As I write my last column of 2017, I look ahead to the New Year, not with resolutions, but resolved to heed the advice of the poet Mary Oliver: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell people about it.
Rather than set our sights on unrealistic goals that we have little likelihood of achieving, let's pick one or two of the following ideas that will help you meet some of your 2018 financial objectives.
Let's start with Oliver's suggestions above. I have written a lot about paying attention but not as much on telling people about it. One of the best ways to feel more comfortable with your financial condition is through gratitude. Make a simple resolution for 2018 that every week you will write one note to someone who has made a difference in your life. One of my friends was thinking about what he could do in his sudden retirement, and I suggested this to him. He said that after doing this for several months, he realized a host of additional benefits beyond appreciation. He mentioned that he re-engaged with several people from his past and rekindled memories. As he shared his appreciation with these people, many also told him how important he had been to them. Every week that he wrote those notes he realized how much he had left to give and how, though retired, his work was not yet finished.
A second idea came after I read a recent New York Times column by Ann Patchett about her year of no shopping. Rather than set your sights on this lofty goal, incorporate something more manageable — the four-day rule. Pick a dollar amount for which you make purchases with little thought. In other words, you still think about them, but you often go ahead and buy anyway. In 2018, whenever you are in this situation, commit to taking four days to think about the purchase. You will find that if you take another step and write yourself a check instead, you will be shocked at how much you will have at the end of the year.
A third idea helps us manage our personal discomfort with our social status that can result in overspending. Looking more compassionately at others helps us treat ourselves more compassionately. In "Tattoos on the Heart," Gregory Boyle writes about our reaction to the poor, "We seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it. ... Compassion is a covenant between equals."
You might be amazed at the results of incorporating any of these three ideas. I can't wait for you to tell me about it.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the chief executive & founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.