Pages

December 23, 2010

Looking for Someone (Something) to Blame?

One of the biggest reasons that finding a job has become harder is that we now automate many jobs that were once held by human beings. Check out this article about how robots ensure that catalog companies ship your holiday orders in time. Back in the day, humans picked those orders, and maybe even earned overtime during the busy holiday season. But not anymore.

NOTE: I'll be taking the next 10 days off to spend time with my family over the holidays. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2011.

December 20, 2010

Making Sure Your Kids Develop Practical Skills

With an iffy economy and an uncertain economic future, you can't go wrong teaching your kids practical skills. But if you don't have the time or the experience to do this, there's another way to make sure the job gets done. This blog post has the answers you need to raise kids with practical skills if you can't do it yourself.

December 17, 2010

Making Sure Our Kids Will Have Options...and Hope

Just watched the heartbreaking PBS special "Close to Home" (watch free here), which describes what people are going through in this recession.

Especially striking is the fact that most of the people looking for work are looking to work for someone else, yet sending out hundred of resumes with no luck. The only person with some semblance of security (albeit reduced, thanks to the poor financial shape of her customers) is the person who is self-employed.

It's sad to see people without hope. When you rely on others (employers, the government), you have that sinking sense of having no control over your situation. Those who aren't afraid to try self-employment (admittedly a scary proposition after 20 or 30 years of working for others) are the ones who still have options, and hope. We need to plant the idea of self-employment in our kids' heads so they'll always understand that they have that option!

December 15, 2010

Even China Has Unemployed New College Grads

That's right; we're not the only ones churning out college grads who can't find work. China has the same problem, and these young people are caught in a bind: they can't find work in the city, but they don't want to return to the country, where there is nothing for them.

The moral of the story? A college degree is no guarantee of work. It's a new world, and there are no automatic solutions to finding work that pays enough money to live comfortably....even in the world's biggest booming economy.

December 13, 2010

Young Entrepreneurs Finding Success

Here's a great article you'll want to share with the young people in your life. It describes young adults who have decided to bypass the traditional (and currently bleak) world of working for someone else by starting their own businesses. Using today's technological tools, many are finding financial success, and all are learning to rely on themselves instead of an employer. Smart kids!

December 10, 2010

Just Because a College Offers a Certain Major....

....doesn't mean the major provides a degree in an industry that offers any hope of growth, or a future job.

This article made me so sad because I was once a journalism student. While I don’t believe I was as idealistic as some of the students quoted, I enjoyed every bit of my journalism education, and looked forward to a career in journalism. A lousy economy at the time of my graduation ruined that dream for me back then.

Today, these kids are graduating into a lousy economy and a deteriorating journalism scene (the original version of this article included comments from recent journalism grads who can’t find work). The rise of the Internet and the clear bias of American media have resulted in newspapers dropping like flies. Yes, there are far more writing opportunities online than in print, but they pay less, too. It’s much harder to make a living as a journalist now than it was 30 years ago when I graduated during the Carter years.

Yet the professors quoted in the article let the students believe that “it’s all going to be ok” when they surely know better. Gotta keep those paychecks coming in, I guess. (Same reason so many colleges and universities inflate grades these days, but I digress….)

The moral of this story? Just because a college offers a specific major does not mean your child will be able to find work after obtaining that degree. Help your child make a wise career choice. Check out specific careers and their predicted futures at http://www.bls.gov/. Most of all, don’t believe the hype of colleges that need to keep a certain number of warm bodies coming through their departments in order to maintain their own employment.

December 8, 2010

College Grads and Unemployment: Will This Affect Them for Life?

The rate of unemployment among recent college grads has doubled, and many of those who have jobs are not working in their chosen field, or even in a job that requires a degree. Will this experience scar them for life or make them stronger? You decide.

December 6, 2010

Our Kids’ Competition for Future Jobs

When I hear that the unemployment rate is still going up, my immediate thought is for our kids and their future. We’ve been told that many of the jobs that were lost aren’t coming back due to technological change and offshoring. So how will our kids make a living? Will they have to deal with long periods of unemployment in their lives?

Those concerns are why I’ve written my new book, but talking to two of my children who are working adults has given me hope that things won’t be as bad as they seem. Both of them tell me that despite the high unemployment rate, it’s still hard to find good workers. They’ve expressed frustration with job applicants who barely speak during interviews and lazy new employees who spend their time texting instead of working. (These aren’t isolated incidences; they say it’s a pattern they see every day.)

These young employees have some ethical issues beyond laziness. One new employee borrowed a customer’s coupon during a transaction to get an additional discount on her own purchase. A self-identified Christian young man hired as a manager flunked his drug test.

As a result of experiences like these, my kids (who live in different states, by the way) think the high unemployment rate reflects a large number of incompetent people who can’t hold a job. That wouldn’t apply to several people over 40 I know who are among the long-term (2 years +) unemployed. But I think they’re having a hard time getting hired because they’re used to higher pay, and their age makes offering them health insurance a more expensive proposition. As for the younger people, maybe my kids are right.

In that case, we don’t have to worry as much about tough competition for our kids. If we raise them with moral character and a good work ethic along with the skills needed to compete in the 21st century, they should be ahead of most of their peers from the start.

Note: Simulposted at Barbara Frank Online.

November 29, 2010

Self-Reliance is Necessary Now

This man submitted nearly 2,000 job applications but was never hired. So he wised up and started his own business, which is doing well. He used his personal experience to come up with the idea for his business. Smart! This is the kind of thinking that pays off in the new economy. It's how our children will need to think.

November 22, 2010

The Delicate Balance Between Tech-Savvy and Tech-Addiction

One of the Seven Strengths for the 21st century that our kids will need is to be tech-savvy. This means they need to be very comfortable with computers and how they work.

Difficulties arise when kids go beyond tech-savvy to become tech-addicted, particularly to social media. This article does a great job of showing that too much time spend on computers and other tech toys is likely causing changes in kids' brains that make them very distractible. It also takes time away from other important activities that are vital to their development, particularly reading.

How do you maintain the delicate balance between tech-savvy and tech-addiction? You'll find out in early 2011 when Thriving in the 21st Century is published. Stay tuned!

November 19, 2010

Help Your Teen Understand the Enormous Federal Debt

Most of us don’t understand the extent of our government’s indebtedness, but we do know that we’re saddling our kids and grandchildren with a ton of debt. No one’s happy about that, but what can we do?

Here’s an interesting interactive graphic that will help you and your teen get a handle on exactly what can be done to reduce deficits. It’ll get you both talking about where cuts should be made and/or taxes should be increased. Each decision you make reduces the debt….but also has repercussions.

Try it and see what I mean. It will help your teen (and you) understand what kind of tough decisions need to be made to get us back on track.

November 17, 2010

Why Jobs are Disappearing

Here's a short but informative video that explains why jobs are disappearing. Note how few people are needed to build a car these days. The location of the factory is another red flag. Automation and off-shoring are changing the U.S. employment situation.

We need to be aware of things like this. No, it's not good for American jobs. But it's better to prepare our children for the future as we see it, instead of the past that we were prepared for. Telling our kids what we were told ("Get good grades and a college diploma and you'll always have a job") isn't going to be very helpful.

November 15, 2010

Best and Worst U.S. Industries

Here's an interesting post that lists best and worst industries in the U.S. in terms of revenue growth or lack of it. When combined with my post last week regarding career areas that are growing (or not), you should get a clearer picture of job areas that are worth considering for your older children who will face the world of work in the next decade.

