Does Dave Ramsey know much about reverse mortgages?

Dave does a hit piece on reverse mortgages in which he points out some of the less popular aspects of the loan.  However, he is either OK with exaggerating the truth or reveals his ignorance about how reverse mortgages work.

Screenshot of Dave Ramsey Article on Reverse Mortgages


Is Dave right about Reverse Mortgages?

Firstly, let’s give Dave his due when he tells the truth.  He is right when he says a reverse mortgage operates in reverse of a standard or forward loan.

Instead of a rising equity falling debt scenario, the reverse mortgage is a rising debt, falling equity loan. But he uses an example where you put $100 in the bank, get $40 back, and they take the interest from the $60.00 you have remaining in the bank and say no one would do this.

How debt works

arlo teaching how reverse mortgages work

Dave doesn’t tell you that all debt works in much the same way.  You use a small amount of the funds and pay much more back in payments.  If you have a credit card, you buy something, and then you make payments of $50.00 a month, of which only $5.00 goes to paying off the amount you borrowed.

Look at the disclosures on the standard mortgages that go for 30 years, on which you pay month after month.  After 30 years, you probably paid 2 ½ times more than you borrowed on those as well.  So yeah, Dave, people take that “deal” day in and day out when they want or need something and don’t have the cash to pay for it outright.

I see ads for 30-year fixed-rate loans with low down payments or even no down payments for veterans and think, what happens when they have no equity, AND they have been paying through the nose each month, so they have no cash either?

Dave, where are you getting your info?

dice - fact or fake

Dave’s understanding of the rules of the HUD program is sadly mistaken in several areas.  Dave thinks that homes worth more than $679,650 don’t qualify for a reverse mortgage, which is false.

Dave mistakes the HUD lending limit (now $1,149,825 for 2024) with a maximum your home can be worth.  You could always have a home valued higher than the limit and still get the loan; there were no additional benefits for homes valued above the maximum limit.

Dave thinks you can’t owe any federal debts, which is inaccurate, but you may be required to pay them at closing in some cases.  Dave thinks heirs have two options when the borrowers pass, pay the loan off at the full amount, or give the house to the lender.

This, again, is either false or misleading at best.

Heirs can choose several options.  If you want to keep the home, you may pay off the amount owed, or 95% of the current appraised value, whichever is less.  This is usually achieved by a new refinance loan in the heirs’ name if they want to keep the home.

If they do not want to keep the home and there is still equity in the property, they can sell the house and pocket the equity.  Finally, if they do not want to sell the home because there is no equity remaining and do not wish to be involved in the property disposal, they can walk away and owe nothing – regardless of the value and loan balance.

Reverse Mortgages are insured, unlike bank HELOCs

The loan is a non-recourse loan, and the lender and HUD cannot look to any other assets of the borrower or the borrower’s estate for repayment of any shortfall.

The insurance covers this the borrower received with the loan – oh, that Dave said doesn’t cover the borrower.  Still, here we see that the borrower’s estate and heirs benefit from the insurance other than just the availability of the loan itself.

The insurance also guarantees that no matter what happens to lenders in the future, borrowers will always receive all funds due to them, and the loan will never be closed, as was the case with HELOCs when banks decided they did not want the product as values dropped.

Dave talks about a reverse mortgage giving away your net worth. He gives the example of the average net worth of the senior borrower being almost $203,000 but under $58,000 without home equity.

And this is where we encourage borrowers to talk to their financial advisors and their families to see what’s right for them. If they can’t afford to stay home without help, the family may work their own “reverse mortgage” arrangement to help the senior homeowner.

But if it comes down to a reverse mortgage or a move, you must do all the math and consider the emotional aspects, which Dave doesn’t even mention.

Reverse Mortgages aren’t for everyone – and we agree!

Here are some things we agree with Dave, but he only shows one side of the coin in this part of his pitch.  Reverse mortgages are not for all senior borrowers.  If you cannot pay taxes, insurance, and all other obligations even after you obtain your reverse mortgage, then it is not the right loan for you.

It is a default under the terms of the loan if you do not pay your taxes and insurance on time or if you let the property fall into serious disrepair, so we advise borrowers to bring family members into the discussion and to be sure that this loan makes their finances secure enough to where payment of these obligations is never in question.

You should consider other options if you still cannot afford to live comfortably with all obligations after a reverse mortgage.

Dave thinks selling your home is a cheaper alternative.

And yes, the loan with the insurance is costly.  But neither is selling a house with 3 – 6% commissions. Rent in most areas of the country these days is not cheap either if you don’t have the income and credit to purchase again under Dave’s plan and can’t pay cash!

With Dave’s example: a $200,000 house with a 6% real estate commission ($12,000), miscellaneous closing costs ($2500), and moving expenses ($2500), you can easily “give away” (his words) $17,000 on the sale of and move from a $200,000 home and that doesn’t include any expenses at the new place, especially if you are buying there!

