Delray Beach, Florida

Many reverse mortgage stories involve seniors who are facing profound challenges, such as financial difficulties, medical problems, or family turmoil. They choose to use reverse mortgages as a tool to help alleviate these troubles and greatly reduce the intense stress in their lives. It is important to note, however, that borrowers make decisions to use the equity they have built in their homes in a variety of different ways. For example, some seniors use their equity to pursue interests that they have been passionate about all of their lives. Often, they would have to give up these interests in retirement if not for choosing the reverse mortgage option to tap the equity they worked so hard to build. Such is the case with Betty, 76, a vibrant, outgoing resident of Delray Beach, Florida.

Betty is such a firm believer about the benefits of reverse mortgages that she has recommended them to friends, three of whom took out their own reverse mortgages. “I’m a very satisfied customer,” she says.

In 1994, something was missing from Betty’s life. She had only lived in lovely Delray Beach for a few months, during which time her husband had passed away, and now she felt lonely in her large, beautiful house. Volunteering in the office of the terminal patient care organization, Hospice by the Sea, and as a group counseling facilitator with Mental Health of Palm Beach County was rewarding work, but it didn’t completely fill the void. She had been a lifelong supporter of the performing arts when she lived on Long Island in New York, and she longed to pursue this passion in Delray Beach. More specifically, she longed to see live dance and theater performances. She had been doing so from her childhood up until her retirement.

“When they cry, I really want to see the tears,” said the lifelong audience member and usual front row occupant, commenting on stage actors. “[In New York], going to the theater was a family affair…we took our children, and [then] they took their children,” she continues. Betty has seen live performances of Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and West Side Story “many, many, many times.” She enjoys stage productions much more than movies, preferring the connection she feels with live actors. She and her family has seen many live performances in New York for dance and also for theater “on and off -Broadway, too many to count,” she says.

But live performance tickets were not in Betty’s budget in 1994. Like many seniors, she might have been described as cash-poor and house-rich. A retired bookkeeper and widow, she was living on a fixed income. Her large, gorgeous home was encumbered with a forward mortgage, which was the real burden keeping her out of the theater. At that time, she was unfamiliar with some aspects of reverse mortgages and didn’t realize that she might have remained in that home if she had obtained a reverse mortgage then. She had explored the reverse mortgage concept, but “I was having trouble wrapping my brain around it,” she recounts. Besides, Betty adored the house, although she knew that it was quite a bit of space for one person. Contemplating her next step, she paid on the forward mortgage for three more years. In 1997, she sold the home and bought a smaller one in Delray Beach, because “it was a good time to sell,” she says.

She used proceeds from the sale of the larger home to purchase the smaller one, but there still wasn’t enough left over for Betty to attend more than the occasional live performance. Now that she had a home entirely paid for, however, she was ready to consider a reverse mortgage in order to tap into her new investment’s equity. She met with Pamela Kirkpatrick of Allied Mortgage Group. “Pamela helped me to understand reverse mortgages,” says Betty. She was eligible for $141,000, which she chose to access in a line of credit.

Now, Betty is a subscriber to season tickets for performances by the Caldwell Theater Company, the Delray Playhouse, and a dance company that performs at the Duncan Theater at Palm Beach Community College. She sits in her favorite spot in the middle of the front row for the theater performances and in the middle of the third row for the dance performances. Last season, she saw the plays Doubt and Frost/ Nixon performed by the Caldwell and attended a continuing series of musical tributes to well-known composers and lyricists performed at the Delray Playhouse. “[The director] does…a lot of research on composers, lyricists…[the show] starts with their childhoods, family life, how they got started…[and then] he and two or three other performers sing their songs. You learn an awful lot about the people who [have written] the music that you’d never known before. It’s a delightful, delightful evening,” she raves. The series is called “Musical Memories” and upcoming performances include retrospectives on George Gershwin, Bob Merrill, Charlie Strouse, and Arthur Schwartz.

She has also been able to replace her old car, which had become unreliable. She took her old car to a dealer for repairs, and while there she noticed a 2008 Mercury Sable in the showroom. “I love it,” she says. “In my community, you need to drive.” She paid for the safe, dependable vehicle entirely with reverse mortgage proceeds. She related to Ms. Kirkpatrick that driving the Mercury makes her feel “like a queen” and that she “couldn’t have done it without a reverse mortgage.” It’s especially fortunate that she replaced her car, because she is usually the driver when she and her friends spend evenings at dinner and then the theater.

Betty is such a firm believer about the benefits of reverse mortgages that she has recommended them to friends, three of whom took out their own reverse mortgages. Two worked with Ms. Kirkpatrick and Allied, and the other had an existing forward mortgage and went through that lender. “I’m a very satisfied customer,” says Betty. “Without a reverse mortgage, I wouldn’t be able to go out and see theater and dance.” The Delray Beach performance art community is fortunate to have such an enthusiastic and supportive audience member.