Dear Harry:

I am 63 and on disability. My wife works, but with the present state of the economy, we're scraping to get by just like a lot of others. We have used up most of our savings just to make ends meet. We own our own home free and clear. It's worth about $200,000 today. We are thinking of getting a reverse mortgage to do some needed repairs and to establish an emergency fund. We don't want to have a home-equity loan because the monthly payments would be killers. Is this the way to go?

What Harry says:

A reverse mortgage will do the trick, but let's examine your situation more closely. The big trouble with reverse mortgages is the very hefty costs to get one going. Lenders often tie them to annuities, long-term-care insurance or other products. The initial fees are stiff, too. You can go the home-equity-loan route with some modification of the repayment requirements. There are loans out there that require only that interest be paid currently. I recently heard of a deal that is a bit of a hybrid. The interest was added to the loan so that no current payments were due. This could be just your ticket, but it may require a bit of searching to get it. You are a prime borrower with all that home equity and your history of frugality. Do not go for any deal until you have had a lawyer review it. There are too many places where you can be bamboozled by the fine print. Another approach would be to consider downsizing to a smaller home or apartment. This would especially be the case if you're empty-nesters. *

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Harry urges all his readers to give blood - contact the American Red Cross at 800-GIVE LIFE.