Published
5 Min. Read

How Ann Went Far in Retirement by Staying in Her Childhood Home

5 Min. Read
Ann Miller

What happens when you take the time to write a letter? 

In the digital age, it’s a forgotten art that allows us an opportunity to share our thoughts, dreams, and inspirations with another person. It’s also a way to tell someone you appreciate them and express gratitude for what they’ve done for you. 

At Finance of America Reverse, our mission is to help get people working on their retirement. We offer a number of products and tools that do this, but our passion is seeing the fruits of their labor come to life.

Many of our greatest moments are when we hear directly from customers about how they’ve been able to accomplish something because of us. 

According to a 2017 survey, 43% of people ages 45 to 65-years-old planned on remaining in their current place of residence throughout their retirement. 

Rodney Harrell, director of livability thought leadership at AARP, explains that many of these folks want to stay in the homes surrounded by people and places that are familiar to them. 

“The vast majority of older adults want to stay in their homes and communities,” Harrell says. “They want to be near their family and near their church.” 

Ann Miller understands this sentiment all too well. 

Childhood House, Forever Home 

Like many people, Ann wanted to remain in her home throughout her retirement. What makes her story unique is that her home was the same one she grew up in. 

Her parents married in 1942 and soon after, they were able to settle in what would later become Ann’s forever home in Southern California. 

Her father worked for the railroad in Santa Barbara and her mother worked at Dorothy Thorpe Glass. One evening, while playing poker with some friends, Ann’s mom heard that a neighboring house was available and that her family may want to take a look at it. She scaled a wall and peeked into a tiny two-room cabin that soon became her parents new home. 

Her mother fell in love with the property, but her father had different thoughts. In the end, mom won, and dad had to sell his hot rod to help pay for it. By 1943, the home was theirs. 

Ann was born in 1949 and shortly after her father traded his senior position at the railroad for a switchman position closer to home. At first, it was close quarters. Someone described it as being “like Little House on the Prairie.” 

But, as Ann got older (and taller) and entered junior high school, the family added three bedrooms and a bathroom to the house. 

Earliest Memories 

One of the beneficial aspects of living in the house you grew up in is being close to the memories that shaped your childhood. 

For Ann, her earliest memory in the home involved an encounter with a snake. 

One day, Ann was down the street playing with friends. A car was passing by when it rolled over a rattlesnake that was crossing the street. The concerned driver alerted Ann and asked her to call her mother to let her know she was OK. 

Ann’s mother was on the phone at the time. Ann recalls, “I picked it up by the tail and I walked all the way down and back into the backyard. I went ‘look’ and she (my mother) said, ‘I’ll talk to you later!'” Ann’s mother was used to this kind of behavior from her; her mother said that Ann used to have pockets full of worms when they were working in the yard. “I was never afraid of animals, worms, spiders,” Ann remembers.

Modern Day Challenges 

Everyone’s path to retirement is different. There’s no such thing as an identical, repeatable retirement plan. 

Sometimes, they’re rife with challenges or complicating circumstances that are as unique as the person trekking on that path. 

In Ann’s retirement journey, she realized that some changes needed to happen with her house. The condition of the home getting worse with time and in Ann’s words, “everything needed to be done.” 

In addition, she also had to help clear out belongings from her parents, two sets of grandparents, and cousins. Every room was full of things that they left behind. Ann felt she had a few options: sell the place or find something else. 

A friend happened to tell her about reverse mortgages and Ann spent two months researching every aspect of the product she could. In the end, she decided it was the right move. “I went through the process, I got my reverse and the first thing to go was the kitchen, tore it all out and put a brand new kitchen in there,” Ann said. 

That work felt so right, and it led to more. When a handyman came in, she really liked his work and he repaired bathroom floors and helped put her deck. 

She kept going. 

Next, she redid the bedrooms, updated a bathroom, and changed the little rooms in the back of her house. She even added a brick mailbox out front. 

“I’ve made a remodel so well that now it’s up to the value that it should be,” Ann exclaimed. 

Ann was even able to use the money from her reverse to travel, host a reunion, and get a car that fit her and the dogs. 

“Now, I’m 70 and life is good. I will be at peace into my “Golden Years.” Last year, I was able to go on vacations to visit family and even hosted a large reunion in my home with 60 guests,” she said. 

Growing Memories for Ann 

Aside from the renovation of her childhood home, Ann has especially enjoyed spending time outside in her garden. Much of her yard is covered in shade, so naturally, Ann has cultivated a garden of shade-loving ferns. Ann has positioned plants high to accommodate her height and loves to see how different plants and objects take shape in her space. 

Working with FAR, Going Far 

Ann worked with Edward at Finance of America Reverse. No matter what, he was always within reach whenever Ann had a question or concern. 

“I worked with Edward. He was on the phone and he was on email and it was back and forth and there was a little hitch here and there and he just cleared it up like that,” explains Ann. 

Ann appreciated how available he was and how seamless the process was with FAR. No matter the distance or time of day, Edward was always free to answer questions and handle the reverse process by phone, email, and certified mail, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

“Since I got my reverse mortgage, it’s relieved a lot of pressure, and a lot of stress. Once I got it and I could redo the house and pay off some debt. Now, it’s very peaceful. Everything came together. I love that word, peaceful.”