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BY ANA VECIANA-SUAREZ
THE MIAMI HERALD
MIAMI--Marie Ginise thought she and her husband, Joseph, had prepared well for retirement. They worked hard to build up their asphalt driveway business, saved a few pennies and eventually moved to Florida from Connecticut to enjoy their golden years.
But when Joseph got sick and died, Marie, 75, realized she could not afford the two-bedroom manufactured home the couple had bought in Deerfield Beach, Fla., in 2005. Now, instead of enjoying shuffleboard and card games in her senior community, she's fighting off foreclosure.
"I cry every night when I go to bed," Ginise said. "You work for something your whole life and then it doesn't turn out like that at all. I don't know if I'm here or there."
Marie Ginise is among the older Americans who owe more on their homes than they're worth after the real estate crash--but with less time to make up the financial loss than those who are younger. An AARP report released this summer, "Nightmare on Main Street: Older Americans and the Mortgage Market Crisis," revealed that:
About 3.5 million loans held by people older than 50 (or 16 percent of all loans for that group) were underwater as of December 2011.
The percentage of seriously delinquent mortgage loans increased from 1.1 percent in 2007 to 6 percent in 2011 for people 50 and older.
The foreclosure rate for people 50 and older also increased, from 0.3 percent in 2007 to 2.9 percent in 2011.
"It's like the end of the American Dream for them," said Gladys Gerson, a supervising attorney for Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida. "They're very embarrassed that they can't maintain their own home."
Max Rothman, president of the Alliance for Aging in Miami, said he is seeing "more older folks calling in about various issues relating to financial insecurities. It's a symptom of the times."
Older Americans are struggling to make ends meet on nest eggs earning paltry returns, but the underlying factors of the mortgage crisis began long before The Great Recession. As housing prices soared, older homeowners took home equity loans and second mortgages on their houses, just as their younger counterparts did--but with less time to weather the financial storm if the monthly payment became unaffordable.