The Millennial Perspective: The Spirit of Giving

The holidays can be stressful for anyone, and being a millennial already comes with its own stressful baggage like expensive student loan payments and lower-paying jobs. Holidays can be a little tricky with these constraints. Gift exchanges, a tradition for a lot of people, may be nearly impossible for some. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to invoke your inner “Scrooge” and fail to participate in the giving spirit of the holidays. Below are my top five tips to alleviate stress and enjoy the act of giving when money is tight.

  1. BE the present* – Sometimes just being with family and friends for the holidays is enough, especially if you live far away from home. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “you don’t have to get anything for us. Having you here is all we really wanted.” So, if it is fiscally, and physically, possible, try to make it home for the holidays and spend time with your loved ones and friends.
  2. Give the gift of time* – If giving makes you feel good, but your budget doesn’t allow you to buy gifts for everyone, try volunteering your time to give back in other ways. Work at your local soup kitchen and help serve those in need, volunteer to work with a toy drive or a food pantry to provide meals and toys for Christmas day.
  3. Get crafty – If you want to give your loved ones something special during the holidays, try making them something! Think back to your school age days when you would make cards and masterpieces for your family in class. You don’t have to make a macaroni noodle self-portrait, unless you want to, but there are plenty of easy crafts out there that even the most artistically challenged can handle. Pinterest is a great tool for finding fun and easy crafts that your loved ones are sure to cherish for years to come.
  4. Be kind – Some people may be less fortunate than others and you never know what your neighbors are experiencing. Because of this, it is important to be kind. A little bit of kindness can cost $0 and it can go a long way. Give someone a compliment, hold the door for a stranger, or ask someone how their day has been. Anything will do and sometimes the kind, little things can make someone’s whole day. You might be surprised by their appreciation!
  5. Get focused – If the year has not quite gone the way you had hoped, sit down and make a plan for next year. No one said you must shop for the holidays in November and December. Why not shop all year? This way you can give the gifts you want to those you love and you don’t have to drop a fortune all at once doing so. Make a budget and/or set a goal. If you set a budget and want to take advantage of the savings that “holiday shopping” can have, then make a savings goal and plan so you can be prepared when you hit the stores in the Fall.

No matter how you choose to give during the holiday season, there is no sense in adding stress to your life when it already has enough. To many people, the holidays are not about the gifts, but rather spending time with your loved ones. The holidays are meant to be enjoyed and those closest to you will appreciate you and understand your situation. Remember, kindness is the only gift that is worthless until it’s given away. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

*When making plans for the 2020 holiday season, please refer to the CDC guidelines pertaining to social distancing, PPE, and large gatherings with people outside of your immediate household.

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Thanksgiving – Wealth Is More Than Money!

It is that time of year when each of us should pause and reflect on the life we lead in the United States of America. While our nation is far from perfect, the freedoms, opportunities and rights we claim are superior to any other nation on the planet! I am often asked how I define “wealth”. Many people think it is about tangible goods (i.e., cars, houses, land, etc.) and intangible assets (i.e., investments, cash in the bank, etc.).

To me, to be wealthy simply means that I have the freedom to live my life in the manner I choose. An old friend, I will call “Bill”, was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time to live. He and I were talking and I thought I had known him pretty well. Boy, was I surprised with the words that came out of Bill’s mouth over the next thirty minutes!

By all outward appearances, Bill had a great life – money, land, houses, cars, boats, etc. When he started telling me about his life he quickly dismissed the value of his property, cars and investment accounts and began a story of loss in his life. His daughters had been estranged from him due to a misunderstanding when the girls were in the 20s. Now, with his daughters in their 40s and Bill dying of cancer, he realized the most valuable “asset” in his portfolio of wealth had been squandered many years ago. With tears in his eyes, I could see he was living a life of regret.

As I sat there intently listening, Bill continued his saga to define the difference between riches and true wealth. Although he had not worried or wanted for any material need during his life, his emotional void with his children had left him feeling that his life had been lived without meaning. I asked him a simple question, “Would you give it all away to spend some quality days with your daughters before your passing?” The biggest smile came upon his face and he nearly shouted, “You bet!”

After a discussion with Bill’s daughters, a meeting was established to reacquaint themselves. Bill and his daughters’ eyes were swollen with tears of joy as their family was reunited. Bill only lived a few more months but his daughters conveyed to me that those few months were the most happy he had been his entire life.

Remember, a thankful and kind heart is an asset that can’t be bought with material goods. I often define wealth to people as “those things in life that money can’t buy and death can’t take away.” Seek out the true “assets” in your life and enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving Day with family and friends!

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