Pat Robertson, the 84-year-old television evangelist, is the ruler of a broadcasting and business empire worth by some estimates as much as $1 billion. Lat Tuesday, he dispensed some sage advice to one of his dues-paying members who wrote in to the popular preacher asking for guidance because at age 67, she could not afford to retire.
"I have been a 700 Club partner for many years," wrote Maria, the senior citizen 700 Clubber. "I am 67 years old and still working because retirement money does not cover our basic expenses. I was thinking about a reverse mortgage but have my doubts. What do you think?"While Maria did not specify her level of 700 Club "partnership," Robertson asks his viewers to donate money to his business enterprise on a monthly basis with the lowest level of "partnership" costing $20 per month — or $240 per year, which can be a significant sum for a senior citizen on a fixed income who already is having difficulty meeting basic expenses.
A "Gold" membership in the 700 Club costs twice that amount, which is $40 per month or $480 per year. The next step up costs $1,000 annually with "partnerships" ranging up to the "Chairman's Circle" price of $10,000 per year or $834 per month, nearly twice the average monthly loan payment on a new car.
In exchange for the "partnership" dues, Robertson's acolytes receive copies of his DVD, Be Healed!
What Robertson does not appear to offer is any sort of dues waiver or sliding scale for senior citizens who struggle to afford the hefty 700 Club dues.
That, perhaps, is why Robertson was quick to offer an enthusiastic endorsement of his correspondent Maria's idea — a reverse mortgage.
"Here's the deal on reverse mortgages," Robertson assured the woman. They will not take your house away from you as long as you are alive and live in it."Sounds like a great deal — but in Robertson's explanation, it gets even better.
"When you do leave, you don't have to pay it off, but somebody has to pay it off, namely the United States taxpayer," Roberston said. "So, it's not a good deal for the taxpayers, but for most people it's a pretty good deal."The preacher concluded by telling the woman, "it could be a good deal for you."
While it is true that reverse mortgages — a type of financial instrument available only to homeowners over 62 that allows them to receive monthly cash payments up to the value of their homes — can provide a financial lifeline to struggling seniors, they also come with some serious risks, according to financial experts.
One of those dangers is that the borrower may live longer than the term on the reverse mortgage — which at the relatively young age of 67 would appear to be a significant risk for Maria.
In that case, Maria or her children could be left not only in her original dire predicament of being unable to pay her bills, but in addition, she or her heirs would be swamped by a sudden mass of debt that could run to the thousands of dollars, or more.
This isn't the first time that Robertson has dispensed his brand of financial advice to struggling seniors on the air. Last September, he told an 80-year-old woman who said she gave generously to her church but could not afford basic living expenses to get a job.
Video of that segment can be viewed at this link. Watch the video of Pat Robertson advising his financially struggling follower to take out a reverse mortgage above.