Today we're talking money.
Dina Isola is a writer and the founder of Real$martica, an online personal finance education resource. She works with her husband Tony helping people meet their financial goals and oversee $90 million in client assets.
She has over 30 years of experience in the financial industry and strives to make financial issues relatable to women, children, and families so they can manage their own finances, build wealth, and not fall prey to those who may not have their best interest at heart.
She's a cohost of the Planning to Teach and Retire Rich podcast and has been featured on marketwatch.com and 403bwise.com. She's also created a special checklist for you to get your finances in order, and it'll be posted in the show notes as well.
- Get Dina Isola's FREE Investor Self-Defense Checklist
- Pat Flynn [His book “Will it Fly?” – affiliate link]
04:20 Why money jargon is so difficult to understand (it's not just you)
06:14 Why making finance easy to understand is so important to Dina Isola
08:30 Why working with a fiduciary in the finance world is essential
12:00 How to talk to aging parents about how they're handling money plus who should have a durable power of attorney and why
15:20 Net worth versus income
16:00 Why your house shouldn't be your biggest investment
18:30 How to get clear on your money goals to create a game plan
20:30 Common roadblocks around money
23:30 Money mindset tips
25:11 How Dina Isola and her husband created the freedom for her to stay at home when they started a family
31:30 Who usually has the least amount of money in the bank when they see her (it's not who you think)
34:24 Her recommendations for those with student loans
Sending special heartfelt thanks to Dina Isola for chatting with me this week! ~ Dina
Dina Cataldo: Hi there. Thanks for joining me on the very first episode of Soul Roadmap. I wanted to create a podcast because I am a podcast addict and I am constantly searching for something to listen to at home or on my commute that's going to give me a valuable takeaway. That's my aim here. I want to bring you strategies and tips from amazing guests. I'm going to bring you mini-lessons that'll give you something to think about and take action on, too, so you can live your best life.
Dina Cataldo: Today I'm talking with a guest about money. I don't know about you, but I was taught that it was impolite to talk about money. Well, that changes today. You don't want to miss this interview. Whether you're in debt, building wealth, or don't know what to do with your money, there is something here for you. Even if you think you have it all together, I am encouraging you to listen today. The reason I am is because our money life is a direct reflection of the rest of our life. If our money life is out of order, then there are areas in our life that we can't see that are out of order, too.
Dina Cataldo: But before I tell you about our guest today, I want to tell you something else I'm excited about. During the week of May 31st to June 6th, you'll be able to enter to win a grand prize free coaching package with me and some of my favorite books. To learn more, watch my Insta stories @dina.cataldo and Facebook lives in the Soul Roadmap group at Facebook.com/groups/soulroadmap. I'm posting each day this week. The sooner you get involved, the more opportunities you will have to win, so get in on this. I'll also post everything you need to know in the show notes. You can learn more about this at DinaCataldo.com/episodeone.
Dina Cataldo: Now, let's get to our guest. Dina Isola is a writer and the founder of RealSmartica, an online personal finance education resource. She works with her husband Tony helping people meet their financial goals and oversee $90 million in client assets. She has over 30 years of experience in the financial industry and strives to make financial issues relatable to women, children, and families so they can manage their own finances, build wealth, and not fall prey to those who may not have their best interest at heart. She's a cohost of the Planning to Teach and Retire Rich podcast and has been featured on marketwatch.com and 403bwise.com. She's also created a special checklist for you to get your finances in order, and it'll be posted in the show notes as well. So, go to dinacataldo.com/episode1 to grab it. Now, let's dive in. Hi, Dina. How are you doing this morning.
Dina Isola: Great, Dina. Nice to be with you.
Dina Cataldo: It's really-
Dina Isola: Thanks for having me.
Dina Cataldo: Oh, it's really nice to meet you. I know we've had a little communication before this and via email, but I'm glad that listeners are going to have an opportunity to hear what you have to say because it's really important.
Dina Isola: I'm thrilled to be able to share this with women because it's so incredibly important to their long-term well-being mentally and financially.
