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Military Family Month and Your Kids

Have you ever spoken to your kids about the realities of war? What about the debt each of us owes to our veterans and their families? This is a great opportunity to begin having these family conversations.
Read more as featured in Huffington Post.

Leave Your Children More Than Money

In addition to the financial, there is another component to your children’s legacy that you should consider — the softer side. This is the very essence of your family that you want to pass on to the next generation.

Read more as featured in Huffington Post.

College to Career

As you plan for college or have already begun your college years, have an eye towards your future career.  Success for students is traditionally defined by high grades for classes and praise from teachers, coaches and parents.  The real world of work can be shocking to new grads – even more so for those who just squeaked through.

A college degree might get you in the door for an interview, and it might increase your earning power, but there’s more.  Employers want to know what you can do, not just what you know.  According to Forbes, 88 percent of employers are looking for a cultural fit – professionalism, enthusiasm, confidence, and motivation.  Will they become an asset to the company?

These are skills that are learned through real life: part-time jobs, internships, and volunteering, more than through required classes.

  • Think of college as your job, and your professor as your boss.  Dress to impress, use positive body language, and be polite to fellow classmates.  Of course, be on time and complete all assignments on time.
  • Practice your listening skills, understand the materials, and ask pertinent questions.
  • Group projects are a great way to practice leadership and teamwork skills.
  • Students have a lot to balance.  This is a great opportunity to put self-management skills to use. Utilize notes, study groups and discipline to get focused.
  • Employers want a person who is willing to tackle challenges.  It is more important for students to challenge themselves than to maintain a perfect GPA.  Easy “A” courses aren’t as valuable as a challenging course that builds confidence you will use in your career.

Employers are looking for applicants with the know-how and skill set to get the job done.  This semester, don’t just dress for the job you want, be the professional you want to be. Now is the time to start creating your professional presence. Make a bold statement with your actions and your words.

Identity Theft: It’s Not Just For Grownups!

Imagine finding out that your eight year-old has a house in foreclosure thousands of miles away.  How about getting collection calls because  your young teen is several payments behind on a car loan? These are not far-fetched scenarios.   Over 10% of U.S. children have had their Social Security number used  fraudulently.

Kids have pristine records with no real credit score of their own.  Parents generally don’t think to monitor the status of their kids’ identity.  This is the perfect combination for children to be the easy targets of identity theft.

A child’s Social Security number can be used by identity thieves in the same ways as our own numbers can be used – to apply for government benefits, to open bank accounts, to obtain credit cards, to apply for loans and to secure a rental lease.

The government has taken steps to protect your child.  The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009  set the minimum age for having a credit card at twenty-one.  A student can get a card at eighteen with the co-signature of a parent and proof of ability to pay for charges.  The companies were also forced to stop practices to entice students on college campuses with offers of free gifts.

You Can Help Protect Your Child’s Identity and Credit Health

  • School forms often require personal information.  Ask how the information is collected, used, stored, and disposed of.  This sensitive information is protected by law – make sure that they have a plan to safeguard the information.
  • Watch for credit offers mailed in your child’s name as this can be an early warning to identity theft.  If the offer is from a bank where there is an account in your child’s name, ask to be removed from marketing.  If the offer comes from another source, check with the company to see how they acquired your child’s name.
  • If you receive a bill, collection letter or phone call in your child’s name – there’s a problem. Don’t ignore these red flags, contact the creditor.
  • Check to see if your child has a credit report.  The reporting agencies generally don’t keep reports on minors – if there is a report, it is a good indicator that someone has been using your child’s identity.  Teach your older teens to check their credit report annually.  Have them do it on their birthday – this is an easy reminder, and consider keeping good credit as a birthday present to themselves.
  • Teach your kids about credit cards and using credit wisely – start when they are very young and see you using your cards to pay for groceries or toys.  Explain that credit cards are not magic and that you get a bill at the end of the month which has to be paid.  Start your older kids off with a debit or prepaid card – think of these as credit cards with training wheels.

There are nearly nine million identity fraud victims every year in the United States with the total financial loss attributed to identity theft of over $13 billion.  Be vigilant and protect yourself and your children.  Credit problems can have far-reaching effects on your child’s future, including employment, college acceptance, tuition loans and even home ownership.

Baby Boomers to Millennials

Congratulations Baby Boomers, six-thousand of you are officially entering your Golden Years every day.  You’re reaching that wonderful age when you can retire, do all the things you put off and spend precious time with your children and grandchildren.  Nearly half of 65-year-old Boomers are retired.

Whether you have already begun living the retirement of your dreams, or you are still working, you probably think about the estate you will leave behind.  In an ideal world, your kids should be grown and self-sufficient so you are focusing on the next generation – those wonderful grandchildren.  You and your lawyer, together with your financial planner, have carefully thought out your last wishes and put them into a will, but have you thought about what your heirs will do with their inheritance?  I’m sure that some of you have lost sleep over this.  Will they know how to handle money?  Are they savers or spenders?

Your financial professional helps you manage your funds, but are you taking any steps to help your grandchildren grow up to be money savvy?  They’re not going to learn personal finance in school, and many young parents are simply too busy with everyday life – the way you may have been too busy to teach your own kids.  You, the grandparent, can lend a hand.  Not only will you help your grandkids become financially literate, but it’s a great excuse to spend more time with them!

You have to talk to your grandkids about money from a very early age as this is when good habits start to form.  Make sure that they come into contact with money, learn where it comes from and understand how it is used. Make learning fun with games and real-life experiences.

Help your children start their kids on my Work-For-Pay Allowance System as early as age three.  They do two types of chores:  Citizen of the Household chores, where they don’t get paid, and Work-For-Pay chores.  Citizen of the Household chores teach them that good citizens of the world, the community and of the family, help out because it is the right thing to do.  The Work-For-Pay Allowance System teaches them how to earn and budget their money.  They will learn values and life skills that they’ll need to live in the real world – and also prepare them to handle their eventual inheritance responsibly.

Does your grandchild know the difference between need and want? As the child grows, the learning continues with an introduction to saving and investing, the concept of taxes, and don’t forget to teach them about charitable giving.

Remember that your goal is to assist your children in teaching their children, but it could be a good refresher for your own children.  The learning should be a fun, bonding experience for the whole family.  Regardless of your financial situation, if you’re spending time with your family, these really will be your Golden Years.