Raising Financially Fit Kids

 Raising Financially Fit Kids  

By: Sarah Johnson, CFP®

 Last summer, as I watched my children almost effortlessly learn to waterski, I was reminded of how much easier it is to learn a new skill at a young age, especially as I then watched my husband’s struggle, who had not waterskied as a kid. This is true with financial literacy as well, however as parents, this is a topic we often don’t think about until our kids are going off on their own. A recent study by Visa showed that only 18% of parents felt their young adult children were ready to manage their money. Certainly, we can do better than this. So how can we make more of an impact on our kid’s future success? Let’s start with what we do know. Studies show that there are two traits which most appropriately predict a child’s future financial stability. These traits are: 1.) An ability to delay gratification and tolerate distress, and 2.) An ability to stay focused. So, without over-emphasizing the focus on money, here are some ways that you can help prepare your child for a secure financial future.   

Pre-school to Kindergarten:  Clear jar over piggy bank  While piggy banks are cute to look at, they lose one of the greatest teaching tools for this age group – a visual. This age is still very much in the “out of sight, out of mind” way of thinking. When they put their savings in a clear jar, they can see it getting bigger with saving, and smaller with spending.  And remember, just as we do with all habits we are fostering at this age – make a big deal out of seeing the savings getting bigger.  Encourage sharing of toys. While parents understand that this is an important lesson as our kids go out into the world to make friends, it also helps children learn to manage and control their emotions. The ability to sit with, and tolerate the feeling of wanting something is crucial to not only their financial success, but their mental health as well. If we can help our children practice patience as they share a toy they want to play with, down the road they will be better prepared to practice that same patience when choosing to let their money grow, rather than buy a big new toy as soon as they see it.   

Elementary and Middle School:  Work on impulse control. Again, the ability to delay gratification is key to success. However, as any parent can tell you, this does not come naturally to kids. It must be taught. When it comes to spending money, encourage kids to wait a few days between the initial “want” and the “buy” especially for all purchases over $5-$10. Kids at this age are still impulsive, and lack understanding of money.  Helping your child put time between the “want” and the “buy” allows you time to talk with your child, and teach them how to properly think through a purchase. Manage anxiety and improve focus. Make sure their homework area is free of clutter, help them learn and practice deep breathing, and make sure that during stressful situations, such as homework, they take brain breaks – get outside, or at least stand up and walk around every once in a while. The brain can only absorb what the body can tolerate. A more focused mind will generally have an easier time evaluating bigger or more difficult decisions, such as those related to money. There will be many situations as kids grow up where they may need to make quick decisions – renting an apartment, buying school supplies, or a car, etc.- and being in the habit of calming down in the face of a complex situation is a great skill to start practicing from an early age.  Should I give an allowance?  This is a personal choice that each family needs to think about and find balance about. This age still needs to be learning that money is something that is earned in order to understand its value, so kids should not be given allowance without some sort of contribution. Do not tie allowance to chores that are expected. Kids need to understand that in a family we help each other. Instead, consider attaching allowance to expectations or chores that go just a little above and beyond.  Another technique that can be used is to have them split their allowance into 3 buckets: Spend/Save/Give. This technique helps foster the idea that saving and giving are expectations, not only spending. Some families even choose to give their child “interest” on their savings.  

High School: Saving for Education. It’s time to emphasize the “save bucket” more, with a focus on saving for education – whether that means a trade school, a 4-year degree, or a skills-based program. Giving at this stage is still important, but can now be of your time more than money (and hey, volunteering doesn’t look bad on a college application). Debt: By the end of high school, make sure to have a talk with your child about the dangers of debt, and how people get themselves in trouble. Particularly student loan debt and credit card debt. Help them understand what a credit score is, and the effect that debt has on it. Kids at this age still struggle with seeing the big picture. Make sure they understand that debt and poor credit will decrease their choices and opportunities in the NEAR future. While working on all of these tips are sure to improve your child’s financial future, most have wonderful mental health benefits as well, it’s a win-win for all.   

Please contact us if you’d like to discuss a plan for you:

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Is Your Brain On Track For Retirement? Preventing Alzheimer’s

Is Your Brain On Track For Retirement? Preventing Alzheimers.

By Sarah Johnson CFP®, MS, RD

Take a moment and picture what you believe your retirement years will look like. For most, the idea of retirement brings up images of travel, relaxation, and meaningful time with family and friends. We all know that in order to achieve our retirement dreams, we must save money in our early years. We are given very specific advice on how to reach these goals: Max out your 401k, save 10%-15% of your salary annually, contribute to an IRA, etc. However, if you are working hard to save enough money to fund your retirement dreams, let’s make sure to also make a plan for how you will get there in a healthy body that can enjoy this life you dream of.

Alzheimer’s is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA. While it is true that there is a strong genetic component to developing Alzheimer’s, our future is not written in stone. Environment plays a significant role. Experts agree that the development of Alzheimer’s is a combination of age, genetics, environment, and lifestyle. While we cannot change our age or genetics, we can make changes to the other risk factors. Most of the research showing the rapid growth of Alzheimer’s disease is based off of those living an “American Diet lifestyle”. Change your lifestyle, change your outcome.

It is well researched that what we eat affects our chances of developing Alzheimer’s and/or other memory issues as we age. The problem however, is that there are so many different recommendations out there, and many of these diets that claim to help have so many rules it can be difficult to know where to begin. But here is the good news: there are a few common threads and simple steps you can take to make a significant impact on your brain health.


Diet has a powerful effect on brain health. Most diets fail as they force us to focus on what we can’t have. Instead, try focusing on what you can have. Put good in, get good out.

