MONEY Workplace

Why Millennials Should Get Used to Work-Life Imbalance

The work day used to be confined to a tidy eight-hour period. Today, digitally native millennials are expected to never truly "turn off," making it difficult for anyone to have a life outside of work.

The same technology enabling us to connect with people and get work done faster than ever before is also making for never-ending work days. Years ago, professionals had the luxury of confining their day’s work to an eight-hour chunk of time. After 5 p.m., they could focus on personal activities — it was time to go home to dinner or out to a movie, uninterrupted. Today, work’s demands are becoming more similar to parenting, in that they never truly “turn off.” If you only work eight set hours, you’ll fall behind, look like a slacker, or both.

One study found that 81% of U.S. employees check their work mail outside of work hours, including 55% who peek at their inboxes after 11 p.m. at night. While many professionals are now “on call” throughout the day, the expectations placed on millennials are especially high. As the first generation of digital natives, millennials are naturally gifted at managing this always-on lifestyle—and in some ways they prefer it, because of the work time flexibility it theoretically affords them—but at the same time they fear it is hurting their personal lives.

To examine how technology and millennials are affecting the modern-day workplace (and vice-versa), my company and Elance-oDesk.com commissioned a study released today called “The 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce.” In it, we found that nine out of ten millennials say that they can access information whenever and wherever they are, and that 73% are expected to be contactable at any time of day or night.

We also surveyed HR managers and found that, somewhat unsurprisingly, 82% said millennials are more technology adept than older generations. Because millennials use social media more than all other generations, they are the ones who are most pressured to manage a complete blending of their personal and professional lives. Millennials naturally feel like they have to respond to emails outside of the office in order to keep up with the demands of their jobs.

These expectations aren’t all bad, so long as they come with tradeoffs. Millennials tend to seek flexible work schedules so that they can deliver value to their employers whenever duty calls, while at the same time flex schedules hopefully give them time to fit in personal activities they enjoy. They seek companies that will enable them to work remotely so they can blend personal activities during the day, not just during the night or on weekends. This push for work flexibility and integration creates opportunities for impact and learning, both of which millennials want.

While millennials want flexible work hours so they can have fun even though they are always “on call,” the obvious downside is that they can never truly be away from work. As millennials grow older, and have more responsibilities like raising children, they’re learning that life can get increasingly complicated and overwhelming when the needs of their blurred personal and professional lives collide.

To cope, millennials must take matters into their own hands in the same way that entrepreneurs or freelancers do. They need to make a list of all of their work responsibilities and all the personal activities that they want or need to accomplish, and then focus on those each day. This way, it’s less about when, and where, they complete their work or personal activities and more that they actually complete them.

What’s more, professionals today need to get out of the mindset that they can have balance in an unbalanced world and seek to integrate their personal and professional interests so they are more fulfilled. At companies like Virgin and Netflix, workers get unlimited vacation days not just as a reward to them but to take into account that everyone is busy and needs time off. This open policy enables workers to take random breaks throughout the year when they need it most, yet it also exploits the fact that employees are still thinking about work on vacation.

Research from The White House proves that roughly half of companies offer full-time employees flexible work hours. Companies like Yahoo!, Best Buy and Reddit aren’t embracing flex hours because having employees who worked remotely didn’t work for them in the past. Instead of allowing for some flexibility, they decided completely against it, forcing all workers to be at the office each day. Of course, millennials, who desire to work remotely, are less inclined to work at these types of companies because they don’t support their personal life and work styles.

Technology today means that work no longer needs to be a place. The vast majority of what we do can be done from anywhere. However, many companies still don’t embrace flexible work. This outdated approach lends to millennials choosing alternate career paths — many would choose freelancing, for example. Our study found that 79% of millennials would consider “quitting their regular job” and “working for themselves” in the future, and 82% of millennials believe that technology has made it easier to start a business.

Regardless of what career path millennials pursue, the demands of work today and in the future mean it’s essential to get better at managing your day. Take time to consider personal and professionals goals on a daily basis. Figure out how to prioritize throughout your day, and forget about true work-life balance: Those days are over. But take heart that infinite work days bring with them infinite possibilities that weren’t there when we were locked behind a desk 9 to 5.

