The “Aloha Spirit” is what Wendy Oshiro loves about Hawaii. Born and raised on the island of Oahu, it’s one of the main reasons why she has no desire to live anywhere else.
“You can feel the Aloha Spirit when people show loving kindness and warm regard for each other,” she says. “Our island is truly a gathering place for local folks and visitors alike who enjoy the laid-back island lifestyle, beautiful beaches and tropical climate.”
Wendy’s quest to serve has taken her on a journey from a high school math teacher to Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional (CRMP). Through it all, Wendy has always been committed to the well-being of her clients, family and community.
Even in college, Wendy enjoyed tutoring math to younger kids. After three and a half years of studying electrical engineering in college, she decided to seek other possible careers that would be more fulfilling. A friend convinced her that teaching high school would be a good fit, so she switched gears and completed college with a bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics.
She taught in the classroom for 16 years, meeting her husband—a teacher at the same school. Then the illness of her parents turned everything upside down. She and her siblings focused on caring for them. As power of attorney, Wendy felt the responsibility and stress weighing on her. After a long teaching career, she quit her job so she could focus on taking care of her parents and staying well.
The experience led to her first encounter with a reverse mortgage. It did not go well. The parent of one of her students offered to set up a meeting with someone who had a financial solution that could help Wendy’s parents stay in their home. She was open to learning more. When the day came, they arrived at Wendy’s parents’ home with a sponge cake. At some point the friend, who was a loan originator, suggested a reverse mortgage.
“I hit the roof,” says Wendy. She laughs now at what was an awkward moment. “I really had no idea how a reverse mortgage worked, but I wasn’t open to learning about it, either.”
She later learned a reverse mortgage could have improved the quality of life for her folks. Her parents needed 24/7 care, and even their long-term care insurance wasn’t enough to cover the cost of care. She ended up selling the home, which forced her parents to remain in a care home. Her dad suffered depression at the loss of the home overlooking Pearl Harbor. He had built that house with a friend and lived there with Wendy’s mom for nearly 30 years.
Now that she wasn’t working, Wendy had more time to research her options, and she learned how reverse mortgages work. She had a sick feeling, realizing she could have fulfilled her dad’s wish to stay in his house, but it was a timely lesson, too. Wendy was later offered a job with the same reverse mortgage specialist she previously rejected. Wendy’s personal experience with her parents and her background as an educator would be a plus.
“I was a math teacher,” she says. “I’d teach people how to problem solve, and I didn’t even follow my own steps when I was trying to figure out things for my parents. You have to look at all options and their outcomes to see which is the best solution.”
Today, she works for Mutual of Omaha Mortgage as a reverse mortgage sales manager for the Honolulu branch. She joined the company in July of 2021 and is thriving amid the support and the team atmosphere, “which was therapeutic after the social and political challenges our country faced in 2020,” she says. Now, she feels restored and better able to focus on serving seniors and the community.
The state has some unique challenges. There are “lava zones” on Hawaii island where FHA guidelines require properties to be in lava zones three or greater. Plus, housing is incredibly expensive, from a median price of $469,000 for a condo to a typical $1 million for a single-family home. Leaving a home to their kids can make it possible for a family to remain in the islands, Wendy says. “As such, I spend a lot of time discussing how the reverse mortgage may impact the heirs because inheritance is important to so many seniors here.”
“People are being more thoughtful about the reverse mortgage and how they’re going to use it,” she says. “What if they need help in the home? What if emergencies come up? Especially with COVID, nobody expected this to happen, so now they want to be better prepared for the unexpected.”
One couple took six years to decide that they were ready to move forward. That couple became good friends who got Wendy involved with their nonprofit that trains pups to become service dogs for people with disabilities. Through volunteering, Wendy learns about her community and the nonprofits that help it thrive.
Her daughter recently graduated and works with her as a reverse mortgage specialist. Her son was her summer assistant and looks forward to becoming a reverse mortgage specialist when he graduates from college.
For her clients, it all comes back to education. That’s what motivated her to seek the CRMP designation in 2018. It was a good way to keep herself “informed and challenged.”
“Being a good student is important to being a good teacher,” Wendy says. “I strive to not only increase my understanding of retirement challenges and solutions but also look for ways to grow both personally and professionally. ‘Be a blessing’ is what we’ve always told our kids, and I strive daily to do the same.”