We realize that this loan is not multi-generational.  If you have family living with you that need to stay after you pass and you don’t think they can refinance the loan (even after years of no payments), this may not be a good option for them if they can’t save up enough to move later.

We always advise borrowers and heirs to talk about future options and plans before the time comes when it is no longer an option.

What Dave Ramsey doesn’t tell you about Reverse Mortgages

Finally, the one thing that Dave doesn’t tell you is that although there are no monthly mortgage payments due on a reverse mortgage, there is never a prepayment penalty so that you can make a payment in any amount at any time without penalty.

Dave says you can lose your home if you don’t pay your taxes, insurance, and HOA dues but doesn’t tell you that with a regular mortgage, the exact verbiage is also in their loan documents.  You can lose any home with any mortgage (and even without a loan if you wait long enough) by not paying due assessments on your home.

Dave further points out all these steps you can take to make budgets and payments, put money aside with a regular mortgage, and point you to a forward mortgage lender with whom he may or may not have an affiliation.  Still, if you can make those payments, you can do it with a reverse mortgage.

How can paying the same assessments plus a mortgage payment possibly be less risky if you run into trouble?

Is Dave Ramsey biased against reverse mortgages because of financial interest?

I don’t want to cast any aspersions on Dave because I have no actual knowledge. Still, since Dave has a link to an intake form with his name on it and the name of another lender, I strongly suspect that Dave is acting as a lead generation source for the lender he names for compensation (he can’t originate the loan because he is not a licensed originator, so he has to send them your information as a lead if this is what he is doing).

If so, it stands to reason that this would incentivize Dave to push forward mortgages (specifically, their mortgages) because it brings him income.  I’m not accusing Dave of anything; this is not illegal.

But you won’t find us pushing other programs on our website only to participate in a lead generation system.  If Dave is doing this as it strongly appears that he is, I think he should be a little more honest about that in his article and tell you from the start that a forward mortgage lender is compensating him for all the leads he generates.

What do you think about it, Dave? Is this the case?

I come at this from a different perspective than Dave

I had been a mortgage banker for many years and had never originated a reverse mortgage or even knew what they were until my mother came to me, told me she was considering one, and asked me what I thought of the idea.

This being almost 15 years ago, I told her I had to investigate them and would let her know.  For her, it was the greatest thing we could have done. She fixed up her home, had a line of credit for other things that came up, and a steady stream of additional income monthly with the modified tenure loan.

We had to move Mom into assisted living a little under a year ago and sell the home she had owned for 55 years.  Because the loan was used judiciously, she had the income she needed to do what she wanted; the house was in great shape, and with the repairs she had made, it sold quickly. Plus, there was still a lot of equity in the home when we sold it.

But the biggest thing was she could stay in the home she loved all those years.

For the last 15 years, I have originated only reverse mortgages and saved numerous borrowers from foreclosure, some just hours from the sale.  I had counseled borrowers against the loan when it didn’t make sense and advised them to look at other options even when I knew it meant it would be a loan I would not originate.

We give borrowers all the information (not half-truths, as I read here), and that, Dave, is no scam!

Top FAQs


What does Dave Ramsey say about reverse mortgages?

Dave Ramsay does not endorse Reverse Mortgages, and instead, he pushes people to do 15-year fixed rates with a local lender with whom he is not affiliated but receives compensation.  Most borrowers seeking a reverse mortgage do so because they cannot afford the payments on a 15-year fixed-rate loan, though the two loans do not typically attract consideration from the same borrowers.

Will you owe more than the home is worth?

With a reverse mortgage, the balance can rise higher than the home’s value if you pay no payments and live in the house for a long time.  You can repay any amount to keep the balance from rising, but you are not required to do so.  Also, a reverse mortgage is a non-recourse loan which means that no matter what the balance may increase to, you or your heirs will only be required to pay the outstanding balance or the current value of the home, whichever is less, to pay off the loan if you wish to keep the home or you can walk away without owing anything to the lender.

Can you lose your home if you have a reverse mortgage?

As with any loan, you must pay the taxes, insurance, and other property charges (i.e., HOA dues) as they become due.  Failure to do so could result in the lender calling the loan due and payable.  However, if you pay your property charges, it makes no difference what the balance is on the loan; you may remain in the home for life without making a loan payment on the mortgage.

Are reverse mortgages scams?

The plain truth is no.  We encourage all borrowers to discuss the loan with their families or trusted financial advisors.  But they also are not for all borrowers.  You must attend counseling from a third-party counselor approved by HUD, which is not a lender, to be sure you understand the loan.

Is a reverse mortgage a good idea?

Like any loan, you are contemplating whether the loan makes sense depending on your circumstances.  For some borrowers, it is a great idea, and for some borrowers, it is not.  Talk to your family and a trusted advisor.  Compare the loan results to your goals; if the loan does not help you achieve your goals, consider other options.  If it does, then compare lenders – it pays to compare.