Written by Shannon Hicks, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

The future of the reverse mortgage industry depends on education. How many times have we heard that? But just whom do we need to educate? Obviously we need to educate the seniors, the actual people this great product can help in so many ways.  The majority of our industry think we need to get the word to the seniors; I happen to disagree (strongly).

The mortgage industry, reverse or conforming, has never been and never will be the “eyes and ears” of the senior generation. And when you add into the equation what Wall Street has done to the mortgage industry’s reputation the last few years, thinking that we can suddenly become the delivery vehicle, is arrogance at best. Recession, principal reductions, low appraisals and increased MIPs aside, it’s just not happening. We are not the messengers to carry the true strength of this great product to the masses.

Then who are the “eyes and ears” of the senior generation? An even better question may be: When any product is introduced to the financial community, how has it gotten to the masses? Hmmm.

How about the 1.1 million insurance agents that includes long-term care agents, Medicare supplement agents and hundreds of thousands of financial advisors? How about more than 1 million attorneys? How about the 55,000 certified financial planners or how about those 630,000 registered reps that are dealing with the losses their senior clients have taken in their investment portfolios in recent years? Or how about the several million home care providers that deal with seniors every day and have to hear them say, “We know we need the home care but we simply can’t afford it.”

Why is so much of our industry so afraid of reaching out to these other segments of the mainstream financial world? Every time I ask this question I get the same answer. If we teach all of them about reverse mortgages then they may – are you ready? – CROSS-SELL!!!

This industry has become so scared of cross-selling that it has convinced itself that it’s a bad thing, but it’s not. The truth is, used correctly, a reverse mortgage can help millions of seniors afford home health care services and long-term care insurance premiums that otherwise would never be available. How about a line of credit for seniors that are experiencing record low rates of returns on their CDs, savings or annuities? Why should their quality of life suffer in their retirement years? Guess what: Seniors don’t discuss these matters with their “mortgage guy”; they discuss them with their “trusted financial advisor.” We are not the delivery vehicle; the groups mentioned above are and always have been. We need to become their eyes and ears!

Why hasn't our industry befriended the real estate industry? The majority of the 1.2 million licensed Realtors in this nation are not even aware that the purchase mortgage exists. In my opinion, the purchase reverse mortgage is a sleeping giant just waiting to be introduced to the masses...via the real estate industry.

Building a large and successful referral base is just not easy. But if we don’t convince the mainstream financial community that the reverse mortgage deserves to be considered a mainstream product then I truly fear we may be the bottom rung of the financial ladder for many years to come. And we don’t deserve that, this great industry doesn’t deserve it and most importantly the millions of seniors we could be reaching absolutely don’t deserve it! Let’s stop being afraid of something bad happening and start doing lots of good.