Archive for Financial Planning

Slippery slope: budget negotiations, the markets, and you

Economy and Investing, Financial Planningon December 21st, 2012No Comments

We’re sure that you’re sick and tired of hearing about the fiscal cliff at this point, and we don’t blame you.  The looming tax increases and spending cuts have spawned no end of “cliffhangers” and “Cliff Notes” describing the impending doomsday if Congress and the White House can’t agree to an alternative.  We think the more accurate description in all of this has been the recharacterization of the fiscal cliff as a fiscal slope.  The impact of the tax increases and spending cuts will emerge gradually and won’t have much tangible effect in the beginning. The reality is that our politicians actually have more time to deal with this than the New Year’s Eve deadline would suggest. If a compromise solution is crafted in January or February, the impact on the “real economy” will be minimal.  Having said that, however, we must concede that the stock market may well have a more dramatic reaction. Unlike the the real economy, the market doesn’t live day-by-day in the present but discounts the future and is extremely sensitive to this wispy thing called “sentiment”. So the markets may well swoon (since we’re talking about “cliffhangers”, let’s have a Perils of Pauline image to go with it!) if Washington takes us over the Cliff in the coming weeks.  This too shall pass, so don’t allow it to spoil the good cheer that should fill the holiday season and new year celebrations.

As always, our best advice is to . . .

Keep Calm and Carry On

Dave Yeske

Money Savvy Pig featured in The Wall Street Journal

Articles of Interest, Financial Planningon December 14th, 2012No Comments

The Money Savvy Pig was cited as one of five gifts to encourage good financial education/management in an article in the WSJ’s Personal Finance section entitled, “Gifts for the Financially Inclined”. In the article, journalist Simon Constable talks about the story behind the Money Savvy Pig…

When Susan Beacham taught her first-grade daughter about money, she aimed to get beyond the simple arithmetic needed when spending cash at the store. Instead, she wanted to impart the idea that money needed to be allocated for various purposes. So she made a piggy bank out of four clear plastic cups.

“Children need to know what they are saving for,” she says. “They need to be reminded that in addition to investing and saving there is donating.”

The home-made bank eventually morphed into the Money Savvy Pig—a transparent plastic piggy bank with four slots, one each for spending (for immediate needs), saving (for a car maybe), investing (for college) and donating (because it’s the right thing to do).

At Yeske Buie, we like to think of ourselves as “financial planning evangelists” and this starts as early as possible. To encourage financial education right from the beginning, we recently started mailing the Money Savvy Pigs to clients with kids and/or grandkids under age 10. In addition, we mail a Cash Cache to kids over age 10. The Cash Cache is a personal finance binder that includes a mini Live Big® map (with quick tips to Save First, Spend Wisely, and Be Smart), an introduction to financial management pamphlet, pouches to Save/Invest/Spend/Donate, and sheets to track financial goals. Once they finish college, we send the “The Wall Street Journal’s Guide to Starting Your Financial Life” – a comprehensive guide to managing your money as you make the transition to being on your own.

The Money Savvy Pigs were also featured on the WSJ Lunch Break TV show .

TheLiveBigWay Digest – Cliffhanger: The Fiscal Cliff and Year-End Planning

Economy and Investing, Financial Planning, TheLiveBigWay® Digeston November 30th, 2012No Comments

We’ve all heard more than enough about the Fiscal Cliff that looms at year’s end and the ongoing negotiations between the White House and Congress aimed at avoiding it. As you might imagine, we’ve expended a great deal of time and energy analyzing the various scenarios in this cliffhanger with an eye toward identifying whether any year-end moves are called for on your part.  Herein we offer our take on the situation.

To Sell or Not to Sell?
Focusing first on the possibility of higher tax rates, the biggest question we’ve wrestled with is this: if capital gains rates are going to rise to 20% or more on January 1, should we sell all of your investments that have embedded gains now in order to take advantage of the current 15% rate?  A related consideration is the arrival of the 3.8% Medicare Tax on investment income in 2013. So, does it make sense to sell now and grab that low, 15% rate?