Dina Cataldo: Now, there might be some men listening, too, and that's great because this is something everybody needs to learn, everybody needs to get comfortable with. I feel like money is not something that we have created a big conversation around to make everybody comfortable talking about it, so that's part of why I love that you're here today is because you're going to help break some of those barriers and maybe get us into feeling more comfortable about dealing with our money.
Dina Isola: Absolutely. The problem is, too, the industry itself, the financial industry, kind of likes to keep people in the dark. They do this by using jargon and things that make others feel ignorant and embarrassed to ask a question because now you don't understand what they're saying back to you, so-
Dina Cataldo: Hey.
Dina Isola: Yeah.
Dina Cataldo: It's not just me then.
Dina Isola: No, it's not. It's not. You have to understand most of the financial industry works in a sales model. Because of that, the object is to make the sales person valuable. The only way the sales person is really valuable to you is if you don't understand, you know? It's like you're an attorney, correct?
Dina Cataldo: Right.
Dina Isola: If somebody wants to read a legal document, you need to go to the attorney because regular English isn't going to cut it if you're reading it. You have to know the nuances of that language to really understand if something's worded well, worded in your best interest, right? You would go to an attorney. You would not do that on your own. Finance is kind of the same thing, but unfortunately you go to a sales person. A lot of times, they have a conflicted business model, and that's where the problems come in. Because when you're getting advice from somebody who's not a fiduciary, like an attorney is, where they're looking out for your best interest, they can now steer you. So, I want to empower people, men and women, to be able to look out for themselves so they don't get steered, so they know what options they have and what makes best sense for them.
Dina Cataldo: Today we're going to get into some things that you're going to give them, give us, to help us manage our money and make sure we're doing it right. But, I want to talk a little bit about your personal story because I know a little bit about it. You have a very vested interest in making money matters easy for people.
Dina Isola: Yes. It comes from a personal experience. I actually started out in this industry as a writer. I am a writer. I really didn't want to be in the financial industry, to be honest with you. It wasn't my calling, but I was able to get a job writing. In doing so, I picked up some things. I worked, really, for sales models, what I just referred to as that conflicted model.
Dina Isola: In the process of this, my father became ill. My father was really good investor on his own. We never talked about money, really, but I knew he liked to invest. When he got sick, unfortunately it was Alzheimer's disease, so it really affected his ability to do what he had been doing so well for so long. My mother was now left with caregiving and she was also left with handling the finances. There was a lot at stake. It was his care. She wanted to care for him at home, and that cost a lot of money, a lot. You know, insurance isn't covering those kinds Of expenses.
Dina Isola: So, I said to her, “Let me see what people are recommending you do.” I was appalled by the fees that they wanted to charge her. I was appalled by just the strategy or lack thereof. I thought, “My god. If she didn't know any better, she would've gone with this person. She didn't have me to ask.” So, I set about helping her. My husband and I both liked to invest, but it was really more my husband who was more the investor. I just the communicator. We sat down and we dove into their portfolio. We rejiggered things. We took care of it, and it really took such a burden off of her mind. She said, “I don't know what I would do if I didn't have you to do this.”
Dina Isola: At the end of all of this, I said to my husband, “You know something? This is a business. People don't have access to this where someone actually cares. They actually care that you get where you're going. They understand the stakes.” In his case, the stakes were really, really high. In her case, the stakes were high, too. She was seven years younger. All I kept thinking is, “If doesn't work and his money gets depleted, what happens to her when she's his age, when she's in her late 80s, when she needs care? Now what?”
Dina Isola: You know, when you're working with a fiduciary, and that's what we are, and we intentionally chose that model, you just put that person's interest ahead of yours. It's that clean and simple. I felt so strongly about it because if someone else had been working with her I guarantee that's not what the experience would've been.
Dina Cataldo: Wow. That is so amazing. It's just I have a personal experience with this just because my father passed in December, and my dad was in charge of all the money. My mom never touched it. She wasn't very interested in it. It wasn't something that she managed much at all. Maybe she balanced the checkbook every so often just so she knew what was happening, but she didn't get involved in any the stocks or anything like that. When he got sick, I reviewed everything. I had to take over everything. Then, I didn't want that responsibility. So I have, you know, since turned it over to her, but I just … We had these stocks and I'm like, “I don't want to look at them.” I'm just like, “I don't want to look at them. I don't want deal with them. They're just there.” So, yeah, this is great for me, too, because I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot.
