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Reverse Mortgage Celebrities: Fred Thompson & Henry Winkler

September 14th, 2012

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If you were channel-surfing recently and caught a glimpse of the Fonz (a.k.a. Henry Winkler) on TV, chances are it wasn’t a rerun of Happy Days—it was a reverse mortgage commercial.

That’s right: In addition to acting and authoring children’ books, Winkler has added ‘spokesman’ to his resume. The product he’s endorsing is the reverse mortgage, which allows homeowners aged 62 and older to tap into the equity they’ve built up in their homes in the form of a loan that doesn’t come due until the borrower passes away or moves out.

Brands across many industries have celebrity spokesmen to endorse certain products, whether it’s to grab people’s attention, promote brand recognition, or seek credibility. So it’s no surprise that several companies in the reverse mortgage industry commission celebrities to help get their message out to people in their target market.

Interestingly, the reverse mortgage market includes several different celebrities with fairly diverse backgrounds—from former actors and current actors to politicians and financial experts. They may represent different companies, but together they also represent the reverse mortgage product itself as an option for retirees to help improve their financial situations.

Aside from Winkler’s TV spots, another reverse mortgage commercial features a spokesperson with an actor you’ve probably seen on Law & Order: Fred Thompson, who played a district attorney on the popular cop show along with serving as the Senator of Tennessee for several years.

What some people may not know is that Thompson has had a personal interest in reverse mortgages since his mother got one.

TV and movie actor Robert Wagner has also appeared in the reverse mortgage space for several years, and has represented several different lenders. Barbara Eden, known for her film career and 1960’s TV role playing Jeannie in “I Dream of Jeannie,” has also appeared in commercials for the loans.

Another entertainer who has assumed a new role as a spokesperson is Pat Boone, the 10th best-selling recording artist of all time. The reverse mortgage company that hired Boone to front its brand did so because of the actor and singer’s ongoing “reach” to the senior demographic.

More recently, former M*A*S*H star-turned-financial advisor Wayne Rogers has entered the sphere through a series of commercials, and now you can also find a younger celebrity, Salsa star Gilberto Santa Rosa, appealing to the Hispanic demographic for reverse mortgages.

Whether they’re entertainers, politicians, financial professionals, or some combination of the three, many of these names have come to be synonymous with reverse mortgage products, regardless of the specific company—or companies—they represent.

But it’s also important to remember that these products, independent of who is representing them, have certain requirements and benefits including the backing of the Federal Housing Administration.

Approved lenders are able to offer FHA-insured reverse mortgages under the administration’s Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program. You can find out more about the program by visiting the FHA’s website or by contacting All Reverse Mortgage.

We may not have a celebrity fronting our brand, but we’re confident in our ability to serve seniors even without a famous spokesperson. Our customer service speaks for itself, and if you’re thinking about getting a reverse mortgage, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.


“Reverse Mortgage Celebrities: Fred Thompson & Henry Winkler ” By Cliff Auerswald – Add me to your circles

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9 Responses to “Reverse Mortgage Celebrities: Fred Thompson & Henry Winkler”

  1. Tom Payne says:

    Henry must be broke since he is shilling for the reverse mortgage vultures, he is in good company with the also ran for president shysters for this evil home stealing method. WATCH OUT FOR REVERSE MORTGAGES!!!

  2. Rich says:

    You know darn well Fred Thompson or Winkler wouldn’t be caught dead with a reverse mortgage. They need to dump these commercials and replace them with the truth about the pitfalls of a reverse mortgage and start protecting the elderly instead of trying to reel them in.

  3. Walt says:

    I hope Fred Thompson et al who push reverse mortgages are religious enough to know Hell has a special place for scum like them who destroy the lives of those who trust them.

  4. Mike Branson says:

    I just want to make one comment in response to Tom, Rich and Walt. We don’t use a celebrity spokesperson in ads because we don’t run television commercials but I don’t share your viewpoints on the product so I can’t agree with you about my competitors’ spokespersons, either. I don’t know if any of you have ever even had any experience with reverse mortgages, but I want to just share my own personal experience with you.

    I have been a mortgage banker for nearly 40 years. During this entire time, I have only been originating reverse mortgages for less than 10 years. It was my own mother who asked me what I thought of reverse mortgages about 8 years ago. I had to be honest with her and tell her that I really didn’t know anything about the product. I had never originated a single reverse mortgage loan on my own, nor had I worked for a company who had offered them. I had worked for many large lenders throughout my career and also a few mortgage insurance companies. I have been in regional management as the Vice President of Operations and Sales for very large companies and I have run my own companies, but I had not ever had any experience with reverse mortgages.

    So I began to do some research. As with many lightning rod subjects, it seemed that there were many people who had strong opinions both pro and con. Then I had a chance to speak with a relative who had a reverse mortgage who I didn’t even realize had the loan. She informed me that she didn’t think it was anybody’s business what she did so she didn’t go around advertising it but she was glad to talk to me about it. She said that she got this way because she used to tell people about her reverse mortgage and just got tired of people who had never had one, didn’t have any idea how the loan even worked, but jumped in immediately and told her how bad the loan was. She said some people even tried to shame her as if she had done something wrong when she got her loan. But she told me it was the best thing she ever did and explained how her life changed with it. After all the research, my own mother did move forward with her reverse mortgage and she too now is extremely happy that she did the loan 8 years ago. That’s when I realized how badly many people misunderstand this loan and I started working with reverse mortgages on a full time basis.

