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mortgage_senior_woman(TNS)—Question: I’ve nearly completed paying off my $70,000 home. The problem is: I don’t want to live here anymore. It’s a 40-minute drive to work and to see my family in the next town. It’s tempting to sell this house, pay off the remaining debt and move somewhere better. But I’m also wondering if it’s a smarter move to remain in a house that’s nearly paid off and not take on any more debt since I’m 60 and nearing retirement.

Answer: Sixty is young these days, but you are showing signs of “old” thinking! It used to be that retiring with no mortgage was the cat’s pajamas. Today it’s difficult to justify locking that much equity up in a single potentially illiquid and volatile investment. It’s not unheard of to get a mortgage after 60.

Under the right circumstances, I like reverse mortgages. You hear a lot about the difficulties people have with them, but a lot of that is just the media looking for a new horror story to scare readers. You can get more details about reverse mortgages at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

This is also a good time to get a new mortgage. Rates are still low, and underwriting criteria are not as strict now. Plus, depending on where you live, home prices may still be a bargain. Don’t be afraid of a mortgage as long as your post-retirement cash flow can support it. How do you know for sure if it will? I suggest you ask a good financial planner to run the numbers and get an independent assessment of where you stand.

Being happy after the age of 60 is important, but being on sound financial ground after the age of 60 is also critical. Not only do I believe you can do both, I think it’s essential that you do both! And, for my under-60 readers, being happy and on sound financial ground is important for you as well.

Good luck!

Bankrate’s Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci, is the former president of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern New England and the author of “Credit Repair Kit for Dummies.”

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