A Financial Education Event
 

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.

 

 

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.

 

Financial First Aid Kit – Military Appreciation Month

In honor of military appreciation month, I’d like to highlight our Army son, Joshua. When he was born we started saying, “If he had been our first, he would have been our last.” That little boy had more energy and could get into more scrapes than all our other children combined. When he was eighteen months old, he stripped down to his diaper, took a plastic sword and chased his four older siblings around the house, thus earning the nickname “Conan, the baby barbarian.” By that age, he had also jumped off the top bunkbed (three stitches) and “flown” off our travel trailer (four stitches). Joshua was the reason we purchased a serious first aid kit. He’s now an Army Lt jumping out of airplanes at Fort Benning.

Just as every family needs a good first aid kit for those unexpected accidents, they also need a financial first aid kit, or practical ways to help safeguard their financial future.

  1. An Emergency Savings Account – This account is not an investment account, it doesn’t include IRAs, retirement accounts or CDs. Its purpose is not growth, but safety. These are funds that are accessed in the event of spouse unemployment, emergency home repairs, or unexpected auto repair bills. The best way to build this account is to establish a family budget. Go to your base’s Family Readiness Center to develop a budget for your current season of life. I recommend automatically transferring funds from a paycheck or checking account into a savings account every week. A good guideline is to save three months of living expenses for dual income households or six months for a single income family.
  2. Life & Health Insurance – For life insurance, you will need enough money so that your dependents could invest the money and live modestly on the proceeds. For military members, the best buy is still SGLI, or Servicemember’s Group Life Insurance. Members are automatically insured for the maximum amount of $400,000 unless an election is filed reducing the insurance by $50,000 increments or canceling it entirely.  Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI) is a program extended to the spouses and dependent children of members insured under the SGLI program. FSGLI provides up to a maximum of $100,000 of insurance coverage for spouses, not to exceed the amount of SGLI the insured member has in force, and $10,000 for dependent children. The rates are inexpensive. If your situation requires additional life insurance or you are transitioning out of the military, look at USAA for the best rates for military members and their families. For health insurance, there’s healthcare.gov where you can find out about open enrollment season and how to get insurance plans changed or updated. Another good place to research a variety of plans is found at eHealthInsurance where you can compare plans. There’s also
  1. A Will –Here’s another easy one, that’s as easy as making an appointment with the JAG or taking advantage of mobile services that are sometimes offered at military conferences such as Yellow Ribbon. The main section of this critical document will assign a guardian for your children. In many states, the surviving spouse may only get one-third to one-half of the assets that were in your sole name. Your children get the rest and if they are minors, a court administrator could handle their money until they become adults. Make sure that the beneficiary designations on any 401(k) plans, IRAs, life insurance and bank accounts are also up to date. Another option is legal zoom, which can prepare a quick will at a low cost.
  2. A Retirement Account –A surprising number of military spouses, or reservists do not take advantage of the terrific tax-deferred accounts offered by their employer, which include 401(k) plans. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a Federal Government-sponsored retirement savings and investment plan and has great rates with low fees for administering the account It’s part of the new Blended Retirement System that is currently in place. This plan offers the similar tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans and they are full portable upon leaving the military. Be sure your current TSP funds are not in the “G” fund for maximum benefit.
  3. A Good Credit Rating – The best way to rebuild good FICO, or credit score, is found in three steps: pay more than your minimum payment (even if it’s only $5/month more), pay a day early rather than a day late (set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your credit card company for minimum payments) and never let your available credit fall to less than 30% of the total credit available (for example, $2000 on a $6000 credit line.)  Each year, get a free copy of your credit report by going to Annual Credit Report or go into the base’s Family Support Center where they can also run a free copy of your report and check your score.
  4. A College Fund for Those Babies!–Select a college savings account that has low fees, a good selection of investments, plus a tax break. One of the many options is a Qualified State Tuition Plan, also known as 529 Plans. Be sure to research your state of record and their plans. These contributions will be tax-deferred and could even be tax-deductible from your state income tax if you are a resident of that state (check with your tax specialist). When the money is withdrawn for college, it is only taxed at the student’s income tax rate. If the child does not go to college, the money can be designated for another beneficiary or removed at a 10% penalty.