We think not. Here’s why:

Under normal circumstances, embedded gains are “realized” rather slowly in our average portfolio, generally over many years.  If we were to realize all embedded gains at once, the portfolio going forward would be smaller by an amount equal to 15% of those realized gains. If we’re in a rising market (which we are more often than not), that’s capital that is not earning a gain. There is some break-even point beyond which it is better to have deferred paying the capital gains tax, even if you end up paying it at a higher rate.

And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that we’ve run the numbers.

And what a lot of numbers there were! For starters, the underlying capital gains rate will go to 20% for everyone if the current law is allowed to expire. If the President has his way, this will only apply to those taxpayers earning more than $250,000*. Under all circumstances, those earning more than $250,000 will be subject to the new 3.8% Medicare Tax on investment income, but only for that portion of their income over $250,000.  Likewise under the President’s proposal for regular capital gains, you only pay the higher rate on the lesser of your actual capital gains or the amount by which your income exceeds $250,000. To complicate things even more, allowing the current law to expire without replacing it puts us back under the 1997 law, which contained a special capital gains rate of 18% for assets acquired after 2001 and held for at least five years.

In the end, we had to consider the possibility of 15%, 18%, 18.8%, 20%, and 23.8% rates, and that assumes negotiators don’t conjur yet further possibilities! If you further assume a 7% rate of return and the complete liquidation of your portfolio on some future date (this latter assumption is extreme, of course), the number of years it takes in order to be better off for having NOT realized all of your gains this year are as follows:

Cap Gain Rate Breakeven Year
18.0% 3
18.8% 4
20.0% 5
23.8% 9

Again, these calculations assume the complete liquidation of your portfolio in the specified year, which is extremely unlikely.  The bottom line is that it does not appear to make sense to sell your positions and realize gains this year unless you know that you will otherwise have to sell everything next year or soon thereafter. We believe that scenario would be the sole instance where selling now makes sense.

We hope this little journey along the edge of the Cliff was enlightening.  We’ll have more to say in the coming weeks about other implications of the year-end precipice.

The Yeske Buie Team

*we’ve made some simplifying assumptions here; for a more detailed summary, we recommend the Tax Foundation’s analysis (http://taxfoundation.org/article/250000-threshold-how-does-it-work)
Dave Yeske

TheLiveBigWay Digest – Simpson Bowles edition

Economy and Investing, Financial Planning, TheLiveBigWay® Digeston November 16th, 2012No Comments

We’ve all heard about the Simpson Bowles Commission (technically, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform), which was created by President Obama in early 2010 and delivered its final report on December 1 of that same year. Neither Congress nor the White House embraced the findings of the commission, but that hasn’t kept Alan Simpson, former Republican senator, and Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under Bill Clinton, from hitting the lecture circuit with a message of reality, rationality, and reform. Elissa had the chance to hear them live earlier today while attending (and speaking at) the Schwab IMPACT conference in Chicago. She was duly impressed by the clarity of their non-partisan prescription for dealing with some of the fiscal imbalances in the US economy.

Asked by an audience member what it will take to overcome the stalemate in Washington, Simpson replied simply, “Pressure.” Simpson and Bowles expressed the hope that the financial advisors in the audience would, among other things, encourage their clients to bring pressure to bear on both sides of the partisan divide to compromise and adopt a sustainable solution for the sake of the country. This message is our attempt to do just that. The first thing you can do is visit their website (www.fixthedebt.org) and sign a petition urging Congress to make the hard decisions that the situation demands.

As reported in Advisor One by Jamie Green, there are five major areas that must be addressed:

Bowles listed the five biggest budget problems, many of them “third rails,” as Simpson acknowledged that the U.S. faced and must take action on:

1) Healthcare spending: “We spend more than any other country but we don’t get the outcomes” we should on that investment in terms of actual health.

2) Defense: “We spend more today than the next 17 top countries combined.” Perhaps the biggest round of applause came when Bowles proclaimed: “America can’t afford to be the world’s cop.”

3) Taxes: Bowles got another round of applause when he listed the third big problem the country faces budget-wise, “the most inefficient, globally anticompetitive tax code that can be imagined.” The Bowles-Simpson proposal: “Let’s get rid of all this backdoor tax spending,” much of it in the form of deductions, that he said costs the Treasury $1.1 trillion. In exchange he called for reducing individual income tax rates and the corporate tax rate.

