Bank of Allowance Givers: Raising Financially Savvy Children

Honorable Mention, 2014 San Francisco Book Festival

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000423_00070]

Buy from Amazon.                               Buy from Create Space.

Bank of Allowance Givers: Raising Financially Savvy Children (BAG) is a hands-on guide to teaching basic financial concepts and strong money management skills to children, with an emphasis on saving instead of spending. Through their own real life experience with their own allowance money, your children will learn the pitfalls of high interest credit, and the importance of not spending more money than they have in their account. The book is best for children in grades three through six, but older children can also benefit from it.

Specifically, as a parent utilizing the BAG system, you will:
• Discuss with your child what chores must be done each week to earn an allowance.
• Memorialize those chores in the Chores Contract.
• Choose an allowance day (payday) and amount.
• Negotiate with your child both good and bad interest rates, as well as the savings bonus.
• And much, much more.

First and foremost with the BAG system, children are encouraged to be savvy savers. But there will also be the opportunity to learn the real world pitfalls of credit purchases. Your children will learn that something they purchase on credit costs more than the price listed on the price tag. Calculating interest (both good and bad) will become second nature to them.

Tips are also offered to help parents improve their own finances. With BAG, you will learn how to stop spending beyond your means, and get your own finances under control. Working alongside your children,you can model good money management skills. At the end of this process, your children will understand the importance of saving money, and will ultimately be good—if not great—money managers.

Such skills learned at an early age will serve your children well later on in life when they go to college or move out on their own. They will not blindly incur credit card debt or enter into high interest loans, because they will understand the true costs of accumulated interest, becoming savvy savers and wise spenders. Share this vital knowledge with your children, and you will help them ultimately to become financially successful adults.


If you purchased an electronic version of Bank of Allowance Givers: Raising Financially Savvy Children, here are the zip files for Appendices A-D: BAG Allowance Agreement, Chores Contract, Checks, and the Check Register. Once you download the files, you can print and write in them as needed.

BAG PrintDocs

The book is available in electronic and paperback versions. If you have not yet purchased the book and wish to do so, here are the links to Amazon: and Create Space:

Self-Publishing: Vanity or Brilliance?

Have you written a book and thought about getting it published? As most aspiring authors know, getting a novel published by a traditional publisher is next to impossible, and slightly less impossible for a nonfiction book. The conventional thought has been that an aspiring author needs to send a query letter and a book proposal to an agent in hopes of being taken on as a client. The theory is that these agents will have connections and find the best fit between publisher and author.

The reality of publishing in the twenty-first century doesn’t quite mesh with the theory. In actuality, after receiving some polite rejection letters, it soon becomes clear that agents are hard to find unless you are an already known author. Let’s just say that James Patterson and Nora Roberts most likely have no problem finding an agent. Unknown and unpublished authors are not likely to find an agent, and even those few who do secure an agent are still not likely to find a publisher. The world of books is changing, and most traditional publishers want a known quantity (or an already published author) before they risk publishing today.

In the past, the only option for these shunned aspiring authors was self-publishing through a vanity press. The author incurred all the expenses usually borne by a publisher to get his or her words into print. The cost of self-publishing through a vanity press could be quite high; and the author likely would not recoup all of the expenses of self-publishing thorough sales. Vanity presses still exist, but an aspiring author has many options to self-publish today, and many of them are free. Yes, anyone with some slightly above-basic computer skills can publish on Amazon’s Kindle platform for free.

Meet Theresa Ragan, the author of the three-part Lizzie Gardner series, beginning with Abducted. Ms. Ragan was actually fortunate enough to secure an agent, but the agent could not interest a publisher. Instead of giving up—which is what she felt like doing—Ms. Ragan decided to publish herself on Kindle Direct Publishing. She thought she would maybe sell fifteen or twenty books to her friends and family. She was wrong. In her first month she sold 1,500 books. Five months later, she was selling 40,000 books per month. She priced her books at $2.99, and took in 70 percent, or $2.00 for every book sold. Had she been published through a traditional publisher, she would only have received about ten percent of sales, minus any advance she received. To date, Ms. Ragan has self-published seven novels, selling over 650,000 copies of her e-books. She has made well over a million dollars self-publishing her novels.

Granted, not every e-book published on Kindle is going to do as well as Ms. Ragan’s books. And Kindle is not the only free option. Self-publishing authors can also get print versions of their books printed on demand with Create Space (Amazon’s print on demand platform) and Lightning Source. The latter is not as user friendly and has some upfront fees associated with it, but the author receives a higher percentage of sales than through Create Space. Given the state of self-publishing today, with limited or no upfront investment, isn’t it worth a try? Maybe you will be the next Theresa Ragan and have a blockbuster on your hands. You won’t know unless you try.

But there is one caveat that must be mentioned. Do not be one of those sloppy authors who get lackluster reviews because the book was so poorly edited. Don’t download your book to an e-book platform until it is as flawless as possible. If you are unable to make it that way, let us help you make your book as good as it can be. At Tantamount, we will get rid of those pesky typos and unintended grammatical errors. A full edit from Tantamount editors will make your book better and more enjoyable to read. This in turn will get you better reader reviews and increase your sales. If you have a good book, there really is no limit on how much money you can make.

