5 Steps to Help Your Children Build Good Credit

7 12 2016

As if negotiating young adulthood weren’t hard enough – with the perils of dating, starting a career and figuring out how to keep your whites from turning pink in the washer – young people leaving the nest also need good credit. Without it, they face obstacles getting a car loan, a credit card or an apartment, and could end up paying higher interest rates for loans they do get. To build credit, young people need to show they can use credit responsibly, but how can they do that if no one will give them credit?

Fortunately, there are ways you can make it easier for your children. Start by educating them from an early age and making sure your own credit habits provide a good example. Follow these other five steps, and by the time they’re flying solo, your kids should be well on their way to a solid credit score.


1. Help them open savings and checking accounts. A savings account is a basic building block for helping children understand the financial world. Help them open an account when they’re young, and then let them deposit allowances, birthday money and cash from odd jobs. Encourage them to save up for something they want to buy to introduce the concept of delayed gratification. As the account grows, your child will also see first-hand how compound interest works.

When your children hit their early teens, help them open a checking account. Show them how it works and teach them about penalties if they overdraw or bounce checks. Once they know the basics, ease them into a debit card. This will give them some spending independence, but will limit their spending to their checking account balance.

2. Have your teen get a job. A solid work ethic goes a long way toward making your child into a responsible adult. Getting a part-time job in high school helps teach children the value of money, the thrill of seeing savings grow and the disappointment of watching it disappear if they make bad decisions. All of this is a precursor to understanding credit. Having income also helps in later years, when they’re ready to apply for their own credit cards.

3. Add them as authorized users on your credit card. Assuming your own credit habits are sound, and your card will allow it, this is a good way to help your children establish their own credit record. As authorized users, your teens will usually get a card in their names, tied to your account. In many cases, the account goes on both your credit record and your kid’s record.

While the authorized user can make purchases on the account, only the primary cardholder is liable for making payments. To help your child’s record as much as possible, together you should use only a small portion of the credit line and pay the bill every month on time.

If you think your teens are not yet mature enough to handle a credit card, you may want to add them as authorized users without giving them access to the account. Their credit will grow as you use and pay off the card every month, but there’s no chance they’ll ring up charges they can’t pay for.

Once you think your children are ready to handle credit cards, set ground rules for what they can charge and how payments will be made. Monitor their charges, and if your children turn out to be irresponsible with spending or payments, you can remove them from your account.

There are a couple of ways to smooth this process. One is to let your child be the only one who uses the card. That way, you don’t have to sort through who made what charges.

4. Have your college-going child apply for a student credit card. Once your children reach their late teens, if they’ve established good financial habits, they may be ready to apply for their first credit card. College students may be able to qualify for student credit cards, which usually have lower credit limits and higher interest rates than general credit cards carry.

Still, by law, applicants under age 21 will have to show that they have enough income to support a credit line. A part-time job is usually good enough proof. The other way for them to qualify is for you or someone else to co-sign for them. But you get less control as a co-signer than when you add your child as an authorized user. For instance, you may not receive notice of late payments, which can harm your credit score. For that reason, it’s better for your children to get their first solo card on their own.

5. Help them apply for a secured card. If a student card is not an option, an 18-year-old can apply for a secured card. A secured credit card requires cardholders to put down a deposit of a few hundred dollars, which is usually equal to the credit limit they’ll be given. Because there’s little risk to the bank in these situations, most people can get approved for a secured card.

The downside to secured cards is that many of them charge hefty fees. But if your child uses the card regularly for small charges and pays off the balance every month, in six months to a year, your kid should qualify for an unsecured card.

Living with Children: You might need a parent nanny, if –

5 11 2016

Do you need a parent-nanny? Not a nanny for your child, mind you, but one for YOU!

I recently introduced my readers to what I call “upside-down, inside-out and turned around backwards parent-view disorder” (the column in question is currently posted on johnrosemond.com). The symptoms of this ubiquitous malady include pervasive and persistent parenting stress, worry, anxiety, guilt, anger, resentment, and then, more guilt. When all is said and done, these poor souls are in never-ending confusion over “Who’s in charge around here?”

