A Financial Education Event
     

4.2 Million Predicted to Lose Health Insurance Benefits


Thinking of having another baby? Why not? We had five in seven years and they are all winners! I love babies–especially when they’re this cute!
But you may want to make sure your health insurance is squared away before you follow up on those family expansion plans. Marketplace Watch released news today that 4.2 milllion people are expected to lose their health insurance this year due to the economy’s impact on businesses. That’s not good news for baby lovers!
However, there are some things you can do to recession proof your insurance needs and make sure your family has the coverage you need:

  • Individual Plans — If you are currently covered under your employer plan and have family members covered under that group policy, then consider moving your spouse (and kids) into an individual health insurance plan instead. This will save loads of money and set up a policy where you could add yourself if the group plan benefits are taken away. The only time you would not want to do this is if family member have a pre-existing condition (like asthma, diabetes, etc) and you do not want it excluded from the policy. Otherwise, you can save hundreds each month by utilizing the benefits of an individual policy.
  • Divide and Conquer — Remember that there is no need for an “all or nothing” approach to health insurance. If you have a family member with a pre-existing condition (see above), then put them on your employer’s group policy and let the other family members go with an individual policy. By dividing your coverage among a couple of different plans, you are paying the least price possible for the most coverage.
  • Only Buy What You Need — Be sure to comparison shop by going to a site such as http://www.progressive.com/ , http://www.netquest.com/ or http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/ . I like this site because you can compare many plans and get a price quote right away (without a sales person calling back.) You can also choose plans that fit your insurance needs. Don’t buy coverage you won’t use. If you’re not going to have babies any time soon, then exclude the maternity coverage. By buying only what you need, you’ll save.
  • Term Life — If you’re healthy, then consider purchasing term life insurance. It is fully portable and you control the premiums by the amount of coverage you buy and the provider you choose. The time to buy life insurance is when you’re healthy and then if the company limits those benefits, you already have a policy in place.
  • Budget for Cobra — If the rumor mill at work is buzzing that health insurance benefits will be cut, start setting aside money for COBRA. This benefit will allow you to keep the current group policy, even if you lose your benefits or your job–but it’s pricey. I recommend that you set up an allotment from your paycheck and start putting a little extra each month into a savings account especially set up for this purpose. This method of recession proofing your insurance needs will help tide you over between insurance providers in the event these benefits go away.

Whether you are one of the millions who lose coverage or not, it’s wise to re-evaluate your insurance needs on a regular basis. There’s nothing worse than paying more than you need to for that baby!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

http://www.elliekay.com/

Break a Leg! — Or Not!

A year ago today, I fell off a three foot platform while speaking to a packed audience. Yep. There was an optical illusion on the stairs and afterwards, the usual speaker for that facility said, “Wow, I’ve been worried about doing that myself for years, it’s so hard to see those stairs!” Well, ya think ya coulda’ warned ME about it? I didn’t break any bones, but the trauma triggered a “frozen shoulder” and all kinds of nonsense MRIs, x-rays, surgeon consults, etc. It’s taken a year to recover. PLUUZE…no “how couldyou fall for that?” jokes, OK? I’m just glad I had insurance!
According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy
The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. First Place (http://www.firstplace.org/) http://www.weightwatchers.com/ are fabulous health programs for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates balanced eating and exercise plans, these groups provide the accountability and opportunity to change your life. A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week, or by being a member of Weight Watchers.

Be Wealthy
There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance. Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as http://www.progressive.com/ , http://www.netquest.com/ or http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/ . It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.
If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.
You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise
Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.” If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.
Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at http://www.ehealthinsurance.org/ to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Here’s to a Healthy Fall!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Texas to Toronto – From Ya’ll to Eh!

My “Living Rich for Less” book tour took me from my original stomping grounds in Texas all the way to the frozen white north of Toronto. I tend to adapt easily to my surroundings, so when I did TV shows in Canada, I found myself saying, “The thing aboot finances if that you have to stay on top of them, eh?”

