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Tom Michel

Tom Michel is the Immediate Past President of NAIFA (National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors), where he has been a member since 1986. He is the Managing Director of Michel Financial Group, where he and his wife have over 70 years of combined experience in the industry. His prior experience includes working as the Managing Partner for New York Life Insurance Company and as a General Agent for UNIFI Companies.

Tom is a public speaker, promoting the insurance industry and shattering common misconceptions. He is active in advocacy and has discussed policies with Vice President Kamala Harris, congressional leaders, governors, and prominent mayors.


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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • How Tom Michel got started in the insurance industry
  • Why embracing your failure can lead to success
  • Tom explains his acronym for success: B.E.A.K. 
  • The power of accountability in your life and career
  • Why mentorship can build bridges to help others and provide a sense of satisfaction
  • Tom’s recommendation to pivot through fluid times
  • Why a strong leadership team can aid in corporate development
  • How Tom is shattering the misconception surrounding advocacy 

In this episode…

Forging a new path can be strenuous, especially in a competitive industry. How can you find strength and believe in yourself while moving forward? When leaders face difficult times, how do they navigate the rough waters?

When Tom Michel began his journey in the insurance industry, he was bound by a fear of failure until he took the first step. Through the guidance of mentors who excelled in the industry, Tom found his footing, found a way to believe in himself, and launched a successful career. He knows the importance of giving back to the community and guiding other wayward agents, which is why he helps others build the confidence to complete a successful sale. 

In this episode of Advisor Today, join Chris Gandy and Suzanne Carawan as they talk with Immediate Past President of NAIFA, Tom Michel, about his inspiring journey as a leader in the insurance industry. Tom discusses why everyone needs accountability, the difference a strong mentor can make, and the importance of solid leadership during uncertain times.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, or NAIFA, the #1 association for producers in financial services. 

At NAIFA, we enhance professional skills, promote ethical conduct, and advocate for legislative and regulatory environments.

By joining NAIFA, you gain access to a partnership that elevates your performance while providing greater purpose to your professional work. NAIFA members are happier, make more money, and stay in the business longer.

Get in touch with NAIFA and learn more about how to join NAIFA by visiting NAIFA.org.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:02

Welcome to NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series where we focus on how financial advisors work, live and give to their local communities and our greater financial services industry. Now, let's get started with the show.

Chris Gandy 0:20

Hi, everyone, I'm Chris Gandy, one of your co hosts for Advisor Today podcast for NAIFA. And we're here today, where we have one of the one of the one of the past president, one of the past presidents and it's currently sitting past president, Mr. Tom Michel. He's going to join us today. And again, just to remind you, advisor, today's podcast, designed to help advisors come together, uplift each other, learn from each other. And we come together to advocate for the future of our continuity of our business. With that being said, we can't help but we got to make sure we announced the other co host, Miss Suzanne Carawan won the wonderful Miss Suzanne Carawan, would you take it away to talk about our sponsor for today?

Suzanne Carawan 1:11

Sure. Well, thank you, Chris. And welcome, Tom. So Advisor Today was made possible by The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, the only association that will help to advocate educate and differentiate you if you're a member. So if you have not a member, you might want to consider joining, we'd absolutely consider joining in, if I can convince you at the beginning, hopefully, by the end of this Tom Michel will have, without a shadow of a doubt, convince you why you need to go to NAIFA.org/join. We are the only association in the industry that advocates at the interstate state and federal levels. And hopefully we'll touch on that today. And again, this wouldn't be possible without all of the people, the 20,000 Plus members that every day are out there serving Main Street America. With that, Tom, we're excited to delve into kind of your past and explore and understand why you love this organization so much.

Tom Michel 2:02

Thank you, Chris. And thank you, Suzanne. It's a real pleasure to be with both of you.

Chris Gandy 2:07

Alright, Mr. Tom, so those who don't know you you know, we followed your, your, your leadership, and over the last couple years, and Tom, can you give people insight on on, on, on on kind of how you got started in the industry and kind of the path you took because we know your path was a little bit different along the way.

