I attended a meeting last weekend as part of my church's council and consistory. We took some time to discuss our mission for 2009, and what the church development team saw as areas of opportunity and goals for our growth in the coming year. The area of "passionate spirituality" came up. I couldn't help but think about what I was going to write this week and starting to think about that word, "passionate."What does it mean to be "passionate" about something and how do we harvest our passions in a meaningful and positive way? Here are the results of that meeting. To be "passionate" can mean to be excited about something, or have a high willingness to do something. It can imply giving consistent thought and energy to something. To be passionate can mean having a strong desire to share or talk about something. All these explanations of the word passionate make sense to me.

I'm writing about being passionate this week because I wonder how many people are passionate about their finances right now. Who is really excited about the down market? Who has a high willingness to map out their retirement plan when so many jobs are in limbo? Who isn't a little worried, a little stressed, a little uncertain? Who truly wants to sit down with a planner and talk about the future when the present is well, a little scary?

Folks, please be passionate right now. I'm not suggesting we all say, "Hooray, the economy's not good, my 401(k) plan lost 30 percent last year, and I fear for my job!" But please, be passionate about your goals. Take control of your situation by putting your goals first, not the news and the opinions of others. I've shared before that I think the purpose of having goals and direction is to possess more confidence, and peace of mind, and acknowledge that we can significantly influence our future by looking ahead. Don't look at the glass as half empty, because at that point, you aren't taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Be excited about those opportunities and know that you can stay ahead of the curve by being proactive. Give continuous thought and energy to a forward-looking approach.

My point is, at the very least, be "passionate" about that process - the process I call planning. There's no better time than now to talk about your life goals, what's most important to you, what you aspire to, what you enjoy and value most. Talk about what you want to be doing and where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years. Talk about what you want to have happen and (to a certain extent) what you want to avoid or eliminate in your life.

Talk about these things. Be passionate. Be excited about not going to work, opening up your own shop, sending kids or grandkids to school, taking that trip you always wanted, whatever it may be. But be passionate, and talk about those goals. That's what I do every year with my clients, in good times or bad. That is, by definition, my job - to be a planner. It's not to just pick an investment and write an article every now and then. Rather, it's to help you realize what you're actually working towards, why you go to work every day. It's to help you develop goals and aspirations, and then through the prudent and thoughtful process that I call financial planning, help you direct what you do; how to save, where to save, how to use what you have available to you and personalize a plan of action to ensure you're on track for your goals. But the picture you have of retirement is at the heart of it all. That's what dictates what you need to do. That's what should dictate whether 2008 really means you'll have to work longer or not. Don't be discouraged without truly knowing what your plans says.

In a time like this, it's hard to be passionate about doing what you need to do to reach your long-term goals. I understand that. But to me, that's all the more reason to work with someone that will be passionate for you, who will help direct your current savings and 401(k) investments (because planning isn't always about saving more, but sometimes redirecting some of that savings). Work with someone who will be passionate about freeing up time and energy so you can focus more on your true passions - your families and friends, your hobbies and trades, the Eagles. Work with someone who can help eliminate stress, offer peace of mind, a process, a relationship, and always be forward-looking. You just need to be passionate about your goals, the bigger picture, not the monetary stuff.

So that's my added wish for 2009 - for you to be "passionate" about your goals. Or at least passionate enough to let someone like me carry the burdens of 2008 and still ensure you'll reach your goals in the time horizon you set forth for yourself. Get excited about your goals again. Have a high willingness to do something about reaching those goals, even in a tough time. Give consistent thought and energy to those goals and write them down. Call me. We'll just talk. My business is predicated on sitting down with anyone, without obligation, to talk about goals and how I've helped people in a similar situation. It's what I'm most passionate about, so maybe we can get excited about your future together. And go Eagles (a close second on my passions scale).

Benjamin N. Haas, of Fleetwood, is a financial advisor at Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., Center Valley.

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