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How to be a Brand Ambassador: A Step-by-Step Guide-UPDATED!

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When I was a young mom with five children ten years old and younger, I launched a side hustle as a Brand Ambassador that eventually helped put all those kids through college debt free, and pay for their weddings. It also helped me gain financial independence, start a non-profit, Heroes at Home, to teach financial education to military families, and start a podcast called The Money Millhouse.

Who would have thought a side hustle could grow to become something so meaningful that could do all that?

That is the beauty of following your passion, developing your profession and living your purpose. You never know where a side hustle can lead.

My work in this space led me to be an advocate for new Brand Ambassadors in yet another new side hustle as a Boutique Brand Ambassador Agency.

We began to work with talent who have the skill set to earn a minimum of $5K per deal. We can afford to be choosy and will only work with Brand Ambassadors who are hard working (they can be trusted to get the deliverables completed on time), have high integrity (they won’t promote products that are bad for consumers or sell their mama for a buck), and they are dream talent for PR agencies and corporations (they exceed expectations).

There is a lot to know about this space, and you may be itching to get into it, which is why I created this comprehensive guide on how to be a Brand Ambassador. It is everything you need to know when breaking into this space.

How I got my start as a Brand Ambassador

When my five youngest kids were ten-years-old and under, they made their television debut in a New York local news segment entitled, “The Back to School Garage Sale Fashion Show.”

They strutted their stuff on camera, with sweet little smiles and childish eagerness as I described each item they wore. Then I shared the cost of these items at a Garage Sale versus retail. The overall savings was over $300.

When it came time for the youngest, three-year-old Joshua, to show us his shoes, he lifted his foot and showed the camera to bottom of his shoe. He was a natural.

We went to Dunkin Donuts to celebrate and life got even more exciting for them as one of the patrons recognized the kids from the segment they just watched on the news. “Hey, weren’t you kids just on television on the news?”

They handled their fame with quiet dignity and grace with Joshua shouting,

“I showed them my shoe” as he held up his foot to demonstrate.

They were celebs—for 15 minutes!

That weekly TV segment was a spot I secured several months earlier went I went on the local news to talk about a coupon seminar I was giving that would benefit a local food pantry. I had $200 worth of groceries on the set for which I paid $7.

After the segment ended, I pitched the idea of a weekly savings spot and the producer agreed.

The time came for my first segment, and I totally bombed. I didn’t realize that I needed to talk in short, sound bites for the 4-minute segment. My story went too long and I didn’t even get to my first tip.

It was horrible.

I dusted off my pride, practiced at home, and came back to nail it the next week.

And I nailed it every week for a year.

Those 50+ segments laid the groundwork for eventually becoming a spokesperson as I developed and grew my brand as “America’s Family Financial Expert” ® and “America’s Military Family Expert.” ™

I started as a young, homeschooling mother of many who began a side hustle of writing books and speaking while moving our herd every 1-2 years. As a military spouse, it was hard work while trying to balance a family and life as a mom with a spouse who was often gone.

But this side hustle surprised us all and grew into a six-figure income (working with 100+ brands).

It helped put all the kids through college (debt free), paid for weddings, and provided money in the bank for our financial independence. But it all started somewhere—it started small.

What is a Brand Ambassador?

Before we talk details, let’s look at the difference between a Spokesperson and a Brand Ambassador or Influencer. These terms are often used interchangeably, but amongst the people who work with brands, there is a difference.

Spokesperson

This was the original term for the person who spoke on behalf of an organization or a brand. It’s been a term that has been around over 30 years. A Spokesperson is the face that represents a corporation promoting a brand or product. Sometimes they are CEOs for a company or for a Foundation.

They are sometimes famous people. But the most common kind of Spokespersons are those who are experts in their field, unlike a celebrity spokesperson, who is usually not an expert. With celebrity spokespersons, the rates are quite high, whereas a non-famous expert is more affordable.

Spokespersons usually possess a wide variety of skill sets with a high level of expertise. They are authors or speakers, and are often adept at television and radio interviews. They are able to handle Satellite Media Tours (see SMTs below). They are well-spoken, polished schmoozers at trade shows, or are just good at “in person,” off-the-cuff desk-side interviews in New York City.

Brand Ambassador

With the emergence of social media, the Brand Ambassador, or Influencer, began to evolve.

Those with medium to large social media followings (usually 20K or more) were approached to mention brands, write blogs, and share on their social platforms. They didn’t necessarily to have all the skill sets of the traditional spokesperson.

If they could host a twitter chat with their 20K followers, then it didn’t matter that they couldn’t put two words together in front of a live audience of 500 people.

They could concentrate on their preferred skills within their comfort zone.

Are most brand ambassadors leaving money on the table by not developing ALL the skills found in the traditional Spokesperson?

Yes, they probably are.

But they can still make a good living as they get compensated for blogs, Facebook mentions, tweets, Instastories and Pinterest pins. They don’t have to be adept at television, radio or podcast interviews.

Brand Ambassadors don’t develop the corporate product or service, they simply promote it.

Brand Ambassador tip:

It can be easy for PR firms and their clients to take advantage of brands because most of the social media stand-outs were not familiar with contracts and rates. Most were not represented by agents. To avoid this, find an Agent to represent your contracts, find hidden fees, and get you the best price for the scope of work.

The Skill Set of A Six Figure Influencer

Here are the 5 components that will lead to a successful career as a Brand Ambassador. These have worked for me and my clients thought the years and have lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Brand Ambassador space. They may be different for you and your brand, but they serve as a good starting point.

Speaking

Learning to become a quality speaker was a component in some of the gigs I got.

For example, I did an event for U-Promise that required me to give a speech in New York City in front of 1,000 students and their families for the Jumpstart Coalition partnership where they unveiled the world’s largest piggy bank.

I have another client who gives sponsored speeches at Essence Fest in front of thousands of women and she rocks it every time.

Even today, after more than 2,000 paid speaking events, I still work on becoming a better speaker by receiving post-event debriefs from my Money Millhouse Podcast co-host, Bethany Bayless.

I don’t get my primary feedback from someone not familiar with the space. At this point in my career, I listen to experienced speakers who have my best interests in mind.

Eventually, I worked hard enough to earn the Toastmasters elite Accredited Speaker designation.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Develop your skill set, never stop working on it and remain teachable.

Books/Blogs

I published 15 royalty-based books with major publishers such as Random House, Simon Schuster and Harper Collins subsidiaries. My educational background was business and HR, and I didn’t have certifications such as a CFP, AFC or CPA.

I became an expert by investing 1,000 hours in research and writing each of my 50,000 word books (if you’re doing the math, that’s 15000 hours of research). I keep up-to-date with this blog, and most of the brand ambassador clients I work with have a blog as well.

Blogs can be sponsored by clients who pay them for a product mention. When a blogger makes the jump to books, it becomes a timely media hook that garners the interest of a brand for a potential partnership. A new book creates open doors in television, radio, podcasts, and for other projects.

A quick word about self-publishing and e-books versus royalty based publishers (those who pay YOU to write a book).

A royalty based book has greater weight and is more highly respected in the literary world than a self-published book. Anyone can self-publish if you have the money, but 99% of all book proposals are refused by royalty based publishers.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Make writing part of your platform and don’t exclusively rely on social media or speaking audiences.

Media

As I mentioned above, my time in New York on local media helped me develop a television skill set.

I also began radio interviews when my first book came out, and I learned the value of a hook to make my expertise media worthy and timely. Print media interviews as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) followed, as well as the launch of a very fun (slightly irreverent) financial podcast called The Money Millhouse.

All these components have been used a various deliverables in many of my 100+ contracts.

A great place to develop your media chops is at a conference, FinCon. Money Nerds unite every year at a conference where money and media meet. I have gained vital connections and relationships, as well knowledge and practical tools, at every FinCon I have attended.

The Money Millhouse Podcast with PT, the founder, is a greater introduction to this huge event being held in Washington D.C. this year. Be sure you use this link  if you register and a donation will be made to the non-profit, Heroes at Home.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Develop an informational one-sheet or media kit, listing your areas of expertise. Pitch them to various media outlets and use a service like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to find potential media outlets.

Repeat Brand Ambassador Work

At least 50% of new contract are referrals or renewals of old contracts.

You will get more spokesperson work if you have already shown viability in the space. If a PR agency or a company likes what you delivered in an existing campaign, they’ll hire you again and again and again.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Become proficient in the various aspects of the Spokesperson skill set to leverage previous work and aim to exceed client expectations. Add “brand ambassador” or “spokesperson” to all your social platform bios as well as your website.