Dina Isola: Yeah. I've done this for clients. I've done this for many people, for friends. Now, when ultimately my dad passed 13 years, 14 years ago and my mother passed just about almost three years ago. When she passed, I was now handling the final roundup of everything for my entire family. It felt so different. It almost felt like, “Ugh ” like I have this basket and I really don't want this basket. What I really want is my mother, and so this felt kind of dirty. There's no other way for me to describe it. It was kind of like this is your consolation prize. While most people would've been thrilled, you know, “Oh, wow. You came into some money,” it's not at all how I felt.
Dina Isola: I dragged. When I tell you I dragged my feet. I have six brothers and sisters, right? I'm one of seven. They all knew I was taking care of it. Thank god they were very understanding, because they kept saying, “Is there anything we can do to help?” It was just like, “Ugh.” This is like the final. This for me was the final burial, and I just wasn't ready to let it go. It was very painful to wrap this up. It really was, and I dragged, dragged on. I would've never done this for a client, incidentally, you know?
Dina Cataldo: Sure.
Dina Isola: Because my emotions aren't in it the same way when it's your mom. I mean, there's nothing really, you know? There are few people that are going to hit that pulse point like your mother, you know? So, it was a learning experience. I felt, “Wow. Here I thought I could be cold about money and just kind of logical,” but no. When emotions come into play, that's where people get into trouble with money. It's a hard thing to manage.
Dina Cataldo: Maybe that's a good place to start with this is if … Now, we're talking about a very special circumstance where we're dealing with parents. A lot of us have aging parents and parents that we're taking care of. They have finances and maybe they don't handle them the best. Do you have any tips for people who may be going through something like that?
Dina Isola: Yeah. I mean, that is such … I get asked that a lot. People want to know how to broach the subject with their parents, because it's kind of like … You know, it could look like you're asking for their money or you are trying to insert yourself into places where they're not ready to have you, so you have to be very, very careful in your approach. I just recently was telling someone, “Look, do you have these things taken care-“
Dina Isola: … recently was telling someone, “Look, do you have these things taken care of yourself? Do you have a durable power of attorney?” Everyone should have a durable power of attorney, which allows someone to act on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. That applies to anybody. That's not age specific. You could fall into a coma. So, I'll say to somebody, “Look, before you get on your parents' back, make sure you have these things in a row. And then say, “Hey look. I just took care of this. This is really important. This isn't an age thing. I'm not saying you're getting ready to go to the great beyond. But be prepared.”
Dina Isola: So one of the things is making sure that you have all of the beneficiaries properly titled on your IRA accounts, that you have your will set up, that you have these durable power of attorney. You could start the conversation in that regard, kind of wade in with the basic things that we know we need. And then, from there, say, “Look, in the event something were to happen, do you have a plan? How do you want me to look out for Mom? Or how do you want me to look out for Dad? What do you want from me?” And put it in their court. But you have to be very respectful, because sometimes too it's a generational thing, where you don't talk about money. So it's not something, there's no right answer here. People have to know their family members and what their sensitivities are. But that's something that you need to do, is start the conversation, set the example yourself. Don't tell somebody how to get their ducks in a row if yours aren't yet, if that makes sense.
Dina Cataldo: That's good advice. That is really good advice. Okay, so I'm gonna ask you some questions about getting our own houses in order. But one of the things that I did wanna talk about, and I wanted your thoughts on this is that it is very much a generational thing. I think 30 years ago, we were not talking about money. No one talked about their income levels, anything like that. And even now, there are a few people in the online space, you know, you're familiar with people like Pat Flynn, and they will share their income levels. They will talk about those things. And it's really new and exciting for people to see that model and see where their income is coming from.
