April 15, 2024

Bucks Blog: Do We Really Need a Tooth Fairy App?

The tooth fairy in 2009 in the play, Happiness.The New York TimesThe tooth fairy in the play “Happiness” in 2009.

Here’s one for the list of tools you can probably live without: An app for iPhones and iPads that helps compute what the tooth fairy should leave for your child.

Now, just in case there any children who are avid Bucks readers, I’m not saying that the tooth fairy doesn’t exist — just that he or she may confer with parents to determine the amount of money that is left under your pillow. The amount may vary, based on where you live, and by family (or fairy) tradition.

I am saying, however, that parents who need an app to tell them what value to place on their child’s bicuspids may need to get a life.

The app strikes me as appealing to well-meaning but possibly obsessive parents who complicate childhood by overthinking details that should just be fun.

And don’t get me started about parents who keep introducing new varieties of fairies. For instance, the “Halloween Fairy,” who takes away excess candy after the holiday — apparently to avoid cavities and/or obesity. I explained to my children that that particular fairy doesn’t visit our home, because we know when we should stop eating sweets.

News coverage of the tooth fairy app, which was created by Visa, included quotes from psychologists warning of the possible stigma that may await children who learn that their tooth fairy leaves less than their classmates’. According to an article in USA Today, Nobody wants to be the parent whose child is “the talk at recess,” because of a frugal Tooth Fairy, says Amy Moncarz, a second-grade teacher at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School in Rockville, Md.

Actually, I’d be more upset if my child was the “talk of recess” for eating dirt or bullying a classmate, but maybe that’s just me.

In a news release, Visa announced that a survey it conducted found that the average gift per tooth was now $3, up from $2.60 last year, and that some lucky children get $5 or more per tooth. (Are they gold teeth, one wonders?) The survey results are based on 2,000 phone interviews in July and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

I didn’t download the app but tried the tool online. It tells you what children of parents similar to you, in terms of education and income, are getting. My children seem to be faring well; their tooth fairy leaves $2 per tooth, while the average where we live is $1, according to the tool. But did I really need to know that?

Maybe tooth fairies should adopt an idea proposed by the author Bruce Feiler, and give a book instead.

Let us know what you think: Are we overdoing it with a tooth fairy app?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/do-we-really-need-a-tooth-fairy-app/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Your Money: Investment Advice for Doctors: First, Do No Harm

One group of individuals who make more financial mistakes than average may not have much in common with another. But we can learn a lot about what not to do by rubbernecking at each of them in turn.

So over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sifting through the mistakes of various classes of people in search of particular human frailties, acute messes of the well-meaning, and sins of action or inaction.

We begin with physicians, for whom a combination of factors can conspire against success. They take eight or so years off from the world to do nothing but learn how to be doctors, then receive a six-figure annual paycheck with no real idea of what to do with it. If they can save lives, many believe, managing money ought to be easy. But self-certainty like that can lead to all sorts of horrible mistakes.

Ben Utley, a financial planner in Eugene, Ore., whose clients are almost all physicians, says he doesn’t believe that doctors necessarily make more mistakes than the public at large. But if they make three or four times as much money as the average person, their mistakes are going to be much more noticeable.

“They may have an extra $50,000 annually on an after-tax basis,” he said. “If there is no financial plan, that money tends to wander off.”

Here’s how that ends up happening.

IMPATIENCE The life of a physician-in-training is one mostly of deprivation. After years of debt, apprenticeship and little sleep, it’s no surprise that doctors want to reward themselves when the first big paycheck arrives.

Meanwhile, real estate agents are standing by to speak sweet nothings into their ears, cooing about the trophy house that ought to serve as a marker of their newfound professional standing.

Mr. Utley has a name for the malady that results. He calls it “Residentia,” a disease marked by out-of-control impulses to buy a home two or three times the size of the average American’s, no matter how much medical school debt the doctor may have.

There’s one big problem with giving in, according to Joe Hollen, an emergency room physician turned financial planner in Reno, Nev. Doctors have a shorter working life than many people because they generally start no earlier than age 30 or so. Sure, they earn a lot, but they also pay more in taxes, receive little to no financial aid for their children’s educations and have fewer years for their retirement money to compound.

That makes it all the more important for them to put more money away sooner and not hand too much of it over to mortgage bankers or make other big financial blunders.

FAITH There are all sorts of opportunities for big earners to err financially, and the nature and professional standing of doctors make them particularly vulnerable.

“Doctors are used to a tremendous exchange of information on a very open level,” said Steve Podnos, a cardiac physician turned financial planner in Merritt Island, Fla. “There is no guile, no trickery. Everyone works together in a medical setting to get a good outcome.”

But in the world of financial services? Not so much. “Physicians are viewed as marks, because they are known to have money,” he said.