Tom Michel  2:38

I'd love to it's actually it's actually kind of a funny story. If I if I have to say so myself. It wasn't funny at the time. But it's funny now. You know, I have been in the industry, almost 37 years now, when I first got a school first I was a bartender, because I hadn't couldn't find out what I liked to do. But I did learn some skills, sales skills that's behind the bar. And what I really what I really learned sitting behind the bar was how to listen. And I think there's not a good advisor out there that if you don't learn how to listen, first, you've got problems, you got to be able to listen, first talk second, I think Chris and his team would tell you that too. But long to try to speed this up. I finally went to work in the automotive business for a couple of years. And I was doing very, very well, for a nationally a national company that's selling cars, but it was an automotive sales part manufacturer. And I got I helped get the company into a national chain. And at the end of the year I was going this is going to be a huge bonus because our sales have doubled and all that. And when the time came to get my bonus, the bonus was the same as the year before. In other words, it wasn't much. And I walked out the door, I said I'm done. I'm not doing this anymore. And before I could walk out the door, the owner of the company turned around, he wanted to show me the blueprints of his new yacht. So in this case, the only guy that one was the owner of the company, and I went home and talked to my dad, he goes remember what I told you try to be in business for yourself if you can't, and so I didn't know what it was going to be. But I did meet some people eventually found that I thought the Insurance insurance business would be a great calling for me. Because it's a people business and I like to help people. And sure enough, about two months later, I signed up as an agent with the old Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company that's no longer around. And as the day I signed up to be an agent, I signed up to be a member of what they call them the navy blue National Association of life underwriters now known as NAIFA. And I've always told the story that the first signature to be an agent was important, but the most important signature was the second one becoming a member of NAIFA. Yeah, why don't I stop there and see If you had some questions after that,

Chris Gandy 5:01

so so so if you could take take us back just when you thought of the concept of coming from working for someone else to potentially working for yourself. Wow, what was your biggest fear about coming into the insurance or financial services insurance business? Well, what was your biggest fear? And what did you have to overcome? Because obviously, you didn't, you didn't automatically just jump in and became successful at an insurance? I mean, what were some of the the obstacles you had to overcome and challenges?

Tom Michel  5:40

Yeah, that's such a good question. I think a lot of people have had to look in the mirror. And but my answer is really quite simple. And it's probably the one of the answer of many. That was the fear of failure. I just, I was scared to death that I couldn't pull it off. And, you know, I heard the stories about how many people succeed in this business, my dad surely told me how much anything how many people succeed in this business. So that scared me. But it also drove me, I think the fear of failure can be a can be a powerful, powerful tool. And I wasn't going to let myself down. I wasn't going to let my parents down. I wasn't gonna let my friends down. I saw that drove me. But I had I had the fear of prospecting to another common pitfall of those, you know, I was afraid to ask for a meeting. Because they, you know, sometimes back then, it was primarily a life insurance agent. And we know sometimes the rap they get, and so I was afraid that I would be put off and so sometimes I didn't call the people I needed to call, eventually, I got over that, because that's the other hurdle that I think you can all relate to, is you have to be able to stomach this, you have to be able to handle people telling you No, not today. No, not that, you know, not thank you, or even even stronger words than that. Once you get over that, it's okay. But I'd like to tell you, I got right over that after, you know, right away. And I didn't I mean, I was doing okay, but I was barely making my contracts for about a year and a half. And then I saw a NAIFA meeting that was speaking, sponsoring a topic on you know, buy, sell and succession planning for a business. And I knew I had a couple clients that fit a father and a son, that I knew pretty well that I thought this might be of interest. So I said, let me go learn something about it. Quick story. Again, the topic was so entertaining, I took as many notes as I could, I got together with the person that presented it, I then went out and made the presentation to the first candidate that I thought, and I closed the largest sale of my, my young career made company clubs and MDRT. And all that just on this one sale. And in an essence, I was off to the races. And maybe that's one reason why I've always been so fond of NATO because I don't know where I would have gone. If I didn't go get that, as I call it that that rubber chicken lunch. But it sure was the search turned my church or my career around, because it also gives gave me a great amount of confidence to sell a complicated sale. And I helped people out. And ironically enough, three years later, this father passed away. And what we put in place went into effect and save them 1000s 1000s of dollars in a number of different ways. And to this day, I'm still good friends with the son. And matter of fact, I think I'm having lunch with them next week. And that could be a whole nother topic. Don't lose, don't lose touch with your clients. So long, long story, but I think it's a great story about persistency and, and stick to it. And yes, failure is common. So don't be afraid of it, embrace the failure, and it'll motivate you. And I think you'll you'll find it you'll find the good days are ahead, if not great days.

