Keeping Good Records

Nathan was ordering something on Amazon not long ago and, in order to receive free shipping, he had the “opportunity” to sign up for a membership.  I don’t remember what the membership was for but it, too, was free…for a month. 

He asked me if he could sign up for it because he wanted to save on shipping.  Sure, I told him.  But it would be his responsibility to make sure that he canceled the membership before the month was up.

Now Nathan is a teenager and, by default, cannot be expected to remember to do these sorts of things.  Part of me is kidding, but the other part is serious.  I attended a meeting about the teenage brain where the presenter talked about how disorganized the teen brain at this age could be.  Did I come home and share this information with my two teens.  Are you kidding me?  They would abuse that bit of info well into their early twenties!

But the reason I bring up the teenage brain is because, as organized as Nathan is (I’ve seen his written lists of things to do), he had not had experience dealing with canceling memberships in order to avoid fees and this may be a bit much to expect of him.  Me?  I do this sort of thing a lot and, as Nathan’s guide, it was up to me to teach him how I do it.

“Grab the calendar,”  I told him.  We have a family calendar and nobody takes their first breath in the morning until we’ve all taken a look at how the day is going to play out.  We have a lot going on.

“Okay.  Now what?”  he asked.

“This is how you guarantee that you won’t be paying the membership fee.”  I had him write down on the calendar when the membership expired and the details that went with it.  He ended up writing it on the three days before it expired because, and I made this part very clear, he was responsible for paying the fee if he forgot.

Last Friday was the first of the three days he had written on the calendar.  Friday evening I asked him about it.  “Already done,” was his answer.

Teach Nathan how to cancel memberships.  Check.

She Who Dies with the Most Jewels Wins

Has your brain ever been so saturated with thoughts that you render it useless?  That’s what happened to me when I saw a bumper sticker on a car that read, “She who dies with the most jewels wins.”   It evoked so many emotions all I could clearly think was, Ahhhh.

When that went away, my next thought was That is precisely the kind of attitude that contributed to all the dark stuff of 2009.  If my kids had been with me, they would have looked at me, rolled their eyes, and said something like It’s just a bumper sticker, mom.

I know it’s just a bumper sticker.  And I know that the driver is probably not on a mission to gather all the jewels she can get before she dies.  But words mean something.  And the clear message here is that what’s  important in life is the accumulation of stuff. 

Our kids are exposed to these kinds of messages on a daily basis.  They see celebrities in huge houses driving fancy cars.  Or their friends buying (with their parents’ money) the latest technology.  It’s impossible to watch t.v., take a ride in a car, or chat with your friends on Facebook without stuff being peddled to us. We are a consumerist culture.  Which is not a bad thing…unless we become consumed by it. 

So what do we parents do?  We do double-duty to counter the hundreds of spend, accumulate more, focus on stuff messages our kids get sent each and every day.  It’s up to us.  Otherwise, unknowingly, our kids may develop an unhealthy attitude towards money.

How do we do double-duty?  We talk with our kids about the messages being sent via bumper stickers, billboards, t.v., etc.  We ask them if they know what the message means?  We ask them if they agree or disagree and why.  We ask them what kind of life they would need to live in order to die with the most jewels.  And we find out what the important things in their lives really are.  Those will enrich their lives far more than a chest full of jewels.

So what kind of car was Ms. Jewels driving?  A Mercury Sable.  Does that matter?  No.  I’m just sayin’

Beyond the Piggy Bank 15-Day Challenge

Okay, so I got this great idea.  One of the hardest parts parents have in getting their kids ready for their financial futures is knowing where or when to start. 

So I’m going to jump-start them.  Give them the tools and the guidance they need to begin teaching the life skills of effectively managing money.

For 15 days I plan on offering an activity that they will do with their kids.  By the end of the challenge doing money will simply be a part of their everyday lives. Once it becomes a habit, it’ll be easy to carry on.

There will be support along the way.  Hopefully others doing the challenge will share their experiences.   We can learn so much more when everyone gets involved.

And there you have it.  Still in the early stages, but pumped to get it going, I know this challenge will make a difference in the lives of a lot of kids.  And maybe even their parents, as well.

I haven’t created the actual page yet, but here’s a link to the Raised for Richness page where you can sign up to be a fan and you’ll receive updates on the challenge:

Too Much of a Hassle?

I was talking to a friend of mine recently about setting up an allowance program for her six-year-old daughter.  Six is the perfect age to get an allowance going.  Kids this age understand a lot about money and it’s time to start giving them some responsibility managing some so that they can begin to get into healthy habits.

“She’s not interested in money at all,” my friend told me.  “She doesn’t like to go shopping and never asks for anything.”

I was a little surprised since most of the six-year olds I know are pretty clear about what they want.  And then I glanced around their house.   Her daughter already had just about everything she could possibly want. 

