February is upon us, featuring Valentine's Day when lovers traditionally exchange greetings and gifts. I wholeheartedly approve of this custom, but question the aptness of conventional presents such as jewelry, articles of clothing, and heart-shaped pendants. I contend that true affection calls for offerings of a more lasting and beneficial nature. In keeping with this belief, let me suggest five gifts that will truly benefit your Valentine.
An Item of Interest
Despite the advertising claim of the De Beers international diamond cartel that "Diamonds are Forever," there is a device that far more effectively ensures foreverness. It is the interest-bearing investment. There can be no more affectionate gesture than endowing your loved one with a token that regularly generates a handsome return, thereby reinforcing your original gift in perpetuity. When it comes to providing continuity and dependability, nothing compares with gilt-edged securities such as U.S. treasury notes, FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, and money market accounts.
Although returns became abysmal at the turn of the decade, recently increased rates now make these more acceptable. Annual percentage yields on 2-year paper in the 4 to 5 percent range are easily attainable. And as a special bonus, if these debentures can be slipped into your significant other's tax-deferred retirement account (or better yet, tax-free Roth IRA), a unique benefit is gained: Interest earned will compound, generating ever more interest -- the closest thing to magic you'll ever experience.
Finally, to properly round out this particular gift, you must include a one-pound box of Ethyl M Chocolate Covered Cherries from Ghirardelli's Chocolates, San Francisco's finest, www.ghirardelli.com.
Hope for the Best and Plan for the Worst
Although we all aspire to bask in the afterglow of advanced age, reality sometimes intervenes. To quote syndicated newsman Paul Harvey: "There ain't no use worrying; you'll never get out of here alive." With that in mind, isn't it wise to plan for our departure before the fact? Certainly Valentine's Day is an appropriate time to hedge the possibility of our unfortunate demise for the benefit of those we adore.
What better way than with a life insurance policy? However, as life insurance fulfills but a single purpose -- providing a necessary death benefit -- not just any old policy will do. Those endowments or whole life contracts which incorporate savings or investment elements should be rejected out of hand. Consider only term insurance that continues in force through the beneficiary's anticipated period of need. In addition, select an insurer rated A+ or A++ by Alfred M. Best & Company.
Thanks to brisk competition in recent years, premium costs are incredibly low. And to accompany your thoughtfulness you might add a one-pound box of French Vanilla and Dark Chocolate Truffles from Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland, www.teuscher.com.
Harnessing America's Productivity
Along with a devotion to the object of your affection, you might include a similar fidelity to our nation's continued prosperity. Demonstrate this by delivering to your Valentine an ownership interest in corporate America. This can be done through acquisition of shares in a properly selected open-end investment company, commonly known as a mutual fund. Although there are aspects of this investment vehicle to which I object, particularly funds that assess heavy front-end loads or unconscionable management fees, the odds will be more in your favor when chosen with care.
Specifically, I recommend a fund consisting of a broad spectrum of small-, mid-, and large-cap stocks representative of the Wilshire 5000 equity index, with no front-end load charge and minimal management fees. A number of funds meet these requirements; three that come to mind are Fidelity Total Market Investment Fund, exchange-traded Vanguard Total Stock Market (VIPER), and T. Rowe Price Total Equity Market Index Fund. With annual management fees in the 0.10 to 0.15 percent range, these funds are as investor-friendly as it gets.
Of course you must present this to your sweetheart along with a one-pound box of Mochaccino Mousse Dessert Chocolat, consisting of dark chocolate shells, each containing two layers espresso-flavored mousse and vanilla cream, from Godiva Chocolatier, www.godiva.com.
The Choicest Gift of All
Old Ben Franklin summed it up succinctly: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." Perhaps not just by accident, health came first. If you can bestow well-being on your beloved, you've given the choicest gift of all. We must treat our bodies properly through the foods we consume and the activities in which we engage, and despite a failure by many to do so, the key to good health is within reach.
The subject of food is covered in The Pritikin Program for Diet & Exercise, in which the late Nathan Pritikin stressed the value of a regimen high in complex carbohydrates. The matter of physical activity is found in The Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being by Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., designer of the Canadian Air Force exercise program. These two books, both available at Amazon, outline a comprehensive program that, when followed, produce optimal results.
They should be wrapped together and handed to your most cherished along with a one-pound box of Fannie May's Pixies, containing rich caramel, luscious chocolate, and crunchy pecans, found at www.fanniemay.com.
Guide to Prosperity
There is a final gift I cannot avoid recommending. It's a subscription to my monthly newsletter, "On the Money Trail." As it's e-mailed to whoever requests it at no cost or obligation, it will rupture no budgets. Now in its fifth year of issuance, with over 18,000 subscribers worldwide, I must be doing something right. Merely visit my website below, enter your Valentine's e-mail address, and conclude with an order for a one-pound box of utterly splendid Dark Chocolate Almond Turtles from The Chocolate Soldier, Dana Point Harbor, Dana Point, California, 92629 (949) 493-4135.