Many of the folks who suffer from UDIOTABPVD are in denial – clueless, in the vernacular. So, to help these suffering souls self-identify, I am rolling out the “Am I Or Am I Not a Raving Parenting Lunatic Scientific Rating Scale.” Here’s how it works: Simply write T (for True) or F (for False) to the left of each of the following 20 questions. Don’t think too much about any answer. Go with your initial inclination.

1. I think more about my children than I think about anything else.

2. I believe parents should pay as much attention to their children as they possibly can.

3. I want to be involved in every aspect of my kids’ lives.

4. My relationships with my children are the most important relationships in my life.

5. I want my children to like me.

6. When a decision of mine upsets one of my children, I usually second-guess myself.

7. It’s a parent’s responsibility to help a child get good grades in school.

8. Bullying is anything done to my child by another child that upsets my child.

9. Other adults often fail to understand and treat my child properly.

10. When my child feels upset, I feel upset as well.

11. I usually finish an instruction to my child with the word “Okay?”

12. One of my children is very argumentative.

13. One of my children seems to be very needy of my attention.

14. One of my children often interrupts me when I’m talking to someone else.

15. Raising a child (or children) is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

16. Worrying about one or another of my kids causes me frequent sleep deprivation.

17. One of my children is very demanding and disrespectful.

18. One of my children cannot take “no” for an answer.

19. I feel guilty about sometimes wanting my children to leave me alone.

20. I must be doing something wrong.

If you answered True to between zero and 5 questions, inclusive of 5, you’re okay. Remain calm and stay the course. If you answered True to between 6 and 10 questions, inclusive, you are shaky but hanging in there. If you answered True to between 11 and 15 questions, your parenting mental health is over the edge. If you answered True to more than 15 questions, you are a certified parenting wreck. You need a live-in parenting expert – a parent-nanny, if you will. Call me. Anything is negotiable.

(Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at www.johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at  questions at rosemond.com; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.)

Social Security: Every day is internet security day

5 10 2016

Being safe online is important every day. There may be days devoted to internet security awareness, but you need to be careful every time you go online.

Do you know what it takes to be safe online? You probably connect daily to get information, shop, socialize, or work. Every time you go online, you need to avoid the risk of theft or fraud. Here are some tips to use while visiting the Social Security website and the other websites you use.

Use Strong Passwords – Strong passwords have at least eight characters and include capital letters, numbers, and non-letter characters. These passwords make it harder for someone to hack your account.

Don’t Recycle Passwords – Although, it requires effort to think of new passwords constantly, it provides safety when you do. What if you use the same password for every site and you lose your password? If someone finds it, they could get access to all your accounts. Many people choose to reuse – don’t be one of them.

Take Advantage of Multifactor Authentication – Many websites offer the option to use a second factor – or method – in addition to just a username and password to ensure that only you access your information. Using more than one factor to establish identity makes it harder for someone to get into your account and steal your personal information. Beginning June 10, 2017, Social Security requires multifactor authentication to access a my Social Security account. Customers choose whether to receive a one-time security code to either their phone or email in order create a new account or sign into their account. Visit this link to find out more about how to secure your personal my Social Security account: www.socialsecurity.gov Consider using multifactor authentication whenever it’s offered to protect your information.

Read Scam Alerts – For information about fraudulent activities related to Social Security, you can find information at our blog Social Security Matters under the Newsroom section at blog.socialsecurity.gov. One way to avoid identity theft is to create your own my Social Security account, if you haven’t already. When you have an account, no one else can set up an account using your information. Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General investigates fraud involving Social Security and they publish Fraud Advisories at oig.ssa.gov The Federal Trade Commission website publishes information about scams that appear in the news at www.consumer.ftc.gov You’ll want to be aware of current scams to avoid being tricked.

Review Your Online Accounts and Credit Reports – Just as you review your earnings record with Social Security for accuracy at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, you should review your bank and credit card accounts for accuracy. Get a free copy of your credit report available annually from the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) at www.annualcreditreport.com and check it for incorrect entries.

Protecting your identity can be daunting. Guarding your personal information requires investing some time, but is worth it. Discourage theft and fraud by adopting these security practices when you use the internet.

