Friday, December 25, 2009

Some favorite Christmases.'

Julia and I were reminiscing about some of our favorite Christmases' past. We both agreed that one of our most memorable Xmas' was the one we spent in French Polynesia on Bora Bora with our friends Penny & Jerry - which has to be one of the most beautiful group of Islands in the world. It was not exactly our usual Xmas weather! But definitely preferable to the usual mix of cold and rain or snow! On Xmas Eve we went to church on Bora Bora, the Church was packed with the natives in their very colorful clothes. They sang with such joyous happiness and gladness, not at all timorous or bashful, but instead loud and almost raucous. We were acknowleged and invited to join in, It was indeed a Christmas Eve to remember. Christmas Day we spent snorkeling and visiting a pearl farm, where I bought Julia a black pearl ring.
There have been other Christmas days spent in various parts of the world including Mexico and the Carribean. These locations are always nice because of the weather and as they were all on cruises, involved no cooking or other preparations on our part.
Of course there is nothing quite like a Christmas at home. I particularly remember waking up on Christmas mornings as a child and feeling the weight of the sack of presents laying on the bottom of the bed. The small window had been left open to allow Father Christmas to get in! I don't suppose in these days of I-Pod's, computers, digital camera's et al that the contents of our sacks would bring much excitement to today's kids, but they certainly did to us. It was a frenzied pair, my sister Mary and I, that tore into the pillow cases with with frantic curiosity. There were always dozens of items in there, my parents must have spent weeks preparing them. There were always nuts, an apple, an orange, wrapped sweets, and all kinds of odds and ends as well as some wrapped packets and some items unwrapped. Toy cars, dolls for Mary, books, pencils, pens, gloves, socks, every year was different, but the same - mases of things, we never knew what they would be. And then later would be the 'Big gift' or gifts, under the tree. Not as many as children get now, but usually there were several for each of us. I was always overwhelmed. One year I received a bicycle! True it was used, it had been Dad's for years, he rode it through the blackout during the war and to work for years after the war. But now it was mine and I was almost big enough to ride it! I cannot imagine that a boy nowadays who got the latest shiny new bicycle for Xmas could possibly be more excited than I was when I got that rusty old bike, lovingly washed, oiled and polished and fitted with a new seat than I was that Xmas day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Little Things.

