I worked at an insurance shop in Manhattan for almost two years right out of college. Just prior to my arrival, the agency had transitioned owners and after only a few weeks of being there, my manager went back to being a producer. So for the next eighteen months or so, without any knowledge or any contacts or any guidance, I was on my own. I wasn’t being paid a salary, was relying on commissions of which there weren’t any, and to add insult to injury, I had to pay rent every month. There was a period of six months where I couldn’t sleep and my eye lid would constantly spasm. It wasn’t a very pleasant time in my life.
I don’t remember when I first started reading The Reformed Broker, but it was a light bulb moment pretty much from day one. He was speaking honestly about his experiences in an environment very similar to mine, where people generally wanted to do the right thing for their customers, but were so conflicted with the way the system was built that it was virtually impossible to act in their best interests. So the fact that I get to work with the right people in the right system, wow, I can’t ask for much more.
Two people that I’m especially proud to call my colleagues are Tony and Dina Isola. The Isolas are currently on a crusade to fix the atrocities that take place in teacher’s retirement plans. Tony taught U.S. history at a middle school for twenty-one years, so he knows a thing or two about how this works.
While teaching, Tony and Dina began managing money in 2001 for friends and family. He tells me, “I wasn’t looking to start a business, but these jerks were ripping them off.” They did such a good job for their clients that by 2014, the business had grown too big and Tony would no longer be able to work in the school. He made the decision to stop being a teacher and focus full time on saving them.
It’s not just the teachers that are being short-changed, it’s the students too. Lack of financial literacy is one of the biggest problems in the education system and the Isolas are doing their part to change that. Tony went into a classroom the other week and knocked it out of the park.
A few days after we did this presentation, a teacher in our sons’ school came up to us. She said her daughter was in the class we taught and came home all excited. She was talking about Warren Buffet and credit cards at the dinner table. This teacher was practically begging us to do this lesson at her school.
That was the best thing I heard all week. Imagine if we could figure out a way to bring this stuff into every school?
Tony and Dina are very vocal about their message; they blog at A Teachable Moment and when they write, sincerity jumps off the page. They’re building trust with their readers and with their clients, and trust is the single greatest asset in the world. Without it nothing gets done and with it, anything is possible. The excerpt below from Skunk Works, shows how powerful trust is.
I went over to headquarters and discovered that Ben Rich of Lockheed’s Skunk Works was making a presentation about producing an operational stealth aircraft. Bill Perry, who ran R & D at the Pentagon, had send him over to us because Dr. Perry was very interested in the stealth concept and wanted our input. Ben spoke only about twenty minutes. After he left, we went into General Dixon’s office and he asked, “Well, what do you two think? I said, “Well, sir, from a purely technical standpoint I don’t have a clue about whether this concept is really achievable. Frankly, I’m not even sure the goddam thing will fly. But if Ben Rich and the Skunk Works say that they can deliver the goods, I think we’d be idiots not to go along with them.” General Dixon wholeheartedly agreed with me. And so we started the stealth program on the basis of Ben’s twenty-minute presentation and a hell of a lot of faith in Ben Rich & Company. And that faith was based on long personal experience.
Tony and Dina can deliver the goods. They’re the right people and their clients are lucky to have them.