Kids Need Money Mentors

Money MentorWith the level of consumer debt skyrocketing and the cost of housing, education, and health care increasing at double digit rates, younger generations are facing unprecedented challenges to achieving economic security and financial independence.  Therefore, helping our youth to learn effective money management skills, and to adopt good financial habits and attitudes, is more important than ever.

So what can you do if you are worried about the financial future of your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews?  The place to start is by considering the positive influence you can have in shaping their financial well-being.  Next, think about and choose specific ways that you can be a proactive Money Mentor in their lives.  Here are suggestions and resources to get you started: (more…)

More Holiday Gift Giving Ideas – Nope, More Holiday Enjoyment Ideas

Happy HolidayWell, here we are, in the midst of the Holiday Season and yet one more person, a finance planner no less, is going to presume to tell you how to enjoy the Holidays this year. That’s right, but with a twist. Since I really don’t presume to have all of the answers, I’m going to suggest you take this advice from someone else, not me.

The free eBook from Family Circle Advisers: Hip Family’s Guide to Happier Holidays is, quite simply, a little gem of a book by Lisa Parker, designed to help you and your family put the Joy back in the enjoyment of your end-of-year Holiday Season. The book is just five pages, but I believe they just may be five of the most important pages you’ve read in years.

  • Building Rituals and Traditions – within your family structure is a wonderful way to increase sharing and the joy of giving to each other. This does not require spending money, but it does require creative thinking, in a collective setting; a setting of family.
  • Sharing stories – of favorite holiday experiences builds a bond that expensive gifting can never match. Asking older family members to share with younger, stories from a simpler time perhaps, will help everyone to appreciate the wealth and abundance you already share, rather than focusing on that hot new thing on TV.
  • Giving and Service – to those less fortunate than ourselves is a great way to teach children the value of community. It is also a real rush to help others, creating what is called the “helper’s high.” Doing good feels good, and is good for you, and your family. The simplest of things can make a world of difference to someone who has less than you and, since time is your most valuable asset, encouraging your family to volunteer to help others can bring great rewards.

Ms. Parker encourages families to ask three simple questions before they begin to make these changes to the way they view the holidays. This year, she suggests, ask yourselves these questions and, based on the answers, set yourselves up for a more joyful Holiday Season.

  • What are our favorite memories of holidays past?
  • What would make this holiday special, if we did not get gifts?
  • What holiday tradition do we hope our own children and grandchildren will remember with love, and continue with their own families?

Experience teaches us that expensive gifts rarely add much to the Holiday experience, no matter how eagerly they are wanted or how expensive they are. As parents, we feel the need to give our kids everything they ever wanted. But stuff rarely lasts beyond the initial glow. Instead, this year, use the holidays creatively to think of gifts and celebrating differently. Traditions lead to memories and this is what is meaningful and lasting.

Tamarind Financial Planning is here for you, with individual financial planning strategies and personal investment management techniques to help you meet and exceed your financial goals.

Feel Good about Holiday Giving

As we look toward the Holiday season, some of us may do so with a bit of trepidation. The expense involved in celebrating the season with family and friends, and especially Holiday giving, can create a real sense of apprehension and misgiving. What is the solution? How can you feel good about Holiday giving?

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ~ Anne Frank, “The Diary of Anne Frank”

Now is the time to begin budgeting for the holidays, including budgeting for gifts, decorating, entertaining – and giving to charity.

As a family, take the time to set expectations and Holiday budgets, and then work within those limits to avoid excessive spending and New Year’s regrets. As you go through this process, consider your charitable giving and/or volunteering goals for this holiday season, as well. I am always amazed at how much my kids enjoy the experience of giving and volunteering.

The more tangible the gifts are, the better, of course. When we help to cook and serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter, mu children really feel that they are doing something meaningful. As well, saving coins and part of the money they earn, and giving it to an organization that they have a connection with, truly warms their hearts – and mine – as I observe and appreciate their generosity!

Get help to feel good about Holiday giving

Here are a few online resources you can use to help you feel good about holiday giving, whether you give cash, clothing, or time…

  • Giving Tuesday – “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help create #GivingTuesday™, the giving season’s opening day.”
  • Charity Navigator – “…free charity ratings have enabled millions of donors to access relevant information before they make a donation – giving them the peace of mind they desire.”
  • Volunteer Guide – “The Volunteer Guide directory makes it possible for busy people like you to make a difference at anytime, from anywhere. Even if you have an unpredictable schedule, you can volunteer for your favorite cause.”

