You’ve spent months planning the perfect vacation, and it’s finally here. Your bags are picked, the kids are bouncing off the walls, and you’ve finished up loose ends at work. Once you make a final trip through the house, you can pretty much lock up and go.
Unfortunately, bad news is on the way in the form of inclement weather. Upon checking the forecast, you find out there’s a good chance of rain for much of your trip.
I’ve been there – you’ve been there – we’ve all been there: Dreams of sun, sand, and surf washed out by pouring rain. But what do you do? Pack up the car and head back home? Or, do you forge ahead and have fun anyway?
Obviously, most of us would choose the latter. After all, imperfect weather can’t take away from the fact that you’re away from work and spending time with the ones you love.
The best anyone can do is find some fun and frugal ways to kill time and have a blast until the weather cooperates. This can be a little tricky, though, when you’re away from home – and your go-to rainy day activities, like art supplies and video games. Here are some of my family’s strategies for having fun on vacation, regardless of what’s going on outside.
#1: Visit the public library.
Believe it or not, you can find public libraries away from your hometown. Nearly every place you’d visit in the U.S. has one, including coastal resort destinations, big metropolitan cities, and rural areas.
While you can’t check out books without a library card, you can browse what’s available, find a cozy nook and read, or even watch movies at some libraries. Better yet, most libraries have free Wi-Fi, and many have free audio books.
Check out the local library website to see what’s going on, including special activities for kids, film screenings, or even concerts or speaker sessions. While you may not want to spend your entire vacation at the library, many locations offer enough interesting activities to keep everyone occupied for a few hours at a time.
#2: Swim indoors.
Does your hotel have an indoor pool? If your kids are like mine, they are more than happy to kill a few days swimming and playing water games with each other or with new friends.
If your hotel or condo doesn’t have a pool, you can also look to see if there are any water parks or public swimming pools nearby. If you can find an affordable water park or pool that’s indoors, you’ll have no trouble keeping the kids busy and entertained.
But what about the adults? You can swim, read a book, or sit back and watch the kids have fun.
#3: Visit a local museum or aquarium.
Most major tourist areas offer a handful of museums and aquariums. If the weather isn’t great, either of these options can offer a fun way to spend the day.
While museums can introduce your children to science and nature, different types of art, parts of our history, or local culture, aquariums can also be educational and awe-inspiring. Better yet, both of these options can be affordable, depending on where you are.
If you’re a member of a museum or aquarium back home, check to see if the one you’re visiting has a reciprocal arrangement with your hometown institution before you pay full price. For example, members of the Museum of Science in Boston can get free or discounted admission at more than 400 other science centers, aquariums, and zoos across the country by flashing their membership card.
#4: Visit an arcade.
Arcades can help you kill time for sure, but they may not be cheap. Depending on where you’re at, it’s fairly easy to spend $20 or more per kid on tokens or tickets for games.
When we wind up in an arcade for a few hours, I try to turn it into a miniature money lesson. I usually give the kids $5 to $10 apiece to spend on games, while imparting the idea that, once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Since different games can cost different amounts to play, the kids can learn to stretch their budgets to play games longer. Or, they can blow through their stash of coins right away. Trust me, both of those things have happened!
The rest of the lesson comes when they go to redeem their tickets for those cheap prices I can’t stand. Once again, the kids have the opportunity to stretch their tickets to try to get the best “prize” they can.
While visiting an arcade isn’t the world’s most frugal activity, it can sure salvage an otherwise bummer of a rainy day in a touristy vacation spot. Set spending limits before you go, and you should be okay.
#5: Take the family rollerskating.
A few years ago, we took our kids to a skating rink during the rainiest day of our beach vacation. While it took my husband and me a while to figure out how to skate without hurting ourselves, the entire experience was a blast!
It was also inexpensive, even though we bought drinks and snacks while we were there. If your vacation destination has an old-fashioned roller rink, you should definitely give it a try.
#6: Go to the movies!
Whenever it rains on vacation, the local movie theater is usually our go-to activity. There’s something especially fun about seeing a movie on vacation – when there’s no work or chores waiting at home. The best part is, this is an activity the whole family can do together.
To make it more affordable, avoid the pricey snacks at the theater and bring your own instead.
#7: Play cards.
A deck of cards is small and lightweight – easy to pack on any trip – but holds everything you need to play literally hundreds of different games, from simple, kid-friendly classics like Go Fish or Slapjack to Rummy, Hearts, or Bridge. Care to make it interesting? Play poker with pennies, or bet with little snacks like Goldfish or Skittles. UNO, which uses its own deck, is another great card game for families with young kids.
#8: Go out to eat.
Going out to dinner is a time-honored tradition on most vacations, but it’s also a good way to kill time when the weather isn’t great. If you’re looking for a fun way to spend an evening eating up food and time, try a restaurant with an especially lengthy dinner presentation. For example, look for a hibachi restaurant where your food is cooked live in front of the table. Or, try to find a dinner theatre where you can see a show and enjoy a meal at the same time.
#9: Go bowling.
I always ask my husband why we don’t go bowling more often. Not only is it fun, but it’s cheap, too! We’ve gone bowling on several different trips, both because the weather was bad and because the kids love it so much.
The best part about bowling is that it’s usually inexpensive. Plus, everyone can play regardless of their skill or ability.
Here’s a final activity that’s therapeutic, good for the soul, and free. For once in your life, sit back and relax. Watch movies or television with the kids, or sit back with a cup of coffee and do nothing at all. While this might sound boring, name the last time you just sat around with your children for an entire day. If you’re like most busy parents, it’s probably been a long time!
So, sit back and do a bunch of nothing. You’ve got your entire life to run errands and do housework and chores, but your vacation time is ticking away.
Instead of feeling compelled to fill every day of vacation with a new activity, set aside a few rainy hours to play a board game or sit around and talk with the kids.
Chances are, spending time with your family was the main goal of vacation anyway.
- 50 Free Activities for Kids
- Why I’ll Never Feel Bad About My Vacation Spending
- Start Saving for Your Summer Vacation Now
- 12 Frugal Summer Vacation Strategies from Our Family’s National Park Vacation
How does your family kill time on vacation when it rains? What would you add to this list?
The post 10 Fun and Frugal Ways to Beat the Rain on Vacation appeared first on The Simple Dollar.
I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object when they scold me for spelling out the word nigger rather than rendering it as n****r. It seems to me that "masking" the letters of slurs with devices such as this is an unwise practice—it reflects a misunderstanding of the taboos surrounding these words, it impedes serious discussion of their features, and most important, it inadvertently creates an impression that works to the advantage of certain racist ideologies. I have to add that it strikes me that HK&M's arguments, like a good part of the linguistic and philosophical literature on slurs, suffer from a certain narrowness of focus, a neglect both of the facts of actual usage of these words and the complicated discourses that they evoke. So, are you sitting comfortably?
HK&M say of nigger (or as they style it, n****r):
The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.
Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.
This position is a version of the doctrine that Luvell Anderson and Ernie Lepore call "silentism" (see also here). It accords with the widespread view that the word nigger is phonetically toxic: simply to pronounce it is to activate it, and it isn’t detoxified by placing it in quotation marks or other devices that indicate that the word is being mentioned rather than used, even written news reports or scholarly discussions. In that way, nigger and words like it seem to resemble strong vulgarities. Toxicity, that is, is a property that’s attached to the act of pronouncing a certain phonetic shape, rather than to an act of assertion, which is why some people are disconcerted when all or part of the word appears as a segment of other words, as in niggardly or even denigrate.
Are Slurs Nondisplaceable?
This is, as I say, a widespread view, and HK&M apparently hold that that is reason enough to avoid the unmasked utterance of the word (written or spoken), simply out of courtesy. It doesn't matter whether the insistence on categorial avoidance reflects only the fact that “People have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that referring to the word is not the same as using it,” as John McWhorter puts it—people simply don't like to hear it spoken or see it written, so just don't.
But HK&M also suggest that the taboo on mentioning slurs has a linguistic basis:
There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed.
