Last year was a tough one for disciplined investors. Disciplined investors know that diversification is a key element of successful portfolio management. But investors who stayed the course and remained diversified were punished for it in 2014, at least in the short term.
Disciplined investors will continue to be taunted over the coming weeks and months by headlines touting the success of “the market” in 2014. “Which market is that?” many of them will ask.
Well, “the market” we hear about most often is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which represents only 30 of the largest U.S. companies trading on the New York Stock Exchange. A slightly broader barometer of “the market” is the S&P 500 index, a benchmark tracking 500 of the largest U.S. stocks. In this case, “the market” could more accurately be translated as “the U.S. large-cap stock market.”
What is “the market”? It’s actually a host of different markets in reality. Pundits may entertain us with their prognostications, but one glance at this asset class quilt makes it abundantly clear that attempts to pick the next winner are in vain–or worse yet, counterproductive.
“We’re just overwhelmed with life.” That was my response to an attorney looking for insight into the obstacles facing Generation X.
I’d referred a number of 30- and 40-something financial-planning clients to this attorney. All were in need of estate-planning documents.
But he came to me concerned about the difficulty he was having in reconnecting with clients who’d begun the process but were struggling to find the time to complete it. The time to complete anything, really.
While folks of all generations struggle with being overwhelmed by the various responsibilities and obligations of life, I see the problem as endemic within the ranks of Gen X, my peers.
My family celebrates Christmas, and music has always been a big part of the holiday for us. So I thought I’d offer up my top five favorite Christmas albums:
You’ve got a machine just sitting around your house. It’s a money-printing machine, and it’s perfectly legal. This machine is expected to print $75,000 this year before taxes. You’ll use that cash to pay your household expenses.
Each year, the machine will print 3 percent more than it did in the previous year, and it will continue doing so for the next 40. That means, over its lifetime the machine will print $5,655,094.48, easily making it your most valuable asset today.
Yet there it sits, maybe in your garage, between an inherited set of golf clubs and a wheelbarrow with a flat tire, unprotected. Uninsured.
The machine, of course, is you, or more specifically, your ability to generate an income. It didn’t come cheap. You and your parents invested years of training and likely tens of thousands of dollars in hopes that your machine would not only support you financially for a lifetime but launch another generation as well.
We don’t question the need to buy insurance for the things our money machine purchases. But few of us know if—or at least how and to what degree—their income-generation engine is protected.
Giving Tuesday might officially be behind us, but let’s face it—we’re just getting started. The giving season is underway, with the holidays and year-end bearing down on us. So how can we transform one of the more stressful, and sometimes guilt-ridden, elements of the season into something more life-giving?
Whether you’re giving to a family member, a friend or a cause, please consider the following four directives as a guide to happy giving:
1) Give out of impulsion, not compulsion. Compulsion to give can arise from the mountain of expectations, perceived or otherwise, heaped upon us at this time of year. (Those expectations are more often self-imposed, by the way.) Impulsion, on the other hand, comes from within. Give because you want to, not because you have to. And don’t give if you don’t want to.
I travel a decent amount. I don’t mind flying, but I’ve always struggled with the loss of productivity. Hours waiting at the airport. Even more hours in flight. But with the advent of in-flight Wi-Fi, I thought my productivity problems were solved. I was wrong.
I’ve instead concluded that by nixing slow and unpredictable in-flight Wi-Fi altogether, we can save money and use flight time to more productive ends (like reading, writing and resting) better suited for that environment.
My initial plan was to use in-flight Wi-Fi to slay the email dragon. That way, I could land knowing that nothing had slipped through the cracks and that there were no surprises waiting. I might even allow non-urgent emails to pile up for a couple days if I knew I had an upcoming flight. Unfortunately, the strategy was a miserable failure.
Once you’ve abandoned the pursuit of balancing money and life in favor of integrating the two, the question still remains: Now what? How the heck do I better integrate money and life? Like most personal finance dilemmas, the answer is simple, but not easy.
It’s simple because it doesn’t require many steps. What’s more, it’s advice you’ve likely heard before, perhaps multiple times. But it’s challenging because you have to do some work—interior work. And then you have to make some difficult decisions.
Before I share the process, it’s imperative that we recognize a fundamental financial truth, often shrouded in a sea of marketing, misinformation and self-help rubbish that’s more sales than psychology.
RULE: Money is a means, not an end. Money is a tool—a neutral tool that is neither good nor evil. It may, however, be used in pursuit of either good or evil, and everything in between. Money can be well-utilized in the pursuit of goals, but it makes a very poor, lonely goal in and of itself.
Understanding—and believing and applying—this rule is the aim of the following systematic four-step approach to better integrating life and money:
We got the subtitle of my last book wrong. It reads, “Balancing Money and Life.” And while the book is still substantively solid and its aging content remains mostly relevant, the subtitle, I now believe, is a misnomer. It may actually contradict the book’s fundamental message.
Whether we’re talking about money and life, work and life—whatever and life—the temptation is to see the “whatever” as a force standing in opposition to life. An alternative to life.
And, unfortunately, this isn’t merely a rhetorical conundrum. As it often does, life follows language. Indeed, the phrase “work-life balance” has become so common that most of us now consider it an either-or proposition. We picture a scale, balancing work on one side and life on the other, as though it’s a zero-sum game. Work or life.
And so it has become with money. We can choose to expend life in pursuit of money or deplete our financial resources in pursuit of life.
Perhaps there’s a third option—the integration of money and life. Consider these seven ways we might view life and money differently if our approach to them was less mutually exclusive:
I was truly honored–and just a little bit terrified–to be the subject of one of the BAM Alliance‘s short films (extraordinarily produced by Once Films) depicting the heart of the work we’ve dedicated our lives to.