Retiree can’t get home equity loan

Dear Liz: I retired last year. I am 67, have more than $1 million in my retirement accounts, $80,000 in individual stocks, $50,000 in cash and more than $200,000 in equity in my home. I don’t need to tap my Social Security benefit yet and can afford to wait until I am 70 to get the maximum monthly amount. I recently purchased a new car with a 0% loan for five years. That and my mortgage are the extent of my debt. One thing I would like to do is some home improvement. My fee-only financial planner suggested getting a home equity line of credit to cover the repairs and upgrades. This makes sense to me in that it spreads out the burden over time and is tax-deductible. My credit scores are 736, 801 and 839. But I’m finding it difficult to get a commitment from either my credit union or my bank because they don’t see an income. I have been with both of these institutions for more than 30 years and the credit union holds the first mortgage. How do we get the lenders to factor retirement assets into the qualification calculations?

Answer: Last year, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued guidelines on retirement fund annuitization that would allow mortgage lenders to calculate a borrower’s income based on his or her retirement assets.

Lenders, however, have to be willing to go to a little extra effort to learn the rules and apply them properly.

If yours aren’t willing to do so, then it might be time to take your business elsewhere. A mortgage broker (referrals from may be able to connect you with a lender who’s more up to date.


  1. Just wanted to say, Liz, that I love the fact that you answer questions like this (even though this particular one is not relevant to me because I have a long way to go before I’m a retiree). So many personal finance writers don’t even bother to keep up with new developments and keep on regurgitating the same information even when it’s outdated.

    • Thanks, Johanna. My readers do a great job of keeping me up-to-date by bringing up questions like this!

  2. This is the first visit to this site( thanks Mary Hunt) and I find it very interesting.