Study after study has shown that charitable giving offers great reward for the giver, as well as the receiver. Being charitable provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment and an improved sense of self-worth. In fact, there is actually a chemical pleasure-reaction in the human brain caused by being generous to those less fortunate.

With the economy still shaky and jobs and income at risk, many cannot afford even their own vision of a beautiful holiday, let alone feel that they can help others. Indeed these can be scary times. The media and retail-America would like us (and our kids) to believe that buying stuff is what makes the holidays beautiful and meaningful – the newest, coolest, biggest, best…Really?! And for many of us, the thought of disappointing our children is devastating. But consider all of the ways that we can help others during the holidays (and all year long for that matter!) – give time; give stuff; give money…

In spite of tough economic times recently, Americans give about $300 billion to charity each year.

Again, talking as a family, setting time and money budgets, setting expectations are free things we can do that will add meaning and beauty to this holiday season – for others, as well as for ourselves and our children.

At Tamarind Financial Planning, we are here to help you with budgeting for the holidays in ways that will help you feel good about Holiday giving, using proven individual financial planning strategies and personal investment management techniques.

Wealth is a State of Mind

As more research into the reasons some grow wealthy while others do not is proving, a person’s mental attitude or state of mind is critical to financial freedom – however you define it. Like so many things in life, human beings are able to talk themselves into just about anything. So, why not talk yourself into becoming financially successful – or – rich?

In Napoleon Hill’s classic book “Think and Grow Rich,” written in 1937 during the Great Depression, he shared the principles that he used to pull himself out of poverty and to help others do the same. None of these principles deal with specific earning or investing skills, but with creating the mental attitude that creates the fertile soil of wealth building.

In an article for CNNMoney, for Money Magazine titled Trick Yourself into Getting Richer, the five authors rely heavily on the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahnemann, in which he “explains that human brains are of two minds: the fast, intuitive decision-maker and the slower, more analytical ponderer.” The idea is to try to “trick” oneself into thinking like a rich person. A few of the more effective tricks would be…

  • Personalize your accounts – Name your savings account for the goals you’ve set for yourself. Names like “fabulous world adventure” or “move to the country” on a savings account will help you to remain focused on your goal when you’re tempted to spend that money on something frivolous or unnecessary.
  • Hang with likeminded folks – Those who think alike tend to live alike. If your goal is to become more successful, you should spend time with successful people. Whatever “success” means to you, if you become familiar with a model of success, you are more likely to achieve that success.
  • Spend time with the “old folks” – “In a study led by NYU professor Hal Hershfield, people who were prompted to think about their grandparents were likely to have saved more than those who weren’t.” Sensitizing yourself to what it is like to be an older person, your compassion for your future self may motivate you to save more.
  • Guilt yourself into saving – By setting up automatic transfers to savings, you may feel guilty when you make unnecessary purchases rather than making that transfer back to checking. Play on that guilt to help you save.
  • Spend time with the less fortunate – You will be less inclined to try to “Keep up with the Joneses” if you spend some time with those who live with less than you. Perspective will help you save. Remember the Guilt trick?

“I want to eat less and exercise more,” is not the type of goal that motivates anyone to lose weight; feeling better, looking better, and living longer is the goal. Eating less and exercising more are merely the means. Similarly, “I want to spend less and save more,” is something we all know we should do, but this idea does not have the power to motivate. I am much more interested in what actually works – what actually motivates folks to define and achieve their dreams.

At Tamarind Financial Planning, we will use our individual financial planning strategies and personal investment management techniques to help you focus more intently on your goals and find ways to help you make your financial dreams come true.

How Much Money is “Enough?”

When it comes to real estate, we are told it is all about location, location, location. When it comes to money, we are told we need more, more, more. However, this begs the question, “How much is enough?” Through the use of our personal investment management strategies and individual financial planning, we can help you answer this question; for yourself and your family.

The messages we receive every day, from radio, television, and all over the internet teaches us to focus on always striving for “More.” But, how much is enough? How much is enough to eliminate the fear of running out of money? How much is enough for us to relax and be happy?

Personal financial planning will help you know when “enough is enough”

There are many principles which will help you to manage personal finances in such a way as to appreciate what you DO have, as opposed to what you do NOT have. The most important of these is, the Principal of Sufficiency. In essence, this principle teaches us that, “If you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have, what you have expands.” ~ Lynne Twist, author of “The Soul of Money.”

When every message you receive about money compels you to seek more, with no end in sight, how can you possibly be happy? Instead, avoid the endless struggle for more, and begin to appreciate that which you already possess. The things we appreciate will also appreciate, which is the very definition of prosperity.