The idea here is that slurs, like other expressives, are always speaker-oriented. A number of semanticists have made this claim, but always on the basis of intuitions about spare constructed examples—in the present case, one involving an imaginary slur: “imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood.” This is always a risky method in getting at the features of socially charged words, and particularly with these, since most of the people who write about slurs are not native speakers of them, and their intuitions are apt to be shaped by their preconceptions. The fact is that people routinely produce sentences in which the attitudes implicit in a slur are attributed to someone other than the speaker. The playwright Harvey Fierstein produced a crisp example on MSNBC, “Everybody loves to hate a homo.” Here are some others:
In fact We lived, in that time, in a world of enemies, of course… but beyond enemies there were the Micks, and the spics, and the wops, and the fuzzy-wuzzies. A whole world of people not us… (edwardsfrostings.com)
So white people were given their own bathrooms, their own water fountains. You didn’t have to ride on public conveyances with niggers anymore. These uncivilized jungle bunnies, darkies.…You had your own cemetery. The niggers will have theirs over there, and everything will be just fine. (Ron Daniels in Race and Resistance: African Americans in the 21st Century)
All Alabama governors do enjoy to troll fags and lesbians as both white and black Alabamians agree that homos piss off the almighty God. (Encyclopedia Dramatica)
[Marcus Bachmann] also called for more funding of cancer and Alzheimer’s research, probably cuz all those homos get all the money now for all that AIDS research. (Maxdad.com)
And needless to say, slurs are not speaker-oriented when they're quoted. When the New York Times reports that “Kaepernick was called a nigger on social media,” no one would assume that the Times endorses the attitudes that the word conveys.
I make this point not so much because it's important here, but because it demonstrates the perils of analyzing slurs without actually looking at how people use them or regard them—a point I'll come back to in a moment.
Toxicity in Speech and Writing
The assimilation of slurs to vulgarities obscures several important differences between the two. For one thing, mentioning slurs is less offensive in writing than in speech. That makes slurs different from vulgarisms like fucking. The New York Times has printed the latter word only twice, most recently in its page one report of Trump’s Access Hollywood tapes. But it has printed nigger any number of times (though in recent years it tends to avoid the word in headlines):
The rhymes include the one beginning, “Eeny, meeny, miney mo, catch a nigger by the toe,” and another one that begins, “Ten little niggers …” May 8, 2014
The Word 'Nigger' Is Part of Our Lexicon Jan. 8, 2011
I live in a city where I probably hear the word “nigger” 50 times a day from people of all colors and ages… Jan 6, 2011
In fan enclaves across the web, a subset of Fifth Harmony followers called Ms. Kordei “Normonkey,” “coon,” and “nigger” Aug 12, 2016
Gwen [Ifill] came to work one day to find a note in her work space that read “Nigger, go home. Nov. 11, 2016
… on the evening of July 7, 2007, Epstein "bumped into a black woman" on the street in the Georgetown section of Washington … He "called her a 'nigger,' and struck her in the head with an open hand." Charles M. Blow, June 6, 2009.
By contrast, the word is almost never heard in broadcast or free cable (when it does occur, e.g., in a recording, it is invariably bleeped). When I did a Nexis search several years ago on broadcast and cable news transcripts for the year 2012, I found it had been spoken only three times, in each instance by blacks recalling the insults they endured in their childhoods.
To HK&M, this might suggest only that the Times is showing insufficient courtesy to African Americans by printing nigger in full. And it's true that other media are more scrupulous about masking the word than the Times is, notably the New York Post and Fox News and its outlets:
Walmart was in hot water on Monday morning after a product’s description of “N___ Brown” was found on their website. Fox32news, 2027
After Thurston intervened, Artiles continued on and blamed "six n——" for letting Negron rise to power. Fox13news.com, April 19, 2017
In a 2007 encounter with his best friend’s wife, Hogan unleashed an ugly tirade about his daughter Brooke’s black boyfriend.“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to f–k some n—-r, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall n—-r worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. F—ing n—-r,” Hogan said, according to a transcript of the recording. New York Post May 2, 2016
"Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say n***** in public." Foxnews.com June 22, 2015
One might conclude from this, following HK&M's line of argument, that the New York Post and Fox News are demonstrating a greater degree of racial sensitivity than the Times. Still, given the ideological bent of these outlets, one might also suspect that masking is doing a different kind of social work.
Slurs in Scholarship
As an aside, I should note that the deficiencies of the masking approach are even more obvious when we turn to the mention of these words in linguistic or philosophical discussions of slurs and derogative terms, which often involve numerous mentions of a variety of terms. In my forthcoming paper “The Social Life of Slurs,” I discuss dozens of derogative terms, including not just racial, religious, and ethnic slurs, but political derogatives (libtard, commie), geographical derogations (cracker, It. terrone), and derogations involving disability (cripple, spazz, retard), class (pleb, redneck), sexual orientation (faggot, queer, poofter), and nonconforming gender (tranny). I'm not sure how HK&M would suggest I decide which of these called out for masking with asterisks—just the prototypical ones like nigger and spic, or others that may be no less offensive to the targeted group? Cast the net narrowly and you seem to be singling out certain forms of bigotry for special attention; cast it widely and the texts starts to look circus poster. Better to assume that the readers of linguistics and philosophy journals—and linguistics blogs—are adult discerning enough to deal with the unexpurgated forms.
What's Wrong with Masking?
The unspoken assumption behind masking taboo words is that they’re invested with magical powers—like a conjuror’s spell, they are inefficacious unless they are pronounced or written just so. This is how we often think of vulgarisms of course—that writing fuck as f*ck or fug somehow denatures it, even though the reader knows perfectly well what the word is. That's what has led a lot of people in recent years to assimilate racial slurs to vulgarisms—referring to them with the same kind of initialized euphemism used for shit and fuck and describing them with terms like “obscenity” and “curse word” with no sense of speaking figuratively.
But the two cases are very different. Vulgarities rely for their effect on a systematic hypocrisy: we officially stigmatize them in order to preserve their force when they are used transgressively. (Learning to swear involves both being told to avoid the words and hearing them used, ideally by the same people.) But that’s exactly the effect that we want to avoid with slurs: we don’t want their utterers to experience the flush of guilty pleasure or the sense of complicity that comes of violating a rule of propriety—we don't want people ever to use the words, or even think them. Yet that has been one pernicious effect of the toxification of certain words.
It should give us pause to realize that the assimilation of nigger to naughty words has been embraced not just by many African Americans, but also by a large segment of the cultural and political right. Recall the reactions when President Obama remarked in an interview with Marc Maron’s "WTF" podcast that curing racism was “not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public.” Some African Americans were unhappy with the remark—the president of the Urban League said the word "ought to be retired from the English language." Others thought it was appropriate.
But the response from many on the right was telling. They, too, disapproved of Obama’s use of the word, but only because it betrayed his crudeness. A commentator on Fox News wrote:
And then there's the guy who runs the "WTF" podcast — an acronym for a word I am not allowed to write on this website. President Obama agreed to a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron — a podcast host known for his crude language. But who knew the leader of the free world would be more crude than the host?
The Fox News host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck also referenced the name of Maron’s podcast and said,
I think many people are wondering if it’s only there that he would say it, and not, perhaps, in a State of the Union or more public address.
Also on Fox News, the conservative African American columnist Deneen Borelli said, that Obama “has really dragged in the gutter speak of rap music. So now he is the first president of rap, of street?”
It’s presumably not an accident that Fox News’s online reports of this story all render nigger as n****r. It reflects the "naughty word" understanding of the taboo that led members of a fraternity at the University of Oklahoma riding on a charter bus to chant, “There will never be a nigger at SAE/You can hang him from a tree, but he'll never sign with me,” with the same gusto that male college students of my generation would have brought to a sing-along of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.”
That understanding of nigger as a dirty word also figures in the rhetorical move that some on the right have made, in shifting blame for the usage from white racists to black hip hop artists—taking the reclaimed use of the word as a model for white use. That in turn enables them to assimilate nigger—which they rarely distinguish from nigga—to the vulgarities that proliferate in hip hop. Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe blamed the Oklahoma incident on hip hop, citing the songs of Waka Flocka Flame, who had canceled a concert at the university; as Brzezinski put it:
If you look at every single song, I guess you call these, that he’s written, it’s a bunch of garbage. It’s full of n-words, it’s full of f-words. It’s wrong. And he shouldn’t be disgusted with them, he should be disgusted with himself.
