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Happy New Year 2015As the year 2014 draws to a close, it strikes me how many events can be used as a life lesson, or how it affected our markets and our future. While there are very many events I won’t touch on, these are a few that struck me as very eventful and had a lesson, financial and personal, to be learned in our own lives.

We welcomed the new clients of Woodbury Investments, leaving their advisor, Howie Berkowitz, to live his life in retirement and enjoy the time he now has with his wonderful wife, children and grandchildren. Most of us face the joy and decision of retirement, or impending retirement at some time in our life. The joy of retiring includes a retrospective of what you did over your working years, and the people you helped to make a better life for them. If you're retired, don't forget to take a little time to think about the lives you touched: if not yet retired, do the same. It's good for the soul, and is a major cause for smiling.

The price of gas has dropped every day since 9/13/2014. Depending on how much you drive, this could put hundreds if not thousands of dollars in your pocket in 2015 for discretionary spending or saving. For many it could be a life-changer- think about what you are saving, and put it to good use.

The song of the year was "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Perhaps he had just filled up his car when the he got the idea for the song?

Congress now has control of both the Senate and the House- perhaps we can get something done since statistics say Congress has not made a decision on anything important in the past 3 years. Imagine how your employer would react if your job performance was the same? Can you say "you're fired?"

In March, a Malaysia Airline just vanished. Many millions have been spent trying to find those lost souls, and the stock of the airline has reacted negatively as well. In general, the airline industry as a whole had its best year in over 25 years due to the elevated costs to us blamed on fuel cost-unfortunately (for us) you haven't seen the additional costs drop along with the cost of fuel- in fact, they just keep adding in more charges. What choice do we have... walk? Can you say "monopoly?"

We've lost two dear clients this year due to natural causes, and are very happy to say we've added a dozen or so new clients due to births. Working with literally dozens of families with 2 and 3 generations, it's a joy for us to welcome these new little beings into the world. In our own little house, Ann welcomed her 6th grandchild to our family. For me personally, I think nothing brings more joy to me than getting the call to let us know a family just got a little bigger... keep those card and letters and phone calls coming!

We lost many famous people, some of which I wrote about. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams were a 180 degree lesson in estate planning, outlined in my writings. Other notables included James Brady, who took a bullet for President Reagan and spent his life lobbying for gun control, Sid Caesar and Eileen Ford, pioneers in their respective fields, James Garner, a gentlemen to the end and Lauren Bacall who taught more men to whistle than any person in history (if you're under 40, look it up!)  Pete Seeger spent his life singing and campaigning for peace and clean water worldwide, and Shirley Temple Black, who walked away from an enormous career to become an Ambassador and help make the world a better place for us all. The raspy voice of Joe Cocker has been silenced: all he wanted was to find a little help from his friends. Unfortunately, James Gandolfini got whacked much too early in his young and talented life.

While I try to stay away from politics, it's fascinating to watch the Russian Government fall and crumble before our very eyes. Due to some "bad decisions" on their leader's part, we can see the effects of world sanctions and alienation. Many US companies have ceased doing business in Russia, which shows how problems around the world make the business world highly connected. While the US market is showing signs of positive life, one must never forget the world markets are tightly connected, and events around the world can roil our US markets in a NY minute.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary named the word "overshare" as the word of the year, defining it as the "incessant sharing of non-important information." Think about that the next time you log into Facebook or sit down to knock out a Tweet... TMI? Perhaps...

George Clooney got married (not big news to me, but it seems it is to others). We lost the comedic genius of Joan Rivers, which is now debated if it was of natural causes or doctor error. This is why the average doctor pays well over $100,000 for medical malpractice insurance, and is priced into your visit and medication.

One cannot end without thanking our military men and women, whose sacrifice is beyond measure. The emotional, physical and financial sacrifice of these fine folks need to be remembered, as their dedication to our country is put before their own family.

Where to from here?  Well, unfortunately, I can't seem to get the two crystal balls on my conference table to work, although I've had them sitting there for all of my 25 years as the head of Chestnut. I keep looking at them though, hoping for a glimpse of the future but all I see is the tabletop. I’ll continue to do my daily research, and make decisions with my team in the best interest of our clients and friends. Thanks for helping us celebrate our 25th anniversary: going forward, our commitment and passion to our clients is unwavering, and I thank you for getting us to this point. Onward and upward and into 2015- I'm thinking of you every day- our focus is you.

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