In Dallas, I had to keep myself from saying, “Hey ya’ll, I’m fixing to tell you some thangs that are gonna help you a bushel with yer money.” But somehow I managed and you can see some of these clips to get short, pithy and helpful hints that will help to save you $30,000 in 2009! This was on CBS NEWS You be the judge and tell me if you think the Financial Expert or the Texan took over in these interviews!

Ellie’s personal story: Runs 2:40
– Ellie on the economy: Runs :43
– How to save on Homeowner’s Insurance: Runs: 1:51
– How to save on Auto Insurance: Runs 1:31
– Grocery Savings: Runs 1:14
– Restaurant savings: Runs :55
– Saving Is Cool: Runs: :24
– Tips on Refinancing your mortgage: Runs: :47
– Charitable Donations: Runs: 2:09

I’ll be back to Texas to do shows for CBS “Prime Time” (interactive perhaps?) and other shows on March 19th–so stay tuned!

Hey ya’ll, check back again for more helpful hints on my blog, eh?

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

ABC News Now – When Two Incomes Becomes One

I just love my bloggers, FB friends & eblast recipients! Once again, you guys helped make the latest segments on ABC NEWS NOW really great!

You can view the first segment and then be sure to view the questions and answers, where YOU had your questions answered on the air and WON a copy of Little Book of Big Savings!

Here’s part of the transcript
1) ELLIE, 9.7 PERCENT UNEMPLOYMENT IS HUGE– WHAT KIND OF PROBLEMS ARE YOU SEEING AS A RESULT OF THESE NUMBERS?
ELLIE: I think these numbers only indicate part of the problem. For every person we have who is unemployed we have others who have taken pay cuts to keep their jobs or they’ve had to accept a position significantly below what they had before. Even when the recession ends and we are in recovery, I think we’re going to see the contagion effect of unemployment and underemployment.

2) MOST PEOPLE PANIC WHEN THEY ARE NOTIFIED THAT THEY WILL BE LAID OFF. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING A COUPLE SHOULD DO IF ONE OF THEM BECOMES SUDDENLY UNEMPLOYED?
ELLIE: Step one is to “Review and Re-evaluate your Financial Goals.” When you go from two paychecks to one, all of the sudden money for your four year old’s college fund and/or funding retirement isn’t as important as making the house payment. It’s time to radically re-evaluate what needs to get paid to survive. Essentially, you will work backwards. Determine what you need for the end of each month to cover the basics (house, car, insurance, credit card bills, food, etc) and then work backward toward that financial goal.

3) ONCE YOU’VE WORKED THAT OUT, WHAT IS THE SECOND THING COUPLES SHOULD DO?
ELLIE: Establish a “One Income Budget.” This will, hopefully, be temporary, but you will need to readjust how money is spent until your spouse is employed again. This will include cutting back on expenses where you can. But don’t panic. Before you cut the cable or disconnect the internet, look at ways to cut back that are less painful and more productive.

4) YOU HAVE SOME TIPS ON HOW TO DO THAT..LET’S START WITH HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE:
ELLIE: Call the company and let them know you think you are paying too much & that you can get coverage cheaper elsewhere. It’s amazing how motivated they’ll be to help you reduce costs. You can raise deductibles to cover the big things and then lower those again when your spouse is employed. My literary agent took this tip to heart and discovered he had an old policy that had been grandfathered in, when they updated it, he saved $475!

4B) HOW CAN CONSUMERS CUT BACK ON AUTO INSURANCE NOW THAT THEY AREN’T DRIVING TO AND FROM WORK?
ELLIE: It costs less to insure a car that is no longer driven to and from work. Go to http://www.progressive.com/ to get comparison quotes on your auto insurance, then call your provider and ask for all the discounts that are available to you. Most clients I’ve worked with save an average of $350.

4C) THIS NEXT TIP CAN SAVE YOU AS MUCH AS FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR… CLIPPING COUPONS?
ELLIE: Whether you live on one income or two, you still have to buy food. By taking ten minutes to go to http://www.couponmom.com/ before you shop, you can save as much as $4,000 per year. The site does most of the work for you as it tells you what is on sale, what manufacturer’s coupons are available, what other store coupons are offered and the final price of what you’ll pay. There are dozens of items each week that cost only pennies or are free.

5) IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE FAMILIES THAT ARE UNEMPLOYED OR UNDEREMPLOYED SHOULD DO DURING THOSE ONE INCOME SEASONS?
ELLIE: Proactively Plan for Your Financial Future. Just because you’re unemployed does not mean you should enter the panic mode-this can lead to poor financial decisions. Go get help at the National Consumer Credit Counseling service (nfcc.org) which is a non-profit that won’t make you accrue more debt as the “for profit” counseling services will do. Oftentimes the nfcc knows the programs that you may qualify for in order to keep your house, renegotiate with lenders and help you proactively plan for your financial future.

Congratulations to Kristen Whirrett of Fort Wayne, IN; Ruth Schmidt of Willard, MO; Stephanie Woods of Sheperdsville, KY; Karen Power of Keller, TX; Rachel Morales of Victorville, CA and Kathy Hansen of San Diego! You guys had the questions selected by the producers of ABC NEWS NOW – GOOD MONEY show!

Ellie Kay
Americas Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!


With our son well into football season, I’m thinking about his health a lot more and the cost of health insurance as well.

According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy
The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. My friend, Danna Demetre, has a is a fabulous health program for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates accountability, balanced eating, and exercise plans, this approach to health provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy
There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance. Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com . It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.
You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise
Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.” If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Of course, I think it’s friends and family that truly make you wealthy and those who are happier generally have better health. So kiss your kids and take your girlfriend to lunch and enjoy!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

The Sixty Minute Money Workout

Today’s blog is a test: do my kids read my blog or not? For example, here’s a pic of my son , from a few years ago, making a New Year’s resolution to be more buff. He’s now a senior, how long will it be before I’m forced to remove the photo.

According to a recent survey (Source: Auld Lang Syne) 40 to 45% of American make one or more resolutions each year. Among the top new year’s decisions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and money management or/ debt reduction.
The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
– past the first week: 75%
– past 2 weeks: 71%
– after one month: 64%
– after 6 months: 46%
While a lot of people who make decisions during the new year do break them, research shows that making a decision to change is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.
If you are wanting to make a decision to get fiscally fit in the new year, then take a look at my newest book, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2011) Let’s go through each part of the workout:

Boundaries:
As people prepare for the workout, it’s important to establish boundaries, here are some of the things that you need to know before you begin.
First of all, people need to understand that you don’t have to be a couple in order to do the workout. You can do it by yourself, or with a trusted friend, or even a family member who isn’t your spouse if you are single. But whoever you do the workout with, it’s important to set some boundaries to prepare:
• no condescension or negativity
• no interrupting your workout partner when they are talking
• no name calling
• no throwing food – 🙂
• start by saying one positive thing to each other
• end by saying one positive thing to each other
• create an environment that encourages comfort and success
• have a timer on hand
• Do the pretest to prepare you for the work. Each pretest will vary according to the chapter or topic you choose.

Part 1 – 5 Minutes – Make Up Your Mind Warm-Up
Here is where you set your timer for each section. When the timer goes off, then move on! In this section, you set the topic for the hour and begin with a “can do” attitude. It’s important to begin by saying or doing something positive. If you’re working out with a spouse, then begin by taking your spouses hands, looking into their eyes and saying something affirming.

Part 2 – 10 minutes – Strength Training
While step one was to start with affirming words and decide on your money topic, this next section is a time to write down goals on paper so that you will have a tangible and objective standard to work toward. Decide how you would like to see the topic resolved today, in six months and what the outcome of your goals will be in the long run. This gives you both a temporary focus (for today) and a long term focus (for the next few months) as well as a big world picture (for the long term.) Your goals will depend on your topic of the day. For example, if you are discussing a budget your goals might include: a) to set up a budget that is real and workable, b) to stay on that budget for the next six months in order to learn how to spend less than what you make, c) to have a budget become such a habit that it is a financial vehicle that will get your family out of consumer debt, help you pay for your kid’s college and fund your retirement.