November 12, 2010

Which Career Areas are Growing?

Here's an excellent resource: a spreadsheet that shows the change in the number of jobs in a variety of careers; stats are for the time period May 2008 to May 2009.

The first page shows general career areas; click on the link "all job catagories(sic)" to see specific jobs. Note that frequently off-shored jobs are italicized. Numbers are from the BLS.

Paints a bleak picture, doesn't it? But some areas are doing better than others, which gives you an idea of where the least affected areas are, i.e. those to encourage your kids to look into for future employment.

November 10, 2010

Here's Your Diploma....and Your Bill for $24K

According to a recent survey, the average new college grad owes $24,000 in student loan debt at a time when the unemployment rate for college grads has set a record by jumping from 5.8% to 8.7%....in one year!

Keep in mind that the lower-than-average unemployment rate of college grads is partly due to them taking jobs that don't require a college degree because they need something to help pay back the loans that come due within a year after graduation. That explains why there are an awful lot of college-educated truck drivers and burger flippers at work these days.

November 8, 2010

Entrepreneurism vs. College

The writer of this article makes the case that increased entrepreneurism is what our country will need in the future, and that a college education is highly overrated when it comes to preparing people to fix what ails us economically.

There are many interesting points in this article, and some thought-provoking comments after it, adding up to more evidence that we need to be raising entrepreneurial kids!

November 5, 2010

Public Schools are Old School

The public school system was designed to train children for the 20th century world of work in factories and offices. Those days are gone, but the school system just keeps doing things the way they've always been done.

To truly prepare our children for the 21st century, public school is not the answer. But maybe you've already wondered about this. You might be interested in reading "Ten Signs That You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child."

November 3, 2010

Underemployed College Grads: There are LOTS of Them

It's been a long time since most people went to college solely for the purpose of expanding their minds. In recent years, it's been all about getting that degree so you can get a good job. Colleges and universities didn't disagree with this view; in fact, many emphasized it by bragging on each graduating class's employment rate.

But the stakes are higher now: students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and they expect a way to pay it back so they can get on with their lives----and with earning a decent living.

That's why this article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "Why Did 17 Million Students Go To College?" is so striking. The author points out that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 17 million college grads employed in jobs that don't require a college degree. Hmm, how are they going to pay back all that student debt on a lower salary than they'd planned to earn?

November 1, 2010

Are Schools Killing Our Children's Creativity?



In a rapidly changing economic environment, thinking creatively can help people make good decisions when faced with challenging problems. Our children will need to be creative in order to make a living in the 21st century. But are schools crippling their creativity? This video makes the case that they are.

What do you think?

October 29, 2010

Learning a Foreign Language (or Two)

Our 19-year-old wants to be a police officer and was recently told by our local police that the way to move to the top of the new hires list is to be able to speak Spanish.

Many employers now look for bilingual employees, and Spanish isn't the only language they seek. Chinese is becoming increasingly important in the new economy, and other languages are also considered an asset. In a world where employment is not always easy to come by, our children will need the advantage of knowing a foreign language.

Young children pick up foreign languages quickly. Why not let them learn another language with some of the great products now available?

October 27, 2010

Our Children Will Need to Be Good Communicators

It's vital that our children grow up learning how to communicate effectively through writing. In an era of texting and chatspeak, this isn't always easy to manage.

But employers will always value workers who can get across a point clearly and concisely. It's an advantage for the self-employed, too, because being able to write your own website copy and do it well is a real money-saver.

Schoolchildren aren't always taught to write well. But we parents can make sure our children learn this important skill. This report (PDF), while written for homeschooling parents, offers plenty of tips and ideas for all parents who want their children to become good writers.

October 25, 2010

The Truth About Unemployment

According to government statistics and recent polling, the U.S. unemployment rate currently hovers at around 10%.

But economist John Williams includes both the short-term and long-term discouraged workers in his statistics, and estimates the current unemployment rate to be over 20%. Who's right? It doesn't matter; 20%+ is awful, but 10% is nothing to brag about.

Many pundits tell us this is "the new normal." If they're right, we'd better get started teaching our kids how to stretch a buck so that they can get through bouts of unemployment without going hungry.

October 22, 2010

Americans are Catching On

More and more people are realizing that the economy of the 21st century isn't going to get better any time soon. This is why we need to prepare our children carefully for the future: preparing them the way we were prepared makes no sense, because getting a college degree is no longer a guarantee of anything except a big expense.

It's not that none of our children will need to go to college. But all of our children will need to develop the specific strengths that will get them ready to thrive in the 21st century.

October 20, 2010

Kids and Internet Safety

Our kids will need to be computer-literate and Internet-savvy by the time they reach adulthood. Many of today's kids are skilled at texting and using Facebook, but those things take up time that could be better used learning to safely surf the Internet.

Of course, parents are concerned (with good reason) about their children's safety when using the Internet. Here's a guide from the FBI about keeping your kids safe on the Internet that you may find useful.

October 18, 2010

Raising Entrepreneurial Teens

A recent survey by Junior Achievement found that there are two deciding factors in teens wanting their own business(es): their environment and having strong entrepreneurial role models.

While participating in groups like JA will help our teens develop the entrepreneurial mindset, we parents can have the greatest effect by encouraging our young people to try starting small businesses, and even by starting our own businesses so they can witness it firsthand.

Having your own business, even a side business, can help you through hard times caused by low-paying jobs or worse, unemployment. Giving our kids a head-start on thinking entrepreneurially can only help them in the 21st century economy.

October 15, 2010

Even on Wall Street....

....salaries are shrinking. Learning to stretch a dollar is going to become a very popular pastime. Will your kids know how to live simply and stretch a buck?

October 13, 2010

At Least Somebody's Teaching Kids These Skills

Over in England, a chain of hardware stores has begun offering classes to teach children basic survival skills, since their parents either don't have the time or the ability to do so. 

Glad to hear that some young people are going to learn these skills. Wonder when they'll start teaching basic skills on this side of the pond?

October 11, 2010

How Did This Happen?

You may wonder how our economy got to the point where it is now. I think Charles Hugh Smith summarizes it pretty well.

The middle class filled the growing gap between stagnant earnings and steep increases in living costs, healthcare (a.k.a. sickcare), education, and housing with a second income (Mom, aunty, sister and Grandma all entered the workforce en masse) during the 1970s, and then they filled the still-widening gap in the 80s, 90s and 2000s with ever-expanding debt.

The dot-com bubble provided the illusion that permanently rising equities would painlessly fill the gap (pension plans were happy to join in the mass delusion). When that fantasy imploded, it was quickly replaced with the exact same fantasy, only this time based on housing.

Hence our current economic troubles. The bottom line? Our children's future will be much different from the world we've been accustomed to for the past 30 years. It will be harder for many people to earn money. Our kids are going to need a variety of skills, not just a sheepskin.

October 8, 2010

Modern Day Debt Slaves

This dad was so convinced that his children had to go to college that he co-signed student loans for ALL FOUR of them.....yikes! He and his wife lost their jobs, they've lost their home to foreclosure and are about to become homeless, and they can't shake off the tremendous student loan debt (one loan is for $108,000) through bankruptcy.

Proposed legislation may help them out by making student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, but the lesson here is clear: don't get into student loan debt unless you're sure it will result in employment that pays so well you can repay the loans and still have money to live on. Not too many careers fall into that category these days.

