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It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 3

The Resume and Essay

In the first two parts of this blog series, we talked about the steps you need to take to help your student maximize their opportunity to get into a service academy. In the third and final part of this blog series, as promised, we are sharing some additional examples of a resume and an essay that helped to successfully secure multiple nominations to multiple academies.

 

The Resume:

Once in high school, the resume fodder begins. Keep in mind that these schools are looking for the “whole person” approach and the resume will need to show accomplishments in academics, athletics, community involvement and leadership. Here is a sample of one of our son’s winning resume that garnered one million dollars in college scholarships from USNA ($425,000), USAFA ($425,000) and UCLA ROTC ($180,000).

Experience:

Lancaster City Youth Commission Chairman (this is legitimate, sworn-in commissioners for Lancaster City. It was after and application process, an interview, and a popular vote to get to chairman out of at least 50 top youth in the region)

Assistant Manager and tutor for Math Magicians in Quartz Hill  (July 2010-present)

Blockbuster Video (August 2009- August 2010)

Intern at the Honorable Buck McKeon’s office in Palmdale, (Summer of 2009)

Captain for DCHS Varsity Volleyball team for 2 years

Captain for DCHS Varsity Mathletes

Current Class Rank: 2 of 107

Cumulative, Unweighted GPA: 3.97, Weighted: 4.2

Over 1250 hours of volunteering since 9th grade

Summer of 2010

–  Attended the United States Air Force Academy Summer Seminar

–  Attended the United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar

2009-2010: Junior, Desert Christian High School

–  ASB, Activities Representative (Coordinator)

–  Vice President of CSF (California Scholarship Federation)(VP of 80+ members)(Is a position for a 12th grader, achieved in 11th grade)

–  Member of NHS (National Honor Society)

–  Varsity Cross Country (Runner, and Manager)

–  Varsity Soccer

–  Varsity Volleyball (Team Captain as Junior)

–  Varsity Mathletes (Starter)(year round)

–  Worship Team, Leader (In charge of 13 musicians), at Desert Christian High School, at The Highlands Christian Fellowship, and at Central Christian Church (playing Guitar, and Bass Guitar)

– Approved Tutor: Chemistry, Biology, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Physical Science, Math A, English 9, English 10, English 11, Spanish I, Spanish II, Spanish III

– Attended RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards)(Recommendation from School Administration, then accepted through application process)

Awards for Junior Year:

–  United States Achievement Academy: National History and Government Award in AP United States History

–  United States Achievement Academy: National Leadership Merit Award in Leadership

–  United States Achievement Academy: National Leadership and Service Award for being an All American Scholar

– ACSI Distinguished High School Student for outstanding Achievement in both Academics and for Leadership

(Note: All of these awards are based of raw data [grades, service hours, activities, demonstrated leadership] as well as multiple teacher recommendations. During this awards night, I was one of 3 people, of 400, to receive the last two awards)

2008-2009:, Sophomore, Desert Christian High School

– Varsity Volleyball

– Junior Varsity Mathletes, (Team Captain)

– Worship Team

– Honors English 10, Algebra II, Chemistry (All advanced courses, the only ones offered)

– World History, Spanish II

– California Scholarship Federation, Cabinet, Sophomore Class Representative (3.5 GPA and above)

– National Honor Society (3.2 GPA and above)

– National Honor Roll Award

– Chemistry, Biology, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Physical Science, Math A, English 9, English 10, English 11, Spanish I, Spanish II

2007-2008:, Freshman, Desert Christian High School

– JV Volleyball

– JV Mathletes

– National Honor Roll Award: Academics, Honor Roll

– Honors English 9, Geometry, Biology, Advanced String Ensemble-Cello (All advanced courses, the only ones offered)

– Spanish I, Freshman Studies (Speech and Health)

– California Scholarship Federation

– Worship Team Member

Education:

– Graduate, Desert Christian Middle School, 4.0 GPA (All A’s, no weighted classes offered)

-Student, Desert Christian High School. Expected graduation: June 2011

Special Awards/Recognition:

– National Honor Roll Award: Academics, Honor Roll

– International Foreign Language Award: Spanish

– Presidential Award for Academic Excellence

– Mathletes, Team Captain, 2007-2008, 2008-2009

– Student of the Month: Leadership (Freshman and Sophomore Year)

– Student of the Month: Genuineness (Junior Year)

– Desert Christian High School Letters:

-Varsity Cross Country, Soccer, Volleyball (2 years)

-Fine Arts (Advanced Strings Ensemble)

-Academics (3.5 or higher) (6 of 6 possible Semesters)

-CSF

-NHS

-Clubs

-Principle’s List: Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years

The Essay:

It’s never too early to begin to think about what you would like to write in your admissions application essay. These are very important and should be well thought out before submitting. Be sure to have you liaison officer review it before you submit it or ask an academy graduate to help. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a faculty member from your school review it as well. More eyes on the project can mean a broader perspective, but it still needs to be your own voice, so you will have the final word on the essay.

The following is an essay that garnered another one of our son’s appointments to both USNA ($425,000) and USMA ($425,000) .