Part 3 – 20 Minutes – Cardio Burn

In this step, you give feet to your goals. If you’re setting up a budget, then you write down the specifics and course of action for your topic of the day. This may not seem like a lot of time on this section, but realize that you may not get it resolved during the first workout. The key is to keep the discussion moving and work on what you can, whatever you missed, you can get the next time around. Go to my tool section for free online financial tools, http://elliekay.com/financial-resource-center.php

Part 4 – 20 Minutes – Taking Your Heart Rate
This is the point where you do any “work” that needs to be done after you’ve written a step by step plan from the previous section. For example, if you need to save money on your expenses in order to live on the new spending plan you set up, then you could spending this time on quick ways that will save you hundreds of dollars:

1) Save on Tax Preparation – Go to www.TaxAct.com in order to prepare and file your federal income tax return for free. This free software asks you all the right questions to make sure you are getting every deduction that you have coming your way.

2) Save on insurance – Go to www.progressive.com to compare auto insurance. It only takes a few minutes to get several quotes from different companies. You can save as much as $500 by shopping around.

3) Save on groceries – When you can combine sales, coupons, double coupons and store coupons, then you can save thousands of dollars every year on your grocery bill. We’ve saved over $160,000 in the last 20 years by doing this. Go to www.couponmom.com and enter your zip code they will show you what is on sale and what coupons match up with the sales items to get things for pennies or free.

4) Save with Social Media – By going to the www.facebook.com page of your favorite retailer or signing up to follow a beloved restaurant on www.twitter.com, your savings can add up to hundreds of dollars every year. Social media followers are often the first to know about limited offers or free items. For example, my college student daughter, in Chicago follows her favorite cupcake store and by saying the word of the day, she gets a $5 cupcake free. That’s a savings of $1865 every year! Somedays, she gives the cupcake away—so she saves and shares!

Part 5 – 5 Minutes – Congratulations Cool Down
The workout has gone by quickly and now the last 5 minutes are dedicated to the “Congratulations Cool Down.” End your workout and sit back, grab a glass of something cool to drink and reflect on all you’ve accomplished in just one hour! You started on a positive note and you’re going to end positive as well. Take this time to tell your partner one thing that you appreciate about today’s workout in order to end the discussion well.

Keep in mind that just as you don’t get physically buff in just one workout, your finances aren’t going to get in shape after the first try either. But after you and your mate have exercised with this money workout a half a dozen times you’ll find you are making progress that can revolutionize your finances in only an hour a week!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

Our son, Jonathan, is a senior this year and we’re glad he made it this far! Last year, he had a concussion on the soccer field that could have ended quite badly. The total hospital bill for that little trip was over $18,000! According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, if you or your child broke a leg, you would incur costs in excess of $15,000. It’s no wonder that in my experience with mainstream American families, I’ve found that the greatest financial concern they have is how find affordable health insurance.

Be Healthy

The best protection against rising medical costs is still prevention. So get involved in a healthy workout program or plug into a support group to regain control of your health such as www.weightwatcher.com.Another great program is First Place 4 Health (www.firstplace4health.com) for men and women of all ages. Using a support system that incorporates prayer, balanced eating and exercise plans, this non-profit group provides the opportunity to change your life, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally.

A healthy lifestyle can also have other advantages. Many health insurance companies offer a refund on an annual premium if the insured can prove that they have attended a health and fitness center three times a week.

Be Wealthy

There’s no need to pay more than necessary for health insurance.Compare plans and prices by going to a non-intrusive site such as www.Ehealthinsurance.com. It’s possible to get a relatively anonymous quote instantly without the intrusion of a salesperson calling your home or office. It’s also a good place to compare plans by remembering that you shouldn’t buy what you don’t need. For example, if you do not need maternity benefits, eliminate them from the plan you choose.

If you can consider a higher deductible, then the money saved on premiums could go into a Health Savings Account (HSA), which is basically a health insurance policy you can bank on. When an HSA-eligible policy is purchased in conjunction with an HSA account, then the Health Savings Account is funded with pre-tax dollars, and taxable income is reduced at the same time. The money in this account is used, tax-free, to fund healthcare related costs including prescriptions, insurance deductibles and over the counter medications. The money that is not used in this account is rolled over from year to year and can serve as a retirement plan.