    In the last 8 years, we’ve saved scores of homes from foreclosure, have allowed borrowers to live a dignified life and have changed some people’s lives. We’ve allowed people to move to single story homes with the purchase product that they would not have been able to buy otherwise and that their health necessitated. They still maintain contact with us many months later, still thanking us. Whenever I see a news report about someone who “lost it all” because of a reverse mortgage, I do the research to find out what really happened. We have been able to debunk most reports by many news agencies including Consumer Reports where they completely missed the cause of a borrowers’ problems. Like any loan program, people can misuse the program and people can do things that can create them problems later that we have always recommended against (such as dropping an under-aged borrower from title to complete a reverse mortgage transaction; using all their proceeds for a risky investment; trying to help family members start a business that failed and that used the senior’s equity that could not be replaced; etc), but those issues are not problems within the program itself. We have seen and heard from so many about the good the reverse mortgage has done for most borrowers.

    There are pros and cons and we put them on our website. Reverse mortgages are NOT for everyone. But to make such negative blanket statements simply tells me that you haven’t done the research and haven’t spoken to several people who have actually gotten the loan and whose lives have been changed for the better as a result. It’s great to have an opinion about something, but I would encourage you to reach out to several people who have reverse mortgages, and not just look for a few who are disgruntled or those who “know someone” who will validate your pre-formed negative opinion. Our website is full of borrower testimonials and many of those have been updated months and years after the loan has closed. And finally, while I think all three statements are extremely negative and demonstrate a lack of knowledge of the program, I certainly would not want to be the one judging others based on my lack of knowledge and questioning their eternal resting spot when that same religious teaching cautions against judging others.

    May I suggest you do some research:
    What is a Reverse Mortgage… in plain English
    So, What’s Your Problem with Reverse Mortgages?
    Is a Reverse Mortgage a Good Idea? – What Say You!

  5. Duncan Williams, CFP(R) says:

    I am a professor of financial planning, and I was a fee only practitioner for years prior to moving to academia. Reverse mortgages are tremendously useful for the significant portion of retirees who don’t have enough LIQUID wealth to maintain the lifestyles they had before retirement Reverse mortgages provide a way for seniors to tap the wealth they have stored in their homes to improve their lifestyles without (1) having to sell or rent it out and (2) protects them from foreclosure so that you can remain in your house until death. Number 2 is what makes the FHA (provided) provided insurance premium costly. It is still worth it if (1) you need the extra cash flow (2) you want to remain in your house for the rest of your life or until you have to go to a nursing home and (3) you don’t have the bequest motive to leave your heirs an unencumbered house.

  6. Mike Branson says:

    Thank You Professor,

    This is exactly what we have been telling people for many years. We are of the mindset that the reverse mortgage is not the perfect loan for all people in all instances, but for those people who fall within the parameters you outlined, this loan can be a very useful financial tool. Thank you for your objective analysis which informs borrowers when the program is best utilized. We show borrowers the different options available to them when we send them proposals; options that will give them not only the most possible money, but also will shield their equity the longest if their goal is to leave the larges estate possible to heirs. We believe the right loan is the loan that is right for the individual borrower and their needs and goals. I appreciate it when I hear professionals such as yourself with no sales motive and no ax to grind give an objective opinion about a program I believe in so much.

  7. Signgeezer says:

    Fred Thompson is not a moron, not an idiot, not an imbecile, not a blathering mindless jerk as his commercials for AAG would lead you to believe. Having run for the presidency is evidence that he is intellectually nimble.

  8. Mitchell Baxter says:

    The commenters above talking about “a special place in hell” for Fred Thompson or calling all reverse mortgages an “evil home-stealing method” are just plain ignorant. There’s nothing inherently wrong, dangerous, or immoral about a reverse mortgage; as with many other kinds of mortgages, investments, or financial products, there are pros and cons, more and less reputable providers, and unless you’re experienced in finance, you shouldn’t make any significant financial move without getting good advice and doing research first.

    Potential borrowers are required to go through a counseling session before taking a reverse mortgage, so they can make an informed choice on whether and with whom to proceed.

    We took out a reverse mortgage for my grandmother over 10 years ago. She owned a condo free and clear, but was low on cash. My brother and I, both lawyers familiar with mortgages, reviewed everything first. After her passing, we paid the balance to clear the lien, and there was still nice bit of equity to divide among 9 grandchildren and great-children.

    If reverse mortgages were always a bad deal, AARP would warn people away, rather than provide a resource guide to understanding and benefiting from them.


  9. Tom Russo says:

    In recent years, reverse mortgages are becoming more and more popular. The latest is the reverse purchase. Many Realtors are coming on board now that they realize this program offers their senior clients a huge benefit as well as potentially doubling their commission.

    I have not done any yet but think it they offer so much to both the senior and the Realtor. It is great to see seniors get a home they did not know they qualified for. For this, we don’t need any celebrity endorsements but rather a greater awareness of this program.

    Thanks for reading and learn about these. They are mutually beneficial.

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