A CPA's biggest piece of advice? Everyone needs to talk about money way more.
True
Ad Council + AICPA

Do you ever wonder where you stand among your peers when it comes to money?

It's safe to say that most — if not all — people are curious as to where they stand.

Kelley Long, CPA/PFS, is a volunteer spokesperson for the Feed the Pig campaign. Safe to say, she spends a lot of time talking to people about money. She sat down with us to offer some of her own perspective when it comes to the youngest generation coming into financial maturity — millennials.


First, the good news: Young people know a lot about money.

"It's really interesting — research shows that the generations after me are much more financially literate than my own," she said.

Long credits this with a lot more access to information and resources on the Internet. Even employers are introducing these concepts to millennial employees, providing counseling and other financial wellness benefits.

In this way, financial literacy is working — people know the right things to do in terms of saving, living within their means, and so on.

Image by Tax Credits/Flickr.

But they're getting in their own way, in two ways.

She explains that there are two problems setting young people up for failure.

First, they're not actually doing the things they know they're supposed to do. And that's because they're entering a new normal when it comes to what financial priorities should be in terms of how much and where.

Living through recessions and financial crises has caused some uncertainty in terms of figuring out how to apply financial literacy to everyday life.

"But the size of the millennial generation is creating a demand for change," says Long. "New business models will be borne out of that."

And as for the second thing? Stressing out.

Long says there needs to be a shift in the way people feel guilty about student loans — yes, she's a financial planner advising people to stop feeling so bad.

Because they're more aware of what an ideal financial situation looks like, a lot of young folks have "unnecessary stress about the present reality."

"It's not that they can't make the payment, it's often just the big number and the fact that they have student debt causing stress," she explains.

High student loans are a big source of stress — but should they be?

"One of the things I coach is that you have to remember that this is an investment you made," says Long. "Every monthly payment is a payment toward your career, much like your mortgage is toward your house, which is often a bigger number and yet people don't freak out about that number!"

"Not all debt is 'bad' debt, some debt is considered 'good' debt!" she says. "If you have it for the right reasons [like getting an education so you can earn money in a career], that's OK. There needs to be a mind shift away from that kind of guilt. If you didn't have the degree your debt bought, where would your finances be then?"

So, if you're worrying about the mere amount of your total student loans but are comfortably able to make the payments — don't stress or feel ashamed.

"They payoff plans are designed to get them paid off [unlike credit card minimum payments] — just make the payments and try to remember it's an investment in your future."

Image by Joshua Poh/Flickr.

She shared three pragmatic tips to help young people get started toward financial health.

First, if you're deciding whether to pay off your loans or put money away, examine your job's 401(k) plan. If they have a matching plan, prioritize it — it's "free money" you're just throwing away otherwise. Then prioritize the loans you have with high interest rates.

If you're looking for a service or consulting company to help you figure out your financial health (such as during this coming tax season), pay attention to any perceptible biases. Think about their motives. If they're selling you stuff right out the gate, they might not have your interests in mind. And if your workplace offers a financial wellness benefit, take advantage of it.

And one pro tip that seems obvious but is great advice: Once you pay off a big debt, keep budgeting the payments but put them into your savings account. Use force of habit for good!

But her biggest piece of advice? Everyone needs to talk about this stuff way more.

"Money is still taboo," says Long. "We all want to know where we stand in comparison to other people, and we use money to buy stuff to make us look rich, but we don't talk about where the money came from. There's this desire to be rich because we don't want to worry about money. But we also tend to have almost a bias against rich people. Like we want to be them, but we also feel disdain for people who appear to be doing well."

"Just talking about it and the ability to be totally honest will help all of us get better about money because we'll realize we're all more alike than we think."


Image by Matus Laslofi/Flickr.

For more resources, check out Feed the Pig!

Feed the Pig is a national public service campaign sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Ad Council. They have tons of resources created specifically for people in their late-20s and early-30s — what a relief!

Image from Feed the Pig.

For instance, you can create a savings plan to help get you on track, get free savings tips, or find an interesting variety of calculators to see how your financial plan actually plays out.

And if you use the program IFTTT — you're in super luck. They just rolled out a bunch of new recipes to incentivize savings in slightly embarrassing or socially motivated ways. If that sounds provocative, it's because it is — be sure to learn more.

Young people may feel lost when it comes to finances, but they don't have to be. And they're already on the right track.

It's just about putting all that knowledge to use. If you know someone who could benefit from a pep talk, why not share some resources and tips? It's all about starting a conversation!

True

This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

True

"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

Anne Owens and Luke Redito / Wikimedia Commons
True

When Madeline Swegle was a little girl growing up in Burke, VA, she loved watching the Blue Angels zip through the sky. Her family went to see the display every time it was in town, and it was her parents' encouragement to pursue her dreams that led her to the U.S. Naval Academy in 2017.

Before beginning the intense three-year training required to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot, Swegle had never been in an aircraft before; piloting was simply something she was interested in. It turns out she's got a gift for it—and not only is she skilled, she finds the "exhilaration to be unmatched."

"I'm excited to have this opportunity to work harder and fly high performance jet aircraft in the fleet," Swegle said in a statement released by the Navy. "It would've been nice to see someone who looked like me in this role; I never intended to be the first. I hope it's encouraging to other people."

As Swegle's story shows, representation and equality matter. And the responsibility to advance equality for all people - especially Black Americans facing racism - falls on individuals, organizations, businesses, and governmental leadership. This clear need for equality is why P&G established the Take On Race Fund to fight for justice, advance economic opportunity, enable greater access to education and health care, and make our communities more equitable. The funds raised go directly into organizations like NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund, helping to level the playing field.

Keep Reading Show less

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

Keep Reading Show less