Old issues – New times

by James L. Goldsmith
May 2020

Social Media

Remember being inundated with solicitations for courses on the essentials of social networking, the rules of media etiquette and the like? Everyone was all over that stuff. Today, when the Commonwealth’s response to the pandemic evokes such vitriol and division it is hard to imagine that the message from those lessons stuck. 

As a lawyer working from home, I’m reading the releases  from our governor, your associations and the bar association on a daily basis. So I get it that REALTORS®, put out of work or nearly so by the pandemic, would be doing the same. I read the post from my lawyer colleagues’ posts and I read posts from my REALTOR® friends.

Generally there is a difference and it doesn’t bode well for REALTORS®, in this humble lawyer’s opinion! Of course it is only the loudest who get heard, but my unempirical observations suggests that the loudest of you are very, very angry (or were before the reopening) and are not afraid to say so.  I get it. I do believe in the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Small voices, minority voices, can bring great and lasting change.

When it comes to hiring a professional, however, I am looking for calm, steadied, measured and tolerant. And my assumption is that you would be very pleased to take my listing regardless of my political registration, religious orientation, social memberships, charitable organizations, and my response to disease, etc. Leading a post with anger, diatribes and over-the-top criticism instead of something demonstrating your professional acumen, is more likely to cause some potential clientele, perhaps not many and perhaps not all, to steer clear. Study after study suggests so. 

So why, when using the social media accounts reserved for your business, do you espouse such partisan rhetoric, when that can be done via a personal account that is not a part of your promotional outreach? To be clear, I am not saying that espousing a position is wrong. It is merely a reminder that the manner in which you state your position will absolutely impact your marketability in a number ways. Nothing new here, just a reminder.

Personal Finances

The recent business closure has probably underscored for you the necessity of maintaining a rainy-day-fund. Being an independent contractor has its benefits, but it imposes a responsibility. Experts are pretty much in accord that you should, at a minimum have on-hand savings should equal three to six times your monthly expenses. An amount equal to 12 times your monthly expenses is better.

There are other considerations when it comes to financial well-being. Have you considered a disability policy? Do you have under and uninsured motorist coverage on  your automobile insurance policy? Do you carry more than the minimum medical coverage on that automobile policy? Don’t forget your health insurance coverage, your contributions to a qualified retirement savings account and on and on and on.

I recently researched what a real estate licensee should be contributing to his or her retirement savings account. The most “standard” answer is “As much as  you can.”  Assuming you started in your 20s, 10-15% of your income should go to retirement. If you are starting later in the game, more. 

Budgeting is one of the most difficult tasks you have. And living within one’s means  . . . well that just doesn’t seem to be the modern outlook. How many REALTORS® have told me that they need that BMW to demonstrate their success in practice!  Remarkably, as I edited this article I found an article  in today’s (May 21)New York Times, that focuses on Susan Orman, described there as “the personal-finance equivalent of Harvey Keitel’s character in “Pulp Fiction”: the suave, self-confident fixer…” given her stern fiscal admonitions to live within one’s means. It’s a great read. By the way, she says have at least 8 months of expenses on hand.

Now is a perfect time to reconsider your plans, budget, coverages and retirements accounts. Begin with your financial advisor and lawyer. Why wait?

Mr. Goldsmith is an attorney with Mette, Evans & Woodside and serves as outside legal counsel to PAR. A substantial portion of his practice is dedicated to providing advice and counsel to real estate licensees. He and his firm represent and defend real estate salespersons and brokers in civil lawsuits and licensing claims across the Commonwealth. Jim also defends Realtors® in disciplinary hearings conducted by the Real Estate Commission. Jim was one of the voices of the PAR Legal Hotline for the first 27 years following its inception in 1992.

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