Retirement & Financial Planning Report

Home equity–the value of the property minus any mortgage or home equity loan against it–can have a substantial impact on preparedness for a retirement, according to the Center for Retirement Research.

The study delved into data used in the “retirement risk index,” a measure indicating households projected to fall more than 10 percent short of their retirement income target. The level of risk is higher at lower income levels but is present at all levels, the report said, and overall jumped from 44 percent in 2007 to 53 percent in 2010 due to the recession, while declining slightly to 52 percent in 2013.


Housing prices and housing debt are components of retirement security, it added, noting that due to the recession prices decreased overall before increasing again, although by 2013 prices still hadn’t recovered to pre-recession levels. Meanwhile, among households with someone age 55 or older, the percentage with housing debt increased, as did the average amount of debt among those who had such debt.

“These trends significantly reduced net housing wealth and undermined retirement preparedness and financial flexibility for a substantial share of households,” it said.

That set back retirement preparedness to the greatest extent among the middle third of households by income, the report added, since the lowest third were less likely to own homes, while the highest third had more other financial assets to soften the impact for them.

It further warned that the trend toward rising retiree home debt could be the “new normal” since: it actually started before the recession; households are becoming increasingly less prepared for retirement so some may delay paying it off; and a large number have refinanced their loans in recent times to capture low interest rates, meaning they are more likely to continue that debt into retirement.