Older people s assets: using housing equity to pay for health and aged care

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1 Key words: aged care; retirement savings; reverse mortgage; financia innovation; financia panning Oder peope s assets: using housing equity to pay for heath and aged care The research agenda on the ageing popuation shoud be broadened to incude consideration of how peope wi pay for their heath and aged care ater in ife. With aged care costs difficut to estimate in advance, it is not easy for peope to pan ahead. Hopefuy, further financia innovation, incuding aternatives to reverse mortgages, wi occur to hep peope address these issues. Benedict Davies F Fin is a member of Finsia s Consumer Finance Advisory Group. Emai: Cose to 200,000 edery peope ive in residentia aged care. 1 In the first six months after entering residentia care, most peope wi se their homes to pay an accommodation bond. In many instances, the famiy home is sod reuctanty because there is itte aternative. Reverse mortgages are a reativey recent financia innovation in Austraia designed, in part, to address this chaenge. Financia products that monetise housing equity wi be increasingy important as the popuation ages. The tite of this paper draws on an artice by University of Queensand researchers who observed that: Whereas poicy changes increasingy promote sef-provision of retirement incomes and the use of capita assets to fund care choices, famiies and oder peope often retain the view that income and care in oder age shoud primariy be funded by the state. 2 The researchers argued that the market, state and famiy a have caims against the assets of edery peope and these competing caims create generationa tensions that wi emerge as an important pubic poicy issue. Whie the thrust of this argument may be correct, the ageing popuation aso presents an opportunity for those researching and deveoping new products. Reverse mortgages, for exampe, have been specificay designed to address the needs of edery peope. Finsia UMR research 3 Whie most peope are now aware of reverse mortgages, they are ess aware of their use for aged care funding. That is not surprising; very few peope put much thought into aged care unti they have a persona experience, such as putting a famiy member into residentia care. Recenty, Finsia commissioned research about peope approaching retirement, which has highighted this issue and reveaed that: very few Austraians have considered the impications of our ageing popuation ; worse sti they tend to reject a soutions that have been offered up ; and they want quaity heath and aged care. Not ony are those approaching retirement myopic about their future heath and aged care needs, but very few edery peope or their famiies seek advice from financia panners on this issue. And, ony a sma number of financia panners make it their business to advise on aged care or on negotiating accommodation bonds. 43

2 Henry Review acknowedges the importance of housing to edery peope The chaenge of paying for entry to aged care, however, has not gone unnoticed. The importance of the famiy home in financing aged care has been recognised by the Treasury. In its Report on Strategic Issues, as part of the Henry Review, Treasury observes: Owner occupied housing is frequenty used by retirees as a form of ongevity insurance. The capita vaue of a home can be used as a backstop, incuding as a source of funding for residentia aged care, if they outive their savings. 4 Based on this premise, Treasury buids a case for the ongoing exemption of the famiy home from the assets test. The concessiona treatment of the famiy home shoud be a consideration when designing new financia products for edery peope. With the famiy home one of the few exempt assets, new products that aow edery peope to monetise its capita vaue shoud emerge. Reverse mortgages are ony one way to do this. Whie there may be attempts by poicy makers to incude the famiy home in the assets test, the poitica economy of the famiy home wi ensure that any changes wi affect ony a sma number of edery peope. In fact, assessing the net vaue of the famiy home coud spur the use of housing equity withdrawa products. This has occurred in the United Kingdom where retirees routiney draw equity out of their homes and spend it to avoid inheritance tax. One of the main reasons why the home wi continue to be favouraby treated is its specia roe in paying for entry to residentia aged care. Not ony are those approaching retirement myopic about their future heath and aged care needs, but very few edery peope or their famiies seek advice from financia panners on this issue. And, ony a sma number of financia panners make it their business to advise on aged care or on negotiating accommodation bonds. Residentia aged care an overview With numerous types of care, and different fees and charges paid depending on the care received, Austraia s system of aged care may seem daunting to the uninitiated. Prior to receiving government-subsidised care, a person is assessed by an aged care assessment team (ACAT), which makes a recommendation on the type of care required. Where it is recommended that a person needs residentia care, it is common for a person to pay an accommodation bond on entry (see beow for more detai on this). Government subsidies towards the cost of care are substantia, ranging from an average of $18,000 for owcare residents to $45,000 for high-care residents. 5 These subsidies are adjusted in ine with a weighted index refecting both growth in consumer prices and wages. They represent a steady but not growing source of funding to aged care operators. Figure 1: Austraia s aged care system 44

