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.

TIME royals

Prince George Gets a Really Fancy Birthday Present

The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Tour Australia And New Zealand - Day 3
Prince George of Cambridge attends a Plunket Play Group at Government House on April 9, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Samir Hussein—WireImage/Getty Images

Happy birthday, Prince George

What do you get the 1-year-old who has everything? His own currency, of course.

The Royal Mint announced it is creating a limited-edition £5 silver coin in honor of Prince George’s first birthday on July 22. It’s the “nation’s gift” to the Royal Baby.

Queen Elizabeth II’s face will be on the coin, as with all currency in the U.K. But it will also be the first coin to include the cruciform version of the royal arms, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, since 1960. There will only be 7,500 coins available, with a limit of 10 coins per household.

Each coin will be sold for £80, or about $136. The coin was approved by the child’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (that’s William and Kate to you commoners), along with his great grandmother, Queen Elizabeth.

TIME Family

Grieving Daughter Takes Life-Size Cardboard Cutout of Deceased Father Around the World

A moving tribute to a man who always wanted to travel the globe

A Virginia dad died from stomach cancer at 52 before fulfilling his lifelong dream of traveling the world. Now, CNN reports his daughter, New York-based artist Jinna Yang, 25, made it come true by going around Europe in April with a life-size cutout of her dad Jay Kwon Yang, taking photos of it in front of landmarks.

“Most of the time when you see a life-sized cutout, it’s of Justin Bieber or One Direction, and it’s usually in a nine-year-old’s room,” Yang told CNN. Plus, the six-foot-tall cardboard figure folded up, so in terms of transportation, she joked, “I didn’t have to pay for an extra seat for dad!”

 

MONEY Kids and Money

The Secret To Raising Financially Independent Kids

What parents can do from the get-go to help their children prosper later in life.

It’s the secret fear of every American parent: failure to launch.

What if, despite your best efforts, your adult kids just aren’t able to sustain themselves financially?

The idea used to give Andy Byron the cold sweats. With a whopping five kids, the 57-year-old financial planner from Pleasanton, Calif. wanted no part of “delayed adults” hanging out in his basement well into their thirties.

So he and his wife turned their household into a virtual factory for churning out financially independent kids. The eldest girl, 29, is an English language teacher. The 26-year-old twin boys work for Apple and PricewaterhouseCoopers, respectively. Their 22-year-old son scored a paid summer internship with medical device manufacturer Stryker Corp, with an eye toward a career in medical sales.

The 19-year-old daughter, a college sophomore in the fall, is combining her studies with a paid summer internship and a part-time accounting job during the school year.

So what’s their secret sauce?

“Start early, be consistent, and make sure they know what their responsibilities are,” Byron says.

As soon as they were 16 or 17, the parents told their kids that they had to get jobs, and would be on their own after graduation. As a result, the three oldest are out of the house and get no more monthly cash from the bank of Mom and Dad; the younger two will follow suit soon.

While the Byron clan appears to have figured it all out, it’s no easy task to nudge kids from the nest. Among people in their 40s and 50s who have adult kids, a stunning 73% report lending financial help over the previous year, according to Pew Research Center, a Washington-based think tank.

Are the successful launches of the 27% due to thoughtful, years-long projects to educate kids about handling finances? Or are they product of tough love, throwing adult kids into the deep end of the pool in order to force them to swim?

“They are more the result of financial education, and talking about money, which ranks right up there with sex as a taboo subject,” says Sally Koslow, author of the book Slouching Toward Adulthood.

For those with children who have yet to launch, there is plenty of time left on the clock. Here is how to prep kids for true financial independence, during college and the critical years that follow:

Do Your Part

If you don’t want your kids financially hanging on, do whatever you can to help them graduate from college debt-free. Seven out of 10 college grads last year had outstanding loans, at an average debt of $29,400, according to the advocacy group Project On Student Debt. To help them avoid indentured servitude, start saving as soon as they’re in swaddling clothes.

Andy Byron and his wife contributed at least $50 a month, and often much more, into 529 college-savings plans for each one of their five kids—”as soon as each child had a Social Security number,” he says.