October 6, 2010

Incomes Headed Down

New demographic data shows that U.S. median income dropped nearly 3% from 2008 to 2009. Given the rise in unemployment since then, it's likely that the 2009-2010 change will be at least the same and maybe higher.

Incomes are headed down. Finding any job, much less a higher-paying one, is not easy these days. It's a helpless feeling, but we're not helpless. We do have the power to manage our money wisely and stretch every dollar we earn.

We must also teach our children to do the same. It's their best bet for surviving economic difficulties in their lives someday.

October 4, 2010

"A Generation of Nincompoops": Something Easily Avoided

The woman quoted in this article has a teenage daughter who doesn't know how to use a can opener, so Mom's written a book about reducing her children's reliance on technology. I guess she thinks they were too busy texting to learn how to make a can of soup for dinner.

I'm kind of surprised she admits that she fell down on the job when it came to teaching very basic skills to her children. It's really not that hard. But it does require a parent to value basic skills enough to teach them to their children. Maybe she should read Back to Basics!

September 30, 2010

College Grads are Moving Back Home

The economy takes its toll as college grads find that high unemployment and low wages has them taking refuge in their old rooms.

This isn't such a bad thing in and of itself; living with your family until marriage was once the norm. But it's very telling when we consider whether or not the economy is improving, as some say it is.

September 28, 2010

The Whole Picture

Here and there I'll see news articles about what's going on in our country and I'll share the links here. But this link is a stunner. The writer has assembled a group of articles about what's going on, and seeing them together really brings home the fact that we are not in good shape at all. The shrinkage of our manufacturing base has resulted in some real problems.

It's my hope that we resume manufacturing again. That's why our kids will need to know how to work with their hands: so they can help rebuild this country's economy.

September 24, 2010

The Questionable Monetary Value of a College Degree

I see they haven't enabled comments on this new article crowing over the supposed financial advantage of a college degree. No wonder.....there are an awful lot of unemployed and under-employed college grads these days. Their comments can be seen on articles about the economy, and believe me, most of them are not happy.

Note that:

  • This study was done by the College Board. Not exactly unbiased! In fact, this article reads more like a PR piece than a news article.
  • It states that college grads make more money than high school grads. Since many college grads are working retail jobs, thus taking them away from high school grads, I guess that's true, but it's sure not a reason to go into enormous student loan debt.
  • The unemployment rate for college grads is half that of high school grads, but again, that makes sense when the college grads take the jobs the high school grads once had, selling books and making coffee drinks.
These articles seem to be popping up more frequently. Seems like the colleges are getting a bit panicky because word is getting out that not all college degrees will guarantee jobs after graduation. In the future, this will be even more true.

September 22, 2010

Raising Entrepreneurial Kids

Is it true that entrepreneurs are made, not born? No one knows for sure, but giving your kids opportunities to work for themselves is a great way to prepare them for the 21st century economy. Having their own business (even if it's just a side business) will be a good way to stay afloat financially.

Today's New York Times has an interesting article called "How to Raise a Business Owner." It's written by a self-employed mom. Check it out HERE.

September 20, 2010

Courting Financial Disaster to Create College Grads

According to a new study (ironically initiated in part by Sallie Mae, the government entity that holds most student loans), parents are at risk of impoverishing themselves in order to make sure they send their students to college.

It's not until the end of this long article highlighting the survey's results that the reporter states the obvious:

Although most students believe they need a college degree to earn more money and work in their chosen field, some are beginning to question whether an education is worth the hefty price tag. Only a slight majority -- 53 percent -- of those surveyed in 2010 feel college is worth the cost; 62 percent thought a degree was worth it in 2008.

At least some students are starting to catch on.

September 17, 2010

Teaching Children to Recognize and Appreciate Quality, Part 2

PART 1 (in case you missed it)

Exposure to Quality

Giving our children opportunities to create things is key, but we also need to expose them to the creations of others. Seeing what others have done inspires our children, and also helps them to recognize greatness in the work of others.

Art museums are one place our children can become acquainted with high-quality, aesthetically pleasing works.

Historical museums expose our children to the great inventions of the past, and help them understand why it’s important to make things that last.

Art and craft shows give children an up-close look at art and the artists who create it.

Quilt shows highlight the creativity of those who work with cloth. Be on the lookout for special exhibits of antique quilts; before cloth was affordable or readily available, women of the past used fabric scraps, worn-out clothes and feed sacks to fashion quilts of beauty that were used to keep their families warm. Such quilts are the ultimate examples of good stewardship of materials.

Of course, the best place to expose our children to well-made and high quality items is in our own homes. There are high-quality items out in the marketplace, but they tend to cost quite a bit more than we might want to pay. In many cases, they’re downright unaffordable. Many people just don’t have the money to fill their homes with such expensive things.

However, there is a way to find affordable items for our homes, and that’s at estate sales, garage sales and rummage sales. Amidst the warped fiberboard entertainment centers and rickety kitchen chairs of the recent past you can find sturdy wooden furniture, high-quality pre-1990s towels and linens (some with the price tags still attached!) and small appliances made with metal gears (much longer-lasting than today’s products with plastic gears).

My husband and I began shopping in such places when we were poor newlyweds. We still use some of our purchases from back then; a few are now considered antiques that would sell for quite a bit more than we paid for them, IF we were willing to part with them.

The high quality of goods made in the past really hit home with me several years ago, when I helped my daughter find supplies for her first apartment by scouring local estate and rummage sales. She especially likes the look of the 1970s (to her, it’s very retro; I, however, lived through it the first time!). In finding various items of that vintage for her such as glassware, utensils and linens, I was struck by the sturdiness of the items compared to much new versions of the same things in our home. The plastic utensils were stronger and heavier. The glasses were also heavier, and the paint on them had held up almost perfectly; quite a difference from the glassware we use that’s not very old but already has faded a good deal.

The difference in linens is especially noticeable. The sheets I found for her are not as tightly woven as those you can buy nowadays, nor are the towels as thick and soft as today’s towels, but both are made of better-quality textiles. I can tell this because they continue to wear well despite frequent washings. In contrast, today’s sheets and towels seem luxurious when you buy them, but after a few washings they begin to deteriorate quickly.

These differences need to be pointed out to our children so that they can learn to recognize quality. In fact, just living with and using well-made goods on a day-to-day basis will have a subliminal effect on them; when you’re used to quality, anything “cheap” really becomes noticeable.

But we have to make an effort to “buy quality” in order to have it in our homes. If we can’t afford to buy new, buying older, used items is the way to do it. If you have a problem with doing that, just remember, every one of those expensive antiques you see on television’s “Antiques Roadshow” is a used item.

A Resurgence of Quality

Artists put a lot of time into their creations. In the new age of increasing productivity (the faster a product can be made, the better) and throwaway products, we have to ask if the creation of high-quality items is really worth the time it takes. Does it make sense to encourage our children to recognize quality and to develop their artistic talents so that they can create items of quality when the rest of the world seems to have forsaken quality for low prices and the convenience of disposability?

I think it does. Beyond the pleasure creation brings, and the joy of working with good materials, is the likelihood that eventually, people will tire of having to buy new goods all the time. There are many reasons for this:

• It takes time to keep buying replacements, and we’re increasingly short on time.

• It’s very frustrating when things keep breaking or falling apart.