The Essay – Following in a Father’s Footsteps

In the military lifestyle, heroes beget heroes. There are so many families that have a history of military service, and oftentimes, military “brats” will grow into adults who have the desire to serve, as well. Here’s is Philip’s essay:

Growing up in a military home, I saw very little of my father at times. As an officer, he was often gone taking care of his troops, performing his duties, and faithfully serving his country. I never truly understood why he did what he did until his dream became mine. When I walked on the campus of the Naval Academy this past summer during the Summer Leadership Seminar, I saw greatness. I saw an institution that taught men and women to be leaders, thinkers, and people of character. But most important, I saw my cadet commanders as men of high leadership with a servant’s heart. They put our comfort ahead of their own, as my father did with his men.

All my life I have dreamed of one day leading hundreds or possibly thousands of men and women. I have sacrificed much in the process of becoming a competitive candidate for the academy. It was not Summer Leadership School that made me want to be in the military, it was my father’s integrity and service. However, it was the midshipmen that I met that made me determined to attend Annapolis. It was my goal to become an officer; now it is my goal to become a warrior and a gentleman, in the finest sense of the word. To learn “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” I desire to carry on the legacy of the service academies and to achieve a sense of accomplishment that no other college or career can offer.

Many nights I would stay up late, wondering if my father would come home or be deployed. I wondered if he was okay, or if it was his life that had been taken in one of the plane accidents that occurred in his various Air Force squadrons. However, these experiences did not make me turn against the military—it was quite the opposite. I began to see my father as someone very different from my friends’ fathers. I saw him as a warrior and a true hero. So many times I read about or see the actions of evil men. These are men who would not hesitate to strike down those whom I have come to love and cherish. I knew there was only one thing standing between me and those men—it was my dad. It was men like my father and those with whom he served that rose to stand up to people who seek to destroy everything we hold dear. I knew that I was called to be one of those men who took a stand, and I know it is the service academies that will teach me to stand, and to stand strong and proud.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 2

In part one of this series, we looked at the process and requirements to get into a service academy. This is the second part of a three part series on how students can get into service academies shared from the perspective of a mom of three Academy appointees (#USNA-2011; #USAFA 2015, #USMA 2017) and also a woman who happens to be an Admissions Liaison Officer for the United States Air Force Academy. 

Nominations and Appointments 

Admission to one of the service academies requires both a nomination from one your nominating authorities and an appointment from the academy the child wishes to attend. I would strongly suggest that the child also contacts your Congressman and Senators to request a nomination and contact the academies to express their interest. There are also Vice-Presidential and Presidential nominations available. If the student is the child of a retired military member or an active duty member currently serving with at least 8 years of service, then they should also contact the academy directly to apply for a Presidential nomination. Furthermore, a child would also qualify for the Presidential process if their parent is currently in the reserves serving as a member of a reserve component and credited with at least eight full years of service (a minimum of 2880 points).  Both of our sons competed to receive these nominations. They are limited in number and highly competitive, but well worth the effort.

To apply for a nomination through a congressional office, you will be required to completely fill out an application packet (see your representative’s website). To be eligible for appointment, you must be an American citizen, at least 17 years old and not yet 23 years old on July 1 of the year you enter an academy. Also, you must have no legal obligation to support children or other dependents.

All applications are usually due in October. Then the offices will conduct interviews during the months of November and December. The nominations will be announced in January.

The Interviews

If you are a prospective candidate for any of the military academies, you can anticipate two of the most important interviews you will ever have in your life: the Congressional or Senatorial Interview and the Liaison Officer interview.

Come to these interviews in a suit with short hair if you are a male and a conservative hairstyle if you are a female. Sometimes the interview can make or break a candidate’s chances of garnering an appointment if all other aspects of the competitive field are equal. A good interview can make you stand out or fall out—it all depends upon the amount of work you put into it.

As an ALO, I advise my candidates to write out answers to the following questions and practice them by themselves in clear, direct, brief answers. The next step is to go over the Q&A with a parent and solicit their inputs on how to improve the interview skills. Ask the parent to count the number of “uhs” and “ums” and “likes” to remove these from your vocabulary.

Next, ask your school counselor or Scout Master to set up a mock interview with teachers and administrators (or JROTC commanders) to go over these questions. Then, you’ll be prepared to knock it out of the park in your real Congressional or Senatorial and Liaison Officer Interviews.

Interview Practice Questions

These are not necessarily the interview questions you will receive in your evaluation interviews. But if you know the answers to these (especially those highlighted), then you’ll be well prepared for a panel of interviewers as well as a one on one with your Liaison Officer.

Why do you want to go to the Air Force academy?

Why do you want to serve in the military?

What are your greatest strengths?

What are your greatest weaknesses?

What accomplishment are you the most proud of?

What do you want to do in the Air Force and what is your backup plan if you cannot fly?

Who is your favorite leader?

Define integrity.

Define leadership.

Rank the service academies. Why do you rank them this way?
If not an Academy, how about ROTC? Why or why not?
When and how did you first get interested?
Describe your typical daily schedule.
How does your family feel about this?
Which parent or other adult has the most influence on you?
Have any relatives or friends of the family attended one of the academies? Who do you know in the military? What have you learned from them?

What will be your career? Why?
How long do you think you’ll remain in the military?
What’s the importance of integrity in the service? Examples?
Favorite subjects in school?
Describe your extracurricular activities.
What do you read for enjoyment? Why?
What community service do you do? Why?
How would your best friend describe you?
Who motivates you the most?
Describe your leadership style.
Are you a good follower?

What is your best leadership example?

Your worst? Your hardest leadership experience?

Explain the Academy’s Honor Code.*

*Look this up online to know the Honor Code.
Describe your sports participation.

