Changing the Conversation – Book Review

Back to writing after my “spring break“…it was a nice retreat, minus a vomiting and feverish Girly on our mini-vacation to the coast…alas I just hope she’s back to energetic self here soon…

I did manage to finish reading  Changing the Conversation: Transformational Steps to Financial and Family Well-Being . Written by financial planner, Gary Klaben, it was a refreshingly easy and enjoyable read. It was packed with personal anecdotes, and was not overly prescriptive about how you should manage your family finances. Actually, it had more professional/personal success advice than I was expecting, but truthfully all success is closely intertwined. A financial planner who can’t provide advice on how to earn money to begin with won’t be of much help managing any such wealth.

My only criticism of that the book really doesn’t dwell on the early years of family financial planner, which is where my family is at the moment. I would have liked some advice on saving for college…or in my case, paying off my college loans. I would have also been interested to know his thoughts on the financial equation of paying for child care or what he thinks about the trend toward maternal breadwinners

To his credit, Klaben does have one chapter on Financial Awareness where he discusses teaching kids about money, and his own approach to allowances. Personally, I like his approach to allowances. His family had a simple plan, starting at age 6, they gave each child their own age in weekly allowance ($6 for a 6 yo…$12 for a 12 yo.) The only string attached was that every two months the child needed to save $25, which would be matched to put into a mutual fund. He quotes Capitate Your Kids by Dr. John E Whitcomb and discusses how “Basically, a 12 year old is given a $200 monthly budget to buy his or her clothes and other non-essential items. Mom and Dad no longer provide the clothing needs.” He does admit that some hand holding is needed early on, but giving children money is the the only way they’ll learn from it.

While approachable from virtually all stages of life, I think this book would be most useful for those in their late forties and up to retirement age. Klaben doesn’t hide that he’s a baby-boomer, and it’s clear that this is a retrospective about what he’s learned in his life as a financial planner. He has a great deal of wisdom to share with regard to retirement, and I appreciate how he thinks that in order to truly enjoy retirement, you need to find ways to give back to your community (our goal is to do the Peace Corps when we retire!) 

I was probably most surprised to find him spending a chapter on “Whose property do you own?” and the notion that we can easily become sucked into the trapping of ownership, especially land. 

“I’m reminded of a saying that illustrates the power that property has over us: ‘The king fears the man who stands before him with no need.’ It is a very profound statement. During feudal time, the serf could have rebelled against the ‘indentured servant equals food and shelter’ formula. He could have repudiated the system of property rights and refused to become a slave to the system. Arguably he could have lived off the land and put himself out for hire. 

When your think about, a feudal system of property rights still exists today. The difference: The king has been replaced by consumerism. We can do without three TVs, three-car garages, three personal phones, and on and on. We choose to “own” these extras because it makes life easier and more enjoyable. 

Money can’t buy happiness, but is makes the journey more comfortable. So, are you controlling the money or is the money controlling you?”

This quote gives a good example of how Klaben suggests “Changing the Conversation” is some transformational ways.

Lastly, I found it very intriguing to read this book right on the heels of the Energy of Money, because he opens the book by talking about how our relationship with money is a very personal journey, and he devotes a chapter to financial psychology.

Have you read Changing the Conversation
I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Spring Break

Happy Spring Equinox!

Our kids may not be in elementary school yet, but I’ve decided that we all need a “spring break.” Life has been more stressful than usual, and I just feel the need to unplug.

Thankfully my mom’s schedule as a teacher makes a visit to the grandparents an option, and the moment I offered to have our Big Guy visit, she eagerly accepted (Girly is home since Grandma’s hip has been hurting her lately, and she’s simply at a higher maintenance age). The love is mutual, as he’s has been begging lately to visit. They typically get some quintessential country experiences, like collecting eggs and feeding pigs at nearby farms. I think it’s also good for us to get a break in the name of family bonding 😉 

At the end of the week, we’ll meet up with them on the coast for a couple nights. Hopefully this will create the feeling of a vacation without the expense of a true vacation. We’ll also continue our tradition of volunteering for SOLV’s Great Oregon Beach Clean-up, and our Big Guy has been talking this up lately…yes, he is a little chatter box like his Mama!

I will also be taking time off from the blog this week, so  this will be my only post for the week…enjoy your spring break!

What are your spring break plans?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Eco St Patty’s

Our family has strong Irish roots, my Grandmother’s maiden name was Green. We visited Hubby’s Great Great Grandparents homestead in Ireland before getting married. He has several second cousins in Ireland, and one even works for the Irish EPA.

So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve done a little research on all things eco/sustainable.

Boycott Cheap Holiday Decorations 

Eco-crafts for St. Patty’s

Eco-responsible Drinking

10 Eco-friendly Ways to Wear Green

Our green family action will be taking the bus to/from our favorite local Irish pub: County Cork. They also recycle all of their kitchen oil into biofuels!

Do you celebrate St Patty’s?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Low Tech Family Fun

I hate to admit it, but my well intentioned birthday gifts have been mostly a bust. I envisioned our Big Guy showing us his moves on the Wobble Deck and Girly giggling like she does when anyone dances, but it’s truthfully gone almost entirely unused. I’m hoping that as Girly gets bigger it will peak their interest, but at this stage games need to be a family affair to keep their attention.

All fun was not lost…instead our Big Guy invented his own version of indoor bowling from four big tumbler glasses and the two Sky Balls Santa brought them. After a weekend of playing it BigGuy was just giddy, and the next day at school he was telling his teachers about how he couldn’t wait to go home and play more indoor bowling. Naturally, in this day and age she assumed that he was talking about wii bowling, and was surprised that he was so excited by such a low tech game. 

On top of the kids getting lots of energy out, literally running back and forth across the house to collect balls and set up the “pins,” our Big Guy is also advancing his math skills. Maybe he would have been learning regardless, but since we started playing we’ve seen a marked increase in his addition skills. He’s now adding up the score each time, and calculating how many each player needs to get to win.

The real test is time though, and two months later he is still captivated. Soon he’ll start t-ball and we can finally play outside again, but I have a feeling that indoor bowling will become a perennial game in family…returning when the rain and darkness come…

While on the birthday topic, I want to share how close friends of ours saved on their son’s birthday party. Like us, they didn’t want to exhaust themselves with all the set up and clean of hosting a party. So they decided to “hire” their teenage niece and family’s exchange student. The girls came the night before and helped clean the house, they put together a puppet show, did face-painting, a standing version of musical chairs, and a piñata. Then they helped clean up after the party, and earned themselves each $50. We don’t have any older cousins in town, but this option sure does seem like a win/win. 

Lastly, I haven’t regretted the other gifts, but I am starting to purge a lot of unused toys…there comes a time when parents need to let go.

Do you ever have birthday remorse?
What do you regret?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.