MONEY First-Time Dad

Why You Should Get Up From Your Desk and Go Home

Luke Tepper
Luke is magically sleeping, while his father is fighting to stay still

We work way too much and see our families way too little. The latest on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

A couple of days ago I was on an airplane with my son. It may be a cliché, but there are truly few combinations as destabilizing as infants and planes. While other passengers may bristle at an infant’s shrieking hysterics, that annoyance pales in comparison to the sheer terror borne by the parents of the hysterically shrieking child.

(We know that you—passengers without children—are judging us. But more importantly, our kid is upset. So back off.) Anyway, Luke had a rough go of it on his first flight, so I was on DEFCON 1 for the return trip.

But he did great. Very little muss, almost no fuss. His calm allowed me to reflect on things other than what I’d do if Luke vomited on the lovely couple to my left, and I realized something: This vacation was the first time I had hung out with my son before 7 p.m. on a weekday for as long as I could remember.

Which sucks.

I love my job, but I rarely leave the office before 6:30 p.m. My commute is a little under an hour, and I usually stop by the grocery store to pick up dinner, so I’m lucky to get home before Luke’s asleep.

Of course, I’m not alone. Americans, by and large, work too long, take too few days off, and have problems enjoying their vacation time.

For instance, about one in nine U.S. workers puts in more than 50 hours a week, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Less than 1% of Dutch employees toil that hard. In fact, citizens in only three out of 36 countries devote less time to leisure activities like sleeping and eating than Americans do.

Not surprisingly, America ranks eighth from last on the OECD’s Better Life Index.

When it comes to time off for good behavior, Americans get 14 vacation days a year on average, per Expedia’s 2013 Vacation Deprivation Study, or less than half as many as workers in France, Denmark, and Spain enjoy. But that’s not the really depressing part. The really depressing part is that while Americans receive more than two weeks of vacation, we take only 10 days.

One reason is that workers want to save vacation days for later, or convert them to cash. But 35% (the plurality) report having to cancel or postpone getaways because of work.

And once we’re actually on vacation, it’s hard to shut our minds off. Much to my embarrassment, I found myself checking emails and social media my first few days at the beach. I had to tell myself to close the browser and shut the laptop and go spend time with my loving family. It’s as if we’re paid victims of Stockholm syndrome.

I don’t want to sound cranky or ungrateful. I derive a fair amount of pride from my work, and more than eight in 10 U.S. workers say they are satisfied with their jobs. The cool thing about what I do is that I get to see a finished product after I’m done, which is affirming.

But I feel almost guilty if I’m the first to leave the office, as if I have it in my mind that I really didn’t work hard enough or suffer long enough that day. While this is an especially busy time for us here (with the launch of Money.com), I know that many of my friends feel the same pressure to stay well past closing time.

So I’m here to tell you, workers of America, that it is okay to go home when you should, and that there is nothing inherently better about working 50 hours a week than 40. Don’t feel less of a success if your friends put in more hours at the office than you do.

By repeating that mantra to myself long enough, I just might get home in time to put my kid to sleep.

More First-Time Dad:

 

TIME Media

This Ad About a Doorbell Will Totally Make You Cry

Grab a tissue now

There is nothing like a commercial for home improvement to get the tears flowing. “The Perfect Daughter,” a new commercial for ProMart Homecenter, shows the touching story of a father who takes it upon himself to make his daughter happy.

The commercial has no words, nor does it need any. Director Ricardo Chadwick meshes the two seemingly-unrelated themes, home improvement and family love, into a short sequence of what looks like a feature film. Fahrenheit DDB from Lima, Peru produced the advertisement. The commercial recently won a silver Lion in Film in Cannes last week, according to Adweek.

Take a look.

TIME Internet

Study: Teens Aren’t Fleeing Facebook After All

US-FACEBOOK-MENLO PARK
A thumbs up or "Like" icon at the Facebook main campus ROBYN BECK—AFP/Getty Images

Kids are actually using the social network more than they did a year ago

Facebook isn’t dead yet. Far from it, in fact.

