As defined benefit plans and pensions become a thing of the past, researchers continue to extoll home equity’s critical role in retirement income planning.

For some time, a group of academics and financial planning professionals have sought to spread that message, forming the Funding Longevity Task Force to drive this mission and working in partnership with the American College of Financial Services.

Now, that task force has a new name and a new academic institution to back it.

As the newly minted Academy of Home Equity in Financial Planning, the team now has a home at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Jamie Hopkins, director of Retirement Research at Carson Group and a long-standing member of the group, said the name change represents a more finely tuned mission.

“The name change isn’t just a name change, it’s a commitment to the future. A Task Force – which implies a temporary effort – to an Academy – which should be a more sustainable and long-standing initiative,” Hopkins said.

“The University of Illinois support also provides additional academic independence and credibility to the mission,” he added. “It is amazing to see the work of this group evolve and continue to shape best practices and research in the housing wealth and retirement arena.”

Craig Lemoine, director of the financial planning program at the University of Illinois, will be guiding the team.

“Our mission in the year ahead is to continue promoting scholarship in the areas of home equity, retirement sustainability and aging in place,” Lemoine said. “We hope to measure financial service professional's understanding of these issues and over time develop content that will help both advisers and consumers.”

Lemoine added that exploring home equity use is critical because a person’s housing needs evolve as they age.

“And with that are questions of sustainability,” he said. “If we age in place, do we have resources to help cover additional costs? Understanding options surrounding home equity strengthen retirement conversations.”

In addition to Lemoine, Karin Hill, a longtime reverse mortgage policy advisor with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, will join the academy.

Hopkins said Hill is a welcome addition to the team.

“Karin Hill has years of impactful work at HUD,” he said. “She really did shape a lot of the regulations and best practices we have today from the government side.”

Founded in 2012 by Synergy One Lending President and CEO Torrey Larsen and Longevity View Associates Principal Shelley Giordano, the original task force included a slew of well-respected experts, Ivy League degrees and PhDs abound.

It worked to advance research on reverse mortgages by publishing content about the role housing wealth can play in retirement, promoting research illustrating the benefits of its use, giving interviews as subject matter experts to media outlets and speaking at industry events.

Now, the newly named academy, which has retained many of its members, will work on publishing its own research as a group, which will focus on the use of housing wealth and retirement.

“It is about raising the level of professional practice of financial advisors and housing experts. It is also so important that these two very separate industries and professions come together to support retirement security,” Hopkins said.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of work to do as many in financial services are not yet willing to embrace incorporating housing wealth, reverse mortgages, and more traditional mortgage strategies into planning,” he added.