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Smile and say ‘mistletoe’

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

For several Christmases during the time I was in journalism school, I had a holiday job shooting Santa Claus pictures at the local department store. The toy department was on the eighth floor, and Santa Claus sat at the far end in what was usually a storage area.

The line of parents and kids waiting to have their pictures made snaked through the toy department, giving kids plenty of time to look everything over twice, maximize their lists and approach exhaustion before they came to the head of the line.

I was under strict orders to only take two shots of each child -- even if he was red-faced and screaming. That rule was nearly impossible to enforce in a customer-friendly way. Parents who thought they had stood in line for at least an hour only to have their kid's holiday temper tantrum immortalized were almost as red-faced and miserable as their children.

I have no heartwarming stories to tell about this experience. The money made me do it -- it was a fortune for a college student, especially since it was often augmented by tips slipped into my hand by grateful parents whose darlings smiled beautifully when I wiggled the Santa puppet and asked them to say "mistletoe." My earnings made my life more comfortable for months afterward.

I hope you are enjoying your Christmas holiday, and that part of your retirement planning includes squirreling away a little cash to give to the people whose efforts you appreciate. Generosity during this happy season is its own reward.

Merry Christmas. May your retirement be joyful.

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