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  • Writer's pictureJulia Brady

Starting the New Year with Intention

The start of a new year is a time when most adults set intentions for the year ahead. In December, Microsoft News reported that “For 2020, most Americans are making the resolution to adopt healthy habits – concerning their finances as well as their bodies.” While these resolutions in and of themselves are not newsworthy, I found the emphasis on “healthy habits” in the article to be encouraging.

The grim reality, according to a statistic shared in Forbes at the end of 2018, is that less than 25% of people are still committed to a resolution 30 days in. However, when resolutions are reframed as intentions, chances of successfully adopting a new habit or mastering a new skill increase. I have found that intention setting not only helps create a path to goal attainment, but also taps into motivation. Understanding motivations and how they connect to goals, or may present barriers, is something I’ve utilized with team members at work and find incredibly helpful at home as well.

Another lesson I’ve learned is the power of sharing goals, or intentions. While not always met with enthusiasm, sharing goals with the right people can help one stay on track, and input from others can help shape a far-fetched intention into a more realistic and better-defined goal. Too often, goals for our children are set by external forces. Parents, schools and organizations set measures of success, and kids are not learning to listen to their inner voice.

In January I intend to focus my blog on ways we can empower children to explore and understand their nascent values and motivations, then translate those into intentions. The topics I’ll focus on this month include:

Developing a healthy financial mindset. With input from family friend and financial advisor Aaron Ammerman, we’ll explore how to shape financial literacy and adopt a healthy mindset regarding money and possessions.

Cultivating healthy study habits. Two years ago, my then third grader was struggling in school. Not because he didn’t understand the content, but because he wasn’t motivated. Identifying how he is motivated helped get him back on track beyond just the classroom. We’ll also explore the power of listening and its connection to literacy and empathy. Journalist and Founder of Listenwise (and my big sister) Monica Brady-Myerov will share how instructional listening can be a gamechanger.

Unleashing creativity. I never thought I was a very creative person until I redefined the meaning of creativity. I’m a creative problem solver, and my refusal to follow any one career path is another hallmark of my creative thinking. I’ll share some ways we encouraged creativity early on with the boys and I’ll tap some creative professionals for insights as well.

While starting with the topics of financial literacy may seem trite in January, an October 2019 report from the Pew Research Center shows how large the gap is between expectations of financial independence among young adults and the reality, with only 24% of young adults today reaching financial independence by the age of 22.

While there is a lot of debate about the topic of allowance for kids, it can be a great vehicle for developing early financial literacy. Once the boys were old enough to start asking for money to buy things, their dad and I decided to start giving them a weekly allowance. After much research, I went with the $1 per year of age methodology, and each weekly allowance is divided into three categories: spend, save and share. As noted in an earlier post, my track record for actually paying out allowance is poor. However, I do keep a spreadsheet of what they’re due in each category, which made funding their gift buying easy this Christmas.

We’ve also maintained a range of money holders over the years; wallets, change purses and the Quaker Oatmeal-container-turned-bank to name a few. However, as a co-parent with their dad across town, I created an “allowance keeper” a couple of years ago that is a repurposed vinyl school supply pouch that holds bills and change. They can easily see how much they have, and when folded up it fits inside a winter jacket for a visit to Potbelly’s with friends.

While the boys are happiest with weekly payouts in the “spend” category, the “share” money has become meaningful as well. Towards the end of each year, we review how much is in their share column, and discuss what charitable organizations they are interested in supporting. As both are dedicated animal lovers, they chose animal rescue organizations for their 2019 gifts. This creates a sense of pride and stewardship as they both have personal connections to the organizations that enhanced their homes with furry and scaly members of the family.

Supporting charitable organizations can also be a good alternative to unreasonable gift requests. Will loves reptiles and a pet snake was at the top of his Christmas list in 2015. After much research, we decided that snakes were best kept in the wild and not amongst people and housecats. Will eventually adopted a leopard gecko from a reptile rescue, and on Earth Day in 2016 he made a meaningful donation to the World Wildlife Fund in exchange for the next best thing to a pet snake, a life-sized stuffed anaconda.

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