Gratitude – A Key to A Richer Life

Henry Van Dyke said:  “Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up to the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends…and to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit. These are the little guideposts on the footpath to peace.”

From Cicero to Buddha, many philosophers and spiritual teachers have celebrated gratitude. The world’s major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hindu, prize gratitude as a morally beneficial emotional state that encourages reciprocal kindness. Pastors, priests, parents and grandparents have long extolled the virtues of gratitude, but until recently, scholars have largely ignored it as a subject of scientific inquiry.  This has changed with the recent study by Dr. Michael McCollough, of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, who have discovered that gratitude plays a significant role in a person’s sense of well-being.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved. McCollough and Emmons also noted that gratitude encouraged a positive cycle of reciprocal kindness among people since one act of gratitude encourages another.

McCullough says these results also seem to show that gratitude works independently of faith. Though gratitude is a substantial part of most religions, he says the benefits extend to the general population, regardless of faith or lack thereof. In light of his research, McCullough suggests that anyone can increase their sense of well-being and create positive social effects just from counting their blessings.

To do this (count your blessings), many people recommend that you keep a gratitude journal.  Just sit down once a day and write – “Today I am grateful for …” and then make a list of everything (or at least five things) that you are grateful for.   If you would rather do this online, you can visit .  This site has much more information about Gratitude and allows you to log in and create your own online gratitude journal.  A few other online gratitude resources include: and .

I have also found the following 6-minute YouTube video by Louie Schwartzberg  to be a very powerful tool in discovering and understand gratitude:  .

I think that Albert Schweitzer summed it up best when he said “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”


Investing 101 – Part 2 – Be Risk Appropriate

This is the second in my series on series of articles on the keys to a successful investing strategy.   Part 1 can be found here:

A good investment strategy is comprised of several key practices. The second key is to make sure that your investment portfolio is risk-appropriate. The primary factor in determining the risk of your portfolio is the mix between equity investments (stock, usually in mutual funds) and fixed-income investments.

Equity investments have a higher historical & expected return over the long run, but are more volatile (more risky). Fixed income investments are less volatile, but also have a lower historical and expected return. The higher the proportion of equity investments in your portfolio, the higher the expected.

Each of us has a certain set of circumstances, situations, beliefs and tolerances that define a unique risk capacity for us. For example, a young person with no dependents, who has already built their emergency fund, and who is comfortable with volatility may want to take on more risk than someone who has dependents, is closer to retirement, has a very risky job or is closer to retirement.

Two of the biggest mistakes investors make are:

1. Taking too much risk and

2. Taking too little risk.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to making the risk decision. Each of us choose the equity/fixed income mix that fits us best. Understanding the consequences of a given risk decision is an important factor. I spend time with each client looking at the historical impact of various risk decisions on what size losses or gains you might expect over one, three and five year periods. There are calculators on the internet and various rules of thumb (some driven by your age – which I really don’t like) that you can use.

I believe that there is no better way to make the most appropriate decision for you than understanding the costs and benefits of taking risk in your portfolio.

Investing 101 – Part 1 – Begin With The End in Mind

My first rule of good investing  comes from the well-known management consultant,  Stephen Covey.  In his book,” The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, Stephen Covey urges us to “Begin With The End in Mind.”  This is his Habit #2.  It is and is based on imagination–the ability to envision in your mind what, at the moment, you  cannot see with your eyes.   Covey talks about the principle that all things are created twice:  First they are created in your mind and then they are created in the physical world.   The physical creation follows the mental, just as a building follows a blueprint that has been developed.

If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then your investing results will suffer.  I have found that those who have a really clear picture of where they are headed in life and understand why they are investing have a much higher success rate in sticking to their investment plan.

Define or refine your life  goals.  What do you want out of life?  I think that a big part of financial planning is to help people determine what they want out of life, and then establish financial objectives that will facilitate their ability to achieve those life goals.  Money becomes the catalyst instead of the goal.  Don’t get drawn into the vague generalities of a comfortable retirement, an education for your children or travel abroad. When you know what you’re working toward, you’ll be more committed to investing for those goals.