Dina Cataldo: But I mean, my information is like it's very interesting when you're talking to other people. We don't bring that up. “So what's your net worth? How much are you making?” And that's another thing that I've often heard is people who have money talk about themselves in terms of net worth versus people who don't feel that they have very much may talk about their money in terms of how much they make, how much is coming in. So maybe we could just kind of break that down into your thoughts about how people are talking about money, and how we should be talking about money.
Dina Isola: Net worth really does make the most sense, because I think we all know it really doesn't matter what you earn. It really matters what you keep at the end of the day. Somebody could earn $100,000, but they could be spending $150,000. So they're actually, while they have a nice income, they're actually at a deficit. So, and people put a lot of stock in their homes for example. They'll say that my house is my biggest investment.
Dina Isola: Well, your house costs you a lot of money. If you factor out what you spend on your home between heating and maintenance, and utilities, and you factor that out, at the end of the day really, and inflation. You add all these things up. Your home really shouldn't be your biggest investment, because it costs you money. Investments actually pay you. They pay you whether you get out of bed in the morning. They pay you whether you're sick, whether you're healthy, they pay you, right? The house requires that you're continually shelling out. So I'd like people to kind of reframe that. I'm not saying that you shouldn't invest in your home, that you shouldn't make it the place that you want to be, that you shouldn't make it comfortable and enjoyable.
Dina Isola: But I think that when you look at assets, what you invest to the side, what buys you freedom. A house doesn't really buy you freedom. To get out of a house is really kind of a pain in the neck, right? You've gotta find a buyer. You've gotta go through all these things and hope to God it goes through smoothly without a problem, right? When you own securities, you can sell them. You can sell them that day. They, you know, if you're buying the right kind, if you're buying liquid securities, you can be in and out as you need be. You're not shackled.
Dina Isola: So a house is not the easiest of assets to own. I'm not saying people shouldn't own real estate. But just keep that in mind. That, I think, is a big shift people need to make. Your home is an investment in your life, in how you enjoy your life, but that's not necessarily the big factor in your net worth. You should be putting money to the side. You should be sure that whatever you're earning, you're trying to stow away like 20% of it if you can. And if you can't do 20, work your way up to it. But you need a plan. If you're going about this directionless, you're never going to increase your net worth. You know. You set accountability for your clients. Without some sort of guideline, “I wanna increase what I'm saving by x percent. I want x amount in the account by this date.” Without that, you're just being vague, and vague goals don't get you where you're going.
Dina Cataldo: Yes. Vague goals don't get where you're going. That's right. So when you start talking to a potential client, how do you get them clear on their goals and where they wanna go? What kind of questions do you ask? What kind of questions can listeners ask themselves so that they can get really clear and that they can start creating a game plan?
Dina Isola: Sure. First you have to take inventory of where you're at, right? So how much you're putting away, where it is at. You'd be surprised how many people don't even know that, where their accounts are, what their accounts are invested in. So just kind of knowing where you are, a snapshot, a baseline, this is where I'm at.
Dina Isola: Then you need to look at what your goal is. You may have several goals. Different timeframes for these goals, right? You might wanna buy a home in five years. You might wanna retire in 20 years. So all these different goals, you kinda have to have their own little timeline, because a five year goal is very, very different from a 20 or 30 year goal in how you treat the money. If you have a five year goal, you're looking at something that you want to be kept in cash. The market is so volatile that five years is too short of a timeframe. You might end up with your value cut in half. You can't tolerate that if you know your goal is coming up. But if retirement's way out into the future, then that up and down, that's not going to bother you. In fact, you're going to buy when things go down, and you'll be just fine.
Dina Isola: So understanding that your goals have different timelines, that's important too. So I try to solidify with the client, what is important to you? What is the money for? Let's not look at this as counting coins and bills, because that is, to me that's useless. Money is just currency. It's what it's buying you whether it's buying you freedom from a job you hate, from a life you hate, whether it's wanting that family vacation with the extended generations. It's something you've dreamed about. Whatever it is, whatever rings your bell, that's what the money needs to be earmarked for, to buy you the freedom to choose when and how you do these things.