Chris Gandy 9:11

So Tom mentioned you mentioned I just want to kind of come back for all the all the listeners out there is that, you know, you talked about a couple of major things there. You talked about you know, in indirectly you talked about believing and believing in yourself, you talked about that you talked about the you know as NAIFA as being a place where you went and you learn something, you learn something and you know the opportunity to learning is always on the forefront of of helping advisors. Plus you went to a place where you were able to, to to travel for all practical purposes, utilize the expertise of others who had other experience versus you now you're able to borrow Essentially those nuggets to be able to take and utilize were utilized with your clients and that became your, you know, your largest sale, but you also talked about the human part of our business, which is fear failure, right? And the importance of that and embracing that, not being afraid of it, right, tackling it head on and understanding what that is, and then sticking with it so so that, you know, it's really, really good, but, you know, your path is still Can you can you dig into, you know, we all think that we're just going to be advisors forever. And you know, the insurance industry is so broad, you know, and you can be an underwriter you can be you know, a consultant, you can be a wholesaler, you can be an insurance advisor, you can be a financial advisor, you can be all these different things. Can you kind of give us kind of your path? Because I think it's pretty interesting. Kind of all the things that wait, you've seen the business

Tom Michel  10:55

a little bit? Yeah, again, it's, it's, well, my wife will tell you, I'm a little strange. But yeah, my path is a little unique, because my path was a little strange. And before it gets, I just want to, I think I can tie into the last topic and what you were saying there, Chris, is, and we may talk about mentors later on. But one of my great mentors and friends was the old was norm Levine, who's a legend in the business. And he had a great acronym called beak. And it was B for belief, E for enthusiasm, pay for activity, and K for knowledge. And if you think about what you just summarize my story, it does that I had to believe in myself, I still had to be enthusiastic about what I was doing. I still had to have the activity, even though it wasn't seeming to produce the results I wanted. But at the end of the day, I still needed the knowledge, the K. And once I got that K, I was able to move on. And that I've always I still have beaconed my offense is right above me here. You know, so here I am, supposedly, near the end of my career, and I don't think I am, and I still follow this beak, you gotta believe in yourself, you gotta be enthusiastic. As far as my path, which I used to speak a lot. It's because I maybe I should have stayed where I was. But I always seem to fall stuff that interested me. So a few years after I was in the business for a few years, I had people asked me about 401 K plans. Now this is going to age me, but this is when 401 K plans were new. People forget they were they came around in around 1980. And I was fairly new in the business in that in that time. And so I wanted to learn more about 401 K plans and carriers that had him and, and, you know, products that were available to advisors like myself. So I learned about 401k plans, because I thought there was a void. I didn't think a lot of people were attacking that market. And so that's another thing you always you know, target market. If you think there's opportunities, go learn about it. You know, whether it was succession planning, or in this case, 401 k plans, so real. So I went into the four I started learning about the 401k business, I started to do really well. And I really liked the the income because it was a recurring income, which for those of you that are on commission understand sometimes a problem with a commission business as you can go a couple times with those zero paychecks, and those zero paychecks can be awfully depressing. But the 401k provided a recurring income because as soon as someone made money, you made money. Anyways, that business evolved in it actually took me away from the career they signed up with because they really didn't have a 401k product. And I was selling more 401k is anything but the 401k is for those of you out there trying to find your niche. The beauty of that business is it allows you a relationship with business owners, and the ancillary sales that come out of that business is stupid. It's unbelievable. I mean, it could be key person insurance, you could sell Group Life Insurance, group disability, 401 k's are really a great way to get in to get in the door, especially in the smaller companies, the larger companies, FYI, you got a lot of people going after the same pie, but if you can go after those less than a million dollars, it's a great, great market. Anyways, I was doing so well to be perfectly frank that after a while I was approached by an insurance company to become a regional wholesaler. Now, I had not been on a salary plus bonus program in quite some time. But I was really intrigued by the opportunity to do that. So again, real fast I went into I went into wholesaling for a few years with a local company and did very well and led the company and all that good stuff and very proud of how I adapted and then I did was very successful there that the same company then asked me to go into management for one of their agencies. And we did that as well and then went into management and really helped that agency grow back to its and it had been a good agency had kind of fallen off. And we brought it back to, to new heights. And it was really very, very fun. And I learned from two of the best in the industry that I can maybe touch on later, that taught me a lot. And so here I am, if I have to be so blunt, I was excelling, but I was still learning. And that would be another tip to everybody out there, the day you stop learning is the day someone's going to run right by and so you got to keep learning. Anyways, they did that for a while. And then after, after running an office and having personnel issues for a few years, I decided to go back into personal production. And it's kind of gone full circle. So I've seen a lot of the different sides of the industry, all of which I embrace. And they've all been good to me. But now I think it makes me a more full service advisor for lack of a better term. Because I know a lot, I know a lot about a little are a little about a lot, either way you want to look at it.

