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For those of us that celebrate and haven’t realized it yet, Christmas is about 2 ½ weeks away. Up until yesterday, I was completely in the dark on this, and I know I’m not alone. Didn’t I just carve a turkey last week? Didn’t the pool just close a few weeks before that? Maybe they changed the date this year.

Saturday, my family participated in our annual drive out to the country in search of this year’s Christmas tree. Yes, we pass several tree farms on the way and countless tree lots, but it’s something we truly enjoy every year. Some light snowfall and a great stock of trees made this year’s trip that much richer.

Sunday brought another favorite tradition, lunch with Santa Claus. For my four year old, when Santa walks in the room, time stops. Clifford, Curious George and Sid the Science Kid (think Clooney, Roberts or Hanks for the uninitiated) could appear in the flesh and she wouldn’t take her eyes off the big man for a second. She spent close to a month preparing her list and planning the precise words she’d say. When she arrived in St. Nick’s lap, she just stared and smiled. We finally had to approach her and remind her of some of the things she hopes to find under the tree.

I don’t want to make this too much of the clichéd “remember what’s important this time of year” blog, but I’m afraid that’s exactly where I’m headed. I won’t pretend this will be the year we all admit that the gifts are truly unnecessary and just another way to fill the basement, attic, or storage unit with more Stuff (it deserves a capital S these days). There’s little that can be done to stop the precious moments captured this weekend from being quickly replaced by mad dashes to various stores, outlets and kiosks all to make sure every “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed. But, much like financial planning, small incremental improvements and regular reminders about which of our goals are truly important can have a dramatic impact in shifting our focus in the long term.

In the meantime, I hope this reaches you all early enough in the season to take it to heart. Truly enjoy the experiences you have with your family, friends and others around you. Worry less about the Stuff and more about the moment. When thinking of unique gifts, give the gift of time, whether it’s dinner and a play, a sporting event or some other outing, the experiences we share with those we care about truly do make the best gifts of all. There is no whatzit, whirligig or doohickey that could possibly bring as much joy.

For my last blog of 2010, I mostly just want to wish you all a very happy holiday season and best wishes for health, happiness and balance throughout the year. We appreciate you taking the time to read the blog and hope that, at least on occasion, the topics discussed provide real value, whether financial, health related or just as a good time to reflect for you and those around you.

Chip Workman, CFP®