“What happens when she wants a new webkinz?” I asked.

“Well, I’ll usually buy it for her.”

Hmmm, I thought.  No wonder she’s not interested in money; she doesn’t need any.   So I recommended that she stop buying everything for her daughter and give her a small weekly allowance.  That way, when her daughter eventually wanted something, she could buy it herself.   And if she spent all her money and wanted something else, she would be out of luck.    Advances are not an option.  That defeats the whole purpose.

I’m not sure I convinced my friend who, I think, feels the whole thing would be too much of a hassle.  Hmmm, again.  I wonder what kind of a hassle it might be to have to deal with a young adult who doesn’t know how to effectively manage her money?

A Win/Win

I can’t believe I have to add figure out Twitter to my list of things to do.  What the heck?  And I’m already behind the 8 ball, so the pressure is really on.

That’s when it hit me.  Ryan.  He likes spending time on the computer.  Why not have him do it?  I’ll even pay him.  And he can work when he wants for as long as he wants. 

So that’s what I did.  I showed Ryan my Twitter account.  And when we finally got the two Twitter accounts I owned figured out (I opened a Twitter account last fall??), he went to work.  I pay him 25 cents for each follower he gets me. 

But there are rules.  I’m very, very picky about who I interact with.  I don’t consider this a popularity contest.  This is not about amassing as many followers as he can get me.  He needs to read all the bios before clicking the ‘follow’ button.  I had already started the work for him so he could see the types of people I’m interested in following.  And if there’s ever a question, he can ask.

So far he’s made 75 cents.  That’s 3 followers.  Hmmm…this may be harder than I thought.  But then, who knows, maybe it’s just a slow start.  Hey, why don’t you help Ryan earn some money!  Become one of my followers on 

I feel great having that crossed off my list of things to do.  And Ryan feels great because he gets to “work” on the computer while earning extra money.  It’s a win/win.  Yea me for figuring this out.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

For someone who is very interested in his money, mostly because he needs it to fill up his car with gas, Nathan does a pretty bad job of keeping his cash organized.  He’s got some in his bathroom drawer, some on the floor of his room, some in his backpack, and some spilling out of the cup holder in his car.  And who knows where else.

So he decided the other day to collect it all and see how much there was.  Over $300.   He was thrilled.  I was not.  That’s a lot of money to have lying around.  He put it all in a baggie and there it sits on the family room table.  Still.

But as he passed the table last night and glanced at the bag he said, “I need to get that money into my checking account.  I don’t spend it if I can’t see it.”

Ah, so true.  So maybe there was a lesson in this after all.

A Blog Worthy of John

As I jumped up from the dinner table last night to jot down something that Nathan had just said about all the extra packaging that things come in (he’d rather save the money than have it spent on stuff that gets thrown out), John announced that he was glad he was not blog worthy.  My poor kids have to put up with a lot in the name of teaching  kids financial literacy.

Actually, John is very blog worthy.  I’ve just been focusing on the kids.  So this one’s for him.

As it so happens, later that night Ryan was talking about his investments.  He has $1500 in his savings account and I had mentioned earlier in the day that he might want to think about taking some of it and investing it.  He already owns shares in Chipotle, Costco, and Netflix and has a Vanguard 500 Index account.

John is a very deliberate thinker.  The first thing he asked Ryan was about his upcoming car purchase.  Ryan will be in the market for a car next year. 

“You need to consider your time line,”  John told him.  “You don’t want to put money that you’re going to need soon in an investment that’s meant for long term.  Like the stock market.”

Ryan responded with, “I don’t want to invest in CDs and bonds.  You don’t get much back from those.”

He’s right.  I’m not sure those could keep up with inflation right now.  But it is a secure investment and he’d get a little more than if he kept his money in his savings account.  When John realized, though, that Ryan was leaning a little towards choosing another stock he reminded Ryan that he’s taking on risk and will need to do his research.

John also talked to Ryan about balancing his portfolio.  “You don’t want to have all of your money in the stock market.  It’s a matter of percentages.  You need to figure out what percent of your money you want in stocks, what percent in mutual funds, and so on.”

This weekend the two of them are going to take a look at Ryan’s portfolio.  I don’t know if Ryan will, indeed, put some of his money into the market.  But I do know that if he does, I will follow suit.  So far, Ryan’s investments have done very well by him.

Sheesh. Really.

I was picking up Ryan from school yesterday.  Nathan was in the car with me because he had just had his wisdom teeth pulled.  He wasn’t doing so well and I was anxious to get going so that we could pick up his pain medication…that still wasn’t ready.  I’m thinking about switching back to Walgreen’s and missing out on the few extra dollars I save at Wal-Mart for prescriptions.  But that’s another story.

