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  1. I love the concept of a junior IRA and even if the DoE reallocated a portion of their existing budget to help fund these accounts, it would prepare them a whole lot better for the future.

    As your quoted Matt, I have read that before. We have gradually transitioned from a stakeholder economy to a shareholder economy. Investing & passive income keep becoming more important than active income because public companies are more focused on earnings reports.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Whoa! Very nice analysis, Josh. I never thought of that angle before, but the notion that we have transitioned from a stakeholder economy to a shareholder economy makes eminent sense. And if this is the case, my JIRA idea makes even more sense. We got to teach our kids about investing, passive income, entrepreneurialism as soon as possible. Those who don’t master these concepts and skills will find adulthood a very tough slog. Thanks for stopping by, Josh. You made my week, my friend.

  2. If I were a masochist, I’d consider getting into politics just so I could help push the JIRA idea. I’ve loved this from the first moment I heard it – an extra 18-20 years of compounding can make a *huge* difference.

    I like the idea of attaching some incentives, but the second that government funding comes into question, my bet is that there’d be pressure to make the JIRA a government-managed account. Next thing you know, the money is “promised” to have a return but never goes into the account because it’s much easier to spend now and kick the can down the road of funding that account’s growth.

    What if we went the other way – instead of getting the funding from the DoE, maybe Mr. Buffett or the Gates family could see the value here?

    What if we use our PF connections to get Jack Bogle to push for the concept? Maybe that’d get some traction? 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thanks, Chris. Anyone who would even consider getting into the wretched world of politics to advance the JIRA has got my profound respect. And I hear ya about wrangling for government money. Talk about the camel’s nose getting under the tent! Yes, we’d all be much better off if non-family contributions to JIRAs came from corporations, churches, and charities. Finally, I’ve often wondered why big brokerage firms like Vanguard and Fidelity haven’t come up with the JIRA idea and lobbied Congress for its passage. I mean, c’mon. From their perspective, it’s a no brainer. Perhaps I’ll reach out to Vanguard and Fidelity. Heck, I have accounts with both of them. Maybe someone in the C-Suite will be intrigued.

  3. I don’t have children, but have been asked about this by parents who would like to open a Roth IRA for their child. As you said, it makes sense and should definitely be allowed. It especially makes sense in a Roth account because it would be funded with after tax earnings. I don’t follow politics much because it can me maddening most of the time.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Haha! Politics is maddening. I gave up following it over two years ago. Got rid of cable, don’t subscribe to any newspapers, and I stay clear of politics on the web. I do get into policy discussions on this website, but only if they have a personal finance angle. But I got to say, getting away from the Republican and Democrat bullsh%t has made life a lot more serene. Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  4. For the JIRA awards we should disverify beyond just academic achievements (look how “grand” higher education is doing…) but also reward application knowledge. High school focuses very little on EQ and mental health. Practicing for happiness should go hand in hand especially when you’re young and already feeling the pressure of the rat race.

    • Mr. Groovy

      ABSOLUTELY! I just came up with obvious academic benchmarks because it was a long day and my mind was shot. I want as much money as possible going into JIRAs. The more non-academic benchmarks the better.

  5. This is so fascinating to me on so many levels. Of course, we all know schools don’t have money to fund everything. But the idea of reprioritizing existing budgets to accommodate something like this is interesting!

    I will also say that I’m not sure how motivated everyone would be right away. We have a ways to go with teaching delayed gratification. But it couldn’t hurt to try, right? For instance, a company offered scholarship incentives for college for magazine prizes instead of some grand game truck party. It was probably only $250-$500. Do you know how many students chose the tuition credit? 0. Of course, the company changed tactics the next year. I wish they would have tried again.

    I love these posts! Always interesting food for thought.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Motivation is the big fly in the ointment. It’s highly unlikely that this twist on my JIRA proposal would move the needle much. But people also like to compare their situation to others. If one school district decided to contribute to its students’ JIRAs, parents from neighboring school districts would probably want their respective school districts to do the same. Of course this is all conjecture. We won’t know for sure until there are actual JIRAs for schools to fund. Sigh. Thanks for stopping by, Penny. I really appreciate your perspective.

