Month: July 2020

Enjoy Your Gift

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You never know what’s going to send your heart soaring—but it’s nice to be open for moments like that.

Recently, a swell of gratitude snuck right up on us. We received a package from a popular online marketplace. It should’ve been a mundane activity to open the box. It was full of office supplies, after all.

We discovered, however, that we must have checked the option that this delivery was a “gift.” Inside the package was a slimmed-down receipt bearing the automatically-generated greeting.

“Enjoy your gift,” the note said. We were gobsmacked.

No, no, we’re not in love with our office supplies. (They get the job done, but it’s no love affair.) We realized that our supplies let us do our work. And our work? To be of service, to you.

“Enjoy your gift.” The note seemed to be cheering us on. “Share your talents, flourish, go!”

We firmly believe that we’re all better off when each of us is free to pursue our ambitions and put our skills to use.

How can we help you in your pursuits?

Clients, you know I’m aiming to work until I’m 92, and we’re filling the shop with other talented parties who can help this endeavor thrive. What a joy to witness this little shot of confidence from the universe. And we’re happy to share it with you now.

When you’d like to talk about this or anything else, please write or call.

For You and With You

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“People rarely need to hear our conclusion,” writes Adam Grant about advice-giving in the Smarter Living newsletter. “They benefit from hearing our thought process and our perspective.”

Grant is an organizational psychologist, but even without working at his level of research, we have felt the truth of these findings. You’ll notice that our posts don’t typically promise “the right answer” or “the most perfect approach.” And it’s not because we’re the most humble organization in the world, either.

But imagine if an advisor made all the calls for you or claimed they had discovered a one-size-fits-all solution. Sound convenient? Probably would be—for them.

We could insert a cliché at this point about how it’s about the journey and not the destination, but maybe it’s more mundane than that. It’s more like math class: if you don’t show your work, it’s hard for others to have confidence in how you got there, and nobody involved learns or gets as much perspective.

Giving “good advice,” for us, is a process that we and you must navigate together. What are the goals? That’s all you. What are the possible ways to get there? Together, we can lay out some options. How do we proceed? Well… we’ll need to figure that out.

Grant says, “The most useful advice doesn’t specify what to do.” It helps folks “clarify their priorities.”

We do this work for you—clients, you’re the heart of it!—but we actually need your help to do it with you.

If you’d like to talk more about this or anything, call or write.

A MORE PERFECT UNION

picture of a roll of red and white "I VOTED" stickers

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

So reads the Preamble to the Constitution, which frames the purpose of one of our nation’s fundamental documents.

The authors didn’t necessarily mean the plan was “flawless.” We’re not constitutional scholars, but a quick search will reveal that the word “perfect,” at the time, used this way, might have suggested something more like complete, confident, or whole.

In an election year, it can be hard to appreciate that idea. Party leaders insist on playing “spot the difference,” so our attention is often spent on divisions and comparisons.

Some people anticipate elections with anxiety about their holdings. They wonder how to “election-proof” their portfolio. History has some uplifting news for us here too. Again, it only takes a quick search to reveal that the outlook is generally okay immediately following a presidential election. Not “perfect” results or glorious returns, but generally okay.

No guarantees. Clients, we talk a lot about the long haul, and it is not measured in election cycles.

We are looking forward to an election season in which each of us can use our voices and exercise our rights, all in the name of improving this grand experiment, together.

We’ll see you on the other side, but in the meantime, call or write whenever you’d like to chat.

 

Rational Optimists

Many businesses are weathering the pandemic by staying agile. Factories are retrofitting their equipment, computer-bound workers are getting more flexible working conditions, and food services are thinking outside the dining room. 

We recently read about how one brand we love is coping with COVID-19. The company Life Is Good has been slapping their cheerful slogans on shirts and coffee mugs for more than 20 years, and they had some tough decisions to make this spring. 

We had the pleasure of hearing from co-founder Bert Jacobs a few years ago. What struck us was that their flavor of optimism embraces life for its messy beauty. 

After 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing—moments when it would’ve been easy to fall into despair—the company responded. They sent the proceeds from special themed products straight to charity. Today, they’ve transformed their production process to make space between workstations and to be able to print shirts on-demand. 

Their core belief that life is good hasn’t wavered, and it’s served them well. Jacobs explains that their community is one of “rational optimists.” These are people who like to say, “Life isn’t easy, and life isn’t perfect. But life is good.” 

(And for whatever it’s worth, as of early July, they report zero COVID cases among employees at Life Is Good.) 

That idea has served us well, too. Life has not been easy, but here we are today. Life is good. 

Clients, if you want to talk through this or anything else, call or write. 

Go Hard, Breathe Easy

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Being calm seems to come easier to some. Maybe it’s a natural disposition, but for some folks we know, they went hard until they could breathe easy.

Many of our friends and clients have what they have as a result of a lifetime of work and savings. They’ve weathered storms and chose to ignore fads. They decided on some goals and set things to work toward those goals.

Those things didn’t happen all at once. But each of us can choose a little hard now to take it easier, later. The costs of deferring pain are sometimes far too high—and we don’t realize it until it’s too late. It’s credit payments that pile up. It’s deferred maintenance that we wake up one morning to discover is now an emergency. It’s a routine that felt too hard to keep up, and now our wellbeing is anything but well.

Is it possible to buy yourself some calm, even in times of challenge? Those may be the best times to invest in some calm.

Keep your emergency savings at a level that feels right for your family. Keep working your plans; make them automatic where possible.

Know that this challenge will not last forever. (In fact, a new best and a new worst will always await us. Such is life.) We can hope that each new challenge will be more meaningful. We can hope each will make us wiser and will cause less damage.

It won’t just happen that way. Some may be born with more calm, but some of us go hard until things aren’t so hard.

Can you work with something hard today? It may help you breathe easier tomorrow. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Caps, Gowns, and the Coronavirus

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COVID-19 has caused shifts and pivots across organizations and even whole industries. Along the way, many folks have decided to delay or cancel what would’ve been some wonderful milestones: a long-awaited family trip, a wedding, a move across country.

Some families will still be wrestling with such decisions for the months—and maybe years!—to come.

A college education is a common enough savings category, but some are rethinking their investment goals with so many changes coming for institutions.

We realize it can be hard to get perspective right now. The stress of the upcoming school year is looming, and prospective students will be making huge decisions based on information that seems to keep changing.

We wouldn’t dream of suggesting the “right answer” for you or your family. Here, however, we’d like to offer a little distance on some of the issues at the heart of this topic.

Is it worth it? Schools are being forced to experiment with how they will structure classes and campus life, so as consumers, many families are questioning the value of the experience they’re paying for. To zoom out, we recommend remembering what a degree will mean for a person after they’re done with it.

Yes, we want students across the country to enjoy a safe, rich, and rewarding couple of years at school, but both the journey and the destination should be part of the equation.

One thing that the pandemic won’t suddenly change? The long-term value of a college degree.

“The lifetime payoff to earning a college degree is so very large, in health and wealth, that it dwarfs even high tuition costs,” writes economist Susan Dynarski. “College is an especially smart choice during a terrible job market.”

An education is not armor against all the problems ahead, but it may still be a sound investment and worthy savings goal for you or your family.
Clients, if you want to talk through this or anything else, call or write.