Making Your Own Luck

“What’s your goal?” My husband’s question was simple, but I didn’t know if I should bother to share my complete answer, because it seemed unreasonable.

We hadn’t started our family yet, which was a goal of ours. But I wondered if winning Lotto was the only ticket to my other dream: to be able to stay home with our kids for as long (or short a time) as I wanted.  Back then, my earnings were almost five times his salary and I doubted we could sustain ourselves on his take home pay alone, especially with the added costs of a baby.  Sharing this thought with him might have made him feel badly; instead it motivated him.

 ”That’s it? That’s the goal?” Tony said, as if he had known it all along. “OK, give me some time, I’ll figure it out.”

I had it drummed into my head from friends and colleagues around me, who were enslaved to the double-income household: “There’s no way you can live on one salary – especially a teacher’s salary.”

Quietly I worried that I had given him a goal that was not within reach. I thought, maybe I could stay home for a year at most. I even started to accept that option, if it came to that. Thankfully, it never did. The more naysayers there were, the more determined he was to make a viable plan.

Stock piling became the first part of the strategy; generating investment income was the other component. We lived as if his salary was the only income we had, and aggressively saved and invested my salary and bonus. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy ourselves. We made time for some travel; we ate out at restaurants within reason – but the savings/investing came first; what was left over was ours to play with. We put off starting a family until we felt we were on solid ground.

An interesting thing happened along the way. We had the opportunity to buy a small cabin in New England for a great price; it was very tempting and we came close to doing it. It was affordable based on our total income; but ultimately it would have taken us off our goal. When another opportunity presented itself — to move farther from New York City (where I worked) to an area we loved and where we wanted to raise our family– we struggled with the idea. I didn’t want all our savings/investing to dry up because this house was more expensive than the one we were living in. After careful consideration of all the numbers, Tony figured we could swing it, provided I was still willing to commute an extra 2 hours each day until we started our family. With trepidation, I agreed.

Then we faced a series of unexpected events. For starters I became pregnant and soon we found out we were expecting twins. Almost immediately, I ended up on bed rest.  Short-term disability gave way to long-term disability, which was less than my salary (although I wasn’t spending any money commuting).  When our sons arrived a full two months early, we were stunned.  After more than two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, they were released to come home – but with all sorts of equipment (like an apnea monitor to detect the cessation of heart beats or breathing and caffeine to keep the heart beat rate up).  To add to all this tension, I had used up all my leave and was due back almost as soon as the boys came home from the hospital.  I still can’t say how I would have been able to leave my babies under those circumstances – or who we would have asked to take on such a grave responsibility.  I am just so thankful that Tony thought to ask the question about my goals – and that I dared to utter it out loud.  Otherwise, our backs would have been against the wall.

Many times, there isn’t one right way to reaching a financial goal.  Sacrifices, compromises, and non-negotiable items differ by household.  The point is the goal kept us focused and shaped all the decisions we made – we passed up opportunities to spend our money in favor of getting us closer to what was our top goal.  Most important, had we not planned this out, I would have been headed back to my four-hour roundtrip commute; our preemie babies occupying my every thought.   Some call it luck – but I know Tony’s careful planning and our commitment to reaching our (seemingly unreachable) goal had a lot to do with the blessings that came our way. 

Like any good plan, ours wasn’t stagnant.  We realized that our journey had valuable lessons that could help so many others, and our businesses ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. and Real$martica, Inc. were born as a result.  These businesses have become one more way that we, as a family, have been able to reach financial goals while having the freedom to remain true to ourselves.

The financial wisdom I would like to impart is: Don’t be afraid to look at your dreams – even if they seem impossible to reach.  Instead of thinking about why you can’t get where you want to go, ask how you might get there.  Pay attention to the gifts and talents you hone along your journey, and you may even find a second career.  Do this, and down the road, you may find yourself being referred to as the “lucky one”. 

Authored by: Anthony Dina Isola

Dina Isola, President of Real$martica, Inc. - COO and Director of Investor Relations, ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. Following a successful career in marketing communications in the financial industry, Dina and her husband, Anthony, founded a registered investment advisory firm, ATI Investment Consulting, Inc., and ultimately the idea for the educational company Real$martica, Inc. was born. In dealing with investors and hearing their concerns, she spearheaded ATI’s investor education efforts, coordinating with local libraries and townships to offer free investor education seminars. She has volunteered her time, writing financial articles and has conducted investor education classes geared to family financial matters. She is President of Real$martica, Inc. and is COO and Director of Investor Relations for ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. and personally handles all communications for both firms. She is active in her local business community and serves on the Brookhaven Business Advisory Council and is a member of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce. She earned a BA in English and Communications from Fairfield University. She is a registered investment adviser, and is a licensedreal estate salesperson in New York State.  Prior to founding Real$martica, Inc. she was a Vice President in charge of marketing communications for a privately-held investment management company in New York City.  She has worked in the financial industry since 1987. thumb_tony_isolasAnthony T. Isola,  President, ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. Anthony has married his passions, investing and education. He is President and founder of ATI Investment Consulting, Inc. (“ATI”) a registered investment advisory firm. His vast knowledge in matters of finance brings a well-rounded perspective to all that he does. As an educator, he has a natural ability to explain complicated economic and financial concepts and make the practical application of these concepts come to life. In working with clients, he recognized how overwhelming building a financial plan can be, especially when most investors are vulnerable due to their ignorance on financial matters. He prides himself on empowering investors to understand how to look out for their interests and not fall prey to financial arrangements that will take them off goal.  In addition to managing assets for clients, he has counseled investors on social security benefits, retirement income assessments, and college planning. He teaches history at Plainview Old Bethpage Middle School and oversees students’ participation in The Stock Market Game and financial literacy for the Plainview Old-Bethpage Central School District. He has taught financial related courses to children, parents and staff members in the district, as well as to Long Island residents. He holds a New York State Permanent Certification (in Social Studies). He earned a BA degree in Economics from Boston University and a MS degree in Secondary Education from Hofstra.  Prior to teaching, he worked as a foreign currency trader in New York City for large international banks.

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