In October 2013, Facebook’s CFO admitted that young teens were visiting the social network less frequently. Following that announcement, anecdotal reports and a few different studies suggested that teens—the arbiters of cool—were fleeing Facebook en masse. Even if they kept an account, it wasn’t their primary social network. Teens in the U.S. especially were supposedly opting out of Facebook and into networks like Twitter and Tumblr.

But Facebook is making a comeback. Nearly 80% of U.S. teens still use Facebook and are more active on the social networking site than any other, according to a Forrester Research report. The survey, which polled 4,517 U.S. teens and tweens, found that almost half of the respondents (aged 12 to 17) said they use Facebook more than they did a year ago. And 28% of respondents say they’re on Facebook “all the time” (as opposed to “about once a day” or “at least a few times a day”), a higher percentage than any other service.

The results are actually consistent with a comScore report from earlier this year that found even though there was a three-percentage-point drop in Facebook usage among college-aged adults, 89% of those college kids still use the site. That is, again, better than any other social network is doing in that demographic.

Instagram was runner-up to Facebook in terms of time spent on the network, followed by Snapchat, Twitter, Vine and WhatsApp. That’s great news for Facebook: the company owns Instagram and is in the process of acquiring WhatsApp.

TIME technology

Your Family Photo Facebook Album Could Help Doctors Diagnose if Your Child Has a Rare Genetic Disease

Oxford

The future of medicine can live in a selfie

Digital photos are proving to be important medical tools to help doctors diagnose rare genetic disorders in children.

Researchers at Oxford have developed a new form of facial recognition software that allows computers to scan, say, a Facebook family photo album to analyze how the corners of a child’s eyes, nose, mouth and other features align with characteristics of disorders including Down’s syndrome, Angelman syndrome and Progeria.

The program accounts for various lighting, image quality, backgrounds, poses and facial expressions. Even duck face.

In the past, digital photographs have been used to help parents informally diagnose diseases in children. When Tara Taylor posted a photograph of her 3-year-old daughter on Facebook in April, for example, a friend in her social network informed her that the glow in the girl’s eyes could indicate Coat’s disease, which if undiagnosed, could lead to blindness.

But this program, while still in its developmental phases, is a big step forward.

“A doctor should in future, anywhere in the world, be able to take a smartphone picture of a patient and run the computer analysis to quickly find out which genetic disorder the person might have,” Dr. Christoffer Nellåker of Oxford’s MRC Functional Genomics Unit said in a release.

After being fed 132 photographs of people with these disorders, the algorithm now has the ability to identify warning signs based on 36 facial features. It can recognize 90 disorders, and the number rises as more faces are fed into the system. Researchers told the New Scientist that Abraham Lincoln even ranked as a possible carrier of Marfan syndrome, which results in large facial features:

U.S. Presidential Portraits
Portrait of 16th United States President Abraham Lincoln. National Archives—Getty Images

 

MONEY health

Raising an Autistic Child: Coping With the Costs

A new study pegs the lifetime cost of caring for a child with autism at $1.4 million. For parents, there are no easy solutions.

When Linda Mercier’s son Sam was around two years old, she knew something wasn’t right.

Sam was becoming withdrawn, not speaking or playing with other kids, and focused on specific tasks like lining up his toys. Eventually the mystery was solved: He was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

That was the beginning of a very long road, one that has involved significant time, effort — and money, plenty of it. Hundreds of thousands of dollars so far, Mercier estimates, on tutors, therapists and lost wages.

The good news: Same is now high-functioning, and in many respects a completely normal 13-year-old. The downside: The price tag to get to this point has been massive.

“Only a parent of a child with special needs can ever understand the struggles, and the financial commitment, of raising and recovering an autistic child,” says Mercier, a business owner from Winnipeg, Canada. “It’s an endless battle — and an expensive one.”

Indeed: A new study in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics has pegged the total lifetime cost of supporting an individual with an ASD at an astonishing $1.4 million in the United States. If there is also intellectual disability, the total rises even more, to $2.4 million.