Social Following

I came into the spokesperson arena before social media and was able to get a lot of work even before social platforms became the norm for Brand Ambassadors or Influencers.

However, in the current landscape, building a (legitimate) audience is crucial to your success as a Brand Ambassador.

Increase your following by reading blogs on how to develop your social platforms. Google is your best friend when it comes to finding good, actionable advice out there.

Aim for at least 10K likes or followers on each of your platforms. It’s likely that one platform may exceed involvement than others. Your community may use Facebook more than Twitter or Instagram. You may have a YouTube channel that is very active or Instagram may be your forte.

While you’re building your social following, don’t neglect your email list. If you can build a significant list (aim for 8K for starters), then you’ll be more marketable in this space.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Engage in the kinds of conversations that generate involvement with your community and they will share with others. Don’t over sell on your social platforms or in emails as this will generate community fatigue and even alienation.

The Brand Ambassador Experience from Start to Finish

Step One: Initial PR Ping

The first outreach for a potential Influencer gig is usually a PR firm, who googles experts in the area they are researching (finance, beauty, mommy bloggers, chefs, etc). They then will send an email, fill out a contact message on your website or reach out through social media platforms.

This began to happen to me after my first book, Shop, Save and Share, came out in print. There was a query from Quaker Oats.

Then one from Dial soap.

AND another from Blue Diamond Almonds.

The first time, I wrote back a message that quickly made it clear to the PR representative that I was absolutely clueless and didn’t even know what the outreach was about.

I didn’t get the gig.

I didn’t even know I didn’t get the gig because I didn’t even know there was a gig to get.

The second query was turned over to a speaking agency that repped me at the time and they messed it up because they didn’t know how to handle spokeswork.

The third time, I turned it over to my publisher’s marketing rep and discovered it is against policy for them to represent this kind of work—it’s a conflict of interest. In some cases, it’s even illegal.

Oops!

Thankfully, there was the fourth time a brand reached out. I reached out to a group of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association to see if anyone knew a spokesperson representative. I was connected with a reputable agent and she helped me get my first contract with MasterCard.

She also garnered 25% of my earnings—but 75% of something was better for me than 100% of nothing.

20% commission is common for gigs that the agent brings the talent, and 15% is common for gigs that the talent brings the agent.

Eventually, I was catching items on contracts that my agent wasn’t catching. My business background allowed me to become a master at reading, negotiating and executing my own contracts. And I eventually began representing others on their contracts, as well.

But that took years of experience to achieve. At first, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I paid dearly for it before I got an agent.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Make it easy for PR people to find you, add the term “Brand Ambassador” and “Spokesperson” to your social platforms, website and in any groups where you are a member. Set up a contact form on your website set up a dedicated website if you don’t already have one for your brand–a social platform isn’t enough.

Step 2: The Initial Conference Call

9 out of 10 initial “Pings” or inquiries from an employee at a PR firm or corporation do not progress past the initial inquiry.

If the Influencer or their agent who answers the inquiry knows how to manage the initial inquiry, then it can progress to an interview or conference call with the potential client.

It’s during this fact-finding conference call that you (or your agent) let them know who you are, how well you do verbally, and what your skill sets look like. They also want to hear what ideas you might have for the project.

Creativity is a must during this phase.

It’s also during this phase you decide if you can get behind the brand or product. I made it a point of never endorsing a product I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in, and that philosophy helped me keep my integrity intact. In addition, as a spokesperson agent, I won’t work with potential clients of mine who would take a deal just for the money. Integrity matters.

This step is where your agent or other team member does the selling. They do the bragging on you and your abilities while you just talk about your projects and passions. You might also be required to sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement), which is not unusual.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Never endorse a product you don’t believe in. Put service first and keep a high level of integrity. Make a point of eliminating “uhs” and “ums” and filler words like “so” and “yeah.” The overuse of these words make you come across to the client as unsure or lacking in confidence. An organization like Toastmasters is a great place to go in order to learn to master the kind of extemporaneous talk that will occur during crucial conference calls.

Step 3: The Money Talk

If the PR firm and/or the client they are representing is interested in you and is seriously considering hiring you as their Brand Ambassador, they will ask what you charge.

If you have an agent, they handle the money talk while you remain the “happy talent.”  At this point, a smart Brand Ambassador or a smart agent asks for a SOW (scope of work) in writing. Otherwise, there can be a he said/she said in terms of what the work the Brand Ambassador will be doing during step 4 or step 5.

There’s an art of negotiating a deal.

I absolutely love this part of the process—whether I’m negotiating my own deal or one on behalf of my clients.

You give a price based on the fair market rates for someone with your following and skill set. I usually start a bit high at this point.

It’s a delicate balance.

You want to price yourself at the value you’re worth without pricing yourself out of the market. I figure if they are interested, then they will be willing to come back during step four and negotiate for a deal within their budget.

At this point, instead of a one in ten chance (as in step one) you have about a 50% chance that the deal could go to a contract.

Brand Ambassador tip:

The money talk is a very important part of the process. Establish a rate card ahead of time and know what the charges are for different deliverables. Make sure your agent (if you have one) or your other team member has also eliminated the filler speech we previously outlined in Step 2’s tip.

Step 4: The Negotiation

After the PR folks have taken your name to pitch to the client, the client may ask for a meeting with you (this only happens about 20% of the time) so that they can decide for themselves. Or, they’ve trusted the PR person, reviewed your media kit and believe you are a good fit.

This step is the reason I decided to become a spokesperson agent.

It is this is the step where brands most often take advantage of the Brand Ambassador.

PR firms are in the business of getting the best value for their client–you can’t blame them for that. But it also means they try to get the brand ambassador to do more work than they proposed in Step 3.  Don’t be afraid of a negotiation, but do be prepared so that you can make the most of the deal that is being discussed.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Read up on how to become a better negotiator, so you can handle this step if you are representing your own contracts. 

Step 5:  The Contract

Once you’ve navigated the negotiation, it’s time to go to contract.

Hopefully, you’ll be chosen as the Brand Ambassador to represent the product, company or goods and services. Be sure you have a professional review the contract. Also understand that someone who may manage a Brand Ambassador may not be familiar with the pitfalls of a Brand Ambassador contract.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

But making sure there are no additional deliverables or restrictions that weren’t disclosed in the negotiation is a basic part of handling the contract.

Recently, I was sent a contract for one of my existing clients from a company we had already signed a half dozen contracts with in the past. To my surprise, there were actually $180,000 in additional deliverables or exclusivity stipulations that they tried to sneak by us in the contract!

All Brand Ambassador work should be paid. This is also why it is important to have your rates laid out ahead of time so you can refer back to them.

Brand Ambassador tip:

Hire a professional to read your contract or partner with a spokesperson agency that can guide you through the sticky wickets of the contract.

Characteristics of a Top Brand Ambassador

Good Brand Ambassadors do the work. If you want to keep getting hired over and over, make sure you are someone companies want to work with.  You will not go very far if you aren’t.

  • Great work ethic–Deliver on time or early. Period. No excuses. I had a prospective client who couldn’t keep her phone appointment with me three times. I know, why did I give her so many chances? My daughter says I’m too nice sometimes, but I like to believe the best in people. However, if she can’t keep a phone appointment with me, how could I trust her to manage the deliverables on a contract?
  • Great questions– A great Brand Ambassador knows the right questions to ask when working with a client. While I (the agent) ask all the deliverable and money questions (the talent doesn’t need to talk money when they have a representative), the client usually asks things like, “What are your expectations?” and, “How do you measure success?” She wants to know the client’s target so she can hit it every time.
  • Great Performance– Repeat work is a big part of income for a Brand Ambassador and getting a client to want you again and again is a gift. If you want to keep getting work, make it your goal to exceed a client’s expectations. This doesn’t mean doing extra work for free (I don’t let her). B it does mean being open to revising work, being flexible and a giving the client better results than they ever dreamed of getting.

The Upward Spiral for a Spokesperson

If you saw the recent A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper andLady Gaga, you know it is a painfully sad story of someone on top who works their way up and then enters a downward spiral to destitution and despair.

That same story can happen to Brand Ambassadors when they believe their own press, think they are better than others, or they let success go to their head.
But just as there is a downward spiral, I believe that there’s also an upward spiral that incorporates the adage, “success begets success.”

