Which of the following do you believe is the most important aspect of ensuring the quality of your financial future?

A. Saving diligently B. Working longer D. Achieving better-than-market returns E. Designing an efficient well-allocated portfolio F. Excellent financial planning G. Winning the lottery H. None of the above

It hardly seems possible (is it a tryptophan-induced illusion?), but somehow Thanksgiving is in the past and Christmas will be here in less than three weeks. That sentence is not meant to cause widespread panic among our readers who haven't even begun to think about holiday shopping, though we would understand if it did. Thank goodness for the Internet, right?

If you could be assured of confidently reaching or exceeding every financial goal you value while living a lifestyle that demands as little personal sacrifice as possible, would you be interested? Your immediate response was probably 'of course I would.' Who wouldn't right? But while everyone wants to reach their ideal aspirations, few behave in ways that are likely to get them there.

"I don’t trust stocks. They are uncertain, and if you ask five different financial advisors you will get five very different answers about how to deal with their uncertainty." This declaration, recently made by a young prospective client during a meeting requested by her, at the urging of a friend and client of ours, reveals the deep frustration and fear many have regarding stock investing. Her earnestness to invest wisely her family's hard-earned savings was evident, but a product-focused financial services industry had all but destroyed her confidence in the wealth-creating power of the stock markets.

I got my first job when I was 8, selling The Pilot (Moore County's local newspaper) to businesses near my home 50 or so miles south of Raleigh. The gig was super simple in those times: I bought each paper for 30 cents and sold it for 50 cents. For four years, I sold the paper three days a week, earning a profit of 20 cents on every paper I sold.

Adults over 65 in this country outnumber teenagers, and they are living longer. Demand for elderly care is rising exponentially, emphasizing the importance of planning for the possible need for long-term care. Long-term care refers to the medical, personal, and social services that might be required as we age. It includes daily help...

With all the flashing lights, colorful charts, complicated lingo, computers, algorithms, and statistics associated with the stock and bond markets, it's pretty easy to think of them as logical, efficient, monolithic machines. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Some of the best advice during times of stock market uncertainty can be to turn off CNBC and ignore the financial section of your newspaper for a while.  That is, of course, if you've planned ahead and set up your portfolio to withstand the markets's ups and downs.

Yesterday, Sam, Jared and I were out around town and had multiple people ask us about the recent craziness in the stock market.  If you're not caught up with what's been going on here's a quick update.  On Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 272 points.  The next day it rose 274 points only to plummet 300 points on Thursday, marking the Dow's most erratic 3 days since August 2011.  It would appear that our old friend Volatility has come back for a visit.  So, what’s causing all the commotion?