The really bad money decision millennial homeowners are making
Millennials are often described as prioritizing leisure and entertainment, but many are going into debt to fund them.
Most financial planners caution homeowners against using home-equity loans to fund short-term expenses, including vacations. Yet that is the most popular use of the money for the more than half of U.S. homeowners between the ages of 30 and 34 who have owned a home for three years or more and have taken out a home-equity loan, according to results of a Discover Home Equity Loans survey, released on Wednesday.
“It mystifies me that they’re taking out additional debt,” said Jackson Mueller, deputy director of the FinTech Program for the Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank that aims to increase global prosperity. “But it doesn’t really surprise me that they’re using alternative financing to fund certain things.”
Many millennials are shunning credit cards, looking for less expensive ways to borrow, he said.
Borrowing against a home can be a less expensive way to attain funds than credit cards. The average interest rate on a home-equity loan was 4.88% for the week ending Aug. 17, according to Bankrate.com; the average rate on a home-equity line of credit was 4.75%. The average credit-card rate was 16.1%. Interest on home-equity loans also may be tax deductible, said TJ Freeborn, spokeswoman for Discover Home Equity Loans.
The survey findings show that for many borrowers, “the home not only is the place they live and create memories, but also a financial asset,” Freeborn said. The results of the survey showed that 30 to 34 year-olds were also more likely than other age groups to view their home as an investment property.
But borrowing against your home comes with risks. “It’s because people took money out of their homes that they went underwater,” said Deidre Campbell, global chair of the financial services sector for Edelman, a communications marketing firm that has done research on millennials and money. When housing prices fell during the last housing crash, some who took money out of their homes ended up owing more than the homes were worth — leading to a rise in foreclosures and short sales.
Edelman research paints millennials as a group that is very traditional, and one that worries about money, which Campbell said may run counter to the Discover findings. This is a generation that is concerned about its financial stability, and having equity build up in a house creates more stability, she said.
The Discover report found that 51.3% of those homeowners between 30 and 34 (who have owned for three years of more) have taken a home-equity loan out against their home. Only 29.4% of those between 35 and 44, 19.9% of those between 45 and 54, 25.7% of those between 55 and 64, and 22.3% of those 65 and older also said they took out a home-equity loan against their home. The results come from a survey of 1,428 consumers, conducted earlier this year. The survey didn’t cover the dollar amount of the loans.
The most popular reasons the youngest group took the loans were vacations (43.3%) and emergency cash (41.8%), followed by home remodels (41.1%), medical expenses (36.2%) and weddings (31.2%). For the other age groups, debt consolidation and home remodels were the top responses.
“Home-equity loans should never be used for something like a vacation or other short-term wants,” wrote Ryan Fuchs, a financial planner with Ifrah Financial Services in Little Rock, Ark., in an email interview. Using a home-equity loan for emergency cash can be wise in some cases, he added. “For example, if your home or car is damaged in a storm, and you need to get something fixed before the insurance check will be received, then that can make sense.” Once the insurance money is in hand, that loan can be paid off.
Home remodels that add value to the property, such as redoing a kitchen or a master bath, can be a good use of home equity, Fuchs said. He also prefers home-equity lines of credit over closed-end home-equity loans. A HELOC only accrues interest if and when you draw money from the line; when you take out a chunk of money via a home equity loan, “it starts accruing interest immediately no matter when you actually spend the money from the loan.” SOURCE