A reverse mortgage is not necessarily a bad thing. Under the right circumstances it can really help a retiree. Basically, it is a way to sell your house while being allowed to live in it until you die. The estate of someone who gets a reverse mortgage doesn’t necessarily lose the home in the end. But for those who are the best suited to one, this is the case. One thing is certain: reverse mortgages are not so widely useful to seniors that people need to be alerted about them via national television ad campaigns.
I have my own problem with a reverse mortgage: it is yet another way of taking wealth away from the middle classes. Instead of a home being passed on to the next generation, it becomes just another bit of equity in the portfolio of a giant corporation. Now there is nothing wrong with the middle classes selling off property to obtain a better retirement. But that really isn’t what this is all about. The ads are specifically targeted at the elderly to get them to exchange wealth for consumerism, “Get this really expensive and confusing loan and go on vacation!”
Okay: corporations are evil institutions. I get that. But I’ve been really struck by who the paid spokesmen are for these things. At first, I saw Fred Thompson doing the commercials. I actually felt sorry for him. Celebrities often fall on hard times and have to do these kinds of ads to get their lives back together. And Thompson was a good candidate because he has even less charm and ability than my Uncle Don. But that wasn’t what was going with him. According to CNN Money, in 2007, Thompson’s net worth is a bit over $8 million and he had made over $9 million in income the year before. Given that $4 million of his net worth was rolled up in two homes with almost a million for a pension, I don’t think he’s been doing too bad.
Of course, Thompson is a Republican. I expect this kind of stuff from them. The purpose of life is to make as much money as possible and then to spend it ostentatiously. That’s when I started seeing Henry Winkler doing the commercials. I don’t know his politics, but he’s done a lot of work for special needs children and apparently suffers from dyslexia himself. That usually indicates a liberal. So I thought: despite all the acting and producing and kid book “writing,” surely he too much have fallen on hard time. Not so much. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Winkler has about $35 million.
These two men, with all their millions, seem to think that hawking bad financial products to vulnerable seniors is a good use of their name recognition. In Thompson’s case, it hardly matters; I already thought he was a dick and an idiot, and I think that’s a common take on the man. Winkler, on the other hand, I thought rather well of. But now I think he’s as big a dick as Thompson. And the only thing likely to change that opinion is if I learn that he’s being blackmailed.
Again, reverse mortgages are not necessarily a bad thing. But they aren’t so great that they ought to be advertised everywhere. And the fact that they are pushed so hard is all you need to know about just how great they are. My recommendations would be for Fred Thompson’s agent to get him a couple of TV roles where he plays the president—the only part he’s pretty good at. And Winkler ought to ask for a raise from Mitchell Hurwitz.