Category Archives: Family Finance

Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even If You’re Not)

Make Your Kid A Money Genius (Even If You're Not): A Parents' Guide for Kids 3 to 23I’ve been writing about personal finances for almost six years now. I like to think I’ve got a good grasp of it.

I’ve also performed in work positions where I needed at least a cursory understanding of developmental and educational psychology. I like to think I performed pretty well in those jobs, too.

But the intersection of finances and developmental psychology? While I think I’ve been doing some great things to teach my kids about money, I recently picked up a book that taught me there’s a lot that I didn’t know.

Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not)

That book was Beth Kobliner’s most recent tome: Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not). Kobliner is a leading authority on personal finance for young people with a laundry list of impressive work experience, including serving as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability under Barack Obama.

The basics that I had already been doing were within her text: teach your kids about opportunity costs, delayed gratification and savings. Teach them that mom and dad have to work to bring home money to pay for our home and food and toys.

But Kobliner opened up doors to me that I didn’t even know were there. Much of her work is based on scientific studies that I never knew had been performed, yet the engaging read went quickly and didn’t feel anything like a white paper.

The Book’s Construction

I read the book start to finish, but its construction allows you to pick and choose sections to read that are applicable to your current stage of parenting.

Each chapter is divided up into sections for “Preschool”, “Elementary School”, “Middle School”, “High School”, “College” and “Young Adulthood”. If your kid is 12, you don’t have to sift through what you should have been doing when they were three, or what you will have to do when they’re 20.

It covers a vast array of topics, many of which I had never thought about introducing to my preschoolers:

  • Savings
  • Hard Work
  • Debt
  • Smart Spending
  • Insurance
  • Investing
  • Giving Back
  • College

My kids came home from school with a fire safety packet the other day. We got to the crucial rule of not going back inside the house after you get out. Whatever toy or possession you want to retrieve is not worth risking your life.

I never would have thought of it before, but since I had read Kobliner’s book, I took the opportunity to explain to them, in the most basic of ways, renters’ insurance. It reassured them that their favorite toys and blankets would be replaced without mommy having to work fifty million hours to compensate for the costs.

There is also a section on financial advice for parents at the end. If you don’t have your money game together, it’s a quick primer to help you do the big important things easily so you don’t come off as a hypocrite to your kids. Also, having your stuff together will make your life better, period.

While there were some things I knew in the text, there was plenty that I didn’t. Here are some of the most interesting things that stuck out to me.

Our Daughters’ Money Gap

Culturally, we tend to talk to our sons more about money than our daughters. Our sons grow up feeling more confident about money because we have these conversations with them so often, and we therefore think they are inherently better with money. This holds particularly true on the topic of investing.

It might not be something that we are doing consciously; it may be a cultural subtext that is so deeply ingrained in us that we don’t realize we’re perpetuating it.

Kobliner points out that this is doubly detrimental because when our daughters enter the workforce, they are faced with the very real gender pay gap. They’re making less than their male peers and, because we didn’t address the topic properly in their youth, they feel less confident handling the money they do have.

My parents were by no means feminists, but I do consider myself very fortunate that this was not the case in my home when I was growing up. I plan to be intentionally aware of equity in financial education as I raise my own children after discovering this fact.

Teaching Kids to Wait and Save

I knew that distraction was a good way to avert tantrums in toddlers and, to a certain extent, preschoolers, but I had never thought to apply this tactic to financial lessons.

Kobliner encourages parents to, among other strategies, play fun games in checkout lines or even bust out videos on the phone. Then, once you’re out of the store, praise the child for not freaking out even though they really wanted that overpriced candy bar.

They may not be aware of what’s happening in the moment, but the positive reinforcement afterwards starts building neural pathways that encourage delayed gratification and can even stave off credit card abuse when they’re older.

College Jobs Can Be Beneficial

It turns out working up to 20 hours per week can boost a college student’s grades—but only if it’s on-campus. Off-campus jobs don’t show the same correlation. So don’t turn your nose up at those work-study opportunities offered on the FAFSA!

