Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Being Selfish For Christmas

In this traditional season of holiday giving, how can “being selfish for Christmas” possibly be worth considering?

We make so many unconscious choices with money throughout the year, but during the holidays, no sooner does the mania of Black Friday strike, than we race out to shop. We spend because others bought us something last year. We buy for people at the periphery of our social or business network. We buy because we can’t disappoint the kids, or our friends’ or relatives’ kids. Pretty soon we have a buy list a mile long and are thinking about how we can get it done in the least amount of time for the least amount of money. Where is the joy in that?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stressed Out About Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner?

Preparing Thanksgiving dinner can be stressful and chaotic, in a fun sort of way, as you orchestrate what can be a very complicated meal. Late arrivals need drinks. Is the turkey almost done? What goes into the oven next? Is the wine open? Find another place setting. “Why did I ever agree to do this?” might actually cross your mind. 

Here are a few tips to manage and even enjoy that last hour before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Workshop at Civic Center at noon today

FYI, I'm doing a short workshop on how we make financial decisions today at noon at the Civic Center. It is for my Toastmasters group. Please come check it out! Room #330.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Tyranny of "I Should"

Recently when the subject of financial planning came up, a woman said to me, “I really should do that.”

I was staring at my computer one afternoon, thinking about the pervasive effect of the phrase “I should . . .” on our daily lives. It almost doesn’t matter what follows those words, “I should . . .” – lose weight, do my taxes, get the car fixed – whatever it is, the phrase which masquerades as motivation so often has the opposite effect – of inducing procrastination. It can make us feel as though someone else is trying to impose his or her will on us. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Farmer's market tip: these shell beans are becoming more plentiful at the market. The ones in the picture are cranberry beans. They are delicious and easy to prepare. Just cook in salted water at a soft boil for fifteen minutes or so. Then add them to your favorite salad. I like to add diced tomato, chopped garlic, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Or, try an anchovy dressing! Add green and yellow beans. Alternatively, serve them hot with fresh tomato sauce and herbs. They are a great accompaniment to roast or grilled leg of lamb.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Best Way to Grow And Preserve Wealth?

“Buy and hold is dead!” critics claim.
Once believed to be the best way for investors to accumulate wealth over the long term, “buy and hold” portfolios took a pounding in the recent bear market. The cries came out loud and clear that the old truth was wrong and "buy and hold" as an investment strategy was dead. 

Let's take a closer look at just what buy and hold means, as it pertains to investing.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

I Will Never Date A Purple Potato

I remember when purple potatoes first started showing up in the markets…probably the early 80’s. I recall having a funny first impression of them. Purple wasn’t a ‘natural’ food color was it? They couldn’t look good next to a steak, could they?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jeff’s Emotions & Money Reading List

Here are some of my favorites on the fascinating topic of emotions and money. If you are interested in exploring this subject, you will surely find something worthwhile and fun to read. I strongly urge you to try some of the exercises offered in the books. Self-learning really happens when you “do the work.” 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer Bread Salad

This salad is best with some really ripe and juicy tomatoes. Unfortunately it seems it hasn’t been quite hot enough yet. I picked my tomatoes up a few days in advance and let them ripen a little on the counter. With that minor caveat, this is a favorite salad of mine and other family members as well. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Inspired Not "Retired"

I wrote this article a couple of years ago, but I like the idea…looking at retirement from a perspective of an opportunity to reinvent our lives. But, it could also apply to how we are living right now. People "in transition" or those wishing life were different might find something worthwhile here. 

Inspired, Not “Retired”
“When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.”
-- Lao Tzu

Monday, August 20, 2012

SAT/ACT prep for parents!?! Well yes. Better grades and test scores = easier to get funding for college. Free event in Corte Madera September 20th. I think you will find this extremely valuable!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Does a Financial Planner Do?

In the “old days,” investors turned to stockbrokers for help with investing. Over the last 20 years a new approach to investing has emerged, replacing the stockbroker model. A key element of the change involves the role of the financial planner (notice that the title “stockbroker” has quietly slipped out of favor.) What’s the difference? Let me explain.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Penny For Your Thoughts: Helping Couples Talk About Money

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m passionate about the subject of emotions and money. In my work, I often help individuals examine the ways their beliefs about money influence financial decision-making – sometimes on an unconscious level. Recently I was asked how I could help couples work on money issues within a relationship.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Do I Need A Big Pile Of Money?

