Unlocking Equity in Retirement – The Rise of RIO Mortgages

Retirement interest-only (RIO) mortgages are emerging as a popular choice among the UK’s affluent and high-net-worth individuals. These unique financial products cater to older individuals aiming to unlock significant equity from their homes. This trend is part of a broader strategy for financial and inheritance tax planning, often including the desire to gift funds to family members like children or grandchildren.

The Appeal of RIO Mortgages

For borrowers, RIO mortgages present a more appealing option compared to selling investments or shares, especially during times of stock market uncertainty. They are particularly attractive for those with multiple income sources to comfortably handle the interest payments.

Wealth managers and professional advisers find RIOs advantageous as they offer an alternative to disinvesting. For affluent, older, or retired people, RIO mortgages are worth considering due to their flexibility.

RIOs vs. Equity Release

It’s important to distinguish RIO mortgages from equity release products, which have recently faced scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

In a RIO mortgage, borrowers pay regular interest on the borrowed amount. The loan is repaid when they either move into long-term care, sell the property, or pass away. In contrast, equity release involves rolling up interest, leading to a situation where borrowers pay interest on interest. This can significantly diminish the property’s equity, potentially leaving little to pass on to the next generation.

RIO mortgages allow clients to preserve their equity. While initially more expensive in terms of interest rates compared to equity release mortgages, they can be more cost-effective in the long run.

Estate Planning and RIOs

Companies have been offering retirement mortgages since 2021 to assist wealthier individuals in managing their estate planning, particularly concerning inheritance tax. These products are ideal for clients with steady income sources that can cover interest payments.

Additionally, many clients prefer to pass on their wealth to their children during their lifetime or access a lump sum without disrupting their other assets and investment portfolios.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite their benefits, RIO mortgages face challenges in terms of awareness and understanding, especially compared to more well-known equity release products.

Potential borrowers should carefully consider their income to ensure they can afford the interest payments throughout their retirement. Other factors include the seven-year timeframe for optimal gifting and the possibility of taking out life insurance to cover any liability.

Even with rising interest rates, the benefits of RIO mortgages remain significant, especially when compared to the 40% inheritance tax versus a total borrowing cost of around 8%.


In summary, RIO mortgages are becoming an increasingly popular option for older, wealthier individuals in the UK. They offer a flexible and potentially more economical way to manage estate planning and pass on wealth, making them an important consideration for those looking to make the most of their retirement finances.