Attend a retirement party

Two women with drinks celebrating

Elaine on the right with her sister Lynn-Marie (also retired!) at her retirement celebration

I’ve attended a lot of retirement parties lately. Several years ago, my company announced a change to retiree benefits, and I think many of my friends and colleagues just decided it was time to go.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the retirement celebration of my BFF at work, Elaine Peterson. You may recall Elaine, since she’s been a subject of blog posts like Show your spirit, You Can’t Buy Happiness, but You Can Buy Chocolate and Play Hookey for the Day.

While some people like to quietly slip out, Elaine helped plan an entire week of retirement festivities with lunches, dinners, and an after-work fete at a local bar. Today, I’m taking her to Handel’s Messiah for her retirement present.

On Friday, I celebrated the upcoming retirement of my friend Beatrice, who told us that Empire Life was the longest place she ever worked. She stayed because she liked the people she was working with so much and the work was always interesting and challenging.

There are so many reasons why these celebrations are so special.

I enjoy hearing the incredible stories and contributions my colleagues have made to their organizations, often over the course of decades.

I love seeing the smiles and laughter around the room and how genuinely happy everyone is for the person retiring.

I like seeing former colleagues who made the leap years ago who came to honour the newest recruit to their ranks. Without fail, they look ten years younger and say they are busier than ever.

But most of all I love the warmth and family feel of these gatherings. Like it or not, work is a huge part of our lives. The people we work with become our family. And when one of our members leaves us to embrace a new, exciting chapter in their life, we celebrate with them.

This week’s #HappyAct is to attend a retirement or honour the work contributions of a special colleague. And to all my friends who have made the leap into retirement or are making the leap this year, I am so happy for you. Enjoy, and don’t look back!

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Spread some kindness this festive season

December calendar of kindness

One of my favourite holiday traditions is the advent calendar. We have four in our house this year (no fights) and I’ve brought them into work too.

A colleague shared a different type of advent calendar at work on Friday: a December kindness calendar. You can download your printable copy at actionforhappiness.org.

Here are some of the “doors of kindness” to open up your heart this advent season:

  1. Forgive someone and look for their good points
  2. Cook an extra meal and surprise someone with it
  3. Make a card or decoration for someone special
  4. Offer hugs to your loved ones and friends
  5. Count how many people you smile at today

This week’s #HappyAct is to spread some kindness in your community by doing a good deed a day. Happy holidays.

Seven things you can do to be a child genius

One of the cool things about social media is you get a glimpse into people’s lives that you would normally never have the chance to meet.

I follow Ron Howard @RealRonHoward on Twitter. Ron recently replaced Phil Lord and Chris Miller as director of the new Hans Solo movie in production and has been posting behind the scenes photos and stories from the set. His posts are always interesting.

Anyone who has worked with Ron says the same thing about him—his childlike enthusiasm and passion for making movies is infectious. It’s almost like little Ritchie Cunningham never grew up.

To be able to retain youthful enthusiasm is a gift. To be able to share that gift with others to inspire and motivate is pure genious.

As we age, our childlike wonder wanes. We become more stuck in our ways, closed off and disillusioned by life’s challenges.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Here are seven things you can do to keep your childlike wonder alive:

  1. Marvel at a miracle: a snowflake, a firefly, a butterfly. Every day we are surrounded by beautiful things and creatures. Take a moment to marvel at them.
  2. Live in the present
  3. Open up to others. Start conversations. People are amazing. Learn from them.
  4. Do things you are passionate about. If you love flowers, take a course in floral arrangements. If you love to bake, develop a new recipe from scratch.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Spend time with a child. See the world through their eyes.
  7. Take time to play

Aldous Huxley once said, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

This week’s #HappyAct is to be a child genious. Have a wonderful week.

Access free tools for Financial Literacy Month #FLM2017

Financial Literacy month--take charge of your financesLast week, I promised to share some of the best sites and tools I learned about at the National Financial Literacy Conference for Financial Literacy Month.

Here are six free sites and tools you can use yourself, or share with your kids or students to help you take care of your financial health.

1) FCAC is encouraging Canadians to take the MoneyFitChallenge at moneyfitchallenge.com. Test your financial knowledge to earn points towards Tim Hortons and Cineplex gift cards. You can register as an individual, as an organization or as an educator.

2) VISA Canada and Marvel have teamed up to produce comic books for kids on financial literacy. You can order Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Mad Money Skills at practicalmoneyskills.ca.

3) Score a hit with your teen by introducing them to Financialsoccer.ca to teach them basic money concepts.

4) myclassroomeconomy.org is a classroom economy that teachers can use to teach kids about money. Students earn school “dollars” for decisions like whether they will rent or buy their desks and more.

5) Newcomers to Canada can learn about how our banking system works with a free online course from abcmoneymatters.ca

6) My personal favourite: proliteracy.ca is a great site for planning for post-secondary education costs. You can enter the number of years your child will be in school, which university or college they plan to attend, which program and whether they will live at home or not. It will tell you what the total cost will be for tuition, rent, and expenses like food, books, etc. I ran the numbers and the total cost for Grace if she goes to four years of university was $86,000 or $61,000 if she lived at home. The site also has a great blog and information on what grants and scholarships are available. You can even share your profile with family members and ask them to make donations towards your child’s education!

