Baby Boomers can’t retire because they all bought McMansions?

The economic crisis has changed the retirement plans of many. How might have McMansions played a role?

Financial planners on the South Shore and a new national study all point to the same troubled financial picture for people in their late 40s to their early 60s: Many are carrying so much debt from mortgages and student loans they co-signed for their children that retirement is a distant dream.

“They traded in their houses for a McMansion and bought at the higher part of market. They hocked it over 30 years, and they have little equity, if any,” said John Napolitano, CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree and 2012 president of the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts…

The study found that the mortgage burden for baby boomers is 25 percent higher than it was for the same age group in 1990.

“In the refinance boom, mortgage brokers convinced (baby boomers) don’t stress out and sold them on a 30-year mortgages,” said Harris. “It was all about cash flow.

The article suggests Baby Boomers are also helping their struggling children. Yet, I wonder about these figures about mortgages and McMansions. This leads to two questions: (1) How many Baby Boomers really bought homes that might be considered McMansions? (2) And how many of them went into excessive debt to purchase this McMansion? For example, I would guess there are a decent number of people underwater on their regular-sized (less than McMansion size) home, particularly in certain housing markets.

This could be a classic case of McMansions serving as a whipping boy or shorthand explanation for the complicated housing market of recent years. When the term McMansion is used here, a certain image comes to mind: a house that is extremely unnecessary for the homeowners. Without seeing the actual numbers, it is hard to know this is exactly what happened but using McMansion certainly helps drive home a particular idea.

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