Sunday, April 17, 2011

Make money part of family discussion

Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share Save Spend, admits that teaching kids about money "can be like drinking water from a firehose," Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share Save Spend, admits that teaching kids about money "can be like drinking water from a firehose," given that it's such a broad topic that encompasses saving and spending, wants and needs, financial goals and more. However, he believes the earlier parents begin those conversations with their kids, the more naturally "money talk" will become part of daily family life. ¶ Since April is Financial Literacy Month, we asked Dungan, author of "Money Sanity Solutions: Linking Money + Meaning," for tips and suggestions about how to help your kids cultivate sound financial skills. Q What is your theory about giving a child an allowance? At what age? A An allowance can be a powerful teaching tool. I think you can definitely start around 5 or 6 years old. If you are intentional about giving them money -- in other words, don't give it without expectations -- it can give kids a sense of confidence, awareness and responsibility. If you just give them allowance randomly, it's not effective. Family chores are family chores, but if you have a "job jar" where kids can pick a task to do, they will value the money they've earned because they worked for it. Q Do you think it is more challenging for today's parents to teach kids about money than it was for their parents? A Society today is super-skewed toward spending and the message about sharing and saving just isn't there. I've asked elementary school kids in my workshops what they learn about spending and saving in school and the answer is generally "not much." So that means it really is on parents. If you abdicate your role to teach kids about money, the void will be filled by the culture of consumerism. Parents are the best ones to shape the narrative about money for their family. Q What are some ways for parents to integrate good financial messages into everyday life? A This isn't a topic you have to spend two hours on every day. You can build the subject into your daily family life -- going to the grocery store, conversations on how money is spent at home on items like technology, maybe talking about a family vacation. Involve your kids in those discussions. I'm often surprised by the wisdom young people have about money and I think adults can learn from that. Q Many families have been adversely affected by the economy in recent months. How can parents help kids understand a difficult financial situation? A Kids are more perceptive than we give them credit for, so to shield them completely from the family's financial problems is not helpful. At the same time, you want to make sure the conversations are age-appropriate because it is not necessary to tell them every detail. Offer messages of reassurance and tell kids that as parents, you are going to make the best decisions you can for the family. This is another opportunity to invite them into the discussion -- talk about ways the family can save money like making sure all lights are turned off when they aren't being used or eating all the food in the refrigerator and not being wasteful. Q As kids get older, they are likely to become keen observers of ways their friends spend money. Any tips on how parents can handle this? A Kids definitely enter the world of "comparonomics" and it's a game no one can win. In our consumer culture, it will always be about wanting to have more, and parents should be realistic with kids about what their family can afford. It's important to have conversations about the difference between wants and needs. Talk to your kids about what you value as a family when it comes to spending money. Encourage them to save for something that is important to them, just as the family might save for a vacation or something that matters to everyone in the family. If parents have been instilling healthy financial habits in kids throughout the years, it will definitely serve them well as they eventually become responsible for their own spending and saving. It's a lot easier to do it that way than for kids to unravel unhealthy money habits when they are in their 20s and beyond. Julie Pfitzinger is a West St. Paul freelance writer. Source Many Websites Look Like Zombies to Google Search A while back I emphasized how important is to have a company website these days (Publish Your Website Or Customers Won’t Find You). I should have added that a website not optimized for search engines is lost in the heap of a billion dead websites. Unless someone searches for your company by name, it won’t show up in the first few pages of any search results. Search engines are programmed to rank websites based on their popularity and relevancy. These are subjective elements, but there are specifics that even a computer program can evaluate to set your ranking, and thus determine whether your site is alive and a good match to a specific search request. Yet recent research indicates that almost half of small business websites are still missing these basics, and thus are essentially dead to the search world. The solution is keeping your site alive and vital, and following basic search engine optimization (SEO) suggestions. Here are some high-value elements you need, if you hope to see your company on any page of results for relevant user queries: Relevant and constantly updated content. Web sites that haven’t been updated in the last couple of years can’t possibly be alive. These days, the best way to provide fresh content is to attach your blog to the website, and add new entries at least a couple of times a month. Create inbound and outbound links. Contact related web sites that are well known, to request reciprocal links. Another way to get inbound links is review other site blogs, and leave your comments with your link. Register your business in relevant directories, and sign up in all local directories. Make sure you have no dead links on your own site. Web page title tags. You need to name every page of your web site, and these names must contain your important search keywords. Check every page of your web site to make sure a title is predominantly displayed as the first line of a search result. Missing and meaningless tags will cause your site to be ignored by users, even if found. Web site keyword tags and description. These are elements, normally added by your website designer, which contain one or two sentences that briefly explain to the search engine what each web page is about. These same tags and keywords should be used liberally in each page text to give that page a higher ranking. Image attributes and sub-folder names. Search engines process every word on your web site, even optional internal names assigned to images (alt tag) and folders. Thus even internal names of website elements must be properly named (eliminate computer generated text) to amplify your search position. Reduce page load time. Eliminate flashy ads that delay entry to your site. Search engine spiders (also known as bots) take into consideration the page’s size in kilobytes. Web pages that take a long time to load will discourage search engines and human viewers alike. The usual culprit is a picture or graphic that is larger than 20 kilobytes. Completion of these tasks is not the full SEO job, but will keep your company out of the Internet dead zone. You can contract an SEO specialist at this level for a couple of thousand dollars, or you can do the work in-house, if someone on your team has some basic tools and web maintenance skills. SEO does not have to be a major expense. Another alternative is to buy your way out of the zone with Search Engine Marketing (SEM). If you give Google enough money, their search engine will put you up as a preferred provider for any search keyword you buy. That may be a quick fix, but will definitely be more costly in the long run. But the cost of doing nothing is even greater. Websites that look like the walking dead to Google search, work like no website, which means that your business will suffer. Work on a good website is never done, but there is no time like the present to wake up and get started. Source

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