  6. Thank you for the kind words. I am honored and humbled.

    I like the thought behind the JIRA, but like Emily I don’t like the idea of taking funding from schools. The idea of using some public funds to kick start the JIRA is definitely intriguing, though, and would help offset the fact that most tax-advantaged accounts end up failing to help lower-income families. Maybe even something like a minor tweak or add-on to the estate tax. You would be taking a little bit of money from an estate that (by definition) is passing down at least $11 million and using it to support the youngest generation and allow them some space to make their own way.

    After reading the comments I am also intrigued by the idea of mixing this with a 529. A 529 automatically converting to a retirement account after school seems like a win-win. We get the early start to retirement accounts that come from your JIRA and we eliminate the worry among PF nerds of overfunding their 529s. If we mixed that with your concept of using public funds to help people get started, this could be a real game changer.

    Thanks, as always, for a thought-provoking post!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Matt, you’re a good egg. And very damn smart! If it weren’t for you and Emily correcting my mistakes and pointing out my flawed logic, I’d be an even bigger buffoon. So I really do appreciate it when you find time to grace our comment section. Thank you, sir.

      P.S. The fact that tax-advantaged accounts fail to help low-income earners is very sobering. Maybe we can provide a JIRA-like loophole for low-income earners as well. If you make less than a certain amount, and you open a Roth IRA, contributions can come from any source. Your Roth IRA wouldn’t have to be completely self-funded.

  7. Sign me up! I really like the JIRA. I was one of those nerds who would have gladly taken $$ in an IRA (didn’t know what it was, but I would have taken $$ in any savings account) for good grades, physical fitness, etc. And the suggestions to roll over unused 529 $ is awesome!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Just changing one tiny aspect of our Roth IRA laws–simply removing the work requirement for minors–opens up an infinite amount of possibilities. In this post, I explored how public schools and the Department of Education could help fund JIRAs. But what about corporations? Or churches, foundations, charities, or civic groups? Throw in parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and there’s no reason why every child in American can’t have $2,000 put in his or her JIRA every year until he or she turns 18. If we put $2,000 in a newborn’s JIRA for 18 years, and no more additional contributions were made, this newborn would have $3.5 million when he or she turned 67. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. AR. And you’re absolutely right about the 529 rollover. Mr. MSF came up with a brilliant idea.

  8. While in general I find your JIRA idea to be an interesting one, I don’t think I agree with the premise that contributions to a JIRA by a school would spur academic achievement. Getting $50 or even a $100 in an account that you can’t touch till you are nearly 60 isn’t going to inspire a fourth grader to work harder. Hell, I’ll argue that not even a high school student would find much motivation in that. For rewards to work as motivation for kids I think they to need to be more tangible and more immediate.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. $50 isn’t tangible and immediate enough to move the motivation needle. But what about the larger awards for outstanding SAT scores? I’m not saying they would double the number of motivated students. But they would surely jar those students on the cusp of motivation–at least that’s what I hope. The only way to tell, of course, is to actually start the JIRA and get the Department of Education in on the awards. C’mon Congress! Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. BITA. Your cold dose of reality is always welcome.

  9. Being that social security and tax advantage retirement accounts already exist I would be in favor of your Junior IRA. I am not in favor of mandating that schools be forced to contribute. If school choice existed I would be fine with schools offering that as perk to attract students.

    And I like Matt’s blog but the idea that we aren’t being paid fairly is wrong (IMO). Technology has boomed since the 1970’s so I would expect that to lead to a massive productivity increase. Your pay is dictated by your competition not by profits. You want your pay dictated by profits start your own business and take all the risk.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Grant. Schools shouldn’t be forced to fund JIRAs. It must be entirely voluntary. And great point about salaries. Salaries are determined by supply and demand. If a business can get competent labor for $10 an hour, why would it pay $15 or $20?

