Teachable Moments While Saving for College

This post was sponsored by Scholarshare.

I mentioned a couple of months ago that Mark and I had opened up Scholarshare 529 college-savings accounts for each of our four kids. With our oldest being nine years old, college really isn’t that far away. I know. We should have started saving for it earlier. Waaaaaaay earlier.

But now that we’ve done it, we’re finding that it has become a great way for us to teach our kids all kinds of civic lessons related to college, money, and the future. We’re all about finding good teachable moments with our kids. Just the fact that they know we’re doing this for them has led to some fun conversations. Here are a few of the things we've discussed:

The value of education.

Mark and I each have Master’s degrees. I teach college courses. Obviously we’re fans of higher education. When we told the kids we had opened up accounts to help them pay for college, it accomplished something pretty important: It suggested to them that college was in their future. Now, it won’t be the end of the world if one of our kids chooses a career path that doesn’t include college, but we want them to have every opportunity available to them. And there’s no denying that a college degree is valuable in the long term. To have them picturing themselves going to college now is a good thing.

The possibilities in their future.

Thinking about college makes my kids think about their future. I’ve caught them talking about how they might use the money in their accounts. They’re asking themselves questions: What do I want to be when I grow up? Where could I go to college? How could I help pay for college? I love anything that gets them imagining those kinds of things. Giving them ownership of that future is a huge milestone. (Especially if they end up getting a job to help cover some of those college costs.)

The limitations of debt.

When Mark and I were going to school, we ended up paying for most of our college costs ourselves. The result was a couple of advanced degrees…and a whole lot of student debt. Seriously. We just finished paying off our student loans in 2013. The truth is, paying off those student loans meant we entered our careers and marriage already saddled with debt, and that can be difficult for a lot of families. It certainly was for us. We saved, scrimped, relied on a lot of hand-me-downs, and somehow made it work. Telling our kids we don’t want them to have the same debt we had is a good way to teach them about debt itself—and how to stay out of it.

The importance of saving.

I love watching the way my kids' personalities have developed. One might spend his allowance money immediately on whatever captures his attention. He could blow it all on gum. Another will save and plan and make the most out of her few dollars. They come by these financial personalities naturally. But we’re always teaching them about why it’s important to save money, and to live within their means. When they see us putting a few bucks into their accounts every month—for the distinct purpose of them someday going to college—it teaches them the value of saving.

The world of investing.

I’m no financial genius, so I’m enjoying learning about mutual funds, the stock market, compounded interest, and all of those things along with my kids. Each kid has varying levels of interest and math understanding, of course, but it’s been fun to show them how X amount of money per month plus X% interest could equal $XX,XXX when they’re ready for college. Their eyes light up at those numbers. If I’m not careful, I may find that one or more of them has opened a day-trading account somewhere. Is it wrong that I’m hoping one becomes a millionaire investment banker some day so they can take care of me in my old age?

I thought registering for ScholarShare would help alleviate my guilt at taking so long to start funding my kids’ educations. (It did.) I thought opening accounts with automatic withdrawals would be easy and efficient. (It was.) But I didn’t expect it to come with so many great opportunities to have conversations with my kids.

If you’re saving for your kids’ college, what do you tell them about it? Have you discovered similar teachable moments or conversation-starters resulting from it?

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What I want you to know about being pregnant in high school

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Michelle Botkin.

I never ever thought I was going to get pregnant in high school.

High school was a carefree life. I was pretty, had friends, and had fun. I dated a boy off and on - luckily more "on" than "off" towards the end. 

My own mom was worried about me. She'd ask if I was pregnant periodically during my junior year of dating this guy steadily. I didn't have to say we were having sex. She knew. 

In November of my senior year, days after my 18th birthday, I took a pregnancy test. The boy and I looked at the results together. Positive.

I was in shock. I knew my life was about to change forever. Shock stayed with me through the next few months I think. My head and heart were overwhelmed with everything that was happening.

Through the fog, the boy and I decided to get married.

We got married right at the beginning of our second semester in high school and lived with my family. Being married so young was a whole trial itself.

Apparently being a Mormon pregnant teen was something to see too. The looks hurt. I was now a sideshow to see between classes in the hall. All I wanted to do was yell at them "This could be you!". Not being able to take the stares at school any longer, I switched to night school to get away.

I graduated and walked with my graduating class 7 months pregnant. Fun right?

I gave up future plans after school to have my baby and stay home with him. And I loved it. 

Since then I have raised my little boy (now 5 1/2 years old) and added 2 more over the years (by choice, might I add). They are sweet, loving, well-behaved, smart and creative little children. I am completely happy with life and have found myself in those years. I am confident again. I have learned so much that one can only learn through this experience.

My baby boy was the biggest blessing I have received. Someone knew I needed him. He was meant for me and I was meant for him.

I am 24 years old with 3 kids.

I want you to know that I am not stupid.

I know that becoming pregnant was resulting to my own poor choices.

Yes I know I'm young.

When you look at me, and comment that I'm too young to have 3 kids, it not only hurt me, I completely lost myself to the judgements of being a teen mom. All the stares, the comments, the judgements stole my identity. And it has taken 5 years to find me again. And figure out my place in this world and be confident with my life.

Being a teen mom was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through.

It was an ongoing journey.

I want you to know that I am more than a teen mom. I know I'm no longer a teen. But I will forever own that label. 

And I am not ashamed.

When you find out how many kids I have, then come back with shock and rude comments and THEN ask how old I am, its disrespectful. I know you are doing the math in your head how old I was when I had my first. I can see it on your face. I can see the path your mind is taking and when you get to the results.

