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How Equity Release Schemes Can Help Generate Extra Income in Retirement

Monday, March 10th, 2014

How equity release can provide extra income in retirementThroughout our working lives, retirement always seemed a distant destination. Plans to ensure that financial security is bestowed upon us are often postponed, while more pressing needs are fulfilled. Yes, the date to start a pension or retirement planning was always the proverbial ‘tomorrow’.

 

Unless you were fortunate enough to become a member of an employer’s final salary scheme, which even today are becoming a rarity, then it’s likely that the penny has dropped and there will ultimately be a reduction in income, once state pension age is reached.

 

However, all is not lost & although many people haven’t necessarily funded a pension or savings contract for their retirement, they may have inadvertently been savings via their biggest asset…their property!

 

Should any of these comments strike a chord, then please read on. Using my wealth of financial services & the last 14 equity release experience, I want to explain how your property can become your pension & take you down the road of enhancing your pension in retirement.

 

The inevitable expense of retirement…

First let’s start by establishing what the perception of retirement is & the future expenditures that maybe incurred during its reign.

These could encompass simple lifestyle costs such as any of the following: –

 

  • A new car?
  • Regular holidays?
  • Home improvements?
  • A caravan or motorhome?
  • More leisure time for golf or bowls?
  • Enjoy days out?

 

However, for many the reality of meeting these expenditures becomes a pipe dream as once retired, they could find their income severely reduced. In fact in some cases, pensioners have seen a reduction of two thirds of the income that they enjoyed whilst working. The danger of this becomes apparent. From experience many retirees DO NOT curb spending habits to realign their expenditures following a reduction in income.

 

This situation has led to a dramatic increase in post-retirement debt counselling, with many building significant credit card debt, which then spirals out of control. During times of employment debt can usually be easier to manage, with the ability to repay using extra hours, bonuses, overtime or even a 2nd job. These options are somewhat reduced for the silver surfer generation, albeit more retirees are considering working, & actually are filling vacancies that once were not considered unnecessary in retirement.

 

So what are the options, should the over 55’s find themselves with an income shortfall & need advice on their retirement solutions?

 

Well as stated earlier, your home may have become an extremely valuable asset with potential escalation its value over the decades. So let’s look at how your house could become your pension and provide a level of financial security.

 

Home equity plans have been around many years, but have never been as popular as they are today, so here I attempt to explain the pros and cons of equity release schemes.

 

Why do people take out an equity release plan?

More and more people are turning to equity release to fund home improvements, pay off debts and to enjoy holidays, but the underlying reason for this is that their income has reduced so much since they retired, they’re no longer able to save for larger purchases.

 

Similarly, many retirees are spending their tax free cash from their pensions on larger purchases, such as a new car and conservatory, but are finding that their disposable income has reduced to the extent that there’s hardly anything left each month having paid their household bills and bought their groceries etc.

 

We’ve all seen in the news that pensions aren’t producing the expected level of income that people hoped for: some final salary pension schemes have closed; annuity rates are historically lower as life expectancy improves; interest rates on savings have flat lined since the economic downturn, with even the highest instant access cash ISA rate only offers 3.02% variable (Newcastle Building Society).

 

Explore potential sources of additional income

Assuming that you’ve spent your lifetime savings, don’t wish to move or downsize yet, and have exhausted all other alternatives upon discussion with an equity release specialist like Equity Release Supermarket, there’s a number of other alternatives for you to consider:

 

  • The first step should be to check if additional income could be sourced from elsewhere such as local government? Always check whether any means tested state benefits or such as pension credit, or local authority benefits now labelled ‘Council Tax Reduction’ may be available. Please see my recent article on this – ‘Can an Equity Release Adviser Provide Advice on Means Tested State Benefits?

 

  • Finally, if you’ve got any existing debts, these could be refinanced & consolidated, potentially leaving you with one lower monthly payment.  These savings can then be used towards providing extra income in retirement.

 

What’s the best way to get an income from equity release?

No current lifetime mortgage providers actually offer a monthly income equity release plan. In fact only one provider ever has; Northern Rock offered an income producing lifetime mortgage. This was pulled once Northern Rock Equity Release (now Papilio UK) was closed to new business during the credit crunch. Even during its lifetime, the Northern Rock Cash-Plus plans were fairly inflexible in the sense that once income was arranged, it was fixed for life and could not be amended.

