12/18/2013 03:43 pm ET Updated Feb 17, 2014

Teach Your Children Well -- It Pays Off

This blog is to commend the parents, that I never met, of a kind son that I do not know. I often write of the mistakes that parents make, financial and otherwise. Perhaps, the good is, too often, ignored.

Now, I know you're probably saying to yourself: "Neale, why are you writing about philosophy? You're the Goddess of Money -- the Earl of Ecology -- the Baroness of Budget." Yes, that's true enough, but in my years of writing and teaching the "Softer Side of Money," and "Family Finance," I have always stressed the importance of teaching your children to be Citizens of the World, to give back, and to have a strong moral compass.

I was on my way to New York City, and it was one of those days when nothing was going smoothly. Traffic was at a stand-still leading into the Lincoln Tunnel, my preferred route. As soon as I got into the city I parked my car. I was already running quite a bit late, but I figured that if I were in a cab, I could sit back and make a couple of important phone calls. As soon as the temperature dips, or the weather is inclement, taxis become scarce, but I managed to snag one.

Holiday shopping season threatens gridlock and is heavier than normal traffic. I was headed to a National Urban League Guild board meeting, of which I am a board member -- all the way downtown on Wall Street. In normal traffic that is a 20 minute drive -- 20 minutes I could put to better use getting some work done.

Nearly an hour later I was still in that cab, trying to get to my meeting, for which I was now late. That holiday gridlock is not just an urban myth -- who knew? Finally at my destination, I got out of the cab and paid the driver for what had turned into an enormously expensive fare.

  • Money tip: When in a major metropolis, especially during high traffic times, take public transportation. Not only will you save a huge amount of money, but the subway will also save valuable time. I should have known better.

The board was kind enough to hold the meeting for me. As I greeted the members and thanked them for their patience, I began to settle in. That was when I noticed there was a problem. As I reached for my phone to silence the ringer, I couldn't find it. Purse: no. Pants pocket: not there. Coat pocket: nope. Oh no!

I am out of my office alot. I travel alot. I depend on my mobile phone -- alot. My phone must have escaped from my pocket in the cab -- the poor thing was probably so overworked it was looking for a vacation -- now what?

I excused myself from the meeting, which had been delayed on my behalf. I explained what had happened and everyone understood. I borrowed a phone from one of the board members, but whom do I call? The board continued to delay the meeting, and were now involved in my quest to locate my phone.

I decided to call my phone -- maybe the cab driver would hear it, find it, and answer it.

  • Security tip: I don't bank or do financial transactions from my cell phone. I also don't keep sensitive information on it, therefore, I do not use a code to lock my phone. If I did, the finder wouldn't be able to answer the phone. If you do have sensitive information on your phone, please keep it secure with a lock code. It's better to lose your phone than have your info compromised.

Two rings and a very nice-sounding gentleman answered. I introduced myself as the phone owner, and he said that he was glad I had called. He explained that he had gone into my "recent calls" and dialed one of the numbers. He had already randomly called my friend Christopher and given his contact info. Christopher had already called my office with the information, knowing I would be checking in.

I assumed this kind guy was the cab driver so I asked him if he could bring the phone to me. He explained that he had been a passenger in the cab after I got out, found the phone, and figured I would more likely get it back from his safekeeping than having to deal with the taxi commission. It seemed he was correct. He gave me his address, and I agreed to go there and get it from him after my meeting.

I returned the borrowed phone, and tried to turn my attention back to business at hand. The room had been following the conversation. They were happy that I had tracked down my phone, but unanimously admonished me for making plans to go to this stranger's apartment to retrieve my phone. They had a point, but the guy sounded nice.

After the meeting, they made me promise not to go up to this guy's apartment alone. They also made me promise to check in with them after I got my phone. What a nice group! Now I was in another cab to Prince Street, to fetch my phone. I was making small-talk with the driver, who also reprimanded me for going to the guy's place alone.

I arrived at the address, and as I was leaving the cab, the driver yelled out to me: "Meet this guy in public!" I walked into the building and called up to the apartment. The guy asked me to go up, but I decided to heed the warnings, and asked the finder to come down to the lobby to meet me.

Within seconds, the handsome young gentleman arrived with my phone. He apologized for asking me to come up to him: "I should have thought about that -- I'm glad you were smart enough not to go up to a stranger's apartment."

  • Common sense safety tip: Do not go up to a stranger's apartment alone just because he sounds nice on the phone -- your phone -- that he has accessed. What was I thinking?

As he, Josh, was handing me the phone, I was reaching into my wallet to give him a reward. He realized what I was doing -- "Please, don't even think of offering me money. I know what a pain it is to lose a phone, and I would hope someone would do the same for me. I told him how grateful I was. To which he replied: "Pay it forward."

Josh: this blog is for you and all the kind people out there. I made a donation to the National Urban League Guild in your name. It's heartwarming to encounter people who choose to "do the right thing." Josh's parents: you did a good job! All the parents out there: keep up the good work and remember to "pay it forward."

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