What are your major life goals?
What have you done to research more about the Academy? The Service?
What is the best thing you have to offer to the Academy?
Describe a time you tried to lead but failed. What did you learn?
Describe your worst stress situation.
Give examples of how you’re a self-starter.
To whom do you look for good advice?
How do you manage and organize your time?
What’s the purpose of the US military?
What changes has the US military been through recently?
What changes will the US military soon have to adjust to?
What would your harshest critic tell us about your potential at an Academy?

If you could do one thing over in your life, what would that be? Why?

The Liaison Officer

Each military academy will assign an officer to assist you in the process of applying.  The McCormick brothers featured in the picture were two of my candidates as an ALO. Each Academy has a different title for their respective liaisons:

USNA: Blue and Gold Officer

USAFA: Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)

USMA: Military Academy Liaison Officers (MALO)

Merchant Marine Academy: Admissions Field Representatives

Coast Guard Academy:  Military Fairs Liaison Officer – (Please note this academy does not require a congressional nomination.)

In addition to having to meet certain physical requirements, you will also have to be interviewed by this intermediary. I would encourage you to attend service academy nights that are hosted in your community and where you can speak with these officers. Our son’s “Blue and Gold” representative, LTC Jerry Geil, USMC (Ret), was an outstanding inspiration as he interviewed Philip for his candidate requirement. Make good use of your liaison. One will be assigned to you and should contact you once you have applied as an applicant.

Summer Leadership Seminar – For High School Juniors

In the summer between a student’s junior and senior year, each institution hosts an excellent program that provides an “up close and personal” view of the academy. These seminars are where your hero at home can compete to attend that will give them an idea of what life is like at that institution and it will also look great on a resume.  These applications are usually available in January at the academy’s website and should be turned in as early as possible. The applications are so involved that some have said they are an excellent precursor to the final academy application. Also, you will be in the system and a lot of this information will transfer over into that directory. Two of our sons attended two different academy summer seminars and it actually changed the mind of one of our son’s as to where he would attend. So feel free to look at more than one option. You will have to pay transportation to/from the academy as well as a camp fee ($300 to $400).

Join us next time for part three of this series, which will feature samples of the essay and the resume.

Please feel free to share this with a bright young person who might want to attend a service academy and please don’t forget to share your insights of what worked for you or your student when they got into a service academy!

It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 1

This is the Academy time of the year—no I don’t mean the heat of summer, although this time of year is lovely in Southern California. But I mean it’s the time of the year when students begin to fill out applications to compete to get a little piece of paper in the mail worth more than $425,000. This would be an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, West Point in New York or the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.

As both an ALO (Admission Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy) and a mom of three sons who went to academies, I’m here to say that this is a VERY exciting time for applicants to work toward their appointment! I remember when my sons received theirs, we ate on “Happy Plates” (a Kay family tradition when we celebrate a family member achievement). If someone in your world is interested in pursuing this kind of a dream, then share the following insiders tips with them to maximize their opportunities to succeed.

 

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

A couple of our sons garnered one million dollars in scholarship offers, and in both cases two of those offers were from federal service academies.  These are highly competitive and look at the whole person. So it’s not enough to be a brainiac, they are also looking for students who are exceptional in the area of athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this amazing education valued at $425,000, your student will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation. For example, our Air Force Academy grad owes 10 years of service because he went to pilot training to fly the F15E Strike Eagle.  If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to a service academy, there are several things to keep in mind.

One of the first places to visit is your service academy’s admissions site:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy

USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA (Merchant Marine)

Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

  • Prospect:  A student who has filled out the initial response form showing interest. This means they are essentially on an admissions mailing list. You can fill this out as early as middle school by going to the academy’s website.
  • Applicant: The individual has filled out a pre-candidate questionnaire and provided initial info on PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades and extra-curricular activities. This is usually done NO LATER than the spring of their junior year. This is also the time to contact your congressman and senator in regards to a nomination. In addition, if the student’s parent is qualified for a Presidential nomination, (see nominations and appointments below) then the student can contact the academy directly to pursue this nomination as well.
  • Candidate: To move from applicant to candidate indicates that you have cleared your first competitive hurdle. This step is decided by the Academies admissions staff in the early summer of a student’s Senior year. Not all students will get to this point, but this is when they will be interviewed by the Academy Liaison Officer (or the equivalent). It is from this list that appointments will be offered as early as the fall. For example, one of our sons was offered an USNA appointment by October.
  • Appointee – This means that the candidate has been offered an appointment into the Academy. They can choose to accept it or turn it down, but it means they have not only received an official nomination, but they have also been approved by the Academy’s admissions board and offered an actual appointment.

Basic Requirements

It’s important to check the specific military academy website for updated information on your desired academy, but in general, here are the basics that you will need before you even consider applying:

  • A United States citizen
  • Unmarried with no dependants
  • Of good moral character
  • At least 17, but not past your 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year entering.

Recommendations

Because it is so incredibly competitive to gain entry into a service academy, the following high school courses will help make the applicant more competitive:

  • Four years of English
  • Four year of college-prep math
  • Four years of lab science
  • Three years of social studies
  • Two years of a foreign language
  • One year of computer study

Character

One of the academies defines character as “One’s moral compass, the sum of those qualities of moral excellence which compel a person to do the right thing despite pressure or temptations to the contrary.” (USAFA) They also define leadership as “The process of influencing people and being responsible for the care of followers while accomplishing a common mission.”  These academies are looking for future leaders with the highest moral character possible.

