Sunday, June 11, 2006

Buy an Internship for Your Child

There is an interesting article on Wall Street Journal today titled "Interships for Sale". A few companies such as Morgan Stanley, NBC, Miramax, WebMD, Electronic Arts, etc. put out summer interships as auction items at private high school fund raising events. Parents, who are eager to build a perfect resume or a college application for their children, are paying thousands to land their kids an internship.

I asked my kids their opinions on this. They said, "This does not make sense. The companies should hire people with skills not people with money." We also wonder what kinds of messages are being communicated to the kids -- If you have a wealthy parent then you don't need to work hard to be the best.

This reminds me a story I read from the Fast Company magazine. A 22-year-old Harvard graduate did not get a promotion that he had been expecting. His boss told him that he needed to work on his weakness first. When his parents learned the news, his mother called the company's HR department the next day and demanded a mediation session. I don't know what happened in that session. Maybe she bought him a promotion after all.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Video Games

The Wall Street Journal published an article on the positive side of video games, the Brain Workout - In praise of video games. It is delightful to know that video games do not promote violence. Moreover, they are good tools to teach real-life skills.

Both my kids start playing video games since they were one year old. We have the entire evolution of consoles from 8-bit Nintendo, Sega, Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation 2, XBOX and individual desktops with uncensored high-bandwidth Internet connections. When they were young, my husband and I set time limits on how much they can play each day. The privileges would be taken away if they did not do well at school. As they grow older, they have learned our values and they use their judgment on how much they play. In our house, our motto is "work hard and play hard".

One thing surprised me is that my kids learn quite a lot of vocabulary words from games like Age of Empire. They are able to focus and persist for long hours on solving problems. There is always a quest for higher score and better performance. It correlates well with their learning behavior at school. Video games are not the center of their life. When they find things that are more interesting than the games, they spend their energy somewhere else, like doing Math.

Video games are no evil and they ought to be treated as an extracurricular activity. It could balance the sometimes really boring school work. They have been an essential part in my boys' childhood. I believe they will carry the fun memory with them for a long time.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I finally had a chance to read through this book and it addresses an important gap in today's education -- how money works.

There are a couple of key concepts that are worth communicating to our children.

  1. The definition of wealth. This is not about the house you live in, the car you drive or what luxury items you have. The simple definition offered in the book is how long you can sustain your current life style when you stop working.
  2. The differences between buying assets and buying liabilities. Assets are things that add cash to your networth, such as stock, real estate and investment. Liabilities are things that subtract cash from your networth, such as mortgage, credit card debt and car loan.

The concepts in this book can be understood by most children and will help them make informed decisions on money early on in their lives.