Top Powerful Brain Foods

  • Blueberries!!! (organic when possible): Aim for minimum of 2x/wk
  • Fish- Powerful Omega 3’s. Aim for 1x/week
  • Nuts & Seeds: Healthy fat & antioxidants: Aim for 5x/wk
  • Leafy Greens & Other Vegetables: Packed with vitamins. Aim for 6x. wk
  • Beans: High in fiber & protein, aim for 2x/wk

And here is one more suggestion you may like. It has been shown that one glass of red wine/day helps reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s (and no, more is not better, sorry).


While food will give you the most bang for your buck, if you have a family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s, find an MD or Registered Dietitian who can discuss supplements with you. CoQ10, Omega 3’s, and ALA can be helpful. Talk to your health provider about what amount, if any, of these you should be taking.

Vitamin D is worth looking at even if you do not have a family history of memory issues. Low vitamin D as we age is associated with an increased rate of cognitive decline, and those with even mild vitamin D deficiency had a 53% increased risk of developing dementia. Those with severe deficiency had a 123% increased risk. Particularly those living in northern states where we get less sunshine should have their vitamin D levels tested.


While diet will always have the biggest impact on your brain health, we have all heard the phrase “Use it or lose it”. Recent research shows that this is very true come retirement. Retirees who are not using their brains for complicated tasks, can have up to a 40% faster decline in short term memory. Here are some things you can do in addition to healthy eating, to help keep your brain sharp.

Top Brain activities to help avoid Alzheimer’s

  • Interact with people-Regular, meaningful interactions with others is great protection for the brain.
  • Volunteering is a wonderful option to boost your brain and your spirit.
  • Crossword puzzles– if you prefer online, check out one of the many brain games apps.
  • Turn off the TV and pick up a book- Reading calms nerves and stimulates the brain keeping you mentally alert; television has the opposite effect.
  • Surround yourself with youth– play with children- doing so helps get you moving and using your creative skills.
  • Exercise- Exercise benefits brain cells by increasing blood flow to the brain. Also, high blood sugar is connected to some forms of Alzheimer’s. Exercise helps keep your sugars in check, and sharpens short term memory.
  • Take up gardening- being outside, touching the earth which is filled with probiotics, and the satisfaction of seeing something grow is a perfect combination for overall health.

Vitamin D…an Essential Key To Your Future Plans

Vitamin D…An Essential Key To Your Future Plans.

By: Sarah Johnson, CFP®, RD, MS

The way people view retirement these days has changed.  Individuals are seeking and planning for more active, fulfilling retirements than ever before.  When working hard to save for retirement, do not forget that happiness and wealth are largely dependent upon the foundation of your overall health.  Getting sufficient Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin,” is one easy step everyone can take.

How Vitamin D affects your overall health:
  • Improves lung function in those with asthma.
  • Lung health is especially crucial during Covid19!
  • Keeps your bones strong.
  • Over 55% of adults in the USA have low bone density.
  • Promotes positive gut health, protects, and restores good bacteria in the gut.
  • Reduces chronic inflammation.
  • Helps keep you looking and feeling young.
  • Lowers your risk of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, type I and Type II diabetes.
  • Can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50% and colon cancer by 75%.
How to know if you are deficient in Vitamin D

Risk Factors:

  • You may have low Vitamin D if you:
  • Live in the northern hemisphere (HELLO MINNESOTANS!)
  • Are over the age of 50
  • Suffer from or are at risk for obesity – BMI over 30 (calculate yours here)
  • Have a diet low in fish and fortified dairy
Signs and symptoms:
  • Look out for these signs and symptoms of low vitamin D – though this is not a complete list:
  • Fatigue
  • Low bone density
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Autoimmune disease
  • The best way to know your Vitamin D levels is to get tested.  While all healthcare providers should be able to perform the test, check with your insurance first, to make sure you are aware of potential costs.
How to best get your daily dose:

Sun Is King (or sun lamps for winter in the northern hemisphere)

Hands down, the best and most natural way to get your Vitamin D is from the sun.  While there are other issues with too much sun exposure, there is no way to get too much vitamin D from the sun, as your body transforms it into a non-toxic form.  Isn’t the body amazing?

  • Most people only need 15 minutes a day during peak sun hours (10am-3pm).  A simple tip is to try waiting 15 minutes to apply your sunscreen.  Upper body has more receptors than your lower body, so try to make sure it’s not just your legs that are seeing the light.
  • You may also notice an improvement in your gut function when you get sufficient Vitamin D from the sun, and with 74% of Americans suffering from gut and digestion issues, this is a huge benefit.

If you have low levels of vitamin D, and your time in the sun is not cutting it, supplementation can be an option.  When looking at supplements, ask your provider for a trusted brand and look for one that contains K2 in order to maintain proper calcium levels in your body.

Many people ask “what level of vitamin D should I be taking?” It is important to note that setting optimum vitamin D levels should be personalized, as your vitamin D requirement is unique.  So many things from genetics, to magnesium levels, to inflammation can affect how well you absorb and metabolize vitamin D.  A supplement intake that works for one person may not be appropriate for another.  Talk with a registered dietitian or your MD, and get your levels tested.


Unlike most other nutrients our bodies need, Vitamin D is not readily found in high amounts in foods, though it is found in small quantities in cod liver oil, beef liver, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.  As you can see, it can be difficult to meet your requirements day in and day out with food alone.  While your diet may not reach your full daily requirements, it certainly is an important piece of the puzzle.

Just like with a financial plan, there is no “one size fits all” plan for your optimal health, but starting with some awareness about your Vitamin D intake is a great place to start, as your health truly is your greatest investment.