4) Social Security: Bowles said jokingly that “President Roosevelt was too smart” in setting up a Social Security system that started paying benefits at age 65 when average life expectancy was 62. “Let’s make Social Security sustainably solvent so it will actually be there when we need it.”

5) Compound interest: By this Bowles means the compounding of our debt that will be an albatross for the country. Referring to his decision to partner with Simpson in his fiscal crusade, Bowles said, “I began this thinking I was doing it for my grandchildren, and then for my children, but we’ve got to do it for ourselves, here, today.”

While we would take issue with Bowles’ point about Social Security (the life expectancy AT BIRTH was 62 when Social Security was created, it was longer for those who lived long enough to qualify for benefits), his underlying point is valid: people are living longer than the system was built to accommodate. Advisor One’s Green, meanwhile, ends his report with Messieurs Simpson and Bowles in deadly earnest about the need to get past the talking points and the politics of the matter:

“We do math, not myth,” Simpson said, and warned that the country’s disability insurance fund will be used up in four years. He saved his deepest criticism, and got the loudest applause, when he suggested that raising some taxes would be necessary to fix the nation’s budget problems. Referring to Grover Norquist, the conservative Republican guru who has successfully received pledges from lawmakers and candidates not to raise taxes under any circumstances, Simpson turned deadly serious. What we need in this country, he said, is “patriots, not panderers.”

He finished by voicing his disgust over the fact that “compromise has become a dirty word.” Citing the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Missouri Compromise, Simpson said that “this country has always been run by compromise.”

We hope that anyone who isn’t familiar with the details of the Simpson Bowles plan will take this opportunity to learn more and make your voice heard.

Dave Yeske

Financial Planning Wonk – Internal Rate of Return (IRR) v Time-Weighted Return (TWR)

Economy and Investing, Financial Planningon October 31st, 2012No Comments

Your Client Private Page® currently has two types of returns displayed at the bottom of the Comparative Performance Review report. Here is how to differentiate between the two:

Internal Rate of Return (IRR) Time-Weighted Return (TWR)
This rate of return is also known as the “Dollar-Weighted” rate and it measures the performance of your portfolio based on how much is invested at any one time. For example, if you had a modest sum invested during the first month and then made a deposit that doubled the size of your account at the beginning of the second month, the second month’s return would carry twice as much weight as the first month’s in the calculation of your overall return. The IRR is more reflective of the actual dollar gains earned in your account. The Time-Weighted Return is calculated as if there was a constant one-dollar investment in your account. In doing so, it ignores the effects of deposits and withdrawals that you may make. Unlike the IRR example to the left, the TWR would ignore the deposit made at the beginning of month two and give equal weight to the returns earned in each of the two months.
The Internal Rate of Return tells you how well you are personally doing. The Time-Weighted Rate of Return tells you how well the overall investment strategy is doing.

Emergency Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse

Financial Planningon October 31st, 2012No Comments


“There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.” -Quote from the CDC’s blog

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has creatively used the pop culture phenomenon of a “Zombie Apocalypse” to highlight the importance of preparing for a variety of emergencies/natural disasters. After all, if you’re prepared for a zombie invasion, you’re prepared for just about anything! We had decided to share this with you several weeks ago, tying the CDC’s Zombie Apocalypse theme to arrival of Halloween, and only wish we’d rolled it out a week earlier in light of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy. For those of you who have been affected by Sandy, you should note that many organizations are making special accommodations to help you.  Most banks and credit card companies are increasing credit limits, extending payments on loans, and refunding overdraft and other fees incurred during the storm.  The State of Virginia, meanwhile, is extending deadlines for expiring licenses, permits and other official documents, and has extended absentee voting hours to 8:00 PM on Thursday and Friday.

