Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FamilyMint: A Superior Way to Teach Money Management!

Ah, money. That thorn in our flesh. Some people have a natural, innate accountant nestled in their inner-selves. The rest of us...not so much. Balance that checkbook lately? Sift through that pile of mail/bills lately? Oh, that “root of all evil” just has a hard time staying in spiritual “check” doesn’t it? 
With kids we all know that more is caught than taught...which is a bit scary in relation to money. Most of us adults have learned the dangers of over-spending and under-budgeting through the School of Hard Knocks (that can sometimes sound like the phone ringing with a debt collector on the other end...) and are a bit bankrupt when it comes to knowing how to change the situation.

Enter the BRILLIANT program from a website called FamilyMint. They recently allowed me to set up our own family “bank” and try their program in exchange for my blog review. This innovative and helpful website ranks as one of the best things I have reviewed all year! It is one of those things that makes you wonder why you never thought of least within the realm of your family and a spreadsheet on the PC. 
The people at FamilyMint have gone above and beyond Excel spreadsheets, however...all you have to do is become a member to begin to take advantage of this fantastic family program. What is truly amazing, is that membership is FREE! They are working on a "Pro" version that can be purchased, but that is down the road.
With FamilyMint, you have at your fingertips a ton of motivation for your children to save and many visual pictures that make the abstract things like deposits, savings, and  interest much more concrete to your kiddos. Each child is given their own account, which they can set up with an icon to easily login and find their persona. There are options to set up a general bank account or get much more detailed (the real beauty of the program, if you ask me), and designate how a deposit will be split up. 
For instance, a $10 deposit can automatically be split into, a 10% designation for tithe, a 15% designation for college, a 15% designation for an item they really want to save for, and the other 60% into a general fund that they can use for whatever. Furthermore, they can select icons to represent their categories, like a horse picture if they are saving for horseback riding lessons, for example. Along with the photo there is a “thermometer” style graph that can show the progress of a savings goal, filling in as the savings increase toward the 100% mark. Pretty cool, eh? 
By the way, you the parents are the bankers. No money actually is placed in the Family Mint’s possession. You are the banker, you keep the money in a safe place and dole it out as warranted. Furthermore, as the banker you approve the set up of your child’s account and the various transactions. If they deposit money, it isn’t officially in their account until the banker validates or “clears” it, just like a real bank. 
There are several other incentives to offer your child, encouraging them to save. I don’t know if your family gives an allowance, but one of the challenges we face in our home, due to such busy lives, is just remembering to pay it! You would think that our kids wouldn’t let it slip by-- but somehow we all are rather sporadic in our remembering. With FamilyMint, allowance is automatically added, the amount and timing programmed in by you, the banker. Furthermore, you can pay interest to your child (amount set by you, once again) for saving their money, rather than spending. You even have an option of matching their savings if there is something really important you want them to save for, similar to a 401K.
Have I piqued your “interest” yet? If so, please click here and check out this valuable program and start teaching your children responsible money management. Who might learn a little something along the way, too!  

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.