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The Law Offices of Alan L. Finkel.

Living One’s Best Life On Long Island

Figuring out how to live one’s best life in Suffolk County is probably one of the biggest tricks in the book of tricks. I don’t think there’s enough time for me to go through all of the components it entails, so I’ll just break it down to two words: money and kindness. How does one get those things?

Since money was invented, it’s been the thing that’s been sought after by everyone, all the time, without exception. Everyone would like to have an extra $20 bill; it buys things, and it allows people to buy things that help them be happy. Money does not buy happiness, but without enough of it, it’s impossible to sustain oneself by eating properly, keeping a roof over your head, and clothing themselves and their children. I can say this confidently after 36 years of seeing people’s net worth statements and helping them figure out whether they can afford to pay child support and maintenance for an average family of four living in Suffolk County.

The costs to run a house for a family of four ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 a month, but generally falls between $6,000 and $7,000, including mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, haircuts, gasoline for the car, kids clothes, sporting activities, landscaping, etc. This amount doesn’t allow for three-weeks of vacation per year in the Caribbean, driving a new car every three years or going to theater on Broadway. It is said that household costs should only account for a maximum of one-third of total income, but that’s just not the case in Suffolk County.

How do parents live their best life on Long Island? They do it by making more money and spending less, being kind to each other, and raising their children to become functioning, good adults. Figuring out how to accomplish this is what it’s all about.

I’ve always been pretty happy. I’ve been married for 40 years, I have four successful children who are married, and 6 grandchildren. It’s been a great ride, and I’ve worked hard and put a lot of effort and energy into making sure that my marriage stays intact. I’ve never contemplated a divorce, as most men don’t, but I’m sure my wife has on several occasions over the last 40 years.

Maybe I’m lucky, maybe I’m blessed, maybe I’m smart, and maybe I’m some of all of those things, but here I am. I consider it quite an accomplishment to have lived in my home for 31 years and raised four successful children. To me, that’s success, and it is much more than just getting a job or making a million dollars a year. In fact, I never wanted to do that; I just wanted to make enough money to be happy, and to live my best life on Long Island.

I grew up in Brooklyn and spent seven years in New Jersey before moving here in 1976, meeting my wife and getting married, and buying a house. I went to Touro Law School at night while working a sales job.

Then we sold our first house and bought another one, which is where we live now. I’ve lived my best life on Long Island for the past 45 years, but I’ve also made enough money to enjoy my life and not struggle. For eight years, my wife didn’t have to work, and we strategized together on how to raise our children so that they could live their best life on Long Island.

We will continue to live our lives as long as we can, and hopefully live our best lives on Long Island. We don’t intend to leave, because it’s a great place to live, culturally speaking. My kids and grandchildren are here, and my 93-year old dad is in Queens. Living well here is something that everyone strives for, but it’s important for people to make sure that they put in the time every single day to treat themselves to some happiness.

This is not easy to do in a dysfunctional marriage, nor when someone isn’t making enough money, which is the case for about 80 percent of the population in Suffolk County. This is not easy to do when the Jones family down the street is selling their moderate house to buy a big mansion, and buys a new car every three years, and isn’t home for four weeks a year because they’re in the Caribbean, traipsing through New York, or skiing in Vermont. It is not easy when a parent wants to cry because they can’t afford to buy their children a new $200 pair of kicks or the latest fashion trend. It’s difficult for parents to have to tell their children that they can’t afford to go on vacation, but sometimes it’s more important to worry about paying for life’s fundamental necessities.

As housing costs have increased to an unaffordable level, about 80 percent of people can’t afford to live in Suffolk County. This may go up and down because there is a lot of big money coming from the city. People realize they don’t have to be in elevator with someone whose mask pulls off and they sneeze on them and then they catch COVID-27, or whatever the next disease is.

This thing has given the entire world a pretty big wake up call, and it has centered me tremendously. It’s allowed me to take stock of my life and figure out what’s really important. So many of the things I used to deem important really weren’t. I would have to be at an appointment, and I’d have to be in court in the morning or somewhere else, but none of that is necessary anymore; everything for me has become virtual.

I have to make sure that I provide for my family; that’s my main goal. I also have to make sure that I keep my wife happy, because if my wife is not happy, life is not happy—it’s miserable. I have to make sure that I spend whatever money necessary to treat myself, go swimming, take a Spanish lesson, learn to play the upright bass, exercise, and give my wife enough money to go to healthy food stores, like Trader Joe’s.