The Science of Happiness

I’ve written on the science of happiness before—and how money only contributes to about 10% of it. Kobliner cites a new(er) book, though, that asserts that we’re happier with many small purchases spread out throughout the year as opposed to one or two big ones annually.

So maybe skip that huge vacation and instead take a bunch of smaller weekend trips. I’m going to struggle with following this advice, but it makes logical sense.

The Engagement Ring Matters

Apparently there have been studies done about the correlation between engagement ring costs and divorce rates. Those that spent between $2,000 and $4,000 on the ring were 1.3 times more likely to get divorced than those that only spent between $500 and $2,000. You now have a non-financial reason to be stingy.

Saving for College Increases Attendance

So here’s some financially backwards psychology for you: children who know their parents are saving for their college as early as preschool are more likely to actually go to college. The crazy part? This is especially true when the household income level is less than $50,000.

Why do I think that’s crazy? If you’re from a household that makes less than $50,000 per year, you’re likely going to get full Pell and state grants, qualify for a ton of financial aid at the school level, and have a lot of scholarships open to you because of your economic status. These are the families who, in my educated opinion, are most likely to get full funding without their own savings.

Even though it doesn’t make the most financial sense, especially considering those with incomes under $50,000 likely aren’t fully funding retirement accounts, I can see how this is a situation where psychology may win out and play a massive role in that child’s future earning opportunities.

Ivy League Does Improve the Marginalizeds’ Earning Power

My biggest regret surrounding my college education is that I didn’t apply to the Ivy League school of my dreams. In retrospect, I probably would have gotten in, and I probably would have gotten enough financial aid to allow me to graduate traditionally.

However, I know that the name on your degree doesn’t affect your earning power. Unless, as I learned from Kobliner, you are Latino, black, from a low-income household or are a first-generation college grad. Kobliner says this may be because of the network you gain at these schools, and therefore the access to opportunity.

I agree with that, but will go a step further in my own, personal assumptions: that Ivy League name may help combat racism and classism, which both negatively impact wage gaps.

If you have a child who is in one of these marginalized groups, know that Ivy League schools typically have very large endowments that can often make their tuition free or at least far cheaper than some private, or even state, schools. If your child has the academic acumen to get in, it’s well worth applying. Don’t write them off as too expensive.

One last note on higher ed—Kobliner is a bit pessimistic about funding education through scholarships or graduating debt-free. I tend to be on the other end of that spectrum as there’s a lot of money left on the table every year because most students don’t aggressively pursue scholarships, and many don’t even apply for the FAFSA. This may be the only point of possible contention I had with the entire text.

Recommend?

Highly. I know I’ve told you a lot I learned from the book, but trust me when I say there is so much more. There are techniques I will be using today with my preschoolers, and techniques I’ll be coming back to the book to reference as my children grow older. If you want to learn a better way to teach your child to be a financially-capable adult, this is a must-read.

 

*I have been compensated for my time reading and reviewing this book. Regardless, all opinions are 100% my own and 100% honest.*

Making Puppets With Foam

Doesn’t it seem that every time we do a load of laundry that at least one pair of socks suddenly becomes a single? Where the heck could that other sock have gone? To the Upside Down? Now you’re left with one sock that doesn’t have a partner and all that’s left to do is throw it away.

Not true. You can use this sock to create something new and teach the kids all about recycling in one afternoon.

Make sock puppets with foam.

Recycled Materials: The Creative Process

No doubt you’re already familiar with the expression “Waste not, want not.” Why would you throw out a perfectly good sock? You might not want to wear it anymore, but it can be repurposed and made into something totally new. It can be made by your child into a unique, interactive toy. What kind of toy you ask? Do you remember Lamb Chop’s Play-Along? Yeah, that’s right, we can make a new puppet friend with our mismatched socks and other supplies—all it takes is a little imagination!

Materials Needed

  •  Sheet of foam (about 1 cm thick)
  •  Pencil
  •  Marker
  •  Pair of scissors
  •  Sock
  •  Tube of tacky glue
  • Skein of yarn (Optional)

Once you’ve gathered all your materials, you can begin creating your new puppet playmate following these easy how-to instructions!

