For many retirees, the bulk of their life savings is in the equity they've built up in their homes. Yet getting at that home equity can be a challenge. Are reverse mortgages the right answer?

In the following video from The Motley Fool's series on retirement investing, sponsored by TD Ameritrade, Fool consumer finance expert Dayana Yochim talks to Dan Caplinger, the Fool's director of investment planning, about the basics of reverse mortgages. Dan notes that for those who don't want to sell their homes, a reverse mortgage has the attractive benefit of allowing you to get regular income while still living in your home. Yet Dan also goes through some traps of reverse mortgages, including provisions that can allow a lender to make your loan come due immediately if you stop living in the home. That has led to horror stories for some families, where the borrower on the reverse mortgage went to a nursing home or other facility and therefore triggered their reverse mortgage to come due. Dan recommends being smart about structuring a reverse mortgage to avoid those pitfalls, and also considering your other income resources to make sure you understand all your options.

How Social Security can help
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Dan Caplinger and Dayana Yochim have no position in any stocks mentioned. Nor does The Motley Fool. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.