    • Hi Grant. Just want to step in to push back on this a little. While “fair” is obviously a subjective standard, there was historically a link between productivity and pay. Technology has always played a major role in the increase in productivity and I would have expected productivity to rise more rapidly since the 1970s. However, the numbers show productivity rising relatively consistently since at least 1945 (that’s as far back as the Federal Reserve data that I could find).

      The difference is that from 1945 to 1970, wages rose in line with productivity. From the 1970s to the present, productivity rose without a corresponding rise in wages.

      (Here is the relevant chart: https://i2.wp.com/www.optimizeyourlife.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/EPI.png?w=739)

      I don’t doubt that being more productive than your peers will get you paid more than your peers. The issue is that on a macroeconomic scale we are all being paid less for labor over time, and there is no indication that that trend will change.

      (And I agree that if you want your pay to be dictated by profits in the modern economy you need to start a business and be the main shareholder. The point to the article is that this wasn’t the case historically in America.)

      Thanks for the pushback. I enjoy engaging in civilized discourse on all of these issues. 🙂

      • Mr. Groovy

        Hey, Matt. Thanks for jumping back in. I wonder if the years 1945-70 were an anomaly. After all, with Europe and Japan still recovering from WWII, and with the developing world still being inhospitable to business, American labor had a great environment to push its demands. Today, however, business has the advantage. Capital isn’t constrained by national borders. Cars don’t have to be built in Detroit. They can be built in Mexico or China. And with the advent of AI and robots, I seriously doubt human beings will be flipping burgers at McDonald’s ten years from now. The big question for us is this: can the government help labor get some of its mojo back and still respect the fundamental tenets of freedom (i.e., competition, equal protection of the laws, property rights, etc.)? The plot thickens, my friend.

        • While I don’t have data from the US prior to 1945, it seems more likely that 1970-present is the anomaly rather than 1945-70. Bowley’s Law is the economic principle that labor share stays constant, which would establish that wages grow with productivity. That was first articulated in 1937 based on data from 1870-1937.

          I agree with pretty much everything else that you’ve laid out. As much as my progressive liberal heart wants the return of unions to be the answer, it is a much bigger problem than that. We see a similar trend (albeit less extreme) in countries that still have strong unions, so unions could help slow the decline, but wouldn’t stop it. There are just too many other factors.

          • I love some civil discourse too. I’m always amazed at well behaved people in the financial blogging community are. Not what you come to expect from the rest of the internet.

            I am very surprised that productivity hasn’t increased more exponentially than that as technology definitely has. I know in my field the productivity curve would be much steeper. I’m a mechanical engineer and I can do more work, faster and better than a ten person team from the 70’s all while commenting on the occasional blog ;). 3D modeling, rapid prototyping and finite element analysis are total game changers. Perhaps it is the people that are deeply involved with technology that are throwing the numbers off?

            • Mr. Groovy

              So true, Grant. The only reason I even publish my wacky political thoughts is because our community is comprised of thoughtful and totally decent people.

          • Mr. Groovy

            That’s very interesting, Matt. Unions didn’t become a force in this country until the 1930s and 1940s. I wonder why owners were so willing to share productivity gains with labor prior to that? What stopped them from being as greedy as owners today?

    • (I am putting this as a response to this comment because I am not being given the option of replying to your more recent comment.)

      I think you are probably right that the uneven technological gains across different industries is impacting the numbers. The gains in your field are drastically more impressive than the gains in a standard office job that has seen more gradual progress.

      Cal Newport also has some interesting numbers on email. While technology is making us more productive while we are actively working, we are also spending a lot more time reading and responding to emails, which is largely wasted (unproductive) time. He suggests that increased email usage could be offsetting some of the productivity gains from other technology.

      • Mr. Groovy

        Hey, Matt. Very interesting. Email is a huge time suck and surely retards productivity. Also, I’m going to look at my site’s settings and see why it’s limiting the number of replies in a thread.