I strongly suggest that the first page of your investment plan be a really clear picture of your life goals – a statement of the things that are most important to you in life and the things you want to accomplish with your investing.  If these are clear, the actual investment planning becomes much clearer.

Here are some of the questions that document should answer:

  • What are the most important things that I want to accomplish in life (note necessarily financial)?
  • What do I want to do in the area of philanthropy?  How do I want to use my resources to help others?
  • Are there people in my life that I want to help financially (college for children or grandchildren, etc.)?
  • Are there things I want to do in terms of leaving a legacy?  Do I want to leave money to my family or to a charitable organization?  Are there non-financial aspects of a legacy that I should be working on?
  • When do I want to achieve financial independence (where I have enough resources that I don’t need to work if I don’t want to)?
  • How much annual income will I need in the financial independence stage of my life?
  • Is there debt that I need to get rid of?
  • Are there any big purchase coming up in my life (in the next 50 years) – weddings, graduations, new car, new house, family vacation, etc.?
  • Etc.


The format of this doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that it is done and that these goals are written so that you can see them and refer to them regularly.

One  tool that you might find useful in doing this is the set of questions that included in my blog entry last week:  New Years Questions – An Exercise to Begin 2012 ( ).  They are questions that make you think about what is really important to you.

I welcome your feedback.

Why You Shouldn’t Automatically Reinvest Dividends

If you’re new here, you might want to learn what this site is about.Please consider signing up to receive free updates via RSS or e-mail.Adjust Text Sizesmall medium bigWhy You Shouldn’t Automatically Reinvest DividendsWritten by Nickel – 13 CommentsWhy You Shouldn’t Automatically Reinvest DividendsOver the past several weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time streamlining our finances. As part of this process, I went into our taxable investment account and shut off the automatic dividend reinvesting feature.I know, I know… Dividend reinvestment makes up a huge percentage of investment gains. On top of that, I’m a big fan of automating your finances. So what gives?To be fair, we still automatically reinvest dividends in our tax advantaged retirement accounts. But out in the taxable world, there are several good reasons why you should have your dividends paid to cash and then reinvest them manually.

via Why You Shouldn’t Automatically Reinvest Dividends.

Study Reveals Lack of Knowledge about Income Needed for Retirement

Most Americans fail to calculate how much money they will need for a steady and lasting retirement income, according to a new report.

MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn., published this finding in a summary of results of a 2011 MetLife Retirement Income IQ, a quiz that includes 15 intelligence-quotient questions and 9 questions to address respondents’ retirement security and planning. The quiz was administered online in June by GfK North America to 1,213 pre-retirees, aged 56 to 65, who are working full-time and are within five years of retirement.

via Study Reveals Lack of Knowledge about Income Needed for Retirement | LifeHealthPro.

New Year’s Questions – An Exercise to Begin 2012

New Year’s Questions – An Exercise to Begin 2012

New Year’s Questions
I picked these questions up at a wonderful workshop I attended a few years ago and have found them very  useful.

Before beginning a new year in full force, it can be supportive to complete and acknowledge the previous year. I hope that spending a few minutes with the following questions will help you complete 2011 and start 2012 on a strong note!

Completing and Remembering 2009

  • What was your biggest triumph in 2011?
  • What was the smartest decision you made in 2011?
  • What one word best sums up and describes your 2011 experience?
  • What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2011?
  • What was the most loving service you performed in 2011?
  • What is your biggest piece of unfinished business in 2011?
  • What are you most happy about completing in 2011?
  • Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2011?
  • What was the biggest risk you took in 2011?
  • What was the biggest surprise in 2011?
  • What important relationship improved the most in 2011?
  • What compliment would you liked to have received in 2011?
  • What compliment would you liked to have given in 2011?
  • What else do you need to do or say to be complete with 2011?

Creating 2012

  • How will you acknowledge those who most impacted your life last year?
  • What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2012?
  • What advice would you like to give yourself in 2012?
  • What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2012?
  • What would you be most happy about completing in 2012?
  • What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2012?
  • What would you most like to change about yourself in 2012?
  • What are you looking forward to learning in 2012?
  • What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2012?
  • What about your work are you most committed to changing and improving in 2012?
  • What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2012?
  • What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2012?
  • Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2012?
  • What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2012?