October 16, 2015

THINGS I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT

Posted in Financial Planning tagged , , , , , , at 3:09 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

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Elle Décor, one of my favorite magazines, provides me with inspiration, creativity, color and design. Each issue has a one-page article, “12 Things <Name> Can’t Live Without” that features a well-known designer with descriptions and photos of their favorite things. The list usually includes at least one museum or vacation destination along with books, clothing, cars, scents, restaurants, wines and jewelry.

We recently had a discussion in our office about the difference between money and wealth. We could also have a conversation about the difference between surviving and living. We all know the basic needs for survival:  oxygen, water, food, shelter, sleep. But to live life to the fullest, to thrive and grow we need more than the basics.

After reading a recent issue of Elle Décor, I started my own list of “things I can’t live without.” By adding photos and descriptions to a page in my Evernote app, it has evolved into a Gratitude Journal.

A friend has increased my enthusiasm for the venture by adding her “Daily Delight” posts to Facebook. She recently posted DD#937!

Making an intentional effort to recognize things for which I am grateful increases the likelihood that I will meet my goal of living life to the fullest.

August 20, 2015

The Science of Happiness

Posted in Financial Planning at 2:45 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

 prism

I love science and all things scientific. One of the most significant influences in my business life has been the adoption of a scientific approach to investing. Using the research of Nobel Prize winners has helped our clients achieve their financial goals. I make it a point to read, research, and apply the findings of science to every aspect of my life.

What a thrill to find a scientific approach to happiness. It all started with a presentation by Henry S. Miller at a conference for financial advisors. He tells us that his book, The Serious Pursuit of Happiness, was written to be a prescriptive, one-stop happiness shop with everything you need to know to begin living a happier and more fulfilling life.

The ultimate promise of the book is to provide the reader with everything psychologists, researchers, and other scientists around the world have found that people need to know to thrive. The paths and actions recommended are all substantively research-based.

His approach was to “research the research” and then use the findings as the basis for his writing. He includes published findings from over four decades of happiness research, the latest research from the newest branch of psychology, positive psychology, which is the scientific study of what is good about people and life, and the latest breakthroughs in biology, genetics, and neuro-science.

His synthesis of all this research leads to six imperatives:

  • Seek pleasure within limits
  • Intentionally think happy
  • Intentionally act happy
  • Become a better person
  • Embrace Loving Connections
  • Make a meaningful contribution

His simple wish is to help as many people as possible live happier and more fulfilling lives – while also helping to popularize the new and promising field and research of positive psychology.

Henry S. Miller is President of the Henry Miller Group, LLC, an organization transformation training and consulting firm dedicated to helping individuals, companies, and other organizations improve performance and productivity specifically by increasing the levels of individual well-being.

The Serious Pursuit of Happiness: Everything You Need to Know to Flourish and Thrive. Wisdom House Media, 2013.

January 2, 2015

The Question

Posted in Behavioral Finance, Financial Planning tagged at 9:51 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

When someone inquires about our services, we schedule a Discovery Meeting to learn more about them. At the end of that meeting I always ask the following question:

         Suppose it is a year from now.  What would have to happen during that year for you to look back and say that hiring Alpha as your financial guide was one of the best decisions you ever made?

I thought it was a unique way to get clarification on what Alpha needs to do to make sure goals are realized.

Then I came across a copy of a little book by Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach, who writes about this question:

If we were having this discussion three years from today, and you were looking back over those three years, what has to have happened in your life, both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?

The Dan Sullivan Question: just asking will change your life / Dan Sullivan / Toronto, Canada 2011

Entering the New Year is another great opportunity to look ahead and imagine the end of 2015. What would have to happen for you to be happy? Years ago, Janice Gantt led the first of what became an annual ritual for many of her friends. Janice would guide each of us to write a letter to ourselves in the first person as if it was the end of the year. The letter covered many aspects of our lives – personal, professional, emotional, spiritual, and physical. As we were writing she would quietly suggest topics and ideas to inspire us to think about what was really meaningful to us. Of course, if you knew Janice, you would guess that she included lots of ideas to have fun along the way. Even though Janice was taken from us by cancer, many of us continue the ritual of writing a letter, sealing it in an envelope and asking someone to mail it to us the day after Thanksgiving. I will write my letter this weekend.