For those of us fortunate enough to be out of Sandy’s path, here are some tips for what to do to prepare for a zombie attack or a similar emergency:

1. Put together an emergency kit
Zombies notoriously congregate around sources of sustenance and the places humans go to for supplies.  You will need to stock up on these essentials to last you through the first several days until relief arrives and/or you are able to get to a safe location or evacuation center. Some of the items that should go in your kit include:
• Water (1 gallon per person per day)
• Food (build a supply of non-perishable items)
• Medications (stock up on over-the-counter items and/or get your prescription filled in advance)
• Tools and Supplies (matches, duct tape, batteries, utility knife, flashlight, etc.)
• Sanitation and Hygiene (soap, towels, small wash bowl)• Clothing and Bedding (change of clothes, blankets, sleeping bags)
• Important Documents (a copy of your driver’s license, passport, birth certificate)
• First Aid Supplies (band aids, medical tape, gauze, etc.)

2. Come up with an emergency plan
Zombies come in droves so it is essential to have a set plan BEFORE their arrival.  In the same way, once disaster strikes you should already have a plan in place for what you and your family will do.
• Identify the types of emergencies that could impact your area
• Pick a meeting place for your family to regroup right outside your home and one place outside your neighborhood in case you are not able to return home right away
• Identify your emergency contacts (local organizations, out-of-state contact who can let the rest of your family know you are okay)
• Plan your evacuation route (determine your safe location and plan out multiple routes to get there)

3. Contact the following organizations for more information.
For those of you already in the midst of Sandy’s path, below are resources for what to do and who can help:
Your local American Red Cross chapter
Your state and local health departments
FEMA
CDC Website

Cliffs Notes version of Obamacare

Articles of Interest, Financial Planningon August 31st, 2012No Comments

Since we’re spending so much time talking about “cliffs”, we thought we’d introduce you to our friend Carolyn McClanahan, MD/CFP, physician and financial planner. Carolyn, who writes for Forbes, has made herself an expert on all aspects of the Affordable Care Act and shares her “Cliffs Notes” version in this video.  Well worth 14 minutes of your time!

 

Affordable Health Care Act – Carolyn McClanahan’s Cliffs Notes Version from Carolyn McClanahan on Vimeo.

 

TheLiveBigWay* Digest: Headwinds and Super Trends

Economy and Investing, Financial Planning, TheLiveBigWay® Digeston June 12th, 20122 Comments

Two weeks ago, several members of our financial planning team attended the Financial Planning Association’s NorCal Conference in San Francisco. At the opening keynote presentation, Jennifer Micieli and Jennifer Hicks (aka “the Jens”), Elissa, and Dave listened to Dr. Laura Tyson, Berkeley professor and former chair of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, give her assessment of the US economy. Dr. Tyson discussed a myriad of economic indicators but ultimately focused on one of the biggest impediments to faster growth in the U.S. and around the world: deleveraging.  Deleveraging refers to the process that households have been engaged in since the economic crisis hit in 2008 in which they spend less, save more, and reduce debt. On one level, this is a good thing since households everywhere took on far too much debt during the boom years of the real estate bubble. However virtuous this may be at the level of the individual household, however, it puts a serious drag on economic growth. The rate of growth is directly affected by the pace of consumer spending and consumers can’t increase spending and pay down debt all at the same time. That’s why the recovery from recessions caused by a financial crisis and asset bubble are typically slower than other types.

Although this was not new information, it was, to say the least, a somewhat gloomy opening to our conference.

Elissa and Dave next proceeded to a presentation by deep thinker and good friend Dennis Stearns. In addition to being a chess master and talented financial planner, Dennis is notable in the financial planning profession for his “scenario planning” work. Dennis began his presentation, “Super Trends: Opportunities and Threats,” at the same place that Dr. Tyson ended hers:

1.Financial recessions take longer to recover despite well intentioned government efforts at stimulus.

2. Deleveraging is a powerful headwind that has “thickened the mud” for consumers, closely held businesses and increasingly, the U.S. and ove rseas governments.

3. Geo-political risk is higher than normal given Middle Eastern regimes in a state of flux and potential for intervention in Iran.

Unlike Dr. Tyson, however, Dennis offered an additional perspective:

4. A number of short and intermediate term Super Trend “gamechangers” are increasingly likely to shift the future into a more positive trajectory.

