I got two things in the mail recently:

BEST XMAS CARD OF THE SEASON

In the sprit of Modern Family comes a card from my pals Sean and Randy, whose first child, Jesus (‘hay-ZEUS’), I met 13 years ago on his 9th birthday – which would make him just about to turn 22 – and whose two daughters are still just kids. There’s much more to their story . . . it is a joyous story of rescue through love . . . but all I want to tell you about is their Christmas card.

The front is a terrific color photo of Sean and Randy, the two girls and Pokie (who appears to be an Airedale with the hair color of a poodle but what do I know?), all smiling and handsome and truly warm (Pokie, too: I may not know breeds, but I know when a dog is smiling). You open the card and there is a photo of a young man in bed, peacefully asleep, Santa cap on his head, captioned: ‘Baby’ Jesus overslept & missed the X-mas photo shoot! I laughed out loud. And, sap that I am, choked up a little at the quote from the facing panel of the card:

A THRILL OF HOPE; THE WEARY WORLD REJOICES
FOR YONDER BREAKS A NEW AND GLORIOUS MORN . . .

Love,

Sean, Randy, Jesus, Daley, Essie (and Pokie)

You don’t have to be Christian to love the spirit of Christmas. And you don’t have to be a traditional family to be a wonderful family, deserving of all the same rights and good wishes as any other.

THE POWER OF COMPOUNDING

Back in the old days, when I was actually earning money, I was able to endow a couple of Harvard scholarships in memory of two friends I had lost to AIDS. Neither of them had gone to Harvard, but I was not about to give all that money to Yale or Columbia (where they had gone), so there it was: $150,000 for the Scot Haller Scholarship Fund, established in 1990, and $300,000 for the Peter Burns Scholarship Fund, established in 1995. Neither was a full scholarship, because I hadn’t earned that much money, but it was still enough to get nice reports from the development office each year sharing the bios of the remarkable students these funds were assisting. Nice. But for the most part, I paid little attention. Until a few years ago. A few years ago, Harvard started sending annual reports that showed not just how its overall ($30 billion or so) endowment was doing, but also how my two little funds were doing. And so it came to pass that the same post that brought the card of an oversleeping Jesus brought my latest endowment fund report. It leaves me wide-eyed and (remembering Scot and Peter) just a tad moist-eyed. Scot’s $150,000 fund distributed $28,494 in aid last year, up from the $7,500 or so it must have distributed in its first year, and had grown to a market value of $708,740. Peter’s – a distribution of $44,993 and a market value of $1,119,094!

The takeaways I draw from this? First: I am so fortunate to have been able to do it. The psychic dividends are large. Second: behold the power of compounding! Third (and corollary to the second): the earlier you start that compounding, the more satisfying it will ultimately be. Fourth: exceptionally smart, disciplined, diligent money managers really can manage money more successfully than monkeys throwing darts. Fifth: those were likely an easier 20 years to grow capital than the next 20 will be. But, sixth: don’t let that fifth consideration stop you. Whatever you’re investing for, the sooner you start, and the more you add each year, the better you’ll do.

LONG WEEKEND READING/VIEWING . . .

I’m going to post these again next week, so by all means skip them if you are festively engaged. But just in case you have downtime over the weekend, watch this Rachel Maddow clip to learn about TIGER and to see what a NON-political guy – a technocrat – is doing to keep Italy from going down (what are WE waiting for?!?!) . . . and read this Jonathan Chait piece from last month, if you haven’t already, that puts liberal disappointment with Obama into important historical perspective (bottom line: we are idiots if we psych ourselves out and thereby hand the entire government – and the Court of the next 25 years – to Karl Rove / Rush Limbaugh / Antonin Scalia / Sarah Palin / the Koch brothers, et al).

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY!

 

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