Survival of the Fittest

Survival of the Fittest

As hard as we try to control our environment, the reality is that things are always changing; things that are beyond our control.  Adaptability becomes the great separator between surviving well, getting by, and being destroyed.  How we choose to move forward, and how well we anticipate and adjust to circumstances makes all the difference to the outcome.  Those things we do control.  Survival mode isn’t a bad thing; it actually forces us to be more creative and look at our challenges with urgency (and perhaps, a fresh eye).  Consider examining your worries and see what creative solutions you can come up with.  Be an active participant in your life, and don’t wait for the ceiling to come crashing in before acting.  Anticipate well and make your move before you need to, in order to strengthen your chances for success.  Here are some actions you can take now:

Increase Job Security.  One of the greatest fears in an uncertain job market is being laid-off.  In addition, there are jobs that are being exported overseas.  Worrying and complaining about this won’t change the situation.  Take this time to formulate a Plan B, and be wise to the writing on the wall.  If your job (or your spouse’s job) is always dangling by a thread, it’s time to look at the skills acquired and the contacts made.  Can this experience translate to another industry?  For example, an unemployed teacher might pursue a career as a corporate trainer, which requires the ability to communicate and instruct.

Consider freelance or consulting opportunities available (provided your employer doesn’t forbid this).  Would an investment in more education or training improve your job prospects?  Is there a side business that can be started with little or no capital (ideally, that would allow you to keep your full-time job)?  Maybe you have been itching for a change and want to explore a passion. Or, maybe you see a need that isn’t being filled in the market right now.  Again, use the experience and skills you already have to turn this into something profitable.  Brain storm, and write down everything you can think of, no matter how far-fetched it may seem.  You may end up with a clear idea of where you should be personally and professionally.

Tap Resources.  Local colleges and universities and libraries have education and job placement counseling. There are small business development centers that offer free mentoring to start-ups, including assistance with fleshing out your idea, developing a business plan, marketing and management issues. Career Zone and Job Zone can help you match your talents with prospective careers.  There are resources for retired/mature workers looking to transition back into the workforce. Women and veterans have agencies dedicated to working with their needs.  The Small Business Administration, SCORE, and the US General Services Administration are some websites to explore.

Work Hard.  This sounds obvious, I know.  But, how we invest our time has a lot to do with our success.  Two hours of television watching could be better spent planning a new business, or going to school to get additional training.  Of course we all need to unwind and recharge, but find the time to invest in getting “fit” for the challenges that may lie ahead.

Budget Wisely.  A budget is only as good as the information you put in it.  That is why you have to keep track of everything that you spend and everything that you make.  Only by tracking every little expense can you see where the “fat” is.  Saving/investing must be a line item in your budget.  Make room for it by cutting unnecessary expenses.  Every month, you should aim to put away at least 10% of your income (more, if you can).  If you are contributing to a retirement plan at work, this money would count toward the 10%.

Refinance.  With fixed mortgage rates still at historical low levels, you can immediately improve your cash flow by refinancing.  The key here is to pocket the difference, not spend it.  This money should be used to fully fund your retirement, or to build up the emergency fund.  If you are branching out into a business, some of these funds can be used in that manner.  This money should strengthen you, and not be used to buy more stuff.

Pay Down Credit Card Debt.  Get healthy and shed as much of this debt as you can.  You should aim to pay off more than just the minimum and look to consolidate the debt to one lower rate card.  Talk to your card company and try to negotiate a better rate.  If you still have high rate cards, be sure to pay them off first.  Of course, stop using credit cards for any new purchases.

Delay.  Again, if you are nervous about job security, or debt is creeping up on you, put off purchasing anything you don’t really need.   Don’t eat out, don’t go on a vacation, don’t buy a new car, don’t indulge in anything that you would consider something you want (a manicure) versus a need (an annual check-up).

Difficult times provide a chance to examine your life and to truly grow and benefit from the experience.  Preparing for survival mode will strengthen you and, more important, give you confidence when you do rise to the occasion.  Suddenly you will see possibilities that otherwise you might have never considered.  Growing pains aren’t easy to bear, but they are necessary for survival.

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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