Chris Gandy 15:58

So So Tom, you you touched on mentors, you know, I can tell you that, you know, I'm not sitting here without some of those mentors that have touched my life and my career. Because it takes somebody to reach back to help somebody else to help them see through their rose colored glasses, the opportunity, and then also for their belief in you to to excel. Right? And so can you touch on just some of the mentors, and kind of some of the things you are just just you go through the kind of mentors in your life, you know, things you've learned from so so things you've learned, whether it was this big concept got it. I learned from this from that, you know, of course, you've learned a lot of things, but you know, who are some of the mentors that that you would say have helped you over time and things you've learned from them, just one thing you've learned from each one?

Tom Michel  17:01

Okay, I would say there would be three of them. First would be Norman Levine who I didn't really meet, so probably later in my career. And you know, for those of you don't know, he actually started in New York, and then he, he moved to California, but he's one of the pilots say he's in the top five of legends of all time. As far as books, written production, all that norm just norm was a no excuse my friends BS type of guy. He was a real bottom, bottom line thinker. But I think the one thing is having a bunch of stuff on one of the things he taught me that I think is very true, and I would recommend it to everybody is accountability. And accountability just can't be yourself. You got to have someone else that you're accountable to now it could be a spouse, it could be a significant other. It might even be better if it's not one of those to be perfectly frank, someone else you respect in the industry so that you meet with them on a quarterly or a semi annual basis, to give them up up to give them up to date, how you're doing, and what that accountability does. It's another thing that that triggers your your RPM button, if you will, much like failure triggers that the accountability to sit there and say, God, I'm meeting with Norman in a month, and I don't have much going on. The Accountability was like an internal clock to say, get it together. My point is without it, everything else is less effective, accountable. Without accountability. Everything else is less effective. No matter what kind of program you use for sales, you must be accountable not only to yourself, but to somebody else. I really think it matters now a lot of people is their spouse or their significant other and that's fine, but trigger that. The other two gentlemen were a gentleman that I worked with in the agency business, Arnold price and Stewart raffle, of the infamous price raffle and brown organization based in Los Angeles in New York. And I would say the two of them taught me persistency because here they were, when I was in my 40s they were in their 70s. God bless us, but they're both still around. Arnold now I think is in his early 90s. And I think he's one of the if not the only living member to be the top of the table since inception. So he's pretty good statistic right there. So here's Arnold at age 90 something and he's still top of the table. And I mean, so right there. I think he can tell you he can preach about persistency but I think it's very easy as an advisor, even as a manager to not be persistent in everything that you do. Persistence and accountability, persistence and meeting with people persistency and knowledge, be persistent in your life. And persistency will give you It will lead to all the success you can handle. But if you take your foot off that persistency button, as Earl used to say, then you can fall down. So there'll be times where I'd come in, and he'd say, What are you doing this afternoon? And I, frankly, I'd have to admit, as I said, that I don't have that much going on, right this minute. So I'm gonna go hit some balls. He goes, Well, why don't you get something going on before you go hit some balls, and here I am. I'm the manager to the office. He says, Why don't you get some going first, then go hit some balls, hitting balls, you know, golf balls is important. But never let that calendar get too too hefty. So that those those were probably my, my two greatest mentors, Peter Brown was in there, too. God bless his soul who just passed away. He was he was partners with the Arnold and Stuart. And they were they were great mentors to me. And I'm very grateful for all you've done for me.

Suzanne Carawan 20:56

So Tom, I'd like to ask like, at what point then also in your career, did you start to pivot and realize you yourself need to become a mentor and start acquiring mentees and start leading people? Because I think you've talked all about, you know, this is all the input into you individually. But at some point, you made a decision that you needed to really get into leadership. So maybe you could talk a little bit unpack that a little bit? Yeah.

Tom Michel 21:22

You know, like a lot of stuff it evolved. But as I started to have some have some success. I was asked to speak at some stuff, including some Navy events. And all of a sudden, I realized that people were looking up to me, and I was kind of I don't know, flabbergasted by that. I don't know about that. But then it was it was a great line. And I don't know, I think it was Norman had told me he says great, you know, great leaders don't even know how much of an influence they have. And, and it's sometimes that's true. And I'm not saying I was a great leader by any stretch of the imagination. But I started to see that I was having an influence on others. Because after I would speak, I get phone calls and say, can you go on a call with me? Or what would you do on this case. And then next thing, and I go to a Nayfeh meeting, and then I started to learn a lot about advocacy, through these NAIFA meetings versus just education. Excuse me, then I just started understanding how the importance of Nathe NAIFA advocacy was, but I think it evolved it was, I don't know if we'd call it a light bulb. If it was it was a light bulb with a dimmer switch that came on real slowly, and then all sudden, it got bright. But then, as I as I became a manager and starting to interview people, then they'd come in and say we have we've heard about you, we'd like to work with you. And I'm going to I guess I've made an imprint. And there's nothing that I actually evolved to do it, it happened and I was ungrateful to the man upstairs for looking over me while doing that. But it really was an evolution. But the, the, I think the line that norm came up with is, you know, sometimes you're a leader, and you don't even know it. And so start acting like a leader more often. And you'll help others when you're not even trying. And I love doing that. I've actually, I think Suzanne, we've known each other for a few years, one of the great joys I've had of this business is is is being able to help others. I think that's almost as rewarding as a big sail, to see somebody else succeed. Whether it was your little or large mentorship. And I think Chris, you've had that impact on others as well. Helping others succeed is really is it's as rewarding as anything I can think of.