On the same broadcast, Bill Kristol added that “popular culture has become a cesspool,” again subsuming the use of racist slurs, via hip hop, under the heading of vulgarity and obscenity in general.
I don’t mean to suggest that Brzezinski, Scarborough and Kristol aren’t genuinely distressed by the use of racial slurs (I have my doubts about some of the Fox News hosts). But for the respectable sectors of cultural right—I mean as opposed to the unreconstructed bigots who have no qualms about using nigger at Trump rallies or on Reddit forums—the essential problem with powerful slurs is that they’re vulgar and coarse, and only secondarily that they’re the instruments of social oppression. And the insistence on categorically avoiding unmasked mentions of the words is very easy to interpret as supporting that view. In a way, it takes us back to the disdain for the word among genteel nineteenth-century Northerners. A contributor to an 1894 number of the Century Magazine wrote that “An American feels something vulgar in the word ‘nigger’. A ‘half-cut’ [semi-genteel] American, though he might use it in speech, would hardly print it.” And a widely repeated anecdote had William Seward saying of Stephen Douglas that the American people would never elect as president “[a] man who spells negro with two g’s,” since “the people always mean to elect a gentleman for president.” (That expression, "spelling negro with two g's" was popular at the time, a mid-nineteenth-century equivalent to the form n*****r.)
This all calls for care, of course. There are certainly contexts in which writing nigger in full is unwise. But in serious written discussions of slurs and their use, we ought to be able to spell the words out, in the reasonable expectation that our readers will discern our purpose.
As John McWhorter put this point in connection with the remarks Obama made on the Marc Maron podcast:
Obama should not have to say “the N-word” when referring to the word, and I’m glad he didn’t. Whites shouldn’t have to either, if you ask me. I am now old enough to remember when the euphemism had yet to catch on. In a thoroughly enlightened 1990s journalistic culture, one could still say the whole word when talking about it.… What have we gained since then in barring people from ever uttering the word even to discuss it—other than a fake, ticklish nicety that seems almost designed to create misunderstandings?
I wondered about the phrase “up to snuff,” so I looked it up. Turns out it didn’t always mean “meeting the required standard,” as it does now; Gary Martin tells us:
In 1811, the English playwright John Poole wrote Hamlet Travestie, a parody of Shakespeare, in the style of Doctor Johnson and George Steevens, which included the expression.
“He knows well enough The game we’re after: Zooks, he’s up to snuff.” &
“He is up to snuff, that is, he is the knowing one.”
A slightly later citation of the phrase, in Grose’s Dictionary, 1823, lists it as ‘up to snuff and a pinch above it’, and defines the term as ‘flash’. This clearly shows the derivation to be from ‘snuff’, the powdered tobacco that had become fashionable to inhale in the late 17th century. The phrase derives from the stimulating effect of taking snuff. The association of the phrase with sharpness of mind was enhanced by the fashionability and high cost of snuff and by the elaborate decorative boxes that it was kept in.
The later meaning of ‘up to standard’, in the same sense as ‘up to scratch’ (see also: ‘start from scratch’) began to be used around the turn of the 20th century.
Lots of idioms don’t make sense, but some do if you can trace them back far enough.
Two days ago, I posted an article entitled Nine Skills Worth Learning for Any Career – and How to Learn Them. The goal of the article is to point to some fundamental skills that have value in almost every professional situation and offer some suggestions in how to cultivate them for yourself.
As I was putting the finishing touches on the article, my oldest son walked up behind me. He’s a middle schooler these days and is beginning to really think about the world and his place in it in many interesting and surprising ways. Anyway, he asked me what I was writing about and I summarized it for him – it’s all about skills that are useful in professional life, regardless of your job.
He looked at me for a minute with that look in his eye that he gets when he’s thinking, and then he started asking questions. In his roundabout way, the idea he was trying to seek out was this: what skills should a kid growing up have to be able to be a successful adult? He didn’t state it in those words, but that was the output of the conversation.
I gave him some ideas and then turned back to my laptop to finish the article, but in my mind, that question started to float around. What skills should he really be learning to be ready to become a successful, financially independent, and personally independent adult? Even more than that, what can I be doing right now to start teaching him these skills?
After some thought, I came up with a healthy list of skills that I felt I could help build in my children (or, more accurately, I am actively helping them build) with the end goal of helping them to develop into financially and personally independent adults. As with the previous article, I combined them down into nine skills that can be built in older children, preteens, and teenagers, each of which sets them on a path to financial and personal independence from their parents.
What’s the value in this? If you are a parent, the independence of your children has a huge bearing on your financial future. If you continue to provide housing, clothing, food, and utilities for your child into adulthood, you’re incurring a great deal of financial expense during the years when you’re really going to need to be preparing for retirement. This is true even if it extends to “financial outpatient care” – in other words, giving your children money during their early professional life.
The best possible financial outcome for a parent is a fully independent child who may actually be able to aid the parent in the future. To achieve that, parents should be taking action now to develop traits of independence and self-sufficiency in their children.
Here are nine skills that you should be helping your children and teenagers to master, along with two or three specific tactics for bringing out those skills.
Skill #1: Project (and Time) Management
This is simply the ability to take on a task that will take longer than one work session. It’s something that you’ll have to put down and come back to later, and perhaps come back to again and again.
To an extent, children get a taste of this through things like music lessons and sports training, but it doesn’t prepare them for things like writing a report (in college or in an office environment), finishing a work project, or taking on a home improvement task.
This ties deeply into time management, something which will come somewhat naturally once they have a grasp on the idea that big tasks should be broken down into smaller ones and tackled one at a time. Once that concept becomes second nature, time management fits well right on top of it.
So, how do you help your children develop project management and nascent time management skills?
Strongly encourage them to take on large scale challenges in their hobbies and areas of interest.
If your child has a particular area of interest, encourage them to take on a project within that area of interest that’s bigger than what they can finish in a single sitting. This requires them to break down the project into smaller pieces to be able to complete them successfully. Using a hobby or area of interest helps your child find the focus and purpose needed for such a project.
For example, all of my children have taken on large-scale LEGO building projects. My daughter has taken on some elaborate art projects that have taken several sessions to complete. This summer, my son is taking a course on his own – without parental or classroom encouragement – to master cursive handwriting. Those types of things encourage the ability to handle large projects and break them down into simpler pieces.
As they grow older, give them large scale tasks to work on and let them develop a plan on their own (with some gentle guidance from you).
For example, I might give one of my children the task of redecorating and cleaning their room so that guests could potentially sleep there. I might give one of them a task such as reorganizing the children’s book collection and figuring out which ones to keep and which ones to donate to the library such that the collection fits on one shelf. At that point, I leave the child to complete the task on their own, letting them know that if they run into difficulty, they are quite welcome to ask for guidance.
With those kinds of tasks, they become responsible for coming up with a plan for success on their own. The solution is not ready made for them and the plan is going to take some time to complete.
The interesting part? They’re drawn to these kinds of independent tasks. They’re almost always much more interested in taking on tasks that allow them to be independent and to effectively control this larger task. This teaches them the value of autonomy and also helps them master it in an environment where they can ask for help easily if they get stuck.
Skill #2: Work, Money, and Negotiation
The basic concepts of working to earn money, paired with the fact that negotiation is a key element of improving the work environment and improving one’s pay, is a key part of a financially and professionally successful life. Money will not be handed to you in life, and the financial rewards you get for your work will be low if you don’t advocate for yourself.
Putting your children in a position to intimately understand the connection between hard work and reward is a key part in helping them build a work ethic. Encouraging them to negotiate on their own behalf and giving them opportunities to do so is helpful, too.
How do you help your children develop these kinds of professional skills?
Give your children the opportunity to earn a little money by taking on additional chores beyond the normal requirements.
One great way to do this is to have a “jobs board” where they can take on tasks that you list for a financial reward. These should be tasks that go above and beyond normal household chores – you shouldn’t be rewarding them for taking out the trash or loading the dishwasher. Instead, rewards might be put in place for weeding the entire tomato patch or paring down their toy collection or thoroughly vacuuming and dusting a room and cleaning the windows.