Individual financial planning should include a “Giving Budget”

The old adage “Money can’t buy happiness,” is really off the mark. It is the constant struggle for more money which precludes finding happiness. In fact, money can, when properly used, “buy” happiness – in the form of giving, as explained in this short speech by Michael Norton, a TedxCambridge speaker.

The key point to remember is this; having more money is not linked with happiness, yet giving money to those is need is linked with happiness. Further, the amount of giving does not matter nearly as much as the simple fact of giving to others.

The concept of giving leading to happiness has been shown to be true in many happiness research projects. The benefits of giving on a consistent basis cannot be denied, as explained in the article, “The Psychology of Giving,” by Carol Anderson, President of Money Quotient.

Here are a few simple ways to start your Giving Budget:

  • consider the areas where you would like to see change
  • research organizations that serve this cause
  • determine a monthly amount for giving as part of your household budget
  • collect change in a jar and regularly count it up and give it
  • consider organizations that you can volunteer with – particularly with kids
  • reflect and write about your experiences

Manage personal finances properly – and become a philanthropist

The messages we receive, as well as the language surrounding giving, can actually discourage generosity by the average individual. The way in which the word “philanthropy” is commonly used implies that generosity requires great wealth. This is untrue.

Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of believing that you must be “wealthy,” or that you must “have enough,” or that you must have reached some “critical mass” in income before you allow yourself to begin giving. While it is true that the very wealthy have done some great things through giving, focusing on these generous actions completely misses the point. It takes the focus off what we – you and I – can do today with whatever we have – and the impact that can have.

At Tamarind Financial Planning, we will use our individual financial planning strategies and personal investment management techniques to help you know when enough is enough, and to help you begin your Giving Budget.

There With Care

One of my most popular blog articles offered ideas about organizations where kids can do community volunteering. Recently I learned of an inspiring new (to the Bay Area) non-profit, run by San Carlos resident, Michelle Chang. I spoke with her about There With Care and learned about a number of opportunities for kids and families to get involved.

There With Care is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to easing the burden of life’s daily obligations for families of critically-ill children, working with the NICU and pediatric oncology departments at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.

Michelle Chang, Executive Director of the Bay Area Chapter of There With Care, recently accepted the challenge of re-entering the workforce and starting up this new chapter of There With Care, which has been operating in the Denver/Boulder area since 2005 and plans to roll out services nationwide.

How did you connect with There With Care? I was initially looking into volunteering with families going through a medical crisis.  I have two children, and we went through two years of chemotherapy for my younger daughter when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at a young age.  We had such an incredible support network during that time that I wanted to give back to others going through similar situations.  I read about There With Care and was so impressed by their mission.  I was even more thrilled to learn that they were expanding their services to the Bay Area.

Tell us more about the families you help? All our families are referred to us through the social workers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, with plans to eventually expand to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Oakland.  Many of these families have traveled far distances to these leading hospitals in the hopes that their children may receive the best in medical care, and are removed from their community and support networks.  There With Care tries to fill this role with the utmost respect and care.

What are some ways that families in our community can get involved? We are fortunate to live in such a wonderful, compassionate community and welcome help of any kind.  We are especially proud to welcome our smallest volunteers and have seen that children love to feel they have made a difference and are empowered by helping others.  Some ways to help are:

  • Hold a diaper and used baby clothes/toys drive with your playgroup to benefit our families and invite a There With Care representative to speak about opportunities to get involved
  • Ask your school, troop, church group, or other social group to hold a diaper or used baby clothes/toys drive or fundraiser to benefit There With Care
  • Attend a volunteer training (email volunteer.bayarea@therewithcare.org to sign up to hear about the next one) and help deliver meals and groceries to families, help with special event fundraisers, sibling childcare, and many, many other services
  • Visit our offices to help sort through donations and fill our Baby Care bags which go to families in the NICU, or to help with office operations
  • If you have a skill, we can probably use it!

We are always looking for donations of the following:

  • Diapers & Wipes
  • Infant toiletries (baby lotion, powder, shampoo)
  • Clothing (gently used, clean, no stains) ages newborn-2T ** Especially needed **
  • Clean, gently used baby items including strollers, slings, carriers, diaper bags, swings, bouncy chairs, exersaucers

Items may be dropped off at our offices at 3475 Edison Way, Suite H in Menlo Park.  Please call before coming so we can make sure we have someone to greet you!  We would love to give you a tour of our space.  Please visit our website at http://bayarea.therewithcare.org/ to learn more about us, or feel free to contact michelle.chang@therewithcare.org with any questions you may have.  Our families thank you!