3 Users are aso required to make daiy co-payments. These amounts are mechanicay cacuated by a series of rues cosey inked to the age pension. For exampe, basic daiy care fees are set as a percentage of the age pension. These fees, whie paid by residents, are often no more than indirect government transfers. Income-tested fees are an additiona fee evied on those with higher incomes. These fees are, in effect, a tax on the incomes of part- and non-pensioners and have been designed to caw back some of subsidy paid by the government to aged care operators. The funding mode for aged care has embraced user pays more than any other part of the heath system. Means testing, drawn from socia security poicy, appies to most aspects of residentia aged care. In other words, peope with different eves of weath and income wi pay different fees. Accommodation bonds are the one user payment where there can be arge differences in the amount paid. Some residents wi pay a bond equivaent to 30% of their net weath, whie others wi pay bonds that are much higher. What is an accommodation bond? Accommodation bonds have been the most important source of funding the expansion of aged care faciities over the past decade. 6 A bond is, in effect, an interest-free oan paid by incoming residents to aged care operators. When negotiating the size of a bond, aged care operators coect information about the assets of the prospective resident and use this information in setting the size of the bond. There is a statutory rue capping the size of bonds, requiring residents to be eft with assets of at east twoand-a-haf times the age pension after paying the bond (currenty $36,000). However, competition between operators to fi their beds means that bonds are typicay 30 50% of the median house price in the aged care operator s catchment area. 7 It is important to recognise that because bonds are negotiated at the point of entry it is amost impossibe to pan for this in advance; preserving housing equity appears to be one of the few strategies avaiabe to the prudent. The funding mode for aged care has embraced user pays more than any other part of the heath system. Means testing, drawn from socia security poicy, appies to most aspects of residentia aged care. In other words, peope with different eves of weath and income wi pay different fees. How do peope currenty pay for bonds? Even for those who have panned ahead, most wi se their famiy homes to pay a bond. It is for this reason that the system of charging accommodation bonds has been controversia. In 1997, when the Aged Care Act was introduced in its present form, the charging of accommodation bonds for high care (aso known as nursing homes ) ed to a pubic outcry and a government backdown. More recenty, however, the Nationa Heath and Hospitas Reform Commission 8 has reopened this debate by arguing that bonds, or a bond-ike equivaent, shoud be paid by a residents who have the means. Most peope entering residentia aged care shoud expect to pay a bond. The decision to retain the famiy home or to move to aternative accommodation is infuenced by the size of bonds and the socia security rues around assessing the famiy home. Government poicy affecting the treatment of these areas has evoved over the past 10 years. When bonds were introduced in their current form in 1997, the Pariamentary Library researched the poicy andscape and asked the question: Wi we need to se our homes? 9 At the time, when bonds were estimated to be $26,000, the Library s research suggested that singe pensioners with imited assets woud have itte option but to se their homes to fund a bond on entry to care. Ten years ater, the average size of bonds is substantiay higher, about $189,000, but not everyone wi have to se his or her house to pay a bond. Figure 2: Snapshot of accommodation bond hodings in Average new bond $189,000 Median new bond $155,000 1/5 bonds ess than $100,000 1/3 bonds more than $150,000 1/5 bonds more than $250,000 Circa 55,000 bonds paid Tota bonds hed $6,300 miion 45

4 Ongoing exemption of famiy home from the assets test in care situations Government poicy currenty aows a person in residentia aged care to keep their famiy home exempt permanenty from the assets test if the home is rented and some of the rent goes towards the cost of the accommodation payment. 11 Aso, the poicy exempts the rent from the income test. These concessions have encouraged many aged care residents to retain their former homes, using their homes as a form of retirement savings. However, most peope sti need to reaise a capita sum to pay an accommodation bond on entry. To assist with this, a suite of equity reease products has been reeased. Where used appropriatey, these products can hep edery peope pay an accommodation bond without having to se the famiy home. In Austraia, by far the most common equity reease product is the reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage is a oan that aows a consumer to borrow money against the equity in his or her home whie the principa and interest is not repaid unti the house is sod (usuay when the ast surviving borrower dies). 12 The most important difference between a reverse mortgage and a standard mortgage is that the interest is capitaised rather than reguary paid out of the borrower s income. Thus, an edery borrower s abiity to service the oan is not the major consideration. Instead, the oan is based on the ender s appraisa of the property secured by the oan. Reverse mortgages by design wi consume, in amost a instances, a portion of the borrower s equity in the home resuting in a smaer inheritance for their chidren. Borrowers need to consider carefuy the interest cost (and the interest on interest cost) when making the decision to take out a reverse mortgage. 13 Much has been written about this feature of reverse mortgages; not surprisingy, not a of it has been positive. Steve Keen has caed reverse mortgages the most dangerous innovation around in finance. 14 Yet, others have been more positive, describing reverse mortgages as an area of financia innovation that potentiay represents a virtuous combination of sound socia poicy goas and vaue-added financia products, which woud benefit the pubic as we as stakehoders in the financia services industry. 15 Reverse mortgages have aso received substantia scrutiny from reguators, incuding ASIC. New reguations, which specificay dea with reverse mortgages, wi be introduced as part of the Nationa Consumer Credit Reguation. Credit reguation issues Prior to the Federa Government recenty assuming contro of consumer credit reguation, the issue of aged care and reverse mortgages was considered by the states. In 2007, when debating changes to the state-based Uniform Consumer Credit Code, the Ministeria Counci on Consumer Affairs drafted an exposure Bi that incuded the foowing cause: Matters to be compied with in reation to credit proposas for reverse mortgages. Brokers to provide the foowing information in reverse mortgage credit proposas: if, foowing inquiry of the consumer, it appears that the consumer may need to preserve equity in the mortgaged and of a particuar vaue to finance future expenses (such as aged care accommodation), a range of estimates, cacuated in accordance with the reguations, as to when the debt under the contract is ikey to reach a eve beyond which the consumer s equity in the and wi be ess than that vaue. 16 This proposa woud have seen a imited form of aged care advice mandated as part of reverse mortgage advice. Whie this shoud be encouraged, there are many compex issues for those drafting egisation to consider. Any attempt to estimate the future expenses of aged care accommodation is amost impossibe. This is because a bond is negotiated at point-of-entry to care and its size is a refection of the vaue of a resident s assets. There is no one size fits a bond. A further consideration is that most reverse mortgages are aso used for purposes unreated to aged care. The three most common uses of reverse mortgages are debt repayment, home improvement and reguar income. The proposed reguations woud mandate that a person receive advice about aged care possiby 15 to 20 years before that person actuay needs care. Therefore, where a reverse mortgage is being recommended to a younger borrower (say 70 years of age), it woud be amost impossibe to estimate the future cost of aged care for when that person is 85 or 90. We are yet to see how the Commonweath Government, Treasury and ASIC dea with this issue or how enders and advisers woud respond to changes mandating this advice. Figure 3: Features of a typica reverse mortgage A oan secured by a mortgage over an edery person s residentia property. Maximum oan of up to 40% of property s vaue (typicay dependent on age of youngest borrower). No requirement for borrower(s) to make reguar repayments on oan. Interest is typicay capitaised. Loan repaid within 6 to 12 months of death of the ast remaining borrower. 46

