a second mortgage, and 17 percent who held onto a mortgage in order to receive tax breaks.

Okay, carrying this along even further, seniors who are married or living with a partner are less likely to be carrying a mortgage on their home than singles or widows.

So, then the logical question comes up. What are the top reasons for seniors to still carry a mortgage? According to the survey, and as mentioned earlier, it breaks down into the following order:

  • Never paid off existing mortgage
  • Took out a second mortgage
  • Receive a tax break
  • Took out a reverse mortgage
  • Other

This survey, by the way, was conducted last year and Piemonte tells me that a new one is being prepared as we speak. Let’s see if anything changes on that one. If you’re interested in seeing a copy of the survey, send an e-mail to fpiemonte@riverinc.com.

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