Home equity is an attractive source of cash, but some financial advisors worry that Americans are reducing equity unwisely.

According to Boston's AEW Capital Management, a real estate investment advisor, mortgage loans in late 2001 were for 67.3 percent of a home's purchase price. Two decades ago it was 41.3 percent.

They particularly recommend that homeowners pay off their mortgages by age 63 or before they retire. A mortgage can really complicate retirement, they say.

AEW suggests that when people take a mortgage or refinance, they set the term of the loan for the number of years until they expect to retire. Or they can simply add $100 or $200 a month to their mortgage payment to ensure that it is paid off when they retire.

For retirees who want to cut expenses, moving to a smaller home is an option, or taking a reverse mortgage is another step that is becoming increasingly popular.