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8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

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As far a military families go, I’m brat, a grandbrat, a wifebrat and a mombrat. Yes, military service runs deep in the Kay family. My Grampa died as an aircrew member in WWII; my dad retired as a Chief Master SGT in the US Air Force; my hubby flew fighter aircraft in the Air Force for 30 years; one of my sons graduated from the Naval Academy and is an active duty Marine; another son graduated this year from the United States Air Force Academy and is at pilot training; and my youngest son is a junior at WestPoint. So when it comes to thanking our troops for their service, I really appreciate those of you who take the time to say thanks.  Here are some more easy ways to express your appreciation:

1.       Say “Thanks” – The fact that you are reading this blog, indicates that you probably already thank those in uniform when you see them. When people say “Thank you for your service” to my Marine son, he responds with, “Proud to serve.”  Be sure to also thank family members, including parents of service members, for the way they serve by supporting their military members. You can also say thanks by donating to Heroes at Home, which provides financial readiness for military readiness. In our Heroes at Home events I explain that when people say thanks to them, it’s their way of being patriotic.

2.      Say “Welcome Home” – As we all know, the Vietnam War was not a popular conflict, and those who served were greeted with jeers, taunts or just plain apathy. There are also those who returned from the Korean War who were never properly welcomed back. So when you see an older vet, ask them what war they served in and if it’s one of those two, then ask one more question, “Were you ever welcomed home?” If they say, “no” then simply say, “Well you have been now, welcome home soldier, thank you for your service.” I’ve done this many times and all were deeply thankful for the sentiments, and some were so deeply moved, they even had tears in their eyes. In our Heroes at Home Events, I encourage our young service members to welcome home these Veterans and just how much it means for someone currently serving to thank those who have served.

3.      Pick Up Dinner – Every year, restaurants give free meals and discounts for Veterans and those who are serving now and at The Military Wallet, you can get this year’s update. But why not keep it going year round? Once a year, or more, depending on your budget, pay for a military member’s meal. You may see a service member with his or her family or a group of military dudes and dudettes in a small group at a restaurant. Don’t go up to the soldier, sailor or airman to ask if you can pay for their meal. Instead, go to the manager or the waitress and ask for their bill, then pay it as you leave and tell the waitress to give them a simple message: “Thank you for your service.”

4.       Operation Gratitude – During Veterans day week, our USAFA parents club volunteered to help put together care packages for the troops. Lots of volunteers put together over 7,000 care packages in one day! Each time I went through the assembly line with my boxes, it took all my self control not to slip that package of Rocky Mountain Factory fudge into my pocket. You can also donate DVDs, Girl Scout cookies, trial-sized toiletries, candy, scarves, gloves, small stuffed animals, books and more to the effort.

5.      Mow A Yard – Or rake leaves, or plant rosebushes, or paint an outhouse, or… you get the idea, for the military family of a deployed service member in your neighborhood, church or community.  When Bob was gone and I was left home alone with a house full of kids, I really appreciated that help. The best help comes from people you know, where that military family is comfortable knowing you are not a creeper!

6.      Donate Your Old Cell – If you are like most of the Kay family members, you get a new phone about once every 18 months or so (it seems to be an inalienable right in our clan). Instead of trading in when you trade up, give it to Cell Phones for Soldiers.

7.      Calling All Coupon Queens – I started out in the financial area as a Coupon Queen and eventually evolved to “America’s Family Financial Expert” ®. Along the way, I’ve encouraged families to donate their expired coupons to military units overseas. They can use your castoffs for up to six months past the expiration date. For more information, email us at assistant@elliekay.com and put “Expired Coupons” in the subject line.


8.     
Care for Critters – If you are like my hubby, you are a critter person. He sits in his easy chair each evening and instantly—voila!—three mini schnauzers appear in his lap. They were his constant pet therapy when he broke his back a couple years ago, thereby ending his career as a fighter pilot. If you love critters, then you can offer to provide foster care by taking in a dog or cat of a wounded or deployed military member while he or she is receiving medical treatment or on duty.  For more on this, go to Guardian Angels for Soldiers.

Thank you to all our Veterans and their families, and a special thanks to my husband, LTC Bob Kay, the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot for his 30 years of service, to my Marine, Airman and Soldier. I’m so proud of all of you!

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

Teaching Children Generosity During the Holidays

Parents want their kids to learn how to give back to others, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to do that effectively.

