At Golden Gateway -- a Web site devoted to reverse mortgages, there is a unique calculator designed to compare actual products and actual withdrawal amounts. All you do is input your age (and that of your co-borrower), as well as your ZIP code, estimated home value and the amount of your current mortgage, if any.

The online calculator will instantly show you all the products for which you are eligible. You can see how much you could get from various lenders in the form of a lump sum, or a monthly check, a line of credit, or a combination. The choices are clearly explained.

Best of all, the calculator projects exactly where you will stand financially in five, 10, 15 or 20 years. You pick the time horizon, and with a click, you'll see how much you'll have borrowed out of your equity using each product.

Even better, the calculator projects how much interest you'll have paid, how much you'll have paid in fees -- and how much equity will remain in your home at that point in the future.

Yes, housing prices will rise again over the next 10 or 15 years, offsetting some or all of your Reverse Mortgage withdrawals.

You can calculate based on a 2% annual appreciation, or with a click of your mouse raise that to a more realistic 4% or 6%, or more. So while you're taking equity out, the house is likely to be appreciating, leaving something for your heirs -- or for your use if you decide to sell and move to a smaller home.

As you view the numbers, you can call Golden Gateway toll-free and get an explanation of the terms and comparisons. This unique service gathers information from all the major providers of Reverse Mortgages and helps you find the product that best suits your needs -- or those of your parents.

Golden Gateway will help you with the application process. The firm will even show seniors who want to downsize and sell their old, larger home how to use a reverse mortgage to help pay for a new smaller home -- freeing up cash from the sale of the original home.

Think of a reverse mortgage as the key to a vault. It unlocks the equity in your home, allowing you to stay in your home or even downsize -- without going into debt, and without being dependent on your children. Done right, it will make you (or your parents) feel great.

How do I know? I arranged one for my dad.

Now I get to enjoy his independence as much as he does! And that's The Savage Truth.

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Terry Savage is an expert on personal finance and also appears as a commentator on national television on issues related to investing and the financial markets. Savage's personal finance column in the Chicago Sun-Times is nationally syndicated. She was the first woman trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and is a registered investment adviser for stocks and futures. Savage currently serves as a director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Corp.

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