Directions

  1. On a flat work surface, use your pencil to draw two eyes and a tongue on the foam. For the eyes, draw two full or half circles. For the tongue draw an oblong or shape. If you would like the eyes to be a different color from the tongue, use two different colored sheets of foam.
  1. Cut out the eyes and tongue you have drawn on the foam with scissors. Place to the side.
  1. Put your hand into the sock and start envisioning the puppet’s face. Determine how you (or your child) will make the puppet speak. What kind of expressions will it make? This will help you to determine where the eyes and tongue should be glued. Mark the areas for the eyes and tongue with a washable marker.
  1. Place the sock back on the work surface. Glue the foam eye and tongue pieces to their designated areas and allow to dry.
  1. After the puppet has dried, have your child play with it. Does the the puppet need a nose or hair? Maybe the puppet needs some more friends?

If you want to add hair (or whiskers) to the top of your puppet’s head, here are a few more steps to follow:

  1. Cut 10 lengths of yarn from the skein, about twice as long as you want the hair to be.
  1. Carefully dab each of the 10 pieces of yarn with tacky glue and position the “hair pieces” on the head of your puppet. Allow to dry.

For whiskers or a mustache, repeat the above process but glue the yarn pieces to the mouth area. This would be where your four fingers make the top of the puppet’s mandible.

If you have more mismatched socks, repeat the above process with different combinations of foam colors, eye shapes and hair-do’s top make a whole puppet family!

Using foam craft supplies and recyclable materials from around the house will make the project a fun sensory experience for your child and will be an enjoyable bonding experience for you both. And, hey, after you have created your puppet friends you can put on a show for the dog or start a new project and build a grand puppet stage! The choice is yours.

 

This post is brought to you and contributed by Audrey Hobbs.

Where to Go If You Don’t Have Health Insurance

Have been thinking about what to do if I don't have health insurance after the ACA is repealed. This is a great list outlining where to go for healthcare services.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, which is nonpartisan, 18 million people would either lose or drop their healthcare coverage during the first twelve months after an ACA repeal. Looking at the long-term, an additional 32 million people would go uninsured by 2026.

I’m no stranger to a world without health insurance. Prior to the ACA, I was only able to get coverage when I was expecting my children or during a few brief stints at severely underpaid jobs, where a good portion of my income went towards premiums.

I’m incredibly grateful to have it right now, even if it is expensive. But I’m preparing myself for the worst, primarily because many lawmakers have promised to deliver it. Luckily, thanks to past experience, I know how to navigate the world of healthcare when I’m uninsured.

Should you find yourself in these unfortunate masses over the coming years, here is where to go if you don’t have health insurance–assuming these organizations don’t lose their funding, too.

Healthcare for the Uninsured at the CDC

The Center for Disease Control, or CDC, has locations across the country–and they’re not just there for you if you have Ebola or Zika.

They also provide things like:

  • low-cost vaccinations
  • dental care
  • addiction services
  • environmental health services
  • free STD testing and treatment
  • medical tests for employment or school entry

On top of these services, they also have a wealth of information for all kinds of populations. Whether you have a specific disease or destructive habit, or want to keep up on what vaccinations your kid should be getting, their Healthy Living page covers the bare essentials for each stage of life for a vast diversity of populations. This way you know which health care services are vital to pay for, and when you may be able to get them at a discounted rate at the CDC.

We’ve used these services a few times ourselves over the years. At one point I needed a TB test for employment. At the time, I was able to get it at the CDC for $10. Currently, the Allegheny County location offers them for $25 for a one-part test and $35 for a two-part test. Inflation, I suppose, but still not bad.

When I was expecting, I had health insurance, but my husband didn’t. Regardless of whether or not you have insurance, anyone who is going to be around a newborn baby should have a D-Tap vaccine to protect the child from pertussis AKA whooping cough.

He went into the CDC and got his vaccination for $10. Since the cost of the TB test has gone up since then, I’m assuming the cost of this vaccination has gone up a bit, as well.

Childhood immunizations are free through a federally funded program. Hopefully this continues as it protects the health and safety of the entire population.

