How’s Your Memory?

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Maybe you know someone with an incredible memory. A few lucky people have what are called “autobiographical memories”. They can recall just about every detail about every day of their life. These people are rare, but they exist. Marilu Henner is an example.

Unfortunately, that’s not me. I am guessing it’s not you either. Most days I spent about 10 or 15 minutes trying remember where I put my car keys.

If you are age 50 or older, odds are you have some doubts about your ability to recall names or to recite a list of facts and figures. Remembering the names of people you meet at parties or events can be a major challenge. Recalling a list of items is next to impossible. Memorizing your passwords and log in information? Forget about it.

Too often we assume that we are stuck with the memories we have, with no ability to improve our memory skills and no control over what we perceive as an inevitable byproduct of getting older.

Now we are getting a little closer to something that sounds like me. Maybe you too.

But what if you could boost your memory recall by more than fivefold in less than 10 minutes?

What if I told you that you could recite from memory a list of 15 words and be able to remember it forward, backwards and every way in between? And what if you could recall this list perfectly with out traditional memorization techniques using nothing more than the God-given memory you are living with right now?

Like flipping a switch

At a past client event called “The One Hour Memory Switch” workshop we did just that.

Matt Goerke, creator of The Memory Switch Program argues that there is no such thing as a bad memory just an untrained one. Using specific techniques anyone can develop better memory skills.

The tree list

At the beginning of the workshop Matt gave us a list of 15 words. He called it his “tree list”.

After giving us the words he asked how many we could recall in order. About 80% of the 100 or so people in attendance could recite between 0 and 2 words. A handful of savants were in the 3 to 5 range. I had four words, but the last two were completely wrong. Apparently, they were from a different list.

Less than 10 minutes later nearly everyone in the room was able to recite all 15 words on the list. The key was to associate each word with its number on the list. For example, the number “1” is tall and straight, like a tree. Hence, the name “Tree List”.

Using mnemonic devices and other skills Matt shared with us, we were able to recall the entire list less than 10 minutes after we started this exercise. Even as I write this, days later, I can recall the list forwards and backwards usually getting 14 of 15 on the list exactly right and in perfect order. If you went to this workshop, I bet you can too.

A strong memory late into life

Remembering names and reciting long lists can impress friends and be fun at parties, but the more important takeaway was that a good memory doesn’t have to decline as you age.

For most if us the key is to use it or lose it. Learning new skills such as a foreign language or a musical instrument, staying physically active, and the simple act of reading more can all contribute to improved memories and brain health.

Even doing ordinary, everyday things in a new way has been shown to improve a person’s cognitive abilities. Try taking alternate routes to work, performing daily activities with your left hand (if you are right-handed) and reducing your reliance on electronics forces your brain to work harder and create more pathways, stimulating and improving your memory along the way.

Learning new skills and memory techniques will also help. Matt offers a 17 lesson audio course that is available on his website, MemorySwitch.com. I purchased the program at Matt’s presentation and will review it in a future blog post.

At $250 it’s not inexpensive, but how much is it worth to develop a skill that saves time, adds to my bottom line or improves the quality of my life?

If I can learn how to remember my clients’ names when I see them around town or know their kids’ names and their birth order, or to be able to remember the names of people I meet when I do public presentations, it will be worth every penny.

Heck, if I could just remember where I put my car keys, I would be thrilled.

Two Rules My Grandmother Had About Money, and What They Mean For Your Investments

Betty Kelly 3.4.24

Betty Kelly 3.4.24

When I was a kid my family would sit around and play cards for money – usually nickel ante poker and games like that. The stakes were never very high, but it was enough money in those days that a kid could get into some trouble if he wasn’t careful. A big pot might be $50, but in 1978 that was a lot of money.

Rule #1: Don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose.

When I started to play with the grown-ups, my Grandmother had one rule: “Don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose”.  I believe the same is true for investing. To be sure, investing is not the same as gambling, and gambling is definitely not the same as investing. However, both have risks and, in my opinion, the shrewd investor never risks more than she can afford to lose.

With investing one of your primary risks is that you may lose principal at a time when you need to access your money. Parents investing for college may experience short term losses right before they need to make a tuition payment. People in retirement might suffer market losses as they are taking distributions from their accounts.

One way you may be able to address this is to avoid putting your principal at risk when your time horizon is short. It is a good idea for retirees to have income sources and assets they can tap into that don’t require liquidating shares that have been beaten down by the markets. Parents of college students may also want to have resources available to pay tuition bills without having to tap into stock related investments when the market is down.

Rule #2: Always go with the odds.

After learning Rule #1 the hard way a few times, my Grandmother imparted her second piece of financial advice, “Always go with the odds”. Drawing two pairs is a lot more likely than holding out for an inside straight. With investing for long-term goals such as retirement and college, you may want to go with the odds as well.

The stock market doesn’t always go straight up. (Maybe you have noticed.)  In fact, there are many years where it doesn’t make money at all. 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008, to name just a few.

On any given day stocks are generally more volatile than bonds. Past performance, of course, doesn’t guarantee anything, but since 1926 the S&P  500 Index has outperformed 10-year Treasury Bonds on a rolling 10-year period (measured quarterly) 85% of the time – according to the Leuthold Group a Minneapolis -based market research firm.

For most long-term investors it may be a good idea to place a portion of your investments into stocks and stock related investments, but no more than you are comfortable risking given your investment time frame.

What’s the right balance for you? That depends on a variety of factors including your risk tolerance and time horizon among others.

Tuesday, March 4th, would have been my Grandmother’s 95th birthday.  For her the idea was to stay in the game. By reducing risk and going with the odds you are able to stay in the game when others have long since folded. Keeping her two rules in mind when making your investment decisions will help keep you in the game as well.

Change Is Coming


Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

August is a funny month. It’s still very much summertime. The MN State Fair is weeks away, and kids haven’t even started to think about the coming school year.

Yet, change is in the air.

By the end of the month the days are a little shorter; the evenings a little crisper. And slowly we will accept the reality that summer is in its final days.

But change can be a good thing, leading to fresh starts, new beginnings and new ways of doing things.

Drumroll please…

Should You Tap Retirement Savings To Fund College?


Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Paying for college is difficult. You may be tempted to use retirement your savings to help fund part or all of your students’ college expenses. But is this really a good idea?

Below is a short video that discusses three things to consider before dipping into your retirement accounts to pay for college.

Should You Tap Retirement Savings to Fund College?

To learn more about how to pay less for college so that you can have more money for your own retirement, contact me to schedule an appointment.