When my kids were growing up, from the time they were toddlers, they worked alongside us to gather groceries for the local food pantry, they were with us as a family when we collected used coats from the neighborhood for the homeless shelter and they helped us buy toys for the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program, handing them off to a handsome Marine in the store. The result is that they grew up thinking of others during the holidays and today, they give back in proactive ways to communities both home and abroad.

 

The first Tuesday of December is “Giving Tuesday” when there is an effort across the nation to give back to our communities. This year, my family and I participated in Walmart’s Holiday Sing to Salute Military Families campaign by singing classic holiday songs! Who would have thought that teaching your kids to give through song could be so much fun? This is a nationwide campaign that encourages the public to sing a portion of a classic holiday song while capturing it on video, and then post the video on social media channels to show support for members of the military and their families. Through these actions, Walmart will donate up to $1 million to Fisher House Foundation, which for the past 25 years has provided a home-away-from-home for military and veterans’ families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veterans hospital. In my visits to Fisher House and my work with them, I’ve seen how important this is to military families.

The goal of the donation is to help Fisher House Foundation fund a full year of lodging for military families staying at Fisher Houses on U.S. military bases. Additionally, Walmart launched the campaign with a $500,000 donation to Fisher House Foundation.

From now until Dec. 22, the public can participate by taking the following steps:

  1. Create a holiday greeting or video of one or more individuals singing a portion of a classic holiday song.
  2. Post the greeting or video on a public Instagram, Twitter or YouTube account with the hashtag #Sing2Salute. If you’re posting on YouTube, make sure the hashtag is in your video’s title and post description.
  1. In the post, tag a friend and call on them to participate.

As always, your posted content should comply with the guidelines of the social media platform you choose. For each public post on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube using the hashtag #Sing2Salute during the campaign, Walmart will donate $100, up to $1 million, to Fisher House Foundation. To learn more about Walmart’s Holiday Sing to Salute Military Families campaign, review rules for participation and see featured videos, visit www.walmart.com/sing2salute. To see my family’s salute, take a look here or follow me @elliekay .

Another way my kids and I are giving back is through the Greenlight A Vet campaign to help create visible support for veterans nationwide. We can show support for veterans this season by changing one light bulb in our home to green, raising awareness on social media, volunteering and serving with veteran groups in their community, or starting a mentor/mentee relationship with a veteran.

Additionally, parents and their kids can celebrate the Red Kettle Campaign’s 125th anniversary this year. Participating stores, like Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations nationwide, will host red kettles and bell ringers throughout December. Have your kids put in their coins and explain to them that this act of giving will provide food, clothing, shelter, financial assistance and other services to those in need.

Ellie Kay

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

 

As far a military families go, I’m brat, a grandbrat, a wifebrat and a mombrat. Yes, military service runs deep in the Kay family. My Grampa died as an aircrew member in WWII; my dad retired as a Chief Master SGT in the US Air Force; my hubby flew fighter aircraft in the Air Force for 30 years; one of my sons graduated from the Naval Academy and is an active duty Marine; another son graduated this year from the United States Air Force Academy and is at pilot training; and my youngest son is a junior at WestPoint. So when it comes to thanking our troops for their service, I really appreciate those of you who take the time to say thanks.  Here are some more easy ways to express your appreciation:

1.       Say “Thanks” – The fact that you are reading this blog, indicates that you probably already thank those in uniform when you see them. When people say “Thank you for your service” to my Marine baby boy, he responds with, “Proud to serve.”  Be sure to also thank family members, including parents of service members, for the way they serve by supporting their military members. If you like the football, then get in on the NFL’s way of saying “thanks,” both online and in football stadiums across America in the next few weeks. Participate in the million fan salute. When you vote a “salute” for your team, then your local military earns rewards from this USAA sponsored initiative.

2.      Say “Welcome Home” – As we all know, the Vietnam War was not a popular conflict, and those who served were greeted with jeers, taunts or just plain apathy. There are also those who returned from the Korean War who were never properly welcomed back. So when you see an older vet, ask them what war they served in and if it’s one of those two, then ask one more question, “Were you ever welcomed home?” If they say, “no” then simply say, “Well you have been now, welcome home soldier, thank you for your service.” I’ve done this many times and all were deeply thankful for the sentiments, and some were so deeply moved, they even had tears in their eyes. Making a grown man cry never felt so good.

