Tag Archives: parents

Investing for Moms & Dads

Daniel MazzolaWe know that our parents are interested in growing their money, especially to help take care of their children’s education and needs.  The recent stock market ups and downs likely have a lot of us worried about our investments.  We asked Daniel G. Mazzola, CFA, CPA, to write a guest post to share his insight into recent events and the basics of investing and the stock market for our parents.

Panic vs. Patience

Recently I met a fellow investment advisor who described October’s stock market decline as a “buying opportunity”, adding “I love when this happens”.

I doubt whether the typical investor shares his enthusiasm. A few bad weeks erased nearly a year’s worth of portfolio gains. I myself will discard October’s monthly statement in the trash without so much as a brief glance at the bottom line valuation.

The stock market is driven primarily by three factors: corporate earnings, interest rates and investor psychology. An appreciation of these factors may help us cope with inevitable downturns in the future.

A better-than-expected GDP report and roundup of corporate earnings reports for the 3rd quarter 2018 confirmed the continued strength of the U.S. economy. Earnings are running ahead of analyst estimates and are on pace to be 22.5% higher than 2017’s 3rd quarter profits. The U.S. economy is healthy, unemployment is at its lowest levels in decades and a rising stock market is a product of our prosperity.

What is not favorable for the stock market is rising interest rates. Interest rates are the cost one party pays for the use of another’s money. Increasing interest rates make it more expensive to borrow money, so individuals reduce spending on discretionary items while businesses curtail plans for hiring, building inventory and expanding operations. Additionally, higher interest rates make less risky investments more attractive. Why invest in stocks when one can earn attractive returns on CDs and money market funds?

The psychology of the stock market and its investors has been described as “irrational and excessive in its swings”. What is positive one day is negative the next. The 24 hour-a-day news cycle and internet access to brokerage accounts influence investors to buy when things are going well and to sell when things are going poorly, the opposite of what they should be doing.

After reaching an intra-day high of 26,951 on October 3rd, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell to 24,122 on October 29th, a drop of 2829 points which qualifies as a “correction”, a loss of 10% or more in Wall St. jargon. What happened to change investor sentiment so dramatically? The threat of higher tariffs and a trade war with China are certainly reasons to be worried. The upcoming mid-term elections, with possible changes in tax and public policy, is another cause for concern. Investor perspective is always in flux, and was negative for a good part of October.

It is important to realize that stock market corrections typically occur once every other year. The infrequency of corrections is a small comfort to those with short term time horizons or who do not have cash to deploy when opportunities arise. Nevertheless, horrifying short term downturns are the price to pay for average long term annual returns in the stock market of roughly 8%. While it would be less stressful if the market realized gains in an orderly and consistent manner, more often than not it is either boom or bust.

Dos and Don’ts for a Parent Date Night Out

As a therapist who works with families, I frequently find myself asking parents, “When was the last time you went out as a couple?” While many are able to tell me they’ve done so recently (or not so long ago), they have a harder time when I press a bit and emphasize, “as a couple, not as parents.”

Parents can all too easily lose touch with their sense of couple-ness. Having children is wonderful and life-changing, but it can also take its toll on parents’ adult-to-adult relationship. Remember that? Before you had kids, all the things you used to do and enjoy, and how much you liked spending time with one another? Becoming parents doesn’t have to mean losing your life as a couple. In fact, doing so is bad for your kids!

So if you want to be good parents, make sure you’re taking care of your life as a couple. A regular or at least semi-regular date night can help. Here are some simple guidelines for planning a date night (or afternoon, or morning—it doesn’t matter!)

The Dos:

1. DO Make it easy. You’re more likely to follow through if it’s not a big deal to plan. Sitters cost money and add considerably to the expense of a date. If a family member is elected to watch the kids, make sure it’s someone whose presence isn’t going to stir up tension or conflict between you.

2. DO Make it affordable. A date doesn’t have to be extravagant. In fact, if it’s within your budget you’ll be more likely to do it again.

3. DO make it something you both enjoy, or take turns selecting the activity. Don’t get caught up in ideas of what couples are “supposed to do”. Do what you like. Your relationships will benefit both from rekindling pre-kid interests as well as through trying new things together.

The Don’ts:

1. DON’T overdo it on the alcohol. There are many obvious reasons for this, but for the purposes of this set of tips, it makes it easier to follow the next two guidelines.

