A few weeks ago, Josh made his first appearance here in the Weekly (Link to Josh’s Article). I (Dave) was inspired by his contribution and I wanted to get in on the fun, so I convinced Adam to hold off this week and let me take the readers for a spin.
This coming Sunday, December 2nd marks the first day of Advent. When I think of Advent, I fondly remember my childhood and the annual tradition of having a calendar that counted down the days before Christmas – especially the ones that had a piece of candy hiding behind the tear-off date. My brother and I would love to see the progress of the Advent Calendar as we inched our way toward Christmas morning and a visit from Santa.
As I got older, I still enjoyed the candy of course, but I also learned more about the real meaning of Advent. For those of you that are curious, Advent is described as a ‘time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.’
Now, this is the point of the article where I make a transition and try to tie the topic I introduced (Advent) into something financial. Adam is a maestro with this skill, and I’ll do my best to bring this all together.
For example, I could elaborate on the idea of ‘expectant waiting’ and the excitement of a future event – I know that when I have a big event on my calendar, the anticipation of the event or goal is almost as rewarding as the actual experience. I do hope that as we are expectantly waiting for a future event (i.e. Christmas or retirement), that we don’t wish our days away and that we can focus on the abundant life we have in the here and now. However, I will leave this topic for a future article.
Also, I could take a closer look at the ‘preparation’ aspect of Advent and discuss the importance of planning for the future. This would be an easy connection between Advent and retirement planning, but I will leave this topic to the experts – Adam Cufr, RICP® and Joshua Rochon, CFP®.
So, I guess I will make some observations on the ‘celebration of the Nativity’ that comes with the season of Advent. Regardless of your faith, I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Nativity scene at Christmas, which is often depicted outside of churches or possibly in your neighbor’s front yard. Usually, there’s an assembly of people and animals surrounding a baby in a crib. When I think of the Nativity, some of the words that come to mind are quiet, stillness, and peace. Even the famous Christmas carols ‘Away in a Manger’ or ‘Silent Night’ would give you the impression that there was tranquility and harmony in the air that night.
I find it very ironic that as we prepare to celebrate the Nativity each year, we find ourselves using very different adjectives than the ones found in the previous paragraph. We are often hustling around trying to get everyone the right gift, all while stressing out about Christmas parties and travel plans. I’m not here to suggest that you or I should completely unplug from all of the Christmas traditions, as I realize that giving gifts or being with friends and family over the holidays can bring great joy. What I would offer is that we all try to embrace the spirit of the Nativity over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas. I believe there are many ways to accomplish this, but here are a few suggestions:
- Media Fast. Getting caught up in the 24-hour news cycle can have a negative impact on your mood and overall outlook. The amount of fear-based reporting from most networks can lead anyone to a really dark place at times. Instead of listening to talk radio, maybe you turn on some Christmas carols or instead of your normal news consumption at night you gather the family around for a holiday movie. The real challenge would be to cut back or eliminate watching the news (unless your family member works for the news) during Advent and see if that helps you have a more positive outlook. Give it a try!
- Give Experiences Instead of Physical Gifts. It can be very stressful to buy gifts for everyone on your list. One way to eliminate some of the chaos would be to cut back on the tangible gifts and plan an event for family members instead. I wouldn’t suggest trying to schedule the experience during the holidays, but if you ‘gift’ the experience on Christmas and then follow through with it early in 2019 it could keep you out of the vortex of shopping during Advent and then bring smiles to faces in February when life has calmed down.
- Volunteer. While most non-profits have significant needs throughout the year, many of them have an increased need during the holidays. If you can find a place where you can volunteer for a couple of hours, not only will you be helping someone else in need, but the experience can give you a better perspective amidst the busy roads and full calendar.
- BONUS – Receive One Give One. This will likely happen after Advent, but you can make a commitment to doing it now. For every physical gift you receive during the holidays, try to find something in your home that you haven’t used in a while to give away. You can either pass it along to a friend or family or find your closest thrift store to donate the item.
There are many other ways to take a step back and prepare for the ‘celebration of the Nativity’. In fact, if you have suggestions, I would love to hear them! Just go ahead and respond to this e-mail and let me know your favorite Advent tradition.
I sincerely hope that you have a wonderful holiday season and that you have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the beauty all around us.