Here’s how that happens:

  • Start – The brand ambassadors start somewhere. Some of the best begin as bloggers, writers, podcasters, YouTubers, Instagram Influencers, media personalities, or speakers.
  • Skills – We already discussed the different skills, but the best of the best Brand Ambassador will move outside their comfort zone and develop additional skills. Some bloggers are afraid of public speaking—but a top 5% brand will go to Toastmasters and get over that fear. A skilled podcaster will learn to become a better writer. An old-school book author will learn about social media. They seek to become the EGOT of their space in the marketplace—achieving excellence in all areas.
  • Success – As they develop their skills, they get gigs and execute all the deliverables in their contracts with excellence—exceeding client expectations.
  • More Success – As they are successful in contracts, this leads to their ability to develop even more skills and confidence, which leads to more success. They remain teachable and realize there’s always room for improvement.
  • A Star is Born – Some of the most remarkable and successful spokespersons are people that will never achieve celebrity like Kendal Jenner, who gets a cool mil for an Instagram post. Nonetheless, these top 5% non-celeb spokespersons are stars, like my client Tiffany Aliche, because they are working it and getting better every day.

Deliverables

In the SOW (Scope of Work) and in your spokesperson contract, there will be an Appendix or a specific outline of what you are to deliver as well as the timeline (due dates) for those deliverables. When working for my brand ambassador clients, if these areas of the SOW or the contract we get from the corporation are not clearly defined, I’ll push back and ask for clarification.

Here are examples of the various kinds of deliverables that are part of a working brand ambassadors rate sheet:

  • Per day or part of general appearance day (national TV, local market media TV, print, radio interviews, trade show appearances, podcasts, press conferences, etc.); per pre-tour development day.
  • Per travel day, if required, prior to or following work days
  • SMT (Satellite TV Media Tour) day – These are one of the most lucrative aspects of a contract because they are VERY difficult and require the highest skill set for a spokesperson. You have to be 100% in your messaging (you deliver at least the primary client message in each and every interview.) You usually arrive in a studio at 4:30 a.m. (EST) for makeup and rehearsal, then you have your first media hit around 6:00 a.m. with a morning news show via Satellite. You continue this for 3-4 hours and anywhere from 10 to 35 TV shows. They key is to be upbeat, perky and consistently deliver messaging the entire time. These SMTs earn 3K for a neophyte up to 30K for a non-celebrity pro.
  • Keynote message (speaking)
  • Workshop/Seminar or Breakout Session
  • Panel (as a panelist or moderator)
  • Media training day – This is usually the day before you kick off a campaign or the day before an SMT or RMT. This rate is usually 2x a social post.
  • RMT (Radio Media Tour) day– This is where you are on 10 to 30 radio shows, back-to-back, delivering key messaging for your client. This are usually done from a landline from your home or office and you can even do these in your pajamas. They make about 10x what one social mention makes for you.
  • Facebook Live – A client will pay you to go live on either their platform or your own platform. To go live on the Influencer’s platform is a premium deliverable and is usually about 6x the cost of one social mention on Facebook. Make sure the contract doesn’t include a “Facebook Live” bundled into all the other social deliverables, because this item should rate more.
  • Email or Newsletter – Believe it or not, some clients still like newsletters or a blast of a promotion to your list. This is never free for the client and the price you get for doing this depends on how big your list is and your open rate (how many people open your email when you send it out).
  • Fully-sponsored podcast appearances – You can go on to a podcast like The Money Millhouse and if a sponsor is covering it, then you get paid to go on the show and mention the product, campaign or idea. Make sure to give disclosure about the partnership, but more about that in the FTC/Compliance section below.
  • Initial use of name and likeness and continued use – You should get paid for the use of your name and likeness. If the client wants to continue to use it on a social platform or a website, then they rent it monthly.
  • Webinar – These are very popular and can be sponsored as long as they don’t seem like a commercial. They need to be organic or your Brand Ambassador presence can quickly turn into that of a commercial huckster. Keeping it informational, educational and non-commercial is the key to see both the brand ambassador and the client succeed in this kind of partnership.
  • Pitching tips (up to 3 tips) – Separate from Interviews. You get paid to create pitches for media and then if the client pitches them and you get a hit, then you also get paid to go on the show (or the media.)
  • Branded Educational Content – helping companies develop education material as a public service is really hot these days. You step in to help develop this and you put a friendly face on a corporation so that this content is more human.
  • 5 Day Course – Pricing varies depending on deliverables, but you are creating the course for the brand and will get compensated accordingly.
  • Branded 1-sheet PDF with client links – this is a product that you create with the input from the client.
  • Video Series – you get paid per video and the length of the video needs to be defined. There’s a world of pricing difference between a 1 hour video and a 3-minute video.

Important Note on the Federal Trade Commission

I’m not an attorney, but I know how to read a brand ambassador contract. I’ve been known to catch more nonsense than our attorneys who are not working in this space full time. I read, push back and sign every contract that has my name on it for myself or my Brand Ambassador clients.

A big part of every contract is FTC disclosures.

In short, you have to disclose any material connection between you and the corporate client you are working alongside. You have to let your public know you are being compensated in some way, whether financially or materially. If you are in doubt about what this kind of disclosure looks like, then look at a recent letter written to influencers from a key official at the FTC and make sure you are in compliance.

The corporate contract will outline, specifically, how you are to disclose in the different forms of media. Follow that part of the contract as if your life depends on it—because your life as an Influencer does depend on following those rules.

Remember Your Why

As you navigate new territories in this space, remember why you are doing what you are doing.

If it’s all about the money with and that’s all you care about, then please don’t call me. I’m not interested in working with you. I want to work with people care about something more than money.

I entered into these waters as a side hustle from home, to supplement our family income and my own income as an author/speaker. I started as a mompreneur who saw that she was leaving money on the table.

I didn’t like that.

My goals were pretty simple: to send my kids through college (debt free) and to pay for their weddings. Along the way, I not only met those goals, but I was also able to reach financial independence and start a non-profit Heroes at Home, which provides free financial education to service members, veterans and their families.

Why do you want to do this?

Brand Ambassador tip:

Comparison is the thief of joy. You’re going to find amazing people doing amazing things in this space but remember that YOU are amazing, too! So have fun and run your own race.

Join the Movement

We are currently interviewing and selecting a core group of 20 current or potential influencers for the initial launch of a online and interactive course, “How to Earn A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador.”

This course will include one-on-one time with me as I help you evaluate where you are and where you want to go in this space. If you are interested in being considered for this core group at 50% off the retail price of the course, then please reach out on our contact form  or sent your resume directly to assistant@elliekay.com.

We will be in touch with an interview should you be a good fit for our core group.

Before You Say “I Do” – Premarital Financial Counseling

“Bye, bye!”  I smiled and waved from the front porch, Bob by my side, “Nice to meet you!”

Speaking like a ventriloquist, I continued to wave at my son and his girlfriend,

“I give It less than one week” I told my husband, “two weeks tops.”

Bob smiled, giving his very poor ventriloquist rendition, “I don’t know, she was, ah, very conversational.”

“Yeah,” we turned to walk back in, “and her favorite topic was herself!”

We had just entertained one of our sons and a girl he brought home to meet us. In our family, we are predisposed to like the significant others that our children bring home because our kids have very good judgement. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t sitting on “no” when it comes to these friendships that could blossom into something more.

One week later, we got a call from our son letting us know that he and the girl were not going to work out.

“Yeah,” our son reported, “I realized that the only thing we had in common was that we both thought she was pretty.”

The Kay whammy had struck again.

“What is the Kay whammy?” you ask.  It’s pretty simple, when our kids bring a special person home to meet our family, they either stay together for life and get married. Or, they break up within two weeks.

We are an intense family and we tend to drive away the faint of heart. But we are also a loving, loud and loquacious family and that attracts the brave hearts.

When it comes to a spouse, our kids look for certain qualities and when they get serious, we ask for a credit report.

I’m kidding.

Not really.

Knowing your future mate’s money habits is a significant part of deciding if they are a “forever” friend or not. Since “money matters” is cited as the #1 reason for divorce in America, it’s important to be on the same page regarding this topic. So far, all of our kids have opted for premarital counseling before the big day and this counseling should include the topic of money management. Find a local Accredited Financial Counselor ® an AFC ®, who is trained to handle all these topics and more. For more information about the accrediting source for this accreditation, listen to an upcoming episode on The Money Millhouse podcast interview we had with Rebecca Wiggins, the CEO of AFCPE.

