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Break retirement lending taboo to help retirees flourish – Rozario

by: Andrea Rozario, chief corporate officer at Bower Retirement
  • 13/11/2017
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Break retirement lending taboo to help retirees flourish – Rozario
Equity release has been labelled the 'next big thing' for what seems like forever and the industry has been teetering on the edge of the mainstream every year since breaking through the £1bn lending barrier.

This success has led to record numbers of customers accessing their property wealth via an ever-increasing number of flexible lifetime mortgages. But there’s still a long way to go with what some would call a negative feeling some customers have in connection with taking a mortgage later in life. This stigma can, for some, manifest itself in an unfortunate sense of shame among customers, who feel that they have somehow failed by taking out another mortgage.

If we can kill off this stigma once and for all, equity release may finally break into the mainstream, but there are some barriers in the way of further success in our industry.


Innovation needed

One of the primary barriers being that traditional equity release is not, and will never be, right for everyone.

This is for obvious reasons and why the increasing innovation and flexibility needs to continue, but it means that some products such as the traditional lifetime mortgage will always remain suitable for certain people simply because of the nature of the product. However, that does not mean the industry cannot continue to grow and innovate.

One of the main barriers we can actually tackle is the persistent feeling among some of our older customers that taking on debt in retirement is a sign of failure.

We must break the silence and help all customers speak openly about retirement lending, and do away with the old fashioned stiff upper lip. I admit that this may be easier said than done, as this stubbornness has been solidified through decades of hard work as well as hardship.

But in 2017 the stiff upper lip can do more harm than good.


Understand alternatives

Tackling these ingrained feelings of shame may be a difficult task, but it is essential that we normalise retirement lending across all cohorts.

You may say that this sounds a little self-serving, what with equity release being a possible beneficiary of more open discussions on retirement lending – but increasing choices for those that need financial solutions in retirement is essential and normalising lending in retirement will lead to more providers and more products that will fit an array of customer needs.

We all know that with the state of social care, pensions, and an ever-increasing life expectancy across the board, retirees need to understand their alternatives now.

Without breaking the taboo on lending in retirement we could soon have millions of retirees plunged into poverty out of sheer stubbornness.

I am not calling for all retirees to access their property wealth with lifetime mortgages, I just want older and elderly homeowners to know about their options – and we can only do this by talking openly and doing away with the stiff upper lip.

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