Chris Gandy 23:56

You know, Tom, I mean, to give you an idea, you know, I think, you know, the industry as a whole. You know, it's a very lonely industry. And I think when we start off in the business, we're taught that, you know, we're a pipe, we're a personalities, and we're going to do this and we're going to be great at it. But but we all know that even Michael Jordan couldn't win without teammates, regardless of how good he was. And so the idea that, you know, the rising tide lifts all boats, and I think, you know, if you want to think you want to be a great one, you have to think like, well, and how else do you do do it without a rubbing shoulders with them and be learning from them? So I think I know that NAIFA is a is a incubator for that through a lot of the programming. Let's talk about leadership for you. I mean, you You served as the president during a let's call it a challenging time during COVID Right. So So, you know, you lead the association, you lead NAIFA? What would you share about that time? What was the most difficult thing about doing it during a pandemic, which is completely different than us getting together multiple times a year and having board meetings and all that fun things? So, so you had to do things a little bit different. So so if you could take a step back and look back in history, I mean, what what would you say that you learned about yourself? And learning? And also, what did you learn about the association during that period of time, that helped you push through and Excel? Really good

Tom Michel  25:45

question. I guess, I guess the first thing I would say is the beauty of the pandemic, for lack of a better term, because I guess it wasn't the beauty. But you know, there was no track record and run on I think the last time we had one was 1910, or whatever. So none of us are 20, whatever. So none of us had a track record on what to do. And we had, we didn't know the extent of what we have what we were in the midst of. But we also knew that and you know, again, I'm a big believer in crisis ever, for every crisis, another door opens and opportunity off, also opens up doors. And we felt that as soon as we got together, we said, Okay, we've got to shift some stuff, but we don't know if we're gonna have the event in the fall to not die. But we know what we can do today. And what we can do today is be a resource for our constituents. And you know, someone like Suzanne was a great help. And I don't know if I can even spell zoom before the pandemic. But boy, yes. He sure got he sure. Got it. We'll have it real fast. But what is, I don't know if you remember, we started putting on together monthly, monthly meetings, informational meetings, positioning people, talking about the pandemic, how to how to how to thrive in this. And there was there was a lot of topics that came up in that, in that process that were relevant, such as you know, how to do applications, ie apps, instead of having to meet with people. There are people been in the business 25 years like myself, I've never done any app, I can't get your pen and sign on the bottom line. That was that's all I ever knew. So we tried to, we tried to first adapt to what was in front of us, then the second one is like I think any good management group would do is Alright, now let's try to let's try to look three months down the road, and let's look six months down the road. And where are we going to be? And three perfectly frank, the six months was really difficult. Because we didn't know what was in store for us. Again, we didn't have a track record, but we certainly could plan for three months, and get in front of people as much as we could. It. It was fascinating. I mean, I don't remember Suzanne, but I think we had close to 1000 people on some of those early webinars that we found. Town Halls,