Then add this counseling to your calendar as an important “to do” before you say “I do.”

Here’s a quick list of the financial topics that should be covered before you say I do.

8 Topics to Cover in Financial Premarital Counseling

Your Family of Origin’s Attitudes Toward Money

How did your parents manage money? What did they teach you about money? Chances are good you may manage your finances the way that your family did and this may be different from your significant other’s point of view. Did your parents save, believe in tithing, pay cash for everything or did they live paycheck to paycheck? Hashing out the differences, finding the similarities and developing a new plan for you and your spouse will be topics you cover under this heading.

Your Spend Plan

Do you currently have a budget? Go over both of your current budgets. If you don’t have one, then that is also a discussion point. Decide on what a new budget will look like for you as a couple when you are married. There’s a great app I use called Mint that can be accessed and updated by both parties at any time. This is especially good for military families who are apart but want to keep track of mutual spending.

 Holidays, Birthdays and Vacations

How do you spend money on vacations and holidays? Some families spend so much on Christmas, that it takes until the following May to pay off that debt. Others never take a family vacation. Our family had a low-key Christmas where each child got three modest gifts so the emphasis could stay on the Christ child. Then we went all out on their birthdays where the child was so celebrated that it became a highlight of the year for them. All these different approaches will impact your budget and your relationship.

 Born Spender or Saver?

What is your money personality? You could take the Money Harmony Quiz to see whether you are a born hoarder, spender, money monk, avoider or amasser.  Bob was a born spender, I was a born saver and we made it work nonetheless. But it took a lot of discussion and an action plan to learn to live in harmony with an opposite type of money personality.

 One Checkbook or Two?

Are you each going to keep your own checking account or are you going to combine them? Who will pay for which bill? What about savings accounts and credit cards? Will those be combined or remain separate? Now is a good time to download my free Sixty Minute Money Workout to help you learn how to discuss this topic and others within a time frame that minimizes conflict and maximizes the work you are doing in this area.

 Your Credit History or Debt

You and your significant other need to bring your credit reports to a premarital financial counseling session. Depending on what is there, it may be a wee bit uncomfortable. I married into 40K of consumer debt I didn’t know about and it had a huge impact on our lives together. Your mate may not count student loan debt as debt and you may find out there is an 80K loan that will impact your marriage. You can get a copy of your credit report, once a year, for free at Annual Credit Report and get one for each of the three reporting bureaus at this site. You can also get a copy of your credit score (different from a report) at Credit.com where they will also tell you ways to improve your score. Be prepared to enter your social security number to get this information. Talk about these debts and discuss a repayment plan.

Long Term Financial Priorities

My adult daughter says that life is about investing in experiences, not things. Her priority is travel over a newer car or designer clothes. Her husband’s priorities are slightly different because he’s a born saver. They learned how to discuss these diverse perspectives by doing a Sixty Minute Money Workout so they can get on the same page.  Your mate may want to buy a house as soon as possible and would forgo vacations to make that happen. You may not care that much about home ownership but really want to go home for the holidays. It’s important to discuss topics like housing, retirement, vacation and other long term goals before you get married. I like to say that you can have it all, but not at the same time. Bob and I chose to put our kids in private schools rather than drive new cars. Today, our kids are done with school and we drive the newer cars. We just have to choose the timing on our purchases.

 

Who Does the Math?

Someone is going to need to balance the checkbook, pay the bills and set up the budget. Yes, you should set up your spend plan together, you can even pay the bills together, but that’s usually the exception rather than the norm. One of you may be predisposed to balancing the books better than the other. One of you may actually enjoy paying the bills. In our family, I’m the financial expert and my husband flies jets, so you would think I balance the checkbook. But I also know that my husband needs to be aware of the bottom line because he’s the born spender, so he keeps the books and I review the statements. There needs to be a check and balance. One person should not have absolute control over the couple’s money. Sometimes, he who controls the money controls the house. So it’s important that both partners have access so that there’s no abuse of power.

Which of these topics have you already discussed with your significant other? Which topics still need to be explored? Set a day, time and topic to talk about money with your mate and don’t forget to get the free Sixty Minute Money Workout download.

 

Car Buying Do’s and Don’ts

Financial Readiness equals Military Readiness and whether you are a civilian or a service member, one of the top financial mistakes most Americans make has to do with how they buy their vehicles. But if you’re smart, you can avoid this mistake and eventually drive your cars for free.

Our Heroes at Home Financial Event just completed a tour where we gave 27 presentations at 17 bases in 4 countries. In fact, you can contact us about whether we are coming to YOUR base later this year.

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Event. One of the main topics that is: What is the smart way to buy a vehicle?

Let me start by asking you the question we ask our audiences: How do you lose around $8000 in 8 seconds?

Did you get the answer yet?

The answer is: you drive your brand new car off the lot.

Yes, the average new vehicle will depreciate $8000 in the first year. Since most folks finance that new vehicle, it’s more like losing $10,000 in 8 seconds!

So WHY oh WHY do you continue to buy NEW?

Some folks answer, “for the warranty.” But if you bought the vehicle a year old, you could do two things to make up for that 12 months of warranty you lose over buying new:

  • Warranty Purchase – you could purchase an extended warranty, which (depending on the car you drive) is only $800 to $1500 per year. This is WAY LESS than the 8K–10K you are losing by buying new. Plus warranties are negotiable. When I had to renew the warranty on my Mercedes 280SLK, the dealership gave me their best price. Then I called USAA, telling them the best quote I got and they beat the price by $800. Plus, instead of the $200 deductible I had with the other quote, the USAA deductible was $0! I used that warranty at my local Mercedes dealership (world’s best service department) and paid $0 deducible and got the same excellent service that I normally get.
  • CPO or Certified Previously OwnedIf you get a vehicle with a CPO on it, then part of the deal is that the dealership extends the warranty a year and this is a full manufacturer’s warranty. Plus, there are more stringent inspection standards and additional roadside assistance. Once, I had a shady salesperson who told me the car was CPO, “All our cars are CPO” she said, but she never presented me with CPO paperwork to sign at the deal’s closing. You guessed it, the vehicle was NOT CPO and she lied. Be sure you get CPO paperwork if you are told it is a genuine CPO. It costs the dealership anywhere from $800 to $2500 to CPO your vehicle, depending on the year, make and model. You HAVE TO sign CPO paperwork that is dated from BEFORE the date you buy the car or it’s not valid. Remember that asking a dealer to make a vehicle CPO is part of the negotiating process and this will increase the value of the deal anywhere from $1000 to $2500.

A couple years ago, I was on my way to Disneyland to meet another author friend and a careless driver made an unprotected left hand turn right into my vehicle (about 5 feet off the bumper). I had NO TIME to react or even take my foot off the brake. The fact that Mercedes are so well built and the fact God sent his angels to protect me are the only reasons I walked away from this terrible crash with only a few cuts and bruises.

This accident put me back in the market for a vehicle. So this time I decided to try USAA’s car buying service. Since we had an extra car at home, I could take my time to find the best deal. The car buying service told me the price, the discount, gave me free access to a CarFax report, showed me a chart of similar cars purchased in my area to indicate an average, good, or great deal, and more. I compared the prices I saw on the site to Kelley Blue Book and did all my research. Then I followed the same three steps we teach in our Heroes at Home Financial Events.

Step One: Negotiate Price First

Negotiate the price of the car at a dealership apart from the value of the trade-in. Tell the salesperson you want to determine the price of the car without the trade-in. The reason you want to do this is because salespeople will often give you far more for your trade than you expected—thus hooking you on the deal. However, this higher-value-for-the-trade-in shtick can be part of the technique they use to get you to purchase the car. If a higher value is given to the trade, then they will give a lower discount on the price of the vehicle, because all the discounting went into the value of the trade.

Step Two: Negotiate the Value of the Trade-In

Now that you’ve determined the price of the car, ask what the dealer will give you for your trade-in. Most likely, you will get more for your car if you sell it yourself. A little elbow grease and some top-notch detailing can net you hundreds of dollars more than a dealer can give you, if you can find a buyer. Some people (like military families) don’t always have the time to sell their car because of moving schedules and so forth. So if you are going to try to trade in your car, look up the value of your existing car at Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds, then print the page (or screen shot it), and bring it with you to the car lot to negotiate the price. Bottom line: try your best to gather enough facts beforehand so that you make a wise decision.