Byron supplemented that aggressive strategy by “strongly suggesting” the kids go to public, in-state universities. The payoff: All the Byron grads have emerged from their college years free of student debt.

Related: How Much Do I Have to Save for College?

Draft a Wingman

The popular HBO series Girls was premised on a key event: Lena Dunham’s character getting financially cut off by her parents.

That can be excruciating for everyone involved, but necessary nonetheless. “Parents get so emotionally involved,” says Matt Curfman, a vice president with financial advisers Richmond Brothers in Jackson, Mich. “That’s why I tell them, ‘If you need me to jump in and help, even if I end up being the bad guy, I’m happy to do so.'”

It doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop, Curfman notes. If your adult kid runs into financial trouble, write down a concrete plan to help with a certain amount of dollars for a certain number of months—”but that’s it.”

Become a Part-Time Professor

Kids get plenty of calculus and chemistry in high school and college, but personal finance? Not so much.

That’s where parents can make themselves a critical resource. For 24-year-old Annie-Rose Strasser, home instruction was what set her on the path to become the financially independent young adult she is now. Strasser has a full-time job as a journalist in Washington and lives in her own apartment. “I never learned personal finance when I was in school—401(k)s, saving, balancing a budget: I learned it all from my parents,” she says.

Paired with that informal home-study was the early expectation that Strasser would put herself to work as soon as she was able. A constant stream of it—at summer camps, at office jobs, at paid internships—helped set the table for her successful launch.

“My parents aren’t the kind of people who would say, ‘Go off and explore yourself,'” she laughs. “Instead, they put a lot of stock in the idea of finding a career, saving money—and being extremely financially responsible.”

MONEY Shopping

School’s (Almost) Out! Just In Time for Back-to-School Sales

BSIP SA / Alamy—Alamy

If you thought now was the time to relax and celebrate the end of the school year, J.C. Penney, Walmart, and Lands' End have a back-to-school sale for you.

Last summer, retailers raised eyebrows by rolling out back-to-school sales in early July, within a week or two of when kids escaped the clutches of teachers, principals, and algebra homework. “In seven and a half years, I’ve never once seen so much emphasis put on back-to-school before July 4,” National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis told AdAge at the time.

Fast-forward to June 2014, and retailers are at it again, pushing back-to-school sales earlier than ever. Consumers are getting the message that the time to purchase gear for the upcoming school year is before the current school year has ended. Like, now.

J.C. Penney began promoting back-to-school sales last weekend, according to Consumerist. Walmart already has a back-to-school web page for student fashions, backpacks, and other school gear, as well as another page devoted to back-to-college apparel and tech. Target just introduced a college registry program, so that students can try to get other people to buy them stuff. Apple’s back-to-school promotional deals are expected to be announced any day now. And Lands’ End? It started zapping customers with e-mails a couple of weeks ago, pushing the idea that early June is a fine time to buy school uniforms that kids won’t wear until around Labor Day.

It’s totally understandable why retailers try to move back-to-school shopping earlier and earlier each year. Families generally have finite resources they can allocate to back-to-school fashion and paraphernalia, and once the pencils, protractors, glue sticks, notebooks, and a few new outfits are purchased, their back-to-school expenditures are done (in theory). Retailers want to beat the competition to the punch, before the family’s back-to-school budget is depleted.

“Retailers are going to do what they can to try to get consumers into the stores to shop, but the fact of the matter is they might not have much luck,” Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, explained to CNBC. “There aren’t any parents that I can find who have even thought of back-to-school shopping, because for most kids, they haven’t even gotten out of school yet.”

Still, even if shoppers don’t actually buy back-to-school stuff in June, the enticements may get them thinking about their needs for the upcoming school year. Panic sets in for a lot of overwhelmed parents, and they’re more apt to want to cross all of their children’s back-to-school items off their list as soon as possible. How can you relax on a summer vacation when you know there will be dorm rooms to decorate and Number 2 pencils that need to be purchased?

What’s more, early-season promotional efforts are limited mostly to the digital world. It’s much cheaper and easier for a retailer to send out an e-mail blast or put up a back-to-school web page than it is to rearrange shelves and create promotional sections inside thousands of stores. That’ll happen soon enough, of course, during the especially puzzling period when you’re likely to encounter Fourth of July, back to school, Christmas in July, and plain old summer sales in your local megamart, perhaps mixed in with the odd early Halloween aisle.