  10. Can’t argue with the JIRA idea. The sooner you can start saving the better. I do like the educational incentives too. The promotion bonus in our district would cost $300K, a drop in the budget bucket. I’m of the opinion that our education system needs an overhaul. We need to be teaching more life/ real world skills. Common core, memorizing of facts, is just not going to cut it anymore. There is value in sports, music, clubs, it keeps our kids away from the other non-productive, unsupervised things.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Yes, Brian! I couldn’t agree more. Seth Godin has also remarked that we can’t “out obedient” the world. Corporations will always have access to super cheap labor in the developing world. In other words, if you want to be comfortable in the developed world, you can’t be a cog. We got to teach our kids to be creators and problem-solvers. Memorizing facts worked for kids last century. It won’t work for kids in this century.

  11. frank

    Your JIRA idea is a good one! Maybe more kids will get the “savings bug” early in life. Also it would give kids an education in the stock market.

    I especially liked the monetary incentive for physical fitness as it seems that many young kids (and adults too) are obese. Maybe the JIRA would help get our kids in shape?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, Frank. A lot of high schools now are teaching personal finance. Imagine how much more resonating those classes will be when students actually have thousands of dollars already invested in the market.

  12. It makes perfect sense. Of course it couldn’t work in this country since tax advantages are mostly reserved for those who need them the least, which is why most people aren’t able to properly fund their own retirements! Parents are so focused on saving for college, but the truth is, that money is a gamble, especially for those who follow up extremely expensive educations with extremely non-lucrative careers. ahem. Better to encourage students to look for cheaper colleges and give them the gift of future security that no one can take away.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent points, Linda. Why allow children to get a leg up on retirement? Better to have them broke and dependent as they near retirement. They’re much easier to control that way. And you’re absolutely right about college. Why does it cost so much? For the typical class, we’re talking about an underpaid adjunct standing in front of a chalkboard and giving a lecture. And, yet, practically every college charges tens of thousands of dollars a year in tuition and fees. Meh. I don’t see how this business model survives another 10 years.

  13. I would much rather contribute into a IRA than a 529 for my kids. Don’t get me wrong, a 529 was a great step forward. Gets parents thinking about a kids education but the lack of fund control, usability and exit of the money sucks.

    I don’t know why we can’t roll it out into a Roth after they graduate from high school because what if they don’t want to go to college? They may not need all the money we saved because they are going to a tech school!

    I don’t want money just sitting in a locked account until my (potential) grandkids may use it….

    I would gladly join to advocate for another option!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, BOAS. MSF nailed it. Unused 529 money should be able to rollover into a retirement account. This is especially true for kids born today. There’s no way the current higher ed business model is going to survive another 15-20 years. Paying for 40 classes when 15 will do is absurd. And the disruptive power of the internet will surely hit college the way it hit newspapers, movie rental, taxi service, and retail.

  14. Mr G, I love ya but please stop advocating defunding public education. It may be that there are states that spend far too much on public education. There are also places that spend far too little, and we live in one of them. And it may be that education is top heavy with administration, but when education spending is cut, administrative spending is not where they cut. It’s the classrooms.

    Instead, they freeze teacher pay and benefits even as they require more from the teachers. They cut teacher assistant positions. They cut the arts and clubs, which help keep kids engaged and going to school (and can even reduce drug use in kids, if we look at Iceland). They increase class sizes and delay infrastructure spending, so kids end up in moldy classrooms. They reduce the number of books in the classroom and give schools dozens of mandates without the resources to pursue them.

    And you wonder why schools continue to struggle. Education resources are cumulative. High school graduates are the result of 13 years of public education. The effect of cuts now may not show up until over a decade has passed.

    I don’t mind your JIRA idea, (I admit I’m not completely sold even as I invest for Little Bit) but the education spending is not the proper source.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Ah, Emily, you know I’m a twisted soul who looks at public education with a very jaundiced eye. I just have very little faith in our public educators. They’re weak on the basic tenets of freedom (i.e., free speech, equal protection of the laws, limited government, etc.), they’re opposed to competition (i.e., vouchers), and they’re–in the words of Seth Godin–teaching people “how to be cogs when the world no longer wants cogs.” So, yes, any money we can divert from the current educational system and put in retirement accounts for children would be a tremendous plus for society. Also, it’s important to remember that my proposed contributions from the education bureaucracy are voluntary. If a school district couldn’t accomplish its mission with a half percent cut in its budget, it wouldn’t be forced to make JIRA contributions on behalf of its students.

