Marki Lemon’s Advice: Make Your Own Lemonade

Despite obstacles, our guest editor never lost sight of her long-term financial goals.

There’s no shortage of passion in this industry. We often hear about the extreme satisfaction REALTORS® take in helping clients reach their dreams. The flip side of that is many don’t pause to envision their own life beyond their real estate career. Our guest editor, Marki Lemons-Ryhal, is an exception.

Lemons-Ryhal, 46, is hardly ready to wind things down. She’s an Energizer bunny radiating positivity about the business to her 5,000 Facebook friends—Facebook’s maximum—and to the 10,000 or so practitioners who attend her classes on topics from the REALTOR® Code of Ethics to how to use Facebook Live. The backpack she carries everywhere is loaded with a telescoping tripod, microphone, and minilights so she can “go live” when the moment strikes her, including during her visit to our office.

Still, from the beginning of her real estate career 17 years ago, Lemons-Ryhal had her end game in mind. “I knew I didn’t want to be running around in high heels selling houses when I was in my 50s,” she says, carefully noting she’s not judging those who enjoy that. Saving money for the future was always a priority. During the three years she had her own brokerage, 10 percent of her profits went into long-term accounts. She was also savvy with her own real estate investing, flipping 10 houses between 2003 and 2006 on the South Side of Chicago. After a series of personal setbacks in 2006 made her reevaluate her direction—her mother and grandfather died within two months of each other, she contracted pneumonia, and she found herself in a high-risk pregnancy with her second child—she got her mojo back. “I could have left the business. But I happened to see a line in the [NAR] Member Profile that year that changed my life. It said ‘Since 2003, more buyers have used the Internet as an information source than the newspaper.’ I knew then I needed to be online where the buyers and sellers were.” Lemons soon transformed triumphantly into, and before long, she was at the top of the social media food chain.

Our story on retirement planning, which looks at the ways that savvy practitioners are creating a comfortable long-term financial strategy, resonated strongly for Lemons-Ryhal. “Unfortunately, many REALTORS® say they don’t see the need to plan for retirement because they think they’ll never be able to afford to retire,” she says with frustration. Obtaining a real estate license, she tells them, opens the door to a lot more opportunities than many realize. “You can focus on marketing, technology, teaching, or referrals,” she says.

Her own retirement plan doesn’t actually entail not working either. In another decade or so, Lemons-Ryhal envisions relocating with her husband, Stephen, to Belize, Costa Rica, or some other Central American hot spot. She won’t just be spending time at the beach. She’ll be amping up her referral business, helping people fulfill their own international retirement dreams.

Good plan. What’s yours?