Step Three: Secure Your Own Financing

The F&I (finance and insurance office) is where the lion’s share of a dealership’s profit is made. In this office, you will have to navigate interest rates, payments, terms, additional services, and warranties. Unless you put miles on your car for business or you are purchasing a car that will cost a lot to repair (and you intend to keep it longer than the warranty lasts), extended warranties are usually not a good value. When it comes to vehicle financing, you can generally do better on interest by selecting your own creditor unless the manufacturer is offering a lower APR. Keep in mind that the .99% APR offers only go to the top 10% of those who are the FICO score elite, chances are good that you will not qualify. The credit life insurance that dealers offer is more expensive than raising your regular insurance premium by twenty thousand dollars to cover this expense. And don’t forget to research the price of insurance on your new car so you can afford both the payment and the insurance.

By following my own advice, I talked to my sales representative and I was able to:

  • Negotiate the best price on the vehicle.
  • Get the USAA discount added to the deal.
  • Get a car that had less than 3K miles on it.
  • Get CPO added to my vehicle.
  • Drive a vehicle that is now under warranty until 2022.
  • Get a like-new car that had only been in service officially for a mere three months.
  • Save $9K off the brand-new-plus-CPO price.
  • Pay cash for my car (stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to pay cash for cars).
  • Get the year, make, model and color of the car I wanted.
  • Walk away feeling good about the deal and the value I got.

When are you in the market to get a vehicle, which of these tips will you follow to get the best deal?

Ellie Kay

Valentines Day

Even after 30 years of marriage, Valentines Day is still consider an important day in the Kay house! In our large family, I would also get the boys a card/gift and Bob would get our daughter the same. Today, I send Valentines to my grands and my single sons. That can add up, when you also add in my main Valentine–the old fighter pilot.

But you don’t have to spend a lot for your gift to mean a lot, here are some ideas that may help.

Is it OK to Scrimp on Valentine’s Day?

For Valentine’s Day, you might feel the need to pull out all the stops, but it’s not necessary. Sure, some people want to celebrate the holiday in a lavish way, but others prefer to go the low-key route. Whether you fit into these descriptions or fall somewhere in the middle, there are a romantic date ideas for Valentine’s Day or the weekend before that suit every budget.

The Least Expensive Way to Spend Feb 14th

After a home-cooked meal, snuggle up with your honey and enjoy a movie night on the cheap. Look for specials at Redbox and get a romantic dramedy plus an action movie to keep both of you happy. If you are “zero tv” and have netflix, hulu, or amazon prime member then you have access to free movies that are not available for free to non-members. You may not even be aware of the freebies offered, so be sure to check them out.

Gifts that Give to Non-Profits

By shopping at amazon, you can give the gift that gives! If you haven’t link

ed your amazon account to the amazon smile option, then do that right away. Every purchase you make will benefit Heroes at Home and they’ll make a contribution to our non-profit that helps military members by helping to provide free financial education.

 

Flower Power

When it comes to flowers, you usually get what you pay for and one way to cut costs is to hand deliver, this can save anywhere from $8 to $20. You could look at GrouponLiving Social for offers such as $20 for $40 worth of flowers with FTD.

One kind of fun option reminds me of one of my favorite romantic comedies, “Kate and Leopold” and that is to give flowers with specific meanings. Go to TheFlowerExpert.com to find out the meaning of different flowers. For example, red roses mean romantic love while a bouquet of mixed roses means “I don’t know my feelings about you yet, but I’m sending you roses anyway.” Carnations are a less expensive option and a red carnation conveys love pride, beauty and admiration. Daisys are also inexpensive and convey “loyal love.” A sunflower symbolizes pure thoughts. So you can select a cheaper flower if, and only if, you write a note explaining the meaning of the flower and why you chose it for your true love.

Dinner and a Show

Going out for dinner seems to be a Valentine’s Day mainstay and dinner for two can range anywhere from $20 to $200 or more. How to you have a nice meal without sending a signal to your mate that you want to spend as little as possible? After all, aren’t they worth a splurge on Valentine’s Day?

There are quite a few ways to save a lot in this area and still have a nice time together. Lunch or brunch can be half the price of dinner and you could go on the Sunday before the big day. In fact, some restaurants are offering prix fix menus for the weekend or entire Valentine week. Go to your favorite restaurant’s twitter or facebook page and see what specials they are offering to get the best value. Some of these values are only offered to social media friends.

You can also go to restaurant.com where gift certificates have gone on sale this week. You can get a $25 gift certificate for your favorite restaurant for as little as $6 by entering the coupon code found at RetailMeNot. Check community billboards at your local chamber of commerce website. For example, in our area, a local Greek center is offering a romantic, candlelight dinner for two with champagne, flowers, dinner and dancing for $50 a person. While this may not seem like a bargain at first, when you add up the cost of the individual items like the food, flowers, bottle of bubbly and a cover charge you would have to pay to dance, it’s an all inclusive deal that is sure to please. Plus, you can learn how to dance the Kalamatianos, a traditional Greek dance. Can you say, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding!”?

Great Dates that Double As A Great Gift

Right now, there are some great deals to be had at Travelzoo such as a quick, 2 night getaway on a $299 cruise, with an oceanview room. Bob and I took a cruise this way and really loved it. This week, there are also really nice hotels from Orlando to Seattle that range from $49 to $99 a night. Or, if you want to get up, up and away, there’s a $125 two hour helicopter ride featured.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Give the Gift of Investing

During the holidays, it’s a time of giving—and sometimes sorting. For example, this past week, I sorted my closet and gave away 10 bags of clothing, purses, belts, scarves and shoes. I did a quick reckoning and calculated that the original value of those items was a cool $1000. Many of those giveaways were once gifts from friends and family. I couldn’t help but think, “What if I was gifted with money in a savings account or an investment fund instead?” The answer is: “You’d be a lot better off and your investment would have earned money instead of ending up in a giveaway bin.”

This year, why not take $500 and open an investment account for someone you love? Give the gift of investing by getting a loved one a start in this key area of financial responsibility. Recently on The Money Millhouse, we hosted Brenna Casserly. Brenna Casserly is CEO and Co-Founder of Emperor Investments, a Toronto-based robo-advisor.

She helped us understand a lot about Emperor and how they work as well as other investment terms such as an ETF. Brenna said, “Think of an ETF like a black box. When you open the box you notice that it is filled with some really great companies and others not so good. When you buy an ETF, you buy the entire black box and unfortunately cannot just pick out the companies you wish to own.”

One of the reasons we like Emperor Investments is that Emperor was founded on the notion that investing is highly personal. Over the course of the last decade, Brenna and co-founder, Francis Tapon, have developed proprietary technology that builds personalized portfolios. This means you don’t have to know everything there is to know about investing, you’ll have a partner at Emperor who will help you decide which fund is best for your investment style and your financial needs.

For a limited time, you can open an account at Emperor and our non-profit, Heroes at Home, will benefit from your new account if you use this link to Emperor Investments for the Money Millhouse. We believe in this kind of investing so much that we gifted an account to others who need help in just getting started.

So instead of giving your friend or family member gifts that will end up in the giveaway bin in just a few years, give them an investment account that will be worth more than your original investment in a few years. The gift that will keep on giving.

Don’t forget to use our Money Millhouse link in order to benefit Heroes at Home, so that we can continue to provide free financial education to our military members around the world.

 

 

Giving Tuesday, Facebook Matching, Shopping at Amazon Smile–Many Easy Ways to Give

What does Giving Tuesday do for our Heroes? Here’s a recap of our last event of this tour season.

Heroes at Home completed their 26th event on 17 bases in 4 countries when they blew into Pensacola Naval Air Station like a storm—actually, the Tropical Storm Gordon. The Heroes at Home speaker team barely made it to Florida ahead of cancelled
flights and delays to stay at Pensacola Naval Air Station and provide free financial education to the Airmen, Sailors and Marines stationed at that base. The morning of this free event, the base was closed, due to the storm to “all non-essential personnel.” But since financial readiness equals military readiness, the Heroes at Home event was deemed an essential event and it’s speakers were given Distinguished Visitor status.

In the military, a service member must maintain financial health or they could lose their security clearance. If a military member has excessive debt or other money issues, they could be a target for compromised security and they are kindly asked to leave the military since they cannot hold their security clearance. This is one of the many reasons financial education is so very important to our young military members.

