Christmas Ruminations | December 2015

Ho, ho, ho, or yo, ho, ho if you’d rather ignore the season and get away from it all by pretending to be a pirate on a desert island.   Most of us, however, will spend our holidays around the dessert island deciding between chocolate or cheesecake, but not chocolate cheesecake (bleah, is my advisor input here; sometimes more flavor is too much and destroys the flavor you sought in the first place).

Which is (perhaps) a nice segue into an investing discussion: Diversification is essential, but too much leads to under performance.   Monitoring your financial plan is crucial to success, but focusing on balances can lead to too much buying and selling which leads to lower returns. But no, despite the segue opportunity I am going to pass on those topics (I’ve never ridden a Segway either, but that’s a different segue altogether), because nobody wants to talk about money this time of year. That is, unless it’s, “Is there some in the card?”

Nope, no dollar discussions here, but in keeping with the spirit of the season, let’s talk about how we invest our lives and our hearts. I’ll admit at the outset that I’ve turned into a bit of a Scrooge the past few years in spite of my wonderful memories of childhood Christmases. My parents and grandparents were over-the-top in their generosity, in decorations and celebrations, and in the most delicious and joyful feasts imaginable. The years passed and my grandparents up and died on me, and then my parents did the same. Who knew this was going to happen? (Oh yes, that’s right, everyone knows … we’re just never ready no matter when it comes.)

I tried to replicate my memories for my kids. That worked as well as you might expect. Then in the last decade, in-laws, outlaws, challenging finances, broken relationships, and changing times all came to visit; does this sound familiar? Then came some surgeries and I gave up on Christmas trees and outside lights because it was just too physically demanding (I did heal, but now I’m just stubborn). I gave up on presents when I discovered my daughter’s gifts unopened on the top shelf of her closet when I was preparing for Christmas THE NEXT DECEMBER!!! Gifts cards are now the thing. Gas & Groceries!

But I’m not a true Scrooge; I love the Christmas season. I enjoy the season’s sacred music more each year. I hurry less but find time to visit more with folks I haven’t seen nearly often enough. And my house has become the place for non-structured holiday celebrations: There’s food, but no set time to eat. There’re gifts, but those gift cards are often given early to help the kids with their own holidays. The family stops by when their schedules allow and they want a turkey sandwich and a glass of the grape, or some time to play a board game with old Dad, or engage in my favorite holiday pastime: napping.

So there’s some investment advice for you. Invest yourself in those things you love. Cherish the days as they pass all too soon. If shopping and wrapping is your joy, have at it with gusto and happiness. But don’t allow traditions to become burdens; Christmas is a time to celebrate freedom, so celebrate with vigor! And if you find yourself alone, get a little ham from the grocery deli and call some friends to stop by. You can challenge them to a game of Parcheesi. And don’t forget to invest…with all your heart.

PS: That Christmas tree? It’s about 11 feet tall. I now have grandchildren.