Joy Sorensen Navarre discusses her role as the President of Navigate. Navigate focuses on helping physicians resolve their student loans. According to Joy, Navigate has helped their physician clients save over $420 Million so far.

James: You are listening to the Broker Advisor Podcast, where we explore the disability insurance market, specifically as it pertains to protecting highly compensated healthcare professionals. The goal of this podcast is to arm you with interesting tidbits and anecdotes you can share with your clients and prospects. 

We have found that the two best ways to do that are to speak to healthcare professionals who have suffered from a disability, or pick the brain of industry experts who excel in their field. My name is James Crook. I am a marketer and have a disability income fellow designation. I am your host. If you like what you hear, please remember to rate and subscribe. Thank you. As always, this podcast is sponsored by MGIS, insurance healthcare professionals expect. 

Welcome back to the Broker Advisor Podcast. Today, we are very excited to have Joy Sorensen Navarre with us. Joy is the president of Navigate, and she is a big fish in the student battle to take care of student loan debt. And Joy, we’re excited to have you with us today. 

Joy: Thanks so much, James. I’m glad to be here. 

James: Awesome. So let’s just start off. Joy, if you want to explain in your own words what you do, and why? 

Joy: Thanks. That’s a great question. I started Navigate because I was a former financial advisor, and one of my clients actually asked me a question that I didn’t have an answer for, and I got embarrassed. And he asked me for my professional opinion about his student loans. And I was just a normal financial advisor working on investments, insurance, and planning, but really nothing beyond just pay off your student loans. Right? So no strategies, nothing. So I tried to find somebody I could refer him to, but I couldn’t find anybody that seemed trustworthy. And so I just dug into just for this one client, just dug into his student loan questions and ended up saving him, what was it now? It was like $100,000. And he was a brilliant guy, very astute. 

And so then I thought, “Well, gosh, maybe I should talk to the other 30 people on my book of business with huge student loans.” And I did. I sent out an email just asking would they want to talk to somebody, and within two weeks, 100% of them had scheduled an appointment. 

James: Wow. 

Joy: You know how impossible that is, right? 

James: Yeah. That’s a good proof of concept for a business. 

Joy: And so of those 30 brilliant people, only three had it perfectly figured out. And the other 27 saved from $40,000 to $400,000. That was two doctors married to each other. Right? So it’s big savings. And then I thought, “Oh gosh, this is all I want to do.” And so I sold my book of business to my partner, and I created Navigate. And so the business is we sell our services to healthcare institutions. Hospitals and other places like that. And then they provide, it’s like an employee benefit to their employed physicians. That’s our business model. 

James: Okay. Very interesting. So that’s incredible. So you’ve saved people, you saved that one couple $400,000 on their student loans. What was their total? How much did they owe? 

Joy: Well, right now in general, people, physicians are owing $250 to $450. That’s just, neither one of those is an outlier. That’s just what we’re expecting to see when we open up that email. But the most we’ve seen, I think was $870 with one individual. And that was a physician who was in her second career. I think maybe she’d started, had an advanced degree maybe in law, and then decided she wasn’t. And it was a really unique situation, but she’ll be fine. 

She’ll be totally fine. We got a really good plan for her, and she’s got good support with us. And so that’s the message I’d give to folks that are listening, is when you’ve got a great plan and you’re looking out for the contingencies that we’ll be talking about here, everything’s going to be just fine. 

James: Okay. Well, yeah, that sounds scary to have that much debt. 

Joy: It’s awful. 

James: Okay. Well, yeah. So let’s talk about the toll that that student loan debt can take on physicians. I mean, I know if I personally had $870,000 in debt, I don’t know that I’d be able to function at all. So what toll does that take on physicians who have debt like that? 

Joy: Yeah. We could guess, and I often ask this during presentations that I do with residency programs and ask people, “What image comes to mind?” And often they’re talking about an anchor around my neck, or they’ve got these very difficult scenarios. Or they’ll say, “You know, I think about it every single day,” or “I want to marry the love of my life, but I can’t burden him with all this debt.” 

And so there’s a physician out of Michigan State, Dr. Julie Phillips, and she’s researched physicians and their student loans. And what she found is that physicians who have student loans are showing signs of depression, they’re putting off major life decisions, and there’s some regret in terms of career choice. 