2. DON’T talk about the kids. For this date, you need to work at being a couple, not at being parents. Restrict yourself in this way and see what happens. For some couples this is a kind of diagnostic tool. If you find it difficult, it’s probably an indicator that your relationship needs more attention. It’s not necessarily a red flag, but it could be a yellow one. Left unattended, relationships are like gardens—the weeds start crowding out the flowers.

3. DON’T bring up topics that require a serious conversation. A date is not the time to bring up that thing your partner did last week that really bothered you, or that unresolved issue from when you were first dating. If such a conversation is needed, schedule a time to have it. A date night is protected time; its purpose is to get you together as a couple and provide a context for enjoying being a couple. Dialogue about important issues needs its own dedicated time and place, and of course, couples therapy can be such a place if needed.

(Now you can see why overdoing the drinking might present a problem. Too many drinks leads to disinhibition and decreased judgment, which leads to a higher probability of not following these guidelines, which may result in a not-so-great—or worse!—date.)

4. DON’T think of your time together in terms of success or failure. Each time you go out you’ll learn new information that will be useful for the next time. The primary goal is to take care of your relationship and to keep growing as a couple and as individuals.

Think of couple time as neither an indulgence nor a luxury—instead consider it an integral ingredient for cultivating a healthy family life.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Andrew Roffman, LCSW, has over two decades of experience in helping families, couples, and individuals with emotional and behavioral problems. He is a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Medical Center and also the director of the Child Study Center’s Family Studies Program, a training program in family and couples therapy. Mr. Roffman teaches family therapy and family systems theory to psychology interns, psychiatry residents, and NYU undergraduates.

Mr. Roffman is a Member of the National Association of Social Workers. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles for professional journals as well as a book chapter in Therapeutic Hypnosis with Children and Adolescents. Mr. Roffman received “Teacher of the Year” award in 2008 and 2011 for his work with trainees at the Child Study Center and is a regular contributing editor to The Journal for Systemic Therapies.

The Best Kept Secret for Kindergarten Readiness

So what’s the best kept secret for kindergarten readiness? Are you ready? It’s only one word. Not only is it a word you know, but it’s a word many people don’t talk about anymore. It’s an “L” word . . .

LIBRARY! You know, the place in almost every town and city in the U.S. where you can borrow books for free! A place where someone else will occupy and entertain your child at no cost by reading them a story or two and even doing some crafts. A place where you can sit on a rainy day and enjoy time with your child while exploring every type of book known to man (without costing you a penny!).

Kindergarten teacher reading to children in library

The library has always been, and will always be, one of my favorite places on earth. I suspect this is true because my own mother brought me to the library every single Wednesday from the time I was three years old. It served as a foundation for my education—starting with kindergarten readiness—and was a place I carried with me throughout my childhood. I remember it vividly. We kept a basket in our kitchen for all of the library books we finished so that they didn’t fall into the “black hole” of our house and get mixed up with the books we personally owned. Going to the library for my family was as natural as getting gas for our car. In my mother’s mind, we were getting fuel for our brains and imaginations. I remember the library tables with the slanted tops, the special little chairs and step stools, and the shelves and shelves of endless books. I remember that by the time I was four years old I was getting lost in wonderful places just like Max in Where the Wild Things Are and going on adventures with my favorite little monkey, Curious George. I always wanted to be the Man in the Yellow Hat. He seemed to have so much fun with George!

As I got older, I graduated to chapter books in the young reader’s section, pouring over countless biographies of inspirational people like Betsy Ross and Jackie Robinson. Great authors such as Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were waiting for me and I was thrilled! The library soon became a place where I would do research for school papers and many, many book reports over the years. Eventually, I was old enough to be dropped off with my friends, and a trip to the library would entail homework and a walk to the candy store. The library grew up with me.

Give your children the same experience and bring them to the library today. Did you know that your child is eligible to have his or her very own library card at five years old? This was a huge right of passage for my own children when their fifth birthdays rolled around. They thought it was the greatest thing in the world that they had their own “credit cards”! Routinely taking your children to the library when they’re young will better prepare them for kindergarten—and for life. More than any workbook, educational website, or iPad game. They will learn responsibility and consideration for others, and they’ll expand their imaginations, engage in a productive and meaningful activity, and best of all . . . spend quality time with you.

What could be better before sending them off to kindergarten?