Apprise’s Five Favorite Reads for the Week of November 19, 2023

five favorite reads family traditions
Our five favorite reads from the past two weeks. Plus: an intro on "When to Keep or Replace Family Traditions."

When to Keep or Replace Family Traditions

This week the holiday season arrives in full force. Like my family, many of you will travel to spend the holiday with your family. We will drive to New Jersey. Some of you will drive; others will fly to their destinations. Perhaps you are hosting this year.

Family holidays also come with family traditions. For many, these family traditions represent a beloved part of our holiday celebrations.

But that may not last forever.

Just because your family has been doing something for years doesn’t mean you should keep doing it. As your family changes, your traditions need to change and adapt, too. Otherwise, you risk making your holidays more frustrating than festive.

For example, when I first met my wife, my mother-in-law hosted upwards of 60 people for Thanksgiving. This number fell over time, but extended family and friends were still included. After she passed away, one of my brothers-in-law agreed to host. He cut back on the number of invitees. With a few exceptions, he and his wife limited the invite list to immediate family. That made the group more manageable. It also makes it easier to include future spouses, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews in the years to come with a chance of still keeping the overall group size manageable.

Here are three signs that it might be time to retire or update old family traditions and start making new memories that will benefit everyone’s life plan this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Before sharing the three signs, I would like to express my gratitude to you. If you’re an Apprise client, thank you for your faith and trust. I appreciate the opportunity to work with you and to help you live your most fulfilled life.

For readers, thank you for reading and caring enough to open and read these emails.

Now it’s your turn. Express your gratitude to someone this week. Bonus points if it’s someone you’ve never expressed gratitude to before.

I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! May you enjoy time with family and friends and share some special memories and traditions. Perhaps you can start some new traditions as well.


1. Let’s be honest … No one likes this.

A casserole based on great-great grandma’s recipe that everyone sort of picks at. The party game that always leads to fighting. Trudging out in the snow to chop down your own Christmas tree. The off-color jokes or stories that make half your guests uncomfortable.

Maybe there was a time when these activities were novel ways for your family to spend time together or honor your past. Perhaps the people who introduced these traditions loved them. But traditions that don’t inspire feelings of happiness and togetherness in everyone aren’t going to bring your family closer together during the holidays. And things you do because you feel like you have to aren’t traditions – they’re obligations. Work up the courage to talk about putting some traditions to rest and you’ll probably find more relief than hurt feelings.

2. It’s just too hard.

Has Thanksgiving dinner at grandma’s house been a family tradition for years? Perhaps grandma is a fantastic cook, who prides herself on planning out the meal, buying all the ingredients, and making every dish from scratch. No one else is allowed near the kitchen – that’s part of the magic.

But Grandma isn’t as young as she used to be. Preparing to host multiple generations of her family and fill an expanding dinner table gets a little more stressful and a little harder every year. And by the time she’s pouring coffee and cutting pie, Grandma is too tired to spend time enjoying her family’s company.

This could be the year everyone chips in for a catered holiday meal so grandma can relax with everyone else. Or everyone pitches in and helps. You could prepare your favorite dish this year and mix up the menu a little bit, too. And if any of your other rituals around wrapping presents, decorating, or baking cookies no longer fit in with your holiday schedule, don’t feel bad about cutting a few corners, calling in some extra help, or even paying someone else to do the work. The time you save will be more time you’ll have to share with your loved ones, which might lead to new holiday traditions.

3. Not everyone feels included.

As your family grows, it will become more diverse – generationally, culturally, racially, and/or religiously. It’s unrealistic to expect every tradition to mean the same thing to everybody. But family gatherings that are inclusive and welcoming also tend to be the warmest and least contentious.

Maybe instead of ending some traditions, your family should consider making room for new ones that honor every branch of your tree. Ask children, teens, and new family members about activities they’d like to see incorporated into your holiday celebrations. Consider starting an annual charitable initiative that everyone can get behind, such as supporting your local food bank or contributing to a holiday toy drive. Plus, letting a few new faces into the kitchen could liven up the menu at your family gatherings throughout the year.

One “tradition” many folks would love to get rid of is stressing about money during the holidays. Our Life Planning process can help you create a holiday spending plan that fits with the rest of your financial goals and sets you up to start 2024 on the right foot. Get in touch and let’s schedule a review meeting. If we’re not working together yet, and you would like to get started, schedule an introductory call.

