Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

HI.  It’s been a while.  I’ve received a lot of mail from readers, fellow writers, and friends about what happened with F4Y, and I feel that it is only fair to address what has been, and where, if anywhere, F4Y is going in the future.

I while back, we suffered the loss of the most important part of the Finance For Youth family.  At the time, I had to put everything I had into doing whatever I could to save the situation, but in the end it wasn’t enough.  I disappointed my readers, my fans, and my friends.  For that, along with many other things surrounding all of this, I’m truly sorry.  Since then, we have been on hiatus, while I determined whether or not F4Y deserved to go back online. The truth is, I’m still not sure.

The truth is, I’m still not sure…,

I think the information in F4Y:TB is still valid, and as important as ever.  I’m just questioning whether I need to be the person who puts out that information.  I’ve been contacted by a few interested parties about the possibility of allowing someone else to control the future of F4Y, which would allow me to stay out and continue with other things.  I’m also considering shuttering F4Y permanently.  Finally, there is a possibility that I might, with a little more time, come back and rebuild F4Y.  I’m not exactly sure which way I’m going, But I think I need some input, or even the lack of input, to tell me how viable and relevant F4Y still is.  Please take a few seconds to leave a comment about what you would like to see happen.  If, as I suspect, there are no comments, that also tells me where you want to see F4Y go.

Thank you, for your continued support and patience,

Wil Stanton
Founder,
Finance For Youth

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A couple of days ago, a young student approached me and asked me for some career advice. The student wanted to understand a little more about what banking and finance is about, and how it measures up in terms of their “dream job“. I was very impressed with this young student, because unlike many of their peers, they were actually trying to look at their future and start planning. This student, to be fair, is part of an advanced group of students. They get tutoring as part of their regular school day, they have additional instruction in note-taking and other study skills, and they are in advanced Math and English classes. They have a leg up over many students already. This young person seemed to have a leg up on even this group.

There was another teacher in the room at the time, who had worked in a similar field in her younger years, and we both shared some of the upsides and downsides, many of the really funny incidents, and some of the sad, sobering, almost depressing parts of our former jobs. See, no job is truly perfect. There are some good parts and bad parts, and much of adult life is about learning to deal with the bad parts while preparing for, waiting for, and whenever possible working to create the good parts.

And while just that much would have been a good enough lesson, that isn’t the main point of this post.

If you have been doing your job as a parent or concerned party of a young person, there is likely to be a point where they will ask you about career advice themselves. How you respond, what you say and how you say it, and your timing are crucial.

Once a young person asks your advice about future careers, they are putting the trust of their future in your hands!

So how do you respond?

“Follow your bliss!”

Some parents think this is great advice. They want their children to be happy in whatever they do. I’m not going to say that this approach doesn’t have any merit because I know that all parents want their children to be happy. Hell! I’m not even a parent, and I want other people’s children to be happy in their career. Happy people generally don’t make as many mistakes, and tend to do their jobs much better overall than their less happy peers. If that’s all it takes to be able to go to Taco Bell and not get my order screwed up or just ugly, then follow that bliss.

But there is a slight downside. For many kids, their bliss is playing video games or taking obnoxious pictures of themselves for Facebook. True, with a little creativity and some luck, you can make a career out of either of those, but neither has that ring of career aspirations that would make a parent proud.


 

“Follow the family!”

Okay, if “the family” is really The Family, I’m staying out of this argument altogether! But assuming that we’re talking about parents like my mom, who truly believe that following in the family business or doing the same job as your parents is a good thing, there’s a lot to be said for this method too. There is nothing wrong with upholding the traditions of your family, taking advantage of the skills and training from what may be generations of people who have done a job with love and with pride. I kind of like to believe that I’m in my family’s business as a teacher because my grandfather was a teacher in his home country. I get that I’m probably stretching a bit, but it makes me feel good.

But what if, like me with my mom, the family business just isn’t a good fit? Even if I went into my mom’s business of nursing and caring for the sick, that isn’t me either. One of my brothers works construction. He has three daughters that all together probably don’t have the upper body strength required to do what he does, plus it isn’t a very feminine job, and his daughters are very feminine girls. Should they, and I, have taken a job that we don’t enjoy? Even if it means that we will suck at it and embarrass the very people we were trying to please by doing the job in the first place?

“What’s important to you?”

The way I approached my student was to ask what was important to them. What are they looking for in a career? We also talked about what skills they felt they might want to strengthen. As we talked, I was able to throw a few different ideas their way, and as what they said changed, I was able to change my suggestions to fit their evolving priorities. Keeping in mind that this student is very young, and their priorities will change several times between now and when they become an adult, it was more important to get them to think in terms of what they want out of a job than it was to try to stuff them in a hole that might become a bad fit later on.

Is there a downside to this? Sure, I guess that the student might have felt a little unfulfilled when they came to a trusted advisor with the hopes of getting a concrete suggestion. I guess that walking away from a conversation where you hope to get answers with nothing but more questions can be annoying. I’m okay with that because this student needs the opportunity to decide things about themselves before they are going to be ready to plop down for a career that might last them the rest of their lives.

I don’t know why, but as I was having my conversation with my student, I kept thinking that someday they’d be alright.  Of course, one of my favorite songs about someday is this one, and while it is a sad song, and possibly a little depressing, I’ve always enjoyed it and I hope you do too.  Enjoy!

 

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Here at F4Y:TB, we tend to focus more on avoiding financial mishaps. That is by design. I believe that my energies are best spent helping young people learn the skills and gain the tools needed to avoid as many financial setbacks as possible. Because of the time I’ve spent in the financial field, I don’t have a cautionary tale about when I hit the bottom or how I clawed my way to where I am financially. My personal money story is much like the majority of people’s. If you are looking for the other kind of narrative, there are many awesome bloggers out there who fit the bill. What I provide is professional advice, accurate information, catchy music, gratuitous pictures of excessively cute animals, and hopefully a laugh here and there, all while trying to make sure you don’t make the mistakes that get so many others in trouble.

All that being said, it happens to many people every day. Maybe you made the colossal error of trying to with the credit arbitrage game and missed a payment because you forgot about it. Maybe you “won” that thing from e-bay that you don’t really need, but you kinda thought it might be cool so you bid on it just for fun but not really. Or maybe you lost a job, or got sick, or worst of all, you just got unlucky. Whatever happened, you are now financially screwed and all the “spend less than you earn” just isn’t helping right now! So what do you do?

Whatever happened, you are now financially screwed, and all the “spend less than you earn” just isn’t helping right now!

First, don’t panic! Chances are that you are already panicking, so your first goal is to stop panicking. When you panic, you are more likely to make a wrong choice that makes things worse than if you face your problems calmly, with reason rather than emotion. While we’re at it, are you really in as bad a situation as you initially thought, or did you panic and things are bad, but not yet drastic?

Second, if you find yourself in a worst case scenario position, you have to do some serious assessment to see where things went wrong. Some PF guys will say it doesn’t matter where things went wrong, you are trying to fix that they went wrong. I get the impulse, but this is a short-sighted way of looking at things, and chances are good that you will wind up back to doing wherever it is you are trying to stop. Instead, look at where things started to unravel. What happened? What changed? Was it something you did or had control over, or was this something that was going to happen, and nothing you could do would stop it? Honesty is key here. Lying to yourself won’t work. You’ll know you’re lying, and you are only delaying your ability to help yourself out of a serious problem.

Third, STOP! Whatever happened to put you in bad shape, if your actions or inaction contributed to your current situation, stop doing whatever it was that you were doing. At this point I’m not saying to do the opposite, all I’m saying is to stop what you are doing.

Next, look at your alternatives. A lot. Most people, when drowning, will reach for anything to pull them back to the surface. If you are actually in the water, that’s just fine, but if you are drowning in debt, or in some other financial issue, most people find that the rope they thought they were reaching for was actually a thick chain connected to an anchor that will pull them even further under. You are already in a f%*#ed-up situation. Waiting a day or two to finally get yourself to break a very difficult cycle won’t do much more damage. It will do significantly less than some of the impulse decisions many people make to get themselves out of a mess. Do the research in to all your options, not just the ones that seem easiest or quickest or even least painful. Sometimes, suffering through something is a viable option, and sometimes even the best option ultimately.

Finally, communicate! I get that financial problems can be embarrassing. This is something that seems so simple that you should be able to breeze through it. It isn’t. And even if it were, whenever a crisis hits, communication is the key to surviving it, even if you can deal with things on your own. Find people who know their own stuff and communicate with them. I’m not saying to ask them to bail you out; in fact I’m specifically saying you shouldn’t ask people to bail you out of financial problems. When you do, you put that person in an awkward position which will affect your relationship. Look, if someone can help you and wants to help you, they’ll make the offer all on their own, without you asking for it. Be careful who you choose to communicate with, however. You want to confide in people who are a) worthy of your confidence, b) successfully away from the type of situation you are experiencing, and c) willing to be a shoulder to lean on. If you can find one of those people, you are in great shape.

We’ve all heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is true almost all the time. Sometimes all the prevention in the world just isn’t enough and you need to find a cure. Keep in mind that finance is not a simple thing, that success is not simple, and that fixing your situation probably won’t be simple either. There is a reason that medicine tastes like it does.

If you find yourself truly falling financially, there isn’t a whole lot that is funny or witty.  Take a second to step back and regain your perspective and realize that there is a song this awesome exists.  Enjoy

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I’m going to try to keep this one short so people can go out and enjoy the season. This will be my last post of 2011, as I’m taking the remainder of the year off to be with my family and friends, and to work on getting ready for next year. I thought I’d give a little bit of history, hopefully enough to encourage some to do deeper reading into some of the rituals we observe during the season! Since I’m only doing a brief nod to the individual holidays, there is a possibility that I might have some inaccuracies in my description. These are unintentional and are not meant to offend anybody. If you would like to give more detail on any particular holiday, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Christmas is the day where Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who is believed to be God made flesh. It is currently celebrated by exchanging of gifts, decoration of homes and (especially) coniferous trees in various themes of red, green and gold, and family gatherings which include feasts of seasonal foods and drinks.

 

The character of Santa Claus is also celebrated by many as the embodiment of a spirit of giving and good will. Santa was patterned after Saint Nicholas, who was a 4th century Greek bishop known for surreptitiously giving gifts to young children and financially helping others out of the inheritance left by his wealthy parents.

 

Many people around the world are also going to be celebrating Hanukkah, which is the Jewish Festival of Lights. This holiday commemorates second century BCE rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. The story is that for years Jews were unable to observe their religious rituals openly. After they were again allowed to openly celebrate, the temple was cleansed. Part of the ritual cleansing includes lighting of a Menorah for eight days. In the story, there was only enough oil to keep the temple lit for one day, however due to a miracle that amount of oil actually lasted the entire festival. This holiday is celebrated with games such as Dreidel, giving of small gifts each of the 8 days of the festival, and obviously, the lighting of one of 8 candles in a menorah every evening during the celebration.


 

Finally, on December 26th, many Americans of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa. Since the 1960’s, this holiday has been used to celebrate what is considered the best of African thought and practice. This holiday is celebrated by wearing traditional clothing, large gatherings, music and the lighting of candles to celebrate each day of the holiday in a candle-holder called a Kinara.

Whichever of these holidays you celebrate, or even if you celebrate something entirely different or even if you choose to celebrate nothing at all, take time to be with those you love and remember the good times as well as the bad. Hope or pray, as to your preference, for an end to the bad times and even more of the good times. Have a drink and toast to the life of those we care about. Say whatever greeting is appropriate for the circumstances.

Happy Hanukkah!

Merry Christmas!

Joyous Kwanzaa!

Hello!

Usually, I like to play Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah song this time of year because it’s a funny song and one you can only play for a limited period of time.  This year, I thought we should try something a little different.  Enjoy!

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I was talking with a co-worker the other day about teaching kids about money. She mentioned that she had problems getting her child to save money. In her experience, getting her child to save worked only when she and her child would fight. Her child wouldn’t save on its own, money given was almost instantly money spent, and her child had even lied to her about how much money her child would earn or be given. She was frustrated that she, a teacher, wasn’t able to teach her children the importance of smart money management. So she threw the question at me:
 

How do I make my kids save money?
 

Before we get to the answer, let’s look at what we are dealing with. First, let me say that I’m not talking about EVERY person in EVERY situation, but many people in this particular situation. If this isn’t you, congratulations! You are ahead of many of your friends. If this is you, don’t feel too bad about it, most of your friends who deny that this is them are lying to themselves anyway.

Any parent will tell you that you can’t make your child do anything. They’ll tell you stories going back in their children’s history about toilet training (or housebreaking, as I like to think of it- not a breeder), or getting their children to eat the right foods, or even about sleep patterns. These parents, after fighting for almost half a decade just to get their children to the point where they can function at school, often give up trying to teach about money and hope their children will pick up money skills somewhere else.

Then we send our children off to school where many teachers do their absolute best to get their charges to learn the absolute basics needed to move on to the next level. This is where I currently come into the picture. Let me give you a little picture of what kids are dealing with today.

Kids are given a worksheet for “Cornell Notes” that is pre-printed with much of the information they need to know already filled in.
The rest of the notes are displayed on an overhead projector with the teacher telling kids “Write down where your notes say subtopic that calls for random bullet point>.”

In English and History classes, kids are no longer required to READ FROM THE BOOK!! That was so big it deserved two exclamation points. When many parents were in school, you had to read from the book. Now, textbook publishers include .mp3 files or cd’s with all the reading so a teacher can just play the file and the kids just sit and read.

In many districts and schools, teachers are required to teach a specified list of topics by the state, leaving little to no room for financial topics.
Many teachers would love to teach many different topics. For several reasons, whether it’s about money, time, experience of the teacher in different skill-sets, or whatever else, we too often run out of time with your children before we run out of mandated education topics.

At the end of the 12 years of mandated education, we are lucky if we did our job and created an adult that is ready to function in society at large, hold down a job, and maybe even move on to higher education (if we’re lucky)!
 

Still not hearing solutions, Stanton!

This is where it gets a little more difficult. The key to making financial education for kids easy is catching them when they are young. My friend had a kid that was a little older, so she has to come up with other solutions. Here are a few. Some are going to be more difficult than others, and some are going to seem too far outside of your parenting philosophy. Hey! I’ve never claimed to have the only answers. If you have something that works better, or even something different that also works, feel free to chime-in in the comments.

Don’t give them a choice!  Remember that you are the parent, and should be able to set the rules for how money is handled in your house. If teaching your children to save for long-term goals is important to you, then your children are going to save for the long-term, because they won’t know that there is another option. If tithing is important, then your child will tithe because that is all they will know. If they start fighting you, trying to avoid your priorities, or making your life difficult, take whatever money they might have and put it in a savings account for when they are mature enough to follow the rules.

Start as early as possible!  The earlier you start your children down the path of learning financial responsibility, the harder it will be to break the habits you instill in them.

Reinforcement, reinforcement, reinforcement!  Both positive and negative reinforcement has their places here. Let’s say you do the three piggy-bank thing that is the current flavor of the month when it comes to teaching young people about money. When your child puts money in each bank accordingly, without being prompted, make a big deal out of it! Tell them how proud you are that they are becoming more mature and responsible. Kids have a need to please adults. On the flip side, when they do something inappropriate with their money, there has to be a consequence. If your child raids their “bicycle” savings account to buy a Selena Gomez poster, you need to temporarily take away their ability to access that money and maybe even the poster until they have replaced the money.

Communicate openly and honestly!  Talk with your children about the importance of learning to manage their finances. Make sure you keep the conversation at a level that their individual development can handle, but make sure you communicate. Be honest with them about difficulties you might have had or setbacks you might have had in the past and your desire to make sure they don’t repeat your mistakes. Also communicate the feelings you have had when you have experienced success with money issues. Finally, talk to your children about the way they might meet financial challenges, and work your way through the hypothetical. You want to make your children comfortable about talking with you about financial issues so they will still feel comfortable when they are older and might need your advice.

Feed their curiosity, even if it isn’t as deep as you want it to be!  Expose your children to as many possible views on money management as you feel comfortable exposing them to. Find blogs like this one, or others that you might read, and read them with your children. Make it a thing. For example, I post on Fridays. I do this so people have a whole weekend to peruse my posts and not interfere with their weekday schedule. Maybe you and your children can read and discuss my latest post on Saturday, over breakfast. You spend some great quality time with your kid, they get to learn something, and you both have something in common to discuss. Warning! Sometimes the language here gets a little saucy. I try to keep it PG-13, but every once in a while it gets worse. I try to let you know when that is going to happen ahead of time, sometimes what I consider PG-13 and what you might consider could be different.

While we’re at it, find a book by someone who can teach your kids about finance and have a “book club” within your family.  Find times to read and discuss the book.  If I might make a suggestion as to which book…,

  

Whatever you do, don’t give in to the frustration that comes with trying to teach some kids anything!  I get it.  It’s frustrating, but once they get it, everything is magical!  Teach them well (sounds like an intro to a song!)  Enjoy!

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Quick! Name three things that are handy to always keep around! Just name the first three things you can think of.

You probably came up with a bunch of things. As I tried it, keeping in mind that I wanted to limit it to three, I came up with my Leatherman© tool, some sort of a conveyance for water (like a cup, bowl, or pot), and a writing instrument.

Then I started to pick that idea apart.

 

What good does a pen do if I’m in the

middle of the ocean?


 

How about a pot if I’m in a crashing

airplane?


 

I realized that the three things that I thought were important, quite often, weren’t. Most of you could probably review the first 30 things on your list, instead of the first 3 and come to the same conclusion.

Pretty simple once you think of it, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong, but the truth is nothing is always useful all the time.


 

If it’s true for

 “stuff”, what

 about for financial advice?


 

Well, put simply, yes.

One problem that many people have when trying to either set things right or get out of financial problems is that their circumstances might be different that those the author had in mind when he or she came up with the advice in the first place. Because they are so desperate for success or even just progress, they follow the advice regardless of how relevant it is for their situation. They do it unquestioningly, and when they inevitably get setback or fail, they begin to blame the messenger instead of the fact that they were following great advice, just at a different time.

Is there any way to make the professionals’ advice useful all the time?

Well, if you have the kind of access that allows you to be in personal contact with somebody, you can ask the question you need answered and the advice given should be useful. Of course, if you had direct access to a personal finance professional and you were still able to manage getting yourself into trouble, perhaps advice isn’t what you need.

You could also hope that the person you get your advice from is prolific enough to have covered several topics from several different directions that you can find their thoughts on almost any subject. This might be one of the best ways to make sure you are following the best advice at the best time. This works, as long as you are willing to do the research to find the best answers to your questions.

A third way would be to find several sources by multiple people to answer your questions. Imagine how cool it would be to have a group of advisors instead of just one. Of course, having a chorus of voices sometimes makes it more difficult to hear the one you need when you need a quick answer.

Regardless of how you do it, you need to do your best to make sure that you aren’t left carrying a pen the next time you find yourself adrift in the middle of the ocean.

Speaking of having a chorus backing you up…, enjoy!

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Most of you are either still stuffed like yesterday’s bird, or your feet are tired from impersonating a zombie flash-mob at your local retailers, dragging through the day, fueled by coffee, the last remaining candy corn from Halloween, and the hope that you are going to save a ton of money and finish your winter holiday shopping. I get that. I also get that many of the “smart” people are snarking about how much better they are for NOT going to the mall, and hearing any advice will go over like a lead balloon. So in the interest of knowing when to say when, today’s post is just about wishing that all of you had the most enjoyable Thanksgiving you could wish for, surrounded by your loved-ones and a ton of food that you will be working on for the next few weeks!

In the coming months, I’ll be rolling out a re-branding of Finance For Youth, as well as some new opportunities for you to show your support for this site and your dedication to the Qualities of Success. I’ll also be letting you in on some hopefully interesting and exciting news. I’ll let you know now, 2013 looks like it will be HUGE for F4Y. Stick around!

-W

p.s. I know I’ve probably used this song before, but since you can really only listen once a year, enjoy!

 

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