Do you include the value of your home as a retirement asset?

An excellent article in the Wall Street Journal on September 2nd, by Glenn Ruffenach, echoed what I’ve been telling people for years: you may not want to count your house as a retirement asset.

As the article states, many people have been thinking of their home as an investment asset they can cash in when they retire. The thinking goes like this, “If my budget gets tight in retirement, the equity in my home will serve as a safety net.”

In fact, a study by Bell Investment Advisors in California “found that 68% of surveyed 60-year-olds count their personal residence as a retirement asset. And of that 68%, one in four say their home represents half or more of their retirement savings.”

The problem is that home prices are falling nationwide, the decline is accelerating, and it’s particularly bad in the same places where real estate prices climbed the most, like California, Florida, Nevada, and Washington, D.C.

As the article states, “If the value of your home falls…there’s less equity to help finance your retirement.”

There are two problems with thinking of your home as an investment asset.

The first is that most people are unwilling to give up their lifestyle to cash out their home and move into a smaller place.

The second problem is that higher interest rates, which are not unlikely in the future, could make house prices fall even further and dramatically decrease the payout of doing a reverse mortgage (having the bank provide you with monthly payments as they acquire the equity in a home).

Counting your home as a retirement asset may not be prudent. It turns out that few people can turn the value of their home into cash flows during retirement.

If you count your home in your net worth or as a retirement asset, you may want to reconsider.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.