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Finance for Homeowners

Retirement Strategies: 3 Ways to Use a HELOC During Retirement

Conventional wisdom says that entering retirement with no debt is the goal when it comes to retirement strategies. Sure, that may be possible for some people, but there are other retirement strategies to consider should you find yourself in a different spot during your golden years. 

Before we get into the pros and cons of using a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, in retirement, it’s crucial to note that a HELOC is a secured form of credit. Specifically, it’s secured by your home. That means, if you fail to make your HELOC payments, you may risk losing your home. Keep this in mind when deciding if a HELOC is the right option for you. You should consult your tax advisor and/or attorney to understand the tax and legal implications of the strategies and financial products in this article.

Planning for Retirement as a Homeowner

Estimates vary, but some financial advisors posit that most people will need to have saved enough resources to spend between 55% and 80% of their preretirement income each year to maintain their current lifestyle and habits (like traveling and dining out) during retirement. Of course, not everyone will be able to accumulate that much wealth in a 401(k) or IRA. Having at least one large asset to utilize during retirement, like a (paid-off) home, could be beneficial. 

Here are 3 ways homeowners might consider using a home equity line of credit to prepare for, and thrive during, their retirement. 

1. Limit Pre-Tax Retirement Account Withdrawals

It’s likely that most, if not all of the money in your retirement plan is pre-tax. This means that when you withdraw those funds, you create a taxable event, increasing your taxable income every year in which you pull out retirement money. If you retire and draw money from your 401(k) or IRA before age 59 ½, you may also face an early withdrawal tax penalty. 

Using the equity in your home through a HELOC is one of the available retirement strategies that may allow you to leave some or all of your pre-tax retirement money untouched, at least for a period of time, while you lean on a HELOC to finance your expenses. This allows your retirement accounts to continue earning dividends and possibly grow in value.

Keep in mind, though, there are risks associated with a HELOC. The money you draw from a HELOC must eventually be paid back. Because the line of credit is secured against the equity in your home, you risk losing your home if you don’t make those HELOC payments.

2. Cover Unexpected Retirement Expenses

While accessing money from a home equity line of credit is not income, drawing from a HELOC is one of the retirement strategies that could help finance unexpected expenses, like medical bills or substantial home repairs, without drawing directly from your retirement savings nest egg to pay for the expense. 

If your social security, investment dividends, and/or pension payments won’t be enough to cover life’s inevitable emergencies during retirement, using the equity in your home at an interest rate typically lower than credit cards or personal loans may be an option to consider. With a HELOC, you can spread those payments out over time, rather than having to pay for the expense upfront.

3. Upgrade Your Home

Chances are, you’ll own your home outright by the time you reach retirement age. This not only means that you could have plenty of equity to tap into, but you may also be more inclined to stay put instead of selling, moving, buying a new home, and starting anew with another mortgage payment. 

Therefore, one of the retirement strategies in which a HELOC could prove helpful is to upgrade your home. Using the equity in your home to make it more accessible and comfortable could make your retirement years more enjoyable. After all, what better time than retirement to build that kitchen you’ve always dreamed of?

How a HELOC Works

Before making any decisions about how to fund your dream retirement, it’s important to understand all of your options when it comes to possible retirement strategies. While a HELOC may help some retirees finance expenses, make home improvements, and put off 401(k) and IRA withdrawals, using the equity in your home means taking on new debt, which doesn’t come without risks. Use this HELOC calculator to discover how much you may be able to borrow and what it will cost. 

Read More: Retirement Planning During An Uncertain Economy

This article is for educational purposes only; the information and strategies presented are not intended to be, and should not be considered, tax, financial or legal advice. The strategies mentioned in this article are general in nature and not directed to the specific objectives, needs, or tax or financial situation of any particular person. The financial products and strategies discussed in this article may have tax and legal consequences. You should consult your tax advisor and/or attorney to understand the tax and legal implications of the strategies and financial products mentioned in this article, and whether a HELOC makes sense for your specific financial situation and goals.  

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