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05/07/2010
Icon7 Ways to Tell If You Are on the Trail to Success By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com At some point in most people's lives comes a realization that the dreams of youth and more sober aspirations of early adulthood may never come to pass. A childhood fantasy to become a famous movie star, a teenage obsession to excel on the athletic field, or a young worker's aspiration to be a millionaire, are among the hopes that remain a distant vision. But as years pass and illusions fade, each of us must come to terms with the success we achieve-or fail to achieve. Success may be defined in different ways, such as gaining the respect of friends and relatives, attaining proficiency in the arts and sciences, or living a satisfying domestic life. However, in our culture the very word success denotes financial achievement. It is in this context that we shall evaluate whether you're headed in the right direction. You regularly take in more than you spend. As a first step toward success, you must embrace a fundamental concept: income exceeds outgo. This is the most important principal to which you must adhere. It goes without saying that there are times, such as medical emergencies or personal mishap, when unanticipated expenditure is incurred. In these instances you'll vary from our rule of frugality. But, at other times, you will consistently live below your means. Persons who fail to comply may expect a series of misfortunes with no relief. You honor your financial commitments. Persons who promptly fulfill their financial obligations will find all involvement more profitable. Conduct your affairs in this manner and success will court you. You owe no debt. One important factor separating winners from losers is debt. Although mortgage financing to acquire real estate, as well as wisely arranged business loans, can prove beneficial, personal borrowing is normally a mistake. This means that the clothes on your back, the furniture in your home, and the vehicle you drive, are owned without obligation. I'll concede that you may appear prosperous behind the wheel of a newly financed Mercedes Benz, but your actual prosperity is vastly enhanced if your auto is fully paid for, even if you must drive a 1984 Toyota Corolla. And concerning debt, credit card use is particularly insidious. It's my belief that a credit card serves a single purpose: a convenience when neither check nor cash is handy. Most importantly, when the monthly statement arrives, pay the full cash balance due before the date that interest is charged. Follow this rule and success will follow. If you cannot regulate your credit card use in this manner, destroy your cards and fashion your life accordingly. You control the present. As we journey through life, there are three principal objects upon which we may fixate: the past, the present, and the future. All three serve a function. It's important to reflect upon the past, for by evaluating earlier performances we fashion a guide for handling new demands. It's equally vital to keep an eye on the future, as how a course is steered determines its outcome. But it's neither the past nor the future over which we exercise control. It is only the present that affords an opportunity to grapple with events and arrange favorable results. If you regularly conduct your affairs so to resolve situations in ways that satisfy you, you are exhibiting qualities that lead to success. You are a skeptic. In navigating the perilous waters that lead to prosperity, you'll encounter shoals. Avoid them by demonstrating skepticism, defined as the recognition that ninety-five percent of everything is nonsense. Your thoughts then run in the following manner. You find it baffling why anyone buys a lottery ticket. You understand that the variable annuity your neighbor just invested in is a sad mistake. You entertain no illusions that a financial advisor will provide sound counsel merely because of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation held. You're not tempted to invest in something because of a hot tip from a friend or relative. It's beyond your comprehension why anyone not certifiably insane purchases a timeshare property. Such is the mindset of one who is successful. You are able to retire at 50. Admittedly, this is arbitrary, but there is something significant about reaching this particular age. Perhaps it's the undeniable realization that there are fewer years ahead than behind. If the first half of your life is spent working for your assets, is it unreasonable that during the second half your assets work for you? This doesn't mean you must actually retire at this age, and indeed most successful people pursue gainful-and usually enjoyable-endeavors as long as they are able. Nonetheless, the option should be yours. You have a reputation for honesty. It's my firm conviction that a reputation for impeccable honesty is among the most valuable assets you can possess. There are no limits to the doors that open and the opportunities afforded a man or woman whose words and actions can be trusted. Whether you are of truly high moral character, or possess the personal values of an eighteenth century London pickpocket, is not the issue. From a purely pragmatic frame of reference, conduct your affairs in a way that your reliability can never be questioned, even if it goes against the grain. This quality is truly a mark of success. I'd like to share a final thought on the matter of success. Wealth, at least a certain amount of it, is a necessary criterion for success. However, the possession of wealth is not in itself sufficient, and I know persons with net worths of seven and eight figures that are abject failures in every respect. It is the combination of assets, lifestyle, and attitude that engenders success . . . but this is a subject for another time. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Family Dinner: Fast and Simple By Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers www.FreshBaby.com Home made foods are healthier than processed, prepared, or restaurant meals. Take-out foods and prepared foods are generally much higher in fat, salt and calories than home cooked foods. We would encourage you or your spouse to make home-cooked dinners at least three times per week If just thought of making dinner exhausts you, here are few tips to ease the burden of getting dinner on the table during your busy week: Set aside time on the weekends to make foods in advance and freeze them. Connect with a friend, double the recipes and split up the meals for both families. Don't schedule your kid's day out so heavily that it intrudes on time to prepare dinner. Instead invite the kids into the kitchen and teach them a few things about cooking - it's life skill that they will certainly thank you for some day! Invest in a slow cooker. This is fabulous machine for busy families. You can prepare your main dish in the morning and come home to a delicious ready-to- eat meal. Buy pre-washed veggies in the produce section of stores. The clean and prep is often the most time consuming part of cooking. Buy "no cook" items like apples, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes. A fruit plate or veggie salad makes a terrific side dish. Keep it simple. There is no need to strive for gourmet everyday. It is often the simpler dishes that have the best flavors too. Share the burden. Team up with a friend and have a family dinner at their house one night and switch to your house on another. For a different twist on the same concept, divide up the menu between families and share the work. Plan your menus and make a grocery list. These two steps require finding spare time, but they will save it in the long run. Buy a few cookbooks with titles like 30 minute meals, slow cooker recipes or 5 ingredients or less. These types of books are geared toward getting meals on the table quickly and easily. Look for books that offer shortcuts, pre-written shipping lists and menu ideas. Make extra for leftovers. It goes without saying; leftovers make great lunches and snacks. If you're making a family favorite, double the recipe and freeze a portion for next week. About the authors: About the authors: Cheryl Tallman and Joan Ahlers are sisters, the mothers of five children and founders of Fresh Baby. Creators of products that include the So Easy Baby Food Kit and Good Clean Fun Placemats; Fresh Baby offers parents convenient and practical support in raising healthy children. Visit them online at www.FreshBaby.com and subscribe to their Fresh Ideas newsletter to get monthly ideas, tips and activities for developing your family's healthy eating habits! Fresh Baby products are available at many fine specialty stores and national chains including Target, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods Markets. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSeven Foolish Mistakes People Make When They Come Into Money By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com There is something uniquely human about the way many of us mishandle money, particularly when it's received unexpectedly. Whether it's a bequest from a long-forgotten uncle, an unexpected court settlement, or a sweepstakes winning, suddenly coming into a stash of cash can unhinge any of us. Every day the media reports the misery befalling citizens who previously struck it lucky, but then fell on hard times. We chuckle over poor Joe Slidebuck who pocketed a $3.8 million lottery winning just two years ago and is now filing in bankruptcy. We also shed a crocodile tear for Suzy Highstep whose palimony settlement a few years back slipped a cool bundle into her savings account, but whose Jaguar is now being repossessed. Of course, we breathe a collective sigh of relief that the misfortune is not ours, while wondering if we might have fared better under similar circumstances. For various reasons, many persons can't handle a windfall. Let's analyze the mistakes made. 1. An urge to spend. Perhaps the single greatest weakness of mankind-and womankind-is an inability to resist purchasing things. The late English historian C. Northcote Parkinson summed it up in his 1960 masterpiece The Law and the Profits: "Expenditures invariably rise to meet and exceed available income." It's this impulse to spend whatever is available that's the undoing of many otherwise rational individuals. It's not necessarily human nature. Rather, it's a learned reflex that must be unlearned if you hope to remain solvent. If not held in check, spontaneous spending is a recipe for disaster. 2. Voices out of the past. It's amazing how many people you knew that you no longer see-that is until your name appears in the paper as the sole beneficiary in rich old Aunt Emma's will. Within a few days long lost cousin Calvin phones to remind you how much he always admired you, and how his current misfortune can be resolved if you can just see your way clear to assisting him. And don't forget your former classmate Ernie, with whom you stopped exchanging Christmas cards a decade ago. His email extols the close camaraderie you two always shared, adding that the technology IPO his brokerage firm is underwriting is certain to be right up your alley-just like the good old days. If you fail to fend off these moochers and hangers-on, you'll find yourself in deep trouble. 3. Take care with those who are closest. With newfound prosperity, relations with friends and relatives begin to change as you are viewed as something apart. It seems that admiration and envy are opposite sides of the same coin, and you will be the recipient of both emotions. Your advice and assistance will be solicited, and although you may at first welcome the attention as a novelty, you will eventually find it more burdensome than complimentary. The pressures to be placed upon you can become overwhelming. You may soon become convinced that fame and fortune constitute a mixed blessing. If you don't take a step backward, life can become most unpleasant. 4. Loss of Anonymity. Although it may seem that sudden prosperity a cure-all for whatever troubles us, it doesn't work that way. Perhaps the problems of meeting the mortgage and financing the children's schooling may no longer exist, but other problems move in to take their place. You are now a known and recognized commodity in your community and as such, a natural target. You may expect requests for contributions to presumably worthwhile groups. Invitations to attend various functions will be forthcoming. You may even find yourself offered honorary positions or encouraged to become involved in activities for which you have no real interest. The toughest job of all will be to say "no." Unless you learn to diplomatically turn a deaf ear to the entreaties, there'll be no peace. 