• The novelty of each season’s “hot” new items wears off after a while; we get bored with them.

• It’s expensive to keep replacing the items we use in our daily lives; this is especially important during economic downturns like the one we’re in now.

• As people age, they lose interest in continual consumption, and learn to appreciate what they have (or maybe they just get tired of all that shopping!)

• In rapidly changing times, people find security in the possessions that have meaning to them.

This last point is especially intriguing. In a throwaway society, which items will become the eventual heirlooms we leave to our children and their children? Will the museums of the future have anything in them to represent the early 21st century, or will it all have fallen apart?

I think today’s “it’s cheaper to buy a new one” mentality will eventually lead to a resurgence of the appreciation of quality. It will always have its place, even among an avalanche of cheap imported goods. In the world of job insecurity and changes that we’ve entered, it’s human nature to want some security, some things that don’t change. Possessions that have stood up over time and even have special significance for us are greatly appreciated.

In our home sits a sturdy old rocking chair that we inherited after the death of my husband’s great-grandmother. She received it as a wedding gift, so it’s over 100 years old. I rocked my babies in it; when my children were small, they climbed in it and all over it. It has held up very well, and holds many memories for us.

It’s one of many chairs we’ve owned; many of the others are no longer in our house. Having been made more recently, they fell apart from the daily use of six people. They were replaced by even newer and not-inexpensive chairs. While my husband tries to keep them in good repair, it is a constant job. It’s true, they just don’t make things like they used to make them. Yet that rocking chair remains in good shape. You can’t beat quality.

NOTE: Excerpted from Thriving in the 21st Century, now available in print and eBook.

September 15, 2010

Teaching Children to Recognize and Appreciate Quality, Part 1

NOTE: Excerpted from Thriving in the 21st Century, now available in print and eBook.

The paint is coming off of the buttons of my cell phone, which I don’t use very often (it’s a prepaid). It’s only a year old.

The nonstick surface of the pans in my kitchen is flaking off; the pans are, at most, five years old.

Towels I bought only a few years ago fade and become stiff, while those received as wedding gifts over 30 years ago continue to hold up. The elastic stretches out in fitted sheets just a few years old, while sheets I bought for my now-young-adult children, much used over the years, are still in good shape.

These are more examples of the decreasing quality of goods we buy today. Our stores are overflowing with wonderful, exciting new products, but most aren’t made to last. The hope of those who make them is that they’ll have to be replaced before long, thus requiring yet another trip to the store, and so more profits in the manufacturers’ pockets. Increasing global competition is teaching manufacturers to produce goods with low costs and a low profit margin, which they can then sell in large quantities at modest prices, thus making up the profit in volume.

The combination of innovative new products, mass marketing and planned obsolescence (making a product with a limited lifespan so it will have to be replaced) has brought us this avalanche of goods that don’t last. As soon as they hit our stores, they’re aggressively marketed so that we’ll buy them. Those that don’t sell right away are deep-discounted so that we’ll buy them on sale because of their irresistible prices. Anything left over is then marked down for clearance so that there will be room for the coming season’s “must-have” items, and the cycle begins again.

This sequence has trained American consumers to expect low-price, low-quality goods, and develops in us an attitude of “it’s cheaper to replace it than to fix it.” Compare that to the mindset required of our grandparents and great-grandparents who raised families during the Great Depression. A common expression of the 1930s was “Use it up, make it do or do without.” Most people didn’t have the money to buy new goods or replace old items all the time. So they learned to take care of their belongings to make them last, and to fix those that could be fixed.

Cultivating such an attitude helped them stretch their money as far as possible, which was a necessity during tough financial times. We need to teach our children that same attitude; it will be very helpful to them during those times ahead when they’re between jobs, or when they need to tighten their belts in order to keep their business afloat.

That won’t always be easy in our disposable society. We parents have been trained to pitch what doesn’t work. One example of how we’ve come to think that way is the videocassette recorder (VCR). When VCRs first became available to the consumer market over 30 years ago, the cheapest models cost over $1,000. After investing that kind of money, almost anyone with a VCR took it in to be repaired when it broke down.

But over the years the price of VCRs declined, and so did their quality. When you can find them, you can buy a multi-featured VCR for $50. When it breaks down, and it will, it won’t be worth investing at least as much as you paid for it in repairing it, when you can go right out and buy another for $50. And that’s what Americans do. We just keep buying more products to replace those that break down or fall apart. By doing so, we kept the economy going for a long time.

But this process creates a mindset of increasing consumption. It’s the last thing we want to teach our children, but that’s what we’re doing by our examples. We parents need to get our heads straight about what and why we buy things before we try to teach our children.

It can be done. By learning to recognize and appreciate quality, we and our children can keep a lid on our expenses by not having to replace things all the time. The choices we make as consumers will have an effect on what’s being offered in the market place. Just think, if everyone were to refuse to buy inferior goods, manufacturers and marketers would have no choice but to offer better quality goods.

That’s a nice thought, but the reality of the present is that it takes some work to find high-quality goods, things that will hold up for a while. We have to take the time and make the effort to buy well-made items, and to teach our children how to do so. If they learn to appreciate quality now, they’ll grow up looking for it in the things they buy. It will be worth their effort to take care of those things, and to fix them when they need to be fixed. Such an attitude will be very helpful in the financially uncertain times ahead.

Learning to Recognize Quality

Not long ago, I was shopping in a local discount department store when I noticed a display of baby clothes. Thinking how adorable they were, and how creatively they had been designed, I went up for a closer look.

What I found was disappointing. The tiny shirts were made of very poorly made fabric that would certainly not hold up for more than a few washings. The matching corduroy overalls turned out not to be corduroy at all, but a cheap fabric with ridges stamped into it to make it look like corduroy.

As a mom who has had four babies, if there’s one thing I know it’s that baby clothes get washed a lot. They need to be sturdy to hold up to hours of spinning in the washer and being heated in the dryer. And hopefully, they’ll last so they can be handed down to the next baby. These clothes, as cute as they were, would not likely hold together for one baby, much less four.

I can recognize poor quality in clothes because I sew. I learned to sew at age 11, and as a teen, made many of my own clothes. Sewing teaches you proper clothing construction. Once you learn that, you come to expect it in the clothes you buy as well as the clothes you make.

Sewing also teaches you to recognize and appreciate high-quality fabric, because the last thing you want to do is put a lot of work into an item made out of cheap fabric. It will eventually fade, or the fabric will come apart, and all your hard work will be wasted.

I taught my girls to sew, and it has brought them great enjoyment as well as an appreciation for quality. When we’re out shopping and my younger daughter spots a piece of clothing she likes, I show her how it’s made. If it’s made of poor quality fabric (and increasingly, it is) I show her how thin the fabric is, and how loosely it’s woven. These are signs that it won’t last long with normal use. Each time I show her something like this, and each time she sews something, she learns to recognize quality. This will serve her well in adulthood.

Sewing, however, is just one way to teach about quality. There are many skills that we can teach our children (or learn alongside them, if we don’t already have the skill), so that they can recognize quality. Any skill that requires you to work with your hands and to select good materials to work with is worth learning in order to recognize quality. For example:

Woodworking helps children learn about furniture construction and types of wood. The child who can work with wood will someday be able to recognize and buy high-quality furniture, reject low-quality furniture, and even make his or her own furniture.