Dan Schawbel is a workplace expert, keynote speaker and the New York Times bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success and Me 2.0.

TIME Parenting

Unplug! Your Children’s Future Depends On It

Boy next to adults with smart phones
Getty Images

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

Our First World reliance on devices means kids aren't experiencing the day-to-day challenge of merely being conscious

My 21-year-old daughter was just home for the weekend, which was wonderful for all the obvious reasons. But her visit reminded me–as if I needed reminding–that I am so out-of-touch with the zeitgeist that I may as well be a preserved relic from Victorian times. By nature I’m so deeply Victorian that not only is my favorite architectural style all turrets and wraparound porches, but my distaste for what most people call “progress” could rival conservative British politician Benjamin Disraeili’s. And though I work on a computer–I’m not, after all, a masochist–and rely on both email and Google, the rest of it leaves me, at best, bored, and at worst, positively alarmed.

I couldn’t care less about and, in fact, don’t actually know what the following terms refer to: apps, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. And I have to admit that I had to Google most of these (see above). I don’t text, and I certainly don’t sext. Sexting for me is standing naked in front of my husband and saying, “Do you think it’s time for a tummy tuck?” I read the kind of books that you have to lug around with you and stack on your nightstand. I never got rid of my records (music recorded on vinyl), and I don’t own an iPod because when I’m walking the dogs or working in the garden, I prefer to listen to the sound of the falling leaves than Lorde singing “Royals” or Usher singing “She Came to Give It To You,” or God forbid anything, ever, by the talent-free Lady Gaga (had to Google this stuff, too, under “most popular singers 2014″). I don’t know the difference between a latte and a cappuccino and a Frappuccino and a frappé. I know what you’re saying: “Oh, Jennifer, you think you’re just so superior, don’t you? You think you’re just so retro-pure-intellectual dog-walking all-natural undyed-gray-haired awesome?”

Yes. Or at least a little bit. Because I’m in my fifties and have read a lot of books, I know without having to do a scientific study that all this reliance on our techno-toys is bad news–for grownups, for children, even for dogs, who would rather canoodle with their human-friend than be stuck on the sidelines. As for small children, don’t even get me started, because if I see one more mommy/daddy pushing her/his child in the stroller while being plugged into her/his iPod or cell phone, I’m going to puke. That doesn’t compare to the armies of small children who spend vast amounts of their free time pushing various buttons on their various electronic devices. And I know, boy do I know, children, when bored, are unpleasant to be around. They whine. They make you wish you’d never had them. I myself had whiny children, and was once one myself. I was such a whiny whiner that I turned whining into high art. And in part because I tended to depression and anxiety, I loved nothing more than TV, which took me away from myself, at least for as long as the tube was still on. I could sit in front of the TV for hours, numbing out on all the greats: The Flintstones, The Beverly Hillbillies, I Dream of Jeannie, The Munsters, My Favorite Martian. But my mother, having been raised at a time when parents said no often and without guilt, wouldn’t let me do that, except when I was sick. Instead, when I whined or complained of boredom, she said that I had two choices: I could go outside and play or I could read. End of story, full stop.

The thing that’s just so awful and sad and terrible and stupid-making about our entire First World reliance on and love of our devices isn’t just that kids with totally straightforward neurology become, by default, unable to concentrate or take in information or synthesize or analyze or so much as string a few coherent sentences together, but that their very souls, and ours, get sucked straight out of our bodies and dispersed among the pixels and bottom-lines of the smart people who are making money by providing us with the addictive technology that we can’t get enough of. (As good a definition of addiction of any is: enough is never enough—just ask an alcoholic.) And why do we reach for our devices? For our Facebook feeds and mobile apps and appallingly loud and vulgar music and endless varieties of crappy TV shows? Because it’s easier to numb out than to face our fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams, impulses, devils, demons, defeats, pasts, futures, and, most of all, present, our here-and-now when things might not completely conform to the Hollywood version of what our lives are supposed to be.

