Add to this the continuing coronavirus pandemic and the worldwide financial difficulties many predict will drag on for years, and the gap between the haves and the have nots could widen even further.
However, despite this rather dour outlook, there is one group of people who are consistently searching to level the playing field: older homeowners.
Throughout the entire coronavirus pandemic, advisers at Bower and across our industry have seen a marked increase in the number of clients accessing their property wealth to help their loved ones, rather than themselves.
Instead of using the money they release for things like expensive holidays, a rarity at the best of times, more and more clients are tapping into their property wealth to pass on much-needed assistance to their family and loved ones.
According to one recent industry report, upwards of £500m has been gifted to family members via equity release during 2020. That’s half a billion passed on to family members who are most likely struggling financially, frequently stressed and constantly worried they may never get on the property ladder.
In the capital alone, the average gift to younger relatives was a substantial £133,000.
So, while politicians and policy makers stumble, older homeowners are taking matters into their own hands and reaching down to bring their family up onto the ladder.
Levelling the playing field
It is a source of real motivation to see that equity release can be part of this process of levelling the playing field for younger homeowners.
It is so much more difficult to get on the property ladder nowadays, but our customers know they can play a part in rectifying this, and using products like the lifetime mortgage to pass on a helping hand is proving ever more popular.
And yet, despite this altruism, I still think the dominant narrative in the mainstream press is that equity release is some sort of selfish act, which is as frustrating as it is bizarre.
Despite our own advisers here at Bower reporting a noticeable decline in clients using equity release for anything overtly aspirational this year, and industry research showing more funds have been used to help younger family members than ever before, there’s still a long road ahead.
I sincerely hope these facts shift the narrative away from the tired old ‘expensive last resort’ review of our industry, and push it towards a more nuanced appraisal of the benefits of the lifetime mortgage.
After all, equity release is proving that it is a robust offering that can help bridge the gap between young and old, and I am very proud that our little corner of the market can play its part.
With 2020 behind us, let’s make sure that 2021 is the year that we not only get the world back on track, but can also be the year that the lifetime mortgage is seen as the flexible and multipurpose offering it truly is.