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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Meet CSA Spotlight, James Blythe

I get called into homes every day to consult with seniors who need financial help. They call me because I am a Reverse Mortgage specialist and the banks I have worked with trust me to take care of their customers. The first thing I tell potential borrowers is that I am a Certified Senior Advisor and that I earned the designation to help me counsel seniors and give them options and help with more than just a reverse mortgage. That changes the tone of the interview. Instead of being a salesman trying to sell them with a mortgage, I have become an advisor who was recommended by someone they know.

As a CSA I then begin to ask questions about their financial situation, their life, and their family. I can quickly learn what kind of income and assets they may have, as well as the reason behind their decision to inquire about a reverse mortgage. Having studied many aspects of aging through the CSA educational process, it really helps me to understand their needs. I had to use all of it one day when a gentleman and his wife came to visit me and he became loud and abusive. I thought he was going to hit me with his cane. I sat back and thought to myself about what was going on. I remembered some of the CSA information on Dementia and stress. So I sat quietly and listened, making sure to watch what happened with the cane. Then I told him I was a CSA here to help, not sell him something he didn’t want. Finally he told me he had lost $83,000 in an investment scam and put it on credit cards. He wanted me to know that if my mortgage program was a scam, then I would find out how he could use that cane. The more I talked about being a CSA the calmer he got. It took about a month, but I closed the loan which paid off his debt. I went further to teach him about credits, how to approach the credit card companies, and to learn to live on a budget. I did my best to make sure he understood that he had a resource in me to help him in the future.

The important thing for me is helping people make good decisions and plans, so that they can have sustainability and stability in their life. A reverse mortgage is a great financial tool, but if the funds are not used wisely, then the borrower will not have sustainability or stability. Understanding some of the lessons in the CSA program about illness has also helped. I have had many family members with spouses or parents who have Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Understanding their options and the progression of the diseases makes a big difference in planning and budgeting. Frequently, I recommend they look into assisted living instead of staying in their home. Understanding the costs and benefits of the various programs can really make a difference to a senior.

The biggest hurdle I see in working with many seniors is emotional. That is where the CSA training helps me the most. It helped me to be a better listener than a talker. Understanding their needs helps me to help them. All too often they don’t want to hear that they cannot afford to stay in their home. This was their dream home or the home their children grew up in. An 80 plus year old widow with a hip replacement and a knee replacement does not need a 3,500 square foot, two story home, with a pool - especially if she is using up her retirement assets like a hot knife through butter. If I tell them I am a reverse mortgage specialist, that has little or no impact, but if I speak as a CSA, then they frequently listen. It helps to get families involved, too.

Becoming a CSA gave me a much broader knowledge of seniors and their issues, not just my small area of expertise. It also helps me to communicate and listen. Finally, being a CSA helps me achieve my goals of making sure every person I work with comes away with a feasible plan and the tools to help them be stable and sustain being in their home or help them make decisions that will help them make the changes they need.

James Blythe
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) ®

Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors