Archive for the ‘Relationships’ 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

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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Way back in July of 2007, I talked about the Quality of LOYALTY. At the time, I talked about it from the standpoint of a young employee working at one of their earlier jobs. I talked about the importance of staying loyal to those who employ you and of not being disloyal just because you think you might be getting a better opportunity. Over the next few years, in the classroom, I’ve been able to experience what many kids call loyalty.

What I’ve found surprised me perhaps more than it should have given the reason kids are in school in the first place:

They have no clue!

When I deal with my incarcerated students, many of them have the most screwed up vision of loyalty. In their head, loyalty means you never say anything bad about your hommie, no matter what. Period. End of sentence. Ever. In fact, in their world, one never “rats out” a hommie. If a friend is choking to death on a substance that they weren’t supposed to ever have been in contact with, loyalty dictates that one will never report the situation to someone who could help. Similarly, if a friend is going to commit a crime against someone else, even someone who is completely innocent, loyalty dictates that the friend commits the crime regardless of any other issues. For these students, the code of loyalty can be summed up best in three words:

Snitches get stitches.

While this sounds like a great premise for a Dr. Seuss book, this kind of warped view of loyalty has the very real-world possible consequence of death or some other permanent condition. One that isn’t nearly as funny as a book about the scar-bellied snitch from Dr. Seuss.

I’ve also seen in regular districts where young people believe they are at war with adults. Or where Hispanic kids believe they are at war with Caucasian kids, Black kids with Asians, or any other, arbitrary grouping.

For example, this week, I had a student call me a name in Spanish that basically included a vulgarity and an adjective that described my being overweight. There were three students in a group, and as they all walked away from my classroom, one of them made the offensive remark. When I asked which one made the comment, surprisingly, none of them even heard the comment or knew what that comment even meant in Spanish. None of them was going to be disloyal to his friends.

I had another student in the same class that committed to writing, some more, even more offensive insults about me. This student at least had the decency to wait until they believed I was gone from the school and therefore out of range to have heard the comment. The student denied writing the comments up till the writing of the comment was compared with a previous writing sample. Of course, other students in the class had seen the student writing the comment, but none of them were going to step forward.

WTF! Nobody knows anything about LOYALTY?

I worry about the future when I see students and young people with such a misunderstanding of real loyalty. I wonder where they get these ideas.

Joe Paterno, formerly of Penn State Football, after receiving reports that one of his friends and former assistant coaches had forcibly sodomized a 10 year-old child, did not go to the police as would have been the right thing to do. Instead, Coach Paterno called the athletic director and might have involved the school administration.

To be fair, this has rather less to do with loyalty, and much more to do with immortality. Coach Paterno was working on half a century of being an institution at Penn State and throughout Pennsylvania. He was a hero to many, and while I believe his decision to not be more active to stop his rapist former assistant coach, there is a small part of me that understands staying out-of-the-way and keeping my head down when I’m trying to accomplish something.

Very serious crimes such as robbery and rape are being committed in many of the Occupado protests. Many of them are going unreported to the authority because the victims and other protesters feel that they are being loyal to their cause and the supporters of the protests.

Their rationale is simple. If they report a crime, then the police will have to come in and do something about it. If the police do that, the protest is over. In a way, the victims feel that they are making some sort of noble sacrifice for what they consider a greater good. I believe they are sadly, and seriously misguided young people who were led astray by the adults in their lives for years.
 

So if this isn’t loyalty, what is?

You recognize that this isn’t loyalty. You recognize that true loyalty is more about helping others to be successful at all the right things. You know that loyalty sometimes means you have to “snitch” on a friend to keep that friend from screwing their lives up further. You know that loyalty, true and real loyalty, sometimes means telling someone something they don’t want to hear.

As an adult, and as a parent, you are probably feeling frustrated because you know that these news stories are no longer the outliers. This stuff is happening every day, across the country. People that we should teach our children to look up to, are becoming with increasing frequency, people that we should shield our children from.

But hope isn’t completely lost.
 

What can I do?