February 1, 2013

KNOWING WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW . . .

Posted in Behavioral Finance, Financial Planning, Investments, Women and Money at 5:33 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

Apple for Blog

According to the Bible, hunger for knowledge is what got Adam and Eve into a heap of trouble.  One bite of the apple and so began the bad dream that has tormented us ever since:  namely, finding ourselves trying to explain ourselves to the Boss when we are stark naked.

Unfortunately, not much more was heard from the first couple after their exile.  It’s only now, many millenniums later, that social scientists are discovering that the acquisition of knowledge may have affected the original man and woman in very different ways.   The field of behavioral finance suggests that Adam left the Garden of Eden with a superabundance of confidence, whereas his formerly domineering wife began to seriously doubt herself.

A 1997 study by Beyer and Bowden found that women are less confident about what they know relative to what can be known. Their confidence crisis becomes particularly acute when the “domain is male-oriented.”

Finance, and investing in particular, is certainly one such testosterone-rich domain.  Male investment advisors outnumber female advisors by as much as 4 to 1.  Male investors are more active than women investors, spending more time on security analysis, trading more, and expecting higher returns than do women.  In contrast, a majority of women in a 2005 Merrill Lynch survey said they preferred to spend as little time as possible managing their investments.

But here’s a surprising fact: for all their aversion to investing, women may, in fact, be better at it than men!  A University of California study in 2001 showed that women’s risk-adjusted investment returns beat men’s by an average of 1 percent as a result of their inherent caution.  They trade less, require more information before they invest, and are more apt to learn from their mistakes

Confident investing is critical to women’s financial security.  Their longer lives and lower earnings mean that their portfolios must work much harder than men’s.  Investment success does not – contrary to what most women think – require mastery of vast amounts of technical information, but knowledge of a few basic facts: 

  • Markets are fundamentally risky: no one can know for sure how investments will perform.
  • This risk creates opportunity for higher returns.  A wise investor seeks to manage this risk rather than eliminate it.
  • It’s also prudent to admit that you are not smarter than the next guy or gal.  Once you’ve accepted the fact that you are just an average investor, the idea of average returns begins to make sense.  These returns are available with mutual funds designed to replicate the performance of the broad markets or sectors.  In other words, they do what the market is doing, not more, not less.  But over time, they do a lot better than the individual investor who shoots for the rafters, or hides out in “safe” investments.
  • By being average, and holding average investments, you avoid high expenses, but more importantly, above-average losses.

Ironically, knowing what you don’t know may be the smartest investing strategy of all.   This awareness should inspire more women into taking more risk and becoming more engaged, active investors, as opposed to keeping them on the sidelines.  They don’t need to invest like men to succeed in this male-dominated arena.

Investing like a girl will do just fine.

September 6, 2012

Conventions and Change

Posted in Financial Planning at 1:43 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

Growing up in West Virginia with my brother and sister, we shared chores. Ironing was one of my favorites for several reasons. I thought it was the easiest of all the jobs, and I got to listen to the radio while ironing. In the summer, it was usually Waite Hoyt giving play-by-play descriptions of the Cincinnati Reds and fascinating stories during rain delays. I recently enjoyed the write up about Waite in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waite_Hoyt).

Summer time also brought political convention coverage to the radio. Again there were play-by-play descriptions of the delegates engaged in discussion and debate. Back then the candidates for president and vice-president were chosen by the delegates who were elected by the state in an election or at the state convention. There was a lot of anticipation and speculation about who would be chosen to represent their party in the November election. I loved listening to the roll calls as each state would do a commercial about their home. Some of them were very creative and entertaining. It was fun to imagine the hushed conversations in the smoky backrooms where the decisions and compromises were made.  I could see myself attending a convention when I grew up. Changes have occurred over the years, so that now we know far in advance of the conventions who will run. Having a competitive nature, I have lost my desire to attend a convention with a pre-selected nominee.

We are all told that change is good and that we should go with the flow, but sometimes it is easier said than done. I recently read that change is hard and that thinking more about change as transition can ease the pain. Here at Alpha we work with people who are going through a variety of changes. Some of the changes are hard: divorce, death, retirement, changing careers. We want to help our clients visualize what they can experience after the transformation has evolved and plan for the change as a transition to something attractive while making the journey as joyful as possible.