Dina Cataldo: What are some of the common roadblocks you see when you're talking to people, like their mindset around money, their mindset about their abilities to handle money. What kind of things do you see?
Dina Isola: Well, I'll tell you with women in particular, the ability becomes incredibly important. They feel inferior. They feel like they're challenged at math, even though this is basic math. I mean, we're talking addition, subtraction, multiplication, everything that you've learned probably from third grade on, right?
Dina Cataldo: Yeah.
Dina Isola: There's this complex that they're, “I'm not good at that. I'm not good at that.” And so that is definitely a really, it's a hard, hard roadblock to get them to overcome. It doesn't have to be difficult. It doesn't have to be complicated math. It really doesn't. It's about setting your goals and being very clear about them, and then breaking them down, kind of like exactly what you would do for a client, right? If you say, if you wanna be accountable, break it down. And then measure whether or not you're hitting that goal. That's really the easiest way to do it.
Dina Isola: The other thing that people try to do is they either are over … You know, you have, that's the one extreme, right, the person lacks confidence. Then there's the person who's overconfident, which is a little actually scarier in my opinion. And I'll tell you why. The over confident person thinks that investing is like a crap shoot, it's like going to the horse races, and they're just gonna plunk down their money and pick the winner, and they're gonna hit the big payoff. And if you invest like that, you're going to lose a lot of money, because really good investing is really boring. It's very, very, very boring. It's very strategic. It's very measured. It's very disciplined. That's the opposite of that. And what happens, the worst thing that could happen to somebody who's overconfident is they could get lucky. They could, at the first shot buy a stock or something that goes way the heck up, and now they think they're a genius. They think they've mastered something that honestly was sheer luck. It was like lightning struck, you know-
Dina Cataldo: Yeah.
Dina Isola: And they made out. But now they think, “I know what I'm doing,” and no you don't know what you're doing. You just got lucky. And a lot of times, they tend to be very intelligent in whatever their sphere of expertise is, right? So if they're an engineer or a doctor, whatever it is, they're really confident, really bright, and they think because they're so so bright there, that it bleeds into other areas. And it just doesn't. My husband is one of the smartest guys I know. And if I asked him to do anything around the house, like rewire, he'd blow the house up. And he knows that. So we don't do what we're not good at. You get somebody who's good at the things. Know what you don't know, because that will get you into trouble too. That will really get you into trouble.
Dina Cataldo: So true. One of the things that I've been working on around my money mindset is how I talk about money, because oftentimes I'll find myself before saying things like, “Oh, I don't wanna do this. I'm not good at this,” or you know, “Oh, what a hassle.” But now I'm trying to reframe that for myself, and say, “You know what? This is easy.” Even if I don't feel that way at the time, I'll say, “You know what, this is easy. I'm just gonna do it. This is easy. I can do this.” It's just that simple change to help me get past those blocks that I have.
Dina Isola: Right.
Dina Cataldo: Because I notice them. I notice that I don't want to handle the money. I want it to just take care of itself.
Dina Isola: Right.
Dina Cataldo: Which, it's not going to do that. You have to manage it. You have to watch it, and what your attention is on will grow. What you focus on will expand. So that's my mindset how I've been working with it including some additional things like talking about money in a really kind way. I heard somebody say something recently, when you're working with your money, treat it like you're having a relationship with a human being. Treat it as if you care about it, and it will care for you. Now, do you have anything, any thoughts around that or any of your own tips?
Dina Isola: Getting back to goal setting, that's why the goal setting is so incredibly important, right. If you get clear on what the money is for. Now it's not just money. Now it's your dream. It's whatever you're aspiring to. I'll give you a big example. When my husband and I were first married, my husband was just starting out in his career. He'd made a career change and he was teaching. He was earning significantly less than I was. Ultimately, we wanted to have a family, and I wanted that freedom to be able to stay home if that was what I wanted to do.
I didn't know how long I'd want to do that for. Maybe a month, maybe ten years. I didn't know. It was really scary to me, because his income was a lot less than my income. We sat down and he said to me, “What's your goal?” And I said, “My goal is to be able to stay home for as long as I want, or not at all. Whatever I want to do, and can we do that?” He's like, “If that's the goal, yeah. We just have to wait a while, but yes, we can do that.”