As we were inching our way out of the school parking lot, a kid that looked to be about 16 or 17 took his spot in front of me.  I noticed that the car he was driving was brand new; it still had the dealership license plate.  It was a very, very nice car.  I commented on it to the kids.

“Wow.  A brand new Cadillac.  Tell me that wasn’t his Christmas present,” I said, not really expecting that it would have been.  After all, it was a Cadillac.

“Yeah, it is,” they both said simultaneously.

That’s when I enter The Twilight Zone.  I simply cannot imagine a 16 year old getting a brand new car for Christmas, let alone a brand new Cadillac! 

And when I recovered:  “Are you kidding me??!!  He got a brand new caddy?”

“It’s pretty nice,” said Nathan, who drives to school in a used 2002 Toyota Camry that he paid half for.

Help me out here.  I know parents want to be able to buy nice things for their kids.  It makes the parents feel good to give and the kids feel good to receive.  But let’s take a moment to really think about this.  Even if they do have the money, and these parents apparently do, is giving your kid a brand new car a smart move?  What are the kids learning?  That they’ll get everything they want?  That this lifestyle will continue forever?

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no doubt that these kids are nice kids.  And, truthfully, I don’t even know if they need to “pay back” their parents somehow.  My guess is, no, they don’t. In that case, their parents are setting up some pretty high expectations. These kids are going to expect this kind of treatment.  They’re lucky the money is there now, but what about later in life?  Even if the kids do inherit all the money will they know how to effectively manage it?

It also makes me wonder about the real motivation behind the gift.  Is the gift for the kids or for the parents?  Will the kids grow up thinking that money equals love?  Will they grow up surrounded by nice things but feel alone?  Okay, I may be taking this a little too far.  But…maybe not.

As we finally pulled out on to the main road, Nathan said,  “You think that Caddy’s a nice car.  You should see the Mercedes that (Julie) got last year.  It’s a red convertible.”  


The Rubber Trees

Nathan and Ryan had a “job” over the holidays watching the neighbor Tom’s two cats and taking care of the plants.  They’ve done this job before, apparently well enough to get asked back.  Actually, they take the job seriously.  I know, because the rubber tree plants gave them quite a scare.

About two weeks into the three week stint, Nathan and Ryan came back from Tom’s house looking a little worried.  It had been unusually cold in our little town of Rocklin.  So much so that it actually snowed.  Enough for Ryan to run out that white morning and make a decent snowman.

Two days before the snow, however, the boys ran over to Tom’s to cover the plants.  Part of the job description included checking the weather forecast for temperature drops.  They were instructed to cover a section of the garden with plastic if it dropped below freezing.  I was proud that I didn’t have to remind them to do this; teaching kids how to be responsible is often difficult and, as a parent, you may not know if they’re learning this life skill until you see them running over to the neighbor’s house to cover the plants.

This particular day, the boys returned from feeding the cats and checking on the plants with definite concern in their eyes.  The rubber trees in Tom’s back yard were looking pretty “brown and droopy”.  Tom had asked that they water the trees every four days unless it rained.  Well it had rained so the boys figured the trees were fine.  Until they saw them that morning.

“You did what he asked you to do,”  I told the boys.  “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

“Yes, but we don’t want Tom to think we’re not responsible because their trees died,”  Nathan said.

It’s nice to see that kids actually care about things like whether or not the neighbor’s trees die…on their watch.  That’s what I love about having kids do small “jobs” such as this.  Jobs that don’t involve mom or dad, where someone else is boss.  And it’s been my experience that kids really like the responsibility.  They like knowing that someone trusts them to do the job and do it well.  Money aside, the confidence-building alone is worth it.

And the rubber trees?  Turns out each winter they turn brown and droopy.  They perk up in the spring.  Who knew?

Splurge. It’s Okay.

Nathan was headed out to Kragen’s the other day to buy some items for his car.  He loves his car and spends a lot of time…and money…on it.  I don’t know where this kid came from.  The rest of us look at cars as a tool to get us from point A to point B.

I asked Nathan why he didn’t get his supplies at Walmart which I was sure would be cheaper.  “Yeah, I know Walmart is cheaper.  But I love talking about my car to the people in Kragen’s.  They’re extremely helpful and know what I’m talking about.  They even installed my new windshield wipers the last time I was there.  For free.”

I’ve always taught my kids to be savvy shoppers.  Shop sales, I tell them.  Compare prices, I add.  Getting value for your dollar is important, I stress. 

But my little conversation with Nathan reminded me that sometimes spending a little extra in order to receive a little extra, is not a bad thing.  In fact, it’s a good thing.  We should splurge a little on the things that are important to us, as long as we don’t overdo it.  And most of us know where that line is.

Before Nathan walked away with his coveted car supplies he added, “Oh, and I love drooling over all the other stuff they have in the store.”  Made me think his (eventual) girlfriend is going to have to be a little understanding.