      • Okay, I didn’t see that it was voluntary, so maybe my criticism on that score is unwarranted.

        I’m sorry you have such a jaundiced view of public education. As a parent with a kid in public school, I see a very different view. My kid’s teachers work their butts off for their $40K a year. Given a number of resources they have, they do a tremendous job despite constant interference and demands from parents and politicians who think they know better because they were once school students.

        The same teachers also suffer a high degree of burnout, which means a lot of good ones leave for another less stressful and more lucrative and respected profession. Many more potential talented teachers will never enter the profession because of the low pay and constant dismissal of teacher’s effectiveness.

        I can clearly see that my kid is getting ready for algebra with her math program, even if she is still only adding and subtracting. Her writing skills are far beyond the rote copying I could do at the beginning of second grade, and she reads for information rather than just for pleasure. She’s learning basic coding skills and Spanish. At least at the Elementary level at our (admittedly resource rich for NC) school, that doesn’t sound like a cog in a wheel to me.

        I know that these things change and that high school, in particular, could use some structural changes to provide kids who aren’t academically oriented some decent Vo-Tech education in addition to sound fundamental skills. Not every kid should be prepared for college because not every kid should go. (which is another reason to question your SAT criteria…it’s way too focused on testing kids for college when there should be other good outcomes.)

        Also, I don’t think protesting vouchers is rejecting competition. Parents are welcome to send their kids to private schools or to home school. What public school advocates reject is having to give up public school resources to pay for private options, particularly when those private options don’t have the same level of accountability. And politicians always see education as one bucket, so vouchers are always going to take away rather than supplement public education spending.

        Think of it this way. Do police forces get their budgets cut to pay for private security? No, because the police force is to provide law enforcement protections for everyone. If you want private security, you have to pay for it yourself. That’s how I see vouchers. If you think it’s a false comparison, feel free to show.

        I’ll leave it at that, and I’m sorry to highjack your thread with my passionate defense of public schools. Maybe once you move, I’ll try to argue the public school case again over a beer or three.

        • Mr. Groovy

          I hate you, Emily! You always make valid points that I can’t rebut. All I can say in response is this. I agree with you that teachers are underpaid. But why? North Carolina spends roughly $9,000 per pupil. A class of 20 kids therefore brings in $180,000. If the teacher’s making $40,000, where is the other $140,000 going? Finally, vouchers are public education. Saying they’re not is the equivalent of saying food stamps aren’t public assistance. In other words, as long as the government’s paying for something–whether it’s groceries or instruction–that something is public. It doesn’t matter if the employees providing the service are on the government payroll or not. I know this reply doesn’t come close to addressing all your points, but this is all I got. You’re good, Emily. Very good.

  15. “Prior to 1970, workers were rewarded for their increasing productivity. When workers were more productive, they made more money. . . . Since then, worker compensation has been completely divorced from productivity. Workers are being far more productive, but are not seeing any corresponding raise.”

    You ain’t kidding. I’ve seen a steady decline in willingness to reward hard work and productivity. It’s really quite sad and a main reason millennials are saying screw corporate America!

    • Mr. Groovy

      “No country for working people.” Is that becoming the new moniker for America? Maybe not, but something’s amiss. Perhaps the best advice we can give young people is to become as entrepreneurial as possible. Corporate America and governing America are going to save them.

  16. You may have been kicked in the head by a butterfly, but I like the way you think. Ive always loved the JIRA idea and love this adaptation as well.

    I’d also love for parents to be able to roll over any left over 529 money into the JIRA after their kids complete college. I think this would encourage more parents to contribute to a 529 and would have a long term benefit for the recipient as well.

    Keep up the great work.