That is who a colleague said I sounded like when we were discussing the increasing coverage given to reverse mortgages. A simple definition of curmudgeon from the Merriam-Webster website is  ”…a person (especially an old man) who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.”

I feel older every day, but I am a fairly laid back kind of guy. Not much bothers me and I do not complain often but in this case I see his point. I was getting a bit cranky. One thing that often triggers a slip into annoyance and complaint is too much positive coverage about a financial product.

I think it started back in the early days of my career. The company I was with seemed to have a “training session” regarding variable universal life on a frequent basis. The VUL was good for just about everything: asset protection, retirement savings, tax-free income, college savings, and even an emergency fund. Presenters often called it the “Swiss army knife of financial products.”

It was off-putting, and it didn’t take long for me to develop a high level of skepticism whenever the new great thing is presented. Normally I don’t think well, or poorly, of a particular product until the use of the product is put into context. Sure, some products are heavily laden with negative attributes and some possess predominately positive attributes, but in the right context a less than desirable product can be quite useful and a wonderfully designed product can be misused.

My opinion of reverse mortgages has gone through three phases. The first phase was definitely negative. Products were costly, complex and considered only as a last resort.

Due to a number of reforms over the years the second phase was one of a general negative outlook that softened. The costs became much more reasonable and made their use a viable consideration in more cases. They fit in more contexts.

The academic community certainly seems to have tuned in to ways reverse mortgage products can be used in ways other than a last ditch effort to provide cash flow to a senior. A number of studies have come out illustrating various integrations of a reverse mortgage product and a retirement portfolio. These studies received a lot of attention from financial press particularly financial planning press. You’ll be hard-pressed to attend a conference that does not have a session on the wonders of a reverse mortgage. This coverage triggered my current curmudgeonly stage.

I am a passionate advocate for the practitioner and academic community to work together to better serve clients. So I welcome studies and their findings.

Unfortunately, the more and more I hear about the versatile uses of reverse mortgages, the more I have flashbacks to the Swiss army knife and more uncomfortable I become because I see too many advisors moving too quickly to use reverse mortgages with clients.