Dennis grouped his super trends under three main headings:

  1. Globalization Super Trends
  2. Technology Accelerators
  3. Global Age Wave

Within these super trends, Dennis identified a number of “trillion dollar themes” that have a relatively high probability of emerging in the next few years.  In fact, some of these themes are already well under way, including the arrival of a billion new consumers within emerging economies, especially China, India, and Brazil. While you would naturally assume that this trend is positive for both consumer goods companies and luxury goods makers here and abroad, it turns out that there’s another dimension of equal interest: a number of studies suggest that as populations surpass the $5,000 annual income threshold, terrorism and the threat of war decline.

Another trillion dollar theme was focused on the need to replace aging infrastructure in the developed world. This work will have to be done if developed economies are to remain competitive and recent proposals for public-private infrastructure banks offer a viable method for financing this important task. More than a trillion dollars of private capital has been identified as interested and economists agree that this initiative would boost employment, economic growth, and efficiency. The political situation in the U.S. will likely defer this development into 2013, with the effects being felt in 2014 and beyond.

One of the major themes under the heading of “Technology Accelerators” is something that we’ve written about before: the explosive growth of energy supplies due to new technologies. We know that there is now a very real chance that the U.S. will achieve energy independence, with the rise in stock valuations, business confidence, and consumer confidence that would go along with that.  However, as Fareed Zakaria noted in Sunday’s edition of Global Public Square, a new golden age of gas is “a game-changer not just for the energy industry, not just for the U.S. – but for geopolitics.” Zakaria points out that most natural gas in the recent past has been supplied by “nasty and illegitimate” regimes like Iran and Venezuela, which thrive on global instability, not least because this drives up oil and gas prices and helps their bottom line. Now, however, with worldwide production of natural gas expected to grow 50% by the year 2035, and with most of that increase coming from the United States, Canada, Australia, Poland, France, and Israel, the production shift away from “destabilizing” regimes will have a huge positive impact on the world economy and geo-political stability.

Yet another game-changing trend is the rapid emergence of new medical treatments as a result of info-tech, bio-tech, and nano-tech convergence. While many of the new treatments will be available primarily to the affluent, others, especially those involving handheld diagnostic devices, will be a boon to all strata of society. Furthermore, new developments in the area of handheld diagnostic tools may actually help bend the curve on runaway healtcare costs.  With respect to the improving outlook on longevity and health, Dennis posed the question: “If you knew you would live to age 100 and be healthy and active, what would change about your life or your plans today?”

Under the theme of “Prepping for The Next Big Thing,” Dennis noted that “innovations tend to cluster in waves and five emerging technologies will create significant improvements in products, most of which require no special technology knowledge for consumers to access.” The five converging technologies are nanotechnology, genomics, artificial intelligence, robotics, and ubiquitous connectivity. The estimated addition to global GDP growth from this convergence is more than $1 trillion (and may be much much more).  This is an example of one of our own themes: it doesn’t pay to underestimate human ingenuity, which time and again throughout history has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

One of the challenges we face in this rapidly evolving world is developing the kind of material and psychological resilience to deal with frequent, disruptive change.  At Yeske Buie, we believe that the financial planning process and a grounded approach to portfolio development and management can go a long way toward establishing and sustaining that resiliency.

Fasten your seat belts, Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!

The Yeske Buie Team

*SM

Dave Yeske

How to Know What to Do When It’s Hard to Know What to Do

Economy and Investing, Financial Planning, TheLiveBigWay® Digeston August 30th, 2010Comments Off on How to Know What to Do When It’s Hard to Know What to Do

I thought it was time to address some of the gloom and doom that has so dominated the news of late.  Not, by the way, with the intent of dispelling it (or supporting it, for that matter) but more with the aim of addressing the question of what we can best do to operate in an uncertain world. To begin, allow me to recap some recent developments:

The pace of economic recovery is slowing.  Second quarter economic growth in the US was revised downward last week from 2.4% to 1.6%.  At the same time, unemployment moved up a notch and home sales moved down a notch (or two).  Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, observing these developments from the monetary policy meeting in Jackson Hole, suggested on Friday that a little more fiscal stimulus might be welcome.  He knows, of course, that this is currently a political non-starter.  Writing in yesterday’s New York Times, meanwhile, Laura Tyson, UC Berkeley economist and past chair of the president’s council of economic advisors, made the case for why the slowing recovery calls unambiguously for a second stimulus.  And just to round things out, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman has declared that this is not a recovery in any meaningful sense of the word unless the pace of growth is fast enough to bring down the unemployment rate quickly and significantly. Few are predicting that the economy will resume such a pace this year.

