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Monday, February 4, 2013

Meet our CSA Spotlight, John "Skip" D. Frenzel

The question I get asked the most now is, "So how did you get into the senior business?" Good question, especially if you know where I came from. Ten years ago, I was living the glamorous life of an international airline pilot flying the heavy iron to all parts of the globe for a ton of money. That was my passion, my dream. I worked hard for it, sacrificing everything to live the dream. And I did it; I "went to the show," as they say in baseball. But it ended when my body started changing. I medically retired early.

Along with the change in my health and my job status, many other transitions were changing my established life. One such change got me into the senior market. A sudden long-term health event happened to someone I loved. My widowed mother, living in the house in Pennsylvania that I grew up in since I was 1 year old, got up to go to the bathroom one night, fell, and spent the night on the floor until my aunt found her the next morning. That started the procedure of selling the house and contents and moving her to an assisted living facility where she lived until she died from complications of a stroke three years later.

I was supposed to be knowledgeable about these things since I had all this "training." But I was a deer in the headlights. I didn't know what I didn't know. Thank God I did have help from family and friends. The smartest thing I did was help her fill out an estate planning form that listed her assets, belongings, legal instruments, etc., so that it wasn't an Easter egg hunt for me to find everything. Yet, it was a learning experience. I realized I didn't know it all and that I wanted to help others like me that had this unexpected, sudden change thrust on them. I would learn what I could and pass it on to others who didn't know what they didn't know.

There is an overwhelming amount of "stuff" to know in the senior market. There was too much. With reckless abandon, I took all my disciplines of real estate, financial planning, long-term care and life, and knitted them into a fabric of useful information. I looked at my mistakes, my experiences and my history and realized that I needed a plan. How could I help others? The first place I looked was at Realtors®. Without any formal training or guidance, they work with seniors on a daily basis, helping them downsize, move and go through life changes. Nobody was helping them either; I know, I was one of them. They didn't know what they didn't know either. They usually don't have the resources or knowledge to help seniors beyond the normal real estate activities. However, the senior market is much more than just real estate. It encompasses retirement, estate planning, long-term care, insurance, portfolio management, the psychology of aging, life changes, physical challenges and so much more. Where do Realtors get the training for this?

I decided this is where I could do the most good. I already had the only Realtor designation for working with and having advanced knowledge of seniors: the Senior Real Estate Specialist® (SRES®), but I wanted to do more with the designation. I wanted to teach the course to other Realtors. With my background in financial planning and long-term care, I could bring more resources to the designation than the basic course offered. But I had trouble breaking into the inner circle; it took two years to qualify and become an SRES® instructor, and many of the other instructors did not share information with me. Even though I was one of them, I was still an outsider and many regarded me as their competition.

Teaching the class just showed me how much material there is to share. It can't be done in the two days using the curriculum the SRES course provides. While this is a real estate course, it contains very little real estate; rather, it highlights the senior business. So while the other instructors are experts and experienced in real estate, many teaching a bunch of other real estate courses, the SRES class is the only one I teach and am qualified for. The others know real estate, while I know the senior market, so we approach the class from different angles. This allows me to do more than the normal content of the course; I "super size" it. This course is the start for agents to learn how to work with seniors and gives each agent a bit more knowledge on how to help their clients. But if that weren't enough, I have developed a class called "What SRES® Didn't Teach You: How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Do You Want to Go?" The name says it all.

Beside teaching the SRES® class and "Down the Rabbit Hole," I also have a beginners class for Realtors to introduce them to the senior market, called "The Alchemy of the Senior Market: Turning Lead into Gold."

Finally, my local real estate board has sought me out to assist them with the formation of a Senior Resource Center. I am helping to develop a program and resource center so that seniors can find the answers to things that they need. Since they don't know what they don't know, it will be useful to the public and will be staffed with SRES® Realtors from the board.