5. The investment trap. For those without prior investment expertise, coming into money can be an intimidating experience. No one is born with an ability to astutely manage assets. This is a talent that requires knowledge and practice. Perhaps the safest procedure is to refrain from any investment decisions for a full year, while any windfall is parked in non-risk vehicles such as certificates of deposit, government insured savings accounts, and treasury notes. It's during that period of time that you will seek to educate yourself. By selective reading, attendance in legitimate instructional courses, and guidance from those persons you trust, you can hope to gain an understanding of what it means to prudently invest. If you attempt to become involved before you acquire an appreciation of the risks and rewards, you are fair game for the thieves and charlatans who regularly prey upon moneyed novices. 6. Charity is often uncharitable. Not a day goes by that the media fails to interview someone who has come-often blundered-into money. Invariably the declaration is blurted out: "I'm gonna' give leventythousand dollars to the Zilch Foundation 'cause I care about feedin' the leprechauns." Unfortunately, there is not enough money in the world to satisfy the myriad of organizations with outstretched hands. Charitable institutions that are carefully selected and effectively monitored can be an excellent way to share your good fortune in a meaningful way, but simply pouring out dollars in a spastic impulse is no way to accomplish any good. 7. Beware of yourself. I've saved for the last the most potentially insidious mistake of all. A malevolent effect of sudden prosperity can be your relationship with yourself. Despite the personal unpleasantness of impecunity, it imposes no demands on the ego. Affluence is another matter entirely, and the pressures it creates can be formidable. It is fulfilling the mundane requirements needed to meet daily financial obligations that keeps many people in balance. When this necessity is removed, the balance often goes with it. If you then add to that the ability to acquire unneeded possessions, exert unwanted influence on others, and seek unwarranted involvement, the potential for impairment is unlimited. One thing is certain: You must come to terms with yourself or you will surely live to regret it. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconToday's Family Man "How to Avoid the Kids' Menu" By Gregory Keer Here's a report I could classify as a "No, duh." After almost nine years of living with at least one child, there is now a study to confirm one of the reasons I have steadily gained weight. The recent research, coming out of the University of Iowa, says that adults who live with children consume more fat than those minus kids. That makes sense, especially when you're eating in a restaurant. How often do we give in to ordering the meals that our kids will eat, which are frequently full of satisfying fat? And how many of us have finished that plate of chicken fingers after eating our own meal? Now that all this is confirmed, how do we keep our hands off that unfinished cheeseburger? Here are a few ways to show willpower and shed a couple of pounds: Order Less Simply order less food for yourself, knowing that you will have leftovers from the kiddies. If you get a burger, have them put the fruit on the side instead of the fries. You'll eat your kids' potatoes, but not in addition to the ones you would've eaten off your own plate. Go Low Fat Help teach good eating habits to your kids by ordering less fattening food for them - and for that matter, yourselves (since we're trying to be good role models). Some restaurants now serve grilled chicken strips and offer vegetables instead of the french fries. With that kind of fare on the tempting plate next to you, you'll be finishing off food with less calories.Have Them Take It Away Once your child loses interest in her meal (wait about five minutes since the last bite) and she's had what you think is enough, call the server over and have him take it away. No greasy temptation, no added calories. Don't even bring the food home. Otherwise, if you're like me, you'll be the one eating the cold leftovers at 11 p.m. Stay Away From the Soda It's not just the stuff you chew that packs on the pounds. It's finishing off the soda or blue-raspberry lemonade in that cute cup. Try going with the milk for your children (low- or non-fat) and, if you must sip some of their beverage, at least it'll be nutritious. When In Doubt, Make It Disgusting Your kids will love this one: Dump pepper, salt, or ketchup all over what's left. I mean, smother it (hopefully, this is not enticing to you). It will be fine to play with food and that should make the tempting morsels too disgusting to consider popping in your mouth. Good luck and feel good about each time you refrain from eating the bad stuff. You'll save calories and teach your kids better eating habits along the way. copy; 2007 Gregory Keer. All rights reserved. Gregory Keer is a syndicated columnist, educator, and on-air expert on fatherhood. His Family Manreg; column appears in publications such as L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, and Bay Area Parent. In addition to writing for Parenting magazine and the Parents' Choice Foundation, Keer publishes the online fatherhood magazine, www.familymanonline.com . He also contributes to USA Today , the Fox News Channel, Pregnancy , DrLaura.com, and ParentingBookmark.com. Keer is a guest expert on television and radio and advisor to the Cartoon Network. He and his wife are the proud parents of three sons. Keer can be reached at www.familymanonline.com . For details on his parent coaching, go to www.familymanonline.com/section.php?section=consulting . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconSave In Your Sleep! By Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28Sleep, Sleep, Sleep... We hear it all the time-- You must get 8 hours of sleep and 8 glasses of water a day. We pay as much attention to that warning as our children do when we tell them for the umpteenth time "Don't play with that or you will get hurt". But after living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 15 plus years, I have learned the hard way how very important sleep is. It is so important that God devoted 8-10 hours each and every day to sleeping and one whole day a week to resting. Think about it. Is there anything else that He gave so much time to? And since He knew we were like silly little children who refuse to take a nap, He put resting in the 10 commandments hoping that that would really get our attention. There were only 10 things that made it on that all important list and resting was one of them. Sleep is as necessary to life as food and water. Each of us needs to realize how much lack of sleep affects our whole life. Are we too tired to clean the house, fix meals, or do the laundry? Are we so tired that when our children come to us for our help with something, we snap at them or when our spouses want some snuggle time, we look at them like they have grown two heads? Lack of sleep affects children even more than adults and yet many of us let them keep the same late hours as the adults. When I was a young mom I was told that children usually whine and cry for one of two reasons: They are tired or hungry. If you keep them well rested, and make sure they get snacks throughout the day, you will eliminate most of their whining and crying. I have found that to be so true. I had an example of that happen just the other day. My three year old grandson is always so good about going down for his nap. He allows himself to be picked up, passed around for kisses and then laid down without a peep. The other day, however, when he was told it was time for his nap he said "NO! I don't want a nap," and fought all the way to bed. This seemed so out of character for him but then it dawned on me: He always takes his nap at 12:00 but this day, he did some running around with his dad and by the time they were done, it was almost 2:30. He was tired, so there was no reasoning with him. He couldn't think rationally because he was tired. What often happens is that the parent gets angry at the child for throwing a fit, but it was really the parent's fault for not allowing the child to get his proper rest. We adults act the same way when we are tired. We become irritable, impatient, discouraged and depressed. No one can reason with us. We start acting just like that tired child and usually don't realize it. Exhaustion also affects us physically. Your doctor will tell you that people tend to catch more viruses when they are tired and our bodies simply don't work at 100 percent. We start seeing the world through a hazy fog and everything becomes a burden. Have I painted a clear enough picture for you? Does that describe the way you feel most of the time (maybe even right now)? Then you need to get serious about your family's sleeping habits. Here are some tips to help you get your family the sleep it needs: If you are a new mom or a mom with sick children, you may have to let some things go for a season. Just accept it and scale back your activities. I discovered this many years ago when I had an 18 month old and a newborn with colic. My oldest would be up 3-4 times each night and my newborn was up most of the night just crying. If I had two hours of sleep, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. On the rare occasions when they would take a nap at the same time, I made the mistake of trying to get really dumb things done, like iron my children's pajamas and tee shirts, instead of taking a nap. Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to become seriously ill with walking pneumonia, which lasted three months. Learn from my mistakes and take a nap when you can, even if it means hiring a babysitter to watch the kids at home while you sleep. If you think you don't have the money to hire a babysitter you might want to think again. Which is cheaper, a babysitter or doctor bills? Keep your meals as simple as possible If all you can manage for a few months is sandwiches, make sandwiches. The same applies to cleaning the house. Do only the necessary cleaning and upkeep. This is not the time for spring cleaning. Even if you have to let the dusting and vacuuming go for a while, the rest will help you more. Give yourself permission to take a nap or, if you have to, make yourself take a nap. You say you don't have the time, but most people can find serious improvement with even 20 minutes' rest to refresh themselves. Find the time. Make your shower 10 minutes shorter or get rid of one of your non essential activities during the day like shopping, volunteer work, killing time on the computer or talking on the phone. If you work, take an alarm with you to work and take a quick nap in your car. Where there's a will there's a way. Find that 20 minutes some place. Make your children take a nap. Up until first grade, on the days my kids weren't in school, they always took a nap. When they were older and for whatever reason stayed up late the night before, I made them at least lie down and rest the next day. No matter how old they are, children need some daily down time. If they were too old for naps, I would send them to their rooms for 30 minutes each day during the summer to read, color or do some quiet activity. This not only helped them rest, but it separated them from their siblings and me. No matter how much you love each other, living in the same house 24/7, you will get on each others nerves if you never get a break. This gives everyone a break. Have a regular bedtime routine. Whether it is bath time, story time, prayer time or just tucking the kids in with hugs and kisses, have a routine. When you are tucking the children in, give yourself an extra 15-20 minutes to talk to them. That is one of the best times of day to find out about things they have on their minds. Why? Because they are relaxed and they will use every stall tactic known to man to keep from going to bed, even if that means talking to mom and dad. Make sure that they have a regular bed time and stick to it. This is very important! Children have their own built in clocks. When you wake them up and put them to bed at different times every day it causes their biological clocks to go haywire. They need to get at least 10 hours of sleep a night. That means putting them to bed at a decent time. Up until they started high school, my children always went to bed at 8:30. That may seem hard to believe but I didn't have near the problem with attitudes, whining, sulking or outright rebellion that a lot of parents had to deal with. I don't know how many moms over the years came to me tearing their hair out saying "I don't know what is wrong with my child but he won't stop whining or throwing tantrums." I knew exactly what the problem was. Mom had taken them to her Bible study the night before