 

If you’re a family with a “Conan,” then make sure you have a First Aid Kit on hand. But don’t forget the fact that your family need a Financial First Aid kit as well.

I wanted to issue a special thank you to all our military families who serve, we appreciate you!

Financial Education Month – How to Resolve a Credit Dispute


In our Heroes at Home Financial Event tour, we work with military members to make sure their credit history keeps them flying high! Even pilots can get grounded if they can’t hold a Top Secret security clearance and they can’t hold a clearance if their credit is awry. There are some pilots with one million dollars in training assets invested in them. It would be terrible for them to have to fly their last sortie because of this important issue. But security clearances are something that every military member has to protect. That could be an expensive mistake. Thankfully, some of these issues are able to be resolved with the help of Airman and Family Readiness, but it still had an impact on military readiness.

You may not have a million dollars in national security assets invested in you, but you’re still a valuable person to your family, friends and community. Whether you are a military aviator or a mom who works from home–it’s important to regularly check your credit report from all three providers (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). You can get a free copy at Annual Credit Report where federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report from each of these reporting bureau once every twelve months. The law also allows you to ensure that all the information on your credit reports are accurate and up to date.

One of our financial education speakers is the ever knowledgeable presenter, Rod Griffin, from Experian. We recently discovered something new going on

at Experian regarding  enhancements to its dispute center that make it easier and faster to file a dispute.  Many people do not understand how to correct mistakes on their credit reports – so financial literacy month is a good time to help educate them on the process and take away the fear that it’s a daunting or complicated task.

Here are some of the highlights of the dispute center where consumers can:

  • Use their smart devices as it’s mobile-optimized
  • Upload photos of supporting materials directly from their smartphone
  • Get a free Experian credit report
  • Follow contextual links designed to help them better understand and access various sections of their report
  • Receive timely alerts updating them on the current status of their active disputes
  • Sort and view the accounts listed on their credit report by alphabetical order, date opened or status, and filter by categories such as collections or installment loans.

Be sure you share this with anyone you know who may have a credit report dispute and be sure that you check the credit reports on everyone in your family. Hopefully, you won’t find a credit history on your four year old daughter or 1 year old son, but identity theft is knows no age!

Knowing your options will help you with your credit report spring cleaning–especially if you find anything out of place! Once your work is done, sit back, make yourself a cup of coffee and don’t forget to join me and my co-host, Bethany Bayless in The Money Millhouse podcast for our interview with Rod Griffin, Gerri Detweiller and other credit financial experts.

 

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?

Smart Money Habits for Millennials (and Their Mamas)

The Kay Family had five babies in seven years. That roughly adds up to 3 kids in diapers at once, 10 years of not sleeping through the night, 4 teenage drivers at the same time, 3 kids in college at once and today, we have 5 millennials in their 20’s simultaneously.

Fun .

But the good news is that they eventually slept, pottied, drove, graduated and even mastered money habits in the journey. Here are the habits we helped teach our millennials to make sure they didn’t have to move home, they could remain financially independent, have a great start for their families, and still buy their mama nice birthday gifts.

Habit #1 – Create and Live By a Spending Plan

Many millennials have heard of the value of creating a budget and even have apps that help. But it’s of little use if they don’t know how to stick to it. Here are my favorite apps to help:

  • Mint Budgeting App – I met the founder of Mint, Aaron Patzer, in a green room, years ago, when we were both going to be on ABC News in NYC. At the time, he was building his success with Mint. I just remember him being (as he says in the video) “full of myself.” Ha! But his budgeting app is probably the best out there because it makes it easy to create a budget. You connect the Mint app to your bank and the app uses your details to help create a personalized budget.
  • PocketGuard Budget App – This app also connects to your bank accounts and shows you what you currently have in your pocket. It tracks your money to show what you are spending and automates where you’re going off budget and where you need to cut back.
  • You Need a Budget – This app’s claim to fame is that it creates a budget you can stick to based on the info provided in your bank accounts and spending habits. It even teaches you what to do if you overspend and how to live on last month’s income. This is the only app that cost money in my list and it’s $50 for the year, but there are hoards of devotees that say this app helped them to finally live on a budget.
  • GoodBudget – Back when dinosaurs roamed the financial space, there was an “envelope system” where you put the money you needed in each envelope labeled with expenses such as gas, food and entertainment. It helped Bob and I get out of 40K in consumer debt in only 2.5 years when we were first married. This app is the digital version of that system, making sure that everyone knows how much is left in the “envelope.”

You might need a money buddy to stay on track, too. Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, talks about her journey on our fun podcast The Money Millhouse and how she went from broke to anything-but-broke through techniques that kept her on track.

Habit #2 – Cook Creatively and Consistently

Money evaporates when you order out for lunch or dinner more than one or two meals a week. Bob took leftover dinners (the

re’s a microwave and fridge at work) for our entire marriage and we calculate that he’s saved $20,000 by doing this! Make Pintrist your pal or watch The Food Network to learn easy ways to create nutritious and tasty meals. Ask for an Instant Pot for your next birthday and make more than you need for dinner so you’ll have leftovers for either lunch or dinner later in the week. Or freeze the leftovers. My daughter lived with roommates for a few years and they would assign different nights for each of them to cook to simplify the work. Cook more and your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Habit #3 – Care About Your Retirement

When we take our Heroes At Home Financial Event on the road, we teach young service members the miracle of compounding interest with the mantra: start early, start small and stay committed. Be sure to start with funding a Roth IRA and take advantage of your company’s matching portion of your 401(k). Lacey Langford, an Accredited Financial Counselor gave some great tips on a segment called “I Aint Afraid of No Money.”  She discussed retirement planning from her experience in working with the military (but many tips apply to civilians as well.) If you’re military, be sure to go into your Family Readiness Center to discuss the Blended Retirement System and what your options are for your situation. It’s free and a benefit you can use early and often.

Habit #4 – Count the Cost of Debt

The average millennial college grad owes 37K in student loan debt and the average household owes $8500 in credit card debt. Work on minimizing the debt you accrue and pay off the debt you have so that you’ll have the flexibility to move or wait on the right job. One of my sons worked for JC Penney, and they eliminated his entire department. Most employees were freaking out because they had student loan debt, consumer debt and car debt—but not our son. He made a practice of living on less so he wouldn’t accrue debt and he was able to have less worry in the process of finding a new job.

Be sure you also pay attention to your credit score. Rod Griffin, from Experian, came over for a discussion on coffee and credit. He works with us on our tours and he teaches that if you have bad credit, you’ll pay an average of 360K more (over your lifetime) for the use of basic credit, than the person who has a good score. Improve your score by paying on time, paying more than the minimum balance due and make sure you never use more than 30% of your available credit.

Habit #5 – Choose Contentment

This is a tricky habit because it’s a mindset that you choose. There will always be something to spend money on to make you go off budget or get into financial trouble. There’s the new phone, tablet, car, vacay, boyfriend/girlfriend, baby, or a plethora of other reasons to want to spend more and have more. This is where your friends, family and even faith come into play. Coveting what others have or do is a lesson in futility and discontentment. Your friends either contribute to this mindset or they keep you focused on what matters most. If keeping up with their lifestyle is an important platform in your friendship, then you may want to find new friends. Remember that this financial journey is a marathon not a sprint. I’ve always said, “you can have it all—just not at the same time.”

What is one habit you are good at? What is one habit you want to improve upon? Share it with us, a friend or even a money buddy, so that you can be fiscally healthy in 2018 and for a lifetime.

 

The Money Millhouse – Podcast Extraordinaire

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.

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, visit heroesathome.org.

