Activate Your Christmas Muscle

Posted by on December 12, 2009 in Musings, Readings | 0 comments

Last night, while I was brushing my teeth, a few thoughts that had been spinning around independently in my head bumped into each other, and I had a point of clarity. Let me elaborate …

Thought 1: I’ve recently been reading The Secret Language of Money and Your Money & Your Brain. Each book references research, which found the anticipation of a reward can be more satisfying than receipt of the reward itself. The reason is because once the reward is attained, the chemical process of anticipation is extinguished.

Thought 2: Since my husband, Robbie, has been out of work since February, and I’ve been building up a new private practice while preparing to launch a second company next year, this year’s Christmas budget has been paired back. So that we can continue to give to others, we decided to pass on exchanging gifts ourselves. Robbie asked for reassurance that I would not be disappointed. I assured him that I would not be disappointed but admitted that I may miss having a surprise to enjoy. Inwardly, I was saddened by the thought that I could possibly be disappointed at not receiving something material (which I could definitely live without) to mark the celebration of the day mankind received the one gift it cannot live without – a Savior.

Thought 3: Yesterday I met with a personal trainer to mix up a lower body resistance training regimen, which had become boring. For grins and giggles, he took me through a new core workout first, and then we went through a lower body routine. It included only two new exercises, but these would target a wider range of muscles. During the first new exercise, I was a bit wobbly, so Forrest pulled me aside for an exercise that would activate a specific glute muscle. Sure enough, after that, my form was better. It was amazing.

So last night as I was brushing my teeth, I was experiencing a precursor to the pain I knew I’d feel today, from targeting muscles my previous routine had let rest. As I pondered what insight this lesson in the physical realm could shed on the intangible spiritual realm of life, the above three thoughts collided.

If I want my experience of Christmas to reflect the joy of the gift of Jesus and the joy of giving to others – without being diminished by the distraction of materialism – I need to keep my “Christmas muscle” activated.

How can I (we!) do that? To start, I can let my daily quiet time keep directing me back to the true meaning of Christmas. I can stop adding busyness to my schedule, so that there’s more time to relax, reflect, and enjoy. I can beef up my attitude of gratitude through active reflection on the blessings constantly poured down upon me, and by telling and showing others that they are a blessing to me. I can continue to seek ways to simplify my daily life so that its maintenance is less of a distraction. I can sit and gaze at the Christmas tree, cuddle up to Robbie, and enjoy the soothing purr of kitties on our laps. I can finish setting up our nativity collection – beautiful, visual reminders, of the true gift of Christmas, which never fades or fails – Jesus Christ.

Indeed, each time I sit or stand today, I know that something is different. The simple changes made to my exercise routine have already begun to create a new experience among my muscles.  And I’m encouraged that with a little intentional tweaking – to continually activate my Christmas muscle – this year and this Christmas will continue to be one of the best yet.

What will you do to activate your Christmas muscle?

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The Secret Language of Money

Posted by on November 13, 2009 in Financial Therapy, Readings | 0 comments

I recently began reading “The Secret Language of Money” by Dr. David Krueger, a former practitioner and teacher of psychiatry and psychoanalysis who is now CEO of MentorPath, an executive coaching practice. David’s book draws from his experiences in more than three decades of practice and an expanding field of research. He has a gift with words and crafts powerful one liners, which artfully encapsulate the message and powerfully drive it home. Here are some of my favorites so far …

“If money were about math, none of us would be carrying any debt.”

“Money is a magnifier. Like adversity, it reveals and exaggerates character. … But it doesn’t simply magnify who we are; it also amplifies who we hope to be, fear we might have become, or regret that we may never be. It gives form to our fantasies and shape to our compulsions. We don’t simply earn, save, and spend money: we woo it, flirt with it, crave it and scorn it, punish and reward ourselves with it.”

“It is not wealth and possessions or even the chase after these that creates problems in our lives; it is when we lose ourselves in the chase. And when do we lose ourselves? When we imbue money with meaning it doesn’t really have, and then keep that meaning a secret even from ourselves – thus holding ourselves hostage to our own money story without even realizing we were the ones who made it up in the first place.”

… and this covers only the Introduction to the book! Stay tuned as I continue to share gems discovered in “The Secret Language of Money.”

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Consider This

Posted by on October 20, 2009 in Musings, Readings | 0 comments

As difficult as it is to believe, the busiest shopping day of the year is just over one month away, and Christmas is barely two months off. So, even though my closet is still filled with Capri’s and sleeveless blouses, my thoughts have begun to turn toward the Christmas season.