The objective of investing is not to make a “big pile of money.” Or is it? This is not a real goal – it is a fairy tale. We think we’d love to make a “fortune.” But how much is a big pile, a lot, or even a boatload? How much is enough? What do we need it for? What are we trying to accomplish?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I can't help myself...people must go to the farmers' markets right now and get some new potatoes! They are so good and you don't have to do anything fancy to them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fava Bean Toasts

Summer is creeping up on us and fava beans are still in the markets…perhaps not much longer though. This recipe shows them off at their best. Making a paste out of them may take away from their natural beauty, but they taste so good mixed with garlic, olive oil and fresh basil that you can’t imagine them tasting any better. But then, garlic, olive oil and basil could make breakfast cereal taste better, right? 

Take Care of Yourself: Steps Toward Financial Wellbeing

People these days seem to spend considerable time and money taking care of their health, paying particular attention to choices about diet, organic food, exercise, different kinds of alternative medical care and spiritual self-care. What about the notion of financial self-care?

Long Cooked Romano Beans

I'm just starting to see Romano beans in the markets. Here's my favorite way to cook them! You can substitute Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder beans but they don't have the same "squeaky" character in your mouth as Romanos do. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"I'd Rather Not Discuss It!"

I’m beginning to wonder if how much money we have may be less important than how we feel about it. I can’t help thinking that if I’d spent as much time exploring how I felt about my money as I have trying to earn it, I’d be a much happier person today. Is the person who is wealthy yet miserable just a clichĂ©? What about people living in poverty who seem joyful and display incredible generosity? Before we dismiss these extremes as stereotypes, perhaps there is more to be learned by looking below the surface.

Time to Grill! Delta Chicken

This is a Stoffer family favorite! When our sons were young, we went to the Sacramento delta almost every summer. One thing they seem to have in abundance in the delta, besides cornfields is wild fennel. During the summer you can find the plants flowering by the roadside. Fennel flowers (aka pollan) for this recipe are common, and once you notice them you'll see them everywhere. They add a wonderful flavor to this red wine marinade. This chicken is absolutely superb when cooked over a charcoal fire. The warm weather is getting me in the mood to grill!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Potato Gratin with Green Garlic

Green garlic is a particularly delicious treat in spring. It looks like a small leek with a purplish hue on the root end. This is garlic before the head forms. It is abundant now in the farmers' markets. The great thing about this recipe is that it is so simple and the potatoes are a perfect foil for the delicate flavor of green garlic. You may also use 2-3 heads of 'green' garlic if it is too late for the ones that look like leeks. Chop the entire head up fine, no need to break into cloves. Stew as per directions here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

More Financial Lessons From the Kitchen

It is time once again to serve up a little kitchen advice to help us become better investors. In planning a special meal, we not only want to fulfill our immediate desires, but also strive to create a well-balanced culinary experience. Some of the techniques for preparing a successful meal can also be applied to improving your investment portfolio. The “recipe” for both includes three soupçons of kitchen wisdom: plan for variety and balance, use the best ingredients and taste as you go.

Why Is It So Hard To Make A Good Decision?

Not long ago, I found myself engaged in the delicate task of trying to lead my son to a sensible decision without giving the impression I was telling him what to do. He was considering not taking traffic school for a speeding ticket. It’s rare to get the opportunity for a “do-over.” He could pay more for insurance in the long run if he passed up the chance today to make amends for the ticket. The consequences of a poor decision can last many years. I enlisted the old adage about “shooting oneself in the foot.”

How Much is Enough? Pt. II

In How Much is Enough? part one we talked about the Fulfillment Curve. It is a great visual representation of the concept of enough. When we ask the question “how much is enough?” we find that the answer is unique for each person. The objective is to fund survival, some comforts and only the luxuries you consider most important.

How Much is Enough? Pt. I

Our consumer society constantly bombards us with the idea that more is always better. If one car is good, then two are surely better. The same must be true for vacations, shoes and, of course, money. Despite having saved and invested for my own retirement for decades, I still occasionally worry that I won't have enough money. After years of helping others with their financial plans I find that many share this anxiety.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Looking back on my college days, I recall what may seem like an odd memory – the distinct sense of pride and satisfaction I felt when paying my own bills. For the first time I was really independent and able to provide for my basic needs. I seldom made a distinction between a need and a want when spending money. While the difference between them may seem obvious, actually recognizing it is an incredibly important step in gaining satisfaction from our money. Do most of us even think about it?