Monday, April 28, 2014

Avoiding The Million Dollar Mistake

Graduating from high school is an absolute must.

It’s hard to believe that some school systems have a rampant problem with students dropping out before finishing high school. Why the rush to join the real world? What a high school drop-out will soon find out is that school is actually so much easier than what comes next. Finding a job, finding a place to live, the brutal truth that it’s very expensive to support yourself…or the flip side which is the astronomically high rates of high school drop-outs who find a free place to live in the prison system. Not exactly Club Med, and a criminal record is definitely a setback when it comes to finding a job. It would be nice if we could get students to understand that education is the Golden Ticket that anyone can have. Not that we can all afford an expensive education, but getting a high school diploma is the absolute rock bottom foundation for going anywhere in this world. Making the choice to drop out of high school is a million dollar mistake.

Beyond academics, high school should also provide the foundation for developing important life skills, like cooking, managing money, and manners. Educators have an incredible opportunity to truly make a lasting and significant difference in the lives of students. In the end, does it really matter if students have spectacularly high grades and test scores? If they can’t handle money, prepare healthy meals, or if they don’t have the proper manners to succeed in the workplace, they will be lost. 

Some people would say those lessons should be taught at home, but it’s a well known fact that many students follow the lead of their peers and it helps if young people have access to the same information. And let’s face it; children don’t always value what their parents try to teach them.

Here are four things that every young person should understand beyond reading, writing and arithmetic:

Be respectful and polite. Good manners go a long way toward getting ahead in life. Being considerate toward others is a must. It’s not hard. You just treat people the way you’d like to be treated. That includes how you approach people online. Social Media means everyone knows everything about what you are saying and doing. Never send a photo you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. Never write something you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read. Never ever bully someone in person or online. It’s like telling the world that you are psychologically damaged. Only troubled people feel the need to make someone else feel bad. You get what you give so be sure to make others feel they are valued and worthwhile. And in case you don’t know this already, don’t talk on your cell phone in front of other people unless absolutely necessary, and never have a conversation on your speaker phone in front of other people. Lastly, never chew gum in public. It lowers your visual IQ by at least 50%.

Value your health. Learn to cook so you can eat healthier meals. Stay away from things that are bad for you. Be active, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Choose to be with other people who also value their health. Protect your body and stay away from danger. Don’t drive while impaired or distracted. Nearly 20,000 people a year lose their lives in traffic accidents attributed to driving while impaired, distracted, or sleep deprived. Thousands more are seriously injured.

Be smart with money. How you spend money is an indication of your values. And saving money is an indication that you are on track to become wealthy. It’s not about what you make. It’s about what you spend and how you spend it.

Stay in School. Ben Franklin was right when he said "An investment in knowledge pays the best dividend."

Monday, April 21, 2014

Until Debt Do Us Part?

It’s commonly believed that money is the number one cause of divorce. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve quoted that statistic. I finally asked one of my colleagues who concentrates in the field of family law if she thought that it was true. Her answer took me by complete surprise. Based on her 20 plus years of legal experience she believes that the number one cause of divorce is untreated mental health issues. And those untreated mental health issues (think depression/anxiety/gambling/substance abuse/anger management) often lead to serious financial problems and a very “Unhappily Ever After” kind of marriage. 

April is Financial Literacy Month but maybe we should make it Financial Literacy & Mental Health Month. Our world could be a much happier and wealthier place. A study by Georgia College & State University economist, Ben Scafidi, found that “family fragmentation” costs U.S. taxpayers at least $112 billion each year. That figure doesn’t even include the added expense of creating two households where there had been one, let alone the emotional toll that a divorce can take on everyone involved. And according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, untreated mental illness in the U.S. costs more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity. Our judicial system and jails are dealing with a record number of cases involving individuals who suffer from untreated mental illnesses. Suicide ranks among the top three killers among young people and it ranks as number 15 among the most common killers in the U.S. overall. 90 percent of suicides can be attributed to mental illness and it now outnumbers death from car crashes.

Any type of stress is bad for our health so it makes sense to do what we can to take care of the problems that are within our control…like seeking treatment for mental health issues…and while we're at it becoming financially fit so we don’t bring unnecessary stress into our lives or into the lives of our significant others.

To learn more about the intersection between marriage and money check out the following article by Jeffrey Dew titled “Thrifty Couples are the Happiest” at

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy, and prosperous day!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014


 Spring break 2014 reunion with Trisha Holmes Conrad

It’s really true. The best things in life are free. Especially good memories and good friends. 

It would be impossible to put a price tag on the value of friendship, but if I had to give it a dollar value, I’d say Infinity. Hmmm…that’s not a dollar amount. How about One Trillion Dollars? Yes, that sounds about right.

This past spring break we went on a road trip down south which included a visit to see one of my favorite people of all time. My long lost roommate from the University of Alabama, Trisha Holmes Conrad. Trisha saved my life many moons ago when I was a transfer student at the University of Alabama. The people in Student Housing actually placed me in a dorm room that turned out to be a utility closet. No windows and no way to lock the door from the inside. I lasted one night before going to student housing and demanding my money back…and they gave it to me. Yikes! Now what? This was an era before cell phones, let alone smart phones. My best hope for finding a place to live was to go to the Student Union to see if someone might be looking for a roommate. 

I know I must have a guardian angel looking out for me because I was incredibly lucky to come across a notice from a young woman needing someone to share an apartment. Trisha, my angel, picked me up at the Student Union and drove me to our new home. It was wonderful. Tennis courts, swimming pool, walk-in closet…and less than the cost of the dorm. But the greatest gift of all was my new friend, Trisha.

                                             In our apartment with my sorority sister, Tish Poole

Spring break 1992

The last time I saw Trisha was more than 20 years ago on another road trip down south with my mom and two sons. I was so excited to see her that I locked the car with the keys in it while the engine was still running. My boys said I did it on purpose so I’d have more time with Trisha. (I wish I were that smart.) It was soooo great to see her, but then we lost touch again and I couldn't find her. I had also forgotten her married name which didn't help things. Lucky for me I came across an old Christmas card from Trisha that included her married name and last known address. After doing an internet search I found her in Telluride, Colorado. She was working at an Inn, but every time I called nobody knew who she was. Finally my persistence paid off and someone answered the phone who actually knew her. Trisha had moved back to Birmingham, Alabama and was working at the Tutwiler Hotel. When I did my next internet search to see if I could find her phone number in Birmingham, her name came up in an obituary for her mother who had died only a day or two earlier. So incredibly sad. Trisha had been kind enough to take me home with her when we were roommates and I was able to meet her mother and daddy and her younger brother Phil.  Such wonderful people and so kind to allow a Yankee into their home.

Our entourage, Eileen Paulson, Trisha, Dan McQuaid (patient husband) and KC McQuaid

Looking back on spring break there were so many things that were memorable, but the highlight for me was seeing Trisha. How funny to go so many years without seeing each other and then falling right back into the comfort of a hug from a good friend. Absolutely priceless.