While reverse mortgages may be intriguing, rthey are hardly a significant product for the mortgage industry. After more than 10 years, only about 12,000 have been issued.

But that could change. Older people are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Many own their homes free and clear, with the equity representing much of their life savings. This equity tends to be highly illiquid. At the same time, their retirement incomes may be skimpy.

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