For more self-publishing success stories, see Heidi Mitchell’s July 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Self-Published Book Success Stories.”


Sometimes when I’m editing, I sing a little song in my head: “Here a dash, there a dash, everywhere a dash, dash.” Some authors like to use dashes instead of commas. And they aren’t too picky on the kinds of dashes they are using, either. Em dash, what the heck’s an em dash? But this dash confusion is okay by me. Just let your local editor or proofreader help you out in this area (and by local, I mean us here at Tantamount. How much more local can you be than your very own computer?)

Okay. Presumably if you are reading this, you actually want to learn something about dashes and their proper use. Here goes. There are three basic types of dashes: a hyphen (not technically a dash, but similar), an en dash, and an em dash. There are fancier ones too (double and triple em dashes), but let’s just stick with the basics.

First, let’s review the lovely little hyphen. This guy has his own key on the keyboard and often gets struck twice when an author is attempting an em or en dash. Mr. Hyphen is perfect for compound words like: up-and-coming, hands-on, self-defense, run-down, spring-loaded, and past-due. But you must be careful not to over-do Mr. Hyphen. See what I just did there? Over-do is incorrect. It should be overdo. Or is that over do? I am using Word right now and it is quite happy with over-do and over do, but it really doesn’t like overdo. However, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition tells me I’m correct, it’s overdo. That’s what we editors do—we look things up—lots and lots of things.

Hey, did you like how I just introduced our next dash? The dash in the previous sentence is an em dash. These dashes are so-called because they are the width of a capital M. They serve several purposes. They can be used as emphasis within a sentence. That’s what my dash was for. They can also be used with a list of items in a sentence that already has commas. They can indicate a break in thought. And finally, they can be used for a final or summary thought. If you have one of these situations, use an em dash. With Word, all you have to do is type: control—alt—minus sign on the keyboard keypad. Do not use Mr. Hyphen instead of the minus sign. That could be very, very bad. If you do that, use your undo tab in Word and don’t do that again.

Last, but not least, is the en dash. As you probably figured out, it gets its name because it’s basically the size of a capital N. It isn’t used nearly as much as the em dash. En dashes are used primarily to show a range, such as in page numbers, dates and references. En dashes also act as super-hyphens, such as with pre–Ming Dynasty. (Well, technically that’s an adjectival open compound, but honestly, who can remember that?) They look a lot like an em dash—, but are shorter–. Side-by-side you can see the difference, but sometimes it’s hard to tell on-screen. They are inserted the same way as an em dash, but without the alt key: control—minus sign on the keyboard keypad. The same caveat goes here. Do not use Mr. Hyphen instead of the minus sign.

So that’s about it for hyphens. They can sometimes be tricky. With the rules set forth here in mind, go experiment. Hyphenate with confidence. And if you still don’t feel like a master hyphenater, we’re here to help.

P.S. Hyphenater really isn’t a word. But I’m using my style prerogative as the author and purposely using an incorrect word. We let our authors do that here at Tantamount—just so they know it’s wrong but still choose to do it.

Life is short; write how you choose.

Tips for Law Students and Recent Law School Graduate Job Seekers

I was recently contacted by a law school graduate who is in the process of looking for a job. She had several concerns about her writing sample, her resume and cover letter. She was right to be concerned about the state of these documents. If they are in good form and catch the recruiter’s attention, she is likely to get that all important interview. Of course Tantamount can help polish all of these documents so she feels confident in her submissions and makes a great first impression on prospective employers. Talking to her reminded me of several tips all law school graduates looking for a job and law students looking for an internship should remember.

  • Emphasize a unique quality that will make recruiters want to meet with you and find out more about you. So you don’t have a unique quality? Your mother would probably disagree. But if you really don’t think you are unique, make your cover letter unique and clever. You don’t want to go too far and seem weird or quirky, just enough to grab their attention.
  • Have your cover letter tailored to the law firm, government agency or company and say something complementary about them therein. This will require research on your part and Martindale-Hubbell is a good starting point.
  • Internships often lead to post-graduation job offers so be selective in choosing with whom you spend those all-important two summers. This is especially true for the second year internship. Did you absolutely hate your internship and loathe the thought of returning? That’s okay. Hopefully you left on good terms and will be able to secure a letter of recommendation from them. If they seem miffed that you aren’t returning, tell them you appreciate the time you had with them but that you want to get some experience in a different area of the law.
  • Figure out where you ultimately want to end up in your legal career. It may take several steps to get there, but if you have a long-term goal to strive for, you are less likely to lose your way.
  • And finally, find a mentor, the sooner the better. This person can be anyone in the legal field who knows you, likes you, and is willing to offer advice based on their own years of experience in the legal profession. Most lawyers love to talk and give their opinions, so this should not be a hard goal to achieve. Look to your professors or family friends who know a lawyer. Still uncomfortable? Return to your home town and contact the local bar association. They should have some good suggestions for you on who would be willing to mentor you.