It’s been an issue since the decision not to include a reverse mortgage calculator on my first website over 10 years ago. “Everyone is looking for a reverse mortgage calculator” was the argument or “Every other reverse mortgage website has a calculator. You have to have one.” A decade later, I still don’t have a calculator on my website.
But I didn’t want to make a website like the others. There were (and are) a lot of things most of the reverse mortgage websites do, that I don’t want to do. I’m not pushing numbers or trying to capture emails and phone numbers so that I can pester people with too many phone calls pressuring for a quick decision.
What I have always wanted to do was answer the questions people have about reverse mortgages. It is what I have been doing face-to-face with people in Vermont and over the phone with people across the country for over a decade.
Here’s the secret: simply answering people’s questions in a clear and simple manner turns out to be great for business. Some people learn that a reverse mortgage isn’t right for them and they decide no. Others get the information they need to make the choice to get a reverse mortgage and usually they decide to do business with me.
So, why don’t I want a calculator on my website when that is what a lot of people are looking for? Simple, Almost everyone offers about the same deal if they are offering a federally insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) reverse mortgage. Closing costs can be a big variable, but you don’t need a calculator to figure that out. Increasingly, programs are becoming different between lenders, but basically a 65 year old with a $300,000 house should net out close to the same amount no matter whose calculator you are using.
Yes, the money is important, but it isn’t the thing on which to base a decision about whether or not to get a reverse mortgage. The numbers are only important if the concept fits in your life. My problem with the calculator is that the emphasis on numbers shifts the focus away from what is really important about reverse mortgages.
What I emphasize to my clients is the three questions to weigh in any financial decision. First, does it solve the problem? Second, is it worth the price? Finally, are you comfortable with the consequences?
When you are dealing with retirement finance, the standards for what is ethical and appropriate should be higher. It is more than just math. From our 60’s on, we need to be able to live with financial decisions we make the rest of our lives. Beyond us, those we love need to be able to live with those choices, too.
You can’t figure that out with a calculator and encouraging people to do so is misleading, whether that is intentional or not.
Whether a reverse mortgage calculator will make this website more attractive to search engines isn’t what’s important. What is important is that the people who find my website get the information they need to explore important financial questions more fully.
After all, it is about your house, your money, and the rest of your life.
What’s your experience with calculators?
Parting Thought; “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” – Mark Twain