1. Show your kids loyalty by being truly loyal yourself. Start with loyalty to your spouse, your family, and to your kids. Sometimes loyalty is protecting your family from malevolent forces. Don’t be afraid to let your kids know how your loyalty manifests itself.

2. Call out B.S. demonstrations of false “loyalty” when you see them. When your kids come to you with some story about not wanting to get a friend in trouble, ask them if their friend will be willing to take the punishment for your kid’s misbehavior if it comes to it. Spoiler alert, they aren’t!

3. Separate your kids from the kids who push for false loyalty. This is a simple one. If your kid has a “friend” who ever says something as stupid as the snitches gets stitches thing, you need to distance your kid from them. First, as we’ve already said, they aren’t really friends, but second, these people are heading towards something dangerous.

I have been unable to verify this story with links to anywhere, but when I was young my dad was big into country music. His favorite artist was George Jones. My dad told me a story about how Jones had either hidden or destroyed all the shoes of his wife at the time Tammy Wynette. I’ve heard that he took the heels of all the shoes or that he took the shoes altogether. Either way, Wynette’s standing by her man definitely smacks of inappropriate “loyalty”. Enjoy.

 

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Last week, I was called in to teach a group of kids that are more difficult to teach than most. Many have already graduated from school, but are still forced to go because of their age. Many will never see the outside world as free men or women. Very few of them care about school at all. In short, they have nothing to lose by missing school, and not much to gain by going. The teacher that I was replacing had given a stock lesson in writing a specific kind of poetry.

School

Pointless wasted

Sucking, wasting, boring

Punks dorks teachers bitches

Sitting sleeping learning

Jail

That’s an actual example (near as I can remember from reading it) of what the students turned in. I can see why the other teacher didn’t want to deal with this class anymore.

When I found out that I was teaching this class, I knew I had to do something that would catch their interest, but that would still be educational and appropriate for them. I worked for most of the day and evening to come up with a kick-ass lesson that would be entertaining and educational. I had hundreds of pages to print out so that the kids could actually complete the assignment. Not wanting to waste my personal printer ink, I saved everything to DROPBOX so that I could print it out at work the next morning (by the way, if you don’t already have a Dropbox account, and you ever save any kind of file, you need one. Click on the link and you’ll get extra space when you sign up for an account. In fairness, I’ll also get a little free space, but I’d use the service regardless).

When I got to work, I learned that for some reason, my district’s internet security policy blocks Dropbox access. No worries, I could use my phone and print remotely to a printer. No dice there either, since the printers wouldn’t accept a connection to print from my phone. I was getting a little worried, since I realized that I was well and truly screwed.

By the time I got to class, I had about two minutes to think of something, or face the very real possibility of a minor riot on my watch. Luckily, I try to have a backup plan for whenever my first two (or three, but whatever) ideas crap out. I learned this by virtue of being caught many times with no plan, and having to pay the consequences. To make a long story end, my backup worked, possibly better than my original plan would have, and I was told by the sheriffs’ staff that I was one of the best teachers to have dealt with these kids.

I told you that for a couple of reasons. Number one, I was really impressed with myself and I wanted to brag a little. Number two, and more importantly, I did it because the lesson I learned and demonstrated has real-world application when it comes to personal finance.

Everybody tells you to keep a small, liquid fund to use in case of an emergency. Most people will say six months worth of expenses should cover you. But what happens if your emergency keeps you away from the bank or safe-deposit box, or wherever you keep it for a few days? What do you do then? One quick way you can protect yourself is by also keeping a small (very, very small) stash of cash within easy access. When I say small, which is the operative word here, I mean just enough to help you survive for a weekend or a few days until you can access your emergency fund if needed.

While we’re talking about emergency funds, what happens when you have exhausted your emergency fund completely? In today’s economy, being out of work more than six months is more the norm than the exception. If the worst ever happens, and you have exhausted your emergency fund, you will still need money. I suggest planning ahead. While you are building your emergency fund, you are putting some money towards it every pay-period. Let’s assume that an emergency doesn’t happen right away. Transfer one month of your emergency fund into something a little longer in term, with a higher interest rate. Keep making your contributions till you have replenished it. As you do this, you are building a bubble for when you run out of emergency “cushion”. If you have a problem with saving, you are also building a painless nest-egg for the future.