Barry Kaplan, a former dentist who is now a financial planner in Atlanta, says physicians and dentists can find themselves being pitched on questionable investment schemes. He recalls seeing the same company at every dental convention offering an opportunity to make tax-advantaged donations to one’s own charitable foundation and then use the money for things like college expenses.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘This can’t possibly be legal. Haven’t they found them out by now?’ ” he recalled. “Two plastic surgeons told me that everyone in their office was looking at it. I thought they were out of their minds.”

Eventually, the dentist behind the scheme was found guilty of tax fraud for filing false returns himself.

CONFIDENCE Hubris is perhaps the most common wealth destroyer here. “The problem is that they think they know better, that there is some secret formula to beat the market, and there’s not,” said Carolyn McClanahan, a financial planner in Jacksonville, Fla., who began her career as an emergency room physician. “I used to think that way too.”

Overconfidence is not unique to doctors, but given that they are already well above average in terms of raw intelligence and income, it can be all too tempting for them to think they can size up investments as quickly as they take a patient through triage.

And so they are tempted by all sorts of wacko pursuits. Mr. Podnos recalls a $25,000 marijuana farm investment that one physician client presented to him with a straight face, arguing that the returns were going to be 18 percent annually. Mr. Kaplan remembers a pitch to invest in rubber shoes for horses. “Apparently, all the guys in the doctor’s lounge were talking about it,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=03c48840cc14b3021cb7e01d6674a33f

This Life: Our Plugged-in Summer

But one thing was missing. So when my time came to occupy the “story rock,” I stood in front of a circle of 13 people and pulled out my secret ingredient: my wife’s iPad.

I didn’t set out to spend my summer vacation online. A few things conspired to give me the idea. The first was the insistent finger wagging one now encounters that the only way to spend quality time with one’s children is to disengage from technology.

Get off the grid! Take a screen vacation! As one well-meaning theologian put it in an e-mail someone forwarded me this June, “Fathers, put down your phones!” Go to any playground, play date or sporting event, he wrote, and dads are glued to their devices. “Am I moralizing,” he asked, “if I say that I think we are lingering longer on these devices than we realize or admit?”

The same day, my brother sent along a link for a new app (leafsnap) that allows users to identify trees by submitting photos of leaves. What a smart way to juice that nature walk, I thought. The next day I saw a Twitter message from Pierre Omidyar (@pierre), the eBay founder, in which he attached a photo and asked, “What is the name of this purple and white flower bush?” Seconds later he had his answer: lilac.

Then my sister wrote to ask how she could identify the bird building a nest on her deck. “Take a picture and put it on Facebook,” I said. “You’ll have an answer within the hour.” She bet me it wouldn’t work, but within 19 minutes two friends had confirmed it was a Carolina wren.

I concocted a scheme. During weekends this summer, I would pursue the opposite of an unplugged vacation: I would check screens whenever I could. Not in the service of work, but in the service of play. I would crowd-source new ideas for car games and YouTube my picnic recipes. I would test the prevailing wisdom that the Internet spoils all the fun. With back-to-school fast approaching, here’s my report.

For starters, the Web supplied an endless font of trivia and historical tidbits to enliven our days. I learned that a great debate still rages over who was the “Benedict” in eggs Benedict; that ancient mythologists believed fish were so afraid of the ospreys that they turned up their bellies in surrender; and that care packages like the one we sent my nephew at camp had their origins feeding starving Europeans in World War II and initially contained liver loaf and steak and kidneys.

Online videos are another boon to summer. When my 6-year-old daughters were upset that we didn’t awaken them at midnight to watch a brief light show on the Eiffel Tower, a quick trip to YouTube did the trick. My brother-in-law watched online videos to learn how to make the perfect crosshatch pattern on grilled fish. And my father used seaturtle.org to teach my girls how sea turtles emerge from the Atlantic near our home on Tybee Island, Ga., and lay eggs. Injured turtles are implanted with G.P.S. devices, allowing them to be tracked online.

One surprising way that being plugged in improved our vacations was using newfangled resources to solve oldfangled problems. Bugs, for one. I used the Internet to find a home remedy for the slugs eating my begonias (broken eggshells). My sister-in-law snapped a photo of the alarming bug bite on her 10-month-old and sent it along to our other sister who’s a pediatrician. (No Lyme disease!) Others did the same thing with burns and poison ivy.

The Web proved particularly helpful when we broke the disposal at my in-laws’ weekend house. No problem. I typed the problem into Google and within seconds was looking at the exposed rear end of a Joe the Plumber look-alike who made an extremely helpful video guide to being a weekend D.I.Y.-er.

The Web also helped give us the feeling that we saw people more than we did. While it’s fashionable to complain that we’re overly connected, I still found an occasional, virtual interaction with a friend or family member to be as pleasant as running into them on the beach. I texted with my 12-year-old nephew about geocaching when we get together. My kids Skyped with my parents about learning to swim.

Bruce Feiler’s most recent book, “Generation Freedom: The Middle East Uprisings and the Remaking of the Modern World,” was just published. “This Life” appears monthly.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=936716e5a7bb523f3dc0d48093415302