Hot Seat: Michael Hild

Written by Michael Hild, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

From his first job and his first car to the craziest thing he’s ever done, we get the scoop from Michael Hild, chairman and CEO of Live Well Financial, in this month’s edition of The Hot Seat. 

Something nobody knows about me is that I am named after my dad’s high school buddy who was an African-American standout basketball teammate. He was killed by a train at a railroad crossing in high school.

My favorite vacation was to Yosemite National Park. I proposed to my wife at Cathedral Peak after a long hike to the top. It was perfect.

My first car was a blue Jeep Cherokee. You could start the thing without a key. My friends jumped through the window one day, started it and parked it on the top of a precarious grass hill overlooking our high school. I was surprised to see it when I walked out of school, to say the least. That’s what you get when you go to an all-boys Catholic high school, I guess.

The craziest thing I’ve ever done was start an oyster farm. My wife and I raise oysters using an off-grid solar nursery on the York River. The name of the farm is Anderson’s Neck Oyster Company.

If I had three wishes they would be to have one more day with my mom (she passed away from ovarian cancer much too young); to go fishing with my grandfather one more time; and to be able to take a year off and travel the world.

If I could meet anyone, past or present, it would be Teddy Roosevelt. Given my passion for the outdoors and conservation, he is someone I admire.

My favorite movie is Star Wars.

My favorite website is, the website for my oyster company.

When I was younger I wanted to be a football player. I played at Cornell University, but didn’t make it to the pros.

Every morning I drink way too much coffee. I can’t live without it.

When I was a kid I took a monthlong backpacking trip through Germany. I was at Checkpoint Charlie when it was removed and I chipped away a part of the Berlin Wall that I still have.

My first job was detassling corn in the Indiana cornfields when I was 13 years old at the fine rate of $3.80 an hour.

My parents taught me how to work hard. Work ethic was something they instilled in me at a young age.

My favorite time of the day is the morning. I am an early riser, and this is when I get all my reading done to start the day.

The best lesson I’ve ever learned was to not overreact to good or bad news. Anyone who works with me knows that when I receive news I often say, “Relax. It’s never quite as bad, or good, as it seems.”

The best purchase I’ve ever made was my wife’s engagement ring.

My favorite book is Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. You have to love the joy of the struggle even if it appears it might all be for naught in the end. It’s the little challenges in life that test your mettle and ultimately define your character.

If I could trade places with someone for a day, I would choose the Dalai Lama. Being a Westerner, seeing the world through Eastern eyes would be fascinating.

For success I have sacrificed material items. My wife and I have put our money into businesses and the causes we are passionate about instead. I think that is much more rewarding than cars, houses and other material things.

If I could time travel, I would have a drink and a conversation with Ernest Hemingway. I think we would have similar interests and a lot to talk about.

The future of reverse mortgages is dependent on Ginnie Mae making some badly needed changes to the HMBS structure. As it stands, the security has way too many drawbacks and it discourages companies from wanting to continue to securitize after the honeymoon period is over and their portfolios age.

The greatest setback for our industry was the financial crisis and the steep declines in home values associated with it.

Before I entered the reverse mortgage industry I was a young 20-something with a promising career at Capital One. I gave that up to establish Live Well, which was a crazy idea at the time.

Industry growth is dependent upon HUD’s factor table for principal limits. An enormous number of people want a reverse mortgage but do not qualify because they are short proceeds to pay off their existing first mortgage.

The ideal characteristics of leaders in the industry are integrity and passion. You have to want to help people to be a true leader in this industry. You also need a passion to want to make the industry and the customer experience as good as it can be.

The most important thing seniors should understand about reverse mortgages is that it’s a loan that comes with distinct pros and cons. Learn the facts and don’t listen to the folks who perpetuate half-truths and misperceptions.



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