Our audience consisted primarily of Airmen who were going through Combat Systems Officer Training, to become Electronic Warfare Officers and Navigators. Since flying was cancelled, we had almost all the students present from the CSO course and they were enthusiastic and engaged with the program. The audience was almost all servicemembers in uniform and they primarily ranged in age from 23-25. They seemed eager to begin their military careers financially healthy.  They were released to come to our program during the duty day because of the importance given to financial education by the Command. They left excited and with autographed copies of 200 books for the 200 servicemembers present. Many expressed gratitude for our sponsors and our speaking team who weathered a near hurricane to provide this essential education.

Our four top level speakers trained the audience in budgeting, how to purchase a vehicle without excessive debt, how to plan for retirement, how to build savings, and other special financial programs only available to military audiences.

Thanks to donors like you, this program was executed flawlessly, and was the 26thand final event at 17 bases in 4 countries. This was also the conclusion of a very successful 2017-2018 Heroes at Home world tour.

Later that night, we were staying on base when the storm gained force, the entire base population lost power and we were in the dark for many hours. But once the lights came on at 1:30 AM, we were back on track to get home that day.  We could see how valuable our time had been at Pensacola. Many thanks to donors like you for helping to sponsor this event and for making a difference in the lives of our young servicemembers.

Many Easy Ways to Contribute

  • Amazon Smile – Sign up to support Heroes at Home, 501(c)(3) at amazon smile. From that point on, every time you shop at amazon, year round, just click on the amazon smile link and our Heroes benefit. Don’t worry, we won’t see how much you purchase, so we won’t spoil any holiday secrets!
  • Giving Tuesday on Facebook – On Tuesday, November 27, Facebook will match your donations, so please donate today!
  • Heroes Come First – If you are military, veteran, first responder, medical professional, educator or clergy, then you qualify for up to $2000+ in a cash back check when you buy, sell or refi. Plus, Heroes at Home benefits when you use our link.

For more information on Heroes at Home or to make a donation, go to www.heroesathome.org

Honor and Celebrate our Veterans With #HonorThroughAction

In an effort to serve those that serve us, Heroes at Home and The Money Millhouse work to provide free financial education to our service members and their families. In the past, USAA has partnered with us and they continue to celebrate Veterans Day as a very specific occasion during which we can honor and celebrate those who’ve served and continue to serve our country.  Both of our organizations believe that celebrating our veterans encourages them to tell their stories about how and why they served in the effort to educate our public about our military community. Veterans Day stands as a reminder to celebrate the 20 million veterans (6 percent of our population) who have and continue to defend our country each and every day. We hope you will join us by taking a moment to honor veterans through a very simple action, share this with your followers, and invite them to participate as well. See the photo and this video to see who we are honoring from our families and why.

 

#HonorThroughAction

Celebrate veterans by following these quick and easy steps:

  • Draw a V on your hand, and the initials of a veteran you personally would like to honor
  • Snap a selfie – or have someone take the picture – showing your hand with the V
  • Share the photo on your social channels tagging and mentioning #HonorThroughAction, along with a message of appreciation for our veterans
  • Invite others to do the same as we head into Veterans Day… even tag and call out 2-3 you feel should act on this
  • For more background on this campaign to honor those who have served, go to www.usaa.com/VeteransDay

 Here’s a hint (from Ellie) about the veterans I’m honoring: I married one and gave birth to three!

Here are some more quick facts about Veteran’s Day:

  • Many Americans confuse Veterans Day with Memorial Day; Veterans Day is meant to give thanks to our living veterans while Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their life while serving our country.
  • One hundred years ago, peace came to the battlefields of Europe with the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. This officially ended World War I – the war to end all wars.
  • In commemoration of the war’s end, Armistice Day was first observed on Nov. 11, 1919.
  • U.S. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance and Nov. 11 became a national holiday in 1938.
  • In  954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation that changed the name to Veterans Day to honor everyone who took the oath in service to America and served honorably during war or peacetime.
  • “On that day, let us solemnly remember the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly, on the seas, in the air and on foreign shores, to preserve our heritage of freedom, and let us re-consecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” – President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • All around the world, countries commemorate Armistice Day which is also called Remembrance Day.
  • Traditionally, two minutes of silence are held at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 in reverent remembrance of those who gave their lives for their country.
  • The Royal British Legion sells poppies from October through Nov. 11 as a symbol to help honor and remember those who’ve fallen in service.

Why Do We Love The Plutus Awards?

This week’s blog highlights the upcoming, prestigious, Plutus Awards for which our podcast, The Money

Millhouse, is a finalist in the category, Best New Personal Finance Podcast.

We also love the fact that the Plutus Foundation recently gave Heroes at Home a grant for our free financial education among service members.

Last year’s Plutus Awards emcee, Bethany Bayless, who is also the co-host of The Money Millhouse wrote the following blog that explains the background on the podcast and the grant.

 

 

 

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“Financial readiness is equal to military readiness.”

That statement is what compels the Heroes at Home team to continue their mission to combat financial illiteracy on military bases. It is also what persuaded Ellie Kay to found Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that holds free Financial Education Events on military bases around the world.

To tell the story of Heroes at Home, one must always start with Ellie Kay, the founder and CEO of Heroes at Home, 501c3.

When Ellie married her husband 30 years ago, she got what she calls “a 3-for-1 deal.” She married the worlds greatest fighter pilot, and gained two step-daughters. Her husband, Bob, said, “Let’s join the active duty Air Force and we can see the world.” 

Ellie left her job as a broker and signed up for this life of adventure. What Bob showed her was 5 more babies in the first seven years of marriage and 11 more moves in 13 years.

Ellie also married into $40k of consumer debt. When they joined the active duty, Bob had to take a $30k a-year-pay cut, and Ellie had to quit her job as a broker. With child support and paying down debt taking up two-thirds of their single income, they were making the equivalent of an Airman First Class’s salary as a Captain in the Air Force. While being pregnant and constantly moving, Ellie made it her mission to save money by cutting coupons and keeping her family on a strict budget.

Through her diligence and perseverance, she was able to take her family to financial freedom and a debt-free life in 2.5 years. They have remained debt free ever since.

Using the concepts she learned through this journey to financial freedom, she started teaching others to do the same. Years later, she is now the best-selling author of 15 books, her work has reached one million people and as a popular international speaker, and she has delivered messages to 2000+ audiences as large as 10,000 people. As a media veteran, she’s given 2000+ media interviews including CNBC, CNN and Fox News, and her Heroes at Home program has reached thousands in the hopes to bring hope, help, and humor to military members and their families stationed around the world.

It was out of this that the Heroes at Home non-profit was born. While Ellie and her team was giving a Marine Corps spouse oriented presentation, a member of the A1 Air Force Leadership sent a representative to see the event in Quantico. They loved the message so much, they said that if Ellie was able to make a financially-centric event, they could roll it out to the Air Force.

What they came up with was a 2-hour presentation that was different than typical financial briefings. The program has 4 high-quality speakers that kept the material concise to fit in their 20-minute segments, while remaining entertaining and accurate. They cover a range of topics including general budgeting, credit reports and scoring, and saving for retirement. Though this program is geared mainly towards young Airmen, even senior ranking service members are able to learn new money-saving techniques.

In between each presentation, high-energy-millennial Emcee, Bethany Bayless, gets up and shares her favorite tips and tricks to save money via-apps and popular websites through a very unique presentation style. She also conducts a live Twitter party for each event, where audience members are able to tweet their favorite moments of the show. This allows them to stay engaged as the presentation goes progresses. At the end of the event, sponsors provide free gifts and door prizes, including books, gift cards, and in some cases, an iPad mini, are given away.

Partnering with USAA to start their events, the Heroes at Home team conducted their first Air Force tour to six northern-tier bases in 2015—often holding 2 separate events in one day. Thanks to corporate and private donations and grants from organizations such as The Plutus Awards, Experian, USAA and Credit.com, the team is able to provide this event completely free to all its attendees.

In preparation for each event, Ellie and her team fly out two days ahead of time. The day before the presentation, the team meets with Command Leadership to discuss base-specific issues to better understand the financial challenges as well as the mission of the installation. Through these meetings, they are able to tailor make each presentation to fit the needs of the men and women who serve on that base.

After the Command Meeting, the team embarks on a tour of each base. On these tours, the team is able to get hands on experience and meet Airmen face to face as they are on the job. It is through these tours that the team connects directly with the service members of the base. They have toured nuclear missile silos, visited flight lines, met working guard dogs, flown various flight simulators, and much, much more.

