Eric Schulzke

Writing about how people, institutions, businesses and the government can better use their resources, questions pop up easily enough. Is financial mobility up or down? What is the role of mothers and fathers in the financial education of their kids? How does education affect income? What about marriage and net worth? Is creeping consumerism zapping the consumer's pocketbook?

NPR recently put on events in St. Louis and Salt Lake City dedicated to financial questions. I was surprised at the crowds that came. They wanted answers to questions and ways out of the problems they had spent their way into. It was all pretty serious stuff.

Yet the hosts made it fun. People actually laughed discussing student loan debt, lack of retirement savings and failed businesses. And again and again, as people asked questions, the experts from NPR assured them they were doing well.

Maybe that is the problem: those who are concerned enough to ask the questions and seek the answers are probably already on the way they need to tread.

I found this out when I wrote about mothers and finances for Mother's Day. Moms have a huge influence on their kids. Kids go to them for financial advice. And for the most part, moms are doing just fine teaching their kids — better than they think, in fact.

I wrote a similar story for Father's Day, featuring one dad, Alan Wolan, who was helping his kid play the stock market to learn about investing.

I often approach a financial responsibility story trying to learn about something I need to know. Sometimes, I make mistakes. For example, I wrote an article explaining that older people should be careful about their finances and not waste their retirement on the temporary problems of their adult children.

The mistake was that my mother-in-law read the article. "I guess we don't need to spend any more on you," she said to me in my kitchen.

She was kidding, of course. But it was a close call.

When it comes to financial responsibility, small things make a difference. So I try to find solutions to problems. Little tips like how to make sure your online assets are protected in case of death or worse. Ideas about the necessity and cost of smartphones. Insights into hidden fees on rental cars. An explanation of what in the world is a bitcoin.

They were all cries against the raging deep of financial darkness.

Or maybe just something fun that can make a small difference for a family here or there.

--Michael De Groote, Deseret News

Young people confront the new economy
Eric Schulzke

Kayley Jones can think of three things she'd like to own: a nice SLR camera, a better violin to replace the one she used growing up and a more powerful laptop with better graphics. At the moment, she could "afford" any of these. But she is not all that tempted.

"I don't really need a lot of things," said the petite, energetic hairstylist from Auburn, Calif. "I'd rather have the money."

When the subprime crisis exploded and the market crashed in the fall of 2008, Jones was just 15. Now 20, she has only vague memories of the crash itself.

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The positive impact of education and marriage on wealth
Pew's Economic Mobility Project

Will children be better off financially than their parents?

This is a question of economic mobility — the heart of the American Dream.

A new interactive feature at Pew's Economic Mobility Project looks at the "Faces of Economic Mobility." What emerges from the data is a picture of how race, marriage, education and having children impact the ability of Americans to not just surpass their parents' income and wealth, but climb higher on the income ladder relative to other Americans.

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Do bad decisions lead to poverty — or vice versa?
Kevin Frayer, Associated Press

People in poverty tend to make worse decisions than those who are not in poverty — they eat less healthy foods, have weaker relationships, and tend to be late for appointments. While it would be easy to conclude that making bad decisions is the root cause of poverty, new research is showing that poverty itself may cause poor decisions.

In a recent study published in the journal Science, researchers found that people who normally function at the same level of cognitive ability make worse decisions when money is tight. The number of decisions the poor have to make to get by exhausts a finite resource of mental power that all people have, according to Eldar Shafir, co-author of the Science study and Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

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Loving kids to debt: When parents take on too much
Michael De Groote, Deseret News

The first thing Carmen Wong Ulrich discovered when she wrote an article for the New York Times on older Americans getting into debt was how reluctant seniors were to talk about their finances.

"It was incredibly hard to get seniors to talk about," says Ulrich, the author of "The Real Cost of Living," and a frequent guest on national television shows. "It wasn't about medical debt, it was about debt you wanted to take on for other people or you just wanted to buy stuff. Boomers don't want to talk about that stuff."