James: Yeah. 

Joy: Pretty difficult situation. 

James: Wow. So if you have the average amount of debt, $250,000 to $400, whatever it is, how much are they paying per month on that usually? 

Joy: Yeah. Excellent question. So let’s just say $300,000 at what the standard interest rate is right now for those federal loans, it’s anywhere between five and seven, and it’s going up now because it’s increasing. You’d probably be paying $3,400 a month under a standard 10 year plan. 

James: Ouch. 

Joy: It’s awful. It’s awful. And you know, they’ll say to us, “I don’t even have anything to show for it.” It’s not like you’re buying a house. I mean, it’s your career, it’s your life, but there’s no it. Yeah. And if you get good advice, there are lots of forgiveness options out there and lots of ways to save a lot on that and then not have to pay those huge monthly payments, but there’s complications along the way. So it’s important to get a good plan and get some good support. 

James: Okay. Yeah. So I’m curious about, because MGIS, who sponsors this podcast, is a disability insurance company, and we specifically help the healthcare professional market. So I’m curious about any potential insights you have on why disability insurance might be critical for a physician with student loan debt. 

Joy: Yeah. Well, James, let me tell you that I am a huge proponent of professional disability income insurance for anyone that’s making a decent living. Because really, I think I talked earlier about, you know, you’ve got to plan for the contingencies, the things that could happen that you hope never will happen. And because we do this work, we’ve seen some very sad situations. For us, a sad situation is not you owe $100,000 and you figure out how to pay it. We’ve even seen like $30,000 or $90,000 or $100,000, but I got sick and I can’t work now, and how am I going to pay it? Those are really, really sad conversations, and there’s really not a lot. If a person is super-duper sick, like catastrophically sick and they’ll never get better, then of course there’s the discharge, the student loan discharge. But that’s hard to get. And I don’t know, in your experience, how common is a catastrophic kind of disability versus a, “Oh, you can’t work for three to six months,” kind of disability? 

James: Right, yeah. Well, I’m a marketing guy for the disability insurance company, but I can say that it’s fairly common knowledge that you’re more likely not to get catastrophically injured or sick. It’s much more common to be temporarily rather than permanently. 

Joy: Right. Yep, exactly. And so the other thing that comes to mind for me, so say a disability happens, we want our client or our friend to be able to focus on getting better, right? And not have to focus on, “Oh gosh, how am I going to pay this huge student loan bill?” And we know that stress is antithetical to wellbeing. And so especially in a time of recovery, that’s where you really would like to have that disability insurance to lean on so you don’t have to worry about making those student loan payments out of nothing, basically. Yeah. And so can I tell you one of my favorite quotes from someone who- 

James: Yeah, please do. 

Joy: Had purchased a disability insurance policy as part of our overall plan when I was a financial advisor? So she and her spouse were looking at budget cutting and how they could get some additional money. They were trying to plan for a vacation and they wanted to do more investing. And so the spouse said, “Well, what about this disability insurance? We’re never going to need this.” And the client said, “Well, really, I love the idea that I never have to use my disability insurance that we’re paying for, but really I keep it for you.” 

So she was the primary wage earner in the couple. And it looked like they had this extra bill they really didn’t need. She knew enough to know that, gosh, this is the one insurance, you really don’t care if you never need it, because it’s really pennies on the dollar when you look at the big picture. And it’s really tough if you don’t have it when you need it. So yeah, that’s one of my favorite quotes. 

James: Yeah, no, I think that’s great. And once people understand the, why wouldn’t you… We’ve done episodes with brokers who’ve been in the business for a long time, and one of them said, “Why wouldn’t you ensure the asset that ensures all your other assets?” 

Joy: There you go. Yep. 

James: Yeah, I think once people buy into that, the importance of it, it’s just crazy to think that there are people who aren’t making it a big priority. And that’s great. 

Joy: It really takes folks like your listeners to help people understand why it’s important and how easy it is hopefully to get it. 

James: Yeah, no, I mean, if you just think about some of those numbers. If you are paying $3,400 a month in student loan payments, and I did some research when we were writing a piece and it was really interesting. So on average, physicians buy more expensive homes than the average consumer, which isn’t that surprising because their incomes are higher, but they also have a smaller ratio of down payment to their buying. 