The most significant thing that makes Heroes at Home unique and different than any other financial presentation is the final segment of the show given by Ellie. She draws on her experience as a 30-year spouse of an Air Force fighter pilot and the mom to three active duty military sons, including a Marine Infantry Officer, an Air Force fighter pilot and a Mechanized Infantry Army officer. Ellie shares the 5 characteristics of a Hero and their Heroes at Home: a sense of humor, patriotism, courage, faith, and a legacy.

In this powerful part of the presentation, Ellie’s unique, powerful speaking style literally brings both laughter and tears to her audience. This final segment of the show has nothing to do with financial education, but everything to do with encouraging the military members and their families. The main message: We love you. We are proud of you. And Together, we are going to be okay.

Since their pilot tour in 2015, the Heroes at Home Financial Event has been conducted 51 shows on 33 bases in four countries with sponsorships from The Plutus Foundation, USAA, Experian, and other philanthropic sponsors. The Heroes at Home tour recently concluded their final event of the season at Pensacola Naval Air Station, speaking to an Air Force detachment stationed on a Naval Base. The room was filled with 300 uniformed military members listening to the presentation in the midst of the pending tropical storm Gordon.

After working in the space for several years, the Heroes at Home team also developed a fun, upbeat, podcast, The Money Millhouse, which is a high-energy show geared around money conversations. To find out more or to donate to Heroes at Home, please visit heroesathome.org. To find out more about the podcast, visit themoneymillhouse.com.

How I Earned A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador – part 4

I’m gearing up to present this Brand Ambassador Workshop at Fincon this year and it makes me reflect on the last time I presented in that venue. It was 2014 and we were in a small space that accommodated about 40 people. In the audience were several bloggers and social media gurus who were interested in how they might be able to leverage their skills to be able to make money in this space. One of the people listening carefully was Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, who was on the cusp of her potential career as a brand ambassador.

 

When I talked to her about it recently, she reflected, “I remember looking at the list of workshops and thought that I really wanted to see what that was all about. When you were talking, I kept thinking about brands I could possibly partner with and didn’t really know. But now, four years later, I’ve exceeded my expectations with your help.”  Tiffany is modest, but she’s currently in the top 5% of non-celebrity spokespersons/brand ambassadors. I worked with her on her first major deal and I’ve represented her ever since. I’ve also worked with a half dozen others who were at that Fincon presentation. What made Tiffany pop out as a top performer? Let’s look and see:

Characteristics of a Top Brand Ambassador:

  • Great work ethic– Tiffany delivers on time or early. Period. No excuses. I had another  rospective brand ambassador who couldn’t keep her phone appointment with me THREE times. I know, why did I give her so many chances? My daughter says I’m too nice sometimes, but I do like to believe the best in people.  However, if she can’t keep a phone appointment with me, how could I trust her to manage the deliverables on a contract?
  • Great questions– A great brand ambassador knows the right questions to ask when working with a client. While I (the agent) ask all the deliverable and money questions (the talent doesn’t need to talk money when they have a representative), Tiffany usually asks things like “What are your expectations?” and “How do you measure success?” She wants to know the client’s target so she can hit it every time.
  • Great Performance– Repeat work is a big part of income for a brand ambassador and getting a client to want you again…and again…and again is a gift. Tiffany makes it her goal to exceed a client’s expectations. This doesn’t mean that she does extra work for free (I don’t let her) but it does mean that she’s open to revising her work, she’s flexible and she gives the client better results than they ever dreamed of getting.

 

The Upward Spiral for a Spokesperson

I’m a pretty big Bradley Cooper fan and I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, A Star is Born with Lady Gaga. That’s one premiere I’d like to go to as an influencer! I saw the previous version of the film with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand as well as the 1937 original. It’s a painfully sad story of someone on top who works their way up and then enters a downward spiral to destitution and despair. That same story can happen to brands when they believe their own press, think they are better than others, or they let success go to their head. But just as there is a downward spiral, I believe that there’s also an upward spiral that incorporates the adage, “success begets success.” Here’s how that happens:

  • Start – The brand ambassadors start somewhere. Some of the best begin as bloggers, writers, podcasters, media personalities, or speakers.
  • Skills – We already discussed the different skills, but the best of the best spokespersons will move outside their comfort zones and develop additional skills. Some bloggers are afraid of public speaking—but a top 5% brand will go to Toastmasters and get over that fear and then achieve the elite Accredited Speaker status (the top 1% of 4 million Toastmasters globally). A skilled podcaster will learn to become a better writer. An old-school book author will learn about social media. They seek to become the EGOT of their space in the marketplace—achieving excellence in all areas.
  • Success –As they develop their skills, they get gigs and execute all the deliverables in their contracts with excellence—exceeding client expectations.
  • More Success – As they are successful in contracts, this leads to their ability to develop even more skills and confidence, which leads to more success. They remain teachable and realize there’s always room for improvement.
  • A Star is Born – Some of the most remarkable and successful spokespersons are people that will never achieve celebrity like Kendal Jenner, who gets a cool mil for an Instagram post. Nonetheless, these top 5% non-celeb spokespersons are stars, like Tiffany, because they are working it and getting better every day.

In this blog series, we already learned the definition of a spokesperson/brand ambassador, the skill sets of a spokesperson,  the process involved in garnering, negotiating and contractinga spokesgig. Now it’s time to look at some of the specific deliverables as well as how to remain in compliance so you don’t get in trouble with the Feds!

Deliverables:

In the SOW (Scope of Work) and in your spokesperson contract, there will be an Appendix or a specific outline of what you are to deliver as well as the timeline (due dates) for those deliverables. When working for my brand ambassador clients, if these areas of the SOW or the contract we get from the corporation are not clearly defined, I’ll push back and ask for clarification. Here are examples of the various kinds of deliverables that are part of a working brand ambassadors rate sheet.

  • Per day or part of general appearance day (national TV, local market media TV, print, radio interviews, trade show appearances, podcasts, press conferences, etc.); per pre-tour development day.
  • Per travel day, if required, prior to or following work days
  • SMT (Satellite TV Media Tour) day – These are one of the most lucrative aspects of a contract because they are VERY difficult and require the highest skill set for a spokesperson. You have to be 100% in your messaging (you deliver at least the primary client message in each and every interview.) You usually arrive in a studio at 4:30 a.m. (EST) for makeup and rehearsal, then you have your first media hit around 6:00 a.m. with a morning news show via Satellite. You continue this for 3-4 hours and anywhere from 10 to 35 TV shows. They key is to be upbeat, perky and consistently deliver messaging the entire time. These SMTs earn 3K for a neophyte up to 30K for a non-celebrity pro.
  • Keynote message (speaking)
  • Workshop/Seminar or Breakout Session
  • Panel (as a panelist or moderator)
  • Media training day – This is usually the day before you kick off a campaign or the day before an SMT or RMT. This rate is usually 2x a social post.
  • RMT (Radio Media Tour) day– This is where you are on 10 to 30 radio shows, back-to-back, delivering key messaging for your client. This are usually done from a landline from your home or office and you can even do these in your pajamas. They make about 10x what one social mention makes for you.
  • Facebook Live – They pay you to go live on either their platform or your own platform. This is a premium deliverable and is usually about 6x the cost of one social mention on facebook. Make sure the contract doesn’t include a “Facebook Live” bundled into all the other social deliverables, because this item should rate more.
  • Email or Newsletter – Believe it or not, some clients still like newsletters or a blast of a promotion to your list. This is never free for the client and the price you get for doing this depends on how big your list is and your open rate (how many people open your email when you send it out.)
  • Fully Sponsored Podcast Appearances – You go on to a podcast like The Money Millhouse and if a sponsor is covering it, then you get paid to go on the show and mention the product, campaign or idea. You make sure to give disclosure about the partnership, but more about that in the FTC/Compliance section below.
  • Initial use of name and likeness and continued use – you get paid for the use of your name and likeness. If the client wants to continue to use it on a social platform or a website, then they rent it monthly.
  • Webinar – These are very popular and can be sponsored as long as they don’t seem like a commercial. They need to be organic or your brand ambassador presence can quickly turn into that of a commercial huckster. Keeping it informational, educational and non-commercial is the key to see both the brand ambassador and the client succeed in this kind of partnership.
  • Pitching tips (up to 3 tips) – Separate from Interviews. You get paid to create pitches for media and then if the client pitches them and you get a hit, then you also get paid to go on the show (or the media.)
  • Branded Educational Content – helping companies develop education material as a public service is really hot these days. You step in to help develop this and you put a friendly face on a corporation so that this content is more human.
  • 5 Day Course – Pricing varies depending on deliverables, but you are creating the course for the brand and will get compensated accordingly.
  • Branded 1-sheet PDF with client links – this is a product that you create with the input from the client.
  • Video Series – you get paid per video and the length of the video needs to be defined. There’s a world of pricing difference between a 1 hour video and a 3-minute video.

