It’s a anonymous quote that elicits a smiling, “Oh, yes!” “Dear Lord, my prayer for 2013 is a fat bank account and a thin body. Please don’t mix these up like you did this year.”
The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions comes from Babylonian times, where the most popular resolution was to return farm equipment. A New Year’s toast also has roots in antiquity. The Greeks and Romans poured wine from a common pitcher to be shared by guests. Wine then was not as smooth as what we drink today. A piece of square burned bread or toast would be floated in the wine to absorb excess acidity. Since poisoning wine at times was used to dispatch enemies, the host would take the first sip, raising a glass to assure guests of safety. Hence, a toast, sans burned bread, as friends gather to partake!
In many ancient cultures celebration of a new year was tied to the planting cycle and the spring equinox. The month of January did not exist until around 700 B.C., when it was added by the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, who also tacked February onto the calendar. Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. introduced an innovative solar-based calendar, decreeing that the new year start on January 1. This brought the observance close to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, long the focus of pagan traditions.
In our post-industrial society, an agrarian gesture of returned farm equipment is not a popular resolution. As basic needs for most people are satisfied, resolutions center on lifestyle and self-improvement. Among the top resolutions is spending more time with family and friends, one frequently undone by intrusions of work and the daily round. But we try!
Physical fitness is big and gyms suddenly are crowded in January. We want to get fit, drop weight, battle the bulge, jog or play tennis more. Improving health is a quest—healthier eating, drinking less, stopping smoking. Among aging boomers demand for knee and hip replacements is soaring. What is that thing advertised on television—a lifestyle lift?
We may resolve to enjoy life more—pursue a new hobby or get back to an old one; travel; learn or try something new; seek culture; find a gourmet Chinese restaurant; complete a long delayed project.
Self-improvement is popular...a better job, more education, manage and relieve stress, pursue a spiritual quest. We may better “love our neighbor” by volunteering, helping others, closing a circle through forgiveness.
We may determine to change our relationship with money. We may reduce debt, save more, build our Freedom Fund. How about enough safe and liquid capital so that you and your family could live for at least a year with no change in lifestyle if your income was interrupted? How about putting in place a comprehensive financial plan that sets investment goals that are actualized? Add to the list: write or update your will(s), powers of attorney for assets and health care, advanced directives. Put adequate insurance in place—life, health, disability, liability, long term care. Check existing policies. Will they hold up? Are beneficiary designations correct and up-to-date?
Do you have a defined Investment Policy that deals with time frames, risk, taxes, inflation, and diversification? Do you have a plan to get children educated and out of the nest? Have you defined what retirement really means, and what it will cost? Are you concerned about aging parents? If you are a “seasoned citizen” do your adult children know your wishes relative to the “what if?” questions? Have you faced the realities of health care and longevity planning?
What do you want to see accomplished by the end of 2013? Is there a plan to get you there? Who is on your team?
Oprah Winfrey said, “Cheers to the new year and another chance to get it right.” A toast to you!
Lewis Walker is President of Walker Capital Management LLC and Walker Capital Advisory Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor (R.I.A.) Securities and certain advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker and Mike Hostetler are registered representatives of SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with the Walker Capital Companies.