and didn't get home until 10:00. She then dragged the child out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to get ready before they left for school and work. The day before that the child got to sleep in until 11:00. You may think that irregular sleeping hours doesn't affect your child but you might be surprised to find that at least 50 percent of whining and fussing would stop if the kids had regular hours. One thing to keep in mind is that when you start putting children to bed at an earlier than usual time, you will have to start slowly. If the children are used to going to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 at night, don't suddenly make them go to bed at 8:30. Start at 10:00 for a few nights then move it up to 9:30 and so on until you reach the bedtime you want. Don't forget to adjust for daylight savings time or if you will be traveling between time zones. A week or so before the change, start putting the kids to bed 15 minutes earlier or later so the can start adjusting to the new time. Adults need regular bedtime routines, too. As much as possible, try to have a set time that you go to bed each night. An hour or two before you go to bed, try to start unwinding. This is the time to talk over your day with your spouse, read a good book, or sip a hot cup of cocoa. It is also a good time to take a warm bath. Not only will it relax you, but it will be one less thing to do in the morning. If you are a new mom you probably don't need to unwind because you will fall asleep the minute you sit down, so just go to bed while you can. Make your room and your children's rooms as comfortable as possible. Make your bed in the morning. A made bed is so much more inviting then a rumpled mess, where you have to clear off loads of junk before you can crawl into it. Keep a low wattage bedside lamp on your night stand to start letting your body know it's getting close to time for bed. Keep your room at a pleasant temperature. Be sure to check the temperature in your children's rooms too. Sometimes when babies and young children have their bedroom doors shut, their rooms can be different temperatures than the rest of the house. This can then cause them to wake up because they are too hot or cold. This can also be the reason if they are having a hard time getting to sleep. Soft music or a fan that helps to drown out background noises are good for children and adults alike. Since we usually write about getting out of debt, you may wonder how being well rested can help save you money? How often do you go out to eat because you are too tired to fix dinner? When something breaks, do you just go buy a new one because you are too tired to fix it? Do you buy more clothes then you really need because you are too tired to keep up with the laundry? Do you just say "yes" all the time to your children when they ask to buy something because you are too tired to fight with them? Trust me the little monkeys are smart. They know when the enemy is tired and weak and that's usually when they attack! So if you want to win the war you need to get some sleep! Jill Cooper is the co-author of Dining On A Dime Cookbook. For more free tips and recipes visit our web site at www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow to Teach Kids the Value of Money By A. B. Jacobs www.onthemoneytrail.com/ I'll admit, up front, that the care and feeding of juveniles is not my recognized specialty, though perhaps I can claim pseudo-expertise on the subject-somewhat akin to the late comic Jimmy Durante from his quotation: "I ought to know something about teenagers; I've been one all my life." Nonetheless, money is my field of expertise, and indoctrination into its proper use by youths of all ages is fundamental if they are to mature into financially responsible adults. Apparently the habits developed early in life become indelibly ingrained, and there are few capabilities more important than the wise use of assets. With that said, I'd like to share a few thoughts based upon situations I've witnessed over the years relating to the use and misuse of money. I'll preface my comments with the observation that whatever praise or criticism you may direct at the American public school system, one thing must be acknowledged: The handling of personal finances is not a subject to which much attention is devoted. Whatever the average American knows about monetary matters did not come from the classroom. This is understandable, of course, if only because the typical classroom teacher is equally mystified by the world of money. It's for this reason I'm convinced that a child's indoctrination into financial matters must be rooted at home. On this score, the fundamental guidelines that a parent can convey will be by precept and example. What a developing child witnesses in the behavior of an adult role model will prove far more persuasive than admonitions extolled or lectures delivered. If sound values are not demonstrated, they will not be learned. There's no surer way not to get a lesson across than to operate on the timeless but faulty principle: Do as I say, not as I do! This means that the parent must regularly practice prudence, and in a way to which the child can relate. Consider, as an example, an 8-year-old girl witnessing her mother's selection of cosmetics. Whether the choice of lipstick is the $25 Chanel selection from Macy's, the $6.87 Max Factor brand from Osco Drug, or the 99cent; Wet 'n Wild tube from Target, recognize that the essential ingredients are the same. The difference is packaging, promotion, and mystique, which is what the cosmetics business is all about. An explanation of the options to the child at the time of purchase will not soon be forgotten. The use of plastic is another opportunity to deliver a lesson in rationality. All children should be cautioned in their formative years that a credit card serves a single purpose: a convenience when neither check nor cash is handy. They must understand that when the monthly statement arrives, the cash balance is paid in full before the date that interest is charged. And most importantly, if the lesson is truly to sink in and be believed, the parents must live by this rule. If for any reason credit card use cannot be regulated in this manner, the cards ought to be destroyed and family life fashioned accordingly. There are other habits that wise parents will adopt and make a part of normal family discussions. These include institution