Kids and money
When it comes to money, Mother may not necessarily know best, but she’s more willing to talk about it: Fidelity
I remember when my first son was three years old, and in the “why” stage of development, we had a lengthy conversation about ATMs.
“Why do we need to go to the bank?”
“Why do you put money in the bank?”
“Why do you need to save?”
Why, why, why, and before I knew it I was trying to explain to this tot the concept of interest, paying for a mortgage, budgeting – and yes, asking myself the whole time why I was trying to answer these questions with any depth when he was only 3.
Since then we’ve had a lot of follow-up conversations as his little mind tried to grasp through repetition these financial concepts, and I tried to impart financial lessons to keep in check the also-growing consumerism that seems to accelerate when kids enter kindergarten.
But what I’ve come to realize is that having simple conversations about even complex ideas on money has built a foundation for us talking about these issues that I hope will carry into his adult years. Because in addition to wanting to raise a responsible adult, I recognize that the time will come when I will need him, and his siblings, to understand my finances and estate, and execute them on my behalf. I want them to know my values and feelings about these matters, and to be able to take care of them for me if I need assistance.
Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to go paperless. I succeeded, but not in the way that I expected.
I began the year trying several new online applications that aimed to help me organize tasks ranging from setting up a snapshot of all my bills and reminders to pay them, to creating a family system that would allow my kids to track their allowances and chores.
As I often discover (and re-discover) when I embark on an effort to create new habits, starting simple is best. As such, I found that a lot of these applications fell by the wayside, probably because I tried to integrate too many of them into my busy routine at once. Collectively they were too new, and therefore too difficult to master, in an efficient amount of time.
I ended up laying the foundation for my paperless life – and eliminating literally bags upon bags of clutter - with three simple steps:
1. Assign one email address as my contact for reminders from banks and bill companies, and then sign up for paperless statements.
2. Create a filing system on my computer to organize all documents, back it up twice with an external hard drive and a cloud-based storage system, and set quarterly reminders on my calendar to download statements.
3. Buy a desktop scanner that’s also portable for when I travel. As silly as this may sound, having the big all-in-one printer/scanner/fax machine that sits at the opposite end of the room was simply too much effort when I could more easily throw a piece of paper into the scanner to file online while talking on the phone or finishing an email.
My work and personal email inboxes are chock full of online ads, promoting next week’s so-called “Black Friday” retail doorbusters to kick off the holiday shopping season.
Seems as if retailers in the Greater Boston area need to do a little more homework, though, if they want to capture this market. According to the results of the survey that I posted last week, more than 70 percent of Boston.com readers plan to wait to do most of their holiday shopping until early December, when there aren’t many crowds in the stores. I have to agree with my readers. Who wants to deal with Black Friday when you can wait a few days and have some time to think and space to breathe in the stores?
Several companies that have contacted me, claiming to have done “studies” that forecast an increase in holiday shopping spending, also don’t seem to have a good pulse on what Boston-area residents plan to do. Sixty-four percent of readers who answered my survey said their budgets are going to stay the same this year. Another 25 percent said they’re reducing it. Only 11 percent will increase their budget.
Excel spreadsheets are once again becoming my best friend.
As I begin preparing my annual Christmas shopping list, instead of my usual paper system tacked onto my bulletin board or stuffed in my wallet, I have decided to lay out my list of people, and purchases, in a few simple columns so that I can easily find and track all of the information.
At the end of last year’s holiday season, I realized that my budget should not only include those items I buy for gifts, but all the other items I end up purchasing because it’s the one time of the year that I actually take time out to shop. It’s the extra things that end up blowing my budget and bloating my credit-card bill come January.
It also helps me reinforce the fairness factor among my kids. We always try to make sure that we split our immediate family budget pretty evenly among them, but having a formula that automatically tallies up the amounts for me as I input each one makes it a lot easier to make sure that I am keeping my word.
Easthampton Savings Bank is one of 88 banks nationwide that is participating in this year’s “Lights, Camera, Save!” video contest for teens that’s organized by the Education Foundation of the American Bankers Association.
The contest asks teens ages 13-18 years old to create a video that educates themselves, and their peers, about the value of saving and using money wisely. The videos can’t be longer than 90 seconds and must be an original work by the student (including all music and images).
Expecting an inheritance? Apparently so, if you’re a member of Gen Z. And that youthful optimism may deter these individuals from taking retirement savings seriously – with potentially damaging consequences.TD Ameritrade interviewed about 1,000 members of Gen Z (young people ages 13-22) and a similar number of parents, and found that almost 40 percent of Gen Z respondents believed that they will have an inheritance and therefore won’t need to worry about saving for retirement. In contrast, just 16 percent of parents thought as much.
That result was surprising, said Carrie Braxdale, managing director, investor services, TD Ameritrade, Inc., because this group of young people was generally pretty savvy about articulating the current challenges in the economy and job market. And with the majority of them already actively using some kind of investment or savings account, they also clearly had been taught about the importance of saving and thinking about a financial plan.
Still, they are focusing mainly on “savings needs that are more near-term,” Braxdale said. “Many explicitly said they are saving for college or current expenses.”
Whenever I write anything about affluent Americans, inevitably I hear from some readers about how journalists are “out of touch” and not understanding the issues. I find these emails striking because they reflect a lot of the uncertainty and frustration most people are feeling in today’s job market and economy. And while I am often just reporting the results of someone else’s study, I understand that even doing that simple act can rub people who are struggling the wrong way.
So when I was told about a recent “Affluent Insights Survey” that Merrill Lynch conducted, I found myself wondering how we might think about its results so that it can be useful information for a variety of individuals, of varying incomes, and not just for those who happen to have $250,000 or more of investable assets. To me, these surveys are helpful if we can find even just one or two nuggets of new information that might serve as potentially interesting solutions when applied to our own lives.
Let’s start by laying out some of the context for the results uncovered by the survey. Among the 1,000+ individuals that Merrill Lynch interviewed, close to half view today’s economic uncertainty as a “new normal,” with rising healthcare costs, the care of aging parents, and the extended financial support being given to adult-age children weighing on their minds. Four out of five, or about 80 percent, of those surveyed worry that they won’t be able to achieve their financial goals before they retire.
Some of these “affluent” individuals are drawing a harder line on funding college. About 48 percent told Merrill Lynch that they were willing to support adult-age children for as long as they need. But some are trying to use the expense as a way to teach a financial lesson. About 38 percent of parents today paid for, or plan to pay for, the full cost of their children’s college education, down from 48 percent a year ago, the survey said. And when asked about their ability to fund higher learning, 19 percent said they chose not to pay for the full amount so that their kids would appreciate their education more.
Increasingly, “families are getting together, with their college-age kids, to talk about how they will pay for college, even in this group where the cost was traditionally paid for by parents,” said Merril Pyes, a managing director in Boston with Merrill Lynch. “Parents are talking with their kids about how to pay for it, what they’ll get out of college, and what their kids will do when they get out.”
Having more conversations as a family about finances seems to be one of the bigger lessons we can learn from this survey, which provided other examples of how people are trying to communicate, and work together, more to solve concerns and challenges.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I went into sticker shock when I learned the cost of childcare. I had assumed it would be expensive, I just didn’t realize that my recent move to Massachusetts meant I would be paying prices that didn’t just rival – they exceeded -- New York and some other places I had previously lived in.
And the trend continues. A study by Child Care Aware® of America found that Massachusetts had the highest average annual cost for full-time infant daycare in the U.S. at an average $14,980 per year, and that top expense continues through age 4. It’s only when a child enters school that the state drops off the top 10 list.
Think about creating a family financial album, and other tips, from Boston’s Top Woman Financial Advisor, Mary Mullin
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Merrill Lynch wealth management advisor Mary Mullin, a resident of Sudbury who was recognized this summer as one of America’s Top 100 Women Advisors by Barron’s Magazine – and the top Woman Financial Advisor in Boston.
Ms. Mullin’s group of clients consists largely of women and couples, and after more than three decades working at Merrill, she has seen the impact that the sharing of financial duties can have on an individual’s understanding of a family’s financial condition.
Having raised four kids as a single, working mom, she also intimately understands the challenges of juggling the management of a household budget with the need for long-term financial planning.
I asked her to identify the top three lessons she’s learned from her experiences, and would like to share with women as they organize their finances, either alone or with a partner. She came up with more than that. Looking at all of her comments, though, I think you’ll agree that her insights can be universally applied:
If you could afford to fully foot the college bill, would you? Legg Mason study finds even most affluent parents want kids to help pay
Financing a college education is a big effort for every family, and according to Legg Mason Inc., a global asset management firm based in Baltimore, even those affluent enough to fully fund the bill feel that their children should help pay the cost.
More than 1,000 parents who have $250,000 or more in investable assets were surveyed by Legg Mason in order to find out their expectations when it came to college funding. Of those surveyed, 72 percent said they believe that their children should pay part of their college expenses – close to one-third said they should contribute as much as half the total amount.
The parents said they wanted their kids to participate in the investment because they wanted to make sure that their children take college education seriously, and appreciate it. They also used it as a way of teaching responsibility.