Cooking and baking helps children learn to enjoy healthy, high-quality food, and to reject inferior food. The child who is accustomed to home-baked cookies doesn’t find packaged cookies as appealing; a frozen pizza is no match for one made with fresh ingredients and love.

Knitting and other types of handwork (quilting, crocheting, and needlepoint are just a few examples) give children the opportunity to make things of beauty that will last and can be handed down to their own children someday. Compare a hand-knitted sweater to the sweaters you find in the store these days (ill-fitting, and made of inferior yarn that begins to pill on the first wearing); there’s a definite difference in quality that even an older child can see and feel.

The creation of art (painting, sculpture, metalwork) lets children experience how much work goes into translating something from a concept to a finished item. It gives them the opportunity to use paint, chalk, stone and metal to make something tangible while expressing themselves. The child who is an artist will be more likely to appreciate the work of others, including the great artists of history.

These creative activities are just some areas we can use to teach our children to recognize quality. All of them help our children to develop an appreciation for the work that has gone into something. Children who understand this will appreciate heirlooms and other family treasures for what they are as well as what they represent. They’ll also be able to recognize shoddy work and reject it, which is a good ability to have in a world where inferior goods are increasingly common.

Learning to recognize and appreciate quality through such activities as those listed has other benefits:

• Recognizing quality brings pleasure; the feel of fine fabric, the aroma of home-baked goods, the patina of exotic wood.

• Making something with one’s hands is satisfying, and gives a goal to work toward that, once reached, provides great satisfaction.

• Creating something teaches you not to waste materials, but to put them to good use.

• The creative person knows how and prefers to fix things instead of replacing them.

This last point is an integral part of being a good steward. Taking good care of what you’ve been blessed with is a Christian principle. The child who recognizes and appreciates quality will be a good steward of resources. In the financial ups-and-downs likely to characterize the new economy, that ability will be a great asset.

PART 2

September 13, 2010

About This Blog

In March 2001, something happened to our family. As abruptly as the slamming of a door, my husband’s work stopped coming in.

For 25 years before that, my husband had been a designer of plastic molds and the sole financial support of our family. Since 1995, he had been a self-employed designer. From the first day he started out on his own, he had more business than he could handle. In fact, there was never a single day that he didn’t have work to do for someone……until that March day when he finished a mold and realized he had no other jobs waiting for him.

By then, America was in a recession that had been building for some time. But as the spring and then the summer passed by, the phone remained quiet. When he checked with them, my husband’s clients expressed concern at how little, if any, work they were being hired to do. We began to realize that something was different from the previous recessions we’d been through. As one of the many families whose living came from the manufacturing segment of our economy, we were accustomed to slowdowns; we were well-equipped to deal with less work. But to have no work? It had never happened before.

Finally in September 2001, the work started to trickle in, though much more slowly than before. But then came the national tragedy now infamously known as 9/11, and the entire American economy shuddered for months afterward. We felt it as much as anyone else.

As the mother and homemaker in our family of six, my immediate job was to stretch the dollars as well as I could, which I did. But as a freelance writer and former reporter, my reaction to difficulties has always been research. (Somebody’s sick? I’ll find out everything I can about the disease.) When our youngest son was born with Down syndrome, it took only a few months before I had amassed my own mini-library of Down syndrome books. This is how I cope with uncertainty: I research the heck out of it.

So I began to search for answers to the questions that were spinning around in my head:

What’s causing this loss of work?

Is it true our manufacturing base is evaporating?

Why is so much work going to other countries when people here are unemployed?

How does China manage to wipe out so many of our factories?

Is it time for my husband to bail out of plastics and find a new line of work?

My research confirmed my suspicion that we’re in the midst of an enormous shift in this country. Those of us who grew up expecting the long-term jobs and resulting financial rewards (not to mention company-paid health insurance and pensions for our old age) that our parents had are in for a nasty surprise. Those kind of jobs are evaporating quickly, and in many cases are being replaced by temporary jobs and outsourcing. The more I read, the more I realized the old way of doing things was not coming back any time soon.

This brought a new concern to the forefront. As difficult as it was for my husband and me to determine what to do next, it was even harder to think about how it would affect our children. How could we prepare them for this new and rapidly changing economy, where entire industries disappear? What kind of skills and abilities would be needed to work in an economy that’s dramatically different from the one to which we’d been accustomed?

Once we figure out the answers to those questions, how do we teach those things to our children? And is it possible that we can prepare them so that they won’t just survive, but thrive? Everything I’ve learned since I started asking those questions suggests that it is most definitely possible.

What I’ve learned over the past nine years led me to the conclusions I’ll share in this blog and in my upcoming book, Thriving in the 21st Century. As parents, we’re completely responsible for our children. It’s our job to prepare them to become hard-working, independent adults. Even though many of the assumptions and rules we grew up with have changed, our responsibility to guide our children has not. So to every parent who’s concerned about preparing their child for the new economy we find ourselves in, this blog and my upcoming book are for you.

September 10, 2010

The Primary Area of Job Growth is........

....quite visible on this chart.

Yes, health care continues to be the only job area with any kind of decent growth in our economy. This growth is likely to continue, as the massive group of Baby Boomers age and require more health care than ever.

This is a great career area for your children. But the very best health care workers have an ability that helps them excel in their work: they're empathetic people. Empathy is one of the Seven Strengths you can develop in your children right now so they'll be ready to Thrive in the 21st Century.

September 9, 2010

Will Your Kids Be Able to Live on Less Than $50K a Year?

This article asks if it's possible to live on an average income of $50,000 a year. Considering that wages have been stagnating for years (when you consider inflation) and are now dropping, it's possible our kids will have to live on less than $50,000 annually.

Will your kids be able to do it? Have you taught them to handle money wisely? If not, why not?

September 8, 2010

A Professor in Favor of Teaching Practical Skills and Hands-On Work

Joining the chorus of those saying our kids need to know how to work with their hands is college professor Camille Paglia, who states:

Jobs, jobs, jobs: We need a sweeping revalorization of the trades. The pressuring of middle-class young people into officebound, paper-pushing jobs is cruelly shortsighted. Concrete manual skills, once gained through the master-apprentice alliance in guilds, build a secure identity. Our present educational system defers credentialing and maturity for too long.

While I'm not sure I agree with Ms. Paglia about college being the place where young people should be taught to work with their hands, she's right on the money about the uselessness of many current college majors, and the need for more career guidance regarding the trades.

September 7, 2010

It's More Important Than a College Degree

Parents spend amazing amounts of effort and money to get their children into college. But times have changed. A college degree is not for everyone, and may not monetarily benefit most people....not anymore.

But there's another commodity, one that I list in my upcoming book Thriving in the 21st Century as being one of the Seven Strengths our kids will need as adults, that parents should encourage. It's creativity: see what John Taylor Gatto has to say about this issue here.

September 6, 2010

Many Service Jobs are in Big Cities

As many manufacturing jobs left the U.S., service jobs have taken over, particularly in the large cities. The BLS predicts major growth in several decent-paying service jobs, including these five career areas.

Keep in mind, however, that the BLS uses the past to predict the future. Since we're going through such a dramatic economic change, read anything that quotes the BLS with a grain of salt, realizing that the need for different jobs varies geographically, too.

September 3, 2010

Working With Your Hands: A Needed Attribute

For years, parents and teachers have pushed kids toward college. President Obama has actually said it's our kids' duty to go to college.