This week’s #HappyAct is to take care of your financial wellbeing this month. Choose one tool or challenge yourself to take one action to take better care of your finances. Happy Financial Literacy Month!

Live within your means

Financial literacy statistics slideNovember is Financial Literacy month. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the National Financial Literacy conference in Montreal. It was an inspiring two days of learning how we are doing as a country in helping Canadians have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

Since I work for a company that helps people be financially secure, financial literacy has always been a passion of mine. One key theme from the conference was how being financially secure plays into our overall wellness and happiness.

Here were a few statistics shared at the conference:

  • 47% of Canadians live pay cheque to pay cheque
  • 35% feel overwhelmed by debt
  • 74% have saved only one-quarter or less of what they feel they’ll need to retire
  • 1 in 4 could not come up with $2,000 within a month in an emergency
  • 46% say they will have to work longer than they planned five years ago
  • 50% believe financial stress is impacting their performance at work

And Canada is further ahead than most other countries in the world.

The key to financial wellbeing really comes down to one simple tenet: live within your means and don’t spend more than you earn.

Of course, this is much easier if you have a good job and good income. It’s not as easy if you are a single income family or living close to the poverty level.

We also live in a highly commercial society that is constantly enticing us to spend money.

I walked out of the conference last week and went for a walk on St. Catherine’s Street. Every store window had the word “Sale/Vente” blazoned on it promoting early Christmas offers. (And yes, I did spend money shopping). One person shared a story about a friend of hers who was visiting L.A. who saw a purse on sale from $5,000 to $1,200 and couldn’t pass it up because it was such a “steal”. We are programmed to spend.

So how do we do a better job of living within our means? It starts with lifestyle choices.

Look at how you spend your time and consider making shifts in your leisure activities. Choose activities that require no spend or very little spend: hiking, free community concerts and events, and hobbies at home or spending time with family and friends that cost little money. If you are struggling each month, make a budget and stick to it. Decide which expenses are necessary and which ones are discretionary. See if there are ways to reduce both.

This week’s #HappyAct is to live within your means and look after your financial wellbeing, especially this holiday season. Next week, I’ll share some of the best sites and tools shared at the conference to help you take control of your finances and be financially secure.

The rise of incivility in the workplace

man sticking out his tongue at a phoneEarlier this month, I participated in Respect in the Workplace training at my work. It was excellent.

While there was a pronounced focus on harassment, timely given the Me Too movement and stories of sexual abuse and harassment out of Hollywood, there was also an important emphasis on respect and incivility.

Incivility in the workplace is on the rise. Both McKinsey and Harvard Business Review have published excellent articles on this trend and the hidden costs.

According to one study in 1998, 50% of workers reported they were treated rudely at least once a month. In 2011, the figure rose to 55% and 62% in 2016. That’s twelve times a year most of us experience some form of incivility at work.

What happens when we experience incivility in the workplace? We feel devalued, hurt, emotionally upset. It becomes hard to concentrate and focus on tasks at hand. It is emotionally draining. If it festers or the conflict worsens, the fight, flight or freeze response begins to override our ability to function. We disengage or we leave altogether.

Incivility results in lower productivity, higher employee turnover, and lower employee engagement.

What wasn’t addressed in the training was the root cause of this disturbing trend. Some may attribute it to Trump or social media. I believe the root cause is directly related to the amount of pressure and stress on employees to deliver results at all costs—often at the cost of incivility.

And here’s the scary part–none of us are immune.

A few weeks ago, I found myself speaking a bit icily on the phone to a colleague who had not communicated with me that they would miss a requested deadline. There was no phone call or email to let me know they could not complete the work, despite several attempts on my part to follow up with them.

Who in this case was disrespectful—me for adopting a clipped, direct tone (but hopefully still professional) to the conversation, or my colleague for not communicating with me in the first place? You tell me.

There is one thing I do know. People will always take their cue from the people at the top. Leaders must live, breathe and model respect and civility in the workplace if it is to be sanctified in the culture of the organization.

There is a nasty trickle down effect that occurs when a leader speaks or sends an email with highly caustic or sarcastic language to employees. It sends a message—it’s OK to act this way, when it’s not OK.

This week’s #HappyAct is to take a stand against incivility in the workplace. We all need to be leaders to make our workplaces happier, positive places to be.

Visit PetSmart at Halloween

Dog in hat and sunglassesCalling all ghosts and goblins. If you want to get into the Halloween spirit early, and put a ghoulish grin on your face, visit PetSmart this week.

Every year, PetSmart offers Halloween photos of your pet in costume. Last year when we visited the store before Halloween, the store was filled with primped pets prowling the aisles. There was a ghoulish greyhound, a devilish Dalmatian and a schnauzer dressed as Superman.

At PetSmart, trick or treating takes on a whole new meaning. Raise your paw, get a treat. Roll over and speak. Woof down another treat.

We popped into PetSmart on Saturday—there weren’t many dogs dressed up since Halloween was still 10 days away, but there was a big lab growling at the Pet Smart mascot, and a little Jack Russell trying to catch the rats in the photo display.

This week’s #HappyAct is to visit PetSmart before Halloween. Just don’t shell out near the fish tanks and steer clear if a black cat crosses your path.

Ed. note: I didn’t get many good photos at PetSmart this week, so I’m sharing a couple of costume pictures of our loveable mutts.

Dog in flamenco costume