At work, you like your job, but what happens if you were the last hired, and your company needs to lay someone off (hint: In most cases, you are screwed). While you are working, in addition to saving your emergency fund, as we’ve discussed above, start building skill sets that will help you to be able to find a job sooner. This may mean formal schooling, or this may mean polishing your resume’ so that your skills and abilities are properly showcased.

At home, stock up on non-perishable foods and water in case of a natural disaster. With the summer we just had, with earthquakes in the east, hurricanes in the south, and floods everywhere, stores are running out of basic supplies. Those people who are prepared, are able to “weather the storm”. But what if something happens to your stored food? Maybe this is a good time for you and your community or your family to work out a plan where everybody contributes for a larger group to survive.

Look, I’m not trying to scare you, but shit happens. Sometimes, you are prepared and you bring your umbrella. Sometimes, your umbrella breaks as soon as you open it. When this happens, you will be glad when you put a change of clothes in a bag for just such a situation. Are you going to be prepared for everything? Not even close, and I don’t recommend that you even try. Sometimes, even the best prepared still lose in the end. I can’t stop that, but you can limit your exposure to losing by having a few backup plans ready should they be needed.

I believe it was Robert Burns who said:

“The best laid schemes of Mice and Men

Oft go awry

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!”

Given my students, and the lesson I just re-learned and related, I can think of no better message than to be prepared. Enjoy!

 

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So I’m in class the other day, and a student asks me if it’s a good idea to move in with a roommate. He’s planning on getting a place away from his family until he can effect reconciliation with his parents, and he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to afford a decent place on the salary he plans on making. His choices are to get a cheaper place, which would put him in jeopardy of ruining his chances of success; making more money, which he doesn’t see as a viable option given the current job market and his particular work history; or getting a roommate.

Okay, I have to admit that I’m floored at the question. First, this kid is incarcerated. Most kids in his situation don’t have a long view of life, and would never even consider what he is contemplating. Second, he appears to have given this some real thought and has, in my opinion, nailed all the probable choices he has. Third, I got the impression that he wasn’t my biggest fan, so I was a little shocked that he would even ask my opinion.

I’ve talked about the process of moving out before, but I’ve never really covered the idea of moving in with a roommate. There’s a reason for that. Quite honestly, the only roommate I’ve had has been my wife, and there is a huge difference between a regular roommate and a spouse. There are expectations you might have for a roommate that you wouldn’t have for your spouse, or significant other, and vice-versa. That being said, let’s give it a shot.

 

What a roommate is:

A roommate is, in the simplest terms, another person who will share and occupy the same space as you while they take on the burden of a portion of the total expenses involved in living in a particular situation.

Notice I didn’t say they split the expenses with you? Notice I didn’t say they are in any way subservient to you? Good. There’s a reason. Let’s look at it this way: You and Bob (Bob is someone who also wants to live in the same place, but they can’t afford to do so by themselves either) move into a new house. There is a master bedroom with an attached bathroom, and two other, smaller, bedrooms that share a bathroom. You and Bob decide that the living room, kitchen, and garage are all common areas, and you decide to split the rent for those areas. You’re a nice person, so you let Bob have the master bedroom. Is it fair to you that you are paying the same amount for less house than Bob? Of course not, so you and Bob agree that Bob will pay an extra $25 a month for the extra space. Bob may be paying more than you, but this is actually more fair than if Bob didn’t, and just because Bob is paying more, doesn’t give Bob more power or control than you have.

In general, I suggest you choose as a roommate, someone you feel comfortable living with. Someone who shares many of the values you have, especially in the subjects of cleanliness, punctuality, work ethic, and appropriate volume levels for music when someone is sleeping. This doesn’t have to be someone of the same gender, but you definitely want to consider any sexual tension that might arise from a potential roommate. Sure, it sounds good to bring in the really hot chick (or dude, depending on your preference), and they might be just as into it as you are, but think ahead to when the shit hits the fan and you are no longer an item, but you still have to share a small space. Life without risk is boring, but I’m not sure that isn’t a little too much risk.