Physician moms continue to struggle in a male-dominated culture

5 09 2016

As she prepared for the birth of her twins and the prospect of caring for three children under 18 months old, Dr. Hala Sabry felt anxious for the first time in her life. An emergency room physician, wife and mother in Southern California, Sabry lacked the option of taking years off to care for her growing family. Though she was accustomed to making split-second, life-or-death decisions in the emergency room, trying to figure out how to arrange and pay for child care for three small children while continuing to work was causing her chest pains and shortness of breath. “How am I going to do all this?” she wondered.

Many physician moms say it is challenging to be both a doctor and a mother. Dr. Uzma Yunus, a psychiatrist and mother of two from Glenview, Ill., knows firsthand the sacrifices physician moms make to succeed at work and care for their families. Sometimes, she says, it means skipping meals when a patient emergency causes the doctor to fall behind in her schedule. And often it means giving up downtime because, after working a full day (or night), she must also tend to children at home who need to be toilet trained, fed and cared for. “There are so many times when we are putting ourselves below other people’s needs, whether it’s our children, our families or our patients,” Yunus says. “That becomes a very strong contributing issue to burnout.”

Over the years, women have made great strides in the medical profession. In 2014 they represented nearly half (47.5 percent) of all medical school graduates – up from less than 7 percent in 1966.

Today, women physicians represent about a third of all medical doctors and even form the majority in some specialties, such as pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology.

But the profession doesn’t always treat women fairly. According to two recent studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association, women physicians are paid less and promoted less often than their male counterparts.

Another challenge is that physician training takes place during a woman’s prime reproductive years, but pregnancy is difficult in an environment that includes heavy workloads and long hours. Women who become pregnant may be labeled “selfish” and suffer the resentment of their peers, says Dr. Monique Tello, a primary care physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), who deliberately sought out (and found) a woman-friendly practice after she completed her training.

Though improvements are being made, medical facilities are still struggling to meet the needs of those who are both medical doctors and mothers. Physician moms continue to struggle with a male-dominated culture and an institutional resistance to change that makes it hard for them to thrive.

A research letter published in the May issue of JAMA Internal Medicine reports, “Despite substantial increases in the number of female physicians – the majority of whom are mothers – our findings suggest that gender-based discrimination remains common in medicine, and that discrimination specifically based on motherhood is an important reason.”

Researchers analyzed the responses to a survey of nearly 6,000 physician mothers who were members of the Physician Moms Group (PMG), an online community of over 60,000 from all medical specialties and every practice type. (Sabry founded the PMG in 2014.)

Nearly four out of five reported workplace discrimination of some kind, with two-thirds reporting gender discrimination and one-third reporting maternal discrimination. Maternal discrimination included inadequate pregnancy or maternity leave and lack of on-site accommodations for breastfeeding. Maternal discrimination was associated with higher rates of self-reported burnout.

One doctor who participated in the survey said she was told by her employer that she would have six weeks of maternity leave but “I had to take all of my six weeks of vacation and then had no vacation for the rest of the year, which was basically impossible with a new baby at home.”

Providing physician moms with a breast-pumping area is another need that often goes unmet. Busy physicians cannot leave their clinic to search for a place to pump or to nurse their baby, says Tello. She says she has seen facilities that either lacked a dedicated area for pumping or had a room that was situated too far away from patients, forcing doctors to take time out to get there and back.

Considering the results of the survey, Dr. Eleni Linos, assistant professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and one of the study’s authors, said, “What struck me is these women are playing so many roles. They are doctors to their patients, mothers to their children, caregivers to their sick relatives, teachers to their students.” The study was intended to identify areas in which employers could make improvements.

Research shows that everyone benefits when the system accommodates women doctors. According to a February 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, hospital mortality and readmission rates were significantly lower for patients treated by female physicians than by their male counterparts.

Conditions are gradually improving as more women enter the profession and begin to change the culture. Dr. Rachel Salas, an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the mother of two boys, says she was able to find a practice with family-friendly policies. The director of her division, the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep, is also a physician mom, and the rest of her team (both men and women) all have young children and understand issues like snow days or illnesses that keep children out of school and require flexibility. “I definitely can empathize and know what a lot of (other physician moms) are experiencing,” says Salas. “I have been really very fortunate.”