If they take on such a job, you can and should judge the results for quality, pointing out areas where they need to improve. In fact, most of the time, the first result isn’t “accepted” unless they did a truly stellar job. The purpose is to teach them that a quality job is necessary to earn pay.
Encourage them to negotiate better terms on their own behalf, and give them a mix of successes and failures.
When you offer a task for a certain pay level, that should be the starting point most of the time. Your children and and should negotiate for a better rate, because being advocates for themselves is going to be vital in navigating the adult world.
Encourage your children to negotiate for a better rate. Guide them when it comes to negotiation, using techniques such as basic persuasion and use of evidence that they deserve a better rate. They don’t always have to be successful here, and they shouldn’t be, but they should see some success when they come up with a persuasive argument. You should also counter-offer sometimes, adding additional factors to a chore for that better offer they’re seeking.
Enforce some basic budgeting constraints on all money that they earn (and allow those to be a bit negotiable, too).
When they earn money, this is a perfect time to teach the basics of budgeting and the value of saving. Rather than simply allowing them to spend the money freely, you should act as a “401(k)” for them and put some of the money away for a future goal. Perhaps you can incentivize this and offer matching funds for what they save out of their income (though my children really figured out how to maximize that one).
You can also use this opportunity to encourage self control by encouraging them to save money for short term goals in a piggy bank, so that they know there’s money sitting right there and have to exhibit some self control to achieve the goals they want. My oldest son’s experience in saving up for a Nintendo 3DS was very valuable in this regard, as was my daughter’s efforts in saving up for a tablet.
Skill #3: Character and Integrity
Having a good reputation is priceless, and character and integrity are the foundation of a good reputation. Having character and integrity means that you don’t have to “fake it,” but that a good reputation comes completely naturally.
A good reputation makes it easy to fit in well in the community. It becomes so much easier to make new relationships, to find help when you need it, and to help steer a broader community in a positive direction when needed. It can keep coworkers on your side, encourage positive office politics, and make it much easier for you to earn raises. Plus, it simply makes the world a better place.
It’s up to you as a parent to teach your children integrity and character. Here are two key things you can do to relay those characteristics.
Value elements of strong character – honesty, empathy, responsibility – over perfect obedience and perfect choices, and don’t punish when those elements are present. When your child shows character, reward it. When they’re honest in the face of being in trouble for a mistake, be lenient with the punishment and laud the honesty. When your child mildly disobeys you in order to show empathy for others, like being slow in returning home because they were helping someone in the moment, compliment the empathy rather than punishing the tardiness. Put a heavy value on responsibility and reward it when they show it.
Be an example of character and integrity in your own life so that your child sees character and integrity at work. Children learn many elements of character from their parents, as you’re their primary adult role model whether they directly admit it or not. Thus, it’s up to you to demonstrate character and integrity in how you live your life. Strive to be the best person you can possibly be in all avenues of life so that when your child is looking for an example of how to act, they see a person trying – and often succeeding – to act with character and integrity. Be honest. Be empathetic. Be courteous and polite to others. Be responsible. Own up to your mistakes. Be the person you want your child to be as an adult and they’ll do their best to mimic you, even if you don’t always see it.
Skill #4: Physical and Mental Health
Physical and mental fitness simply means taking regular action to maintain and improve one’s physical and mental state. You can always improve your body and your mind by taking action to exercise each of them and to remove burdens of stress from them.
Not all children are made the same way, of course, and your individual child may have different needs and standards for physical and mental fitness. Your goal should merely be to encourage their own efforts in improving and maintaining their own physical and mental health and fitness.
Here are three things you can do to encourage both physical and mental fitness in your children.
Encourage your child to participate in some type of regular physical activity as well as some type of intellectual hobby. For example, my oldest son enjoys taekwondo, soccer, and reading, a list that’s mirrored by my daughter, who also chooses to practice the piano. You’ll often find them practicing taekwondo forms on their own or practicing their soccer moves or curled up somewhere reading a book of some kind. We encourage these hobbies and try to discourage ones that are less mentally and physically engaging, like watching junk television programs.
Avoid overburdening them with too many activities. It’s easy to get into a pattern of “oversubscribing” your children, either to bolster a resume or to have them try lots of things. Having some free time and down time – and learning how to self-manage that free time and down time – is also a vital element of mastering the autonomy of the adult world. Rather than oversubscribing your child, limit the activities they’re in and encourage excellence in the areas they choose. This also eliminates a lot of stress from their life – and from your life, too.
Teach them how to accept and use failure rather than fearing it. It is often tempting to protect your children from failure, but learning how to fail is perhaps one of the most beneficial lessons a child can learn. When they fail, don’t try to remedy that failure, but also don’t strictly punish that failure. Instead, talk about what can be learned from that failure. You can teach this all the time. I often do it when we play a game together, for example. If I lose, I’ll actually say out loud, “Hmm.. why did I lose? What did I do wrong?” This encourages thinking and self-improvement rather than disappointment and self-doubt. It moves the locus of control inwards, which is a key part of managing successful independent adult life.
Skill #5: Social and Relationship Skills
One of the most powerful skills that a child can build is social skills and relationship skills. How do you go from a room of people you don’t know well to a handful of strong relationships?
In school, children often form friendships simply because of forced time together. They eventually have to get to know each other a little bit because they’re forced to do so by the constraints of school. To a somewhat lesser extent, this happens at college and in some workplaces, but in many careers and especially in the community, people are often left on their own.
Knowing how to build relationships and maintain them, whether it’s professional relationships or friendships or romantic relationships, is a skill that people often don’t master. For some, it comes naturally, but for many, it’s a challenge. One of the most powerful skills you can build in your child for a successful professional, personal, and romantic life is the ability to build relationships from scratch.
Teach by example by putting yourself in social and relationship situations with your children and show best practices in those situations.
You can start doing this by actually going to community events with your children and meeting people there. Go to a church and get involved, or find a civic group where your family might be welcome. Take that first step yourself, with your family in tow, and start building those relationships. One good way to do this is to explain, on the way, what it is that you’re going to do there, and encourage your child to watch. “I’m hoping to get to know some people in the community today. I’m going to do that by introducing myself to people and having conversations and, hopefully, connecting well with a few of them.” Then, actually do this. Your children will view this practice as normal and it will serve them well in future social situations.
Talk through common relationship and social situations at the dinner table, at bedtime, on car trips, and other situations. How do you handle abrasive people at work? How do you handle a friendship that’s drifting apart? How do you handle a dispute between lovers? Don’t be afraid to talk about these situations with your partner and with your family. Bring them up, go through some potential solutions, and talk about how they might and they might not work. Put those solutions into practice, if needed, and then relay the results later. These types of conversations can be the basis for powerful learning.
Skill #6: Emotional Awareness and Self-Control
One of the most challenging areas in adult life is emotional control. As we’ve all witnessed, many adults often fail in this area, but those that master it (at least most of the time) tend to find success financially, socially, and personally. They learn how to keep their emotions in check and make decisions rationally rather than emotionally.
This is a skill that children can and should begin to develop early on. Most parents do this to a certain extent to avoid things like tantrums, but that’s just the beginning. Learning emotional awareness and self-control is a lifelong journey and it’s valuable for parents to help their children on that journey beyond the toddler tantrum years.
Here are two simple strategies you can use to build this skill in your children.
Encourage them to step back when they’re feeling an emotional rush (whether positive or negative) and practice this yourself.
This is a practice I’ve found incredibly useful with my daughter, whose emotions often come right to the surface in many situations. I simply gently encourage her to “time out” of the situation for a bit; sometimes, I’ll go sit down with her somewhere, while at other times I’ll encourage her to just chill out by herself. This isn’t really a “time out” in that I don’t treat it as a punishment in any way, just a moment to calm down and make a better choice. She’s started to actually do this on her own, and I have spoken positively about her doing this on her own many times and have even lightly rewarded her for doing so.
Strongly encourage them to actively postpone decisions that are full of emotion so that they can be considered with a cooler head.
