What Correlates To Productivity in Kids And Nations Alike?

Surprise, surprise: Kids whose time is less structured are better able to meet their own goals, and the most productive nation, for the fifth year in a row, is Switzerland, where employees enjoy 28 days of federally mandated vacation time. What can we learn from these two news items, especially together?

1) Take your vacation days. That’s what they’re for, if you’re lucky enough to get them at all. Obvious? Not to most Americans:

Because America leaves firms to their own devices on break policy, the amount of PTO (paid time off) Americans get varies vastly between socioeconomic classes. Only half of low-wage workers (bottom one-fourth of earners) have any paid vacation, the study found. Compare that to 90% of high-wage workers (top one-fourth of earners): The 77% of Americans who do get paid vacation time get an average of 13 days. … working too hard is making us stressed, sick and disengaged from our jobs, says Brigid Schulte in the Washington Post. We rank in the bottom section of the work-life balance scale from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. But part of the blame can be placed on the American workforce itself: Only 56% of Americans take the vacation time that’s given to them, according to a study by the employment firm Hudson.

That’s maddening. If you’re not using your days, give them to me! I’m still only on episode 3 of the new season of “Orange is the New Black.”

2) Let your kids roam free and everyone wins. Less driving for you, more being driven — in an organic, internal way — for them.

Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer “self-directed executive function,” a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.

Consumption Desires of American Youth

At our family reunion last week, I asked my (many) cousins how they would spend $50.

Street Smarts at an Early Age

Teaching kids to get around and get by.

Talking About Money And Splitting the Cost of Child-Rearing After a Divorce

Spring is in the air, and as Alfred, Lord Tennyson famously said, it’s the time when a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Truly, this is an optimistic moment: buds are bursting through frost, fans of lousy baseball teams feel improvident hope, and in all matters romantic, we cannot help but think of the good things yet to come—the spark of new attraction, the idyllic domesticity of a shared apartment, the stomach-flutteringly massive notion of getting married. So let me bring you down to earth: There's a good chance you're going to get divorced, by which time you may have kids, and on top of all the other heartbreaks, you may embark on a lifetime of difficult conversations about money. Let’s talk about this.

Gift Ideas for Just About Anyone You Know

It’s just a few days after Thanksgiving, and we’re already deep in the season of the holiday gift guide. Every year, I read just about all of them out of equal parts sick fascination and sheer desperation re: my own lack of ideas. I marvel at all the collections of grilling accessories and floral scarves and feel like an alien because, seriously, who wants that stuff? For him, we have electronic bacon gum. For her, how about bath salts made from real human tears? No?

May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor at Summer Camp

Tampa Bay Times reporter Lisa Gardner dropped by the Country Day School in Largo, Fla. which was in the midst of a Hunger Games-theme week. The kids wore flags around their waists, which could be ripped away flag football-style to simulate the taking of another child's life ("to simulate the taking of another child's life"—yowza). Such is The Way We Live Now.

My Last Hundred Bucks: Someone to Watch My Kid So I Can Earn Money So I Can Pay Someone to Watch My Kid

$100! It is a lot of money, and yet, it is also not a lot of money at all. Where did your last hundred bucks go, Alex Sachon?