Holidays in the U.S. are often characterized by heaps of presents beneath lighted trees, decadent meals and goodie-stuffed stockings hung over the fireplace. Some money management gurus, though, say this could be the year that sound economic sense bucks commercial tradition.
In 2012, more families have less spending money due to an unstable market and continued slow recovery from the major recession. According to renowned East-Coast financial planner Jason Wheeler, now’s the ideal time to use funds marked for holiday shopping in the present as a gift for the future. He encourages gifting college savings accounts, retirement funds, or, perhaps most beneficial, the gift of a legacy. The CEO of Pathfinder Wealth Consulting, Wheeler said his reasoning is very simple.
“While tangible gifts might put temporary smiles on faces come Christmas morning,” he explained, “it’s the emotional gifts: creatively sharing family history with the grandchildren, sifting through family mementos and telling stories of their ancestors that will make the greatest impact – on hearts rather than wallets.”
Wheeler cited a recent study that supports his theory. Allianz, a leading provider of retirement solutions, found that 77 percent of both Baby Boomers and their aging parents embrace the idea of leaving behind a “legacy” as opposed to the 10 percent of boomers who feel financial assets are an important part of their inheritance.
“Around this time of year, many shoppers are in the mindset of finding the best deals and purchasing an unnecessary amount of presents because it is just ‘something that you do,’” Wheeler said. “However, this reveals a disconnect between the actual wants of families. Why place yourself in a financial straitjacket when you can choose to share values instead of valuables – something that both generations agreed is more important?”
To that end, Wheeler offers suggestions on how to save money while staying true to family traditions. It may be unrealistic to forget about presents entirely during the holidays, he explained, but emphasizing the simple joy of sharing a special time with loved ones is a major change for the better.
“Start a new, financially responsible tradition where everyone receives a set number of presents, but all join in around the fire listening to great history and life lessons from elders,” Wheeler said. “So yes, by all means purchase that iPad Mini; but the knowledge and words of family will probably leave a longer-lasting impact than the game system you gave away or received at Christmas back in 2012.”
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