PS – After writing about Waite Hoyt, an internet-search for a recording of his voice led me to an 85-minute documentary “Waite’s World” directed and narrated by Donn Burrows at www.docustreet.com.

 

August 14, 2012

O Sport

Posted in Financial Planning tagged , , , at 11:31 am by Iris Mack Dayoub

“O Sport, you are Beauty! … O Sport, you are Justice! … O Sport, you are Happiness! The body trembles in bliss upon hearing your call! …”

— Baron Pierre de Coubertin

Many of my friends will be surprised when I tell them that one of my favorite competitions in the 2012 Olympics was Poetry. Yes, poetry. Thanks to NPR for reviving the tradition.

Poetry and sport went hand in hand at athletic festivals in the days of the ancient Greeks and during the Modern Olympics from 1896 to 1948. According to Tony Perrottet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games, the ancient Greeks very much sought perfection in the body and the intellect. Poets of the Greek world would set up stalls or stand on boxes to orate their new work at the Olympic Games.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the games in 1896, included music, painting, architecture, and poetry on the Olympic roster. He even anonymously entered his own poem called “Ode to Sport” which won the gold medal in 1912.

This year NPR invited poets to compose original works celebrating athletes and athletics. The first week of the Olympics a new poem was introduced each morning on Morning Edition, giving the audience an opportunity to judge who should win the victor’s laurel crown. The winner was announced on Friday of the last week of the Olympics.

You can read and/or listen to all of the poems along with interviews of the poets on www.npr.com.

Here’s my favorite, Swim Your Own Race, written by South African poet Mbali Vilakazi, a tribute to South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, the first female amputee ever to qualify for the Olympic Games.

There is life here

Beneath the surface tension
of shattered
bones, dreams and splintered muscles
things broken
and those that may never be replaced.

Pulling the weight of it,
you do not tread the water wounded
and in retreat

By the determined strokes of fate
you swim your own race
The shoulder of your strength leaning
against the turn —
the eye that didn’t see that day,
stopping the clock on the vision of your time.
You continue to beat
into the heart of the spectacle
Manchester City, Beijing, Athens and London.

In no ordinary silence
do we watch
our own feared hopes waking
enthralled
and now, breathless
in awe —
you are unforgettable.

Woman of scars, and triumph
the dance is fluid
unexpected
tears of loss flowing
towards your many firsts
You are the Order of Ikhamanga
in gold.
A flower,
beautiful and unique
among the baobabs of the land

Your shape shifting,
The disabled-abled body
A quest
untempered by its tests —

“if you want to get there, you go on”

You have already won
You always do
And we do too

We are the believers.

The message in its possibility:

A new freestyle,
Long distance
And in your own lane.

March 27, 2012

BALANCE BY SUBTRACTING

Posted in Financial Planning tagged , at 4:30 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

Its 7:15 a.m. and the leader of the group starts the meeting with a question for all the attendees. Doesn’t sound like fun; but after a cup of coffee, the laughter and retrospection starts as each of us gets a turn to answer.

A few weeks ago the question was: What one thing do you do to maintain balance in your life?

When I think of balance I immediately remember the hours I spent on a seesaw during recess while in elementary school. Two things can happen to make a seesaw balance:  add some weight to the light side or remove something from the heavy side.

Almost all of the responses to the question at that early morning meeting were of the “addition” type. Several people use yoga, another prayer, and some mentioned meditation along with some hilarious ways to unwind

What if taking something off the agenda or removing something from the “To Do” list was an option?

Subtraction possibilities:

  • Emails with “Fwd:” in the subject line
  • Meetings with no purpose
  • Angry Birds

Let me know what you are subtracting.

February 22, 2012

WATER

Posted in About Us, Retirement tagged , , , , at 6:27 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

 “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

I recently had the privilege of spending a week with friends who a few years ago sold most of their belongings and took up residence on a boat, the Tusen Takk II. Tusen Takk is Norwegian for a “thousand thanks.”

Never have I slept so well as when I claimed the top cabin for my bedroom where the seas rocked me to sleep every night.