But the push for college has kept many kids from taking classes that teach them to work with their hands. In fact, classes like the ones we called "Industrial Arts" were dropped from high schools long ago because of a lack of student interest.

Now American companies are looking for people who can work with their hands, and they're willing to pay them well. It's time to teach our kids to make things!

September 2, 2010

Help for Learning Foreign Languages

We live in a global economy now, and it's important that our children be able to speak more than one language in order to communicate with their coworkers and customers some day.

Here's a site that's a portal to all sorts of free online help in learning a foreign language. Why not expose your children to a new language and stretch their minds? Kids pick up languages more quickly than adults do....they may end up teaching you!

September 1, 2010

The Return of the American Call Center?

Finally, the tide has turned in offshoring: the call center is returning to America!

No, this probably isn't the job you dream of for your child's future career. But in our current situation, the return of any jobs is a good thing. And for stay-at-home parents and those with disabilities that limit their choice of jobs, a call center job that allows you to work from home can be a wonderful thing.

Let's face it, there's little to celebrate in our economy right now, so let's applaud this little bit of good news.

August 31, 2010

Kids Need to Learn to Handle Money Responsibly

We're seeing so many stories of people in financial turmoil, and we're told that this is the new normal. Not for my kids! Teaching them how to handle money is one way to prepare them for the future.

Here's a site that offers plenty of lessons about money for your children. Check it out!

August 30, 2010

College: Let the Student Beware

Law school students are getting angry as they find that law schools have lied about the availability of jobs post-graduation. They're coming out with close to (and sometimes more than) six figures' worth of grad school debt only to find that the jobs are not there.

Most interesting was this quote from economist Richard Vedder:

"We are entering the age of the overeducated American, the person with college degrees who cuts hair, trims trees, drives trucks," he says.

The myth of a college degree being the key to success is slowly being exposed for what it is these days.

August 27, 2010

Teach Your Daughters Well

Having money skills will be a key to financial survival in the 21st century, so it's important for parents to teach their children how to handle money now, while they have them at home.

Traditionally, girls were often left out of these discussions. Even today, some parents don't think about giving their daughters the advantage of having financial savvy. But given that single moms have taken a real financial beating in this economy, every girl should be taught how to handle money wisely.

August 26, 2010

The Solution to Unemployment for Teens

The unemployment rate among teens is the highest it's been in decades. Some people are worried that being unable to find a job could affect teens emotionally when they become adults.

There are many benefits of part-time jobs for teens, but when jobs are hard to come by, teens can try self-employment. Baby-sitting, lawn-mowing and car-washing are traditional businesses for teens to run; the really motivated teen might come up with other business ideas, such as giving dance or instrument lessons to young children, doing home maintenance and yard work for neighbors or becoming the local computer geek by helping older relatives and neighbors trouble-shoot their computers.

Working for themselves will have positive emotional effects on teens well into adulthood, and could be the start of a lifetime of self-employment, which will be a real plus in the economy of the 21st century.

August 25, 2010

Still Asking Their Parents for Help

"Across the pond," many young people apparently have few do-it-yourself skills. According to a recent study, more than a third are afraid to try gardening, and more than two-thirds believe their fathers are handier than they are.

Here in the U.S., are our own young people any better at fixing things and creating things than the British? In recent years, young adults grew up in affluence, learning to pay others to do everything for them so they didn't have to learn to do things for themselves.

That's fine if you have plenty of money to pay others, but what if you don't? Wise parents are teaching their kids to do for themselves from the time they're little: here's how.

August 23, 2010

Disappearance of the Middle Class?

I'm seeing more articles like this one, decrying the disappearance of the middle class and suggesting that in the future, Americans will either be poor or very rich, with the overwhelming majority falling into the first category.

No one can predict the future, of course. But if we prepare our kids by teaching them to live frugally and to maximize their income, they'll be more comfortable than if they were never taught how to do these things.

August 20, 2010

Financial Freedom

The research I've done over the past several years points to a future where those who are unencumbered by debt are most likely to thrive. But even if I'm wrong, and our kids become adults in a world where survival is a piece of cake, being financially free will allow them to capitalize on all the good opportunities they see.

Whatever happens, a little training now will help our children achieve "A Future of Financial Freedom" by helping them aim for debt-free lives.

August 19, 2010

Working With Your Hands

Believe it or not, there are still some job areas where companies cannot find enough good employees. Many of these unfilled jobs require people to be able to work with their hands:

Paul McNarney, owner of The Mower Shop in Fishers, Ind., says he has been looking for a good lawnmower mechanic so he can guarantee a one-week turnaround on repairs. He received only two responses to an Internet ad he placed a couple of months ago, even though the job can generate income of more than $40,000 a year, depending how many mowers the mechanic repairs. Similar ads he placed before the recession attracted more than a dozen candidates, he says.

"My thought was that in a cr— economy I could probably find somebody good because a lot of people were looking," says Mr. McNarney, who has been in business for 13 years selling everything from simple lawnmowers to big riding models for large properties. "I didn't find anybody."

A salary of $40,000+ isn't bad these days. But schools rarely offer "shop classes" or other classes that teach kids to work with their hands. It's up to parents to do this.....or grandparents if the parents can't work with their hands.

August 18, 2010

Why They're Not Hiring

We wonder where the jobs are, but when you read about the high costs of employing someone, you understand one aspect of what's going on. With the government planning to increase taxes (and let tax cuts run out) across the board in 2011, it's clear that the U.S. employment situation won't get better anytime soon.

Those of us with teens should prepare them for the challenges of working in an economy with long-term high unemployment rates, because they're nearly adults, and finding a job, with or without a college degree, is not going to be easy for some time.

Those with younger children can prepare their children for the worse, knowing that even if things improve by the time they reach adulthood, they'll be ready no matter what happens in the future.

August 17, 2010

The Skills Every Worker Needs

This article, "7 Skills Every Worker Needs," doesn't include skills you've never heard of before, but I think the last two skills it mentions are especially important, and if you went to school, you may be lacking in one or both.

That's why it's so important to homeschool your kids if you want them to thrive in the 21st century. Skill #6 is curiosity, which is often squelched by formal schooling. And skill #7, self-reliance, is something I post about frequently on this blog. In fact, the last paragraph of this article mirrors something I've written in my upcoming book, Thriving in the 21st Century. The article's author states:

It's becoming apparent that the big institutions that many Americans have relied on for the last 50 years--corporate America, banks, the government--won't be as supportive in the future. Those who adjust and become more entrepreneurial will be the winners. That means developing more technical skills instead of relying on others, making lots of backup plans, and building a big cushion in case something goes wrong. "Don't get too dependent on having total continuous employment," advises Peters. That way, if you end up out of work for a while, it might seem like more of a blessing than a curse. And you'll know what to do next.

No one was saying this six years ago, when I began writing my book. But I think it's becoming clearer by the day that our children will have to support themselves in a much different world than the one we're used to.

August 16, 2010

Digging Deeper Reveals the Truth About "Thriving" Careers

An article titled "Thriving (and Dying) Careers" is typical of the manipulation we're seeing from the media these days when it comes to jobs. It gives a false sense of hope by first mentioning some career areas that actually died years ago (Telegraph operators? Lamplighters? Why not mention buggy whip manufacturers too?), then comparing these antiquated jobs to modern careers that are supposedly good prospects for long-term employment:

Medical assistant: good luck surviving on an average of $14 an hour.