The news is not all dire on the policy front, however.  Notwithstanding the lack of consensus for a second stimulus, the White House is pressing forward with several initiatives that could help.  None are anywhere near the scale of last year’s stimulus package, but each could have an incremental impact.  And, while noting that the Fed does not possess unlimited power to regulate economic growth, Chairman Bernanke nonetheless observed that the central bank still has policy options in its toolkit and made clear its commitment to using any and all of them to keep the recovery on track.

One of the things holding down the pace of recovery is the “savings binge” that consumers have engaged in as they work to pay down the excessive debt levels acquired during the real estate boom.  Businesses, likewise, are holding back on new hiring and fixed investments that could create a much needed boost.

While the “animal spirits,” as John Maynard Keynes termed business sentiment, have left American business people in a pessimistic mood, sentiment can change suddenly, dramatically, unpredictably. In this vein, it’s worth noting that American businesses are now sitting on a record $1.6 trillion in cash reserves, the deployment of which would cause a dramatic shift in direction for the economy.  Consumer and investor sentiment is likewise subject to unpredictable swings.  In the long run, I suspect that one counts out the American consumer at one’s peril.  Today, in fact, it was reported that consumer spending had risen in July, after four months of decline.

The real point of enumerating the foregoing pluses and minuses is this: I don’t know what’s going to come next for the economy.  No one does.  No one you see speaking on TV and no one you see quoted in newspapers or magazines knows what’s coming next.  There is sometimes an illusion of prescience, created by the fact that every possible outcome is being predicted by someone, every minute of every day.  As we look back at how events have unfolded, inevitably someone will have “called it right.”  That in itself isn’t particularly impressive.  What would be more so is if the same person got it just right again and again and again.  There’s not much evidence for that.

Of course, if someone did possess perfect foresight, they would never diversify.  Diversification is only a reasonable strategy in the absence of such prescience.

So, coming back to my opening question:

How are we to know what to do when times are so scary?  The answer, prosaic as it may sound, is to show up with a plan from the start.  And then stick to it (scuba divers like to say “plan your dive and dive your plan;” a good motto for our financial affairs as well). There’s a reason this is so hard to do, however.  As I’ve noted in prior writings, neuroeconomists have established that the prospect of financial loss activates the part of our brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is where our “fight or flight” responses live, so, naturally, when this part of our brain lights up, we feel the urgent need to DO SOMETHING!  This is certainly a functional response when one is being physically attacked, but far less so when it involves one’s portfolio.  As long as there are sufficient cash reserves to serve as an emergency fund, and as long as there are sufficient stable bond reserves to meet spending needs in retirement for five or six years, there really is no reason to take action when it appears that the economy might be hitting a bump in the road.

So, the motto should be: Plan Your Life and Live Your Plan.  And the next time the doomsayers are splashed across the front page of your newspaper, put it down and take the dog for a walk.  You’ll both feel better for it. And as Roger Lowenstein, pointed out in Friday’s New York Times (Taking Stock): “it is generally more lucrative to sell prophecies of doom than to act on them.”

The Yeske Buie Team

What does it mean to Live Big® in these trying times?

