By M. Diane McCormick
Angella Conrard was in her 40s when she faced a crossroads. The self-made businessperson had one of the first therapeutic neuromuscular massage and physical therapy practices in South Orange County, CA. With the physical demands of the work, she sensed her career winding down when she read a book on a fascinating topic. Fellow Baby Boomers—with long, healthy lives ahead—face financial insecurity.
Then she read a Los Angeles Times story about reverse mortgages, and the puzzle pieces fit perfectly.
“That makes sense,” Angella says.
Today, she is a CRMP licensed in seven states, providing reverse mortgages in California, Florida, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Texas and Idaho. Whether in massage therapy or reverse mortgages, her work has always been “a lifestyle. It’s never been a job.”
“I love being of service,” she says. “That’s really what drives me in anything that I do in my life. It’s just fun for me. If I can, I help people. That’s my personality. It’s something that I want to do and need to do, and it’s who I am as a person—a Certified Reverse Mortgage Professional.”
To her, reverse mortgages are applied to achieve wellness.
“If you’re in pain and you’re not feeling good, it really throws off everything else in your life,” she says. “It’s the same with finances, but they’re at the bottom of the pyramid. It’s really important to have that good foundation. When there is some precariousness there and that foundation is not solid, you don’t feel good in the rest of your life.”
Angella lives in a “small and sleepy” town famous for its world-class surfing, although that is not her thing. She’s a yogini. However, she is not native to the Golden State. She grew up in Minneapolis, moving to Orange County in the mid-1980s to help her parents with a business they founded there. Soon, she acclimated to southern California and founded her first, successful business.
When she chose reverse mortgages for her second career, she eased in gradually. She is a perpetual learner. “When I attend meetings, I’m oftentimes in the first couple of rows because I like to pay attention,” she explains. So, she soaked up information from classes, meetings and her NRMLA membership. “I asked a lot of questions and wanted to learn more, and still, I am continually moving with it. The industry changes all the time. You need to be committed to be a good professional and a helpful professional.”
Because today’s Baby Boomers are usually familiar with reverse mortgages, initial meetings with potential clients are listening sessions focused on understanding their needs.
“Why are you interested?” she’ll ask. “What do you think it might do for you? What’s your situation? Do you have a special need or special purpose in mind?”
Angella is comfortable working online and virtually, which facilitates her work across state lines. The work exposes her to different cultures and lifestyles, from horse owners to gardeners to clients who have easements on their properties.
“Different states do have different cultures, and I like learning about them,” she says. “It’s more entertaining for me.”
She recalls an elderly, retired rocket scientist and his wife who were leveraging a reverse mortgage for purchase to move from Oregon to a manufactured home in California. The loan was small, around $95,000, but the complications were large. The brothers who co-owned the manufactured home weren’t on speaking terms, making the transaction one of the more challenging loans she has done. Ultimately, the transaction was a success, and the couple moved to California to be near family.
“You’re doing this work whether it’s a $2 million home or a $100,000 home,” Angella says. “It’s the same. They’re people, and they need your assistance, and that’s what I’m committed to. People may think of this as a financial transaction, but these can be emotionally charged transactions because they are lifechanging. As a reverse mortgage professional, it’s important to listen and be sensitive to their needs.”
As a member of the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, Angella remembers when planning for retirement meant accumulating savings that would provide income in later years. She remains a staunch advocate of working with financial planners, while she has seen acceptance and understanding of reverse mortgages grow.
“Using home equity can help stabilize your finances and actually make your retirement funds last longer and make you more secure,” she says. “That’s why I’m so passionate about these mortgages and how they can assist people.”
Angella recently saw a transaction play out exactly as intended when it was originated ten years prior. A friend’s husband was dealing with dementia, and the friend was facing the loss of his pension at his death. The husband passed away recently, and the friend remains financially secure in a home the couple shared and that remains appropriate for aging in place.
Earning and retaining a CRMP, with its continuing education requirements, “keeps you on your toes,” she says. “The credential equips reverse mortgage professionals with the tools to answer all questions and explore all options, which means that there are more avenues that people can pursue to suit their own circumstances. When consumers work with a CRMP, they can be assured that it’s someone who is committed to the profession and who acts with integrity and follows through.”
As consumers become more comfortable with reverse mortgages, Angella envisions younger people incorporating home equity into their financial plans. To meet growing demand, she believes that financial institutions will create more products to meet demand, offering an expanded array of proprietary products for people at different ages and in different circumstances.
Outside of work, Angella enjoys her “sleepy little beach town life,” practicing yoga and Pilates, walking along trails to the beach, gardening and taking care of her 14-year-old cat. The difference her career has made materializes in the people who have made financial security a platform for achieving their dreams.
“I’ve helped a lot of people get more comfortable in their retirement and have more fun and reach their goals,” she says. “That’s basically what I do. I really like helping people. I’m little bit of a rescuer, but that’s just my MO. This way, I get to do it professionally.”