We set about a plan where we lived off of his income, which was significantly less, and we were investing my income, and that included raises, that included bonuses. I was in a very high paying industry, you know, and so many people would have said, “Let's upgrade the house. Let's upgrade the car. Let's-” whatever, whatever. We didn't do that. I changed jobs, I got a 40% increase, same thing. We lived the same way, and the reason why we were able to live the same way is because that goal was my top goal. That was what my heart wanted, and I wanted that freedom. Guess what, at the end of the day, we finally end up, I get pregnant, and it's a bad pregnancy. It's a really bad pregnancy. I end up on bed rest. All these things. The boys, it was a twin pregnancy, and ended up delivering a full two months early.
By the time they were ready to come home from the hospital, they spent two and a half weeks in NICU, by the time they came home, my leave was up with work. I would have had to go back to work and they were on apnea monitors, they were on all kinds of gizmos of things because they were so premature. We had set this up. I wasn't sweating a thing because I knew I wasn't going back. They didn't know I wasn't going back, but I knew I wasn't going back. I bought my freedom. That's really all I wanted. For somebody, it might be a vacation holiday. I'm not saying that my goals should be anyone else's goals, but when you attach a goal to what that money is for, now when you're tempted to something that's not moving you toward that goal, it causes you to reassess. Is that really your goal? Right? Do I really want that? And this distraction, is this really worth me derailing myself? It might, it might not, but at least it gets you thinking. It gets you cognizant about what you're doing with your money, and why you're doing it.
It's now a relationship, like you said, I'm heading toward you or I'm heading toward you, what is it? You can't do that, right? It's really important to set those goals, but to really — Not someone else's goals. Not what you think you're supposed to be doing. Not what society's telling you. Not what your family is telling you. What is in your heart? I think you probably more than anyone, in looking at your bio, following your path. Following what suddenly, clouds part and you say, wow this is what's important to me. This takes time. You have to really give yourself the space to find that. Because without that, you're just either stockpiling money, or your blowing through it. Either way, it's not serving you, and I don't know about you, but I work hard and I want my money to serve my interests, not my whims.
Dina Cataldo: Right. It's so important to get really clear and focused on what you're working for. What you're going towards. I'm still getting clear. You think you're clear and then you shift. Maybe you have a different goal, or maybe in my particular instance, I didn't really have much of a goal. It was just okay, work hard, make money, and then what? The money's supposed to buy you security. It was never a situation where, at least for me, growing up, we talked about, okay, what is your ultimate goal? What are you looking towards? What do you want to have this money for? It was always, you just work, work, work and then one day you'll be able enjoy everything.
Dina Isola: What I see is people do that, right? They work, work, work, and they save aggressively, and they usually start from very regular normal means, maybe even lower means, where they've really had to work and they've really sacrificed. They've lived in tiny apartments and they've eaten peanut butter sandwiches. The whole, you know, raised their kids in one bedroom. They cannot believe that they've acquired what they've acquired. They can't believe that they've amassed what they've amassed because they never earned a high salary, but they were really good at saving because they always felt insecure, that at any given moment, something, a bottom could drop out and they wouldn't be able to pay for the healthcare or whatever it is that kept them up at night.
Now they have this pile of money, and they're terrified to spend it. It's like, no, you've reached your goal, you're retired, and you can now spend it. Sometimes we actually have to tell clients, “No, go take that trip. Upgrade. Upgrade that trip.” But see here's the thing. It's like a muscle that they've built and their muscle is restraint, and now that they have it, it's hard for them to enjoy it.
Dina Cataldo: Let's talk about the opposite end of the spectrum on that one, because then there's people who are on the high income level who are taking in a lot of money, and it's going right back out. They're not saving that money. Instead it's like, “I'm going to get more. Why do I have to think about it? I'm just going to keep getting it.” What do you have to say to them?