Budget analyst: a 15% growth rate in new jobs for budget analysts sounds impressive, but it works out to only 1,000 new jobs a year.....for the entire U.S.!

Marketing managers make the big bucks, and you usually need an MBA, but that 12% growth rate translates into only 2,190 new jobs per year in a country with 160 million working adults---good luck!

Dental assistants: not such high average pay at $16 an hour, but more opportunity at 10,000 new jobs a year. Probably the best of this sorry list of "thriving" careers.

Medical and Health Services Manager: with an average salary of $80K and only 4500 new jobs a year, your child better have a competitive spirit!

Registered nurse: this has been a favorite on the best jobs lists for several years now, but so many people responded to the demand that there are now more nurses than jobs in many cities.

Special ed teachers: some opportunities and good pay, but as the parent of a special needs child, I can tell you it takes a special person to be a special ed teacher. Most people are not cut out for it.

Computer Network Administrators: decent pay and some opportunities, but the writing's on the wall. This from the BLS itself:

"As computer networks expand, more of these workers may be able to perform their duties from remote locations, reducing or eliminating the need to travel to the customer’s workplace."

Translation: it's just a matter of time before these jobs are off-shored to cheaper labor overseas.

The upshot? Don't believe what you read about the jobs of the future. Dig deeper so you learn the true story, before you direct your children toward supposedly thriving careers.

August 13, 2010

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Grass-Eaters

Charles Hugh Smith shares some interesting insights about Japan, which has had a stagnating economy for many years. Smith says that young people there have become disillusioned by poor economic prospects, and many move back home with their parents in disgust and frustration. Some young men, having seen their fathers dedicate their lives to their jobs only to be cut loose, refuse to risk the same treatment and have given up. They are called "Grass-eaters" by their elders.

Some Americans worry that our future looks like Japan's current reality. No one knows for sure, but it seems to me that raising our boys (and our girls) to have many practical skills so that they can take care of themselves is a very good way to avoid raising Grass-eaters. People who don't rely on others to take care of them or employ them have more hope than those who are dependent on employers for their survival.

August 12, 2010

Surviving Long-term Unemployment

Lately, an increasing number of news reports highlight the increasing number of people who've been unemployed for more than 99 weeks and no longer receive unemployment checks. Most of them are in their 50s and 60s, and some will never find another job.

How do people survive such a situation without government help? Hopefully they've always set aside money for a rainy day and paid off all their debts including their mortgage. If they have, and are also willing to pursue self-employment (even on a very small scale), they'll be alright.

Paying off all debt and setting aside money for a rainy day are key survival skills that all of our children should be taught. It's one of the most important things we can teach our kids, whether or not they learn about it in school, so that they can thrive in the 21st century.

August 11, 2010

Living Simply Makes More Sense Than Ever

Many people are shedding the bulk of their possessions and downsizing. This makes sense in the current economy, and it sets a good example for our children, who will live and work in a world much different than the one we grew up in.

It also makes great financial sense. By keeping bills low, you can survive periods of unemployment, or enjoy a lifestyle of self-employment. For many of our children, living simply may be the only way they can live on their own.

August 10, 2010

Labor Mobility is Down: What Does It Mean?

Americans used to move to where the jobs were. But these days, so many of them are stuck in mortgages they can't get out of that they can't move anywhere. According to this article, it's a trend that is expected to continue for a long time.

It once made sense for young people to buy houses as soon as they could before prices went up further. But these days owning a house can be a real trap, especially for a young person looking to get a career going. It's wiser to rent, at least for the foreseeable future.

August 9, 2010

And the Purpose of College Graduation Is?

Once again, our president has declared that we must regain the title of "country with the most college graduates." This despite the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that most of the job openings over the next 10 years will not require a college degree. Surely the president knows this......so what is his purpose? Pushing people to college is only going to leave many of them in debt up to their ears, and many of them will wind up unemployed or underemployed.

August 5, 2010

Practical Skills for Kids

Has the kids soccer craze run its course yet? Are we ready to teach our kids useful things that they'll need in the future instead of signing them up to spend their weekends trying to kick a ball down the field?

I'm serious: we do our kids no favors if we send them out into the world unable to feed themselves without a car to take them to the drive-through, and unable to clothe themselves without a credit card in their pocket at Kohl's.

Your kids will need to know how to cook, how to garden, and how to make things, and you're the best one to teach them. Get a headstart on raising self-sufficient kids with Back to Basics: Raising Self-Sufficient Children. Available now on Amazon Kindle for only 99 cents.

August 4, 2010

A Gap Year Makes Sense

Taking a gap year between high school and college, and spending it working or volunteering instead of traveling and partying, is one of the smartest things your teen can do to prepare for the economy of the 21st century. It can also keep him or her from making a big mistake, as this article notes:

Friends Jeremy Bowles and Chris Billups, both 21 and both 2007 graduates of Kearney High School, spent the year after high school working. It might not qualify as a typical gap year, but it produced some revelations just the same.
Both guys were working the fall after their senior year at the Shoal Creek Golf Course near Liberty, Mo., but their plan was to move to Orlando, Fla., the following January to study golf course management at a trade school.....

And as time went on, Billups figured something out. "After working 40 hours a week at a golf course, I changed my mind about what I wanted to do," he says.

August 3, 2010

The Newfound Popularity of Farming

In Massachusetts, of all places, farming is becoming a popular new hobby (and sometimes job). Part of the reason is the rise of locavores, but for some people it's a way to make a living. This is one of the practical skills our kids will need most in the 21st century, for health and for saving money.....and maybe even for earning it.

August 2, 2010

A Warning About College

Things are looking quite bleak for new college grads, according to this. Do read the comments while you're there.

July 30, 2010

Regular Paychecks vs. Resourcefulness

Did you ever stop to think how spoiled our society is compared to those of the past? We’re used to trading our time for jobs with weekly paychecks. So there’s always some money coming in, even if the job doesn’t pay all that much.

That was not the experience of our forefathers. They couldn’t rely on regular paychecks so they had to be resourceful. I think our children will end up being more like our forefathers than we are. They’ll have to be.

July 29, 2010

Declining House Prices are Good!

Houses are plummeting in price in many areas of our country. This is a good thing for our kids. Prices haven’t been in line with incomes in years, and now incomes are dropping. So it makes sense that house prices should drop, too. It’s the only way our kids will ever become homeowners.

July 28, 2010

Gotta Have a Nest Egg in This Economy

A new study reports that nearly half of all Americans have less than one month’s worth of expenses socked away for a rainy day, or a job loss. The good news? That figure was fully 50% when they did the survey last year, so a few people are getting a clue and saving some of their pay in case they lose their jobs.

Are you raising your child to save for a rainy day? Sure hope so, because periods of unemployment will be common over their lifetimes.

July 27, 2010

Where Will Our Children Work?

So many jobs have been off-shored or automated that our unemployment rate just can’t seem to return to a reasonable level. People are having a hard time finding even basic jobs like working behind fast food counters. While congressional members fight over extending unemployment, more and more people find themselves applying for it for the first time in their lives.

It would be nice to think that all these problems will be solved by the time our children are old enough to work. But our current economic woes are caused by problems that are not quickly resolvable.

For example, our economy has always been based on labor intensive industries. For many years it was agriculturally based, but advances in farming have made it easy for one person to grow enough food for many people. So a country that once saw the majority of its citizens at work on farms now sees only 2% employed on farms.