of a systematic savings program, refusal to go into debt for an automobile or incur loans for expenses such as vacations, and avoidance of nonsensical purchases such as whole life insurance policies, variable annuities, timeshare projects, and lottery tickets. As to the myriad of financial matters that arise, children deserve to see how sensible decisions are reached as each instance arises. And as they mature to the point where decisions begin to affect them, encourage them to contribute to the discussion. There is another basic precept to which I subscribe. It is that persons will not relate to circumstances in which they're uninvolved. Let me offer an actual case in point. The daughter of an extremely wealthy man in her mid-thirties with three children and husband-albeit an indolent one-proved incapable of monitoring her personal checking account. She wrote checks regularly with no knowledge of the account balance. As they bounced, a bank official phoned her father who periodically made deposits into the account. Over the years he summoned her to his office where he futilely attempted, time and again, to instruct her on how to balance an account. Although a self-made multimillionaire, he never grasped a basic reality: to his daughter, balancing a checkbook seemed an exercise in the abstract. As all checks cleared, why need she pay attention to the balance? The significance seems obvious: If a child is to learn about money, he or she must sense some meaningful connection to it. And what better connection can there be than that accomplishment leads to reward? It's my belief that as soon as practicable, earning money becomes an element in family life. If your 12-year-old son hopes to spend Saturday afternoon at a movie matinee with friends, the source of the admittance might well be the fifteen dollars he earns by washing the family autos or mowing the lawn. Similarly, if your daughter wants to sport the latest fashion in teen-aged footwear, its purchase may come from the bonus she received for her school grades last semester, perhaps $100 for each "A" and $50 for each "B." And above all, whatever payment programs are instituted, responsibility and reward must be fully understood. Let me add a final comment on the matter of your kids' personal earnings. Though it's the parents' responsibility to advise their offspring on sensible spending and saving, they must not dictate how the youths handle their earnings. The decision on how money earned is to be spent-or horded, if that's the choice-is that of the recipient. When mistakes are made, the repercussions are the most valuable part of the learning process. Managing finances is a lifelong challenge, and the sooner experienced, the better. AL JACOBS has been a professional investor for nearly four decades. His business experience ranges from real estate, mortgage, and securities investment to appraisal, civil engineering, and the operation of a private trust company. In addition to managing his investments on a day-to-day basis, he is a featured financial columnist for both online and print publications. He is the author of Nobody's Fool: A Skeptic's Guide to Prosperity. You may subscribe to his financial Newsletter, "On the Money Trail," at no cost or obligation, by visiting www.onthemoneytrail.com/ . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconMake Meals in 30 Minutes or Less By Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com I was having dinner at my son's house the other night and my daughter-in-law had fixed "old fashioned" baked potatoes. You know, the kind you make in the oven and not the microwave. Boy, they were good. It seems that so many things taste better slow cooked in the oven. We started talking about how much longer it took to cook them in the oven compared to the microwave. That started me thinking. Yes, it does take longer in actual cooking time but in some ways it is easier. When I bake potatoes in the oven, I get them ready and in the oven an hour before dinner and then just forget about them until dinner is ready. Then, all I have to do is set them on the table and dinner is served. When I microwave them, I tend to start cleaning them and preparing them at the same time that I'm trying to make a salad and heat up the veggies. While I'm doing all of that, I have to remember to keep turning the potatoes and if I am cooking several, I have to put a few in the microwave and when they are done, pull them out and add more, all of this at the same time that I am trying to prepare the rest of the meal. Why is it that, even though we have faster methods of cooking our meals, they seem to have become more frenzied and hurried than years ago? Then it dawned on me -- With the introduction of the microwave and the idea that meals can be prepares in 30 minutes, most people do nothing to prepare or plan their meals until 30 minutes before they are going to eat. So 30 minutes before dinner you find yourself trying to thaw something, cook it, and slap it on the table and at the same time talk and deal with tired, hungry, cranky kids. Let's not forget how exhausted you are at this time of day, too. We need to warm up our ovens and start using them again the way our grandmothers use to do. Here are some tips and ideas that prove that cooking meals in a conventional oven instead of a microwave can be just as quick and easy, not to mention how much more delicious they taste and smell. I think we underestimate the power of coming home and smelling something yummy cooking. We automatically seem to relax, feeling that "all is well with the world". I really think it can change the whole atmosphere of your home for the evening. I am not living in a dream world. You can fix meals the way our grandmothers did. I hear some readers saying, "Our grandmothers weren't ever as busy as we are and so they had time to fix large meals." I can hear our grandmothers chuckling at that statement. My husband's grandmother had to help on the farm from early in the morning until evening. She took care of a large home garden, canned, cleaned house every day, did laundry without a washer or dryer and still provided meals not only for her family, but up to 20 farm hands as well. She had to do it all without a refrigerator, microwave, or a grocery store and the nearest water was a mile away from her house. My mother-in-law would go to work as early as 7 am and work until 9 pm 6 days a week, but she still managed to make three