The Money Millhouse Crew:

Ellie Kay is the wife of the “World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot”, mother of 5 children, 3 fur-babies, and best-selling author of fifteen books and a popular media guest on Fox and ABC News, among others. Ellie is the founder of the non-profit “Heroes at Home” and has taken this financial literacy tour around the country and the world for the last decade. Ellie loves roller coasters, ziplining and all kinds of adventure and once took a ride in an F-15 E Strike Eagle, which she said it was less scary than walking into her youngest son’s dorm room. Find Ellie’s personal blog at EllieKay.com.

Bethany Bayless is the wife of Travis, mother of London (goldendoodle puppy), and Director of Communications for Heroes at Home. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL, and has been a social media coordinator for several organizations including two international groups. She is a self-professed geek, aspiring home-cook, and globe-trotter (not the basketball kind). In her spare time, Bethany draws and handletters, throws tennis balls for her puppy, London, and quotes movie lines with her family near and far. Find her blog at wanderlust4less.com.

Identity Theft Protection for Girlfriends, Grandma and Grandkids

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My husband brought me the credit card bill and asked “What did you DO on your last trip to New York?” He was stunned, “These charges are to a tattoo shop, an liquor store and a series of bars. Please tell me this is some kind of mistake!”
It was a classic case of identity theft. I may have been guilty of buying one too many lattes and pastries at Dean and Delucas in New York, but I had no tattoos! I tried to respond to my hubby but couldn’t speak . . .
And then I woke up.

Yes, I know. I’m a strange breed because my nightmares consist of dreams about identity theft. Unfortunately, my nightmares are other people’s reality, especially in light of recent major data breaches.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it takes 12 months, on average, for a victim of identity theft to notice the crime. You may feel YOU are safe, but what about your girlfriends in your group of friends? What about Grandma in the retirement home? She’s a prime target. So is your four year old grandson, when scammers want to take over his social security number.

I just got back from an informative trip to USAA in San Antonio. They flew out a group of us, who also write about these topics, and they shared the newest ways they help their members in a variety of areas. I interviewed Mike Slaugh, the Executive Director of Financial Crimes Prevention and he gave me some great ways to keep you and (those who love) safe from the ever growing threat of identity theft. Here are some ways to identify and protect yourself from the latest scams.

Phishing Scams – Never give your social security number, account numbers, date of birth or other personal information via email or on the phone unless you initiated the contact.  Never click a link in an email, no matter how official the email looks. Instead, open a browser and put in the name of your credit card or lending institution sending the email. “Some of the most popular scams are romance, charity, work at home and advanced fee scams” says Slaugh. “If you are asked to send money so they can pay you money, then that’s classified as an advanced fee scam.”

Checks – When you pay your credit card by check, never put your credit card’s full account number on the check, just write the last four digits. This will prevent someone in transit from harvesting your account number. Better yet, set up an automatic pay from your checking account and you won’t have to write a check at all (plus, you’ll never be late on your payments.)

• Data Breach – To see if your data was among those compromised during the Equifax Data breach, just go to the website they set up to verify your data. You’ll only use 6 digits of your social to see if your name appears on the list. Remind your girlfriends, Grandma and grandkids to check this info as well. If your info was compromised, then they offer a list of actions to take to help, this also includes getting credit monitoring. Your bank or credit card company might offer free credit monitoring as a benefit to their customers. Our family are USAA members and they partner with Experian to provide those members with free credit monitoring. I’ve seen alerts that tell me new lines of credit were opened.  If these accounts weren’t opened by me, then I can take immediate action.

MFA or Multifactor Authentication – Mike Slaugh emphasized the need to “make sure your financial accounts utilize MFA.” This means that your mobile app or website requires a touch ID, face or voice authentication, and/or a four digit pin, or a security token built into the app. This could include email or cell phone authentication or recovery that would send a code to your phone or email to authenticate usage on a new device.

• Deployed Military Members — During our Heroes at Home Financial events at bases, we encourage deploying military members to bring a device with them that can support MFA such as a keychain token. At the USAA Deployment Checklist you’ll find where a USAA member can go to their security section and ask for the token. Furthermore, you may want to put a credit alert on your social security number to make sure that scammers can’t use personal info to authenticate. Dana Martinez, USAA Director of Corporate Communications adds, “The Active Duty Alert gives extra protection for the service member.” You can put this alert in place by contacting any of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.