Then the industrial revolution helped manufacturing take over as the economic engine of our country. For many years it was the basis of our booming economy. But now we’ve off-shored so many jobs that entire manufacturing industries have shrunk.

We’ve been told that we now have a service economy. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. Great, but one of us better have something both of us can eat, because service jobs don’t pay very much.

Some believe that technology will be the next driver or our economy. That’s a nice thought, but one of the hallmarks of the tech age is that fewer people are needed to do the work involved because computers now do what people used to do. Charles Hugh Smith points out that Facebook only employs 1200 people, while Twitter needs a mere 150 to run its operations. Not too promising in terms of job growth, is it?

With any luck at all, some new industry will arise that will provide job opportunities for our children. Until then, how do we prepare our children for the future? Stay tuned.

July 26, 2010

The Housing Tailspin

We bought our first house when we were 22. But I'm not recommending that my kids buy houses anytime soon, because the housing market continues to plummet.

July 21, 2010

Where Did Our Jobs Go?

This NYT article is not the best I've ever read, but the comments that follow are thought-provoking and will get you thinking about what kind of future our children face and how we should prepare them. There are no easy answers, that's for sure.

July 20, 2010

The Price of Financial Ignorance

Amazingly, some of the people who are losing everything in this economic downturn still don't understand that living beyond their means is what did them in. This woman's sad story reveals no remorse on her part; if she ever earns a decent living again, she'll probably blow it again.

July 19, 2010

When Less is More

The author of this article believes that people need to downsize, that the average American home got too big. The town she she cites in the article, with its tiny houses, was actually a move up for the young WWII vets who moved from city apartments to these homes after the war.

Will our children have to downsize because of the economic changes of the 21st century? If so, is that a bad thing or a good thing? Whatever your perpective, consider that it's a distinct possibility.

July 16, 2010

The Skill Most Needed

It's a skill that's rarely, if ever, taught in college, but it's one of the most valuable skills our children can have. What is it? Find out here.

July 14, 2010

8 Million Jobs Evaporate

What does it mean when they say 8 million jobs are gone forever? It means that we're in a time of rapid change, and young people need to be ready to change careers whenever necessary. The days of 40 years at one company are over.

July 13, 2010

Not Enough Pay and Prestige?

Still out of work two years after college graduation yet this young man turned down a $40k/year job because he didn't think it good enough for him. Wages are stagnating in most industries. Someday he's going to kick himself for that decision.

July 12, 2010

Defunding Public Education

Could cutting funds for public schools become the catalyst for better preparing our children for the 21st century? This writer thinks so. He does make some interesting points.

July 8, 2010

Suing Dad for College Costs

A young woman got her dad to sign a contract promising he'd pay for her college education. But he hasn't paid all of it, so she's suing him for breach of contract.

The family situation is sad, for sure. But college costs are so high these days that suing for damages in this case means suing for big money. Considering she majored in art, one has to wonder whether it was worth spending the money in the first place.

July 7, 2010

Staving Off Deflationary Quicksand

They're saying another stimulus is needed, never mind that the last few haven't worked. We're saddling our children with more debt. How will we explain this to them someday?

July 6, 2010

Savings are Essential

Here in the U.S., our personal savings rate continues to decline after a brief rally last year. What a shame. It's so important to know how to save a good portion of your earnings; if you lose your job, it can be essential to your survival.

Are you teaching your children to save? In the rapidly changing economy of the 21st century, it's a survival skill!

July 5, 2010

Read Those Labels for Country of Origin

If this doesn't convince you that we and our children need to learn to be more self-sufficient instead of relying on imported food, I don't know what will.

July 2, 2010

Creativity vs. CCC

Is making things with your own two hands coming back in style? This article makes it sound that way. The appeal of creating something sturdy and handmade is understandable now that we're used to finding only CCC* wherever we shop.

*Cheap Chinese Crap

July 1, 2010

The Most Important Element is Missing

"No job = No house."

This writer gets it. The housing market and indeed our entire economy cannot thrive if people don't have jobs. So where are the jobs?

June 30, 2010

The Third Depression?

We're hearing more people suggest that we're in a depression, not a recession, the latest being Paul Krugman.

Whether or not it truly is a depression, we do know that times are changing. Many people have been out of work for a couple of years now, and statistics show they're the least likely to find work again. Retraining helps but can be expensive, and people over a certain age don't always find work after retraining.

Hopefully they put away money during the good years that will take care of them now. In the rapidly changing economy of the 21st century, there will be times when the money stops coming in. We need to teach our children to handle money responsibly so they can survive and even thrive during the inevitable slow spells they'll face someday.

June 29, 2010

Biden: Those Jobs are Gone for Good

Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd at a fundraiser in Milwaukee that there's no way to restore 8 million jobs lost during the recession.

Biden did not elaborate on just what kinds of jobs these were, but they were likely to have been lost to offshoring, automation or new technologies. This is why it's so important to help our children develop multiple strengths, because it's likely they'll have several different careers over their lifetimes due to the increased rate of technological change.

June 28, 2010

Money Isn't the Problem

They tell us that our kids will need to be really good in math and science in order to compete in the global economy of the 21st century. So why is it that despite our throwing billions of dollars at public education in order to make kids smarter, their test scores continue to stagnate? Check out the charts on this post for the real story.

June 25, 2010

Times Change.......

Five years ago, when the economy was booming and people were spending money left and right, who'd have thought that the New York Times would publish a column written by a "frugal traveler" describing how to take a cruise of the Amazon River for $17 a day....and people would leave comments noting how much they enjoyed his report?

June 24, 2010

He's Going to University.....Bizdom University

Bizdom U is a boot camp for aspiring entrepreneurs. Sounds like a great post-high school training ground that could not only prove more profitable than a college degree, but wouldn't leave a young person with student debt.

June 23, 2010

Housing Continues to Dip

The most interesting thing about this article noting how the U.S. housing market continues to dip (despite the recent $8,000 homebuyer credit) is that it assumes that in the future, either housing will drop 5% or it will drop 10-15%. Not even a suggestion that it could go up.

People are finally catching on that without job growth, house prices and sales will continue to drop.

June 22, 2010

Law School Grads and Jobs

Law students are having a tough time finding jobs when they graduate, so this law school has decided to help its students by artificially inflating their grade point averages.

What's also alarming is what they're doing for this student:

“For people like me who have good grades but are not in the super-elite, there are not as many options for getting a job in advance,” said Zachary Burd, 35, who just graduated from Southern Methodist University. A Dallas family law firm will receive $3,500 to “test drive” him this August.

“They’ll get me for a month or two, for free, to try me out,” he said. “It’s safer for them, and it’s a good foot in the door for me.”

They're having to go to great lengths to get jobs for their grads, aren't they?

June 21, 2010

Avoiding Debt

Those who are truly prepared for this new economy will be mostly unencumbered by debt, and therefore free to make changes in their careers without being forced to find another job immediately because of all the payments they have to make each month. They’ll have bank accounts to live off of when they need to go back to school for additional training in order to become more marketable. They’ll be able to take time off to start a new business, or to keep a current business afloat by not taking a paycheck for a while. Financial flexibility is of prime importance in the global economy.

Even now, having money in the bank and minimal expenses is what separates those with choices from those tied to a job and living in constant fear of layoffs. By raising money-smart kids, we give them the tools to handle both prosperity and financial difficulty; in the rapidly changing global economy, there are plenty of both.