Thursday, September 09, 2004

When Do You Teach Your Childen About Money?

I remember the look on my father's face the first time I pulled out a credit card.

I guess it was a rite of passage for him. He asked me if he had "signed for it." I was probably about twenty or so, and he shouldn't have been that surprised. In many ways, he had prepared me for the world of credit, taxes, financing agreements, loans, and so on.

But I could tell that it surprised him.

My brother and sister and I had savings accounts as long as I can remember. I think my parents put some seed money in our accounts to make us feel good about collecting, but we were expected to deposit some of our allowance into our bank accounts on a regular basis. It was a way of investing in ourselves and giving us something to plan ahead for.

There's a memory of my father sitting down with me, and having me carefully read the instructions for my first income tax payment. He showed me where to enter what, and how to look up how much I owed, or how much I would get back. After that first time, I was on my own. I've done my taxes for myself ever since.

I believe that in there somewhere we even worked out a budget. I don't recall how old I was, but it made a lot of sense when we did it, and the exercise has helped me ever since.

But I don't remember really talking about finances in school, except maybe when it came to counting out lunch money.

A Wharton article, Teaching Kids about Money: Why It's Not Just Fun and Games takes a look at making financial literacy something taught in classes. It opens with this quote:

"Improving basic financial education at the elementary and secondary school level is essential to providing a foundation for financial literacy that can prevent younger people from making poor financial decisions that can take years to overcome." Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, 2001

But that type of practical application seems to be something schools often leave to parents. A couple of pages I found on teaching children about money are these two:

Teaching children about money

A snippet:

Tips for teaching children about money. Younger children may believe that parents have an unlimited supply of money, unaware that checks and credit cards are not the same as cash and that bills must be paid.

Another one that does a nice job of explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the dole system and the allowance system: Teaching Your Children About Money

A good time to consider giving your child money is when he or she is between the ages of five and eight. Most parents use the Dole System or the Allowance System, and both have advantages and disadvantages. Research shows that in some instances an allowance may cost less than simply giving or doling money out for specific needs and wants.

A Good Reason for Headlines

A study from the Poynter Institute had some interesting observations when they studied what people look on web pages while wearing eyetracking equipment.

The project, Eyetrack III, may or may not have implications for your web site.

One quote I thought was very interesting:

Smaller type encourages focused viewing behavior (that is, reading the words), while larger type promotes lighter scanning. In general, our testing found that people spent more time focused on small type than large type. Larger type resulted in more scanning of the page -- fewer words overall were fixated on -- as people looked around for words or phrases that captured their attention

My favorite page in the study was one that compared the styles of five different web sites.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

So you Want to Volunteer With a NonProfit

There are a lot of reasons to get involved with a nonprofit organization.

One reason may be because you have some free time, and want to find a way to spend it in a productive manner. There are many organizations that could use a hand, and many opportunities looking for people to fill them. A group like Volunteer Match can help you find an internship, or post as an educator, mentor, or other position.

The range of choices may surprise you. A search in my area revealed a need for a person to help with Special Olympics, a music/choral group leader, a court appointed special advocate, a database application developer for a museum, a museum guide, a humane cat trapper, a dog walker, a literacy volunteer teaching adults, a park ranger intern, a member of a historic sewing group, and many more.

Another reason may be because you have nothing else to do. I remember when a friend had left his job, and was wandering directionless. I saw a sign for a group that was rescuing and rehabilitating wild birds nearby, and convinced him that it might be something fun to do, and that I would join with him. He got involved with them, and spent some serious time helping to do construction jobs around their facilities, care for sick and injured birds, and travel to places near and far to help rescue birds from oil spills. He met his future wife while volunteering there. It seemed in some ways that the opportunity helped rescue him.

A different reason might be that you have no choice. Well, you do have a choice, but helping others may just be the thing that helps you. An ex-neighbor knocked on my door a couple of months back. He asked me for some advice with the legal system. He had been caught driving without a license -- for the third time. His court date was in about a month. It's a charge that often carries with it some prison time. He asked me what he should do. I told him that the best thing he could do was to go to some place like the Boys club, or somewhere else, and volunteer. Find something that a judge could look at and say to him or herself that "here is someone who is trying to do something for someone else. Someone who just might have seen the errors of his ways." I didn't want to get all preachy, and I could tell by the incredulous look on his face that it wasn't the advice that he expected.

I don't know if he took my advice. I hope that he did.

If you do consider volunteering, there are some things that you should keep in mind. I came across an excellent online resource that's worth a good look if you're inclined to get involved. The Volunteer Legal Handbook - 7th Edition looks at some of the possible problems and risks you might take as a volunteer. Here are a couple of examples that they describe :

  • The auto accident. You volunteer to drive a group of little league baseball players to a baseball game. You are involved in an auto accident and some of your little league passengers are hurt. Are you liable for their injuries? If so, will your insurance cover the claim?

  • The fired volunteer. You are an unpaid supervisor of a group of volunteers. One of the volunteers has failed to perform adequately, and you have terminated his volunteer status with the organization. Now the former volunteer has sued you and the organization for slander, libel and wrongful dismissal. Are you liable?
I'm going to take another look at that Volunteer Match site. There are a couple of really nice museums nearby that looked like they needed guides. It could be fun.

short bits

Some links that I read on the web recently which I found interesting:

Monday, September 06, 2004

blogging businesses

Why should your business have a blog?

I was hard pressed to come up with any better reasons than the ones listed in Lip-Sticking: 5 Reasons Jane Thinks Every Small Business Should Blog. If you have a business, and you don't have a blog, I'd recommend that you pay her site a visit.

As Yvonne Divita states, it's about improving communication with your customers. A blog can be very easy to set up, and if you like writing, can be a great way to get online quickly and easily.

I'll add to her other points that it can be fairly inexpensive to set up a blog.