3.      Pick Up Dinner – Every year, restaurants give free meals and discounts for Veterans and those who are serving now and at The Military Wallet, you can get this year’s update. But why not keep it going year round? Once a year, or more, depending on your budget, pay for a military member’s meal. You may see a service member with his or her family or a group of military dudes and dudettes in a small group at a restaurant. Don’t go up to the soldier, sailor or airman to ask if you can pay for their meal. Instead, go to the manager or the waitress and ask for their bill, then pay it as you leave and tell the waitress to give them a simple message: “Thank you for your service.”

4.       Operation Gratitude – During Veterans day week, our USAFA parents club volunteered to help put together care packages for the troops. Lots of volunteers put together over 7,000 care packages in one day! Each time I went through the assembly line with my boxes, it took all my self control not to slip that package of Rocky Mountain Factory fudge into my pocket. You can also donate DVDs, Girl Scout cookies, trial-sized toiletries, candy, scarves, gloves, small stuffed animals, books and more to the effort.

5.      Mow A Yard – Or rake leaves, or plant rosebushes, or paint an outhouse, or… you get the idea, for the military family of a deployed service member in your neighborhood, church or community.  When Bob was gone and I was left home alone with a house full of kids, I really appreciated that help. The best help comes from people you know, where that military family is comfortable knowing you are not a creeper!

6.      Donate Your Old Cell – If you are like most of the Kay family members, you get a new phone about once every 18 months or so (it seems to be an inalienable right in our clan). Instead of trading in when you trade up, give it to Cell Phones for Soldiers. Go to http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/.

7.      Calling All Coupon Queens – I started out in the financial area as a Coupon Queen and eventually evolved to “America’s Family Financial Expert” ®. Along the way, I’ve encouraged families to donate their expired coupons to military units overseas. They can use your castoffs for up to six months past the expiration date. For more information, email us at assistant@elliekay.com and put “Expired Coupons” in the subject line.

8.      Care for Critters – If you are like my hubby, you are a critter person. He sits in his easy chair each evening and instantly—voila!—three mini schnauzers appear in his lap. They were his constant pet therapy when he broke his back a couple years ago, thereby ending his career as a fighter pilot. If you love critters, then you can offer to provide foster care by taking in a dog or cat of a wounded or deployed military member while he or she is receiving medical treatment or on duty.  For more on this, go to http://www.guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org/.

Thank you to all our Veterans and their families, and a special thanks to my husband, LTC Bob Kay, the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot for his 30 years of service, to my Marine, Airman and Soldier. I’m so proud of all of you!

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

Military Heroes, Money and Me

If time and money were no issue, what could you see yourself doing for the rest of your life? That’s the question we ask in order to discover our passions.

Think about this for a minute and remember this would be something you have to do FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! What would you do and why? Could you really travel for the rest of your life?  Could you eat chocolate for the duration? Could you go to spas forever? Most of the “splurges” we would indulge in if time and money were no object are not sustainable for the REST OF OUR LIVES.

Here’s my answer:

I’d speak to our military members and their families. I’d give two kinds of presentations:

1) Heroes at Home — The top characteristics of military families that help them not only survive the lifestyle, but thrive in the midst of it. These families would experience humor, hope and healing and walk away feeling that what they do as Heroes at Home has a life and death impact on our world. They would feel they are leaving a meaningful legacy.

2) Money Matters — The number one problem in marriages is money. I would show families how to get out of debt, improve FICOS, teach their kids financial literacy and pay cash for cars. I would give them real world examples from our very real family of kids that graduate from college debt free with 700+ FICOS. This is the message I’d give to families if time and money were no object.

Wait a minute!  This is exactly what I’m doing because my “profession” is finances in which I’m a media veteran, financial expert and spokesperson. But my “passion” is helping military families and it’s what I have the privilege of doing in between my corporate work, speaking and media appearances. In fact, the two often marry such as the recent appearance I had on Fox and Friends talking about sequestration and the loss of tuition assistance for military members. Click through to see the segment. 

Thanks to sponsors like USAA I can give away hundreds of free books to these military audiences so that they can walk away with some tangible military and financial help at their fingertips. I waived my usual honorariums at these events. With additional generous donors like ProFlowers, I’m able to travel to military bases and give away lots of free stuff to our Heroes at Home like several $200 gift certificates for San Diego’s own Shari’s Berries, Red Envelope, Personal Creations and ProFlowers . What do these corporate sponsors get out of the deal? They get the satisfaction of knowing they are making a difference in the lives of people like Shari.