Diversity

Academies are looking for people from a wide variety of life experiences and the word “diversity” at these institutions no longer applies exclusively to race or cultural background. USAFA defines diversity as: “a composite of individual characteristics that includes personal life experiences (including having overcome adversity by personal efforts), geographic background (e.g., region, rural, suburban, urban), socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background (including academic excellence, and whether an individual would be a first generation college student), work background (including prior enlisted service), language abilities (with particular emphasis on languages of strategic importance to the Air Force), physical abilities (including athletic prowess), philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

Join us again for part two of this blog series when we will cover nominations and appointments, The Liaison Officer, and Summer Leadership Programs. Please share this blog with someone you know would love to attend a service academy and who has the potential to be among the best and brightest in our nation who will be offered appointments.

5 Do’s and Don’ts For a Smooth Transition to College or A Service Academy

When my daughter, Bethany was 4 years old, we called her “Bunny” because she hopped from heart to heart. She loved to play with her little girlfriends and one afternoon she spent the entire afternoon with Amanda. She was a little girl who felt life deeply and could go from being on top of the world to the depths of despair in nanoseconds.

When I picked her up from her friend’s she bounced to the car and chatted all the way home. We walked in the door and I asked her how Amanda’s older sister was doing. Suddenly, she began to sob, uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong, Bunny?” I handed her a Kleenex.

“I don’t want to leave you, Mama!” she wailed.

“Why would you think you have to leave?” I was really confused.

She looked at me through her tears, “To go to COLLEGE.”

Apparently Amanda’s older sister was preparing to move to go to college and Bethany couldn’t imagine a day when she would have to leave her Papa and myself to go to school. The good news is that fourteen years later, she was a little bit more prepared when she moved from California to Chicago to go to college. She got a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis in Electronic Media and was in her element.

Today, Bethany and I host The Money Millhousepodcast and still get just as emotional, on occasion, while putting her college degree to good use. We made a point of preparing Bunny and all the Kay kids for college, long before they went to Freshman orientation. Three of the Kay kids went to service academies, which meant they only had less than a month at home after high school graduation.

Whether you are prepping kids to go to a civilian university or whether they are going a service academy like three of our sons (USMA, USAFA, USNA) here’s some “homework” in the form of five do’s and don’ts to make a smooth move.   

  1. Don’t – Fill up free time with friends at the expense of family. 
  • Friends come and go but family is forever.
  • Only a small percentage of your friends from high school will still be your BFFs throughout college. Less than 2% of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships will last until college graduation.

          Do – Tell your mama (and papa) that you love them early and often.

  • Mend fences and build bridges with family members.
  • Expect there to be some pre-separation anxiety on both sides (parents and kids) so give each other a lot of grace.
  • Students, please understand that this is hard on your parents, especially if you are moving away to go to school.
  • Parents, understand that this is hard on your kid because they are about to go do something they’ve never done before. For those going to service academies, it’s going to be big and scary and you won’t be there.
  • Students, take the time to thank your parents, grandparents, friends, educators and coaches.
  1. Don’t – Take a break from physical fitness, especially if attending a Service Academy.
  • My husband, Bob, and our son, Jonathan, went to The Air Force Academy and they used to say that “The Air Force Academy is at an altitude of 7258 feet—far far above Annapolis or West Point.” That’s why physical fitness was important.
  • If you’re going to a service academy, you’re going to take a Physical Fitness Test as soon as you get there.
  • Engage in risky behavior, now is not the time to push the limits legally or physically. Don’t take up space jumping or quad racing because a broken limb could cost an appointee their service academy appointment.

          Do – Continue to workout and make wise choices.

  • Physical fitness is a healthy way to cope with pressure in college.
  • Even if you go on a family vacation or have a lot of things to do.
  • For service academy appointees, run 3 miles 3-4 times a week and then do 50 pushups and 50 sit ups every day.
  1. Don’t – Make this all about you.
  • Parents, don’t create drama before they go or after they’ve gone.
  • Moms, don’t sob and cry and tell them you don’t’ know how you’re going to survive without them. Shedding a few tears is OK, but doing what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” isn’t all right.
  • Parental, sibling or significant other drama is a distraction to the service academy appointee going through basic cadet training or “beast.” Distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to a turn back (meaning they have to go home.)
  • Don’t post a bunch of “poor me-isms” on social media

          Do – Keep it positive. 

  • Right now, service academy portals will have a mailing address for the student. Give this address to friends and family and with your network because cards and letters mean everything during basic training. “Basics” aren’t allowed access to computers, phones or social media.
  • Do send simple cards and letters – no perfume on the cards, no kissy marks on the envelopes, no care packages during beast, and no food. After beast is over, you can send these.
  • Do tell your student funny stories about a younger sibling or the dog.
  • Do send pictures of the dog or pet.
  • Do keep it light and not heavy.Students, do make your social media channels private or have them go dormant.
  • Do clean up these channels because you never know what the cadre will get ahold of and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or become a targ
  1. Don’t –Be Han Solo – you don’t have to do this alone.
  • My husband’s advice to our sons for basic cadet training was. “Keep your mouth shut and help your classmates.”
  • Don’t stand out as the first, the most knowledgeable or the best or worst
  • For parents, don’t go this journey alone, join a parents club or booster club.
  • Remember, parents, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.

          Do – Be a team player.