Yes, folks, being human is difficult, at worst awful, at best wonderful, and most of the time, mixed. Remember, for example, the Bible? Whether you believe in its sanctity or not, the Bible is a remarkable document not for its account of wonders and miracles but rather its telling of the day-to-day challenge of merely being conscious, merely being human in a vast and unknowable universe where a fellow still has to get up every morning and bring home the curds-and-whey, water the camels and raise quarrelsome children.

Speaking of Jacob and Essau, do you want to raise grounded, reasonable, civilized children without getting a PhD? Here’s how: turn off the TV. Don’t let your children have their own devices of any kind whatsoever until high school. Make them go to bed at a reasonable hour. Don’t help them with their homework. Never hit or shame them, but go ahead and punish them when their behavior is bad. Don’t for one moment try to be their friend. And when they’re little, don’t even think about “the family bed,” unless you want to both kill your marriage and raise terrifying little monsters who will never manage to mature past adolescence. Finally, when they’re bored, give them a choice between playing outside and reading a book. In between, throw them a couple of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and an apple or two.

Yes, that’s it.

Ever since our second date, my husband has accused me of being a flat-worlder, a Luddite, an all-around fuddy-duddy. But I’m not. Not even a little. I just know, from my own lifelong experience of living inside my own messy head, that the more I use my machines to escape myself, the more my true self shrivels up and dies a slow and unremarkable death.

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Love and Money

What to Say When Your Kid Asks, ‘Mommy, Are We Rich?’

Illustration of wooden alphabet number blocks spelling out RICH/POOR
Mikey Burton

When your kids ask frank questions about your finances, try to view it as a teaching opportunity rather than a breach of privacy.

While visiting an exhibit about the Titanic, Elise Hahl’s 7-year-old son grew curious about social status—especially after learning how it affected survival on the fateful voyage. “Mom, which class would we have been?” he asked. She explained that the world “doesn’t work that way anymore.” But he persisted.

Truth was, the Pittsburgh family was then living solely off Dad’s stipend as a Ph.D. student. “Sorry, bud,” she finally admitted. “We would’ve been third-class for sure.”

As uncomfortable as it can be when your child asks about your income or wealth, keep in mind that curiosity can be a catalyst for learning about money. “It’s a flag on the field saying ‘I’m ready,’ ” says Susan Beacham, author of OMG: Official Money Guide for Teenagers.

Are you ready? Before answering questions like “How much do you make?” or “Are we rich?” ask one of your own: “Why?” Understanding your child’s motivation can help you craft an answer, but age also plays into what you should say.

For a Young Kid: Offer Context

No need to tell a third-grader your salary. Such figures are abstract in preadolescence, says Tom Corley, author of Rich Kids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life. Plus, Beacham notes, “It’s information they can take to the bus stop.”

Instead, say you earn enough to afford concrete things your family values. Explain that there will always be people wealthier and less wealthy. And add that being “rich” is about feeling grateful, healthy, and happy, not just owning fancy things. If you’re struggling, let children know that you’re working hard to make ends meet. For example: “Daddy losing his job means we have enough for groceries—just not enough to eat out often.” Also reaffirm that the family’s situation is not their fault, says Beacham.

For an Older Kid: Be Straight

With teens, you may want to share relevant numbers, says Corley. At this stage, questions might be for practical reasons: For a kid worried about college, for example, hearing that “we have $50,000 for you” can manage his expectations. If you’re not comfortable sharing specifics, at least provide perspective, Corley says. For example, use the average household income (around $52,000) as a benchmark and say that you’re fortunate to earn a bit more.

When having financial difficulties, admit that and involve your child in solutions, like choosing which costs to cut. “The worst thing you can do is make it appear that everything is fine,” says Corley. “Teens are smart. They’ll know otherwise.”

Columnist Farnoosh Torabi is the author of When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women. She blogs at www.farnoosh.tv

Read more from Farnoosh Torabi:
5 Super Easy Online Tools That Can Make Couples Feel More Financially Secure
Financial Habits of Happy Stay-at-Home Parents
Ladies, This Is Why You Should Let the Guy Pay on the First Date

MONEY Shopping

What’s the Best Candy To Buy? Ask a Kid

MONEY asked kids about which candies they love, which they hate, and which are for grown-ups. Watch closely before you stock up for Halloween.