Where to Go if You’re Uninsured and Need Women’s Healthcare Services

First, let’s clear up some facts. Under Title X, federal dollars cannot be used to fund abortions, even when they are directed to Planned Parenthood.

Medicaid only covers abortion in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother is likely to die if she continues carrying the child, with the exception of a few states with more expansive coverage.

So even today, before Trump or a Republican congress touch our laws, your tax dollars are not going towards abortions except in the most extreme cases–and then, only for low-income women in dire, physically traumatic situations. They are most certainly not going directly to Planned Parenthood for this service.

Here are two women’s healthcare providers I have had experience with as an uninsured woman:

Planned Parenthood

They provided me with annual exams, low-cost birth control and pregnancy confirmation so I could get on insurance.

My Run-In With a Protestor

The latter is a fun story. I had an appointment to get my test, but when we walked up to the door there was a protestor. I buzzed up to the office, but they wouldn’t let me in. They said they were closed.

I asked them why they were answering their buzzer if they were closed on a random Thursday. No good answer.

I asked them why they had scheduled an appointment with me if they were closed. Still no good answer.

All this was going on while the middle-aged woman behind me was screaming at me not to kill my baby and I was going to hell. I think she may have had something to do with the doors being locked.

Eventually, I got fed up with it. I turned around and screamed back at her that I wasn’t getting an abortion; that they were giving me a pee test so that I could get on health insurance and take good care of the fetus with prenatal appointments.

That I had taken a day off work from a position where I was paid hourly to be here and now she was messing it all up.

And how dare she tell me I was going to hell without knowing my story–and how dare she tell other women who were making a decision to abort that they were going to hell after making one of the most difficult decisions in their lives.

And that I wanted to see the Bible verse that said, “Thou shalt not abort. Even in cases of rape and incest.” And that even if such a thing existed, it shouldn’t even matter because this is America and I’m not subject to her religious beliefs.

She shut up real quick. She thought a moment, and then directed me to a Christian charity a few blocks down. She told me they’d give me the pee test for free.

We walked down there and the place was flooded and therefore closed. Thank God, because we later found out that in order to give you a pee test, they require you to sign a contract committing to giving up your child to a family that is more suitable, and they’re not always forthright about what you’re signing.

We found a different Planned Parenthood location that saw me as a walk-in patient.

Moral of the story: Be very careful to read what you’re signing when you’re consenting to free or low-cost healthcare.

Additional Services Provided by Planned Parenthood

Aside from the services I received at Planned Parenthood, they also provide low-income, uninsured people with:

  • breast exams.
  • STD testing and treatment.
  • UTI treatment.
  • sexual health education.
  • eating disorder counseling.
  • help for those in abusive relationships.
  • infertility screenings.
  • men’s sexual healthcare services, including but not limited to testicular and colon cancer screenings and vasectomies.

You can find a Planned Parenthood local to you here.

Adagio Health

I used Adagio a couple of times for annual exams. They are exclusive to Western Pennsylvania. In my area, they had a much longer waiting period for an appointment than Planned Parenthood, but offered many of the same women’s health services.

You can find an Adagio Health local to you here.

You can still go to the doctor if you don’t have health insurance.

Going to the doctor is going to be more expensive than if you had a good health insurance plan with a low co-pay, but that does not mean you can’t go. Many doctors will accept you as a “self-pay” patient.

Because you’re uninsured, they are often willing to negotiate how much you pay. Essentially, everyone in healthcare inflates their prices so they can offer insurers seemingly massive discounts. They’re not really expecting to get full sticker price.

In my experience, I was almost always offered 50% off. I would establish this before I got any services, though, and keep in mind that you will need a separate agreement with any labs that might be running tests on any bio-matter you provide.

You should be able to negotiate down to Medicaid/Medicare rates, though, which are often 50% to 66% cheaper than the “gross price” they initially bill you.

Also, if you find yourself in the ER, be sure to go to a nonprofit hospital and ask about their financial assistance plan.

Spending on Healthcare is Important

Staying up on your and your family’s health is not only important for health reasons, but also financial.