  • Look for ways you can help others get through Beast.
  • The friendships you make in BCT and college will last a lifetime. My husband, Bob and I just had dinner with a classmate of USAFA class of l978.
  • Do take advantage of the sponsor family program, a program that allows local families to “adopt” a cadet or midshipman.Some of these friendships may become like a second family—or at least get you to the airport.
  • Parents, do join a parents clubfor your respective service academy. Your civilian friends don’t get it, other service academy parents do understand the unique situation your family faces.
  1. Don’t – Ever forget the “why” of what this education and your career means.
  • Service Academy Appointees are choosing something hard, something their civilian friends will never understand, but there’s a big “why.” They want to serve their country as officers.
  • During BCT and during your 4 years there, you’ll have to sometimes take life a meal at a time, a day at a time.
  • Parents, don’t forget that being a good parent means you let them fly and you support their choice to serve. You don’t have to like it or feel good about what those choices may include.
  • Parents, DON’T borrow tomorrow’s trouble. While they are there, they are safe, they are not deployed, they are not in harm’s way. Today has enough challenges of its own without borrowing on tomorrow. As long as they are in training, they aren’t in combat. If and when that day happens, you’ll have the strength you need to cope. We know this, having had one son serve in a combat zone in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Appointees, remember your goals in getting through BCT and the academy—to fly, to serve, to go into cyber security or intel, or missles or space. Your goal is much bigger than BCT and that’s why you’ll get through.

Do –  Remember the Legacy

  • You are part of a long line of military service.
  • Think about the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who have ever served. You are part of that legacy.
  • Your legacy keeps American free.
  • Putting on a uniform doesn’t make someone a hero, but those who put on that uniform and serve with integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do—that’s pretty heroic.
  • There’s another kind of hero as well, the Heroes at Homeand those are the parents, siblings, grandparents and family members of those who serve. America thanks you as well. 

“It starts and ends with character, and it’s a journey, not a destination. Leadership is a gift, and it is given to us by those who follow.”

General David Goldfein

Air Force Chief of Staff

Memorial Day and National Poppy Day

Gold Star Family

Being part of a gold star family is like being part of an honored and exclusive club—but one that no one wants to join. The gold star indicates that a member of that family died while serving their country. We are a three-star blue star family, which means that we currently have three family members serving with sons in the Marines, Air Force and Army. We’ve weathered deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq—praying our way through each day they were there. We never want to add another gold star to our family.

Yes, our family is a gold star family because of my Grandfather, SSGT Walter Rawleigh, a bombardier on a B-24. He was on his 47thmission in Madang, Papua New Guinea. Fully gassed and loaded with bombs, the “Cisco Kid II” had an engine malfunction on take-off and crashed into an encampment of Seabees having breakfast. Ten members of the crew and 165 Seabees suddenly died that day. Obviously, I never knew my grandfather and my dad was a young child when his father perished. I know that my father, Chief Master Sgt Rodger Rawleigh, USAF (Ret) was inspired to serve because of the fact his dad never came back from war.

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is about gold star families and should not be confused with Veteran’s Day. The latter is a day which honors all who have served in the United States military. A memorial is a remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s not a day to say, “Happy Memorial Day,” even though many Americans have a day off. Many will use that time to picnic and enjoy their families and friends. In fact, the original tradition of this day was to eat a picnic while sitting on the grounds of a cemetery.

This national holiday was first recognized by Congress in 1971 and before that time it was known as Decoration Day, which originated shortly after the Civil war. Besides my Grandfather’s tragic accident, 645,000 Americans have given their lives in defense of our freedoms. What can we do to appropriately honor those who died? I’m glad you asked.

 

The Poppy

 Honoring our fallen with a poppy is a tradition that was inspired by the poem crafted in 1915
entitled, “In Flanders Fields.” It was written by Lt. Col John McCrae after he lost a friend during WWI.  McCrae’s poem inspired Moina Michael, an American professor and volunteer for the American YWCA, to write a response poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” vowing to wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance.

Michaels campaigned to have the red poppy adopted as a national symbol of remembrance and, with help from Anna Guerin and the 1920 National American Legion Conference, the poppy became the official symbol of remembrance.

But it’s not limited to our country, the poppy is used as a symbol of remembrance all over the world. In fact, Friday, May 25, 2018, is National Poppy DayTM, which was first recognized on May 26, 2017. Along with the American Legion, we encourage people to wear or display a poppy on this day to remember those who lost their lives in battle.

 

Virtual Poppy Field

I invite everyone to join the conversation online using #honorthroughaction and share your story. What does Memorial Day mean to you? Who are you honoring? You can visit www.poppyinmemory.com to dedicate a digital poppy to a fallen hero or as a gesture of appreciation for those who have sacrificed all. It only takes minutes to participate and I want to thank USAAwho are sponsoring this initiative and for all their help in Heroes at Home.

Honor the fallen today.

Mother’s Day and Working Mom’s – What Is Your Time Worth?

When I married my husband we had five babies in seven years and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I also had two stepdaughters for a total of 7 children to support. I left a nice job as a broker to have a more rewarding career as a SAHM (stay at home mom). One of the questions that I frequently heard was: “Do you work?”

“What do you mean do I work?” I would think even though I politely answered, “Yes, I work very hard as a stay at home mom.” Sometimes, an unsuspecting troglodyte would go on to say something totally thoughtless such as “Well, I meant do you really work. Do you have a job?”

I would bite my tongue until it bled….

