Matthew C. Daley, MBA, FSCP, LACP, LUTCF, grew up in the life insurance world, but his journey to the top wasn’t easy. He relied on grit, determination, and the support of those around him to overcome addiction and build a thriving insurance agency from the ground up.
Coming Back from Rock Bottom
Daley got his life insurance license when he turned 18 at the urging of his father, Vincent Daley, CLU, ChFC, a loyal NAIFA member for nearly 39 years. He cut his teeth in the industry at a large insurance firm in New York City—the youngest intern in the firm’s history—before going to work for his father’s company. But Matt didn’t receive any special treatment. When he was 24, Daley left his father’s agency and took a banking job, but he still had a lot of growing to do. He struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, finally checking himself into a rehab facility, where he spent his 25th birthday.
Going to rehab was a turning point in Daley’s life. When he got out, his parents told him they were there to help and support him, but he would have to do the work himself. It was hard—he had to learn how to live in a world he had never had to cope with without drugs and alcohol. On top of that, he had more than $100,000 in debt, but filing bankruptcy would have cost him his life insurance license, so he spent the next two years paying back every penny.
Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, those trials made Daley the person he is today. “We all have different stories as to how we got to be where we are, but the reality is I wouldn't change mine for a second,” he says. "That learning experience hardened me, and it taught me everything I needed to know about the world.” He worked tirelessly and, at age 30, opened his own practice, The Daley Agency, through American National.
In his first few years in the industry, Daley says he quit once a week. But each time, he decided to give it one more day. “That fortitude to keep coming back forges a love inside of you because you're building something,” he says. That’s why he loves working with small business owners. From florists to landscapers to winery owners, Daley’s clients are hard-working Americans who take pride in what they’ve built with their own hands.
Daley enjoys taking on new and different challenges every day, and some of his favorite experiences are the small changes that have an outsized impact. He helps families budget to afford life insurance or pay down debt. He helped one young couple budget $40 per month to pay down debt. Using the strategies Daley helped them put in place, the couple was able to pay off $20,000 debt in just two years.
"When you’re a new agent in the life insurance business, you don’t really know the impact you’re having right away,” says Daley. "You're making a promise for the future and hoping to never have to [deliver] on that promise.”
In 2016, Daley was at his sister-in-law's wedding and talked to the photographer about making a plan together. She said had everything she needed covered but would keep his contact information for the future. Two years later, her husband died of a heart attack when he was just 49 years old. She received a package in the mail from his life insurance company with the instruction to fill out the required forms to receive his life insurance check. She was grieving and didn’t see the value of jumping through the required hoops.
Daley went to her house, sat at her kitchen table, and walked her through each jargon-laden form. That life insurance policy helped her pay off the family home, keep her autistic son in his school, and put a pool in their backyard so they could still enjoy their summers. Now, she comes to Daley for everything she needs and tells friends, family, and strangers that he’s the only person to go to for insurance. That experience changed the trajectory of his career, says Daley.
Daley is a proud supporter of NAIFA’s political action committee, IFAPAC, and is committed to NAIFA’s mission of advocating for a favorable regulatory environment for Main Street Americans. When he started out in the business, his father encouraged him to join NAIFA. Daley recounts, “What my dad told me is, ‘You should be involved in groups that advocate on your behalf and that have a role in your paycheck.’ NAIFA does that in spades."
Authenticity, Determination, and Mentorship
Three key factors have contributed to his success, says Daley: being authentic, doing the hard work, and learning from mentors. Daley doesn’t look like the stereotypical insurance agent. He won't be caught in a suit and tie, and he has no qualms about clients seeing his tattoos. Being his authentic self is part of why clients and prospects trust him. "I want people to know that this is who I am. And when you need something, or you have a question that you think is stupid, you can come to me with it because I'm going to answer it in the most honest way I can,” he says.
Daley may be young, but his path to success took time and hard work. “It took me 20 years to become an overnight success,” he says. “Get up and do it every single day, and then you'll look around, and you'll see that you're surrounded by the peers that you used to look up to.”
Daley says his first mentor was his father. When he went to work for his father, he didn’t get any special treatment. He resented his father for it at the time, but now he’s grateful. That experience taught him how to make it on his own and forced him to seek out other mentors.
One of those mentors was long-time NAIFA member Chuck Smith, whom Daley still talks to nearly a decade later. “Chuck is the most positive person I have ever met in my life,” he says. “When we set our goals on January 1st, Chuck will tell you that he's going to sell 365 life insurance policies because he's going to do one a day. He might finish the year with nine and it doesn't matter because, in his mind, he truly believes that his role is to go out and sell a life [policy] every single day.”
Daley continues in Vinnie’s and Chuck’s footsteps and mentors others, both inside and outside of the office. One of the new agents he mentors is his sister, NAIFA member Melissa Daley. Another young agent he works with calls him at least once a day, he says, but he's happy to lend a hand. “If we, as the next generation, don’t inspire the one behind us, there will be nobody left [in this business].”
In the years to come, Daley hopes to continue expanding his agency and gaining knowledge. A firm believer in lifelong learning, he earned his LUTCF and LACP designations through NAIFA and strives to earn a new designation each year.
Daley is passionate about giving back to his community. He volunteers, along with his father and sister, with Helping Hands Long Island, a local charity that provides food, shelter, and Christmas gifts for Long Island’s unhoused population. Another aspect of giving back for him is talking to anyone who will listen about sobriety, sharing his story and helping others overcome addiction and get their finances in place. “If I’m not willing to share what I learned, they’re still out there suffering. It’s affecting families everywhere,” he says. “If we don’t step up at the small level, people are going to continue to die on our hands.”
When asked why insurance and financial services professionals should join NAIFA, Daley replies, “If you're going to be in this business, be involved. Get involved with NAIFA. Donate your time. If you can't donate time, donate money. If you can't donate money, write an email or send a letter to your congressperson.”
“[NAIFA] works so hard for us on our behalf. Without us, they're nothing; without them, we're nothing,” he says.
Daley also credits his success to the people in his life who have been there for him through thick and thin: his parents, his wife, and everyone who has mentored him along the way.