Of course, retailers risk some customer backlash by taking the expansion of shopping seasons too far. So-called “Christmas creep,” the phenomenon in which the Christmas shopping season kicks off in September and Christmas ads air within a few days of Labor Day weekend, has caused many an observer to groan in exasperation.

When the calendar says one thing and retailers are telling consumers something very different via sales and promotions, the result can be jarring, even off-putting. Yet retailers assume shoppers have short memories, and they hope that whatever bad feelings a too-early sale produces are outweighed by deals that are just too good to pass up.

MONEY deals

Cheap Seats! 10 Best Deals for Pro Baseball Fans This Summer

Philadelphia Phillies mascot shooting a Hatfield Hot Dog into the stands
The Philadelphia Phillies mascot the Phillie Phanatic shoots a Hatfield Hot Dog into the stands at Citizens Bank Park. Brian Garfinkel—Getty Images

With the kids getting out of school, it's time to take the family out to the ballgame. Ideally without breaking the bank.

It costs a family of four an average of $212 to attend a Major League Baseball game, and that doesn’t include premium seating or a single $25 corn dog. But with 81 home games apiece, a team can’t expect fans to happily pack the house and empty their wallets for every outing. To fill the seats, baseball franchises push a wide range of promotions and discounts on tickets and concessions, to sell fans and families on the idea that they can enjoy America’s pastime in person without spending an arm and a leg. With summer officially arriving this weekend, here’s a top 10 list of great pro baseball deals.

$1 Hot Dogs
Fans can feel free to arrive at Minute Maid Park hungry on Thursdays when the Houston Astros are playing in town: That’s when hot dogs are $1 apiece. Many other clubs, including the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals, also host a few $1 hot dog nights this season. They’re especially good deals compared to the prices faced by New York Mets fans, who pay $6.25 for a hot dog.

$4 Beers
The Cleveland Indians are repeating a 4-3-2-1 concessions pricing deal launched last season, in which 12-oz. domestic (non-craft) beers always cost $4, hot dogs are $3, soda refills go for $2, and, on 13 promotional nights, hot dogs are $1. The Arizona Diamondbacks also sell $4 beers for all home games, more than $2 less than the average in Major League Baseball, and nearly half the price of a beer at Boston’s Fenway Park ($7.75). And the D-Backs special is 14 ounces rather than the usual 12.

$5 Yankees Tickets
During select few games in 2014, a promotion with MasterCard brings New York Yankees seats in the Bleachers, Grandstand, or Terrace levels down to only $5 a pop. Only if you buy with a MasterCard, as you might imagine. If the $5 seats are sold out, another group of games features half-price seats for fans making the purchase with a MasterCard.

$6 Student Tickets
Students ages 18 and under or with valid ID can take advantage of a Washington Nationals discount that makes upper outfield seats just $7. The Baltimore Orioles student ticket deal is even better: $6 seats for Friday home games. (Upper Reserve tickets on Tuesdays are always $9 in Baltimore, as well, and there’s no requirement to be a student.) Plenty of other teams have student discounts—even in New York, where admission to the Mets “Student Rush” games starts at $10 for students (plus a $2 order fee).

$6.10 Saturday Seats
One of the cheapest ticket deals available for all fans, the Kansas City Royals offer tickets starting at just $6.10 on special “610 Saturdays” this season. To score, fans must listen to the local station 610 Sports Radio, get a coupon code, and purchase online before the limited number of tickets is sold out.

$27 All You Can Eat
If you’re going to blow a decent amount of cash at the ballpark, you at least shouldn’t be going home hungry. That’s the pitch behind the many “all you can eat” promotions offered around Major League Baseball. The $30 Astros deal scores you a Mezzanine level ticket and unlimited hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, peanuts, and soda. The Royals host a similar promo for $40 per person. Cheapest of all, the Miami Marlins’ all-you-can-eat special starts at $27, which includes a ticket for certain Saturday games, as well as all the usual concessions you can stomach.

