As I sit here in the office in beautiful downtown Grand Rapids on Christmas eve listening to Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  Whether you are a business client, estate planning client, a trusted referral source, mentor, trusted advisor, friend, or family, I wish you and your family the most joyous Christmas.  I especially want to thank all our servicemen and servicewomen around the globe who, because of their sacrifice for our freedom, will not be with their family this Christmas.  Thank you!

Christmas is a time of year that is almost “magical.”  As we (hopefully) turn our minds toward the true reason for the season (our Savior’s birth!), all the worries and frustrations of life and the economy seem to melt away, much like the candy we will no doubt be consuming.  We take this time to spend with family and friends, to revel in the spirit of giving and appreciation.  And for businesses, it is an opportunity to show your employees and customers that you truly care.  Hopefully you’ve already sent your Christmas cards out and have let your employees, vendors, and business associates know how much you appreciate them, through gift, time off, or just a hearty “Merry Christmas!”

As you spend time with your family this Christmas, think of all the lasting memories you will make.  The funny faces when opening a gift you don’t quite know what to do with (we’ve all been there), the child tossing aside the toy and playing with the box and wrapping paper instead, and the pure joy of family.  And consider making it a top priority in 2010 to make sure those memories are preserved and that provision is made for many more.  Sure enough, I’m talking about estate planning.  And make sure that your estate planning attorney passes along your “whole family wealth,” those intangibles that are lost when you pass away – the Christmas memories, your values, insights, stories, and experiences.  And seriously consider using a  living trust to make sure that your financial assets will be around as long as your family will, to provide for a lifetime of cherished memories.

And if you have ever thought of starting a business . . . what are you waiting for?!  The general consensus is that we are starting to work our way out of the nasty recession.  Much like the investing adage of “buy low, sell high,” you want to start your business before or (at the latest) as the economy is starting to pick up steam again.  Whether the growth will be slow and gradual or fast and immediate doesn’t matter – the fact is, you want to take advantage of the increased demand while competition is still low.

And if you have a business, congratulations for making it through one of the worst recessions on record.  You did it!  I encourage you to take some time over the next week or two and spend it on developing your plan to increase your business and market share as the economy begins to pick up steam.  What an opportunity you have – decreased competition and a growing economy . . . the perfect recipe for your growth and success!

As I plan to leave a little bit early myself today, I will leave you with those thoughts.  And MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all!