I would also like to do more work on affordable housing for seniors. This is a very complex and challenging subject in our area. And I want to work with planning cities of the future. This involves bringing people from the suburbs back into the cities and relying less on automobiles. This means returning to multiuse residential/retail buildings like from the 1940s and 1950s, using many new ideas to help us live better, including walkable neighborhoods with local shopping, local villages within the city, green technologies and more.

But my bread and butter is helping the Realtors to assist their senior clients and the children of these clients in areas other than real estate. I do this with a team of professionals who are experts in their various fields. Through them, the Realtor can provide services in areas that he or she can’t do, don’t want to do or aren’t licensed to do. Together, we form an integrated team that can solve most any senior-related problem. The main things that I provide are planning and education to the Realtors and their clients.

I use a variety of options to educate my Realtor clients, including seminars and workshops, a cache of materials, articles, books, PowerPoint presentations, a library of TV shows and industry handouts on topics of interest in the senior market. I provide each new Realtor client with an Agent Resource Kit. I regularly update the blog on my website and routinely send out eblasts that keep Realtors informed of the latest news that affects them. I alert them to seminars, fairs, open houses, meetings or other senior events in our area. I teach how to correctly deal with seniors and their issues, how to assist caregivers and how to gain access to the senior market. Since relationship building is the cornerstone to working with seniors, I help the Realtors provide information and resources to their clients to earn their trust and confidence. The Realtors can provide these services without being an expert on these areas themselves. I provide as much or as little service as the Realtor wants.

Besides the real estate work, I have interests in other areas of the senior business. Here are a few:

I am on the Advisory Council to the Council on Aging representing the City of Campbell, Calif. We review, implement and monitor programs that affect seniors in our county.

I am on the Senior Ministries Committee at the Los Altos United Methodist Church. We plan senior activities, events and services for seniors in the church. I am in charge of the Professional Services section, creating educational programs, seminars, lectures, workshops and presentations dealing with senior topics. Actually, I have started a program called "We don't know what we don't know." Does that sound familiar?

Also, I host twice a month Senior Chat meetings dealing with a variety of senior issues. I select topics, find speakers and host the meetings.

I have been a volunteer for the Silicon Valley Village since its inception, trying to establish a Village in the Santa Clara County area to help people age in place in their own homes by offering services and programs. I help seek other volunteers, committee members and leaders to launch this project.

I serve as a volunteer with the Silicon Valley Financial Planning Association (SVFPA), serving on the Program Committee planning, organizing and hosting regular monthly meetings of SVFPA. I also volunteer as a team member for Brown Bag Meetings, which are smaller, monthly lunchtime meetings dealing with non-mainstream financial planning topics. Team members find topics and presenters for these meetings, organize and host the meetings.

I also serve on several advocacy groups including AGEnts for Change, Aging Services Collaborative and the Senior Agenda to the county Area Plan, working with areas that are new or changing our senior programs.

But one of my greatest achievements and useful designations is the Certified Senior Advisor®. This course brought all of the above together into one comprehensive package which gave me the missing pieces to link all of my disciplines and knowledge together. It is not an easy course to pass, but the value of having it not only benefits the designee but all of his or her clients. This brings the polish to the rough topics that I sort of knew but needed a little more depth of knowledge. And just having it gives me the unspoken recognition of master of my trade. I am proud to have gotten the CSA and share it with my fellow cohorts. The combination of being a CSA, CFP®, Realtor and long-term care expert puts me in a position of authority and expertise when it comes to senior work.

Lastly, I am an enthusiastic member of our local Senior Roundtable and of LinkedIn. I will gladly link with others working in the field if invited.

John "Skip" D. Frenzel, CSA, CFP®, CLTC, CMFC
Long Term Care Specialist
Agape Long Term Care
CA License #0B33867

John D. Frenzel-REALTOR®
Agape Real Estate
CA License #590513

Check out the full issue of January's Senior Spirit, click here!