I also suggest you are careful when moving in with a friend, for many of the same reasons. If you have been friends with someone for a while, you probably know how reliable and responsible they are. Good friends are great, but many good friendships have been ruined when one friend couldn’t meet the responsibilities needed in order for both parties to keep up with the rent.

 

What a roommate isn’t:

A roommate isn’t your friend. Sound confused based on what I just said? Let me explain. A roommate is a contractual living arrangement. You might find a friend to be a roommate, and you might even become friends with your roommate that started off as a stranger, but don’t assume you are automatically friends with your roommate. To this end, don’t take advantages of your roommate that you would feel okay with taking of your friends. It sounds cliché, but don’t eat their food unless they tell you they are okay with it. Don’t lock them out with the tie or sock or whatever on the doorknob unless you have already worked out this system beforehand. Don’t burden your roommate with your personal problems. Make a fart policy right up front, so there are no surprises later on after your semi-monthly broccoli and cabbage binge.

A roommate isn’t your mother. Unless you work out some arrangement when it comes to housework, assume that you are going to have to clean up after yourself, and your roommate will have to clean up after themselves.

 

Making roommate situations work:

1. Put it in writing. The characters in CBS’Big Bang Theory” have a roommate agreement that covers everything from use of the common areas, to rules for bringing in “hook-ups”. I’m not saying you need a document that is quite so detailed, but having most of the major responsibilities for each roommate spelled out in an agreement that everybody signs off on is a great way to avoid problems later.

2. Spell out consequences. What do you do if your roommate is $50 short on rent one month? Are you willing to piss off your landlord by withholding rent altogether? Are you going to cover the difference? Whichever you do, spell out the process for you to be remedied before it becomes an issue. You agree to cover your roommate, but they will have to make payments to you every week, or you might have to look for a new roommate.

3. Use common sense. If you are living on your own (even with a roommate), presumably you are smart enough to know that some things are common sense. Don’t go rifling through your roommate’s stuff. Don’t deliberately try to piss them off so they leave and you can keep the place all to yourself or with a new roommate. Don’t bring your significant other to stay for 20 out of 30 days and still expect your roommate to want to pay for half the rent even though he is only one-third of the occupants.

4. Be respectful of your roommate. They might have rituals they do that don’t make sense to you. I personally, before I leave the house, still have to go through a ritual to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. My wife laughs, but other roommates might start looking at me like I’m a little off-balanced.

5. Be flexible. I guarantee you that shit is going to go wrong eventually. It happens. How you react is more important than the event itself. Don’t take out on your roommate your frustrations about something unrelated. Also, don’t flip out about every little thing they do that annoys you that day. Maybe you are having a bad day and are hyper-sensitive to what would normally be a non-issue.

Nothing says roommates to me like this song, enjoy!

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Much to the chagrin of kids everywhere, schools across the country are dusting off marker-boards, straightening out rows of scissors and rulers, and setting up disgustingly saccharine displays with scalloped, corrugated, border trim depicting ancient blackboards and apples. Parents are flocking to discount stores to buy paper and notebooks, malls to buy the newest fashion for their little models, and electronic stores to buy data sticks, tablet pc’s and the newest “i-device” from Apple.

As much fun as all that is, and I personally love the smell of new school supplies, what students need, almost more than new shoes with lights and skate-wheels in them, are strong study skills. I’m all for studying and study skills, but I think a lot of adults need them just as much when it comes to personal finances as their kids do. The following is a list of skills that will work just as well for students of history and math as they will for people looking increase their own financial literacy.  Advice for students is in red, while advice for personal finance is in blue. 

1. Tape a copy of study guides for classes somewhere that you will see it often. Maybe the inside of your locker, or even to the cover of the book for that class. Also put up copies near your computer at home, or in other places that you are sure to see them. Doing this helps you to study without making it a chore. You have the ability to read a few lines while you are doing normal, everyday things. Repetition of information is the best way to learn it.