This Week’s Favorite Reads

This week’s favorite reads highlight topics such as the “Widow’s Penalty” that a surviving spouse must confront, the potential benefits of financial fasting, and poor speech etiquette. As always, please schedule a free call if we can help you with issues related to your finances or your life plan.

Here are the links to this week’s articles as well as a brief description of each:

1. Don’t Let the ‘Widow’s Penalty’ Blindside You: How to Prepare.

When it comes to taxes, consider your lifetime tax obligation rather than what you may pay in a particular year. Remember that when one spouse passes away, the filing status of the surviving spouse changes from married filing jointly, to Qualifying Widow(er), to single. Qualifying Widow(er) status only applies for two years following the year of death. Because of the “Widow’s Penalty,” the surviving spouse could pay nearly double the amount of taxes that the married couple did.

The surviving spouse will have less income as, at a minimum, one of the couple’s Social Security benefits will go away. She will also have a smaller standard deduction. Most likely, she will also pay more in taxes. Proper planning, such as Roth conversions, which I discussed in this blog can help. The Widow’s Penalty can have a material impact as it can cost the surviving spouse a lot of money. As suggested in the article, you can argue that it represents the tax code’s way of penalizing those who have saved and suffered the misfortune of having a spouse pass early.

2. People with ‘poor speech etiquette’ always use these 7 ‘rude’ phrases, says public speaking expert.

We communicate with others every day. Unfortunately, sometimes we will be put off, or even worse, offended by things we hear. Even worse, something we say can rub someone the wrong way. The author of this article, a public speaking trainer, urges people to think carefully about their listeners before speaking. We can’t evaluate every word ahead of time. We can, at least, be aware of phrases that keep us from communicating effectively. In addition to the seven “rude” phrases, the author suggests what to say instead.

3. Financial Fasting Can Trim the Fat From Your Spending.

You have probably heard about the supposed benefits associated with fasting for physical health. Does fasting have possible benefits in other areas of life? Would you consider taking a day or even a week off from spending? What would be the benefits? It could help you free up cash to pay down debt or increase your savings.What if it helped you better align your purchase decisions with your values? It could help you reinvest in your relationships as well. If you think a financial fast could help you, check out the article for some suggestions on how to get started. Remember that change may not come overnight though.

4. 27 Things I’ve Learned From 150 Million Podcast Downloads.

There’s a reason articles such as this one often generate considerable interest among readers. Find a smart person who’s willing to share lessons they’ve learned, read those lessons, and consider implementing or following them. Some of my favorites follow:

“A person who is afraid to strike out, afraid to miss, afraid to fail is a person who will not succeed.”

“Guilt is in the past, and the one thing you cannot change is the past.”

On being a parent: “You have to be the kind of man that you want them to be. You have to become the kind of human being that you want them to become.”

In summing up his experiences, the author closes with this: “… we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. That reason? To listen more than we talk.” He then adds, “To learn from people who can teach us. To find something that makes us better.”

I recommend checking out the article for more great pearls of wisdom.

5. A One-Time Financial Plan: Valuable or Dangerous?

When I first launched Apprise, I offered one-time financial plans. But I no longer do that. Like the author, I find an ongoing planning relationship more valuable. This applies to both me and Apprise’s clients. There are a couple of reasons for that belief. One relates to the planning process itself. A financial plan includes numerous assumptions. Neither you nor I can forecast what will happen in the stock market with any consistency. You can’t predict all the decisions you will make in the future either. Your health could change. You may have different priorities. How you earn money could change, too.

A one-time financial plan can help at that moment. Ongoing financial planning matters much more if you want something that will adapt when you or the world around you – diverges from what you originally expected. In the spirit of full transparency, the other reason for the change relates to a basic business principle. A successful business grows over time. If you do one-time work for clients, that means you must find more than one new client relative to each client for whom you create a one-time financial plan.

Our practice continues to benefit from referrals from our clients and friends. Thank you for your trust and confidence.

If you would like to talk to us about financial topics including your investments, creating your life plan, saving for college, or saving for retirement, please complete our contact form or schedule a call or a virtual meeting via Zoom. We will be in touch.

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