Suzanne Carawan 28:11

looking back, I think people even, you know, everything shut down on March 13. On March 14th, was a Saturday, we had an executive committee emergency meeting, where we hashed out a plan. And we started the following Monday having our first town hall. first town hall was zoom, we had tons of members never been on Zoom, didn't how to use a webinar made like 160 people, day one, day two was 300. Day three was like 500. We just did an every day to be that fast response. It was incredible. By the end of the week, we had over 1000 people people come out of the woodwork. They didn't they saw Nathan a new light. Right? It was the first time I think for me, where the geographic boundaries were completely dropped. Right? And people said this is this is one Nathan on top of the we're trying to go through a change of an organizational structure. And it allowed us to kind of drop the geographic, you know, ZIP Code Wars, whatever you want to call it, where do you local, etcetera, and say, Look, we're at the end of the day, we're, we're all Americans here. This is our community. And I think that's really where like Nathan nation was born, right, the family aspect of Nathan belonging to an association with that type of quick response time, but no one else was doing what we were doing. And then the piece I would say from Tom's leadership at that time, was, you know, we use a lot of football analogies, but it was like, you know, everything was like we're inside the two minute warning here. It's a fourth quarter, we got to move the ball forward. Like there's no there is no other plan other than forward. Right? That's it only have forward. And so we just took that mentality and we just said, Let's just keep trying stuff. And they, you know, it's like management team. A lot of other groups are super risk averse. They pull back they said we're not gonna have any meetings for the next two years. And instead, we kept on with our annual meeting. We kept on with congressional conference, we just kept on, you know, being active. So maybe that came from the beak and I didn't know that until today, Tom.

Tom Michel  29:59

Yeah, me First, but I mean, the other thing, Chris, as you may know, we have an annual conference now called Peak. At that time, it was called Performance plus purpose. And I remember somebody saying, Well, I guess the I guess it's off. And we said, No, it's not off. It's gonna be different. And then I think I always tell people this, if you think about, there's a lot of lot of points out of this that you can use towards your practice, because you're not every day are you going to wake up in the schedule is going to go as you plan, and that you no need I tell you, if you got six meetings scheduled in a day, chances are good, two of them probably are going to show up and you got to you got to pivot. You got to learn how to pivot. And I think in this industry, we learn how to pivot pretty darn well. But anyway, that that conference we had, was unbelievably well attended. Our sponsors showed up in droves. Because they were saying, heck, yes, we want to be in front of people and let them know that we're still here. It was there was a lot of, I mean, as much as, as people that know me, I'm a hugger. And I like to be in front of people. And shaking hands, and high five, and and all the other good stuff that goes with being belly to belly relationships. There was a lot of good that came out of that, unfortunately, I mean, I'm obviously very sympathetic to the millions of families and individuals that were affected by, by that, but I think the world, I think when I think 1015 years from now, and no, this isn't a history lesson, there'll be so many things in business and in the world that will be pre pandemic and post pandemic, because of the way we, the whole world pivoted and I'm proud of the way NAIFA pivoted,

Chris Gandy 31:43

you know, Tom as an advisor who, and one of the past presidents of a local chapter, I'll give you some some thoughts that that I know from an advisor perspective, I think that most advisors were able to use was was one is that Nate NAIFA was consistent and persistent. You know, I noticed that my emails got more during during that, you know, and a lot of companies pull back and says, we're gonna just gonna wait to see what happened. And they stopped planning meetings, they stopped getting together, and people said, you know, we're going to focus on ourselves and our family, we're going to do those things. I know that NAIFA did. One thing for us in our organization is it continued, and yourself, you continue to inspire us to do the work to lean into this, when things were being different when things were difficult, it goes back to my background in sports is, is when you're down 10 You don't just fold if you don't fold and go home, right? You say you know what, you look at each other? And you say, Okay, what are we going to do? And now I need to be able to count on you to do your part. And so I think it brought people together. And then I think that you guys inspired and gave people direction. And I think that will forever be parts of the pieces that advisors took out of the pandemic and your leadership during that period of time. So you've transition, you pass the gavel, and now you've transition. So past president, I mean, what is what does that role? I mean, what do you what do you do? I mean, do you just, you know, you call on the Batphone to the President and say, Hey, here's what I think or, I mean, what you know, as past president, I mean, what is your responsibility now? And what is what do you do now in that rule?

Tom Michel 33:39

Well, I belong to this, this rocking chair group we meet every Thursday, we didn't know. And I didn't get a white horse and ride off into the sunset or any of that other stuff. Actually, I think it's one of the it is a great job because you don't have a specific duty unless the president in this case, it's Larry holtzberg is a good friend of mine asked you to do some stuff and Larry's kept my plate very, very full. Damn him. No. Anyways, he's he's kept me very, he's kept me very busy. One of the aspects that I'm really focused on now and then even after I step off the leadership team is is helping our corporate development. We have, you know, we have 20,000 members or they're phenomenal, but to do all this stuff we need to do. We need to march and march in line with our corporate partners, who I always tell people when we advocate it's really a multi legged stool when we advocate I mean, we Yes, we are advocating for the advisor. Of course we are but at the end of the day, we're advocating for the client because of some of our products are not allowed to be taken to market that can affect their planning drastically. And last but not least, we're advocating for the carriers who produce the products that we implement in our strategies, so they need us. And I think they, they, it's not that they never realized it. But there's more and more than understand that we're out far spread of much have much greater breadth and depth than we used to as far as an advocacy organization, as was exemplified by our our proactive efforts in the Department of Labor appeal down in Texas. And I can tell you, I was meeting with somebody from Raymond James, who most of you know, is a very big investment coming in they Oh, yeah. NAIFA. You're the insurance lobbyists group. Well, yes, but no, we do so much more than that. So that's one area that I'm helping with Chris. And then of course, as for those of you on this that know, about NAIFA, we've had to two business plans put in the last fight? Well, now, eight years, I guess it is, first was our Navy for 2020, which is our strategic plan. And I was part of that plan, and then to help implement it. And then I was part of the development team of NAIFA 2025. And I want to see us through on that as well. So like, like any good salesman, I want to see it through the end. I'm very excited about this association, not only this industry, but this association and what it brings to the table. And so I'm, I'm, I'm pretty busy doing a lot of stuff for NAIFA. And I'm not, I'm not proud and not shy to admit it.

