The holidays are upon us and, if you are like my family, we are excited but also overwhelmed with everything that must be done. Don’t get me wrong. I love every minute of it! I love decorating the house, shopping for gifts and then wrapping them, connecting with friends and family, planning and hosting parties and meals, driving around to see the decorated houses, singing along with carols, and on and on. This is my favorite time of year!
My sister and I looked forward to Christmas morning and opening presents. There would be a plate full of candy and nuts on the table along with an apple and an orange for each person. (I think that may be a German tradition?) When my grandfather was alive, my sister and I sometimes had a gift from him on the table as well. My parents typically gave each of us one present which was carefully wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree. I remember the year I got a bride doll and, in my teens, a new blouse.
As we raised our sons, some of the same traditions were maintained and others were added. We decorated the house and tree, played and sang carols, entertained friends and family, and hung stockings (instead of a plate for Christmas morning treats). We baked special goodies—ginger snap, sugar, and snickerdoodle cookies; Cap’n Crunch candy; and Rice Krispies peanut butter balls. I used my mom’s recipes to make date and banana bread, some of which we gave as gifts. Our family set up and lit luminarias along the church sidewalk for Christmas Eve services. So beautiful! We opened gifts Christmas morning and got together with family Christmas Day for a big dinner and sometimes a hike or a jigsaw puzzle.
How about you?
Holiday traditions vary around the world and sometimes depend on a person’s religious orientation. The holiday you celebrate may not be Christmas, but Hannukah or Kwanzaa, or you may not celebrate any at all. Although for many of us it is a much anticipated and happy time of year, it may not be so happy for others. Are you one of the latter? It is not unusual for the demands on a person’s time, not to mention the wallet, to cause anxiety and even depression. You may be mourning the loss of a friend or family member during 2021. COVID may have set your family back financially. Perhaps you are out of work. Even listening to a news broadcast or reading news online can put a damper on a day.
It is easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds, especially during the holidays. And yet, this is the time of year when many of you reach out through your church, community food bank, rescue center, or other non-profit to share your blessings and give thanks for the bounties of the past twelve months. Some of you maintain your generosity throughout the whole year and that is to be commended. Others give your time and/or your talents to help and support others in need.
Reflection on Gifts
As I look back, I am grateful that I grew up in a household that gave a high priority to giving. We were not wealthy, but comfortable. My parents provided a roof over our head, food on the table, they paid the bills, and still had enough to set aside some saving. Even before saving or any other expense, however, my mom and dad gave 10% to church or charities, they called it tithing. I am sure that sometimes it was painful, that they had to adjust the budget, but it was never an issue to them. Priorities were priorities.
As 2021 closes, it is appropriate to take time from the holiday frenzy to reflect on what is truly important. Each person will likely have a different answer. I know the past two years—living through the isolation of COVID—made a difference in my priorities. For one, it made me realize that I am guilty of overconsumption, and I still struggle with that. I am thankful, however, that I have enough to support causes I love, travel to see my family and friends when I can, and show my love to my family through thoughtful gifts. Memories become more and more important to me as I age. My favorite gift is time with my family!
I have also come to realize that gifts can be as simple as a smile offered a stranger, a card sent to a friend, a kind word said in passing, a door opened and held, an offer to babysit, a treat shared with a child, a loving pat to a dog or cat, a sidewalk shoveled, or an unexpected hug. There are literally a thousand ways that we can give a gift every single day.
I have also taken time to reflect on how I can add value to the world. What unique gift have I been given? How can what I do or say make a difference; make it better for someone else? Part of my answer is reflected in the book I wrote during COVID, How to Dress a Naked Portfolio: A Tailored Introduction to Investing for Women. It is meant to help fill a void in basic financial education and the target audience is women because that is where I see the greatest need. If you are interested, you can read more on my website, https://bevbowers.com. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book supports financial education for women.
What are your gifts to the world? How do you intend to make a difference? Perhaps you already know the answers to those questions and are on your way to their realization. If not, I encourage you to take time this holiday season to think about it and, if necessary, chart a new course. I guarantee you will not only be happier, but I have a feeling that the world needs what you have to offer. Give yourself—and us— that gift!
Bev Bowers, CFP®
Legal Notice: This document is intended to be informational only. Beverly Bowers does not render legal, accounting, or tax advice. Please consult the appropriate legal, accounting, or tax advisor if you require such advice. The opinions expressed in this report are subject to change without notice. The information in this report is from sources believed to be reliable but are not guaranteed to be accurate or complete. All publication rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to the Copyright restrictions described on BevBowers.com.
Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) owns the CFP® certification mark and the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ certification mark in the United States, which it authorizes use of by individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.