Dina Isola: I see that more often than not. The least likely people come into me with a good amount of money saved from earning regular wages, nothing really out. No six figure bonuses. No craziness, right? The ones that earn a lot, you're absolutely right. They think, “Wow, I'm earning this high income and so I have this lifestyle.” Meanwhile, it's like reality check, your life style is actually more expensive than what you're bringing in. You're at a deficit. Or you're pretty darn close or you don't even have nearly what you should have saved. You're squandering the money.
Yes. Reining them in is really important, and I'm very honest with them, like, “You should have more saved. You need more saved, or you're going to be working longer.” It's one or the other.
Dina Cataldo: What kind of tips do you have. Because I've been in this position. What kind of tips do you have for people who are making a lot of money but aren't necessarily watching where it's going. Instead they're just confident they're going to keep making more. What kind of advice would you give them?
Dina Isola: No one likes the word “budget.” Right? It kind of feels like the word “diet.” It sounds like you're going to deprive yourself, so I'm not going to use the word budget. But I will say this. Pay yourself first. If you take money right off the top and you put it away, before you pay any bill, before you pay your mortgage, your cable bill, your phone bill. Whatever, whatever bills you have. Pay yourself first. You take that 20% and you put it to the side. If you can do more, do more. That includes retirement plans that people have at work. If you have a 401k right, and you can put in 10% and you put in 10% and the company's matching 3, guess what? You've now already hit 13, now you just have to come up with an extra seven over the course of the year, which actually isn't so bad. When you divide it by 12, you can usually skin that cat. You have to look at it that way. That you can put money away gradually, but pay yourself first. Treat yourself as vital as any one of those bills, and once you do that, then you know you've taken care of your adult responsibility to yourself. You paid that bill, now if you spend everything that you made, it doesn't matter, because guess what? You put away that 20%. If you can do more, do more.
Dina Cataldo: Then there's the other thing that a lot of people, who are lawyers or doctors, or heck, anybody now has to go to college…and they have student loans. What do you recommend for them to do? Should they be paying off those student loans first before they start saving, what should they be doing?
Dina Isola: Well, here's the thing. Everything depends upon what rate people are paying. So, if you have a very low interest on your loans, then keep the loan, it's not a problem. But if you're paying a lot of money like I see this with people with credit cards all the time right? There's an 18%, 19% charge and I'll say look, you've got the 15 grand in your bank account. Just pay it. Just pay the bill. There's something psychological thought about them taking that money out of the bank. I'm like do you understand that if you take that money out and you pay that bill, it's as if you've earned 18% on your money, just by not paying that interest rate.
Dina Isola: Not all debt is bad, certainly student loan debt that's enriched yourself, that's a good thing. I don't equate that to credit card debt which is just get rid of that. Get rid of the debt that hasn't done anything for you. You probably don't even remember what you bought on that credit card, that you're still paying, 10 years from now. Get rid of that debt. The student loan debt, though like I said, the rates are usually reasonable and just pay that off as you can. As long as it's not crippling. If it's crippling you, then you may need to do some other things. You may need to earn more money in order to pay some of that down.
Dina Cataldo: So, in that particular persons case, someone who doesn't have any credit cards but maybe has student loan debt and they are making good money, whatever they're doing. Still pay yourself first that 20% and then pay what you need to, what you can, on the student loan?
Dina Isola: Yes, and here's the thing too because to pay yourself it doesn't have to be an investment account right? It could be building your emergency fund, which is the line of defense, for you not to get into credit card debt. Right? So, god forbid you lose your job, something should happen, if you have to three to six months worth of your income socked away, that gives you some breathing room. Also, will help you make better decisions because you won't be frantic when the emergency strikes because you'll know, okay, I have a bit of a cushion, I have a little bit of a window.
Dina Isola: So, pay the loan, yes, keep current with the loan but make sure you're putting aside because you need to first build up that emergency fund. Once you've funded that, then you could look at building investments and I think psychologically there's something good about building something instead of just constantly paying. Paying somebody else, pay yourself.
Dina Cataldo: Do you have any advice to anyone who's listening on what they need to be doing? We've got okay, they get clear, they start creating that 20% cushion every month, paying themselves first. Is there anything else that you would tell somebody who's just getting a handle on their finances to do?