I did a Heroes at Home presentation last month at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD)and there was a woman named Shari* (*name changed) who came up to me after the event. She confessed that she was at the end of her sanity because she was stuck at home with two toddlers while her husband was facing his 3rd deployment in 5 years. She was all of 23 years old.

Shari smiled weakly, “I came out tonight because of the free childcare and to get a break from the kids.”

She wiped away her tears, “I didn’t expect to laugh so much. Isn’t that silly, I don’t know why I’m crying now…But to hear that others feel the same way I do and I have people here who can be a support has changed my outlook. I can’t believe you did it with all those kids of yours.”

“I feel that I know why I’m a military spouse and that it really is worth it after all.” She smiled bravely, “I know what I need to do and you helped me see that.”

“Besides,” she wiped her nose “I won the gift basket door prize.” She laughed and blew her nose into a kleenex.

I got an email from Shari a few weeks later and she’s plugged into a family support group program at MCRD to get the support she needs. She said that night we met was a turning point for her because it gave her hope.

Hope. That’s a powerful word.

I guess you can see why military families are my passion.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

If you live in the San Diego area, then save the date:

Camp Pendleton – April 19th — Del Mar Beach Resort – 6:00 — Call 760-725-9052 to make reservations for free childcare

We will be giving away free books, and $200 gift certificates from San Diego’s own, Shari’s Berries, plus $200 gift certificates for Red Envelope and Personal Creations plus a $350 gift certificate to ProFlowers.

Pass along this info to your military friends in the area, there are limited spots available for childcare, so they should act now

Putting the Fun in Fundraising for Summer Mission Trips & Internships


Summer is the time for baseball, hot dogs, apple pie….and fundraising for summer mission trips and internships. Here’s a pic of our daughter, Bethany, preparing for her summer internship at Trans World Radio. My hubby and I are the parents of seven, and we’ve raised money for all kinds of non-profit programs to include the National Youth Leadership Forum, Rotary Youth Commission, the Young Continentals, mission trips to Mexico, China & Thailand and an internship with Trans World Radio. Hopefully, the following ideas will help you raise the funds you need so that you or your kids can help make the world a better place.

The Benefits of Fundraising

I recently had a friend whose daughter wanted to do some work so that she could raise money to go to a mission trip to Mexico. After the mission trip was over, she told her mom that the fact that she had to work hard to get there (and work even harder once she got there) changed her life forever. Working to fundraise is part of the gift to the people you will be serving. It also seems to mean more, when you have to work for it (rather than mom and dad writing a check). Finally, another value of fundraising is that it’s good resume fodder for college applications and future internship work—it shows that you know how to be a servant leader when you care enough to contribute. For the donor, there is usually a tax deduction benefit if the organization is a non-profit and they provide proof of the donation (a letter or receipt).

The Bill – Can I Afford to Go?

I like to say that “if it’s God’s will, then it’s God’s bill.” But there’s a difference between faith and presumption. That’s why it’s important to crunch the numbers and take a hard look at any internship or mission trip. I.e., if it costs $5,000 to go to Austria for the summer and you start fundraising in May with no money saved and few prospects, then you probably need to try again next year. Figure out how much you will need, divide that by the amount of time you have left to raise funds, then look hard at how much you’ll have to raise each month (and week) and make an thoughtful and informed decision. For example, an August trip to inner city Los Angeles, cost is $300, you start in early June, that’s $300 ÷ 10 weeks or $30 per week you need to earn.

The Beginning – Where Do I Start?