 

Nowadays, the majority of equity release applicants would rather have the flexibility of deciding when the take the tax-free cash, not to be dictated to with a fixed income for life. The most prudent & popular way is to use a drawdown equity release scheme. This is available from most lifetime mortgage providers and I can carefully assess which scheme is most suitable for you. By accepting a cash reserve facility from the equity release company, the applicant can then decide how much of this reserve facility they need to spend initially. The remaining balance untaken, is then held by the lender until such time the customer requires further cash drawdown. The beauty of the drawdown lifetime mortgage is that NO interest is charged whilst monies are left with the provider.

 

Let’s look at a couple that I met recently and witness how a drawdown equity release scheme works in practice:-

 

Case Study – ‘asset rich, income poor’

Jim & Mary, both aged 70, own a property worth £250,000 and are both retired. They manage reasonably well from their pension income, but this only pays for their normal day to living expenditure and they’re unable to afford the small luxuries in retirement that they’d always dreamed of. They’d like an extra income each year to pay for regular meals out, a cruise each year plus they like exploring National Trust type properties and country villages.

 

The solution: They’re able to release the minimum loan of £15,000 which will easily cover their first 2 years of expenditure as they also need to use £5,000 for a new bathroom.  In order to supplement their on-going income needs they’d like £4,000 ‘spending money’ each year. With the versatility of the Hodge Flexible Lifetime Mortgage Plan, they’re able to achieve this as Hodge would set up a reserve of £55,000 that can be accessed at any time, with a minimum withdrawal amount of £1,000. These extra withdrawals attract NO further charges.

Jim described this as ‘like having a bank account with £55,000 in it.’ The benefits to Jim & Mary are that none of this £55,000 reserve facility attracts any interest until it’s actually taken. They plan to withdraw around £4,000 a year for approx. 10 years, whilst they’re fit and healthy to enjoy it. The Hodge Lifetime Flexible Mortgage Plan comes with a free valuation offer currently.

 

 

When equity release should NOT be used to create an income!

Some equity release customers in the past have been advised to release the maximum lump sum from their property and reinvest into an investment product. Problems have arisen, as the income has reduced and the investment has often dropped in value, while interest on the equity release has rolled up and provided poor value for money.

 

Similarly, some customers previously released a lump sum to buy an annuity but it has proved difficult to get a good income from a relatively small lump sum. It normally takes considerable time to benefit from a pension annuity, but interest will have been charged on the full amount of equity that you originally released from your home.

 

Other customers have taken the maximum lump sum from their home and invested into deposit accounts or investment bonds, but have been dismayed with plummeting interest rates. With interest rates on equity release loans currently averaging over 6%, yet the best savings rates currently only 3%, this obviously represents poor value for money & certainly not best advice.

 

These are NOT ways that equity release mortgages should be utilised and why the drawdown lifetime mortgage scheme is the correct vehicle to use.

 

What are the main advantages of a drawdown scheme versus a maximum lump sum plan? 

  • Interest isn’t charged on the reserve amount, until you decide to take it
  • You can withdraw money from the reserve at any time
  • No further charges for each withdrawal made (except New Life & more2life)
  • Limiting your savings in the bank, can help eligibility for means tested benefits
  • The less money you borrow, the less interest your beneficiaries will need to repay when the plan ends

 

How much can I release under a Drawdown equity release scheme?

The amount depends on a number of factors, including property value, age of the youngest applicant and property type. With recent innovations in equity release schemes there is now an enhanced drawdown lifetime mortgage plan which can offer a greater cash reserve facility for those with a history of poor health, yet requiring the maximum cash facility available.

 

Equity Release Supermarket’s free equity release calculator found here our website can certainly assist in helping to ascertain the maximum equity release possible. This will provide a guideline which can then be qualified further by myself dependent upon your financial requirements, both now & in the future.

 

Therefore, please contact myself, Mark Rumney for your personalised illustration. Your request can be discussed over the telephone & once I have identified your requirements & checked eligibility. Following that, I can conveniently post or email out the best recommended scheme for your needs.

 

To follow up any aspects of this article, please contact me via my mobile 07957 974826 or email markrumney@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk

 

Do Banks Offer Equity Release Schemes?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It has been a mystery why the UK mainstream banks haven’t fully embraced their traditional image of lenders to the masses, by entering into the realm of equity release schemes. We look at the history of attempts and corresponding results of many high street banks who have previously offered equity release schemes to the over 55’s.

 

Problems from the start

We start our history lesson back in the 1990’s, when Barclays & Bank of Scotland dreamt up the concept of the Shared Appreciation Mortgage (SAMs) whilst the housing market was quite stagnant. People were looking desperately to get on the housing ladder and it seemed a good buyers market.