Dina Isola: With the 20% I'd like to give a quick tip because not everyone is going to be at 20% right? Somebody starting out, they may say, oh gosh, I can only do 5%. What can I do? Every time you get a raise but that increment in to your savings. Still live off of what you had been earning, if you can. If you still need a little bit more to live off of, okay but avoid lifestyle creep. That is a big problem. So, you start earning a little bit more and then suddenly you want the more expensive something. Now you're eating out more, you want a better car, you start, before you know it, it starts building up. And that's where there's like a hole in your bucket. And no matter how much you earn you can't keep up because your appetite keeps increasing.
Dina Isola: So, that I think is really important. Not just to be aware of that, not to allow yourself to start jumping up in your lifestyle once because you're earning more. Try to keep it as simple as possible. And understand, I think the biggest thing that people need to do is understand needs versus wants because when you cover your needs. Your needs, housing right? Your needs, food. That doesn't mean lobster dinner. That would be a want, right? Your need is dinner but it doesn't have to be filet mignon. So, you have to make those choices. Satisfy those needs first, if those are all satisfied and part of that need is that 20% or close to it, then worry about your wants. People don't delay their gratification and that's where they get into trouble.
Dina Cataldo: Oh my gosh and we are in such a culture, especially now where it's like instant gratification, I want that, I can have it, I want it now.
Dina Isola: Amazon will have it to you by tomorrow morning.
Dina Cataldo: Oh my gosh. Well so many of my friends have Amazon Prime and I had it for a quick second and I realized, very soon, I was not the person to have Amazon Prime because I was like, oh you know what, I need this. And then you'd browse and you're like well I need that and that and that. And then it comes shipped to your door. I'm like, whoa, this is not healthy, I do not feel good about this.
Dina Isola: But see that's great because you were aware and it's like look, an alcoholic isn't going to want to work in a bar, right? If they're recovered, I should say. Let me put a caveat. Well then you say, I need to avoid whatever is going to unravel me. And knowing yourself well enough to know what those temptations might be that's really important. So, kudos to you for saying, you know what, this is going cause me more trouble than I need and eliminate it. That's great.
Dina Cataldo: Well maybe that can bring some people awareness if their shopping tendencies, if they hear this conversation between us and they can start to focus more on their goals and what they really want, rather than the quick fix. Because it feels good to shop. Shopping feels wonderful. And it's easy at least for me, to you know forget, like hey, I've got these other goals they're much more important than that really cute purse.
Dina Isola: Right.
Dina Cataldo: Well thank you so much for talking with us today. I want listeners to find you so can you tell us a little bit about where listeners can find you, learn more about what you can offer them.
Dina Isola: Sure. I blog regularly at realsmartica.com and in fact, I just put something up there for lady listeners about all the questions that I get asked that people are afraid to admit that they don't know. Like what's a stock and what's a bond and things they feel like they should know and they don't know and they're embarrassed. So, realsmartica.com is a plain english, jargon free zone where I try to break things down so that you can be empowered to make good financial decisions.
Dina Cataldo: Oh my gosh that is perfect. So you should head on over there to realsmartica.com and I will link to that in the show notes. So you will have access to that and you can find what she has to offer and I understand that you also have a checklist for people who are trying to get their finances squared away.
Dina Isola: Yes, I put together an investor self defense checklist, which is really good for avoiding being steered in directions that really aren't going to benefit you but they'll benefit whoever is steering you. I'm happy to provide that your listeners. I actually created it just for you, I haven't even released it my own [crosstalk 00:08:00].
Dina Cataldo: So, I will link to that in show notes as well, we will put that up. Thank you! Thank you so much, do you have any parting words?
Dina Isola: Just, remember that money is just currency, that's all it is. So, treat it with a goal in mind so you can stay focused so you can stay kind of emotionless about it, that's best and make it work for you. Don't let it work for other people, let it work for you first and foremost. You're worth it.
Dina Cataldo: I like that. Make your money work for you! All right thank you so much Dina.
Dina Isola: Thanks for having me, I had fun.