What I wanted to say was, “What do you mean do I really work? I work a heck of a lot harder that you do, mister! I’m an accountant, a contract administrator, a chauffeur, a teacher, a nurse, a soccer mom, a stylist, a wife, and a chef! Plus ten other job specialties! I do all these things as a mom—I’M A CEO MOM, MISTER!”

They usually didn’t ask the same question twice.

These days, as a financial writer & speaker, the Founder of Heroes at Home, podcast co-host at The Money Millhouse, a Admissions Liaison Officer, —and a mom, I’ve talked with scores of spouses who work outside the home because of the status of our economy and by necessity–not choice.

Each year, Salary.com issues a report on what a mom’s time is really worth. According to this site, “Based on a survey of more than 40,000 mothers, Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $112,962 for a stay-at-home mom.  That’s a lot of worth associated with this great job of motherhood!

What is your time worth? You can log into a calculator that tells you what you would be paid on the economy for all the work you do as a SAHM or as a mom who also works outside the home and inside the home!

How effective is the mom’s work outside the home? Does it pay to work in today’s economy with rising prices and a modest hourly wage? Many spouses who move frequently do not often have the luxury of annual pay raises at the same company. For example, let’s look at Jennifer.

Jennifer was an administrative assistant who needed to work outside the home to make ends meet. She made an average wage of $9.50 per hour and felt she contributed greatly to the family’s finances. She only had one child in day care, traveled a short distance to work, and paid no state income taxes. Then Jennifer attended one of my Living Rich for Less seminars and was challenged with the idea of “crunching the numbers.” She completed the “Working Mom’s Compensation Chart” and was shocked.

The amazing fact Jennifer discovered was, by working full time–she was making $3 per week! She didn’t realize how those extra pizza nights (because she was too tired to cook), and the trips to the beauty salon (to maintain a professional hairstyle), and all those lunches (away from home) added up! She realized she needed to make some dramatic adjustments. She decided there was a better use of her energy and quit her job outside the home.

But Jennifer didn’t stop there. She implemented some money savings strategies found on this blog and is making ends meet at home. She has less stress in her life and the freedom to contribute to her family’s financial needs through saving money and by launching her own homebased writing business. In her case, a penny saved was more than a penny earned.

For more info on how to  plan for  a new baby,

listen to The Money Millhouse  episode with Tonya Rapley  

Once you come up with a figure, ask the big question. Is my time, energy and effort worth ______ dollars a week? It may be worth it and that’s great for you if it’s your choice.

Whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside the home—you’re work is priceless in terms of all you do for your family and for others. You deserve a Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for your hard work, you’re leaving a legacy through your children that will last for decades to come.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Are You Teachable?

When I was a young mom, we had five babies in seven years and moved 11 times in 13 years. While on that journey and at my husband’s urging, I decided to go back to school and finish my Bachelor’s degree. Yes, I went back into the classroom between babies #3 and #4 to reach that personal goal. Colorado Christian University had a program designed for adults who worked full time and taking care of all those kids was a full-time job! In my class were other adults including Madeline, a 70-year-old great-grandma who wanted to finish her Bachelor’s degree. When the professor asked each of us our motivation for enrolling in this difficult, accelerated program, Madeline sweetly replied,

“I always want to keep learning and remain teachable.”

She became my hero that day.

Madeline finished the program and walked the stage with the rest of us, then she went on to publish three books—always remaining teachable.

As a veteran speaker of 2000+ paid gigs, an author of 15 published books, a spokesperson for 100+ brands, and a media veteran of 2800 interviews, I’m often asked to mentor neophytes on how to succeed in these areas. It seems that everyone (and their mama) wants to write a book, become a brand ambassador or launch a professional speaker career. That’s cool, it’s great to have dreams. Many have read that they should “go to someone who is successfully doing what you want to do.”  Consequently, some will come to me. That’s not a bad thing, that’s what I did when I started out. I’ve received hundreds of requests for this kind of coaching and the requests infer a pro bono offering. This can be overwhelming.

How do you decide who to mentor when you have a limited amount of time?

My answer:  they must be teachable.

I have a business and non-profit to run, a podcast to push out, a husband to flirt with, and several grandbabies to visit. Time is limited and I can’t take every meeting that I’m asked to take. How do I decide who gets a meeting and who will get the closed door answer: “I’m honored you would ask, but I regret to say that I cannot accept.”

I’m not alone, you’re probably juggling work and home, trying to find that work/ life balance that is ever illusive. You need to know what meetings to take and which ones deserve a pass. Or, you may be the person asking for the meeting—why should the experienced veteran in your field, take a meeting with you?

They need to be teachable.

Just like Madeline, are you willing to humble yourself, do the work you’re asked to do and realize that you have something to learn?

I’ve found that the least teachable people are those who feel they have nothing to learn. Some of the worst speakers I’ve ever heard are Generals, CEOs, actors, teachers, and preachers—those who speak in front of groups often. They feel that because they are already doing it, they don’t need to improve. The English teacher who is not a publishable author feels she knows her grammar, but that doesn’t mean she can write a book. The professional speaker, who can’t make the leap to media interviews because he doesn’t know how to deliver a sound bite. You get the idea.

I have several ways of vetting someone before I take a meeting. For example, I’ll send them a file on the topic they want to discuss with me, “call me after you’ve read the file and we’ll set up a time to answer your questions.” Roughly 9.5 out of 10 never read the file—BAM! I don’t take that meeting.

