Realtors Association Launches Financial Wellness Program for Members

Many Realtors haven’t been saving for retirement or investing in properties of their own. A new partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch intends to fix that.

With a sizable proportion of Realtors working as independent contractors and lacking employer benefits, the National Association of Realtors has launched a new program to assist members with financial and retirement planning.

NAR said its financial wellness program, designed in partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, will help members plot financial goals based on their “age, life stage, and needs,” according to a release. The new partnership will include guidance on savings, retirement, and other financial matters, delivered via online services as well as an app and in-person workshops.

NAR’s own research suggests that the need is great. Almost 90 percent of Realtors don’t have access to traditional retirement savings plans. In addition, 43 percent have not saved for retirement, and less than a third own investment properties.

“Despite finding great success in their careers, far too many real estate professionals are falling short with their retirement savings goals,” said NAR 2017 President Bill Brown in a statement.

This is what we do for a job, and many of our members don’t own any investment property.

Sharon Millett, a former NAR president and head of the Presidential Advisory Group tasked to study the issue of member finances, said lack of financial planning was one of the main challenges Brown identified upon becoming chair. “[Members] really have to investigate and do and plan on their own,” she said. “Bill was concerned about that, and thought that the association should take a look and try to see if there was something that we could do to help our members.”

But retirement savings isn’t the sole issue raised by the 15-member advisory group. Among the other recommendations it delivered to NAR leadership was educating members on how to prepare their own business for sale and—somewhat ironically—making their own real-estate investments. “This is what we do for a job, selling real estate, and many of our members don’t own any investment property,” Millett said.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch will be providing the expertise on investment, but NAR will be handling much of the educational load, adding staff to help deliver information about investment programs to its members. Millett said that delivery will happen in a variety of ways, from classes held at state and national conferences, as well as through its online Realtor University. “We’re also looking at something as simple as apps where members can go on and do a five-question quick assessment, which will take them to other sources of information, based on their responses,” she said.

Task forces like the advisory group that Millett runs are usually sunsetted after delivering their recommendations, but this one will stay together as the program rolls out in the coming months to assist with web design, marketing, and branding. “They’re now calling us an implementation team,” she said. “One of the things that we’re work on right now are specific benchmarks for success, because everything we do at NAR needs to have some accountability—is it working or is it not?”

(roberthyrons/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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