By Rita Cheng, CRPC®, CFP®
CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth
One of the most exciting aspects about being multicultural is that the New Year celebration does not end on January 1.
According to the Western calendar, January 31, 2014, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year—also known as “Spring Festival,” the longest and most important celebration for Chinese families across the globe.
Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning it is based on both lunar and solar cycles, it is celebrated on a different date each year. And each year we celebrate a different symbol in the Chinese zodiac.
2014 is the Year of the Horse.
The Chinese symbol for strength, the horse is known for being valiant, intrepid, bold, and fearless. Horses are often identified as being unbridled, energetic, charming, generous, and optimistic. According to The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, people born in the year of the horse are considered to be tenacious, relentless, diligent, and sagacious.
What can horses teach us about personal finance?
1. Remember your New Year’s resolutions. Every December you promise yourself you are going to pay off your credit card debt and save a chunk of money each month to put away for retirement. If you have not successfully implemented your new resolutions as you intended, here’s your opportunity for a second chance.
Try this: Just as too much discipline and structure can leave one feeling deprived, resist the urge to rebel or go against the grain. Being debt-free and saving regularly will pay off in the long-run.
2. Do your spring cleaning early. Feeling the impact of a cluttered house, cluttered mind, and inability to save? Most organizational experts would agree that getting organized and reducing clutter improves your overall health every day of the year. Growing up, I recall my father and paternal grandmother stressing the importance of thoroughly cleaning every nook and cranny before the arrival of the new year. As a little girl, I used to think my relatives were obsessive-compulsive, superstitious, or a combination of the two. Finally, as an adult I have come to appreciate the ritual of sweeping toward the door as symbolic of sweeping away all misfortune.
Try this: Many Chinese families stow or hide their brooms and vacuum cleaners during the beginning of the Lunar New Year as a way to symbolically prevent their good fortune from being swept away.
3. Usher in the new with a celebration. 2014 is extra special as it is a “double spring.” That is because the Chinese Lantern festival, which is observed on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, falls on the same date this year as Valentine’s Day, February 14. That’s why it’s referred to as “Chinese Valentine’s Day.”
Try this: To usher in the new year auspiciously, come up with a plan to clear your debts, clean the house, and celebrate your good fortune with good friends, and good food. The social and economic impact is formidable.
4. Embrace the power of red. Like their ancestors did, many Chinese families honor their elders and thank them for their contributions by watching fireworks and exchanging red envelopes filled with gifts. These are also presented at social and family gatherings such as wedding, birthdays, and on the Lunar New Year. The red color of the envelope represents good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Red packets are usually given out by married couples to single people, especially to children.
Try this: Pick up a dozen red envelopes and mark each one with a month of the year. Then on the same day each month, write yourself a check to put into your savings account. Is there any better way to honor the Year of the Horse?
Marguerita M. Cheng, CFP® is the CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, which provides corporations and institutions with portfolio construction, investment due diligence, and risk-management consulting services. The firm works with families, entrepreneurs, and executives to help them identify and achieve their financial goals. As a CFP Board Ambassador, she helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning.
A Financial Planning Association (FPA) national board member and member of the finance committee, Cheng served eight years on the board of directors of her alma matter, The Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, where she collaborated to increase alumni engagement and developed asset management education programs. She is also the president of the Blue Ocean Economic Empowerment Fund.
Cheng says her greatest joy and passion is touching the lives of others so that they may achieve their personal financial success.
For more information, visit www.blueoceanglobalwealth.com.
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