TIME ebola

How to Talk to Your Kids About Ebola

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
NIAID/EPA

Here's the best way to calm kids' fear and anxiety over Ebola

Even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden admits it: “Ebola is scary.” But for kids seeing alarming headlines without understanding the context of the disease, Ebola can seem like a looming and personal threat.

TIME spoke to Dawn Huebner, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety about the best way to talk about Ebola with your kids—without scaring them silly.

What should I say to my child who is really scared about Ebola?
Let them know that it’s important to think about proximity—how close they themselves are to the virus. Which is to say: not very. “It’s really important to underline that we are safe in the United States, and that people who have contracted Ebola have been in West Africa or were treating patients with Ebola,” says Huebner. “Not only should parents underline how rare Ebola is, and how far away the epidemic is occurring, but also how hard the disease is to contract.” Huebner says parents can tell their older children that direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like vomit or diarrhea is necessary to spread Ebola. “This has been reassuring to the children I see, as they know they are not going to be touching that,” she says.

By ages 7 and up, kids begin to grasp that their worries and fears aren’t always rational. “Parents can talk to kids about how one of the ways worries and anxiety get their power is by making us think about things that are very unlikely,” says Huebner.

Should I keep my child away from the news?
Your kids can watch the news to stay informed, but media overload is not always a good thing. “The news is often sensationalized and gives kids the idea that they are at an imminent risk,” says Huebner. When kids see endless stories about Ebola on the news, they don’t always realize they’re hearing the same thing on loop. “I’ve had kids come into my office who are under the impression that there are hundreds of people in the U.S. with Ebola.”

How do I know if my child is reacting appropriately to the news?
“An appropriate reaction would be to feel nervous and ask some questions, but to be reassured by the parents’ answers,” says Huebner. Psychologists distinguish between questions that are information-gathering, and questions that are reassurance-seeking. If a child asks reassurance-seeking questions—like “Are we going to be ok?”—once or twice, that’s normal. But asking the same questions over and over signifies that a child is really dealing with anxiety and that their concern is not being curbed. At that point, parents may need to sit their children down for a longer conversation to address their fears and concerns.

My kids don’t want to fly on an airplane over the holidays. How do I convince them they are safe?
It’s important to emphasize that the vacation destination is one that is safe, and not at great risk for Ebola. Parents can also stress that no one in the United States has yet contracted Ebola from a plane ride. However, parents should avoid making comparisons, like “It’s more likely to get in a car crash than to get Ebola.” That will only stress a child out more.

Ebola freaks me out too, and I accidentally overreacted in front of my child. How do I fix this?
“One of the wonderful things about children is that you really can revisit things that didn’t go so well the first time,” says Huebner. If parents slip up with an overreaction, they should have a conversation with their children and reference the moment. She suggests a conversation opener like this one: “I was thinking about when you overheard me on the phone with my friend. I was really overreacting. I got nervous when I heard about Ebola, and you saw me when I was nervous. Now I’ve gotten information and I’ve calmed down, and I’ve realized this is a very sad thing that’s happening far away. It’s sad, but it doesn’t have to be scary for us.” Rational, calm conversations will help ease a child’s fears about Ebola.

TIME behavior

Breaking Bad Action Figures? Really, Toys R Us?

No, you're not hallucinating, that really is a Walter White doll.
No, you're not hallucinating, that really is a Walter White doll.

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

In a spectacularly bad bit of judgment, the big box store puts a meth manufacturer on its shelves.

Human history is often defined by its very worst pitch meetings. Take the one in 1812, when one of Napoleon’s generals told the Great Emperor, “I’ve got an idea. Let’s invade Russia—in the winter!” Or the one in 1985, when the anonymous product developer at Coca-Cola said, “How ’bout we take a product everyone loves, quit making it and replace it with a different formulation no one is asking for! What could go wrong?”

