Neuroscience research suggests that the action of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex causes us to ignore evidence that challenges long-held views about our world, and thus subverts us from embracing change. This is all part of the brain’s game of energy-conservation: trying to make decisions quickly and efficiently by building on past experiences and assumptions to make today’s choices. Ironically, dopamine acts oppositely in the striatum part of the brain, which responds favourably to novelty (change!). For most of us, the damming effect prevails over the novelty effect, and thus we maintain status quo. But research suggests that some people have a particular gene that causes dopamine to break down more quickly in the striatum, and thus boosts the novelty half of the equation. In this issue, we seek to fire up the striatum dopamine in the area of Family Finances and Life Management.
Western Society hasn’t recognized that the ascent of Chinese capitalism is a replay of that of Japan half a century ago. The shift of production to low-wage environments in both instances led to similar impacts: loss of manufacturing jobs in the West, a flood of cheap goods to the West that were affordable across all economic classes and, finally, the investment (largely real estate) impact of the massive wealth transfer to Asia. What is different between those two events is the impact on “the little village of Vancouver” (the term phrased by an American sportscaster in 1979). Expo ’86 and Olympics 2010 are hallmarks for this city. Did they indeed shine a beacon on this city? We took glum comfort in January from falling from the second least affordable city on the planet to third! With high “burn rates” and assumed levels of entitlement, many Vancouverites today are basing their “retirement planning” upon principal residence profit-taking and trading down to “B” or “C” markets, in place of “home economics”. We are becoming absolved of financial responsibility, aka “living within one’s means”, and are being rescued by the Asian deus ex machina. The change call here is to gather around the Family kitchen table and challenge lifestyle assumptions and affordability.
Historically, multi-generational wealth transfer was only an issue for the “rich”, the most minute percentage of the population. The vast middle class wrote their wills and that constituted estate planning! There was little deliberate schooling of the next generation to prepare them to manage that wealth transfer, because the sums weren’t significantly large. But, today’s middle class cohort has enjoyed the largest, broadest distribution of wealth in the history of the planet. So, everyday people today have no historical frame of reference for how to deal with multigenerational wealth stewardship. Through 2015, we actively promoted Family Confab-a program for the multigenerational attainment of financial maturity. Our Confab Program has failed, for lack of audience support… disinterested?… too busy?… too overwhelmed?… too expensive?…too uncomfortable?
The change call here is to embrace a Family financial evolution. This requires a champion in every family to lead the charge.
Inertia is also the enemy of inter-generational wealth transfer. Survey statistics report that half the population doesn’t have a will, and I think that half of those that do, don’t have a will that reflects their current wishes (that would include me!). The change call here is to get proper counsel in organizing your affairs. Remember the all-important point in matters of estate planning: a will is only one (potentially very small!) part of your Plan. Come to our seminar in April if you don’t know what we are referring to! Click Here for more details.
For many elderly clients, over the years we have shared the advice “You need to move BEFORE you need to move”. This remains powerful and painful advice. Maintaining the status quo is always more comfortable: the Family home holds so many memories. Often, the over-whelming task of transporting all of one’s possessions is too daunting. Our lesson in this practice is that those who “get” this difficult point and do move on invariably come out better in the long run. The change call here, for both seniors and their families, is to carpe diem.
Yesterday’s wisdom encouraged exercise for the body: heart, bone density, circulation, weight etc. Today’s neuroscience research also is expanding our understanding of the influence of exercise on cognition. Yesterday’s wisdom identified that aerobic exercise 3 times a week boosts neuron regeneration in the hippocampus, and thus boosts memory capacity. Today, research (at UBC) is finding more specific effects related to different kinds of exercise; in particular, strength training (lifting weights). The research suggests that both are cognitively valuable….in distinct ways: aerobic improves verbal memory whilst anerobic improves associative memory…. and there is a gestalt effect from embracing both! “By combining aerobic exercise with strength training, you’re getting a more potent neurobiological cocktail”, says researcher Willem Bossers of the Netherlands. The anaerobic exercise triggers a growth hormone in the liver which promotes neuron growth and communication. The aerobic exercise boosts “BDNF”, which protect neurons from oxidative DNA damage. The change call here is, for some, to challenge sedentary life-style and, for others, to broaden their exercise regimen.
The term “bucket list” became fashionable recently thanks to the film with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. However, as that films fades into filmographic history, I hear the term being used less and less. And yet, it remains fundamentally a calling across time and generations. The change call here is to contemplate your Bucket List….and embrace it.