Cash Money

One of the things I really miss about Tom, other than his ability to crack me up with “Arrested Development” quotes, is that he generally makes sure that I am well-fed. As much as I adore food–and oh, I do–I’m also bone lazy. When I can eat a fruit salad that my mom made up and a quick microwaveable quesadilla, I’m not going to take the time to prepare a full meal. Maggie eats extraordinarily well, but she also doesn’t eat anything that takes a lot of effort to prepare or she eats a smaller version of what I’m having. If I boil up some tortellini and make some meatballs for me, she just has a meatball, some tortellini, and whatever fruit is handy. Doesn’t take long. When Tom cooks, I can count on a well-seasoned sauce over a delicious pasta or some exotic sausage with a salad of spinach, mozzarella and tomatoes at least three or four times a week. It’s not super-varied, but it sure is tasty.

Willing myself to cook is one more badge I have to earn. In Maryland this past spring some friends and I were discussing our “adult badges,” or the things we’ve done that demostrate stepping toward adulthood. For example, I’ve locked down marriage, parenthood and regular exercise. Another friend is a property owner, training to begin her own business, and always looks fabulously put together. A third friend is professionally successful, travels extensively, and is totally independent. All just badges toward the sash.

Since I’ve done pretty well at setting goals for myself and gaining some level of achievement, I’m revamping my goal list. The first is cooking. The second is becoming good with money. I guess by some standards I’m pretty good with a buck; we have no credit card debt and I stay on the budget that Tom sets for the family. We cloth diaper and bank the savings; we buy used when we can and invest in high-quality items when we can’t. We’re about to be totally out of car payment hell, Tom’s almost paid off his college loans, and I’m on track to pay mine off before Maggie begins school. That’s a lot of savings for a small family and we could do well with it if we plan correctly. There are probably lots of people we can ask for advice in our lives, but we think it’s best not to invite friend ‘n family opinions into our financial forecast so for now we’re going to get a third-party financial planner to help out.

One thing I’m glad that I did was open a small passbook savings account for Maggie. (Note: passbooks don’t actually exist anymore.) She got a few checks, a tenner here and there in a card, that kind of thing, for her first birthday. Since we’re talking the sum of a baby’s birthday money and not the Onassis shipping fortune, a basic savings account made the most sense. Tom and I matched her birthday gains, opened the account, and set up a “monthly allowance” for her–the minimum $25 monthly transfer required to avoid fees. Until she’s cognizant of the power of money, we’ll bank all her birthday and Christmas money for her. When she’s older, she’ll be required by us to save at least fifty percent, and we’ll match what she saves until such time that she gets her first paying job (she’ll be required to save 50% of those wages, too, and she’ll also have to pay for her own entertainment and gasoline). She’ll also be required to give some away to the cause of her choice; hopefully she’ll do so cheerfully. But by the time she’s four or five, there should be enough in that account for a CD and the real fun of making her money start to work for her will begin right as she’s old enough to participate. By the time she goes to high school…who knows? It’s a good start, at any rate.

So we’re working on our own “fiscal responsibility” badge, and we think we have Maggie on the way to that one by the time she leaves our care. An understanding of money and how to manage it responsibly as well as using it to help the community is one of the best gifts we can think to give her.

But someone else is going to have to teach her to coordinate an outfit, because I sure as hell can’t do that. There’s a reason I love Hawaii: clean and no holes is practically formalwear.