This is something of an extension of the above practice. Basically, if you’re in a situation where you’re making a decision and you feel a strong emotion – anger, desire, frustration – then it’s an indication that you should step back from that decision if at all possible and make it later after giving it some thought. Again, I do this myself in front of them when possible and I strongly encourage them to do it as well. My oldest son has become a master at this – he rarely makes any sort of meaningful choice until he’s had a chance to calmly think about it. This didn’t come automatically for him – it’s something he’s learned and built over time – but it’s something that’s going to be very valuable for him going forward.
Skill #7: Shopping
This skill is a highly practical one, but simple mastery of this skill will save your children a tremendous amount of money in their life. Simply knowing how to plan ahead a bit for shopping and how to shop around and compare items on the shelves (virtual or otherwise) is an invaluable skill to have, one that will keep you from buying a lot of unnecessary things and will help you find good prices on the things that you want.
Shop together for things and use smart shopping techniques so they can see the benefits of them.
Quite often, I take my kids to the grocery store on small trips and literally talk through the entire process. I explain why I’m going to the store, what items are on my list, and how I decide which ones to buy. This is a great time to show off comparison shopping, like comparing two boxes of garbage bags in one store and then comparing that price to the price in another store to figure out which one gets us the cheaper bags.
I often do the same thing when shopping online, especially when it’s a purchase that may be relevant to them. For example, if we’re selecting a gift for their mother on her birthday, we’ll discuss what to buy first and then look for that item in various places to compare prices. Sometimes we find a new idea, but we don’t impulse buy – instead, we research the new idea a bit and shop around for that item. My favorite result here is showing them how much money we’ve saved by shopping around rather than just clicking buy or heading to the checkout at the first store.
Openly discuss purchases before going into a store so that you have a plan before you ever enter the store.
This is the “grocery list” part of going to the store. Before we ever set foot in any store, whether a brick-and-mortar grocery store or Amazon or anywhere else, we have a plan for what we’re going to buy. We’re going there for a purpose, not just to browse, and that purpose is set before we ever visit the place, ideally with some specific detail of what we’re looking for.
Why? Doing this cuts off a lot of impulse purchases. When you go to a grocery store with a list, your focus is on the list, not on the variety of items on the shelves. If the list is thoughtfully created, it contains everything you need so you don’t have to debate whether you should buy some random item you spot on the shelves. This is something I point out to them – if they spot something on the store shelf that’s not a part of our plan, I can simply say that we didn’t plan for that item and maybe we can think about it and get it next time.
Skill #8: Meal Preparation and Planning
This actually runs in parallel with the above skill. Again, I consider this a skill of high importance during the early stages of independence – knowing how to feed oneself inexpensively can make an enormous difference when it comes to surviving independently on that first entry-level job, and it can make a huge impact on financial success later on, too. It’s a skill that will serve them throughout their independent life, and it’s one you can start teaching at home right now.
Doesn’t this fall into typical household chores? For some families, it does, but for many families, the routine is oriented around going to restaurants, picking up takeout food, or making prepackaged meals. That’s an expensive (although convenient) routine to fall into, one that will add greatly to the burden of the early steps of independent living. If your child knows how to prepare meals efficiently and at a low cost, they’re going to have a much lower food budget and will find independent living, particularly in the early stages, much easier.
Here are two things you can be doing right now to teach this skill to your children.
Let them handle meal planning and preparation entirely on their own (within a reasonable budget).
Just hand the entire meal plan over to them for a week and see what they come up with. Guide them through the general process – look at a grocery flyer, see what ingredients are on sale, think of meals that use those ingredients, find recipes, plan the meals, make a grocery list from that meal plan, buy the groceries, make the meals – but let them handle all of the specifics along the way. Give them a reasonable budget to work with.
This is a great exercise for a week during the summer when your children may have more time for pulling these things off. Naturally, you can help as much as possible, particularly in terms of suggesting recipes or showing them how to find recipes, and also in some of the food preparation.
Let them try doing this with some budget constraints or ingredient constraints once they become adept.
Once they’ve managed to pull off the previous project a few times, add a few constraints. Make them come up with meals that take fifteen minutes or less to prep. Have them use a slow cooker. Have them use some of the ingredients already in the pantry to base their plan around. Have them make a meal plan on a very tight budget.
All of those things are valuable learning experiences. They’ll learn to be resourceful with their food. They’ll learn lots of ways to cook different things. They’ll end up feeling like they can handle almost any food situation. When you feel like that, dinnertime becomes inexpensive and rather fun.
Skill #9: Self-Reflection
This is the last skill on the list (well… sort of), but I consider it to be the most important. It’s a skill that my parents and my grandmother embedded in me in their own way growing up and it’s the single most powerful skill I learned from them.
Self-reflection simply means that you are willing to step back from your life regularly, look for areas where you can improve without beating yourself up, and then strive to improve upon them. It’s a constant honing of yourself into a better person, step by step. It’s a way of evaluating your mistakes and making sure you don’t repeat them and making sure that they don’t turn into large disasters.
Here are two techniques you can use to turn this into a regular practice for your children (and for you).
Have thoughtful dinner table and bedtime conversations that encourage introspection.
Almost every dinner we have together as a family involves some sort of introspective question. “What was something you wish you had done better today, and how can you do it better next time?” “What did you do today to make yourself better?” “What relationship in your life did you improve today and how did you do it?” Everyone shares something around the table and it ends up being a learning experience for all of us because many of the stories launch great conversations.
If you’re not sure how to do this, just think of something you’d like to reflect on a little bit in your own life, reform it into a question, then ask it at the dinner table and get it rolling by volunteering your own story. I often think about this before dinner, where I come up with this kind of introspective question and my response to it. Responding first gives people an example to think about and gives them time to think about their own life a little bit.
Encourage setting aside a bit of time for daily self-reflection.
Most nights, I encourage our children to each write in their journal for a little bit before bed. I often do it with them, if it works out. I just have them write down a couple of things they’re grateful for, one thing they messed up on today, and how they can do it better going forward, and one thing they want to remember about today if they want. Four or five sentences is plenty, because the valuable part is the thinking.
Simply add this into your nighttime routine. Your children really don’t have to write much here, just enough to record a piece of their thinking. It’s the reflection that counts.
The Final Lesson: Less Helicoptering, More Free Range
If you hope that your children will one day be truly independent, you need to give them progressively more control over their choices, their actions, and their day-to-day lives. They need to learn how to manage their own time, make their own choices, set their own priorities, and navigate their own difficult situations. As they grow, you need to gradually become the copilot and then the flight instructor and then something more akin to the air traffic controller, and the earlier you begin that transition, the better.
Yes, they’re going to fail. Yes, they’re going to make mistakes. Your role should be to show them how to make better choices and how to stand back up when they make mistakes and fail. You should not give into the temptation to make those choices for them or to shield them from failure, because if you do that, they won’t be prepared for the real world.
Here are five things you can do to foster that kind of independence and self-reliance.
Let them handle the details as much as possible, only asking you for help when they need it. Let them dress themselves. Let them manage their own laundry. Let them manage the state of their own room, only requiring a cleanup when presenting it to guests. Let them decide how to manage their homework, only requiring them to have a homework “session.”
Encourage them to ask you for help, but don’t provide that help unless they ask, even when they seem to be headed for failure. Naturally, you’ll want to teach them at first, like a child learning how to ride that bicycle, but when you start removing your hands from the handlebars, let go. Don’t keep holding on because it feels good to you. Let them ride freely.
Don’t punish them for honest questions. Encourage them and reward them instead.
When your child tackles a challenge on their own, figures out where they’re stuck, and then independently asks for help, that’s a moment to be rewarded because that’s a moment they’re acting like a functional adult. That’s the model of behavior you want to encourage.
Don’t ever discourage them from coming to you when they run into a difficult situation. Never, ever turn a request for help or a sincere question into punishment, even if it’s a confession of a transgression of some kind. The fact that they understand that they’ve made a mistake and they’re trying to fix it is evidence that additional discipline is probably unhelpful.
Rely on natural consequences as much as possible.
Quite often, parents rely on discipline of various kinds to enforce certain behaviors. The truth is that those disciplines rarely work in terms of correcting those behaviors. What truly works is the natural consequences of bad choices.
This isn’t to say that discipline isn’t sometimes warranted, but quite often the natural consequences of a bad choice, on their own, serve as punishment enough for a bad choice. Many children (including myself, when I was a teenager) are more bothered by the fact that they’ve disappointed a parent than they are by any punishment that’s doled out.