RELATED: Paying for My Special-Needs Child

Such costs typically include an ongoing mix of special education programs, medical care and lost wages. After all, many parents of autistic children reduce their work hours, or even quit their jobs altogether, to help their child full-time.

The study is the most recent to tabulate just how crushing these figures really are.

“I can believe it,” says Mercier, when told of the million-dollar-plus price tag. “Easy.”

Even the study’s lead author admits to being taken aback by the final number.

“I was really surprised,” said Dr. David Mandell, director of the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “The old estimates were from 8 or 9 years ago, and at first I was skeptical they needed updating.”

New studies are providing more current cost estimates. “What we found was shocking,” Mandell said. “This is a huge hit on families.”

Journalist Ron Suskind knows about that financial hit first-hand. His son Owen, now 23, was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum about 20 years ago, a journey Suskind has recounted in the book “Life, Animated.”

Owen has made remarkable strides, thanks to what Suskind calls “affinity therapy,” or tailoring treatment depending on the child’s particular way of understanding the world.

In Owen’s case, his preferred frame of reference is Disney movies. Using that template, Suskind and his wife got to work unlocking Owen’s full potential. But it did not come cheaply.

The organization Autism Speaks estimates that it takes around $60,000 a year to support someone with an ASD, Suskind says, adding that treatment for Owen cost about $90,000 a year.

“When we first got the diagnosis, the doctor asked me what I did for a living, and I said ‘newspaper reporter.’ He said, ‘I’m so sorry to hear that. You know, private equity is a nice way to go.’”

MOVING FOR SERVICES

The costs are so prohibitive that many affected families actually pick up and move to states that offer a superior array of therapeutic services. Suskind calls it a “Grapes of Wrath”-style migration, of families ultimately headed for locales like New York or Massachusetts. (To choose the right place for your family, check out Autism Speaks’ state-by-state resource guide.)

There is also a measure before Congress that aims to mitigate the financial burden for families: So-called ABLE accounts would be patterned after 529 college-savings plans, but specifically geared toward those with disabilities. The tax-advantaged savings could be put toward expenses like education, housing, therapy and rehab.

RELATED: Paying for My Special-Needs Child

One piece of advice from Mandell: Don’t automatically think that you have to drop out of the workforce in order to manage your child’s case full-time.

It’s the natural human instinct to want to do so, of course. No one knows your child and his or her needs like you do, and navigating multiple layers of city, state and federal services can indeed be a full-time job.

But when one parent drops out of the workforce, just as out-of-pocket expenses start to mount up, “it can become very financially difficult,” Mandell says.

He urges families to take a long-term view of caregiving. “In some cases it might be better for the mother to stay in the workforce, and then hire additional support to provide case-management services,” he says.

For Linda Mercier, the towering costs hit her family budget every single day. It meant cutting back wherever possible, taking second jobs and foregoing trips to visit family. All well worth it, of course, since Sam has been such an inspiring success story.

But there’s no question that raising a child with an ASD is a sobering financial reality.

“I would tell other parents of special-needs children that there is hope,” says Mercier. “It can get a lot better, and it does. But it takes a whole lot of money to get there.”

RELATED: Paying for My Special-Needs Child

TIME

Dad and Daughter Chase Down Alleged Burglars After Stumbling Upon Home Robbery

Some families go camping to bond, others get into car chases

Well here’s an untraditional father-daughter bonding activity for you: A Houston dad and his 22-year-old daughter chased down a group of burglars who had allegedly just robbed their house. And in true twenty-first century form, the terrifying car chase, which ended in a game of chicken, was all caught on a smartphone.

Kevin Smith, a plastic surgeon, was with his daughter Alana on his way home from a business trip Friday when they noticed a red pickup truck full of alleged thieves speeding out of their driveway. The family told CNN they turned their car around and started to chase the burglars not for fear of missing things, but because Alana had left her sister Kara at home on her way to the airport.