So too it must have gone in the executive suites of Toys R Us, when someone made the compelling case for stocking a brand-new line of action figures based on the wildly successful Breaking Bad series. After all, nothing quite says holiday shopping like a bendable, fully costumed figurine of Walter White—the murderous chemistry teacher turned crystal meth manufacturer—and Jesse Pinkman, his former student and current bag man. And you want accessories? We’ve got accessories—including a duffle bag stuffed with imaginary cash and a plastic bag of, yes, faux crystal meth for White. Pinkman comes with a gas mask, because the folks at Toys R Us are not the kind to forget about corporate responsibility. If your kids are going to grow up to run a meth lab, it’s never too early to teach them basic safety.

It might not surprise you to learn that Toys R Us has faced a teensy bit of blowback from this curious marketing decision. Florida mom Susan Schrivjer has posted a petition on Change.org that has just exceeded 2,000 signatures, demanding that the company pull the products. She also appeared on The Today Show to make her case more publicly.

“Anything to do with drugs is not doing the right thing,” she said. “I just think they need to look at their vision and values as they call them.”

The part that’s more surprising—but sadly only a little—is that even after being called on its appalling lack of judgment, Toys R Us has not responded with the quickest, loudest, most abject oops in corporate history. Instead, it is standing its ground. Why? Because the dolls are sold only in the “adult section” of the store, of course—the ones intended for shoppers 15 and up.

OK, let’s start with the fact that Toys R Us has an adult section at all—something I never knew and I suspect many other parents didn’t either. So what will they stock there next? A line of Toys R Us hard cider? Toys R Us adult literature? A Toys R Us edition of Fifty Shades of Gray—which is really OK because hey, it actually comes with a set of 50 gray crayons? If an adult section must exist at all, at what point does full disclosure require the company to rebrand itself “Toys as Well as Other Things Not Remotely Appropriate For Children But Don’t Worry Because We Keep Them in a Separate Section, R Us”?

More important, let’s look at above-15 as the dividing line for the adult section—a distinction that makes perfect sense because if there’s anything 15 year olds are known for, it’s their solid judgment, their awareness of consequences, their exceptional impulse control and their utter imperviousness to the siren song of drugs and alcohol. Oh, and they never, ever emulate bad role models they encounter on TV, in the movies or among their peers. What’s more, kids below the age of 15 never, ever run wild in a sensory theme park like a big box toy store, finding themselves in departments not meant for them and seeing products they shouldn’t see. Toys R Us, you’ve thought this one out to the last detail!

What the company’s consumer researchers probably know and if they don’t they ought to, is that the brain’s frontal lobes—where higher order executive functions live—aren’t even fully myelinated until we reach our late 20s, which is why young people can be so spectacularly reckless, why soldiers and political firebrands tend to be young and why judges, heads of state and clerical leaders tend to be old. The adult fan of Breaking Bad might actually enjoy the new toys as collectors items–something to be bought or given as a gift with a little twinkle of irony, a this-is-so-wrong-it’s-right sort of thing. But that kind of nuance isn’t remotely within a child’s visible spectrum.

Really, Toys R Us, there is absolutely no surviving this one. Back up the truck, pack up the toys and send them to a landfill. And if you’re even thinking about following this one up with a Boardwalk Empire board game complete with a Nucky Thompson plush toy, stop now. Or at the very least, invite me to the pitch meeting.

Read next: Toys R Us ‘Breaks Bad’ with New Crystal Meth Toys

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY First-Time Dad

Why Work-Life Balance Is Just As Impossible for Dads

141014_FF_TEPPERBLOG
This mug is what I'm missing out on when I'm working late.

We're struggling with the same issues working moms face, says MONEY reporter and first-time dad Taylor Tepper.

Sometimes I feel like a bad dad.

Doubts over my parental savvy often correlate with how long I’m at the office. When I call to tell Mrs. Tepper that I’ll be here until 7:30 p.m. working on a magazine feature—and won’t be home to put our son Luke to bed—the soft disappointment in her voice stays with me like a faint ember.

The same guilty feelings apply to my job, too.

I’m 28 and now is the time to work long hours, take on more responsibility and show my bosses just how willing I am to immolate myself for the greater good. Every time I leave the building at 5:30 p.m., a part of me thinks I’m sacrificing future promotions, raises and glory.

What it means to be an American father, and the responsibilities therein, have changed radically in the last few decades. In 1975, 45% of families consisted of a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mom; today 31% do. And now, men are taking on more chores and spending more time with their children than their dads spent with them.