Apparently, I’m not the only one, because just today the National Retail Federation released the results of their 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.

Consider this … According to the 2009 ARF Survey, the average American plans to spend $682.74 on holiday-related shopping this year. If the recent past is any indication, the majority will put these purchases on credit cards, and almost half will take up to six months to pay them off.

Consider this … Instead of the glitz and glam of shopping and gifting, what if this year was more about connecting in new ways with those we love?

Consider this …

If you could not simply buy a present, how else could you show you care?

How might you show love and thoughtfulness without giving a typical gift?

What new tradition might you start – instead of a gift exchange?

In what way might you volunteer together – to give back and support your community?

How might you honor those you love through a gift to those less fortunate – locally and / or globally? [One of my favorites is Heifer International.]

Consider this … How might this year be the year you begin to make more of a difference – for yourself, your loved ones, and your community?

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Posted by on October 3, 2009 in Financial Planning, Readings | 0 comments

I recently began reading Your Money & Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich by Jason Zweig. For warm-ups, he gives examples of how knowing better doesn’t mean we’ll do better and runs down some basic lessons we’ve learned as the field of neuroeconomics has progressed.

My favorite “case study” was that of Harry M. Markowitz, the “father” of Modern Portfolio Theory and winner of a Nobel Prize in economics (1990), who was unable to apply the mathematical breakthrough he’d helped discover to his own investment portfolio. Instead, in the 1950’s, he chose to invest 50% of his retirement savings in stocks and the other 50% in bonds. Markowitz said, “I should have computed the historical co-variances of the asset classes and drawn an efficient frontier. Instead, I visualized my grief if the stock market went way up and I wasn’t in it – or if it went way down and I was completely in it. My intention was to minimize my future regret.”

Markowitz’s sentiment was echoed by another Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman (the first psychologist to win a Nobel Prize in economics), who said, “Financial decision-making is not necessarily about money. It’s also about intangible motives like avoiding regret or achieving pride.”

So what does the research show? So far, here is some of what we’ve learned through the study of neuroeconomics:

  • Monetary gains and losses create a biological change, which can profoundly affect the body and the brain.
  • The neural activity of someone making money on their investments is indistinguishable from that of someone high on cocaine or morphine.
  • After a stimulus, such as an uptick in the price of a stock, is repeated twice, the brain “automatically, unconsciously, and uncontrollably” expects a third recurrence.
  • Once someone presumes that investment returns are predictable, their brain will respond in alarm when that presumed pattern is broken.
  • Financial losses and mortal danger are processed in the same areas of the brain.
  • “Anticipating a gain, and actually receiving it, are expressed in entirely different ways in the brain, helping to explain why ‘money does not buy happiness’.”
  • “Expecting both good and bad events is often more intense than experiencing them.”
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Wealth Transfer – Planning for Success

Posted by on September 27, 2009 in Family Wealth, Financial Planning, Readings | 0 comments

Over the next 50 years, 50-100 trillion dollars will be transferred to successive generations. Approximately 80% of all transfers will fail by the 3rd generation.

According to a study in Williams and Preisser’s “Preparing Heirs” only 15% of estate / wealth transition failures were due to the what’s (i.e., legal and technical issues). The remaining 85% were result of the how’s (i.e., breakdowns of communication and trust, lack of family developed missions, and inadequate preparation of heirs). In fact, open communication and beneficiary preparation were the two factors that distinguished the successful 30% from the failed 70%.

Under the traditional estate planning paradigm, the primary considerations are tax minimization, asset protection, and probate avoidance. Estate documents are drafted in such a manner that if the first and the last pages were removed, no one could tell to whom they belong. Trust names most often reflect the tax purpose and the grantor’s surname. Yet none of these speak to the above determinants of success: communication and preparation.

And what about the family’s priceless intangibles: their human and intellectual assets? How are these planned for in traditional estate planning? Simple answer: They’re not.

Fortunately, there are other options.

One such option is the Purposeful TrustTM, created by John A. Warnick and Scott Farnsworth.

The following is from their How to Build a Purposeful Trust Practice brochure.

It Starts with a Purposeful Conversation™

Given an opportunity, most clients are interested in deeper conversations around the impact of their wealth on their children, grandchildren, and favorite causes. They want to discus the “How much is enough?” and “How much is too much?” questions. They want to know how to pass on more than money. They want their wealth to be a blessing to those they love and not a crip­pling handicap.