You do not have to insure all family members on the same policy. If there’s an employee benefit in a group plan, it doesn’t mean all family members have to be covered on the same plan. An average family can save as much as $2500 a year by pulling family members out of pricey group plans and purchasing individual health insurance. The exception to this would be if the family member has a pre-existing condition (such as asthma, a heart condition, high cholesterol, etc) that might be temporarily or permanently excluded in an individual plan. In that case, it would be better to pay the higher premium in order to keep the comprehensive coverage consistent.

Be Wise

Know the difference between health insurance and discount health or medical “cards.” According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, many companies are selling so-called discount health cards to consumers seeking affordable healthcare. Usually for a monthly fee, the cards claim to save subscribers money by offering discounts on physician visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, dental work, eye care and other treatment. The CAIF says that, “Discount health cards are spreading rapidly. Many may offer valuable, money-saving benefits for people without health insurance. But these cards can also be confusing, because they are not insurance. You still must pay the medical bills yourself. These cards simply offer lower prices on services that accept these discounts.”

If you have a question about a policy or a card before you buy, go to www.insurancefraud.org to make sure you’re being wise in your choices.

Finally, for the 45.8 million uninsured Americans, who may feel they cannot afford health insurance, go to the non-profit arm of a previous site found at www.EHealthinsurance.org to see what services and benefits are available for your particular situation and in your state and community.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

USAA Patriot Day

 

The first time I heard of USAA was when my minivan had a close encounter with a garage door. It was a sad day. We were moving with five kids 7 and under and Bob went onto the base to fill out the outprocessing paperwork. My plan was to go to a friend’s house and do laundry since all our household goods were en route to the new destination. These friends knew I hated the laundrymat with five kiddos, so they offered theirs. She gave me the code for her garage door (they were at work). I was so distracted with the kids and the move, that I “forgot” Bob had put the travel pod on top of the van.  I entered the code, got in the van and drove into the garage. The pod tore off the door and glass came raining down on the van. Bad day.

     But apparently, USAA is used to distracted, military moms of many, because they took care of the van, the garage door, and my injured pride in one fell swoop. The adjustor was kind instead of being appalled–I got the feeling he had seen worse. Even if he hadn’t, he was out to make me feel better. We were back on the road by the next day and I wouldn’t revisit USAA until two years later, when I had yet another close encounter with a garage door. This time it involved a partially opened door that is not visible in the rear view mirror of a Suburban when there are five screaming kids in tow–especially when one’s hubby is on alert to fly in harm’s way in his F-117A Stealth fighter.

     I had the privilege of visiting USAA headquarters when they brought out a bevy of bloggers to San Antonio. Home of the alamo and 5 million square feet of USAA office buildings. There’s a reason this company is some 16,000 employees strong–they have a lot of work to do to provide the best service possible to its members. From cutting edge innovation in mobile banking to prescient wealth planning, they know how to help everyone from a distracted mother of many to a military member in the red zone.  It’s what they do best.

     One of the most significant ways USAA showed the bloggers their core values of service, loyalty, honesty and integrity was to invite us to their “Patriot Day Event.” This event honored first responders, family members of victims and military members in a powerful and patriotic presentation that featured Colonel Mark Tilman, USAF (Ret), who was the Air Force One pilot on 9/11. He gave us a play-by-play of that life-changing day from a birds eye view. Then the bagpipes marched and played, “Amazing Grace.”  The audience cried, we laughed at the jabs he made about Texans… but we all remembered. We will not forget.

     After the Colonel addressed the 16,000, we had the honor of having him come into our blogger group and address 30 of us. One of the behind-the-scenes stories he told was about President Bush, after the war had begun and soldiers began coming home wounded. The President requested that wounded warriors be allowed in the receiving line for Air Force One. A line that was normally reserved for senators, congressmen, generals and other dignitaries. At one event, a young Marine, who had lost both legs , was in a wheelchair at the end of the line. In full dress uniform, he bravely began to hold a salute with a damaged right hand as soon as the jet landed. The Presidential aides radioed the on ground personnel to inform the “W” that this young man had trouble holding a salute. From his vantage point in Air Force One, Col Tilman saw the aide whisper to the President and watched the Commander-In-Chief push him off. Another radio call immediately came through, “The President says he know how to welcome home a Marine.”