You’re going to start with a lot of prayer and a really good fundraising letter. But before you write the letter, look at how much you already have toward the trip (in your savings) and decide on other fundraising activities. Are you going to sell chocolate from door to door in 90 degree temps and 90% humidity (like I did as a twelve year old to pay for camp)? Will you babysit, have a garage sale, wash cars, clean houses, host bake sales, get a part time job, etc? Include the following in your letter:
• Tell potential donors what the trip or internship is all about & who it will help
• Share your passion for what you’re going to do for others & why you want to do it
• List the fundraising activities that you plan to do in addition to sending the letter
• Keep the letter to one page, 12 point font, with 1.5 line spacing (easy on the eyes) and send them via snail mail—otherwise, they’ll get lot in an inbox
• Ask for funds toward the beginning of the letter—be up front about what you need
• Send them to friends, family, your Christmas card list, doctors, teachers, lawyers, co-workers, neighbors—anyone who knows you personally & may want to partner with you
• Indicate if the donation will be tax deductible
• Add a photo of the group you are helping (or of yourself) to personalize the contact
• Tell them where to send the funds (or include an Addressed Stamped Envelope)
• Send these out ASAP and keep a master list with phone numbers & email addresses

The Big Follow Up

Two weeks after you send out the letter, make contact with everyone on your list to find out if they received it. You can make follow up contacts via phone (BEST OPTION), email or facebook. Have a plan when you make the contact and develop your own script so that you won’t be nervous. Here are the things to say in the follow up:
• Mention their name early in the call
• Use positive language
• Give a one to two sentence description of your mission trip or internship
• Ask if now is a good time to talk
• Ask them if they have any questions
• Ask them if they can help out financially (don’t beat around the bush)
• Thank them for their time, even if they do not commit to a donation

Another part of follow up is to send thank you notes to every person who sends in their support. Send these within a week after receiving them. Don’t just send a thank you via email, but physically mail them a thank you card. Once the trip is over, contact your donors with a one page letter (including photos) of what you did and how it changed your life and the lives of others. Your donors will see how their money made a difference and what their partnership means. It also paves the way for them to contribute to other projects in the future.

Happy Fundraising!
You’re Making the World Better
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Don’t Get Scammed When Giving to Japan

The tragedy in Japan is one that makes us want to open our wallets and help in a practical way. But with every tragedy there arises a new crop of scamsters, out to make a profit off of someone else’s sorrow. How do you give smart and make sure your dollars go to the people who need it most? Follow these tips:

Email Scams

McAfee recently reported a significant increase in the amount of spam being generated by “Japanese Earthquake Relief” scams. So NEVER respond to an email, even if you suspect it is legit. Do not link to the link provided in such an email. Instead, go directly to your browser and type in the link to investigate–even if it’s a charity you recognize. Some criminals are linking to sites like the Red Cross but the link will actually take you to a false site where they skim your money and your credit card number.

Don’t Fund Overhead or Fund Raising

You don’t want your dollars going to pay fat salaries, fancy overhead, or excessive fundraising expenses. The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance offers guidance to donors on making informed giving decisions through their charity evaluations, various “tips” publications, and the quarterly “Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide.” You can access this information by calling (703) 276-0100, going to www.give.org

You can ask them to mail you the various tip guides or read them online. These guides include information on:

Charitable Giving

Police and Firefighter Organizations

Handling Unwanted Direct Mail From Charitable Organizations

Child Sponsorship Organizations

Direct Mail Sweepstakes and Charities

Contributing Used Cars to Charities

Tax Deductions for Charitable Contributions

Record Keeping

If you itemize, you’ll need all receipts for donations of $250 or more. If you give away more than $250 worth of clothing throughout the year, you should have saved all receipts for tax purposes. The money donated directly to a needy person is not deductible. It would be better to donate the amount, anonymously, to your church and have them send the donation to the family in need. Check with your tax specialist every year for your state and federal tax laws.

Starting Your Own Foundation

If you are fortunate enough to have a large gain from a stock or mutual fund that you have held for over a year, consider using it to become what is essentially your own “foundation.” For example, if you own $5,000 worth of stock that you bought years ago for only $1,000, then you can donate the stock by setting up a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund account (call 1-800-682-4438 or go to www.charitablegift.org ) By doing this, you get an immediate $5,000 tax deduction and save having to pay taxes on the $4,000 gain. In the years to come, as that $5,000 grows, you instruct the company that manages your “foundation” where to donate the proceeds. Besides Fidelity, there are also charitable gift funds available thorough Vanguard at 1-888-383-4483 or www.vanguardcharitable.org or Schwab at 1-800-746-6216 or www.schwabcharitable.org .

Kid Philanthropists

You may want to allow your children to manage a donation in a predetermined amount $25, $50, or whatever you have budgeted.) They get to research a variety of non-profit organizations and decide which one will receive their donation. Then donate the amount in your child’s name. You get the tax benefit, your child gets the thank you note—you both feel good about giving.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)