• Auction Fraud or Fraudulent Websites– Auction fraud is a frequently reported consumer fraud complaint at the FTC, totaling 51,000 auction complaints last year. The fraud is simple – put up a fake ad on eBay or other auction site, let someone “win” the bid and send in their money, but never send out the merchandise. Make sure the seller has an established history before you click “buy.” Also, watch out for websites that offer deals that are incredibly good. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” says Mike Slaugh. Check out any questionable website with the Better Business Bureau. Or google the website name, address or phone number and see the results.

I had a family member recently try to buy a dog for a great deal. She checked out the website and it wasn’t reported as fraudulent. But when she got to the payment portion, they wanted a Western Union payment before she got the dog– red flag!  There’s no recourse with that kind of payment and you can’t get your money back with a wire transfer or a money order. She googled the phone number listed on the website and saw it was connected to a previous scam website that was taken down. Her savvy sleuthing saved her from losing a lot of money just by being aware and doing her research.

• Identity Theft or Credit Repair Scams — The Federal Trade Commission has warned that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention companies are scam artists trying to get your driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number or credit and bank account numbers. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org .

 

Keep your data safe and be sure to pass along your knowledge to friends and family members, you could save them a lot of grief just by sharing this wealth of information.

 

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

 

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything

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My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   

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I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

Summer Jobs For Kids

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Nifty Ways for Kids to Earn Money This Summer

The first job my sons Daniel and Philip ever had was a paper route. It gave them something to do during the summer, helped them start managing their finances and was even a little fun (at first). While we said they could only do it if they committed to it for a year, they occasionally passed duties on to their younger brothers, Jonathan (age 7 at the time) and Joshua (age 6).

While mama (age undisclosed) did the driving, the little boys did the delivering. On Joshua’s very first house, he grabbed the paper in his tight fist, barreled up the sidewalk, got his arm into an admirable wind-up and pitched the paper on top of the house! Rooftop-bound periodicals aside, allowing your kids to earn money can be a fun and prosperous adventure, as long as you’re willing to supervise them. Simply set boundaries that are appropriate and let them go to work.

Here are some great ideas to help your kids raise their own cash this summer while enjoying the benefits of earning, saving and sharing:

  • Rent-A-Kid – If you, a church or neighbor (someone you know) needs any odd jobs done, this is a great idea. When advertising the service, it’s important to plan early and be specific, polite and careful. You can even help your child make a small business card on the computer!
  • Washing cars and/or windows – This can be advertised similar to the Rent-A-Kid idea and only requires suds, soap and elbow grease. Focus on safe neighborhoods and quality work. Always accompany your child until you know the employer better.
  • Babysitting – A popular choice for young guys and girls, safety is key for this job. Encourage your child to take a babysitting/CPR course and babysitting people you know. Also, if they keep the house tidy and the kids happy, it can lead to repeat business.
  • Caring for pets – Since summer is a popular time for vacations, people are usually looking for affordable ways to care for their pets. For kids who like animals, this is perfect. Recommend they pass out flyers and visit the animal before they take the job.
  • Mowing lawns – For older kids, this is a go-to summer job and an excellent source of income. It can be dangerous, so it’s important to exercise caution and safety. Make sure they have the proper supply and safety gear and encourage a job well done (the best form of advertising).
  • Making and selling candy or drinks – Everyone loves candy, cool drinks and cookies/cakes, so this is a great option for the future chef. With permission, you can sell at sporting events, church bazaars, carnivals, festivals or farmer’s markets.

Before your kids take on a job this summer, be sure to think about safety, age-appropriate work, training, quality and following through. And after they’re finished, praise them for a job well done! Be sure they are working for family members or trusted friends and feel free to supervise their work by tagging along as long as they are young enough to need you!

What kind of summer job did you do as a kid?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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