Part of the reason they may not want to talk about debt is that the news isn't very encouraging. A January 2013 analysis by Nadia Karamcheva at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., that examines social and economic issues, found debt for older Americans is increasing.

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In unpaid internships, everything is uncertain
Devon Merling

Late one night last November, 26-year-old Ben Yennie got a call from his boss, who needed a last-minute task completed by morning.

As an intern, Yennie was working full-time but making less than $500 a month arranging events for independent filmmakers to learn about production and financing.

When Yennie said he couldn't finish the late-night project, his boss told him there were two choices: get it done or you’re gone. Yennie walked out the door and spent the night singing karaoke with friends, effectively ending his internship. Not long after, he started a competing company, Global Film Ventures, in the same industry. In just a few months, his San Francisco-based business has taken off.

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Mothers do better than they think teaching about money
Tetreault family photograph

PORTLAND, Ore. — When Sara Tetreault taught her kids how to be responsible with money when they were 5-year-olds, she may have done too good of a job. She jokes that her 16-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl think she is a bad mom because she and their father would not buy them smartphones or video game consoles.

So the kids did what they had been taught to do. They saved their money, pooled it and bought an Xbox 360 on their own.

"I didn't want them to buy it at all," Tetreault says. "My husband and I had to let it go. They earned it. They bought it. And they are responsible for it. … I have a hard time biting my tongue. It is a good thing I have a blog."

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How marriage can change behavior to improve net worth
Elizabeth Stuart, Deseret News

NORTH BERGEN, N.J. — John Freed remembers when he was young and single. He would go out with friends and spend money without thinking about the future.

"I was running around and having a good time," he says. "Then, one day, you wake up. You think, 'Enough of this nonsense. I don't want to wake up alone. I want someone in the house with me.’ ”

Freed, who is the owner of a financial services consulting firm in North Bergen, N.J., married in 1994. He discovered that marriage was about more than love and companionship — it also helped his financial net worth.

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Baby boomers adjust to delayed retirement
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Two years ago, Veldon Sorensen was getting ready to move to Fresno, California. The 62-year-old had no plans to retire anytime soon, having moved seven times during his career — including stints in Canada and Germany — as a researcher for Bayer CropScience. But when he looked at the appraisal on his Salt Lake City home and the fact that the Fresno housing market was still on the decline, he couldn’t see how the move made financial sense. So he took a severance package and an early retirement, uncertain of what the future would hold.

“It was a little bit scary,” Sorensen said. “We didn’t know what we were going to do when my severance ran out.”

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Student debt delays milestones for young people
Associated Press

When 26-year-old Lindsay Woodruff ends her work day, she comes home to her husband and two daughters in Tipp City, a small town in southwestern Ohio. But greeting her at the door are two other family members, her mom and dad. Woodruff and her family are living in her parents’ home until they can pay off her student loan debt.

Woodruff, the assistant director for the education nonprofit group Kids Read Now, does not fit the stereotype of a lazy, self-absorbed member of what's been called the "me me me" generation. She is working full-time and is three credits away from a graduate degree. “There’s a lot of things we’d like to be doing,” she said. “We make a decent income. But we’ve set this benchmark that we’re not going to do anything big until this student debt is paid off.”

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How a vacation can help you be healthier, more productive
M. Spencer Green, Associated Press

In 1910, President William Howard Taft was asked by the New York Times: "How long should a man's vacation be?"

Americans today are likely to laugh at Taft's suggestion of taking two or three months off, as many are trying to squeeze in a mere week of vacation before summer ends. When it comes to taking breaks from the daily grind, Americans aren't doing very much of it.

According to a 2008 study from the Families and Work Institute, a think tank that focuses on the changing work force and family, American employees receive an average of 15 paid vacation days per year. And even when offered it, employees often do not take all of the vacation they are entitled to. Half of the work force took 13 days or less.

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