Financial Planning, Fun Stuffon March 6th, 2009No Comments
What does Live Big® mean?  Some may interpret it as meaning “spend big”, “live large” or a recommendation to some other form of overindulgence.  But Live Big is about the size of your life, not the size of your wallet®.  In these crazy economic times, it can sometimes be difficult to remember the areas in our life where we can Live Big without spending (much, if any) money.  But if we can find the place of gratitude for what we have, we can find joy in the most mundane of places, and, hopefully, at least get our minds off of how scary the world can feel at times.  We offer these ideas for your consideration.  And we will be updating this document with additions from anyone who wants to participate, so please send us any ideas you might have.
Walk the dog (borrow one if you don’t have one of your own)
Hug someone (be careful, in general it should be someone who you know)
Start a gratitude journal – every morning/evening, write down 5 things for which you are grateful
Read all those books you’ve been collecting, meanwhile drinking all that tea that has accumulated in your cupboard
Get Skype and call friends all over the world
Write a poem, or at least read one
Continue to make your Charitable Contributions
Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Love Actually” or some other super feel good movie
Make a game out of cooking dinner for a week using only ingredients already found in your pantry or freezer (adding fresh vegetables)
Have a book swap party with everyone bringing a few books they’d like to swap and a refreshment
Write a letter to a soldier
Exercise
Join Netflix (30-days free and then $8.99/month) and watch 100 -200 – 300 movies! (They’re available instantly on your PC)
Teach a teenager to balance a checkbook
Write an old fashioned letter to someone
Take an elderly neighbor lunch
Breathe, pray, meditate
Play cards or a board game with someone fun
Journal
Volunteer
Watch a comedy routine and laugh the day/night away
Burn an aromatherapy candle
Listen to music
Dance
Do a craft (find something on sale at Michael’s or another craft shop)
Make a hobby out of finding free weekend activities and planning outings with family friends
Look at old pictures and marvel at how great you still look
Make somebody laugh
Get fresh vegetables from a farmers’ market
Watch a thunderstorm – on a porch if possible
Donate blood
Catch a snowflake on your tongue
Volunteer at an animal shelter
If you get a premium cable channel, invite your friends over to watch shows they might otherwise not get to see
Give a stranger a compliment
Feed someone’s parking meter
Go to the library and check out books and DVDs  (for free!)
Pay a true compliment to someone who annoys you
Throw a Board Game Night at your house for friends, family, neighbors
Match all your mismatched socks
If you find a tails up penny, turn it over for someone else to find a heads up penny
Be a Big Sister or Big Brother
Create something (stained glass, a photo album, a collage)
Print the photos you’ve been meaning to get off of the computer and put them in a photo album or scrap book
Make a quilt
Color – with a child, by yourself, outside the lines
Have a special story time with your children/grandchildren
Organize a silly 2K or 5K walk/run in your neighborhood
Visit monuments and museums in your area
Put a puzzle together
Take silly/pretty pictures just for fun
Bake some bread or cookies ~ share them with a neighbor or friend
Plant some flowers or vegetables. Fun to watch them come up from seed
Discover a new park. Go for a hike
Take a leisurely walk around a new neighborhood in your city – be a “tourist”
Give yourself a beaming ear-to-ear smile for five minutes, just because you’re alive. A big grin triggers a flood of serotonin and endorphins, creating a virtuous cycle; literally creating happiness where none may have existed before
Stare at the spring flowers
Smell the spring flowers
Give special attention to your spouse who may be worried
Kiss your spouse who may be worried
Hug spouse who may be worried
Hug your pet
Write a letter to someone you love
Call a friend and tell them you value their friendship
Visit a Virginia winery to taste the new releases
Another happy movie to watch: About a Boy. If you don’t feel good after watching it there’s no hope
Pay it forward, volunteer, it comes back tenfold
Get an almost free vacation through a home exchange
Listen to your feel-good iPod list during your commute to work
Taking a yoga class at Mala Yoga
Reading my son a book, especially one by Mo Willems, who is hilarious
A square or two of Lindt 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolat
Petting dogs (We don’t have one — yet!)
Clean out the closets and donate good useable clothing and shoes to the Homeless Shelter program in town
Volunteer at the Homeless Shelter program in town. Get gratitude that you aren’t homeless and can help others.
Volunteer at the Food Pantry/Meals for homeless programs
Walk the dog with your partner (or just go for a walk together), enjoy discussing the day
Teach a class of 3-5 year-olds
Instead of going to a photo studio for family pictures, set up a “studio” at home and have a friend take the pictures
Don’t live in the wreckage of your future–enjoy today
Remember, if you pray, why worry?  If you worry, why pray?
Living simply (less stuff – more room for life)
Being grateful to have a good job (or just a job)
Being really grateful when matching funds remain a part of your financial plan
Feeling empowered when using a debit card (instead of a CC)
Trusting your financial planner to help optimize your financial goals
Going out to dinner and a ballgame with good friends and business associates
Listen to songs from different periods in your life. collect them on iTunes
© Yeske Buie Inc 2009

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~Marianne Williamson