Saturday, December 28, 2013

8 Ways to Raise a Money-Wise Child

My daughter voiced a desire to learn about all the holiday traditions, most likely in an effort to score more presents. So far we have attended a Hanukkah party, celebrated our traditional Christmas and are now on to Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African-American heritage and centers around seven core principles. I always thought it originated in Africa, but it actually was created in California in the late 1960's. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa focuses on one of the seven qualities (I have simplified the definitions based on the song The Seven Principles by Sweet Honey In the Rock):

  • Umoja-Unity that brings us together.
  • Kujichagulia-We will determine who we are.
  • Ujima-Working and building our union.
  • Ujamaa-We'll spend our money wisely.
  • Nia-We know the purpose of our lives.
  • Kuumba-All that we touch is more beautiful.
  • Imani-We believe that we can, we know that we can, we will anyway.  

Since tomorrow is the day of Ujamaa (and since my daughters received some cash as gifts) we are going to use this week to talk about managing money. In the past, I have done this for my girls (read: stolen their money when they weren't looking and stuck it in the bank for them). But now that the Tooth Fairy has been making regular visits, my oldest daughter has managed to amass a small fortune. Here is what I plan to do:

  • Sit with my daughters and count up what they have saved and talk to them about what they have received.
  • Teach them to divide their funds 10-10-10-70. 10% will go to giving, 10% will go to savings, 10% will go to an investment fund and the remaining 70% is theirs to spend. I plan to demonstrate this using a dollar broken down into dimes--this way they can see how each dollar is divided (and they still get to spend most of it).
  • Ask them how they would like to give---this can be people/organizations for those in need or establishments that help them grow (schools, studios, sports teams, recreation centers) etc.
  • Set savings goals--it may help a child be more willing to delay the gratification of spending if they can be reminded of the coming benefit of saving (Oh you want to buy 7000 rainbow stickers? That will take away from your bike fund). I plan to set a short-term savings goal with them to determine what they might want to use their spending money for, as well as a long-term savings goal that they will use their savings for.
  • Look into opening a savings account at a local credit union or bank. Teach them about bank fees, interest rates and the "small print" of the banking agreement. For older kids, you might want to discuss the challenges and benefits of debit cards, credit cards and using cash.
  • Talk about investing. I am still learning about investing and until I learn more about where to steer my child, we will most likely put it in a 529 fund for college.
  • Let them make mistakes-(7000 rainbow stickers it is!) 
  • Be an example of wise money-handling.  Let them in on bill paying, budgeting, banking and savings and that time you splurged on a pair of shoes/tools/car/Vegas without planning ahead.

Here are a few links to help you get started this week. This is a big undertaking, but a very valuable lesson. Joyous Kwanzaa!

5 Ways to Raise a Financially Responsible Kid

4 money lessons for kids to master

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kiss the Sky

We are in Indiana for the Holidays. I put off some Christmas shopping until we got here so we wouldn't have to schlep too much on the plane. Even the minimal gifts we bought required a few hours out in the retail hive. By hour three, I found myself rushing a little more, mostly self-absorbed, still remembering to make eye-contact with the retail workers, but irritable and ready to go home. The Winter Solstice was yesterday. For me it's a time to reconnect with nature and observe its flow and how it reflects in our lives. The only way I feel connected to nature in a mall is the unshakeable feeling that I am part of a herd. That's the "moo moo" kind, not the "we are all one" kind.  

I got home and went upstairs to nurse my daughter. Since our arrival, her favorite thing to do when she wakes up is crawl to the window next to the bed and look out at the sky and the trees. I am following her lead for our activity this week. Instead of starting my day by grabbing my phone and checking my email, I am bookending a few of our days with nature.  Start the day by pulling up the blinds and watching the birds flit around for a few minutes. Notice how what is growing near your house and how the neighborhood wakes up. If you can manage to work it into your holiday routine this week, designate some time each night to head outside, look up at the stars and take some deep breaths and remember what a huge, miraculous Universe we are a part of. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Hole in Santa's System

It goes without saying that the Holidays is a time of giving. From Halloween to Valentine's Day, I am constantly preaching its importance. This year, I realized if I continue to encourage (read: force) my kids to give to others, they will discover eye-rolling at a much earlier age. For the past few years, I have marched my kids to the toy aisle and asked them to pick out a toy to give to a kid who won't have one on Christmas. Then we drive it over to the Toys-For-Tots barrel and leave it there, trusting that whomever receives it will be happy and feel our love from afar. This is more of a form of torture for a kid, especially for my kids who rarely get to go to the toy store, let alone leave with something for themselves. Plus, as my daughter pointed out, Santa is supposed to make sure each child gets a toy, so is there some kind of hole in the system if some of them are getting missed?!!!

I realized the lesson I was trying to teach was not landing and was probably creating some resentments too.  While toy drives and food drives are an excellent way to give, there is no "payoff". My children can't see the good they are doing and receive the inspiration to continue to do more good when they place things in a barrel. So this week, we are going to do a Random Act of Kindness. I asked my daughters a few questions this week to see if we might be able to come up with something THEY want to do. Here are some prompts/suggestions that might help YOU help THEM discover how to help SOMEONE ELSE:
  • if I gave you one dollar, but you couldn't keep it for yourself, what would you do with it?
  • is there something in the world that you don't like that you wish you could make better? What could we do to make it better?
  • Practice your own Act of Kindness in their presence--they may be inspired if they see you "Paying-it-Forward". 
  • remember that pets, the environment, schools, friends, neighbors, parents with new babies, the elderly can be recipients of your "Act of Kindness".
  • Trust that with a little encouragement and conversation, children can discover their own way to give. Honor that discovery and assist them in making it happen without editing their idea.
 Have a wonderful Holiday!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Fresh Melody

With the holidays well under way, I am pretty sure you have been immersed in the soundtrack of Yuletide Carols upon entry into any retail establishment since late October. Each year I wonder if they stopped making Christmas music in 1992 because I am so tired of hearing Whitney Houston ask me if I hear what she hears (No, Whitney, no. I still...don't....HEAR IT!) So pause the holiday music at some point this week and take some time to explore a genre of music you haven't spent as much time with. Today, I asked my girls to lie down, close their eyes and listen to some new selections. It opened up a really cool discussion and was incredibly relaxing as well (until we got to Mongolian Throat Singing---then we were giggling a bit). Here are some selections you might find more interesting than "Santa Baby":

Opera-Delibes' Flower Duet

Classical-Dvorak's New World Symphony

Brazilian Samba

African-Soweto Gospel Choir

Mongolian Throat Singing

A Capella-Rock With You

An incredibly creative way to play the piano

Bluegrass-Sierra Hull

For the sake of convenience, most of these links will lead to a you tube video.  To keep things unplugged, I covered the screen and we simply listened to the tracks. You can also use Pandora (the music app) or the music channels on satellite tv to search different genres. Here are a some of our favorites:

Celtic Harp
Musical Theatre

We always end up having a dance party in our living room when we explore music. So tear it up together or just relax and enjoy the tunes! Happy Listening!

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