No one needs to tell you how expensive health care is–especially without insurance. But using the resources that are out there may help prevent heartbreak and unavoidably outrageous bills. Please take the time to explore what you can do to take care of yourself and yours.

5 Surprising Things Health Insurance Covers

Okay, I'm definitely checking my policy to see if my health insurance covers formula or a hot tub. The third one on this list is pretty amazing, too!

With the exception of residents of a few states, you now have to have health insurance.  If you’re paying for it anyways, make sure you’re getting the most for your money.  Here are five surprising things your health insurance may cover.  Plans and coverages vary, but it’s worth investigating to find out.

Some state's Medicaid programs cover diapers for kids with disabilities.Does Medicaid cover diapers?

Having a child over age three who is not potty trained can be taxing, both emotionally and fiscally.  If your child has a disability or learning delay, you could get your diapers for free.

Depending on your state, Medicaid will cover diapers in this situation. If your child falls into one of those categories, odds are you already have some version of Medicaid–if you live in a state that chooses to support its disabled children through Medicaid.

When I say disability I of course mean things along the lines of children with Autism or Down’s Syndrome, but “learning delays” is a much broader term.  Perhaps your child has delays with fine or gross motor skills, or they aren’t talking or communicating at a level that is “normal” yet. Both of these things can lead to serious problems with getting your kiddo on the potty every time.

Talk to your doctor at your child’s three year check up, and ask them to write a prescription. Even if you don’t have Medicaid, some private insurers will still offer this benefit.

Does your health insurance or Medicaid cover gym membership?

Does my insurer cover a gym membership?

Your health insurer wants you to be healthy.  Healthy people don’t file as many claims. And the less claims insurers have to pay out, the more money they can keep in their pockets.

As a result, many insurers cover gym memberships in one way or another. Some work with specific gyms to give you a discount or even a free membership, while others will offer your a set amount in reimbursement.

If you have Medicaid, gym membership may be covered depending on which state you live in. Most states do not offer it as a benefit, but a handful have experimented with behavior incentives.

Call your insurer to see what their policy is.  It just might be worth switching gyms!

If your insurer doesn’t cover gym memberships, that doesn’t mean you can’t get fit. Trying working out at home or going to reasonably priced gyms like 24 Hour Fitness. If you want to try them out, you can get a free pass here.

Is massage therapy covered by health insurance?

Are massages covered by health insurance?

Are you in desperate need of a massage?

Well, you may be able to get that covered, too. Especially if you have chronic back pain, were in an accident, or see a chiropractor/physical therapist regularly. If you have pain, talk to your physician about it.  If you can get a prescription from any of these medical specialists for massages, insurers will often cover the therapy.

Don’t know where to find a masseuse in your area? Use Spafinder Wellness 365’s search tool.

Insurance will sometimes pay for a hot tub if you have a medical need for it.

Wait–hot tubs are covered by insurance?!

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!  

I know.  It’s crazy good news.

Here’s the thing:  to get a hot tub covered by insurance, you have to have an actual medical need for it. Like injury. Spine problems. Etc. But if you do, asking your doctor if s/he thinks hot tub therapy would help certainly doesn’t hurt.

If they do think it would be beneficial to your situation, make sure they write a script.  From there, call your insurance company.  If you’ve got the Rx, and your policy doesn’t specifically state that a hot tub isn’t covered, it should count as a qualifying piece of medical equipment. Medical equipment is covered on many plans.

If it’s not, and you still really want and can afford that hot tub, take the prescription with you when you buy it.  That will eliminate the sales tax.

Plus, if insurance doesn’t cover hot tubs–even as a piece of medical equipment–it could be tax deductible as a medical expense.  So is the electric you’ll use to run it.

Be very careful here, though. If you’re throwing hot tub parties or your family is using it, you could run into some serious trouble if you get audited.  If you want more details, here’s a great article and an interesting forum on the topic.

Buying a hot tub yourself? Just because it’s tax deductible doesn’t mean you shouldn’t score a great deal. Make sure to check out sites like Groupon before making your purchase.

Check out the states that require insurance to provide prescription formulas.

Are there any instances of insurance covering formula?