Purposeful Conversations provide a simple, enjoyable, and gratifying process for helping clients think deeply about the significant issues underlying their most important estate planning deci­sions. From their answers, we can discern the real purposes behind their planning and we can glean the words to express their purposes, hopes, and dreams to trustees and beneficiaries. The clients’ own words and stories are the best source for the name of the trust, for the lessons and wisdom that should inform trust decision, and for the bedrock principles that should guide the trust through uncharted waters. With their words and their stories in hand, we’re prepared to start creating Purposeful Trusts.

The Seven Secrets of Purposeful Trust Planning

We have discovered the seven keys that open the door to a beautiful and meaningful new world of planning for us and our clients.

Secret #1: Focus—The estate planning process is robust and engaging when it focuses primarily on the clients’ deepest hopes, dreams, and purposes.

Secret #2: Purpose—The trust itself is infused with life and energy when the clients’ own words are used to express the rich human purposes of the trust.

Secret # 3: Name—The clients’ name for the trust can be a succinct and powerful expression of their fondest hopes and dreams for the trust and its beneficiaries.

Secret #4: Guidance—Directions based on the clients’ wisdom and life-lessons and written in the clients’ own words can guide the trust to achieve its grandest purposes.

Secret #5: Heirlooms—When a gift of tangible personal property includes the cli­ents’ story and the item’s background, it turns an object into a priceless treasure.

Secret #6: Gratitude—Expressions of appreciation and an attitude of gratitude in givers and receivers can turn transfers into gifts and financial riches into true wealth.

Secret #7: Principles—Statements of the clients’ guiding bedrock principles can provide pole star and compass in navigating the trust through an unpredictable future.

How might you begin to capture The Purpose of your clients’ estate plans?

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How We Know What Isn’t So

Posted by on August 24, 2009 in Financial Planning, Readings | 0 comments

Several years ago, a colleague recommended to me How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by Thomas Gilovich. He said it explores present-day myths that persist despite scientific evidence to the contrary. I haven’t yet read the book, but I was so intrigued by the concept, that it’s stuck with me and become a tool I use to check my own thoughts and assumptions.

How do we know what isn’t so?

I used to think I wanted to live the “corporate lifestyle.” My first clue to the contrary was in grad school. I was applying for positions with the Big 5 accounting firms, and a professor told me that one day I’d be paying someone to pick up my dry cleaning, do my grocery shopping, cooking, etc. She said it as if this was a desirable inevitability, but to me it wasn’t. I didn’t want to be working so much that I didn’t have time to pick out my own fruits and vegetables or enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life. And yet, I accepted the offer of my dream job with a Big 5 firm in Charlotte.

Sometimes we have to live the dream to realize it’s not our true desire. What had I been hoping the corporate lifestyle would bring me? What was it I had been searching for in a way that missed the mark? What different choice might I have made if my true desires had been more clear to me?

It is “imperative that you and your clients understand … their underlying motives for the significant financial decisions of their lives. Without this understanding, your work could be based on faulty logic.” ~ Courtney Pullen

So I ask you …

How do you assist your clients in determining their financial goals?

How do you help them evaluate whether or not their stated goals are their true authentic goals?

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As Prevalent as Depression

Posted by on August 18, 2009 in Financial Therapy, Readings | 0 comments

Did you know that compulsive buying is about as prevalent as depression??? Well, it is.

The World Health Organization estimates the prevalence of depression among US adults to be 6.7%. According to a study conducted by Stanford University, 5.8% of US adults suffer from “problematic and uncontrolled buying behaviors.”

So why don’t we hear more about compulsive buying? Is “retail therapy” so normalized that we turn a blind eye to the havoc it can wreak on marriages and families, the contribution it makes to bankruptcy filings, the illegal activity it can promote, and the emotional strain it causes???

It’s difficult to watch TV or read a magazine without seeing an ad for an antidepressant medication. It’s impossible to watch TV or look at a magazine without being bombarded with highly sophisticated marketing, which is designed to make us want to buy, buy, buy. And yet there’s a stigma associated with discussing someone’s spending habits or proposing their spending may be out of hand.

How many friends or family members do you know who are on an antidepressant? Based on this estimate, how many people might you know who are privately struggling with compulsive buying? Perhaps they could use some “retail therapy” therapy.

What are your thoughts???

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