The adventure, one of those on my bucket list, was even more fun and entertaining than I could have ever imagined. I learned a lot about boat-life, the Caribbean and the islands. One of the most striking lessons was learning how to conserve water. Like most of us landlubbers, I had heard and read about the importance of water conservation, but I had never really paid much attention. Returning home I thought more about the use of water and am continuing to practice – hopefully, developing some long-lasting habits about the way I use water. 

Thinking about water, I recalled reading about water as a commodity and decided to do a little research. Water is a hot topic here in Savannah as the debate continues about the deepening of the Savannah River. Last Sunday I learned more about the potential frailty of our local rivers at a meeting of the Ogeechee River Keepers .

The Sierra Club is leading a drive to make sure water does not become a commodity and continues to be a human right.

Here are some photos taken during my delightful, memorable excursion on the Tusen Takk II.

These links will take you to the website for the Tusen Takk II and their blog about our visit.

 Tusen Takk to my gracious hosts!

January 9, 2012

TIME TO THINK

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 10:27 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

Time to Think

We have a tradition here at Alpha to read and share books with each other – sort of like a book club or reading group. Last year, at the suggestion of Cheryl Holland (Abacus Planning Group), we spent several weeks reading and talking about the book, Time to Think, by Nancy Kline. Everyone here agrees that the book has impacted both their business and personal lives. One of the results has been a change in the way we run meetings by creating a thinking environment.

Time to Think is a comprehensive discussion of a timely, elegant theory:

  • Everything we do depends for its quality on the thinking we do first.
  • Our thinking depends on the quality of our attention for each other.
  • Thinking at its best is not just a cool act of cerebration. It is also a thing of the heart.
  • A  Thinking Environment is the set of ten conditions under which human beings can think for themselves – with rigor, imagination, courage and grace.
  • Listening of this caliber ignites the human mind.
  • Between you and the wellspring of good ideas is a limiting assumption. The assumption can be removed with an Incisive Question.
  • Incisive Questions increase the functional intelligence of human beings.
  • A Thinking Environment is natural, but rare. It has been squeezed out of our lives and organizations by inferior ways of treating each other.
  • Organizations, families and relationships can become Thinking Environments again, where good ideas abound, action follows and people flourish.

We learned how to be Thinking Partners for each other and to offer each other Thinking Sessions which bring about rapid and dependable personal development. We found that the process works, that ideas turn into action more quickly and confidently, and most of all that the logic and beauty of the process is enjoyable.

Here are the ten components of a Thinking Environment:

Attention  Listening with respect, interest and fascination.

Incisive Questions  Removing assumptions that limit ideas.

Equality  Treating each other as thinking peers.

  • Giving equal turns and attention.
  • Keeping agreements and boundaries.

Appreciation  Practicing a five-to-one ratio of appreciation to criticism.

Ease  Offering freedom from rush or urgency.

Encouragement  Moving beyond competition.

Feelings  Allowing sufficient emotional release to restore thinking.

Information  Providing a full and accurate picture of reality.

Place  Creating a physical environment that says back to people, “You matter.”

Diversity  Adding quality because of the differences between us.

One of the most valuable and exciting aspects of Time to Think for me personally was learning how to create a Thinking Environment for myself. More ideas that work are emerging.

Kline, Nancy. Time to Think: Listening to ignite the human mind.London,UK: Cassell Illustrated, 1999

February 3, 2011

SHOULD

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:35 pm by Iris Mack Dayoub

Here it is Thursday of week 5 and I was slated to Blog on Monday. Annual reports got in the way! In the process I learned more about myself, especially how I handle impatience with technology that does not work exactly the way I think it should when I think it should. Oh no! There’s that word “should” again. Remember the song: Don’t should on me and I won’t should on you? A friend taught me that song many years ago while we were facilitating a course on Tithing at our church. Using my Thesaurus I looked for some alternatives — supposed to, ought to, must – all words that don’t leave me much leeway.

Following the Artist’s Way at Work and writing Morning Pages is leading me to think more creatively, to look for more than one way to do something or search for various ways to think about certain situations. One of the hardest things for me to do is to stay focused on a desired outcome instead of precise action steps. There is usually more than one way to get to the outcome. The actions steps can take many different forms. There isn’t any one way that it SHOULD be done. I learned this week that getting annual reports to our clients was the desired outcome and that there were lots of ways to get that done. I stopped “shoulding” on myself and actually had some fun with my creativity.

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