Little things, even tiny things. Alone they don't amount to much, not even to the proverbial "Hill of Beans." But together they can add up to something enormous.
Do one, or two, or ten, or twenty, or more, of these 'little things' and you will surprise yourself. It may be too late for me to achieve much at 68, (I hope to be 69 next year!) but I intend giving it a try. No, my child, and my grandchildren stand to gain the most from these 'little things'.
OK, OK, I can hear you saying, what are these little things? Well they are such small things that you may immediately dismiss them, but as I like to say, "They are better than nothing".
Lets put a few of these wee things down "on paper".
I just know that you have said to yourself - 'One day I am going to start exercising, I am going to go to the gym 3 times a week, - or maybe once. Or, I am going to run every day, or, or.' And you haven't have you? Well, neither did I. But, what I have done - and here is where that 'tiny thing' comes into play - when I park my car, I park it further away than I need to, which makes me walk maybe an extra 100 or 200 feet, - each way. When I visit the Doctors Office, or someone in hospital or go to the store, I take the stairs, both ways. I shovel the snow, maybe a little more of it than I need to, I rake the leaves, I dig the garden. Sure I could pay someone to rake the leaves, dig the garden , shovel the snow, but although I am not going to see my muscles rippling in a couple of weeks and my belly disappearing before my eyes, I can guarantee you that those things are happening, at least a little bit more than if I had done nothing.
Moving onto food, nothing huge is going to happen because I eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread. But if I also eat whole wheat pasta, less fast food, less red meat, less fat, less of everything. (Notice that I said LESS, not NONE, the immediate response of many people when a suggestion is made is to go to the extreme, "I'm not going to stop eating all the things I like, etc."), notice that I said LESS. In the same way if I eat MORE fruits, MORE vegetables, MORE fruit juices instead of sodas. In other words, more good stuff and less bad stuff, eventually there should be a difference. No, I am not going to be big and lean and strong tomorrow or next week, but I know that I'll be in better shape than if I had done nothing! And I did do almost nothing, almost, but not quite. I can hear some people saying "Fruits and Vegetables are expensive, I can't afford them." My answer to that is, don't forget you will be eating less of other items that are expensive too - red meat, fast food, snacks etc. And if you choose the fruits and vegetables that are in season, it won't be so bad. Sure if you buy the first strawberries of the season you pay a lot, but wait for a week or two and the price drops by a half. Cruise the grocery section of your favorite store or supermarket and you will find some fruits and vegetables cost less than others! To keep your costs down, buy the cheaper ones! What a novel idea! If you eat what is in season you can easily cut your produce bill in half, or more.
Money, If you save nothing, at the end of ten years you will have - nothing. Need I say more? Maybe I don't need to, but I think I will. Julia and I lived frugally, we tried to live below our means, saving as much as we could. Unfortunately we had a disaster happen in our lives and things did not work out as well as we had hoped. (Julia was badly injured in an accident, that changed our lives, and the lives of many others.) But we would have been even worse off if we had not already been in the habit of living below our means. That fact alone probably saved us from going bankrupt. Absent that fact, I think we would have been in a different place than we are now. Even without Julia's earning power - which was considerable, I was considering quitting my job and working on Julia's business when the accident happened - we still managed to travel the world and buy several houses. Of course the latest economic bust and the unfortunate meeting of a builder who took us for a lot of money finished our dream of an easy retirement. But again, if we had not lived below our means how much worse off would we have been?
The whole point of this story is that a lot of trivial things can add up to something big. If you could live on 10% less than you do now and put that 10% away, even with just a small interest rate, you would have at a minimum a years pay in the bank after just 8 years! And you can do better than that, when you get a raise, put that away, or at least some of it, a windfall, put that away, or at least some of it. Using my experience, I would have to say, diversify. We put almost all of our savings into property, at the time that seemed to be, "A sure thing", or as the saying went, "They aren't making any more land". Well as we now know, nothing is certain, or a sure thing. If I could go back, I would diversify more. Try to learn from my experience. Sure, buy property, but also some stocks - not one or two, spread it around - bonds, again spread it, I don't think you could go wrong with some gold. So 'diversify' seems to me to be the word.
Another "word" is Goals. A small word but a big concept. It's amazing what the human mind can do if it is set on the right path. Do you know about goals? If not it would be well worth your time to learn the theory. I will give you a quick example. You set a goal, if you do it right your brain will make sure that it is accomplished! Obviously the goal has to be possible, it is no good saying "I will walk to the Moon" , not possible. But, "I will lose weight", for example is possible. But not if that is all you say. To make it possible and to ensure that it will happen you have to make the goal one that you can do. For example, you have to be specific in all aspects. If you say "I will lose weight", but don't say how much, you can still be saying "I'll lose weight", 10 years from now! And saying, "It didn't work". If you say "I will lose 10 pounds" that is better but still not good enough, 10 years from now your goal is still to lose 10 pounds, you just haven't accomplished it! BUT, if you say ,"I will lose 10 pounds by July 15, 2010", all of a sudden something happens. You cannot fail. You write it down and put it where you can see it every day, in your wallet, on your bathroom mirror, on your refrigerator. Now there is no way you can fail, your body now KNOWS what it has to do, It has a goal. You will be amazed, your mind now takes over and sure enough by July 15th 2010 you will have lost 10 pounds. Notice that it is doable, if you weighed 200lbs and said you would lose 100lbs by July 15 2010, it ain't going to happen! It has to be possible, you have to specify the amount and the deadline. Try it, it's fun, if you don't need to lose weight, maybe you need to save some money for something, or you'd like to be able to run a mile in 5 minutes, or who knows - whatever you want to do, it is possible in small increments. Little tiny bits will add up to something big.
Have a great Christmas, and a wonderful New Year. Tell me about your goals, what you did in 2010, what you accomplished and will accomplish. (If you go for goals, you need short term, mid term and long term goals. What fun! Yes it really is.) Love from David.
P.S. I f you are interested, I wrote a short piece entitled "Half", it tells how to live on half, and how we did it. Just ask me and I'll e-mail it to you.