Most days, I am home with my wife. I have to figure out how to live my best life on Long Island, because life is not getting any longer; every day that I sit here in my home is another day closer to my death, whenever that’s going to be. If I were to drop dead of a heart attack right now, I wouldn’t have a regret. I had one four years ago, very likely caused by the stress of getting up in the morning, chasing the clock, and being in court at 9:30am with the judges, court officers, and clients being extremely unhappy paying me $300 to $500 per hour. That was absurd, and a complete waste of time and resources.

I used to empathize and probably get toxified by the anger and the hate that my clients had toward their spouses, and sometimes even toward the world. Whether or not they had money or could afford me, their problems were their problems. This is something that I view very clearly now. I am now content to take on litigation now, but I never did before. I know that if I am going to handle litigation, I am going to do the best job because of my training and experience. I am helping people through the mediation and divorce process. It is important to hire a lawyer who is living their best life and is happy with themselves, so that they do not abuse their client and their client’s money.

The Court system is abusive. It encourages litigation. We have very good judges sitting in Suffolk County, and many of them are living their best life now. If someone has a case that requires litigation, such as a true custody dispute, then a judge is there to help. If someone is not living their best life on Long Island and it’s leading to frustration, anger, or even hatred, there might not even be enough money to get a divorce. That is when people call me, and I get on a Zoom meeting with them for 30 minutes, free of charge, zero obligation. I will tell people what I think they could do to make themselves happier.

Although money helps, that’s not why I do what I do; I do it for the children. I want children to live their best lives on Long Island. How tough is it to get children through college, and for them to get married and have children of their own?

Having children is the biggest, most thrilling and satisfying experience ever—much different from anything else I have ever experienced. Having children gives a person the responsibility of raising human beings. And what does a parent want to do with those human beings? They want to teach them to live their best life each day—not yesterday and not tomorrow, but today. So, parents have to get off their butts and figure out how to do that. They have to make more money, spend less money, be kind to each other, and raise their children with respect, and with the same level of responsibility that they gave themselves when they decided to have children.

People need to live their best lives now, be kind to themselves, and make sure they look after their health, which is the one thing that money really can’t buy. If a person doesn’t have their health, then they really have nothing. That’s why when the plane is going to crash, they say the adult should put on their own oxygen mask first, before putting it on their children. This is because if the adult can’t administer help to their children, then what good can they be to those children?

The same can be said about spouses; if one spouse cannot administer good health to themselves, then what good are they to their spouse? No matter how much a parent loves their children, they can’t be any good to them if they are not healthy themselves, physically and mentally. Certainly, a parent who cannot stay healthy for themselves cannot live their best life, and cannot help their children live their best life.

I encourage people to ask themselves whether their parents lived their best lives. My dad is a first-generation American, and his two older brothers were born out of the country. They didn’t have things easy, but I think they lived their best life at the time, when it was a different world.

Now, we are living in a post-pandemic world where we’re staying home with our spouses. Men and women were not designed to spend 24 hours together in the same home, which is something I can say with confidence. If I didn’t work, I would be going totally crazy. I spent a year in this home figuring out how to live my best life. I probably lived it before, but not as much as I do now, because I have figured out that what makes me happy is more important than making my wife happy (but it’s pretty close).

Being married is great, if it works; having kids is fantastic, if it works; having grandkids, now that’s what everyone wants. Parents want to teach their son to be kind to his wife so she opens up that gate and he is able to see his kids. Parents want to teach their daughter to be nice to her husband so she has a nice gate to open, and opens it, so grandparents can see their grandkids. Life is about taking grandchildren skiing, teaching them how to play the guitar, and cooking in the kitchen with them.

Once a parent has done their job raising their children, they have to go to the next level. The population in Long Island is getting older, and our children are moving to more affordable places. Now, a lot of younger people are moving in with a lot of money, because they’re leaving their big jobs in the city where they were definitely not living their best life. The rat race and strain of getting on the Long Island railroad, driving in the car, or getting on the subway is a ship that has sailed and is not likely coming back any time soon. We’re now in an era where we better had find out how to live our best life in a tough environment. We’re home, and we should be happy at home. People need to take care of themselves first, figure out what makes them happy, figure out what they have to do in order to achieve that happiness, and do it.

And share that happiness with your spouse and children. We are only in this life once; let’s all do our best to live our best lives now!

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Alan Finkel

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