Yes. If your child needs a prescription formula, such as Alimentium or Nurtamigen, it may be covered.

Usually these coverages are in the form of reimbursement, and usually your health insurance company will give you the run around–even if prescription formula is clearly covered in your policy.

Stay strong. This stuff is expensive. It’s worth saving your receipts not giving up. You pay for that benefit, and you deserve to have them fulfill their end of the bargain.

If you live in one of the following states, there is legislation dictating that your insurance cover these prescription formulas, regardless of if they want to or not:

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Illinois
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Minnesota
  • Arizona
  • South Dakota
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island

Get more details about each state’s specific legislation here.  Knowing your rights within the law can be a powerful tool to speeding up the process.

Another option for families in states which do not mandate this coverage is to look into your local Women, Infants, and Children program.

 

 

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Uncomfortable Pregnancy? Find Relief for Under $20

OMG wish I had these during my own uncomfortable pregnancy! The first one is genius.

I may have been one of the most miserable pregnant ladies ever. Every time I’ve been expecting, I have an uncomfortable pregnancy, whether that’s due to heartburn at night or which nerve the baby is sitting on.

I did learn a couple of hacks along the way, though. Then after I had given birth, I found out about even more ways to ease the discomfort–especially in that last trimester. Here are some of my favorite ways to find relief, and all of them are under $20.

Vive Shoe Horn – $12.95

vive-shoe-horn

At a certain point in pregnancy, there were things I just couldn’t do on my own. Shaving my legs. Driving a car. Even putting on my own shoes.

I so wish I had had this Vive Shoe Horn back then to solve the latter. It allows you to put on your shoes without bending (or tipping) over! Plus, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. It’s super durable and isn’t going to break, but in the event you do find a way to do so, you won’t be out your $12.95.

Boppy Pregnancy Wedge – $15.99

Boppy� Pregnancy Wedge in Petite TrellisWhen you’re pregnant, you pretty much have to sleep on your side. Sleeping on your stomach is craziness and bad for the baby, and sleeping on your back is bad for your internal organs.

Side sleeping gets uncomfortable after a while, though, especially as your belly gets bigger. I had one of theses Boppy pregnancy wedges and it made all the difference. While a maternity body pillow would be nice, they cost around $60. This wedge is only $15.99.

Cantaloop Pregnancy Support Belt – $19.99

Cantaloop� Large Pregnancy Support Belt in WhiteMy second pregnancy was the worst on my hips. At one point I actually had to go to physical therapy because my little bundle of joy was making it increasingly difficult for me to walk. At all.

Pregnancy support belts are amazing for relieving that hip pain. They support your belly so the weight isn’t just sitting on ligaments, forcing other muscles to pick up the difference. Cantaloop has them in white, black and nude so you can match them to anything in your wardrobe. Well worth the $19.99.

Dreambaby Bump Belt – $19.99

Dreambaby� Bump Belt?This is another one I didn’t have but in retrospect, I wish I had. It pulls the seat belt down so it sits under your bump without riding up, keeping everyone safe.

You’ll remember that I said I couldn’t drive at the end of my uncomfortable pregnancies. Part of that was because I had short legs and a huge belly. But the seat belt riding up was definitely a contributing factor. Spending $19.99 on a bump belt would have been worth it.

Love Notes Healing Aromatherapy Bath Salts – $19.99

Love Notes Healing Aromatherapy Pregnancy comes with aches and pains and swelling and pain and pain and pain. One of the best ways I found to get relief was hopping into a warm bath full of salts. The salts serve to calm down the swelling and alleviate some of the aches, while I would use the water to just float, taking all the stress off of my muscles.

You will be able to find bags of Epsom salts for $5 and under. But don’t do it. In the long-run, it’s a bad financial move. You’re going to want to splurge on the economy pack as this is something you’ll need again and again, and going with something like this tote from Love Notes is going to cost you less per use.

 

How did you ease your uncomfortable pregnancy? Leave a comment below!

 

*This post contains affiliate links and sponsorship. While I am compensated when you purchase through these links, you do not pay anything additional for using them. Thank you for supporting the content on this blog!*

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