Family Packs
Virtually every Major League squad runs value-laden promotions aimed at families, with baseball owners hoping that doing so will turn your kids into lifelong fans, or at least fill what otherwise would be empty seats. The offers might be free or half-price tickets for kids with the purchase of a full-price adult ticket, or $1 ice cream for fans ages 13 and under, or a wide range of family packages. Called “family packs” or “fun packs,” they might include, say, four tickets, four hot dogs, and four soft drinks for $59 (the Los Angeles Angels), or four tickets, four hot dogs, four bags of peanuts, and four drinks for $50 (Oakland Athletics).

Dynamic Pricing Deals
After seeing fans flock to secondary market, dynamic-priced ticket sites like StubHub and TiqIQ, many Major League operations have rolled out dynamic pricing systems of their own. Basically, the way they work is that tickets are priced based on supply and demand. The result is that prices can bottom out when a game day is approaching and thousands of seats have yet to sell. Thanks to dynamic pricing, Kansas City Royals tickets have sold for $10 and under this year, and Cincinnati Reds’ tickets have gone as low as $5. And don’t forget about the bargains on the secondary sites themselves, where tickets in the past have sold for the absurd price of 1¢ (before fees are tacked on).

Any Minor League Game, Anywhere
The simplest way to enjoy a pro baseball game without paying a fortune is by skipping the major leagues and heading to the nearest minor league ballpark, where it’s rare to spend more than $20 for a ticket and the concessions of your choice. And the promotions minor league clubs run are true bargains—$1 beer nights, for instance, and family packages with four tickets and four hot dogs for a total of $20. The minor league Louisville Bats, meanwhile, host occasional wine tastings, with sponsor Barefoot Refresh pouring free samples over ice for guests 21 and up. The (Florida) Fort Myers Miracle packs its season with all sorts of gluttonous deals, including “Sink or Swim Saturdays,” when fans 21 and up can pay $12 for a wrist band that grants unlimited domestic beers through the sixth inning.

Totally Free MLB Tickets
With age comes privilege. Seniors ages 55 and up have plenty of “mature” ticket deals at their disposal around the country. For instance, the Yankees offer game-day deals for seniors (and a guest) starting at just $5, while the Nationals’ senior tickets are $7. Seniors in South Florida get the best treatment of all, with fans “55 years young and above” entitled to totally free tickets on Thursday home games for the Miami Marlins. No advanced reservations; just show up on game day within two hour of the first pitch. Considering the Marlins’ popularity (or lack thereof) in Florida, plenty of seats should be available.

TIME Crime

Mommy Blogger Lacey Spears Pleads Not Guilty to Fatally Poisoning Her Son

Critics say she did it for online attention

For 26-year-old mother Lacey Spears, the internet served as her support group. The single mom blogged, tweeted, and MySpaced about the physical deterioration of her son Garnett. Spears sought solace in a cultivated online community when she blogged about Garnett’s 23 hospitalizations in the first year of his life to his last month alive in January, when the 5-year-old died with a lethal amount of sodium in his system in a hospital in Westchester, NY.

But law enforcement have come to question the highly documented narrative of a doting mother. Police say that Spears wasn’t helping her ambiguously ill son, but rather was poisoning him for years in a bid for attention and sympathy in a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Following the release of a five-part exposé by The Journal News and the filing of police charges, Spears turned herself in to authorities Tuesday and pled not guilty to second-degree depraved murder and first-degree manslaughter.

Spears’ illness was allegedly fed by online attention, and prosecutors said that the Internet-savvy mother had searched online for the effects salt would have on her son’s health before taking him to the hospital January 17, after she said he experienced seizures. He died six days later after his sodium levels rose sans medical explanation. Investigators suspect that she fatally poisoned him through his feeding tube.

Apart from saying “yes sir,” to a judge in court, Spears remained silent. “She really didn’t show any emotion,” Westchester Police Capt. Christopher Calabrese told CBS News. “She was kind of stoic when she came here. I think that she knew the grand jury was going on. She anticipated this happening, and she turned herself in with her attorney.”

Spears is expected to reappear in court on July 2. She faces up to 25 years in prison.

 

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