Chris Gandy 36:35

We're happy, we're happy that you're you're at the forefront of that. Tom, let's let's spin before we get into our last few questions, all right, our lightning round, which is kind of fun. And I know we didn't prepare you for it, but it's unnecessary. So talk to me a little bit about every year you go, we go to the Hill, collectively as a group, and to communicate with with legislators, the impact of the laws in which they're either creating or opportunities or bills. Talk to me a little bit about your experience, right? Because you you've met with lots of legislators. And then kind of the the miss the misnomer that because they make a bill or they make a law, they understand the impact of what it has not only in the marketplace to us, but what it means to our clients. Can you talk a little bit about your experience by going into the Senate and the House? Kind of? Yeah. What you've learned as you've done this,

Tom Michel  37:39

it's been one of the great rewards of my career, Chris is to become involved in advocacy. Because I think there's some misconception and I tell my friends this at dinner parties when I come home from from being in DC, or in my case, the state capitol of Sacramento. It's really easy to pick on Congress. I think we probably all do it once or twice a day, whether we lay but in their defense, they have so much in front of them. It's It's mind boggling. It's overwhelming. And yes, they have staffs of anywhere from three to seven people that are to keep them on top of all the pertinent issues. But it's mind boggling if you think about all the bills that are going through there. I think people would be blown away the amount the amount of stuff that Congress deals with on a daily basis. And it's, it's probably a flaw in the system, frankly, and maybe why we don't get stuff done. But they need to know, it's really important that everyone knows, they need to know who we are, what we are and what we do and how we help individuals. We like to say we focus on Main Street, we help we help people every day. Put in a plan so that their dreams can be realized. And if the there's something that prematurely happens, we want to make sure that the family's dreams are realized. And I think and I will I know that the the the general Congress person thinks of us as these rich salespeople that go around making millions of dollars on people and they don't understand the long term effects of what we do. That's why it's something like life happens. An organization that we we are very fond of the tells real life stories about what we do, whether it be life insurance or disability. That's why it's so powerful. And you and I just had a couple of meetings in the in the last month and one of the issues right now is this retirement act that we have the secure act, it's up there. And here's the funny thing. So I think it went through I think it went through the house with maybe four, four votes against I mean, basically a landslide if you will, but stumbling at the Senate now come on, what could possibly be holding him up? Well, it's it's the little stuff and so on and so on his stuff and that stuff, and I get it. But you'd be surprised at why it was important that we raised the minute required minimum distribution, and why people need access to their funds in case of emergency. And they don't, you know, they, they get up there on the hill. And this is not a knock on him, because as I said, they've got a lot going on. But they get behind the gates, and they don't see real life. And when we go to the Hill, and when we go to our state capitals, we are there to show them what real life is all about. I think I Chris, I've told you the story that I've worked with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who's you know, very well known. She's here in the Southern California area. And Maxine, and I probably don't agree on a lot of policies. But we have a very cordial relationship. And one time I was down there, and she was not real thrilled. Again, she kind of had that misnomer that we were just out selling product. And she wanted to know how much her community had benefited from our products. I didn't know where I was going to get this information, but I said I would get it. Anyways, I made a number of phone calls when we found one carrier that actually could identify by zip code, the amount of benefits paid. So I got all those zip codes in her district sent it to the carrier carrier came back. And it happened to be the benefits are close to billions of dollars. Well, Mrs. Waters has had a whole different look on what we do. Based on that conversation, I could go on for others, but it's really important to to illustrate to everybody how important what we do and how we do it is and I think then you're gonna get more positive legislation if they have a better feel for what you do. And that's why I'm so adamant about it. That I continue to do it, and I'll probably do it to the day. The man upstairs wants me to go advocate for something hopefully in heaven.