Or for those who want to be speakers, I’ll say, “attend a Toastmasters meeting and then we can talk.” But they don’t do the bare minimum—attend one, little meeting! In both vetting cases, the proposed mentee feels they are advanced well beyond the need to read a file or attend a meeting.

The same thing happens at conferences, when attendees have a chance to speak with the faculty to talk about their work. Occasionally, a faculty member or speaker will request more material from an attendee.  According to my literary agent, Steve Laube (super agent extraordinaire) 9 out of 10 attendees never send him their info on the rare occasion he requests it. It’s a huge open door that they won’t walk through due to fear, laziness or procrastination.

After I spoke at FinCon one year on the topic of monetizing brand ambassadorships, an attendee followed up with me as I requested. She did her research, followed my advice and today, she’s a very successful brand ambassador. You can read about “The Budgetnista” and see the work she’s doing in the space—a truly teachable lady who found success.

Madeline, from my CCU class all those years ago, remains a hero of mine and I want to grow up to be like her. Towards that end, even after 25 years as a professional speaker, I remain teachable in my primary areas. I attend Shop Talk Toastmasters, and practice new material, receiving feedback from those Toastmasters. After every speech that my speaking team does with the Heroes at Home Financial Event, I get feedback on the presentation from my team. This way, I continue to learn and grow.

Are you teachable?

Are you willing to do the work?

Do you have a way to vet your time to determine what meetings you’ll take?

Have you ever been asked for a response from someone in your field of interest and what did you do?

For more information on how to structure your work/life balance, listen to our interview on the Money Millhouse with an exceptional life coach, Ann Vanino.

Where ever you go and whatever you do, remaining teachable is the best way to grow and continue to find success along the journey.

Millennial Moneybags

As a seven-year-old, I launched a business where I made $10 in two weeks through extensive marketing and key product placement to my second-grade class. In 2018 dollars, that’s equal to $712—not bad for a kid entrepreneur! When my dad heard how much I’d made, he pulled my braid and said, “Good job, little moneybags!” That sparked a passion in me to earn more, save more and share more.

Fast forward a lotta years and I’m teaching my five millennials the basic skills to master in their 20s to become financially savvy and stable.

Spend Plan

It’s important to develop a budget and stick to it. Make sure it is realistic and accounts for all your spending—including entertainment, gifts and other splurges. If there’s more than one person doing the spending on the same plan, then mint has a good app you can use to track where those dollars are going. The three main parts of a good spend plan include the ability to: save diligently, share generously and spend wisely.

Squash Debt

It’s pretty basic: saving=good and debt=bad. Don’t add to debt buying things you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like. Instead, put all “bonus” money toward debt such as income tax returns, bonuses from work and even a happy birthday check from your Grandma. This can also help you whittle down that average student loan debt of 35K+ and the average credit card debt of 8K. By paying off this debt early in your life, you’ll avoid thousands of dollars in interest and create margin in your life. In our 20’s my husband and I made the move to one car to get ahead on debt repayment and we don’t regret doing without for a little while to be debt free forever!

Spend Not and Want Not

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Most millennials live paycheck to paycheck with a lot of financial stress hanging over their heads. You can break this cycle, even if you came by it honestly (from your parents’ example.) Readjust your mind set to look at extra money left over at the end of the month as either savings or debt repayment—not fun money to spend. As you are trying to spend less to get on track financially, you may get an extra roommate to reduce your rent payments or carpool to save on commuting. Go to happy hour for free food and be the designated driver, drinking water. Use Retail Me Not every time you buy anything (online or in a store) to get codes and other savings. Be creative in the ways you can spend less than you make each month.

Save for a Rainy Day and Beyond

Any smart millennial will have a few months savings in a rainy-day account to pay for that unexpected bill or an emergency. A super smart saver will also start tucking away money for retirement and take advantage of the miracle of compounding interest. In our Heroes at Home show, we share this slide that shows you how to invest in yourself.

 

Super Skilled Cooking Star


My twentysomething year olds love the food network and Pinterest. They especially like watching a client of mine, Amy Pottinger, a military spouse, compete on that network. But what’s the use of watching cooking shows if you never cook? According to the USDA Cost of Food at Home, you can save thousands of dollars each year by making your own food instead of eating out. In fact, by using apps to save money in the grocery store and getting coupons and tips from sites like The Coupon Mom, you can save even more. I added up all the money I saved over 20 years with sales, coupons, and eating in (instead of eating out) and the amazing total was $161,000, that’s enough to help put some millennials through college debt free!

Strategic Splurges

 

Sometimes, there’s a misconception that becoming financially fit means you deprive yourself of everything fun and there’s no room for a splurge. Not true. You are just careful about what you will splurge on. That $20 glass of wine in a restaurant can go four times as far at Trader Joe’s when you splurge on a $20 bottle of wine (instead of the two buck Chuck.) Buying clothes that fall apart after one or two washes isn’t as smart as buying quality (on sale) that will last longer. An energy efficient appliance that saves you money in the long run is a better option than the cheaper version with a higher utility bill. Read up on products before you waste your money and realize that a strategic splurge here and there can save you significant change in the long run.

 

So, So, Happy

 

One of the reasons our family could go from being 40k in consumer debt to where we could pay cash for everything (including cars and college) is because we chose to be content. The more you choose to be happy where you are (knowing that’s not where you will always be), the better off you will be financially. You don’t have to drive a new car, live in the coolest place or take a mega trip once a month. I always said, “you can have it all—but not all at once.”  It’s a choice, you can drive a better car and have more roommates. You can splurge on clothes and drive an old clunker. It’s all about choices and the biggest and best choice of all is to simply choose to be content where you are right now.

