John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org
All of your adult lives, you’re going to have to deal with the question “Who can we trust?” This will spill into all the important parts of your life: legal, medical and financial. It is possible to get very bad advice in all of these areas. But you’re forced to move on and keep looking. The same is true of child care, whether it is babysitters or nannies.
I have three children, two boys and the Princess Amanda. We had a series of au pairs when they were young, several of them from Finland, because of recommendations from a good friend who had great luck with an agency that specialized in Finnish girls. Two of them were wonderful, sweet and caring. The third young lady unfortunately discovered Harvard Square, and it became the focus of her life; she treated our kids like mild annoyances between trips to various watering holes that served 100 kinds of beer and schnapps. Then we had a Canadian, who, again in Harvard Square, met an obnoxious graduate student who convinced her that she was a superior being for whom we should be working. My wife had a phrase that would predict the future for certain relationships. “This will end in tears,” she used to say. And this one did. But no one ever stole from us. And we still get holiday cards from some of them, years later. Even the Canadian, who married beneath her. Why do they stay in touch?
This is the secret to getting people to be good to you—and your children. Make your nannies feel that you can offer them advice and friendship beyond their days working for you. Treat them as older children to a certain extent. Overpay them a little. Our last au pair, an American, was a referral from an obstetrician friend. She was pregnant, with no husband or boyfriend at the time. She lived with us for eight months. And when she went into labor prematurely, I raced her to the hospital on the Mass Pike, and in everyone’s confusion (it was 3 am), I signed her in as her husband. I’ve gotten a Christmas card from her for decades.
Be good to the people who take care of you. They can be very good to you, and most likely, they won’t steal your jewelry—because you could be more valuable to them in their futures.
Well, I’ve never believed in cliched advice or in cookie-cutter solutions to life’s conundrums. When it comes to your money, there are times when you have to be both creative and practical. You have to pay attention to the current economic and financial climate. For years now we have lived in the lowest interest rate environment of our lifetime, with traditional safe havens of CDs, money funds and short-term instruments yielding almost zero. My clients and friends cannot accept zero on their money. Most of them need income, and dividends can be up to 40 percent of the total return on your holdings. For at least the past five years, I favored the great global brands, U.S.-based, that pay dividends equal or exceeding 10- to 30-year treasuries—meaning eventual growth of the money and being paid while you wait.
I believe this is still the smartest strategy regardless of your age. Because in my experience, retired people overspend their income. They will need appreciation as they grow older. And for you young bloods out there, stay with growth. Over time, it will be much better for your financial picture.
And try to be a contrarian, not following the crowd.
I don’t mind seeing us all out having a good time, but he posts the worst shots ever! Does he really have to post every single thing he sees? Well, for now, the answer is yes, he’ll post till the cows come home (a retro expression). I’ll admit that with my iPhone I take more photos than I ever have in my life. And I send them off to nearest and dearest. But not to the world.
Anything that annoys you now about him will only grow in intensity and annoy you more if you ultimately marry. So you should move on from this relationship or—if you think it’s real love—tell him about your concern, and dare to say “Grow up.”
Women are the adults. But men need to be educated.