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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This is Anthony Miranda. He’s what many in the financial industry would call a dumbass. Actually, he’s what many in any industry would call a dumbass. You can click on his name to read the story, but here’s the gist: Anthony is a bully. He was a bully with a gun. Until he tried to mug a martial artist who didn’t feel like being a victim.


 

This is a video of a couple of kids where the smaller is a bully. It’s a short video, but the smaller kid appears to punch the larger kid a couple times before the larger kid has enough and slams the smaller kid to the ground. He then walks away.

This is NOT a call for violence!

These stories have been creeping up through the news lately, and while I personally abhor violence, there is a large part of me that thinks this is a good thing.

The other day, the school had a lockdown drill to practice the correct procedure if someone were to sneak on campus with the intent to hurt children. While we were in lockdown, one of the students started getting really afraid. She didn’t know what she would do if someone tried to hurt her (and before you start making fun of her, she was like, 11 years old. How would 11-year-old You react in that situation, hmm?). Some of the other students were a little cockier than others, and started bragging about how they would do whatever to anybody who came near them.

I got a little heated and told the kids that their goal was to get away from any situation where physical violence was a possibility and run for an adult they could trust. I shut down the bravado about how tough some of these kids were, pointing out that people with big mouths generally did more harm to themselves than good. Then the conversation drifted towards bullies.

Where I work, much like many schools across the country, there is a zero-tolerance policy with bullies. I’m okay with that. Where I have a problem is the advice that is too often given to the victims of bullying.

1. Avoid the bully.

2. Say “No!” really loudly and then run.

3. Don’t bully back. (And by bully back, they mean no physical altercations.)

4. Don’t fight over physical property, such as money or other personal belongings.

When you call self-defense “bullying back”, you are creating more victims!

I have a huge problem with the last half of that list because bullying is such a serious invasion of one’s person. We can’t teach our young ones to allow bullies to continue without being stopped.

How can you teach your young ones to deal with bullies?

1. There are certain limits to what other people are allowed to do to them. There is never a reason to allow someone to push or hit them. Also let them know that some adults have different “permissions” than others do. A doctor might be allowed to look at or touch places that other adults shouldn’t. Another kid who is close friends might be okay to wrestle with, but probably not an assistant coach from Penn State while in the shower. Use your judgment.

2. It is okay to say ‘no’ when anybody crosses one of your lines. It’s not okay for someone to hit your child and then try to intimidate them into not saying something about it to you or another adult.

3. Violence is never the answer. Except that sometimes there is no other alternative. Teach them to avoid violence whenever possible, but also explain the circumstances under which you are okay with them defending themselves physically, and develop a plan so that your child knows what to do and when to stop.

4. Invest in a good self-defense program. These don’t have to be expensive. Usually, there is some sort of program available through the YMCA or parks and recreation systems. If you can swing it, look into a private self-defense school. Just make sure you watch class and make sure the instructor understands and shares the values you have when it comes to your children. You don’t want to create a bully by teaching your kid how to deal with bullies.

How does this help anybody financially?

When kids are taught to put their heads down and cower from bullies, they often learn to cower from everybody. A particularly aggressive salesman can frequently bully people into making purchases that they don’t want or need. People who don’t know how to stand up for themselves will rarely even ask for a discount, especially when one is clearly warranted because they are afraid of a possible bully.

When a young person is taught to deal with bullies at a young age, they frequently also learn how to be more discerning and how to avoid making purchases or expenditures that they don’t want to make.

When most people hear this song, they focus on the part about not being weak and turning the other cheek.  If at all possible, it is good to avoid especially physical confrontation.  I personally stick around to hear the part about sometimes having to stand and fight when you’re a man.  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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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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Note from Wil:
This is a post from Jeff Atkins. Jeff writes about credit for sites that help those with no credit get credit.

I like to include the writings and opinions of as many people as I can, regardless of whether or not I agree with someone’s opinion. If you want to contribute to Finance For Youth: The Blog, send me an email:
wil@finance4youth.com.


 

There are some great speakers out there who try to tell their audiences how they should change their lives to be successful. While some of these classes or three-step programs might work for some, I can’t help but think all these speakers want to do is make money. They write their books and develop a fan base so they will buy every book, audio recording, and pamphlet the author sells. These people are right in trying to learn how to be successful, but you don’t need a book to help you figure it out. Some of the most successful people in the world got to where they are without help from a speaker or an author. They did it with hard work, creativity, and by being themselves.

For example, Bruce Jenner travels around the country giving motivational speeches about how he became an Olympic athlete and how you can be successful too. He gets his audience so fired up that they want to take the same path to success that Jenner did, so they try to change who they are to get to where they want to be. The truth is Jenner isn’t that successful. He’s on a reality TV show where he gets degraded by his entire family. There are many who no longer take him seriously, and his level of success was a lot greater years ago when he was actually an athlete. Now, most people only know him as the Kardashians‘ step father, and the many who don’t know of him at all only see him as a creepy old guy with earrings.

While some lifestyle changes may be necessary in order for you to be successful, you should never feel like you have to change your thoughts or behaviors in order to see success in your business or in your life. Roll models are a wonderful tool to help you get motivated, but you shouldn’t try to change your personality to match theirs.

Trying to change who you are is hard work. I know this from experience. In my first job search, I tried to change my personality to match whatever the employer was looking for. When I did get a job, they were expecting an entirely different person, so I had to keep up the act. It was exhausting. I even tried to change the way I laughed to sound more manly. I dreaded going into work every day, and in the end, I had to quit because of all of the stress I was under.

When you go into a job interview, or if you are just looking to meet new people, make sure they are meeting the real you, not some version of yourself you will grow to hate. Your work will be stronger, and people will expect nothing less than what you are capable of doing. When you make the decision not to change, you will be able to have more fun in your life. Trying to stay professional all the time will make you look strict and unfriendly, but constantly being the funny guy won’t get you very far either. When you enjoy you work you will be able to enjoy your life and the success that will come.

If you make mistakes along the way, own up to them and accept that you are not perfect. Some of the most engaging people can laugh at their mistakes and help others learn from them. When you are confident with your personality, you will be surrounded by the people who truly think you are great. With their support, there is no way you won’t see the success you are trying to reach.

Jeff Atkins is an author who writes about personal growth, finance, and business strategy. His company strives to educate the general public about their personal finance options and ways to build their credit.

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