 

How many of these habits do you currently practice?

Driving Cars for Free

In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, one of the most popular segments deals with “how to drive a car for free.” The concept is fairly simple, but less than 10% of Americans actually follow the steps to experience debt free living when it comes to transportation. We love our military audiences because even though some military members are “ordered” to attend our show, by the time it is over, they are laughing, they’ve learned something and they realize how much fellow Americans loves them.

So how do you do it? Just follow three steps:

  1. Start with a Debt Free Car – This is usually going to be the car you just paid off. Or, it might be a vehicle a parent or someone else gave you (it might even have seen better days). In our lives, we were “given” one car and we gave away 8 cars. It might be that you agree to be a one-car family for 18 months instead of a two-car family. This is how the Kays did it to start with. If you don’t absolutely have to drive a car (you are a one car family, public transportation, driving someone else’s car, etc.), then you can go to step #2.
  1. Pay Yourself – The monthly payment for your car that you used to pay before it was paid off is a payment you will now pay to yourself instead of to the lienholder. So let’s say your car payment was $300. You will pay yourself $300 every month for 18 months. At the end of that time, you take the $5400 you have saved and then sell your existing vehicle for as much as you can get for it. You will get more money for your vehicle if you detail it, get everything running as well as possible (without a huge investment) and then sell it yourself. Go to KBB for 10 steps on how to sell your car yourself.  Let’s say you sell it for $8000. Now you have $13,400 to work with.
  1. Pay Cash for Your Next Car – Follow my steps from my previous blog on Car Buying Dos and Don’ts – Even if you aren’t a USAA member (for an additional military discount), you can still follow the steps listed to pay the least price possible for your next vehicle. Make a special note: You cannot do this with a new car! It has to be a used car. The average new car depreciates $8000 in 8 seconds (when you drive it off the lot). So you have to buy a car that is slightly used (or real used until you trade up). The example in my blog shows how I traded up consistently until I was driving a modest Mercedes. (Is there such a thing as a modest Mercedes? I believe there is).
  1. Trade Up Until You’re Satisfied – After you’re in a new-to-you “paid for” car, then start with step number two all over again and start paying yourself. Let’s say you bought a car for $13,400 and you got into it low (as I showed you how to do in my previous blog), then in only 18 months a used car won’t depreciate that much (if you take care of it and try to keep low mileage on it) and you can sell it for close to what you paid for it. You sell it after 18 months for $13,000 and add the additional $5400 that you have saved by paying yourself every month. Now you have $18,400 going into step #3 and you can trade up your vehicle.

Does this work? It absolutely does. Not only do I do this in my own family, but I have children who do it as well. When my kids ask for my advice (sometimes it’s nice having a mom who is America’s Family Financial Expert ®), I advise them to not be wasting money on expensive car interest payments or crazy expensive leases. The difference is enough money saved over the course of five years to be able to put money down on a house instead of having to rent. It truly adds up!

Keep trading up until you are satisfied with your car and you can trade up into a car with a substantial manufacturer’s warranty (or negotiate that warranty). I do practice what I preach, and I did this to get my 2014 Mercedes, which is under mfg warranty until 2022. The only perceived downside is that my dream car is red and I thought that red cars get more speeding tickets than other colors. But good news! That’s a myth. Pedal to the metal!

What can you do today to drive your cars for free tomorrow? Let me hear from you!

Ellie Kay

Coffee Is On Us at The Coolest New Financial Podcast on the Planet!

Live, from Ellie’s kitchen table… it’s The Money Millhouse!

WELCOME TO THE FINANCIAL SHOW ANYONE CAN LISTEN TO!

The conversation gets lively and somewhat ridiculous when Ellie and Bethany share a cup of coffee (or four) over Ellie’s kitchen table. They not only have fun at The Money Millhouse, their conversations about saving money, couples communication, spend plans, super heroes and more make you feel like you are drinking coffee right along with them. Coffee, friends, money, sometimes random singing… what could be better?

Each week on this little-over-20-minute podcast, a special guest joins Ellie and Bethany at the table to discuss relevant money-related issues. From saving for retirement and credit chats, to home-based business tips and maybe a thing or two about what Star Wars has to do with coffee, there is always something to talk about.

The Money Millhouse will teach you while entertaining you with offbeat humor, geek-speak and money tips you never knew existed. If you can put up with Ellie’s annoying dogs announcing the next guest to come to Ellie’s door for a cup of Joe and a light hearted but important conversation, then you’ll get the maximum return on your time investment.

Come on in to The Money Millhouse, where we brew up money saving tips and tricks for anyone’s lifestyle. You might even learn a few secrets in the Millhouse closet.

This week, the show kicks off with a bang when Bethany

and Ellie talk about saving money when it comes to eating healthy including menu planning and tips at the grocery store. Start your menu planning by looking into your pantry and avoid wastage. Danna Demetre joins the conversation talking about the fact that the same principles to save money are the same when it comes to your health as well. Learn about which poisons (that go into your body) to cut out, which sweetener is the best for your body and why disease can be expensive. Also learn why having Mental Health Days (can you say a Disney day?) are important and natural days to de-stress.

The Money Millhouse is a production of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that gives financial education to military families around the world. To find out more about Heroes at Home, or to make an end of the year donation, visit heroesathome.org

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