5 A roe for financia innovation If edery peope wish to retain their famiy homes, financiers wi need to deveop further the reverse mortgage market. Today, ony a sma number of enders offer the option of using the oan proceeds to fund an accommodation bond. Other aternatives to reverse mortgages shoud aso be examined. One aternative woud be for enders to deveop intergenerationa oans, aowing chidren to assist in servicing the oan of an edery parent who borrows a capita sum to fund an accommodation bond. These intergenerationa oans coud assist famiies who wish to retain assets, such as a property, within the famiy. The research agenda on the ageing popuation shoud be broadened to incude consideration of how peope wi pay for their heath and aged care ater in ife. As we have seen, aged care costs are hard to estimate in advance and the means by which a bond is cacuated by reference to a person s assets make it very difficut to pan ahead. Hopefuy, further financia innovation wi occur to address this issue. Other aternatives to reverse mortgages shoud aso be examined. One aternative woud be for enders to deveop intergenerationa oans, aowing chidren to assist in servicing the oan of an edery parent who borrows a capita sum to fund an accommodation bond. These intergenerationa oans coud assist famiies who wish to retain assets, such as a property, within the famiy. Notes 1 Department of Heath and Ageing 2007, Austraian Heath and Ageing System The Concise Factbook, October. 2 Chery Tise 2005, Oder peope s assets: a contested site, Austraasian Journa on Ageing, vo Financia Services Institute of Austraasia (Finsia) 2009, Nationa study of financia attitudes and behaviour in ight of the goba financia crisis, Juy. 4 Department of the Treasury ( Henry review ) 2009, Austraia s future tax system: the retirement income system report on strategic issues, May. 5 Department of Heath and Ageing 2008, Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act 1997, p Warren Hogan 2007, The organisation of residentia aged care for an ageing popuation, Centre for Independent Studies Poicy Monograph no It is difficut to say anything definitive about this issue because there is wide disparity in the size of bonds paid. A simpe estimate of the size of bond paid reative to a person s assets invoves taking the average new bond and comparing it to a pubished estimate of average house prices. 8 Nationa Heath and Hospitas Reform Commission 2009, Fina Report A heathier future for a Austraians, June. 9 Lee Jones 1997, Accommodation bonds for residentia aged care: wi we need to se our homes, Austraian Pariamentary Library, Law and Bis Digest Group, 20 June. 10 Department of Heath and Ageing, op cit, pp For a recent case examining the exemption of the famiy home after its owner moves into residentia care see: Bigna and Secretary, Department of Famiies, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs [2009] AATA Austraian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) 2005, Equity Reease Products, Report 59, November. 13 There are many other factors to consider as we. On the one hand, seing the home can affect a person s pension and fees paid in aged care; whie on the other hand, the interest cost needs to be weighed up against the expected growth in the vaue of the home. Aso, there are many non-financia considerations. For exampe, many edery peope have the beief (sometimes incorrecty) that they wi return to their famiy home. The reverse mortgage decision is a very compex one and requires good advice and consutation with the whoe famiy. 14 Steve Keen quoted in Andrew Linden 2007, Reverse mortgages shoud be banned, Sydney Morning Herad, 28 November. 15 Satish Thosar 2002, Unocking equity with reverse mortgages, B F + S, February. 16 The Ministeria Counci on Consumer Affairs 2007, Nationa Finance Broking Scheme Consutation Package, November. 17 SEQUAL Deoitte Reverse mortgage survey 2008, December, 47

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