Some medical facilities and hospitals have begun to develop more mom-friendly policies, and Linos says she’d like this trend to continue. “I’d love to see more workplaces, more hospitals and clinics provide paid maternity leave, places for new mothers to pump or nurse, and child care facilities on-site,” she says. “I think these … policies really make sense for everyone.”

The first step in solving a problem, says Sabry is to acknowledge that it exists. She hopes that increased attention will encourage discussion and foster “a big change” that benefits not only today’s physician moms, but also the next generation of female doctors.

“Everybody wants a happy doctor,” says Sabry. “One who is optimized to the patient because her essential needs have been met is better able to help others.”

Census 2016: location and education affects how many children you have

5 08 2016
A young boy riding a bicycle is assisted by his dad in a park in Sydney
 ‘Across Australia those who live in major cities have a substantially lower rate of children ever born than women who live outside major cities.’ Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

Families are the heart of our community and society. They provide the foundation for socialising future citizens and workforce, and provide care for our elderly. Over the past 25 years there has been dramatic change in the makeup of Australian families due to changes in society’s acceptance of divorce, cohabitation and childlessness, and the changing roles of women in modern societies. The 2016 Australian Census of Population and Housing provides an ideal opportunity to examine the current state of the Australian family.

The census counted 6.1 million families in Australia in 2016. The most common family composition was a couple with children (45%), followed by couples without children (38%) and single parent families (16%). While there has been little change in composition of Australian families since the last census, there has been a considerable change in the last 25 years. In 1991, more than half of families were couple families with children (54%), 32% were couple families without children and 13% were single parent families. In 2016, more than four out of five single parents were females.

Hidden in the family composition statistics is information on relationship type. Couples in these data could be in either registered marriages, or de facto cohabitations. One of the major changes that has been witnessed over recent years has been the increase in cohabitation without marriage. In 2001, an estimated 15% of relationships were cohabiting. By 2016 this has increased to 18%. What is also hidden is the proportion of people who are in an intimate relationship with a person with whom they do not live. What we know from other research is that about 25% of the reported “single” population are actually in intimate relationship.

Children are central to families, yet women are increasingly having no children, and those who do, have fewer. Our current fertility rates are lower than those needed to replace the population. The current average number of children ever born is now 1.96 for women aged 40-44. This is below two, and well below the “one for mum, one dad, and one for the country” suggested by then treasurer Peter Costello in 2006.

One of the reasons for the decline in children ever born is that women delay having children compared to in the past, and because of the later start to childbearing, they end up having fewer children overall. For example, the proportion of women having one or two is now greater than those having three or more. The most common number of children is two, and will likely remain at two because families desire one child of each sex, and there is a desire for children to have a sibling.

Alongside this decline in the number of children each woman will have, there has been an increase in the number of women who remain childless. From the 2016 census, there has been a slight increase in childlessness, with 17% childless in the age group 40-44; women who are near the end of their reproductive years.

Having children is not distributed evenly across the population. Generally, women with higher levels of education have fewer children than those with lower levels of education. This is particularly noticeable for those with a post-graduate education. Around 30% of women with a post-graduate education are childless, compared with 19% of women with a bachelor’s degree, and 17% of women who have completed year 12. This translates to completed fertility of 1.55 children ever born for those with a post-graduate degree, 1.79 for women with a bachelor’s degree, and 1.96 for women who have completed year 12.

Where you live also matters. Across Australia those who live in major cities have a substantially lower rate of children ever born than women who live outside major cities. The more remote the area, the higher the fertility. Women in very remote areas are having almost one additional child than women in major cities.

More recent censuses have asked questions about same-sex relationships. In 2016 there were 46,800 couples reporting a same-sex relationship, an increase of 39%, up from 33,700 in 2011. Children also feature in same-sex families: one quarter of female same-sex couples, and 4.5% of male same-sex couples had children.

On the whole, the census confirms trends in family formation and change that have been ongoing in Australia since the 1980s. One strength of the census is that it continues to change in response to changing social norms. We now measure cohabitation outside of marriage and same-sex marriage and non-binary gender. These are all areas where we will continue to see change in future censuses.

Associate Professor Ann Evans is Associate Dean Research in the College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University. Associate Professor Edith Gray is the Head of the School of Demography, The Australian National University