1. Keep pictures of things that you want to have near your modes of spending. Saving up for a new motorcycle? Wrap a picture of your dream bike around your credit card. Want to be out of debt completely, try keeping a copy of your latest credit card statement, with the balance owed circled in red where you can see it. Don’t think of it as shaming yourself into not spending, but think of it as providing a visual incentive to make better spending choices.

2. Make an appointment to study. With soccer practice, football games, church meetings and whatever else goes on in life, (like ditching all that stuff to hang out at the mall with the hot person you want to be seen with by everyone but your parents), it’s easy to forget to make time for actual studying. Make an appointment so you make sure you have time to study. Of course, that’s only half the battle. The other half is for you to actually meet your appointment.

2. Just like students, you need to make an appointment to reconcile your statements, plan your budgets, and pay your bills. Mrs. Finance For Youth has a schedule where she wakes up on Saturday morning, boots up the computer, makes a cup of coffee, and proceeds to pay any bills that came in during the week, reconcile any spending that we have done, and makes plans for the next week (like writing rent checks to be delivered on time, or checks to the gardener, or even allowances for herself and yours truly). Having a set time takes away a lot of stress and uncertainty because she can focus what is truly important and not worry about it again throughout the rest of the week.

3. Start your study sessions with your most difficult subject first. When I was in school, there were some classes that came easy to me. Like almost anything but math. It made no sense to start by studying for P.E. (which basically meant playing outside anyways), or even English (which I was really good at for some reason), when I had a subject that was so much more difficult and therefore demanded more time from me. I never learned this trick in school, but I do suggest you start with that hard class and use studying for your favorite classes as a reward later on.

3. Start paying that ugliest bill first. Maybe it’s the one with the highest balance, or maybe it’s the one with the highest interest rate. It might even be the one you are furthest behind in paying. Whichever it is, try to knock it out first, so that you can see easier bills in the future.

4. This one should be a no-brainer, but show up to school every day. All the studying in the world is only going to get you so far. When you show up to class, you will get information that might not be in the study material. You also get the benefit of learning the information that the teacher is going to test you on. Personally, I frequently use the phrase, “So, if you see a question on the test that says…,” which I follow by giving the students the answer that I’m looking for.

4. Show up to work! In general, you get paid when and only when you work. Some people have time off for vacation for which they get paid, and sometimes you are just too sick to be any good, but for the most part, work=pay! Think long term. Maybe you can get away with not being at work every day right now, but when you are looking for that promotion, your boss will take your attendance into consideration. It may be that the difference between you and another employee is that you are known to show up to work and the other person is known to slack off.

5. Don’t try to cram! Okay, we’ve all done it, but it almost never works out well. Instead of pulling one all-nighter on Sunday, just before a huge test, block out an hour or two every day to study throughout the week. Doing so will increase the likelihood that you will retain important information, cause less harmful stress to your body and health, and ultimately put you in a more relaxed state where success is more attainable.

5. People sometimes try to cram personal finance knowledge too. It doesn’t work here either. If you are already in debt up to your ass (assuming you own livestock), or higher, you aren’t going to get out of it instantly. Set out a plan that allows you to survive, but that still attacks the problem. You need to give yourself space to be able to succeed, but you need to also build in room for the occasional, inevitable setback. What happens too often is that people try to cram in “smart” financial decisions to such an extent that they are bound to give up and fail.

For many parents, this is the first year that they are dealing with the whole school thing. For others, back to school just means another haircut and a picture of your little one standing outside the front door, dressed and ready to go to school. Try instead to share some great strategies with your children on how to be successful, whether by my tips above, or others that you might know from other places. Let them know that you are also going to start something new and exciting to help the family. Make school and personal finances whole family events where you all share the journey and the rewards. Your kid gets good reports for a month and you pay off one credit card bill? Go for a round of miniature golf or something that the whole family can enjoy!

Nothing says back to school like this video.  Enjoy!

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In every parent‘s life there comes a time when they need to sit their child down and have a serious talk about life. Some parents make a big deal and production about it, buying visual aids and showing their kids the tools that they use. Other parents pretend that this isn’t happening, or at least that it isn’t happening yet, all the time realizing that they are risking their children having to learn the facts from people who don’t have their best interests in mind, or even worse, from the streets.