 

Federal Trade Commission

I’m not an attorney, but I know how to read a brand ambassador contract. I’ve been known to catch more stuff and nonsense than our attorneys who are not working in this space full time. I read, push back and sign every contract that has my name on it for myself or my brand ambassadors.  A big part of every contract is FTC disclosures. In fact, when I went to select a photo for this section, I didn’t just grab a logo off the internet, I purchased the FTC pic—that would be ironic, violate copyright law when writing about the Federal Trade Commission!

In short, you have to disclose any material connection between you and the corporate client you are working alongside. You have to let your public know you are being compensated in some way–whether financially or materially. If you are in doubt about what this kind of disclosure looks like then look at a recent letter written to influencers from a key official at the FTC and make sure you are in compliance.

The corporate contract will outline, specifically, how you are to disclose in the different forms of media. Follow that part of the contract as if your life depends on it—because your life as an influencer DOES depend on following those rules.

Remember Your Why

As you navigate new territories in this space, remember why you are doing what you are doing. If it’s all about the money with you and that’s all you care about, then please don’t call me. I’m not interested in working with you. I want to work with people care about something more than money.

I entered into these waters as a side hustle from home, to supplement our family income and my own income as an author/speaker. I started as a mompreneur and saw that I was leaving money on the table. I didn’t like that.

My goals were pretty simple: to send my kids through college (debt free) and to pay for their weddings. Along the way, I not only met those goals, but I was also able to reach financial independence and start a non-profit Heroes at Home which provides free financial education to service members, veterans and their families.

Why do you want to do this thing?

This concludes our four part series on How to Become a Brand Ambassador/Spokesperson. Feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how you are doing in this journey. If you’re at FinCon, I’d love to meet you and hear about your experience.

And remember, if you are interested in becoming a part of our beta team for a new Brand Ambassador Course, then submit your name to assistant@elliekay.com and we’ll see if you qualify.

One last word of advice as you continue this journey. Comparison is the thief of joy. You’re going to find amazing people doing amazing things in this space but remember that YOU are amazing, too! So have fun and run your own race.

 

Receive Extra $$ Rewards & Grants as a Hero When You Buy, Sell, or Refinance

This week, to kick off our new podcast season on The Money Millhouse, we have a special interview with Joseph Kelly from Heroes Come First that share how heroes of all kinds can enjoy rewards and grants from a program that benefits Heroes at Home.

Enjoy this great information and be sure to share the following blog from our guest writer, Joseph Kelly, with a hero that you know.

Ellie Kay, Founder and CEO

 

You may or may not feel like it, but as a military veteran, active duty or reserve you are designated an American Hero, and that means you qualify for significant rewards you probably are not aware of when you take out a mortgage or buy or sell a house.

Most are aware that they have VA Benefits that include mortgage benefits.  And that program has some wonderful advantages.  But few are aware that there are additional benefits available that can give you an extra $2,000 to the $7,000 or more without any cost or added paperwork!

A national program called Heroes Come First defines heroes as people who serve their community. This includes active duty military personnel, veterans as well as  all current and former medical professionals (nurses, doctors, dentists, EMS, etc.), police officers, firefighters, first responders, teachers, and clergy.

Before I tell you how this reward program works please allow me to offer two key pieces of advice if you are considering buying a home in the next year that will save you from added stress and confusion.

1st Key– BEFORE you find of call a realtor and start looking at homes GET PRE-APPROVED from a trusted, reputable, recommended lender. (if you desire we offer this in all 50 states). Get your questions answered on your qualifications, credit, savings, options, etc. BEFORE starting to look at properties.  This will allow you to make adjustments if needed and be prepared to speak to real estate professionals who will have confidence in working with you.

2nd Key– Using sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. are great tools to see what properties are out there however I encourage you to be VERY CAREFUL before entering your contact information on these sites.  Read the “fine print” at the bottom of the website.  These companies will sell your information to multiple lenders and realtors who then will call you and email you for months!  While some of these companies be ones you wish to consider it can be overwhelming and confusing as lenders buy your information as a “lead.” (FYI the program we are about to discuss does NOT sell or provide any information to other companies)

How the rewards work …

Buying a Home

There are several ways that the Heroes Come First program saves you time and money when you purchase a primary or second home or an investment property and get a mortgage to finance the purchase.

If you, or another hero you know, is thinking of buying in the next 12 months the most important first step is speaking to a pro-hero lender and getting “pre-approved” for your financing. The Heroes Come First team can introduce you to a participating lender who focus on heroes with both financial and added service rewards to get you on the right track for your purchase.

Benefits include:

  • You get a Lender Hero Reward of a minimum of $500 – $1000 toward closing costs.
  • Work with a pro-hero realtorand receive a portion of the realtor’s commission. For example receive $700 for every $100,000 in the sales price, which is a rebate of a quarter of the realtor’s commission. So if you were to buy a home worth $300,000, you would get a check for $2,100; if the home you buy costs $600,000, you receive $4,200.
  • You can earn a discount over usual title fees, averaging about $350, from the title companies that participate in the program.
  • You may qualify for a Purchase Grantof up to $10,000, to be used toward the down payment on a home or closing costs. This grant does not have to be repaid. 

Selling Your Home

When you sell your home, you get a break on all of the real estate fees that are usually part of the closing. The average reduction is $2,000, but it could be more for a high-priced home. The participating realtor that handles your listing rebates one quarter of their commission to you at the closing, which could amount to several thousand dollars more, depending on the price of the home.

Refinancing Your Mortgage

When you refinance your existing mortgage to get a lower rate and payment, you qualify for a Lender Hero Reward between $500 and $1,000, which is applied toward your closing costs. The lenders who participate in this program offer competitive interest rates in all 50 states, so you don’t have to compromise on settling for a higher mortgage rate to get these discounts. The participating title companies also offer discounts of up to $350 for title searches that are needed when you refinance your mortgage.

Example of Heroes Come First Savings

Real Estate Transactions:

  • Sell your home for $300,000
  • Purchase a new home for $450,000
  • Take out a $360,000 mortgage on the new home

Costs and Discounts:

Realtor’s rebate of selling commission:                                         $2,250

(25% of standard 3% commission)
Pro-Hero Realtor reward on purchase of new home:                  $3,150

(up to$700 per $100,000)

Lender discount on $360,000 mortgage:                                      $1.000

Title company discount for title settlement costs:                           $350

Total Savings: $6,750

  

Find out more

It really is simple to get started with the Heroes Come First program when you are in the market to buy or sell your home or refinance your mortgage. There are no restrictions, paperwork, fees, or fine print to read in order to qualify. Start the process by registering at www.HeroesComeFirst.com or call them at 800.272.5626 and they will refer you to a participating lender, title insurance companies, and realtors who serve where you live.

Know other heroes? Help them too!

The Heroes Come First program can help not only you but also other heroes you know. And if you tell other heroes in your life—like your children’s teachers, your local firefighters and police officers, or any veterans or active duty military you can be a hero to them by saving them a significant amount of money on their home transactions.

Since 1989 Joseph Kelly has brought a unique blend of technical, marketing, sales and leadership experience to the mortgage industry. As a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in Aerospace Engineering (yes….a rocket scientist), he realized that the mortgage industry was lacking a critical component – consumer education and programs to help increase savings and reduce debt through mortgage management.

Joseph Kelly is very proud of having three sons who are veterans.  Two Army and one Navy.  Their service inspired the development of a national financial program to help all military (active, reserve and veterans) receive mortgage financing advice focused on their long term benefit, not a one time “sale” for a mortgage company.

Heroes Come First was launched to include all of our nations heroes; Military (active, reserve and veterans), current & former Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Medical & Educational professionals and is dedicated to saying “Thank You”  in a practical & financial way when they Buy, Sell or Refinance a Home. 

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