But this blending of gender roles has done much to confuse the male mind. We want to spend more time with the kids and earn accolades on the job; we want to attend the soccer game and become senior management; we want to be Bill Cosby and Steve Jobs.

Many of us feel—just as working moms do—that we’re succeeding at neither.

The Research Backs Me Up on This

According Boston College’s Center for Work & Family, 86% of dads agreed or strongly agreed that “my children are the number one priority in my life.”

That’s well and good.

At the same time, though, more than three in four fathers wished to advance to a position with greater responsibilities and three in five demonstrated a strong desire to reach senior management.

Half of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of work and family, according to Pew.

And on the whole, we don’t feel like we’re living up to the dad role either. Almost eight in 10 dads want to spend more time with their children on an average workday, and one in two say they spend too little time with their kids. (Only 23% of mothers feel that way.) From first-hand experience, there is nothing quite as enervating as coming home from work to an already-sleeping son.

In Boston College’s research, you also see dads grappling with perceptions of what they want and the reality of how things are.

While today’s fathers also recognize that parenting is a two-person job—65% say they believe that partners should take care of a child evenly—only one in three say that they actually split the work in half. Women typically spend more than three times as many hours per week solely looking after the child than men.

Even on weekends, men fail to live up to their ideal. On Saturdays and Sundays, moms spend 1.2 more hours on housework and childcare than dads do. When it comes to time spent on leisure activities, dads out-loaf moms by an hour.

While Mrs. Tepper and I have something of a modern marriage—split chores, female breadwinner—she almost certainly watches Luke more on the weekends, especially when sports are on.

In spite of my few hours more on the couch, however, I’d still argue that achieving and maintaining true work-life balance is impossible. You can’t achieve these competing goals—working at the top of my game, being the best dad and husband ever, and getting in a few NBA games to recharge my own engine—within a finite number of hours in the day.

So, What Is a Modern Dad to Do?

I put that question to Sara Sutton Fell, the CEO of FlexJobs.com, a job search site focusing on companies that allow for flexible schedules and telecommuting. Her advice: to think of work-life balance as more of a journey than a destination.

“As a working parent with two young sons, I believe that work-life balance is often mistaken as an end-point that we reach eventually,” she says. “In my experience, it’s more of a balancing act—shifting your weight back and forth between your various responsibilities.”

Some days you’re going have to work long hours at the office to close out a project or meet a deadline, in other words; and some days you’re going to work from home to take your kid to the doctor.

Try to find an employer that will embrace that flexibility, Fell says.

This makes sense.

But we’ve also got to try to overcome our own guilt. That means accepting our limitations as parents and workers and people, and setting realistic expectations for ourselves.

It’s difficult to remember, but today’s dads spend more time with their kids than their fathers spent with them by a factor of three. Today’s fathers are by and large more engaged in their kids’ lives than previous generations. So we’re definitely doing better, if not up to the standards we’d hold for ourselves.

When I’m stuck in the office until dark, maintaining that perspective is difficult. But I try to remember that the next morning I’ll be there when Luke wakes up, and with any luck, arrive home in time to help his mom put him to sleep.

And if not, there’s always tomorrow.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly. More First-Time Dad:

MONEY family money

This Company Will Give You $500 If You Have a Baby Today. Wait, What?

141017_FF_BabyMoney
Mike Kemp—Getty Images

It's no joke. As part of its rebranding campaign, investment firm Voya will give money to the newest of new parents.

Lucky for you if you’re in labor right now.

A company called Voya Financial has announced that it will give every baby born today—Monday, Oct. 20, 2014—500 bucks.

The promotion, timed to coincide with National Save for Retirement Week, is part of a marketing campaign to alert the public that the business that once was the U.S. division of ING is now a separate public company with a new name.

Get out the castor oil and order in Indian if you’ve already hit 40 weeks, because the offer is only available to those who exit the womb before midnight tonight—though soon-to-be-sleep-deprived new parents have until December 19 to register a child.

Voya estimates that it may have to kick in as much as $5 million, since there are about 10,000 babies born every day in the U.S.

