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The doctor is in, the student loan is forgiven

Matt Pais

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Matthew Blocki targets doctors at the beginning of their career, a strategy that pays off for him long-term.
Frustration can be quite a motivator. For Matthew Blocki, ChFC, CFP, it started when his employer suggested he reconsider the honeymoon he booked because during that time of year things were busy at work and no one takes off. He went anyway, and was scorned at the office because of it.

Then, when the now-four-year MDRT member from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, decided to leave the auditing world to be a financial advisor, a partner at the company told others, “Matthew Blocki will be flipping burgers for the rest of his life.”

Blocki looks back and realizes this initially made him determined to simply prove that he had not chosen the wrong career path, and he could outpace the financial rewards of an accounting career. It wasn’t until he developed his niche market — working with physicians during their residencies on understanding student loan forgiveness — that he adjusted his mentality from production to service.

Understanding his “why”
While he hit his financial goal and was his company’s No. 1 advisor in the region in his first year on the job, it was Blocki’s work with physicians that helped him understand the stress he could alleviate for clients.

“I realized the reason why I did what I did was not to prove someone else wrong but to help people and make an impact on their financial plans,” he said.

Where some advisors may serve physicians who are in the middle of their careers, Blocki connects with those just starting out. It took him about two years, he said, to master all of the information pertaining to student-loan forgiveness programs, and the difference between working for a nonprofit organization (including most hospitals) or a private practice.

By demonstrating that difference and assisting with mutual funds to provide additional backup if loan forgiveness does not pan out, Blocki helped clients make decisions about where to work and how to negotiate contracts. In one instance, he guided a client to negotiate an extra $40,000 from a private practice because the extra money would be needed to pay off student loans that otherwise would be forgiven when working for a nonprofit operation.

“He was so happy; that’s a client for life,” Blocki said. “And he’s telling his friends.”

Exponential growth
That satisfaction is why Blocki hasn’t had to ask for a referral in three years, during which time he has risen from qualifying for MDRT to Court of the Table to Top of the Table. Not much has changed in Blocki’s approach during that time; what has changed is that the physicians who previously were earning the salary of a resident are now making much more money and have worked with Blocki on investment planning and life and disability insurance.

Much of that work seeks to protect money in life insurance so it can’t be taken if the physician gets sued, and to place term insurance for residents that is convertible when their income changes from, say, $50,000 per year to $300,000 per year.

Because these clients are just starting out, Blocki does not charge a fee for his initial information meeting, even though he knows prospects could, in theory, take what he tells them about student loan forgiveness and apply the strategies themselves. Except that is not the nature of this strategy.

“It’s not just, ‘Here’s the information; run with it,’” Blocki said. “It’s ongoing advice on a year-to-year basis.”

That includes the impact of spouses’ salaries on taxes and how that affects the loan payments, as well as the trust that comes from knowing Blocki was there for them when they weren’t worth a lot of money. Now, Blocki said, these clients may be paying $3,000 each month into life insurance and another $7,000 per month into nonqualified investments. “Now they’re huge clients because I helped them with student loans a few years ago,” he said.

Mission of helping
It may seem Blocki could apply his work to other professions with hefty student loans and lucrative salaries, like attorneys. Yet physicians are a rarity in their ability to take advantage of loan forgiveness through nonprofit work, and Blocki enjoys working with people so driven to help others.

And he continues to find new ways to help his clients: When discussing retirement, he never uses the word “retirement.” Blocki has no plans to stop working and knows many physicians don’t either. Instead he asks at what point they want to be able to work because they want to, not because they have to.

“If you frame it like that,” he said, “people are much more motivated to save money."

Matthew Blocki

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