The most effective punishment that was ever given to me wasn’t a punishment at all. I borrowed my parents car one evening and stayed out far later than I should. Rather than grounding me, my parents simply showed their disappointment. When I asked to borrow the car the next time, they simply said no, because they didn’t trust that I would bring it back when I said that I would and that they couldn’t trust my word now. That made me rethink things far more than any “punishment” ever could. Why? They treated me like an adult and let me see the consequences of violating their trust as an adult, rather than resorting to “grounding” which amounted to treating me as a child.
Have lots of open and honest conversations about how to navigate daily life as an adult.
Don’t be afraid to talk through your thought processes as you figure out how to handle something in your life or as you work through a normal process. When they’re younger, talk through the steps of doing dishes or doing laundry. When they’re older, talk though the thought process of paying bills and whether or not you can afford to go out to eat.
Bring your children into these decision-making processes, too. Don’t just provide an answer; let them make up their own answers and then talk through them, whether they’re right or wrong. Let them see the results of their attempts at solutions to adult dilemmas, as often as you can.
Be a “good adult” yourself.
This is the best advice of all. Even when you think they’re not watching you, your children are observing you and using you as a role model for adult behavior. What kind of model are you?
Be the kind of adult you want your children to become, as often as you possibly can. If you’re doing something that would bother you if you saw your children doing that same thing as an adult, stop doing it. That’s an indication that you’re not acting like the kind of adult you want your children to be.
Be the person you want them to become and they’re much more likely to become something like that person.
Some Final Thoughts
The key thing to remember about this list is that it’s intended to give children the functional foundation they need to be financially and personally independent. There are many life lessons that they will still need to learn to achieve a high level of financial and personal success, such as money management, retirement savings, and so on.
The important thing to remember here is that with these skills, they’re going to be prepared with the underlying elements they need to want to learn things like money management, like retirement savings, and so on. These skills are all about introspection and independence and planning, which are the bedrocks of personal finance. Once those things are at the core of who you are, the ideas of budgeting and saving for retirement come naturally.
My goal, as a parent, is to raise truly independent children, both for my own sake and for their sake. This means leaving them in a position where you feel as though they’ll make it just fine when you drop them off at the door of their first apartment. Will they have mastered everything they need to know? Of course not. Your job was to give them the tools they need to survive at first and also to pick up the other things they need as they go.
If you can do that, you’ll have independent, successful children. My own experience with my parents, my own experience so far with my own children, and the research I’ve done into successful parenting points me toward these strategies as being the most efficient way of achieving that goal.
Good luck on your own parenting journey!
The post Nine Skills Worth Teaching Your Children to Build Personal and Financial Independence appeared first on The Simple Dollar.
As many of you know, I believe this entity somehow possessed and/or channeled herself through Scottish singer Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins- who recorded a number of songs in her honor, including a haunting rendition of Tim Buckley's "Song of the Siren"- for fifteen years. Don't ask me to explain how or why. I believe the Siren also left her fingerprints all over the damn place.
The Siren was associated with using music as a form of enchantment and Fraser was accused in the early 1980s of practicing subliminal sorcery with her baffling lyrics (which can actually get pretty witchy) and non-Euclidean vocals.*
Little did anyone realize at the time that Fraser also seemed to be practicing divination. Practicing it with alarming success, at that.
Even the staid iTunes says "their early recordings suggested that these three Scottish upstarts were already in touch with ancient and otherworldly forces."
Yeah. Were they ever.
And as we've seen in recent weeks the death of Chris Cornell and the rebirth of Twin Peaks all seem to tie into this unfolding psychodrama.
In fact, four days before Bennington's death, singer Rebekah Del Rio appeared on Twin Peaks to sing "No Stars." Her guitarist was none other than Moby, who has remixed both Soundgarden and Linkin Park.
Del Rio was introduced in David Lynch's Mulholland Dr as "La Llorona de Los Angeles." La Llorona is the Mexican equivalent of the Siren.
Now this might sound insane and impossible to some of you, as well it should; all of it is completely insane and impossible. But facts are facts and they all point in one direction.
There's a Masonic lodge on the grounds of the Hollywood Forever cemetery as well. I mean, what cemetery doesn't have one, right?
In German lore, the dragonfly is variously known as Wasserhexe ("Water witch") and Hollenross ("Goddess' horse").
Don't ask me why.
Shelling from Royal Caribbean’s M.S. ‘Allure’ Sinks Carnival Cruise Vessel that Crossed into DisputeFriday, July 21st, 2017 08:24 pm
I just finished reading Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya‘s 1861 novella Пансионерка, which (amazingly for a largely forgotten nineteenth-century writer) has been translated (by Karen Rosneck) into English, as The Boarding-School Girl. It was kind of a pain to read, since to have it on my Kindle I had to download the entire issue of Otechesvennye zapiski as a pdf file and squint at the resultant smudges through the already somewhat smudgy screen. But I persevered, because it’s important to me to read as much literature by women as possible, and it was worth it.
It starts off unexcitingly, with a conversation between two youngish men who had become friends elsewhere and now meet again in a provincial town: Ibraev has been sent there as an important official as a stepping-stone in his career, Veretitsyn as a political exile who will have to cool his heels as an ill-paid, overworked scribe until the authorities allow him to depart. Ibraev is condescending and self-absorbed, Veretitsyn sarcastic and self-pitying; after they’ve talked for a while, they notice children playing next door, and a fifteen-year-old girl in a boarding-school uniform studying a book. She will turn out to be our heroine, Elena (“Lyolenka”) Gosteva. Ibraev leaves, discomfited at having unwittingly compromised himself by associating with a man under police surveillance; Veretitsyn chats for a bit with the girl, making fun of her book and her studies, and gets into the habit of talking with her over the fence from time to time, laughing sarcastically at everything she says.
These conversations mean nothing to Veretitsyn, who is obsessed with his situation and his love for the beautiful Sofya Khmelevskaya. But they overturn Lyolenka’s life; from a diligent student and obedient daughter, she becomes a rebellious girl who half-deliberately fails her exams and is increasingly frustrated by her home life. The thing is, though, that she is not a conscious rebel; she does not understand what is happening to her, does not even realize that she is falling in love with her ironic neighbor. The middle chapters of the book are an acute psychological investigation of the development of an adolescent girl that reminded me of both Avdotya Panaeva‘s Семейство Тальниковых [The Talnikov family] (see this post) and Pasternak’s Детство Люверс [The Childhood of Luvers, also translated Zhenia Luvers’ Childhood and The Adolescence of Zhenya Luvers]. Ironically, she was chastised at the time by people like Saltykov-Shchedrin for excessive attention to psychology (he complained about the same thing in George Eliot) — they wanted plot and politics, not girls trying to figure out who they are and why they do the things they do. But she got great reviews in general; in 1880 Pyotr Boborykin wrote that she had no equal in Europe except for George Eliot. After her death in 1889 she was forgotten, like all her female contemporaries (Elena Gan, Elena Kube/Veltman, Sophie Engelhardt — whose “Не сошлись” Erik at XIX век is now translating as “It Didn’t Come Off”: introduction here, first installment here).
The book takes a sudden turn towards the end which I won’t spoil for you; I’ll just say that it gets more and more satisfying as it goes along, is never dogmatic, and has penetrating and acerbic things to say about female education, family life, and art. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the life of women in nineteenth-century Russia, or indeed anywhere, and I hope more such works get translated.
The boat docked this morning in Russe, Bulgaria, which you will also see sometimes spelled "Ruse". We had a brief bus tour of Russe on our way out of town, but this was one of those days where our destination was a couple of hours away on the bus, so it was very brief indeed. ( Read more... ) <
( Read more... )
Nadine writes in:
Does it make sense to use a Roth IRA as an emergency fund? It seems like I could contribute money to it, have it build tax free for a while, then I take out the contributions in an emergency and just keep those earnings for retirement. Why not do this?
Well, as you can see from the title of this article, I don’t actually think this is a very good idea. While Nadine’s point is accurate – you can, in fact, withdraw your contributions from a Roth IRA without penalty and just allow the earnings to build – that’s a really bad idea outside of an absolute emergency.