“I locked eyes on them, and their eyes were terrified. I knew that they had done something terrible,” she told CNN. “I didn’t know what happened to my sister, and I didn’t know if she was O.K. My instinct was this was my only chance to get these guys.”

And so they whipped out a smartphone to record evidence as they got into a car chase. Multiple times, the red pickup stopped and began backing into the sedan.

Alana’s voice can be heard on the tape asking, “Dad, what do I do?”

“Start it, Baby. Start it,” he responded.

The chase ended when the burglars’ truck whipped around and started heading towards the family’s car.

“It was just like in the movies,” Smith said.

Police showed up shortly after the final collision and caught two of the three men, placing them in custody.

The Smiths were also relieved to know that Kara was at the gym with her cellphone off at the time of the incident.

[CNN]

TIME Family

WATCH: Brad Pitt Might Be Your (Distant) Cousin

According to author A.J. Jacobs, you might be related to many of the beautiful faces you see on the big screen

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Brad Pitt at your next family reunion? According to author A.J. Jacobs, you might be related to many of the beautiful faces you see on the big screen. That is, very distantly related.

Jacobs says we all have famous and historical people in our family trees because we’re all connected through blood or marriage. In several years, according to Jacobs, we could have a family tree that connects all 7 billion on earth, which he calls an “unprecedented history of the human race.”

MONEY Budgeting

Yes, It’s Okay to Skip a Faraway Wedding

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West wedding
Jay Z and Beyonce turned down an invitation to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's wedding in Florence. So what's stopping you from saying no to your cousin's big day in Boise? via Twitter

For families, the costs of attending weddings add up fast. Financial planner Kevin McKinley offers a few ways to keep expenses in check, including just saying "no."

The average American will spend $109 per wedding gift given this year, according to a recent survey by American Express.

But that sum is a mere fraction of what is spent to attend a wedding. The same survey says that guests will fork over, on average, an additional $592 per wedding per person on transportation, lodging, and the like. That’s significant enough if you’re a single person, but for families with young kids, the costs can really put pressure on the household budget. For a family of four, you’re looking at around $2,400 based on the AmEx survey, and that’s just average. When your cousin decides to get married in Martinique or your best friend from college picks the Ritz as the hotel of choice, your bill could easily be double that.

And for that pricey amount, you’ll likely end up spending more time shushing and soothing your kids than you will be partying it up with the wedding couple and their other guests.

Here are some better ways families can honor a bride and groom getting married at a distance, without breaking the bank or damaging your relationships.

•Decline but pump up your gift. Of course, the cheapest option is to say no to the invitation. To avoid any hurt feelings or questions, include a personal note that expresses your best wishes and your regret over not being able to make it–you might allude to the difficulty of choosing between bringing the whole family along and finding a suitable sitter for several days of round-the-clock care. Now to really take the sting out of the decline, consider sending a gift of cash that significantly exceeds the average gift amount (assuming you can afford it).

Don’t worry about offending the couple—55% of couples in the American Express survey said that they prefer cash to other more tangible gifts.

Even though you’re spending more than you usually would on a gift, you can think of it as savings over what you would have spent on the trip. That gift will go farther for the recipients too, since you’ll also be saving the couple (or their parents) the $220 per guest a survey from TheKnot.com found to be the average amount spent on food and entertainment at weddings in 2013.

What it’ll cost you: $300, assuming you give a gift triple the average amount.

•Decline, but make a date to celebrate separately. The other downside of spending thousands of dollars to attend a wedding—besides spending thousands of dollars—is that the bride or groom won’t be able to give you more than a few minutes of their attention. And if you don’t know anyone who will be attending besides the bride and groom, you’ve spent about $1,000 per minute with your friends.

You can get more quality time for less cash by getting together separately with the newlyweds after the wedding. So, if they live near you but are having a destination wedding, schedule a date to take them out for dinner when they’re back. If they live elsewhere, make a plan to visit them in their town, with your kids, at a different time. You’ll be able to pick your dates according to the most affordable time to travel, and perhaps save on hotel and dining costs by staying with the couple.