      Then, the most powerful man in the world, walked past the dignitaries, to the wounded warrior. He got down on his knees in front of the wheelchair, and wrapped his arms around him. The President waived over the family, who was behind the security barrier, and they all hugged each other with tears of tribute to the proud Marine.

     No, we will not forget.

Thank you USAA for this experience…and oh, yeah, thank you for the garage doors.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Frugal Living – The New Normal

In today’s economy—with the stock market looking more like a roller coaster than a steady climb, with gas prices hovering well above where they were in recent years, and with household expenses continuing to price families out of too-tight budgets—many families are looking for good ways to save money without injuring their lifestyles. I’ve put together a handful of quick tips that will pad your wallet without cutting corners.

One great way to save on everyday activities and outings is a coupon book.  Entertainment.com offers a coupon book that is available for 150 metro markets and costs between $25 and $45. Preview the coupon booklet for your area (or an area where you will vacation) to see if the coupons are ones you will use.  You’ll not only save on eating out, but you can also save on movie theaters, theme parks, dry cleaning, and local shopping.

  • Average advertised total book savings – $17,000
  • To only redeem 25% is annual savings of $4250
  • A mere 10% redemption savings is $1700 per year

Dining out is a necessity for some families with busy schedules or long commutes, and for some it’s a luxury reserved for special occasions. If you want to try out a new restaurant, but you don’t want to pay full price, you can go to Restaurant.com, a site that issues coupons and gift certificates for over 6,000 eateries around the country. Our family picks a spot and pays $10 for a $25 gift certificate—we save over 50% in the process!

  • Average restaurant bill for a family of four is $86
  • Family saves $43 x 52 weeks = $2236

Two absolute necessities for any family are Home Insurance and Auto Insurance. The average family can save a good deal of money with just a little homework and a short conversation with your insurance agent. For your home, you should raise your deductibles to at least 3% of the total value of the home and make sure to only insure the replacement value of the dwelling (usually 80% of the selling price of the home) because you’re insuring the home not the dirt.

  • This is an average homeowner’s savings of  $250 per year.

For auto insurance, make a phone call to ask for all the discounts that your company may offer. Some companies offer discounts that include: combining homeowners’ and auto policies with the same carrier, non-smoker discounts, good student rates, car alarm systems, storing the vehicle in a garage versus carport or street, rating the most expensive car with a stay-at-home (or for pleasure only) rating, being between the ages of 30 and 60, and discount for driver’s safety course certificate (taken to keep a ticket from appearing on the driving record.).

  • This could save the average two-car family with a youthful driver $900 per year.

One great place to save a few extra dollars that many families don’t consider is simple home updates. If you still have young children at home, you may want to wait to have your furniture recovered. By purchasing a quality slipcover for $65 instead of buying a new sofa for $850, you save $785. By placing a crocheted doily for $15 on the coffee table  to cover scratches made by a speeding Corvette (Hot Wheels size!) you save $115 over buying a new table for $130.

  • Total savings on simple in-home updates is $900

One of the most draining line-items in a family’s budget are unexpected and costly repairs. These fixes can add up over time, but they can get a lot more expensive if not quickly addressed. My guiding principle is: Repair now, save later. Broken tiles and chipped grout in the kitchen and bathrooms should be fixed immediately in order to minimize water damage to tiles and the wallboard.

  • The average repair to damage of this kind costs $350
  • Preventative maintenance is about a $30 repair for a savings of $320

Armed with these tips and more to come, you can save money on every-day expenses. It’s simple to live rich for less; it just requires a little creativity, a little know-how, and a lot of savings!