Reason #1: You Lose Most of Your Retirement Gains
Let’s say you contribute $5,000 at age 25 and decide that you’re going to leave it in there until age 65. You put it into a hypothetical investment that earns 7% per year.
You check that account at age 65 and what’s in there? $74,872. Sweet!
Now, let’s look at an alternate scenario. You put $5,000 in there at age 25, just as before, but then you withdraw your $5,000 contribution at age 30 because of an emergency. What happens then?
Well, you peek in there at age 65 and… you have $21,489. Wow.
Because you took out that original $5,000 at age 30, you lost $48,382 in investment growth in that account. You tossed away what amounts to most of a year of living expenses (depending on inflation).
Here’s the core principle to remember here: If you withdraw your contributions early from your Roth IRA, you give up a lot of tax-free growth.
“But can’t I contribute more later to put the money back?” Unfortunately, no.
Reason #2: You Lose Your Contribution Window, Too
As of right now, each year, a person is allowed to contribute $5,500 to a Roth IRA (or $6,500 if they’re over age 50), provided their income makes them eligible (most Americans are). Once you reach that limit for a given year, you can’t contribute any more.
Furthermore, once a year passes by, you lose that contribution window. You can no longer make contributions for 2013 or 2014 or 2015. The calendar keeps marching forward, and as it does, you lose out on opportunities to contribute to your Roth IRA.
Those contribution windows are valuable. You only have so many windows to contribute during your working career. Between the ages of 25 and 65, you basically have 40 such windows (and that assumes that you’re within income limits on all of them).
So, let’s say you withdraw $10,000 in contributions from your Roth IRA. That’s the equivalent of just throwing away two of those contribution windows. You can never, ever get them back. They’re gone forever. You’ve effectively permanently reduced the amount you can ever contribute to your Roth IRA by $10,000.
Let’s put that in perspective. From ages 25 to 50, you have a total of $137,500 in contribution windows, and from 50 to 65, you can contribute a total of $97,500, giving you a total of $235,000 in contribution windows. You can only ever contribute that much to your Roth between 25 and 65, period.
Whenever you choose not to contribute up to the cap in a given year, you lose some of that total window. Didn’t contribute for the first five years? You can only ever contribute $207,500 total, because those first five years are lost. Only contributed $1,000 a year for the first decade? You threw away $45,000 of contribution windows that you’ll never get back.
The same thing is true when you withdraw your contributions. You’re effectively losing a contribution window you can never get back. If you contributed $5,000 when you’re 25 and then take that money back out when you’re 30, you’re not going to “gain back” the opportunity to contribute more. You’ve not only taken $5,000 out of that account, but you’ve lost some of the total that you’ll ever be able to contribute to the account. You can’t just put the $5,000 back without eating your current contribution window. The old one is gone forever.
What if you want to “make up” that $5,000 withdrawal later? You can, but by doing so, you’re effectively gobbling up a later contribution window. If you withdraw $5,000 in 2017 and then decide to put it back in 2020, you’re eating up $5,000 of your 2020 contribution window, leaving you with only $500 in fresh contributions that year.
Here’s the core principle: Your contribution windows are a limited resource, and withdrawing your contributions wastes those contribution windows. This might not be a big deal if you’re not using your Roth IRA to its full extent… but if you’re not using every drop of that Roth IRA contribution window, you may be making a mistake anyway (that gets into retirement planning issues that are outside the scope of this article).
There’s a final reason why simply taking money out of a Roth IRA to solve a problem might be a bad idea…
Reason #3: You’re Taking an ‘Easy Way Out’ of Your Financial Situation
When a financial emergency occurs, it’s often easiest to simply look for available pools of money and use those to solve the problem and then move on with life. The problem, of course, is that this really doesn’t solve the problem at all. The short-term problem – whatever the crisis of the moment is – is solved, but you’re left with a big, ongoing, long-term problem – a lifestyle that’s stretching your means – along with a new problem – a reduction in your retirement savings.
In short, if you’re tapping your Roth IRA in an emergency, you’re introducing a new long-term problem without really solving the one that already exists. Sure, you’re getting rid of the short-term issue, but you’re facing a lifestyle that’s pushing your means to sustain it while also facing a retirement for which you’ve just tapped some of your savings.
What’s the solution, then? First of all, if you’re in an emergency where tapping your Roth seems like a good solution, use other resources instead. Leave that Roth alone and try to find a different way to solve that challenge. Your Roth should be your last resort.
When the immediate crisis passes, step back and take a deeper look at your life. If you’re making financial choices that led to you considering tapping out your Roth, you may want to consider different choices.
Are you spending less than you earn? If you’re not doing this, you are going to constantly run into financial trouble in your life. There are simply times in the course of life where you are going to have more financial demands than you expect and it’s during those moments that you need to draw on your resources. If you aren’t preparing for this constantly during the easy times, the hard times are going to be very hard, indeed. As is often noted, winter is coming.
Do you have an actual emergency fund, one that’s large enough to handle most major emergencies? Do you have a pool of cash on hand that could help you bear the brunt of a sudden job loss? What about the transmission failing in your car? What about both? What about a sudden death in the family that necessitates emergency travel? What about identity theft that causes your accounts to be stolen and your credit cards to be closed? These things can and do happen. Are you prepared for them?
Are you earning up to your potential? In other words, are you doing everything you can to succeed in your career so that you can easily move on to higher paying jobs and pull in more income? This is perhaps the most important aspect of all if you’re struggling to spend less than you earn and are only covering the bare necessities. The only way out of that conundrum is to improve your earnings and that requires a serious focus on your career.
The key thing to remember is this: a situation where you’re even considering pulling contributions out of your Roth IRA is an indication that you’re living a life that’s full of financial missteps. You’re likely spending as much as you earn (or nearly as much). You likely don’t have an emergency fund, either. Part of this might be fueled by a job that doesn’t pay well, which is another thing that you can be working on. Correct those missteps. That desire to tap your Roth IRA is a warning shot.
Some Final Thoughts
First of all, if you’re ever in a position to even consider tapping your Roth IRA in an emergency, you need to step back and take a bigger look at your finances. Your Roth IRA is for retirement; if you use it in an emergency, you’re damaging your retirement savings plans. Instead, you should have other emergency protections in your life – namely, a cash emergency fund.
If you’re in this situation, start by considering all other options first. Have you investigated other methods of paying down debt? Do you have some unused belongings you could sell to pay for the emergency? Can you borrow something for a while, such as borrowing a ride or a car for a few days until you figure things out? Is there an alternate strategy you can use for a while, like using the bus instead of your car?
Your Roth IRA should be your emergency fund of absolute last resort. You don’t just lose the contributions from your retirement savings, you also lose the many years of earnings that those savings will generate and you lose some of your window of opportunity to contribute to your Roth IRA. It’s not worth it.
- When and How to Use a Roth IRA as an Emergency Fund
- How to Choose a Strong Investment Option in Your Workplace Retirement Plan
- Four Ways to Use a Roth IRA That Have Nothing to Do With Retirement
- Rules of the Roth IRA: Income Limits, Contributions, and More
The post Why You Shouldn’t Use a Roth IRA as an Emergency Fund appeared first on The Simple Dollar.
Michael Gavin of Colorado State University has a fascinating piece at The Conversation that asks: “Why is it that humans speak so many languages? And why are they so unevenly spread across the planet?”
The questions also seem like they should be fundamental to many academic disciplines – linguistics, anthropology, human geography. But, starting in 2010, when our diverse team of researchers from six different disciplines and eight different countries began to review what was known, we were shocked that only a dozen previous studies had been done, including one we ourselves completed on language diversity in the Pacific.
These prior efforts all examined the degree to which different environmental, social and geographic variables correlated with the number of languages found in a given location. The results varied a lot from one study to another, and no clear patterns emerged. The studies also ran up against many methodological challenges, the biggest of which centered on the old statistical adage – correlation does not equal causation. […]
A better way to identify the causes of particular patterns is to simulate the processes we think might be creating them. The closer the model’s products are to the reality we know exists, the greater the chances are that we understand the actual processes at work.
