A Shift in Priorities

A shift in prioritiesThe inaugural American Dream Study, conducted in 2007, revealed an insatiable hunger for more and better material possessions.  In addition, the bar was continually rising for what was considered “basic necessities.”  However, across all social strata, the economic crisis has been a loud wake up call.

Respondents to the 2009 version of the study reported that they are eating at home more often, shopping more at big box discount stores, spending less on movies, and moving away from brand-name products to generics (www.metlife.com).  And, unlike previous downturns, no one seems to be immune. (more…)

Retirement Confidence Survey

The Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS) is the longest-running annual retirement survey of its kind in the United States.  It gauges the views, experiences, attitudes, and expectations of Americans regarding retirement preparation and related issues.

The 2012 RCS is the 22nd annual wave of this project, making it possible to track retirement planning behaviors and concerns over time.  Of particular interest in recent years is the affect of the slow economic recovery on the level of confidence Americans have regarding their long-term financial outlook. (more…)

The Self-Directed Life

“We encourage you to set the bar high, no matter what you’re aiming for in life.”

Marc Eisenson, Gerri Detweiler
Nancy Castleman
Invest in Yourself:
Six Secrets to a Rich Life

Many of us spend our lives trying to please others or pursuing goals that others have set for us.  In contrast, the authors of Invest in Yourself advocate the self-designed life, “where you invest your time and energy getting what you want and doing what you believe in—not wasting them on things you don’t really want, but think you should have.”

The first step to take, in changing the direction your life, is to clarify your values and priorities.  That is because identifying and articulating what is most important to you will increase your self-understanding and strengthen your sense of autonomy.  An excellent resource to help you in this process is Values Clarification by Sidney Simon, Leland Howe, and Howard Kirschenbaum.  This book is described as “the classic guide to discovering your truest feelings, beliefs, and goals.” (more…)

Retirement: The Bigger Picture

When a person sets goals that are especially meaningful, he or she experiences a sense of mission.  A mission is always in tune with one’s values and interests and gives opportunity for those to be expressed in many ways.  A sense of mission in retirement adds an essence and quality of life, the value of which is beyond measure.

As you take steps to design your life in retirement, you may discover that your thoughts turn to deeper issues.  Many consider retirement to be a time to explore their potential. Though a nebulous concept, for some this may mean “fulfilling my purpose,” “finding and expressing my uniqueness,” “making a difference,” “having a mission,” or “leaving a legacy.”  Individuals often respond to this desire for a higher purpose in the following ways:  creativity, contribution, generativity, and spirituality. (more…)

Money Myths and Messages

It is important to keep in mind that cultural messages have a profound influence on our money beliefs.  Intellectually we can disagree, but subconsciously these messages can affect how we feel about money.  Therefore, true financial freedom is more than having a lot of money; it is being free of money myths and notions that influence our money attitudes and behaviors.

For example, there is a lot of truth to the old adage, “Money can’t buy happiness.” However, what money can “buy” is options—more alternatives to choose from as you design the life you want to live—now and in the future. (more…)

Successful Aging

As we grow older, we also have the opportunity to grow as individuals and to develop relationships that are more “grown-up.”  In Creative Aging, author Nancy Bost Millner wrote, “The task of consciously aging people is to stop projecting—to stop demanding that the weather, the children, and the universe do what they want them to do.”  She also noted that the self-aware individual will come to realize that expecting another person to complete them, take care of them, and make them happy is not only unrealistic, but also unfair. (more…)

Balance and Pupose

To balance one’s life is to bring all areas of life into a state of equilibrium or stability. Focusing on only one or two areas of life can work for awhile (and is sometimes necessary), but eventually life will begin to feel out of kilter and then start spinning out of control.

For example, individuals may have this experience when their careers have taken precedence at the expense of other areas of life such as relationships, leisure, or health. Hopefully, this imbalance can be recognized and corrected before important relationships disintegrate, leisure becomes a forgotten art, and health is compromised. (more…)

Tips for Wise Giving

  1. Find your passion and focus your giving. Think about two or three areas or
    causes you want to support and make this your philanthropic mission.  Not only
    will your gifts have more impact, but you will also find your giving more satisfying.
  2. Know your charity. Charities have an obligation to provide detailed information to interested donors.  Request written literature and a copy of the charity’s latest annual report which should include a list of the board of directors, a mission statement, and the most recent audited financial statements.

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Don’t Let Small Numbers Distract You From the Big Picture

Even though it’s all about dollars and cents, the financial industry runs on percentages; dollar signs are few and far between. The use of percentages is an understandable, and helpful, convention when communicating financial information. After all, a headline saying “Company A’s Net Jumps by 16%” is more helpful than one that reads “Company A’s Net Jumps to $1.02 billion.” Providing percentages rather than dollars also allows investors to compare apples to apples: You can readily discern that an investment that has gained 8% during the past 10 years has been a better bet than one that has gained half as much.

Yet dealing in percentages, especially relatively small ones like inflation rates, expense ratios, and long-term annualized returns, can also distract from important information that factors into your financial plan. Those small and innocuous-looking percentage figures, when translated into dollar terms and compounded over many years, can make a huge difference between success and failure. (more…)

Money and Life Satisfaction

The word satisfaction describes a feeling of fulfillment or contentment. Its meaning is relative and often dependent on personal definitions of success as applied to specific areas of life.

The first step to evaluating your own life satisfaction is to think about what is most important to you. Be as candid as you can with yourself and try to disregard “messages” – from society, parents, partners, peers, or colleagues – that tell you what your priorities should be. This is a time to listen to your own heart. What do YOU value most and what do YOU want to achieve in each facet of life? Whatever you identify should then become the basis for establishing your life goals. (more…)