Five Top Money Moves for 2013

This month I’ll be on over 25 television and radio stations talking about the Top Five Money Moves for 2013. So look and listen for yours truly in the media. My long time stylist, Ricardo, saw me on a national show and said, “You looked and sounded just like you do when you sit in my chair!”  My daughter, Bethany, was in the salon with me and piped in with, “That’s what happens when you’ve been on television as much as my mom has.” I could have sworn she rolled her eyes when she said it, but she insists she didn’t. I really do loving helping families do money matters smarter and media helps me get the good word out to these people across the country.

According to a recent survey, 40 to 45% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. Among the top new year’s decisions are resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and money management or/ debt reduction. While a lot of people who make decisions during the new year do break them, research shows that making a decision to change is useful. People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

If one of your resolutions involve getting fiscally fit, then there are five things individuals, couples and families should do every January, year in and year out, to help their financial picture. These five money moves will help you pay down debt, save more in your emergency fund and be prepared for possible financial setbacks in 2013. They include:

 

1) CUT COSTS ON FIXED EXPENSES – there are some expenses that people rarely check, but they could be missing out on hundreds of dollars of savings.

  • For one thing, it’s important to call your homeowners insurance provider and ask about getting a better rate. Oftentimes, you don’t think about this policy because the bank may cover this premium and you put that renewal to the side—wrong answer. The other biggie in fixed expenses is auto insurance.
  • If you drive less, in safer ways, and during safer times of the day you can save money on your car insurance. If you are military or a military legacy (child of someone who served), be sure to compare prices at USAA for car, home and other benefits to members.
  •  One final, quick tip to cut costs by shopping around, is for groceries. Go to couponmom.com where the site will tell you what’s on sale in your neighborhood, which items have coupons, double coupons and store coupons. Using this layered savings approach in the store helped our large family save $160,000 over the course of twenty  year!  (Yes, you read that right, it’s not a typo).

2) COMPLETE TAXES EARLY & FREE– The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund.  Even as this year’s tax laws get settled, you can still get your return started online.  I recommend the online TaxACT Free Edition has everything you need to prepare, print and e-file your federal return free.  TaxACT and I have worked together to help American families and specifically military families, because their tax solution guides you step by step through your return and guarantees your biggest refund. It’s fast, easy and even offers free help. Remember that the fastest way to get your refund is to do your taxes online,  e-file and choose direct deposit .  And once you have that refund, put the money to smart use like paying down consumer debt, bolstering your savings or saving to pay cash for your next car. Or, if you are a Kay kid, then you can use it to buy your Mama a really nice present!

3) CATCH UP ON SAVINGS – In money moves one and two, you freed up extra money by cutting costs and getting your refund back early. I recommend that you take a hard look at your emergency fund. If you are a single income family, you should have twelve to fifteen months of living expenses in this fund. If you are a dual income family, you need six to nine months of living expenses. With uncertain employment situations, it’s important that you save for a rainy day. Use 50% of that tax refund and money saved from cutting fixed expenses to help build up your emergency fund. Then every time you save money on expenses, write a check or transfer those funds into this important account. It will become a habit and you’ll build that account up more quickly.

4) CUT OUT DEBT – If you took 50% of the money you gained from steps one and two and put it in your emergency fund—good job! Now it’s time to use the other 50% to pay down credit card debt and get started on the “snowball effect” of getting rid of consumer debt. This snowball plan works by paying off the credit card with the highest rate first. Then you take the payment you would have made on that first card and put it toward the next card on your list, thus doubling up on that payment. Each time you pay off a card, you keep taking what would have been that minimum payments on paid off cards and put them toward the next credit card balance. You will eventually find yourself making triple, quadruple payments and you can see why we call it the “snowball effect,” thus getting ahead of interest charges and paying your debt down more quickly.

5) CARE AND SHARE MORE – This is a good time of the year to map out a strategy to give more and get more out of your giving so that you can itemize your deductions. Go through closets and donate clothing and furniture to IRS- approved charities, but keep track of your donations. Go to the giving arm of the Better Business Bureau to check out the status of charities before you give. Ask charities for receipts. You usually get more for each item than you would selling it at a yard sale.  Remember, monetary donations and certain expenses for volunteering are also deductible.

Happy 2013
Ellie Kay
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