Two members of our group, ecologists Thiago Rangel and Robert Colwell, had developed this simulation modeling technique for their studies of species diversity patterns. But no one had ever used this approach to study the diversity of human populations.
We decided to explore its potential by first building a simple model to test the degree to which a few basic processes might explain language diversity patterns in just one part of the globe, the continent of Australia.
The success of the model for Australia is truly astonishing; as they say, different patterns will be at work elsewhere, and I certainly join them in their concluding wish: “We hope other scientists will become as fascinated by the geography of language diversity as our research group is and join us in the search for understanding why humans speak so many languages.” Thanks, Trevor!
This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows is theirs.
We were quite surprised to read the LL post by Geoff Pullum of July 10. In this post, GP discussed the suspension of Tory MP Anne Marie Morris for using the phrase “n****r in the woodpile” at an event held at the East India Club. After her use of this phrase was recorded and publicized, she was suspended by the Tories for what the Financial Times described as a racist remark. According to GP, this punishment was excessive, as the remark in question was not racist; he proceeds “reluctantly” to defend Ms. Morris, as the idiom in question was merely “silly.” While we offer no comment on the appropriateness of the specific punishment Ms. Morris received, we do find this characterization problematic on both moral and empirical grounds, together with many other commentators on social media, and we want to suggest that the author should have been (much) more careful when dealing with such an important topic.
What counts as a racist remark? The range of possibilities is broad, from direct attributions of racial slurs to covert dog-whistles, and it’s ultimately not for us as white individuals, or for anybody outside of the oppressed group in question, to declare exactly what is or is not a racist act. However, it does seem clear to us that the category of racist statements isn’t limited to saying things like “X is a [slur].” Thus GP’s claim that the MP’s statement doesn’t count as a racist remark because she didn't call anyone by the slur is off the mark. Utterances which are judged to be racist remarks even include saying positive things about non-people, e.g., "I love [slur] food!" This fact shows that GP’s definition of racist remarks is far too narrow.
Once we allow racist remarks to include more than predicating a slur of an individual, the ground for defending Morris's remark shrinks substantially. The only such defense is to argue that the appearance of the n-word in an idiom is enough to neutralize its racist meaning component. GP tries this route, but here the post runs into empirical problems given well-known facts about slurs. There is a consensus in the semantic/pragmatic and philosophical literature on the topic that slurs aggressively attach to the speaker, committing them to a racist attitude even in embedded contexts. Consider embedded slurs; imagine Ron Weasley says “Draco thought that Harry was a mudblood”, where attributing the thought to Draco isn’t enough to absolve Ron of expressing the attitudes associated with the slur. Indeed, even mentioning slurs is fraught territory, which is why the authors of most papers on these issues are careful to distance themselves from the content expressed. While we aren’t aware of work on slurs in noncompositional idioms in particular, a moment’s thought is enough to show that just putting a potentially offensive word into an idiom doesn’t defuse it; we would feel uncomfortable saying “the shit hit the fan” in formal situations, for example, although here “shit” lacks its literal meaning. Thus we should expect that the slurring meaning of the n-word survives in the idiom.
Slurs are generally words which have a history of being used to inflict serious emotional distress. Setting aside how it is that they come to do that in first place (which surely must have something to do with both their literal meaning and with their issuers’ hateful intent), they come to have a perverse second effect, as we understand it: they viscerally remind their victims of the hurt they have experienced due to prior use of the word, as summed up by the Langston Hughes quotation excerpted by Geoffrey Nunberg’s post, or by Ice Cube in his recent discussion with Bill Maher: “When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.” And importantly, what we have read and heard from people who have been victimized by these words suggests that any depiction can be such a reminder, whether it is use, mention, quotation, or even just phonetic overlap, as in the very obvious case of an idiom containing a slur, or less obvious cases like similar-sounding but historically unrelated words.
As an analogy, consider someone who has been the victim of repeated axe-violence — someone who has been attacked with axes over and over again over the course of their life, and has been threatened with such attacks even more often. If such a person were to come into contact with even just a depiction of an axe or axe-violence, it would be responsible to assume that the person may well become upset, and maybe even re-traumatized. And importantly, this is independent of anyone’s intent — it wouldn’t matter if I showed such a depiction to such a person with the virtuous intent of wanting to rob these depictions of their power to hurt the victim, for example — it would still very likely cause pain. There would be no reason to expect that that pain would be in any way a function of the depicter’s intent.
Likewise, any depiction of a slur creates the risk of causing hurt to those people who have been historically victimized by the slur, regardless of speaker intent. In this way, the slurring effect of a slur is more like Grice’s (1957) natural meaning than his non-natural (communicative) meaning; it is something the hearer derives from the utterance independent of grammatical convention or of their recognition of the speaker’s intent. See also this discussion of research on the physiological effects “mere words” can have.
These considerations defuse the central claim of GP's linguistic defense of Morris's remark, namely that the meaning of the idiom is "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise". Instead, racial slurs are terms that both predicate racial categories of people, and also denigrate those categories (technically, they are “mixed content bearers”). The idiom thus means "a hitherto concealed unpleasant surprise" while at the same time committing the speaker to a racist attitude. It is this second component that we expect to attach to the speaker, even in idiom. That this is the case is also shown by the fact that people have to keep apologizing for using the phrase. In fact, the fact that the MP was suspended and the reporting of the suspension makes use of the term “racist remark” is itself evidence that people naturally get the racist interpretation.
We think that GP's defense of Morris is not tenable on linguistic grounds, but there is a second aspect of the post in question that we find disturbing and important to address. Throughout the post, GP repeatedly mentions the n-word in its uncensored form. In a follow-up to the original post, he says that his refusal to censor is a strategy to avoid giving that word its power. If you take the standard linguistic analysis of slurs, though, the word’s power does not come from mere taboo (i.e., a social prohibition on using or mentioning the word as we see with expletives like "shit"). The word literally has as part of its semantic content an expression of racial hate, and its history has made that content unavoidably salient. It is that content, and that history, that gives this word (and other slurs) its power over and above other taboo expressions. It is for this reason that the word is literally unutterable for many people, and why we (who are white, not a part of the group that is victimized by the word in question) avoid it here.
Yes, even here on Language Log. There seems to be an unfortunate attitude — even among those whose views on slurs are otherwise similar to our own — that we as linguists are somehow exceptions to the facts surrounding slurs discussed in this post. In Geoffrey Nunberg’s otherwise commendable post on July 13, for example, he continues to mention the slur (quite abundantly), despite acknowledging the hurt it can cause. We think this is a mistake. We are not special; our community includes members of oppressed groups (though not nearly enough of them), and the rest of us ought to respect and show courtesy to them.
The sad fact is that linguistics as an academic field has severe diversity issues. These problems are not helped by the strategy above, which, while in the abstract might have its merits, in practice is only hurtful, and only serves as a barrier to those who might find its use painful or insensitive. Certainly, the taboo-ignoring strategy exemplified by GP’s original post is not going to be helpful in solving the problems our field has with lack of diversity. These problems are further evidenced by the fact, mentioned above, that we, the authors, are white, so we cannot directly understand what it feels like to be affected by the slur under discussion. Writing this post discomforts us in light of this fact, but we feel that we have a responsibility to try to further this discussion, and acknowledge that our understanding of the actual harm that comes from the n-word is indirect. For all of us who are not targeted by particular slurs, understanding can only really come from listening to those who have been harmed by them. We strongly encourage everyone to do so.
We want finally to emphasize that it’s not our intention to hang GP from the nearest flagpole, or to implicate in any way that he is himself a racist. We mention this only because some people we have talked about this issue with felt the need to defend him on this count. It hadn’t even entered our minds; we know that language behaviors are deeply ingrained and don’t always reflect our values. Indeed, one of the main points of this note is that speaker intention is not always relevant to these matters. (What’s more, we don’t even believe that debating which individual people may or may not be “racists in their heart of hearts” is a productive way to take on racism.) We are, in fact, fans of GP’s; but we are not fans of this post, for the reasons above.
We are grateful for helpful comments on this note by Carissa Ábrego-collier, Chris Davis, Mitcho Erlewine, Julia Goldsmith-Pinkham, Prerna Nadathur, and Betsy Pillion.