While the company has promised that families will not have to sit through a marketing pitch to get the money, and that the baby’s information would be kept private, this special delivery still comes with a catch.

The money is automatically invested into Voya’s Global Target Payment Fund, which according to Morningstar has above-average costs and below-average performance.

Regarding the fees, Voya’s Chief Marketing Officer Ann Glover says that the funds Morningstar uses as comparison are not apples to apples. In any case, Glover says families are free to sell out of the fund if they so choose. “Of course, we would hope people would hold on to the investment,” she adds.

But hey, money is money, so if you’re due, you may as well take what you’re due.

And for those mamas and papas whose progenies aren’t quite ready to make their debuts? While you won’t get money from Voya, you may have other opportunities to get big bucks for your little one.

Start by checking in with your employer to see whether the company helps with college savings. A growing number do. Unum, for example, offers its workers with newborns $500 towards a college savings account.(Our Money 101 can help you find the best 529 college savings plan.)

Also, in several communities around the country, charitable or government programs seed savings accounts for kids. For example, residents of northern St. Louis County in Missouri can get $500 through the 24:1 Promise Accounts. Babies born in Connecticut get $100, plus $150 in matching funds by age four, thanks to the CHET Baby Scholars program.

“This is gaining significant momentum nationwide,” says Colleen Quint, who heads one of the nation’s most generous free savings program, the Harold Alfond College Challenge. Started by the founder of Dexter Shoes, the charity gives every resident newborn in Maine a $500 college savings account.

In fact, Mainers can get the most free money for their children according to a survey of such programs by the Corporate for Enterprise Development, which has gathered details on at least 29 free childrens’ savings programs.

Besides the $500 college savings account, a state agency will match 50¢ for every $1 parents contribute each year up to $100 a year and $1,000 over a child’s lifetime. So Mainers can, in theory at least, get up to $1,500 in free college savings money on top of any additional freebies they can get from companies.

That should be more than enough to buy a chemistry textbook in 2032.

TIME health

Watch These Amazing Kids Talk About Their Real-Life Superheroes

"She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water."

Real heroes don’t necessarily wear tights. But they do have superpowers.

Here’s how kids in some of the toughest places on earth describe their heroes, the aid workers who bring relief from hunger, disease and illiteracy:

“She flies in the clouds, and she gives us water.” “He came and destroyed the mosquitos.” “They did something magical, and the maize grew from the ground.”

For “Superheroes: Eyewitness Reports,” Save the Children sent a documentary film crew to three continents to ask children about the heroes who swoop into their lives. The kids respond joyfully in their own languages making this PSA a sharp departure from more traditional international aid organization spots that feature silent children with big eyes and swollen bellies.

TIME animals

‘Animals Make a Hospital Happy': Classic Photos of Critters Helping Kids

Photos from 1956 illustrate the powerful, positive effect that being around animals can have on sick children.

Almost 60 years ago, in November 1956, LIFE magazine published an article with the deceptively lighthearted title, “Animals Make a Hospital Happy.” Noting that children, especially, are acutely aware of “how depressing it is to be in a hospital . . . the University of Michigan’s hospital at Ann Arbor runs a perpetual animal show which is enjoyed by the 3,000 children who pass annually thought its wards.”

Today, of course, animal-assisted therapy is common in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab clinics and other places where the pain and solitude that so often come with illness—and the stress associated with recovering from injuries or sickness—can be almost paralyzing. Whether or not spending time with animals can actually help spark long-lasting improvements in mental health is an open, and controversial, question. But anecdotal evidence suggests that patients offered the opportunity to play with and otherwise interact with animals appear to be more optimistic about their prospects for recovery, while certain animals (especially social animals, like dogs) can often help decrease the sense of isolation and loneliness that so often plagues those stuck in hospitals for long periods of time.

As the LIFE article put it, “for hurrying a child out of the sickbed, the Ann Arbor hospital has found that nothing can match a youngster’s natural fascination with animals.”

Here, in fond tribute to the critters among us, LIFE.com shares photos from that long-ago article, as well as many more that never ran in LIFE.

[Read Jeff Kluger’s TIME cover article on “the Animal Mind”]

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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