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Balancing act: Twists on documents and children's savings

Several recent columns have drawn interesting reader responses that are worth sharing.

First, a column on how long people need to save various financial documents brought an e-mail from a reader named Marilyn.

Marilyn wrote that, regarding documents pertaining to individual retirement accounts, the law once said they had to be kept forever.

"However, when I was getting ready to leave (Salt Lake City) and had seven Xerox boxes of these, showing transfers, combinations, etc., over many years — all the stuff people do to chase the highest yield — I asked the IRS. They said it was not necessary to keep anything except the 8606 and the year-end reports for seven years of tax returns.

"Took a couple of DAYS to shred all that!"

Thanks for the tip, Marilyn. And I hope you enjoyed all of that shredding — I know I would!

Another reader, Ann, sent an e-mail with her thoughts on helping children learn to save, in response to my piece on taking my daughters to the bank.

Ann wrote that she has four daughters, and she and her husband do several things to help teach the girls about money. First, the four children get "paid" twice each month, just like their dad. On each of the paydays, they receive a dollar for each year they are old.

"They get a little pay stub where 10 percent is deducted and goes into the family tax jar," Ann wrote. "Other items might be deducted, like if they don't do a chore and I have to hire it out (pay a sister or neighbor to do it). Chores are not a paid thing, but if they fail to do them, someone else has to do it, and in the real world if you get someone else to do your work, you have to pay them. They can also earn extra money by doing extra jobs as posted on the fridge."

The family "tax money" is used in various ways, like paying for movie nights or dinner out. Ann wrote that some of it is being donated to the Children of Ethiopia Education Fund to help send two girls in Ethiopia to a private school.

"When they get their money and pay stub, a tithing slip, envelope and savings slip are enclosed with it," Ann continued. "They get to choose to save or pay tithing, but it is there as a reminder.

"At the end of the year we tally up how much they save and match it 50 cents to the dollar. This provides a little extra incentive to save."

Ann said she also has learned to stand strong when she is shopping with her children and they start whining.

"If they want it, they get paid well and can certainly buy it," she wrote. "Sometimes for my oldest daughter we will work out 50/50 deals on clothing that exceeds my budget.

"My oldest daughter has signed up for an education savings program at the Health Care Credit Union. They pay her $10 for every report card over 3.5 (grade point average) and $5 for a 3.0-3.5 GPA. They also match her savings deposits 25 cents to the dollar. I don't know if other credit unions or banks do this. They will pay up to $100 per year, and only children over age 12 qualify. Pretty cool!"

Ann closes by saying she thinks this subject is "as important as any other taught in school." I wholeheartedly agree, and I like much of what Ann and her husband are doing.

I think the family tax jar is a concept almost anyone could use. And I like the fact that Ann and her husband are giving their daughters the chance to make some of their own choices regarding money. Giving children such freedom — with good, consistent guidance — should help them learn the value of money and the importance of saving.

As for me, I took my daughters to the bank the other day to make their second deposit, and I'm planning to set aside time on the first Saturday of each month for that purpose. My oldest girl seems to be catching on to the idea of saving and interest. And even though my younger girls aren't grasping such concepts yet, they're willing to go along for the ride when they know a free sucker will be their reward!

If you have further ideas on these topics — or have a financial question — please send them to me by e-mail to or by regular mail to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.