Joy: All right, rather because of the physician mortgages. 

James: Right. So they’re highly leveraged. And so when you’re that highly leveraged, you need to be protecting the income. It’s just, it’s crazy. 

Joy: That’s a good point. 

James: So any stories, do you have any stories of help? And I know you do based on talking with you, but any stories of helping physicians manage their student loan debt in a healthy way? 

Joy: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. So there’s three really important things happening right now for physicians, and this might be helpful for your listeners. The first, well, let me just say, there’s always something in the news about student loans. And whenever you read something that’s like, “Oh, things are awful,” you just take a big deep breath. It usually isn’t awful. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the last three years and they’ve all been positive, but there’s been a lot of people are trying to sell their newspapers, so they’re making it sound like terrible things are happening. So the first thing, just take a deep breath, call someone that knows really what the situation is and get some good info. But it is true, just having said that, that the student loan pause that’s been in effect since March of 2020 will be ending July 31st. 

So that is true. So everyone that’s had it on their back burner, not having to think about our student loans, now would be a good time to start planning. Okay, do I have my direct debit set up and am I still using the same bank and do I have enough cash in that account so that August or September when that direct debit comes out, that I’m not going to bounce a check? So that’s the first thing to be aware of. Just take some time, look at your student loan website, your account to see what your payment due date is. Just be ready. Now would be a good time to circle back. Are you on the right repayment plan? That would be a good question. There’s going to be some changes in repayment plans next year. So student loans, it’s not always something you can set it and forget it. If you’re with the federal government program, you really want to dig in and see what new opportunities for forgiveness and other things are available. 

James: Okay. Interesting. 

Joy: The second thing is, there is this really cool forgiveness for people who have been paying on their loans for 25 years. And you might think to yourself, “Well, who the heck would pay on their loans for 25 years?” Because in this interest rate environment, that would be crazy because you’d pay double on your loans. But in the nineties, interest rates were 1% and 2%. Gotcha. So financial advisors called it free money, which it basically was. And so a lot of folks and doctors got on a 30-year plan. And so they’re still paying. It’s probably not a big bill, but they’re really tired of paying that bill. It’s been 25 years. And the Biden administration announced about six months ago that no one needs to pay for longer than 25 years on their student loans. 

And most doctors are not aware because they’re not paying attention to any of that student loan news anymore. So they’re not aware that this is happening, and they just have to take one simple step and the balance of their loans will be forgiven. So it’s for federal loans, really easy conversation to have with an older doctor. And you might be their new best friend because all of a sudden you’re going to save them. They don’t owe a lot anymore. They might owe $20, $30, $50,000, but oh gosh, will they be happy that you just saved them that boatload of money? 

James: Yeah, that makes sense. 

Joy: And then the third thing that I would like to share with your folks is that public service loan forgiveness, which is the biggest loan forgiveness program in the YS and it’s helping millions and millions of people get their loans forgiven, it’s only if you’re working full-time for a non-profit organization, and doctors in Texas and California. So if you have any producers on the call in Texas and California, this is especially a good sales idea for them, that those folks, many of them now will become eligible for public service loan forgiveness. Not if they’re in private practice, but if they’re working for a private physician group and actually practicing at a nonprofit hospital. In the past, they weren’t eligible. Starting July 1st, they will be eligible. So that’s very exciting for those folks. Could be big savings. 

James: Yeah, no, that’s great news for them. Okay, excellent. Well, Joy, I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your wisdom with us. I know that there’s going to be a lot of producers who are really interested in what you had to say, and I hope that this might help you get more business helping people, because it sounds like you’re really doing a great job of helping our healthcare professionals figure out how to take care of their student loan debt. So that’s amazing. 

Joy: Thank you. Did I tell you how much our physician customers are on track to save? 

James: Tell me. 

Joy: $427 million. 

James: That’s a lot. 

Joy: So yes, we love doing this. If you have questions, reach out to me at Happy to be a resource in any way. 

James: Awesome. Well, thank you, Joy. 

Joy: You’re very welcome. 

James: Thanks for listening to the Broker Advisor podcast. If you like what you heard, please remember to rate and subscribe. Have feedback? Please send it our way. Thanks again. 


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