Of course the above holds true for many sensitive and difficult subjects, but only one can truly rise to the level of being called “THE TALK”. We’re talking about finances here.

Earlier, at the beginning of summer, we discussed some choices about how to handle the idea of allowances for kids. You can read about them HERE, HERE, or even HERE. Some parents thought that this was the end of the story, and not something way closer to the beginning. The truth is, your kids are going to need to learn how best to handle serious issues like the smart use of credit, planning for the future, making and sticking to budgets, and even how to deal with life when your plans blow up on you. This is when it can get a little messy for parents and their children alike. Hopefully I can give you a few tips to make this less difficult on everyone.

You really can be too young: Many of the bloggers out there and some of the “gurus” will tell you that your kids are never too young to learn about these issues. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m all for teaching kids about money issues in ways that are age and developmentally appropriate. I could try to talk to my 6-year-old nephew about the finer points of an interest-only mortgage, but I’m sure he’s more interested in seeing what his nostrils look like when you shine a flashlight through them (That may not be strictly true, but I always get a kick from the flashlight thing). You should stick to basics that you can deliver in small enough chunks that they can understand, but with just enough detail that you don’t lose them. If you just can’t help yourself and you absolutely need to talk about topics that are probably over their head, the best way is by teasing the more advanced topics in the course of the more basic (and appropriate) lessons.

A little mystery is better than total disclosure: Remember the first time you heard, saw, heard about, learned, or discovered that your parents had sex (that is if your parents have had sex, unlike my parents, who never have and never will, thankyouverymuch)? Yeah, you don’t want to put your kids through that when it comes to money issues. Some parents might struggle to keep their finances healthy. Having kids, in and of itself, is an expensive proposition, but by no means the only reason parents might not want to divulge too much. Maybe they made some bad choices, maybe life got a little hairy, but the kidlets don’t need all the details. If you want to purge your soul, see your clergy, a psychologist, a bartender, or whoever, but don’t burden your kids with too much detail into your own finances.

Try to let your kids guide the direction of the conversation: Just like the other “talk”, one area where parents frequently screw up is by misunderstanding the questions that their children may have. A kid might ask where babies come from, and a parent will start the conversation with, “Well, sometimes Daddies make special drinks for Mommies that help Mommies get sleepy…,” when all the kid wants to hear is “from the hospital”. No kid wants to hear the first story. No adult wants to hear that (with the exception of some members of the local police, but that is another story altogether.) Kids have an amazing ability to communicate to adults what they are ready to grasp. Sadly, adults generally suck at interpreting what the kids are saying. My best advice here is to ask a lot of questions about what kids are curious about or need help understanding. Give them a broad, basic answer, followed by some more questioning to see if that helps to answer their questions, and then a more detailed response. Lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.

Showing is better than telling: Kids get lectured at enough at school. I personally make sure of that. They learn very early on how to tune out when they feel another lecture coming on. Try to avoid adding to the lectures they will have to sit through by developing activities that will help them see what happens. There are games on the internet that can be used in a pinch, but these are generic, and might not be the best fit for your child. Of course, this will mean that you have to be engaged with your child, but most parents who are planning on teaching them about personal finance are probably already pretty well engaged already.

And finally,

Be prepared: Before you get to the point where you need to have “the talk”, be prepared with the accurate information and some ideas about how you would answer questions. This means you might need to invest a little time and a little money on reading materials. You’re reading Finance For Youth: The Blog
already, so that is a good start! Another place where you will get good information that is definitely not over someone’s head is by reading my book, Finance For Youth: The Book, available through www.finance4youth.com. Am I saying that my stuff is the only stuff you should read? Absolutely! However, I know that would be incredibly unlikely, so I suggest that you supplement F4Y products with products from your second favorite personal finance person.

Having “the talk” is going to be strange. There is no way around it, but it doesn’t have to be so uncomfortable that you postpone it until it is too late. Remember, postponing leads to your kids needing your money long after they should be on the way to creating their own lives, and nobody wants that.  Also remember that if you get stuck having to give the talk, and it gets awkward, you can always just tell your spouse that your kid ate the pie!

 

 

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