What it’ll cost you: $550, assuming you give a generous $200 gift, take them out for a $300 meal, and pay a babysitter around $50 to watch your kids; what it will cost to visit at another time depends upon where they live, whether you fly or drive, whether you stay with them and how much you spend on the gift

•Leave the kids at home. If you must attend the wedding, whether due to a sense of obligation or anticipation, you might consider leaving the children at home with a sitter or trusted relative. The net cost of the trip will still be much less than if you brought the kids, and you’ll be able to relax a little and enjoy yourself more.

What it’ll cost you: $1,184 based on the per person numbers from American Express and assuming you can convince a family member to babysit for free; more if you can’t.

•Fly solo. Can’t find someone to watch the kids but still want to go to the wedding? Another more affordable route would be to have the parent who’s less familiar with the couple stay at home while the other attends.

What it’ll cost you: $592 based on the per person numbers from American Express, plus the cost of a very nice souvenir for the parent who didn’t get to stay in a hotel room and wake up late!

•Make a vacation out of it. You’re probably planning some kind of family getaway anyway. And hopefully you’ve already set some money aside for this purpose. So look for ways to build your trip around the event so that your money does double duty (most importantly because you avoid paying for pricey airfares twice).

Could you tack on a week before or after the celebration? Is there someplace you’d all like to go that’s within driving distance? Turning the event into a vacation can make it more fun for all involved.

What it’ll cost you: More than $2,400 probably, but you’ll still save money by combining two trips.

______

Kevin McKinley is a financial planner and owner of McKinley Money LLC, a registered investment advisor in Eau Claire, Wisc. He’s also the author of Make Your Kid a Millionaire. His column appears weekly.

TIME Family

Jimmy Kimmel Gets Parenting Advice From a Child

Get this little girl a parenting book deal

Jimmy Kimmel and his wife are expecting a third child, but since it’s been a while since he had a baby around the house, the comedian decided to brush up on his parenting skills with the help of an adorable child.

Her biggest piece of advice? “I suggest you start changing the diaper.” This isn’t payback for all those Halloween candy pranks, is it?

But don’t worry Jimmy, at least “you’re not really like, going to eat the poop.” Phew.

TIME Family

Study: Less-Structured Time Correlates to Kids’ Success

Research found that young children who spend more time engaging in more open-ended, free-flowing activities display higher levels of executive functioning, and vice versa

Parents, drop your planners—a new psychological study released Tuesday found that children with less-structured time are likely to show more “self-directed executive functioning,” otherwise known as the “cognitive processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-oriented behavior.”

Doctoral and undergraduate researchers at University of Colorado, Boulder, followed 70 children ranging from six to seven years old, measuring their activities. A pre-determined classification system categorized activities as physical or non-physical, structured and unstructured.

The resulting study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, was led by Yuko Munakata, a professor in the psychology and neuroscience department at the university. Munakata measured self-directed executive functioning using a verbal fluency test, “a standard measure on how well people can organize direct actions on their own,” she said.

The test asked children to name as elements in a particular category, like animals, as they could. “An organized person will group the animals together, listing farm animals, then move on to the next grouping,” Munakata said. “An unorganized person will say ‘cat, dog, mouse’,” providing a disconnected list of animals, inhibiting further recollection.

The results indicated that children who spend more time engaging in less-structured activities display higher levels of executive functioning. The converse also proved true: Children in more structured activities displayed lower executive functioning abilities.

“Executive function is extremely important for children,” Munakata told EurekAlert!. “It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification. Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later.”

Munakata added a disclaimer that the study merely proves correlation, not causation. “Right now we don’t know if kids self-directed executive functioning are shaping their time, or if their activities are shaping self-directed executive functioning.”

Causation is the next piece of the puzzle, and will undoubtedly be the focus of a future longitudinal study. Until then, parents looking for the perfect balance for their kids have something else to chew on.

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