 

These two banks were offering the elderly a mortgage with NO monthly payments; however they would instead take a share in the future rise in the property value. Around 11,000 Shared Appreciation Mortgages were sold of which these unlucky retirees thought would only need to pay back a few thousand pounds.

 

However, the property boom followed the property slump of the 1990’s, and by 2007 property values had almost quadrupled of which the banks also took their large share. The resultant effect has left many pensioners now unable to sell as they haven’t sufficient equity of their own to move house. The legacy of these schemes still exists today with legal action being taken by some of the unfortunate customers of these banks.

 

Some have tried and failed

We have seen in the last decade a couple more banks have dipped their toes into the water & failed with lifetime mortgage schemes. Notably one temporary success was NatWest/Royal Bank of Scotland who ventured into lifetime mortgages for a period, but none have ever felt comfortable offering this form of mortgage for the over 55’s.

 

NatWest/RBS equity release schemes became available in 2006 and were made available to its long time bank customers or retired bank staff. However, by 2009 after much back office investment & a surge in recruitment RBS ran out of funds and closed the whole equity release operation down.

 

The importance of independence

In Retirement Services logoHSBC offered equity release back in 2006, after tying itself up with a tender from the now dissolved equity release company – In Retirement Services. In Retirement Services were an equity release provider in their own right and funded by private equity firm 3i, but only offered their own products.

This was always considered a strange decision for HSBC at the time to tie themselves with a non-independent equity release company & left the markets bemused. Afterall, why would a major high street bank tie themselves to someone with no independence for its customers?

The relationship ceased and the products were no longer available once In retirement Services went into administration due to funding issues in 2009.

 

Have Building Societies fared any better?

There has been a history of building societies that have yielded greater success with their own equity release solutions. They have ventured in & out of the market but no building society has remained and stood the test of time. Many building societies have fallen victim to the credit crunch over 3 years ago. This was due to the issues with raising funds on the money markets, and inter-bank lending at the time was virtually suspended.

 

This left many building societies involved in equity release lending, moving their mortgage book of funds towards the most profitable products such as mortgages which provide greater profit margins that equity release over the shorter term.

northern-rock_999576c

 

Within the last 10 years we have had Northern Rock as a major provider; however we know how the how the market crash affected them & its customers! They are now accepting repayment of their equity release schemes to clear their mortgage books of these old equity release plans.

 

Northern Rocks early equity release mortgages only had 5 years early repayment charges, so it could be an excellent chance to get a better deal today with the current crop of low interest rate home equity schemes available. (Northern Rock has sold its equity release book now to Papilio UK Equity Release Mortgages)

 

Other building societies that tried and failed due to the credit crunch were Bristol & West, Saffron Building Society and a notably, although temporary, unique scheme launched by Godiva. They were the first to enter the equity release market with an equity release plan with NO early repayment charges. Unfortunately, again the credit crunch put paid to this, and you would hope a similar product would one day re-enter the lifetime mortgage market; albeit the Hodge Flexible Lifetime Mortgage Plan goes some way to meeting a no redemption penalty equity release plan – see below.

 

So what types of equity release providers are currently in the UK equity release market?

It seems the secret to success and longevity is to find a niche product with a USP in the equity release market.

Lets consider the current lifetime mortgage providers and the schemes on offer and you can see why…

 

 Provider  Product Name  USP
 Aviva  Lifestyle Flexible Option Lowest interest rate currently in the market.Rates currently start from 5.57% and come with free  valuation and cashbacks
 Stonehaven  Interest Select Plan An interest only lifetime mortgage. Monthly payments help maintain a level balance.Great inheritance protection for the children
 More2life  Enhanced Lifetime Mortgage Offers the maximum release in the market by underwriting on the grounds of ill-health. The more severe one’s heath the greater the release
 Hodge Lifetime  Flexible Drawdown Plan Hodge have two USP’s. One is the ability to repay upto 10% of the balance each year. The 2nd is you can downsize after 5 years with NO early repayment charges

 

Today’s range of equity release companies stem from insurance companies to finance houses who have the ability to fund their lifetime mortgage schemes via their annuity books. We still have a mutual society and the remainder are private companies who manage to find funding from business partners.

 

Whatever the funding source, the current breed of equity release schemes offer the most diverse range of plans and competitive interest rates the equity release market has seen.

 

If there are any lifetime mortgage plans, old and new that you wish to discuss further, contact mark@equityreleasesupermarket.co.uk or call the Equity Release Supermarket team on 0800 678 5159.

 
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