Contrary to the American Dream, new research finds that you're likely to retire with a heap of debt left to pay off if you're a homeowner.
More retirees are shouldering mortgage debt than ever before. In 2011, around 6.1 million homeowners ages 65 and up were still making monthly payments, compared to the 3.8 million in 1991, says new data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Consumer debt, layoffs, accruing credit card loans and student loans were all cited as contributing factors in a recent New York Times article.
What's more, the amount of debt owed by older workers is also spiking. Christopher J. Mayer, a finance professor at Columbia Business School, found that mortgage debt adjusted for inflation for those between 60 and 65 years old more than tripled between 1992 and 2010, from under $30,000 to roughly $100,000 on average.
While it's worth noting that not all homeowners should pay off their mortgages before retirement (the affluent, for example, stand to benefit from making additional investments as they retain a mortgage at relatively low-interest rates), it's certainly ideal for the average American worker or business owner, as he or she prepares to lose income and dip into savings.
To increase your chances of becoming a bonafide homeowner by the time you retire, it's a good idea to start putting more into your retirement funds each month. Don't withdraw money from those accounts if you can help it, since it's "tax sheltered money," as one analyst puts it. Even the best plans can go awry, so it may be worth looking into other financial options besides home ownership, such as establishing a line of credit or a reverse mortgage, which will allow you to draw down on the equity your home gathers over time.