Writing about how people, institutions, businesses and the government can better use their resources, questions pop up easily enough. Is financial mobility up or down? What is the role of mothers and fathers in the financial education of their kids? How does education affect income? What about marriage and net worth? Is creeping consumerism zapping the consumer's pocketbook?
NPR recently put on events in St. Louis and Salt Lake City dedicated to financial questions. I was surprised at the crowds that came. They wanted answers to questions and ways out of the problems they had spent their way into. It was all pretty serious stuff.
Yet the hosts made it fun. People actually laughed discussing student loan debt, lack of retirement savings and failed businesses. And again and again, as people asked questions, the experts from NPR assured them they were doing well.
Maybe that is the problem: those who are concerned enough to ask the questions and seek the answers are probably already on the way they need to tread.
I found this out when I wrote about mothers and finances for Mother's Day. Moms have a huge influence on their kids. Kids go to them for financial advice. And for the most part, moms are doing just fine teaching their kids — better than they think, in fact.
I wrote a similar story for Father's Day, featuring one dad, Alan Wolan, who was helping his kid play the stock market to learn about investing.
I often approach a financial responsibility story trying to learn about something I need to know. Sometimes, I make mistakes. For example, I wrote an article explaining that older people should be careful about their finances and not waste their retirement on the temporary problems of their adult children.
The mistake was that my mother-in-law read the article. "I guess we don't need to spend any more on you," she said to me in my kitchen.
She was kidding, of course. But it was a close call.
When it comes to financial responsibility, small things make a difference. So I try to find solutions to problems. Little tips like how to make sure your online assets are protected in case of death or worse. Ideas about the necessity and cost of smartphones. Insights into hidden fees on rental cars. An explanation of what in the world is a bitcoin.
They were all cries against the raging deep of financial darkness.
Or maybe just something fun that can make a small difference for a family here or there.
In no particular order, here is a list of 2013's most impactful national financial responsibility stories from the Deseret News:
1. Young people confront the new economy by Eric Schulzke
2. The positive impact of education and marriage on wealth by Michael De Groote
3. Do bad decisions lead to poverty — or vice versa? by Devon Merling
4. Loving kids to debt: When parents take on too much by Michael De Groote
5. In unpaid internships, everything is uncertain by Devon Merling
6. Mothers do better than they think teaching about money by Michael De Groote
7. How marriage can change behavior to improve net worth by Michael De Groote
8. Baby boomers adjust to delayed retirement by Devon Merling
9. Student debt delays milestones for young people by Devon Merling
10. How a vacation can help you be healthire, more productive by Devon Merling