If you were able to look into the future and see your child at age 22, how would you picture them? Could an ideal situation be this?
- A college graduate
- Debt free
- Gainfully employed
- Saving money
- A contributing member of their community
Impossible? Probably not. With the right skills and habits, this situation is very possible.
Our habits define us. If someone is in the habit of exercising and eating right, they’re likely a physically fit person. If someone is in the habit of saving money every month, they’re likely in a decent financial position.
Rich and poor families alike produce kids with bad money habits. It’s not the parent’s financial situation that determines this; it’s the parent’s ability and willingness to teach and instill good habits.
When parents make it a point to teach their kids the value of work and saving money, those kids will probably practice good financial behaviors as an adult. The reality is, no one else is going to do it. Fundamentally, this is less about paying your kids for a clean room or cutting the lawn and more about the value of work and managing the money they earn.
Here are some ways you can prepare your family to have these conversations and set your kids up for financial success:
Step one: Ask yourself: Do you have a budget? You can’t transfer what you don’t own, so if you’re not currently budgeting, you can’t expect your kids to, as well. (Contact us for help on starting budgeting).
Step two: Start talking with your kids about money around age four or five about the following concepts.
- Allowance versus Earned Income. This is a simple but important difference. We know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but kids may not. Don’t give your kids an allowance. Instead, pay them Earned Income for the completion of tasks. For kids at this age, five weekly tasks is Pay them $1 for each. If they don’t complete the task, don’t pay them the money. Pay them on the same day and time every week. Sunday afternoon works well.
Spend/Save/Share: These are the three things you can do with Earned Income. Have three clear jars labeled with these categories and put 40% of the money into “spend,” 40% into “save” and 20% into “share.” If your kid earns $5 for the week, $2 goes into “spend,” $2 goes into “save” and $1 goes into “share.” The money in “spend” can be used for anything at any time. The money in “save” should be used to save for larger purchases. The money in “share” should be used to teach your kids about giving. Keep this program going until they become teenagers.
Step 3: Help your teens understand their financial footprint and ensure they begins working outside of the home.
- They’ve been earning income and saving money for years. Now, it’s time to teach them about balance sheets: how much do their lives actually cost? Share with them the monthly costs of food, their activities, the mortgage, insurance, and more—essentially your household budget.
- Make sure the job is outside the home. Having a boss and coworkers teaches valuable lessons. If they start their own business, even better!
- If they don’t already have a checking account, it’s time to open one. This will introduce them to banking. On a side note, do not allow your kids to have a credit card.
For major purchases or expenses like a car or college, consider matching your kids’ savings. This can make larger sums more attainable and promote increased long term saving. For example, if they want a $5,000 car, they save $2,500 towards it and you contribute the other $2,500.
Why take the time and make the effort to do all of this? Because practical money matters don’t get taught in school and they are fundamentally important. Contact us for more in depth information about talking with kids about money.
The smart phone was a legitimate innovation and it’s changed our lives. Next came tablets and soon we’ll have virtual reality. What’s the impact?
In an article entitled Children Spend Six Hours or More a Day On Screens by Jane Wakefied, she introduces these findings:
The amount of time children spend glued to a screen has risen dramatically in the last 20 years, a new report suggests.
- Children aged five to 16 spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen compared with around three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise.
- Teenaged boys spend the longest, with an average of eighthours.
- Eight-year-old girls spend the least: three-and-a-half hours, according tothe study.
- Screen time is made up of time spent watching TV, playing gamesconsoles, using a mobile, computer or tablet.
While I can’t say this information surprised me, the numbers are concerning. Eight hours a day (the number of screen time for a teenage boy) works out to be a third of one’s life. And when you consider that the amount of screen time has more than doubled since 1995, what will that number be 20 years from today?
There are certainly a lot of positives the internet and technology have brought us and it’s not my intention to say the current behavior of our young people (and grown ups for that matter) is all bad. But I’m curious: is it healthy to consume media, ads, information and messages for large percentages of our waking hours?
I’m certain that one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and to one another is our full and complete attention: a gift that cannot be given in the presence of any type of screen. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself this: is it possible to be fully present while watching YouTube? Do you check your phone immediately after you wake up in the morning? Are you Facebooking while you’re standing in line at Starbucks?
I advocate the importance of getting and keeping a sense of where we are, also known as being mindful; essentially the opposite of screen time.
Here is the definition of mindfulness from Psychology Today:
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them—good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
Because this is a financial blog, let’s bring it back to money. Does media affect the self-image and spending habits of adults? Can that influence be negative? I believe the answer is yes.
Will this increasing screen time have a similar affect on young people? How could it not?
In closing, work every day to get a sense of where you are and to be mindful. Screen time isn’t going away, so in next month’s edition we’ll get into how to talk with young people about managing it.
Depending on the study you read, anywhere from 60% to 70% of our fellow Americans are not engaged in their work. “What does that mean?” you ask? It means they are doing or thinking about something other than what they are being paid to do or dreaming about being somewhere other than where they are. That something used to be solitaire, now it’s fantasy football. That somewhere is still is still anywhere else.
All the while, it also seems many of us are trying to find our purpose.
In the hope of finding my purpose, I searched Amazon for a book on the topic and found over 200,000 titles. That’s a lot.
It struck me that we are focusing on the wrong problem, or seeking the wrong solution: like having a leaky roof and opening an umbrella in the living room.
We need to stop focusing on purpose and start focusing on impact.
It’s possible for every one of us to have a positive and real impact in every aspect of our lives: in our work, in our communities and at home. It’s a choice.
It doesn’t matter what your job is, you can have an impact.
One of my favorite stories is about the janitor working at NASA during the Space Race. President Kennedy approached the man and asked him what he was doing, to which the man replied “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
I believe changing the way we look at our work can have a positive impact on the other aspects of our lives. Simply looking at your job as a means to earn money has many destructive byproducts. When we change the lens through which we view work, we have the ability to change our lives for the better.
This message may not apply to you, but either way, start pressing yourself. Start learning and improving yourself. Start consciously making an impact. Become the best possible version of yourself. I believe if we are able to embrace this, we’ll be more grateful for the things we already have.
A big part of my work as a financial advisor involves figuring out new and different ways to get people to save more money because the majority of Americans are not saving enough for retirement. At first, I thought this problem was caused by procrastination (“I’ll save more tomorrow.”) But I’ve come to realize that, for many Americans, at the end of the month, there’s no money left to save. We’re too busy over-consuming, accumulating debt, buying homes that are too big, and cars that are too expensive. There’s nothing left over for savings.
I think a lot of the problem stems from a lack of contentment. For too many Americans, our work leaves us unfulfilled. Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” tells us that 70% of American workers are not engaged at work. So I decided to study fulfillment in order to see what speakers and experts have to say about the concept. I went to YouTube (which I find to be a limitless source of valuable and less than valuable information) and typed fulfillment into the search bar. Over half of the search results were about Amazon.com’s warehouses “fulfilling” orders. That is, taking our online orders that we as consumers make from our phones, tablets or computers and delivering that stuff to our homes, often on the same day.
The irony was almost too much to bear.
The fulfillment I’m talking about is a feeling when we do something good for someone else. Many of the most fulfilling experiences of my life have come from charitable work, community service, or times when I’ve done work for others and expected nothing in return.
It’s time to get back to the original definition of fulfillment. It’s time to focus more on enriching our own lives and the lives of those around us.
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