large meals each day. If you're thinking, "That's great if you want to spend all your spare time in the kitchen," consider that they spent less time in the kitchen than we do with less of the conveniences and still managed to have well balanced delicious meals each day. What was their secret? -- They had never heard of 30 minute meals. Even if they had they would probably have laughed and wondered who would spend so much time on a meal? They knew that the key to a quick meal wasn't how fast you could cook, but how organized you were. You can easily have a meal on the table in 15 minutes if you are organized and plan ahead. No, this doesn't mean you have to microwave or fry everything to have a quick meal. Slow cooking something in the oven not only makes things taste better but sometimes is quicker. Our grandmothers' secret to quick meals Keep your meals simple. Be organized. Decide what you are preparing the night or the morning before. Thaw anything you need the night or the morning before. Prepare as much of the meal as you can during the slow time of your day and when you are most refreshed. (This is very important.) Slow cook meats in the oven or in a crock pot. Keep your kitchen clean so you have an uncluttered work area. Here are some ideas on what to prepare. These aren't elaborate gourmet meals. If you are too busy to cook dinner, then you are to busy to make gourmet dinners. Stick with the basics and keep it simple like our grandmothers did. Roast: Place a roast in a crock pot or pan. Peel five potatoes and carrots and drop them in with it and turn on the oven. This takes five minutes. Clean and cut broccoli, celery and cucumbers for a salad -- five minutes. At dinner time, chop lettuce and tomato for the salad, adding the already prepared veggies. Then put the meat and the fixings on a platter -- five more minutes. Voila! Dinner in 15 minutes. Stew: It takes me seven minutes to cube meat*, peel five potatoes, carrots and onions, toss it into a pot and to season it. At dinner time, I put bread or dinner rolls on the table -- one to two minutes and I have dinner in nine minutes. *Ask your butcher to cube or slice all your meat for you. They usually charge nothing or just a few cents per pound. It saves not only time in cutting but in clean up too. Chicken: Toss a chicken in a pan or crock pot -- two minutes. Clean potatoes to put in with chicken or to bake in the oven -- three minutes. At dinner time, warm a veggie -- two minutes. Slice some fruit -- three minutes. Dinner in 10 minutes. Lasagna: Put noodles in a pot to boil -- one minute. Fry hamburger, get out cheese, tomato sauce and the rest of the fixings; mix sauce while noodles boil, 7-8 minutes. Layer everything -- two minutes. Cover and put in the fridge for dinner the next day or that evening. Put the lasagna in the oven to heat while getting out of your work clothes, checking the mail, etc. Set the table and cut a salad -- five minutes. Dinner is served; 15 minutes. Beef stroganoff: Make your beef stroganoff in your crock pot. (If you don't want to use a crock pot, this recipe usually takes very little time just stirring it up in a pan.) Dump everything but sour cream and noodles, into the crock pot -- three minutes and simmer all day on low. Clean carrots, celery sticks and broccoli for a relish dish (five minutes) and put it in the fridge. At dinner time, boil egg noodles (5-7 minutes). While they are boiling, add sour cream to sauce and set the table. Total time: 15 minutes. Chili: Mix everything in a pot the night before. Depending what you put in, it should take 5-10 minutes. Simmer throughout the next day. Soup: Do the same as with the chili. These are just general example of ways to fix meals easily and quickly. It isn't really a matter of time as much as it is a matter of being organized and getting things done before you are too exhausted to think. If you have meats thawed and the ingredients on hand, most things can be tossed together in about the same time as it takes to order and wait to get your food at a fast food place.Also, remember when you have your oven going to try to cook more than one thing in it. For example, if you are going to be baking a casserole, bake a pan of brownies, muffins or baked apples at the same time. Jill Cooper raised two teenagers alone on $500 a month income after becoming disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She is the co-author of Dinging On A Dime Cookbook. To read more of Jill's articles and for free tips and recipes visit www.LivingOnADime.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconTo Roast or Not to Roast! By Tawra Kellam www.LivingOnADime.com Peter Piper Picked a Profoundly Plump Pumpkin -- Now What does he do with it? Every fall I get many questions about what to do with pumpkins. Many people find curious fascination in imagining what it would be like to grow these versatile little gems, as if growing something that produces a large fruit is somehow more respectable than growing, say, a serrano pepper. Many people eventually venture into pumpkin experimentation. Some succeed and many fail. Much like a dog that chases a car, many people never give thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in successfully raising a patch of these fall favorites. Whether you have found yourself with more pumpkins than you know what to do with or you are one of the people who had to buy pumpkins and duct tape them to the vine, these tips for roasting and using pumpkins are sure to help you make the most out of them (no matter how you acquired them)! How to Roast a Pumpkin You can only do this with a freshly carved pumpkin! Do not use on a pumpkin that has beencarved and sitting out for several days. To bake a fresh 6 to 7 pound pumpkin, halve the pumpkin crosswise and scoop out the seeds and strings. Place halves, hollow side down, in a large baking pan covered with aluminum foil and add a little water. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 1 frac12; to 2 hours or until fork-tender. Remove. When cool, scrape pulp from shells and puree, a little at time, in food processor or blender. Mix with a little salt. To freeze pumpkin puree. Put 1-2 cups in freezer bags along with spices and use in pies. To use pumpkin puree for recipes: Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth or a flour sack dish towel and let the pumpkin sit to drain out the extra moisture BEFORE cooking with it. Pumpkin is very moist, so in order for your recipe to come out correctly, you MUST strain it. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Boil seeds in water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle with salt or seasoned salt. Place a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 250 . Stir after 30 minutes. Bake frac12;-1 hour more or until crunchy. *Squash seeds may also be used. Pumpkin Smoothies frac12; cup pumpkin 3/4 cup milk or vanilla yogurt frac14; tsp. cinnamon 1/8 tsp. nutmeg 2 tsp. brown sugar 4 ice cubes whipped cream (optional) sprinkles (optional) Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into 2-3 glasses. Serve with a small amount of whipped cream on top. You may also add orange sprinkles if you like. Serves 2-3. Pumpkin Pancakes 2 cups flour 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed 1 Tbsp. baking powder 1 frac14; tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1 tsp. salt frac12; cup nuts, chopped (optional) frac12; cup pumpkin 1 large egg 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 1 cups milk Combine ingredients. Stir just until moistened; batter may be lumpy. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush lightly with vegetable oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; cook until bubbles begin to burst. Turn and continue cooking 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with Pumpkin Maple Sauce and nuts. Pumpkin Maple Sauce 1 cup maple syrup frac14; tsp. ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice 1 frac14; cups pumpkin Mix together until well blended. In 5 years, Tawra Kellam and her husband paid off $20,000 personal debt on an average income of $22,000 per year. Tawra is the author of the frugal cookbook Dining On A Dime. Dining On A Dime has over 1200 recipes and tips to help you eat better and spend less. For more free tips and recipes visit her web site at www.LivingOnADime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconAre "THEY" Ruining Your Finances? by Jill Cooper www.LivingOnADime.com They say that it is impossible for a family to live on one income. They say you need a bigger house for the tax deduction. They say schools need to budget for palm pilots for students, even though they can't afford to pay the teachers. They say that you need a compact car because we're going to run out of gas. They say you need a big SUV so you'll be safe on the road. They say you need to be a vegetarian or you'll die. They say you should eat a lot of meat so you'll lose weight or you'll die. Over the centuries human beings have been compared to sheep over and over again. I never cease to be amazed at how true that is. If one sheep decides to head down a road that goes right over a cliff, they all follow. Even in history when people march and demand the right to be individuals they still always seem to dress and act alike. Remember the "flower children" of the 60's? Even with their "free to be me" attitude, they were horrified if a man walked in with a suit and tie, since it was different from what they would wear. If children are doing drugs, drinking or just wearing strange outfits, they justify it because "everyone is doing it". So often, the parents' response is "If everyone jumps off a cliff that doesn't mean you should do it, too." Is that the story we tell them with our actions? Kids are very shrewd and have no tolerance for hypocrisy. We hurt our families and ourselves if we blindly follow the crowd. " They " (I still haven't figured out who " they " are but I don't think I like " them " or " their " ideas.) have set a standard of living that we must live by-- no matter what the cost. "They" say you can't live on one income, so many moms who strongly feel that it is best for their families if they stay home get jobs outside the house because " they " say "you can't make it." Never mind that the extra expense of child care, work clothes and (for many) "guilt offerings" purchased for their kids often exceed the extra income. " They " say that's the way it's supposed to be. How many dads have become only figures the kids wave good-bye to in the morning before heading off to two jobs because " they " say that is the world in which we live. Too many people who do this find that later in life their marriages are suffering, their kids are rebellious and resentful of their absence and the employer for whom they've invested all their time "providing" for the family lays them off. "They" say you have to pay to send your children to college so they can become a success and make a lot of money. When did " they " come up with the idea that going to college makes a person successful? How many parents have accrued $40,000 in debt for their son or daughter's degree, only to find the student working in a field that has nothing to do with his degree? Certainly, a college education can be a useful tool, but it is one that is wasted if the student doesn't need it or fails to use it. I find that the most successful human beings are those whose parents spent time with them and had the time to teach them values, self confidence, self reliance and love. You can always lose your stuff, but you can't lose your values or the knowledge that your parents love you. Stop basing your financial decisions on what " they " think you should be doing. Financial worries are the biggest cause of stress for Americans, leading to all sorts of physical and emotional problems. These worries are almost always avoidable, but many choose the worries over the common sense. The point of this story is not that you should never spend any money on anything. The point is that it is important that you decide whether or not spending your time or money some particular way is a good idea for your family. Keep in mind that when " they " tell you you should do something, " they " are often trying to sell you something you don't really need. Whenever you find yourself reflecting on your life and you realize you are doing something because " they " expect you to do it, tell " them " to butt out of your life, decide yourself what is really best for you and your family and do it! Jill Cooper is a frugal living experts and the co-editor of www.LivingOnADime.com . As a single mother of two, Jill Cooper started her own business without any capital and paid off $35,000 debt in 5 years on $1,000 a month income. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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