Frugal Estate Planning

One of the joys of getting married and having kids is that you then must face your own demise.  The poet Donald Hall wrote about this in his poem, “My Son, My Executioner” stating, as a man and his wife look down on their newborn son, “We twenty two and twenty five/who seemed to live forever/observe enduring life in you/and start to die together.”

Cheery, thought, eh?

Estate Planning Isn’t for the Faint of Heart

Yet, if you have children, you must plan for their future should you die while they’re still young.  I know, no one wants to do this.  In fact, 4.5 years ago when I was pregnant with my last child, I sat down to do a will and trust kit that I got online.  I only got about three questions in, before, in my wild hormonal state, I broke down crying when I started facing the questions about when I would want the cord pulled.

It took me another four years to feel ready to have our will written.

I know.  Irresponsible.  Yet, it took me that long to accept that yes, I will die at some point, and yes, I need to plan for it now, while I’m still healthy and (relatively) young.

It Takes a Strong Wallet, Too

However, facing my own mortality was only part of the problem.  Once I was ready to have a will written, I had to face the fact that it was unbelievably expensive!

We live in the suburbs of a large city, so I don’t know if that’s the problem, but the first lawyer we contacted quoted us $2,500 to set up our will.  When I told him that we are living on a smallish income and paying down student loan debt, he generously agreed to put us on a payment plan without charging interest.  While I appreciate the generosity, we still couldn’t afford $2,500, even on a payment plan!

Next, I contacted a lawyer from my small hometown, but he still was expensive, quoting $1,200 to $1,500.  As Dave Ramsey would say, “It’s not in the budget.”

A Frugal Estate Planning Option

Frugal Estate PlanningIn the end, we made a compromise.  My husband and I both knew we needed a will in place, but we didn’t have the kind of money lawyers were asking for.  Instead, we turned to LegalZoom.

For less than $250 total, my husband and I each had our wills drawn up.  We each answered a few simple questions online, and each will took less than 30 minutes to create.  Then we paid and waited for the lawyers at LegalZoom to look over the document.

Less than a week later, the wills came through the mail and were in our hands.

When we don’t have so much debt and have a larger income, we plan to get a will and trust set up in person with a lawyer.  However, for now, on our budget, LegalZoom works perfectly.  We have a will in place should anything happen.

Have you used LegalZoom for a will?  Would you consider it?  Does $1,200 to $2,500 for a will created by a lawyer seem outrageous or normal to you?

Would You Encourage Your Child to Try to Be an Olympic Athlete?

The Olympics have been on for a week now, and across the world, young children are watching and finding themselves thinking of Olympic glory.  Every time the Olympics air, young children are inspired.  If they’re already in a sport, they may work harder, dreaming of Olympic gold.  If they haven’t yet started a sport, they may want to begin to see if they, too, can be like their Olympic idols.

Yet, as parents, should we encourage these dreams?

The Financial Toll of Pursuing an Olympic Dream

Being an Olympian extracts a heavy financial toll on a family, not to mention the time commitment.

Is this a worthwhile dream for our children, or are we setting them up for failure?

When I was young, my teacher was friends with a family whose college-aged son was training to be a speed skater.  His family had to hold fund raiser after fund raiser just to pay for his training.  Meanwhile, because of the time commitment for training, he was unable to hold a regular job, so he also needed money for living expenses.  In the end, he didn’t make it to the Olympics to compete, let alone try for a medal.

Was all that time pursuing his dream a waste of money and time?

The Financial Rewards of Being an Olympian

Olympic AthleteThe glory, the fame, and the money from endorsements are only for those who receive a medal, usually a gold medal.  Those who reach this pinnacle can expect a handsome return on their time and money investments.  Take Michael Phelps, Olympic swimmer, who is reportedly worth $30 million thanks to endorsement deals.  Shaun White, two-time Olympic gold medalist for snowboarding, brings in an estimated $7 million a year in endorsements (The Examiner).  Yet, the chance of reaching the pinnacle of your sport is very rare.

Is this a worthwhile dream to pursue?

If an Olympian doesn’t win gold and reap the endorsements, she can often find herself able to create a job as a sports commentator or as a coach.  These can be good jobs that keep the athletes in the field they love.  But is all the money they spent to train for the Olympics worth the career choice?  Can being a coach really help justify the money spent to pursue an Olympic dream?

Many people may argue that the point of the Olympics is not about the finances.  The Olympics are about pushing yourself and trying to reach your goals.  They’re about training to become the best athlete you can be.

This is a noble goal, but is it worth the expense and sacrifice to family, friends, and athletes?

A Better Way to Pursue an Olympic Dream?

If my child were to express an interest in being a world class athlete, I would encourage him to train as he could when he was young, but the goal for me personally would be for him to receive a full ride athletic scholarship to college.  If he could reach his Olympic goals from there, wonderful.  If he couldn’t, then at least he would have had the chance to compete at the collegiate level, and he would also have an education.

Would you encourage your child’s Olympic dreams?  If so, how?

4 Frugal Ways to Keep Young Kids Busy During Christmas Vacation

During a typical year, children get two weeks off school during Christmas break, often a week or so before Christmas and a week after.  However, if Christmas falls on a weekend, and if your school scheduled vacation as my son’s did, you will see kids who don’t get out of school for Christmas vacation until December 23rd.  That leaves them with almost two weeks of vacation AFTER Christmas itself, a time that is pretty low on excitement.  (It is so much easier to have a week off before the holiday because there are so many activities for the kids to enjoy.)  You could very likely end up with bored children, especially because all of the activities of Christmas are over just a few days into vacation.

However, there are plenty of frugal ways to keep the kids, especially your preschool and elementary school kids, entertained during the Christmas vacation.  Consider the following activities:

  1. Have a family play.  Take out the dress up box and let the kids come up with a play to perform for the family.  If your children are old enough, you can largely stay out of the picture and let them decide on a story, props, stage directions (even if the stage is just your living room).  Smaller children may need a bit more direction and assistance from parents.  If the kids are stuck for story ideas, they may want to act out what happens in one of their favorite stories.
  2. Check out your local library.  Our local library has plenty of activities for kids during the holiday including a movie viewing night, family story hour, and a Lego building activity.  In addition to activities, most kids will enjoy spending an hour or two at the library reading books and choosing books to check out to read at home.
  3. Visit a public museum.  Many museums put up special holiday displays such as holidays around the world and Christmas decorations throughout the years.  Most kids love all of the lights and decorations that go with the holiday, so take the time to visit your local museum and enjoy the display.  Afterwards, at night, take the time to drive around and view all of the colorful holiday lights and decorations on neighborhood houses.  If you have a house in your area that goes all out with the decorations, make sure to visit that one.
  4. Let kids stay up late.  My kids need their sleep and have an early bed time.  However, during the holidays, we relax the rules a bit and let them stay up later one or two nights a week.  Perhaps they can stay up to watch a favorite show that they normally can’t view because it is past their bedtime or you could play games with them.  Either way, they will be delighted to stay up later than they are usually allowed to.

There are simple things you can do to entertain your young children without spending a lot of money.  Employ some of these tactics, and you will hopefully avoid the common vacation chant, “Mom, I am bored!”