Chris Gandy 42:13

Suzanne, with that being said, I think Tom, Tom, Tom, you've done it. You've done a great job, I think, you know, thank you for being here on, you know, advisor, podcasts and APHIS podcast. We're super excited. This is our inaugural season. Hopefully we get renewed. Yeah. Next year. You know, I think this is purposeful, as powerful. Thank you for your leadership. Suzanne, do you have anything else before we get into the lightning rod?

Suzanne Carawan 42:44

I think it's time I think it's time to put down

Tom Michel  42:49

as much to thank both of you, but maybe a better way to elaborate.

Chris Gandy 42:52

So Tom, the here's, here's the rules of the lightning round. I'm going to ask you some questions. Say pass, I'm gonna ask you a series of questions. Whatever, top of mine. That's how you answer. Okay. So top by the way, everyone, Tom does not have these questions. So we're gonna ask you some questions. And again, just be yourself. Right. All right. You ready? Tom? I heard you mentioned today. Eric, you mentioned today that you were a bartender. What was your favorite drink that you that you that you now make for yourself?

Tom Michel 43:22

It would probably be vodka on the rocks because of his simplicity. Every time I heard daiquiri or something like that I ran for the hills, sweat, you never want the morning shift. They're always those food drinks.

Chris Gandy 43:37

You You're known as the as the bear. Why?

Tom Michel  43:43

Oh, there's been a couple instances over the last couple of years where other let's just say other organizations tried to challenge us. And it would have been really easy to back down or there was some instances where it would have been easier to back down. And I said the bear doesn't back down. Bear doesn't back down from anything. We're gonna stand up and be strong. And I think it's a good good policy to have in your life anyways. You know, people can know they can walk all over you. They're gonna walk all over. You

Suzanne Carawan 44:17

gotta know if you're gonna challenge a former football player, right? Football player ones football player for life. That's right. Yes.

Chris Gandy 44:24

Speaking of football, favorite football team.

Tom Michel 44:29

I'm a rams fan. Born and raised around rams fan. Actually, there's a picture of my dad my dad was when he was in his late 30s A waterboy for the Rams. So anyways, yeah, I've always been a rams fan because I'm from Southern California. Alright, Tom, we want a Super Bowl. What do you know? Your favorites your all time favorite sports figure. You know what I never met him. He played before my time. But I'd say Jackie Robinson,

Chris Gandy 45:06

Jackie Robinson. Wow. All right, Tom. And last question. If you could give the president of NAIFA 100 years from today, advice, and you were able to leave it, we were able to leave it buried in a in a treasure trove and bury it for 100 years, and we pulled it out 100 years. What advice would you give the same president 100 years from today?

Tom Michel  45:33

Well, it's gonna be the advice I give, almost every meeting is, we've come too far, to just come this far. This industry. And what we do for people every day has to be a core thread of, of our society. Especially as we are getting older, and I can't imagine how long people are going to be living 100 years from now. The products and the strategies that we sell, are critical, to happiness, to success, to family to friendship, there's just so much more to them. So to them to those people 100 years from now, make sure that NAIFA is is as viable today as it was back in 1890. When we were founded in in 1911, when the Wilson administration made some concessions in the tax code to us, because we've come too far to just come this far.

Chris Gandy 46:41

Awesome. Suzanne, do you have anything before we before we wrap up?

Suzanne Carawan 46:46

Just to say thank you, Tom, thank you for your leadership. It's always great. I have a lot of a lot more to do.

Chris Gandy 46:52

Tom, do you have any more words for us before I close?

Tom Michel 46:58

It's your it's not your attitude. It's your attitude, not your attitude that determines your altitude in life. That's another one of my favorites. And it's so true. You're gonna have bad days, get over it. Things just aren't always going to be rosy. But if you keep a good attitude, your altitude will be taken care of.

Chris Gandy 47:20

Awesome. So as Tom continues to fly high in the past president seat, his altitude you know he has he's an aspiring leader as we come together. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in today. I'm your co host, Chris Gandy and our wonderful guests, Tom Michel, thank you for being here. Our wonderful co host Suzanne Carawan, where we come together to uplift, empower, and educate each other for the betterment of our industry and our advocacy going forward. Thank you for being a part of our day today. And thank you for listening to Advisor Today.

Outro 48:03

Thanks for joining us for NAIFA's Advisor Today podcast series. Make sure to subscribe to get future episodes. And if you're interested in coming on the show, let us know

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