Arbor Wealth: The psychiatrist’s couch, holiday spending and Mumford

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

“It doesn’t need a bow … it only needs to come from your heart.” from “I’m Giving Love for Christmas” as performed by Cinderella

Miami-born director Lawrence Kasdan has made some wonderful films, including Body Heat; The Big Chill; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Return of the Jedi; Grand Canyon and many others. One of his lesser known movies, Mumford, is a personal favorite. Released in 1999, it’s a pleasant, quirky comedy and stars Loren Dean, Hope Davis, Jason Lee, Alfre Woodard and Mary McDonnell.

The storyline involves a man named Mumford who, while investigating a business owner for the IRS, causes an innocent man to commit suicide. Running from his deed, Mumford sets up shop as a psychiatrist in a small Oregon town of the same name, and does so without any credentials or training. “Doc” Mumford soon knows the secrets of almost everyone in the community, and he treats his patients with unorthodox but ultimately successful methods.

One of those patients is Althea, played by Mary McDonnell, a suburban housewife who resents her husband’s “acquisition” of her in marriage. Althea’s husband (Ted Danson) is a rich venture capitalist, but cares little for his wife and family. Althea attempts to get even by buying every dress, coat, and household appliance available on the internet. Althea ultimately “cures” herself on Mumford’s couch, talking through her online spending problems and reaching out to a local pharmacy owner for the affection her husband doesn’t offer.

Althea’s online order binge is a year-round issue for her. Most of us, fortunately, only imitate her purchasing frenzy between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Holiday spending has wrecked more than a few personal budgets, hasn’t it? Spending sprees engendered by the desire to acquire and the urge to splurge can render us sullen and sorry campers after Christmas comes and goes. Like Althea in Mumford, we are often no happier nor more satisfied after our purchases, just poorer.

Gift giving is a pleasure and a joy. How much, though, to spend? And who to buy for? A wise man once said that when giving to good causes, give until it feels good, not until it hurts. That always made abundant sense to me. Here are a few holiday spending bromides:

• Make a list of those who will be receiving your presents, and match your purchases to the names. Buying gifts indiscriminately without an intended recipient has another name: shopping.

• Create a budget and attempt to stick to it.

• Pay with debit cards or cash so you can easily track your spending. Opening a bill for an overextended credit card in January is no way to start the New Year.

• Choose the kind of reasonably priced gifts you would like to receive. Most folks simply appreciate the fact that you remember them.

Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850-608-6121 —, a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. This column should not be considered personalized investment advice and provides no assurance that any specific strategy or investment will be suitable or profitable for an investor.