So don't be surprised when I say "Yup, I got pregnant in high school." You might think I now sound insensitive or immature. But guess what? I'm just sick and tired of your reactions.

I want you to know that I am proud of being a teen mom. I beat the odds. That boy all those years ago is still my husband. And it has not been easy. In fact, the marriage has been the hardest thing, not the babies. So I am proud.

We are in a strong, loving, relationship and it is due to our hard work and commitment to each other and our kids. 

We know the magnitude our actions have on our kids.

I want you to know I am a good mom. In fact, I'm a great mom! My baby changed my life. And for the better. My life prior to getting pregnant prepared me for becoming a mother in many different ways. I may have stumbled into Motherhood early, but that doesn't mean I don't deserve it.

I want you to stop judging those young mothers in the checkout line. That teenage girl with the protruding belly doesn't need your grimaces. She needs a smile. A message that says she can do this. Whether it be becoming a mother to their child, or a birth mother to make a couple a family.You don't know their circumstances. You don't know what kind of person they are. Especially before they got pregnant.

She is still of infinite worth.

Let's be kind to each other woman we see, young or old.

I may have stumbled into Motherhood early, but that doesn't mean I don't deserve it. 

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That's what she said: hipster children, post-partum progress, young men and urge ownership, vacationing with kids, and more . . .

Postpartum Depression: One Mom's Mission To Stop It | CNN
While Stone believes there is more awareness today than when she started what has become a mission ten years ago, and that women are finding a safe place to connect with other women who know exactly what they’re going through, she still believes there is a lot more work to do. She still hears stories from women who said their doctors told them they were suffering from the baby blues, which would eventually go away, or not to take medication because it could shrink their brains or who told them they were fine as long as they didn’t want to kill themselves or their baby.

Young Men, Sex, And Urge Ownership (And Why It’s Not The Girl’s Problem) | John Pavlovitz
I know you’ve grown-up reading and hearing that since guys are really “visual”, that the ladies need to manage all of that by covering-up and keeping it hidden; that they need to drive this whole physical relationship deal, because we’re not capable. That’s a load of crap. You and me, we are visual.
We do love the shape of women’s bodies. We are tempted and aroused by their physicality. And all of that, is on us, not on them.

Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
Continuously doing laundry, cooking, or vacuuming in her family’s rented beach cottage this week, area mom Catherine Yardley has spent a much-needed vacation performing all her usual household chores while in closer proximity to the ocean, sources confirmed. “Isn’t it nice to just get away for a while and relax by the water?” Yardley said as she wiped down the kitchen counter and then took out the garbage, tasks she would normally perform at a distance of 200 miles from the beach instead of 50 feet. “I just love that I can be scrubbing the bathroom, look out the window, and see the tide coming in. We should do this every year!” At press time, Yardley was reportedly busy preparing a meal identical to what she would have made back home, except that she planned to serve it on paper plates.

30 Signs Your Kid Is Turning Into A Hipster | Our Urban Playground
17. They are taking banjo lessons from that old guy in the park. 18. Their favorite T-shirt has Bill Murray’s face on it. 19. They start requesting obscure French cartoons for family movie night. 20. Somehow they acquired their own sourdough starter and plan to open their own pop-up bread stand in their friend’s garage.

“What Is A White Personality?” And Other Questions From Young Transracial Adoptees | The Adopted Life
These complex thoughts young transracial adoptees are grappling with is a beautiful reminder that allowing our kids to be in safe spaces so they can explore these complexities is so necessary. All of their statements and feelings are true as we cannot argue with one’s own feelings. However many of the statements are laden with stereotypes, we must recognize when we do have opportunities to educate and challenge these inherited assumptions. This will allow these young adoptees to grow in to an identity that best exemplifies themselves.

Hipster Finds Lifestyle Too Expensive, Reverts Back To Mainstream | Lettuce Fold
“I tried my best,” said Loy, “I really did. I was juicing regularly, eating local and organic, and was doing my best to only drink craft beer. Unfortunately, my bank account just couldn’t handle hipster living.”

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Friday Finds

1. Poppet bracelet | 31Bits
2. Hi-top sneakers | Gap
3. Handpainted still life monograms | Anthropologie
4. Seabuck Wonders Himalayan Sea Buckthorn deep hydrating serum | Amazon 
5. Sauteed zucchini with mint, basil, and pine nuts | Alexandracooks
6.  Striped 3/4 sleeve dresses | Old Navy
7. Boy's clothing | Zulily 
8. Moto sweater jacket | Gap 
9. Claro candles social justice cause | Claro

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10 responses to “I’m bored” this summer

The next time you’re waiting in line or hanging out at the park this summer, look around you. You’ll see a bunch of parents texting, tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming on their smartphones. Chances are, you may also see a few smartphone-less kids looking miserable.

It might be our fault. We adults have forgotten how to handle boredom. We’re never bored, because: technology. So it makes sense that our kids—who follow our lead and are on their iPods or iPads or iPhones just as much as us—get used to always having something to attract their attention. They need something to do. Without technology, they might run out of stuff to do. Heaven forbid.

These are monsters of our own making. I’m just as guilty as any other parent. We over-schedule and over-plan for our kids so that they never really have any downtime. The problem with this is that they never really have any unstructured time. They don’t learn how to deal with boredom. I wrote a post a while back about the Beauty of Summer Boredom. It’s important for kids to learn how to handle time on their hands.

So when one of my kids comes up to me and says, “I’m bored,” I try to be prepared with a few responses. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite comebacks at my column over at Lifetime Moms. You can read it here.

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