Terry, age 66, lives in the tiny community of Pepeekeo, situated on the eastern shores of the island of Hawaii (commonly referred to as the Big Island). She moved to her current home, a single-family property, in October 2009.  Located in the Kulaimano subdivision that was originally created for sugar cane plantation workers, her home is one of many that have similar floor plans.

Gemini Observatory

Terry spent almost 28 years on Oahu before moving to the Big Island in December 2002 where she worked as an executive assistant at the Gemini Observatory, located on the summit of Maunakea, before retiring on July 30, 2021.

While the name Gemini Observatory may not ring a bell, chances are you’ve seen pictures of its silver-domed observatory sitting with other observatories high atop Maunakea, a dormant volcano, in many books and magazines. Gemini is operated by a partnership of six countries: the United States, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Korea.

“There was never a dull moment,” she says. “Fortunately, I worked at the base facility and didn’t have to drive up to the summit every day.”

To help prepare for retirement, Terry contributed to a 403(b) plan offered by Gemini Observatory. She waited to retire until she qualified for full Social Security benefits because they would be her primary source of income.

As retirement drew closer, Terry consulted with her sister, who happens to be married to a financial planner.

“I was on the phone or on Zoom talking about retiring. My brother-in-law is very reticent but all of a sudden I could hear him in the background telling me to look into a reverse mortgage,” Terry explained. “He has been a financial planner for over 30 years, so I decided to investigate further.”

As she investigated a reverse mortgage, she soon learned that they were not as readily available on the Big Island compared to other mortgage products. A friend of a friend eventually recommended V.I.P. Mortgage and she was put in touch with Sanyu Barnicoat.

“She lives in rural area very far from me, but she came all the way to my home in Pepeekeo to meet with me,” says Terry. “I had many questions, and her answers generated more questions. Sanyu patiently and thoroughly answered all of them. Her professionalism and knowledge enabled me to feel comfortable with the process.”

Based on her age and interest rates being charged at the time, Terry qualified for just enough proceeds to pay off an existing mortgage on her home. While she wouldn’t have any leftover proceeds, her home would be paid off and she would no longer be burdened with a monthly mortgage payment.

After meeting with an independent HUD-approved housing counselor to discuss these numbers and other possible options, Terry decided to proceed and the reverse mortgage was finalized at the end of 2020.

“I am very grateful,” says Terry. “I consider it a gift from God.”

Now that she’s retired, Terry is spending her free time working with the Hawaii Literacy Kona coordinator to set up an adult literacy program in east Hawaii. She also helps as needed with a few of the homeless people in Hilo. She considers it all very rewarding work.

(Editor’s note: The borrower’s last name has been removed to protect her privacy.)