A Financial Education Event
 

The $425,000 Interview – 15 Minutes To A Million Dollar Life

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I looked at the young man in a new suit, tie that his dad probably knotted and a fresh haircut. He was sweating at the temples and clearly nervous as he faced down eight interviewers gathered in the Congressman’s office.

“If you could be Disney Princess, what would it be?”

The red blush began in his neck and traveled up his entire face as you watched the wheels turn frantically in his brain.

“If I could be any kind of Disney princess…it would have to be…Mulan.”

His embarrassment began to fade as his face lit up with an idea.

“Because Mulan was a warrior and she will willing to lay down her life for those she loved and wanted to protect.”

He smiled, his nervousness now gone, “In much the same way, I want to go to the United States Air Force Academy and serve my country.  America has been a land that gave my family an opportunity for education and to build a great life for our family. I want to give back to the country who gave so much to my family.”

As a member of an All Academies Congressional Admissions Panel, I’m a part of a team of qualified community leaders who interview students who have applied to a service academy. I’ve also written a three part blog for those who are interested in going to these prestigious institutions of higher learning. In fact, this time of year is when most of these nomination packages are due at Congressional offices.

This particular student learned, in his interview prep, that he could buy time in an interview by beginning his answer in a compete sentence. This technique gave his brain a chance to come up with an answer. We interviewed 50 students for last year’s panel, in one day, from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Then we racked and stacked them based on their nomination packages and the interview.

The appointments to the Naval Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy are valued at approximately 425K. These go to the best and brightest young people in our nation who will be future officers and lead our military. They will pay back the cost of their education in five years of military service. So their education isn’t exactly “free” since most college grads don’t have to put their life on the line to pay back their education costs.

That “Disney Princess” question was a real question put to students from a different Congressional panel. It was designed to see how they could think creatively and react to an odd-ball question. The young man in this story is real and so is his answer. He is now at the Air Force Academy living his dream to one day fly and fight for his country. When he graduates and goes to pilot training, he will have close to a million dollars invested in his many years of training. So that interview question was one that led to his million dollar life!

Are you or someone you know preparing for a big interview in the near future? The key is preparation by rehearsing common and uncommon questions and gaining confidence in your ability to maintain eye contact, think on your feet, and communicate the real you to those who are conducting the interview. For those preparing for a service academy interview, feel free to email us and ask for the “Mock Interview Questions.”

 In the Kay household, our kids were naturally prepared for grilling questions thanks to the habit of asking them about their day every evening at dinner.

“What was a problem you solved today?”

“How did you make someone laugh today?

“What was the best part of your day?”

They were obviously more forthcoming some days than others, but the habit made it more natural for them to talk about their experiences. This easily translates to job interviews and even college or congressional interviews, where interview panels ask both conventional and unconventional questions.

You have probably already heard about the most common questions, such as ones pertaining to your history, why you’re interested and your strengths and weaknesses. But every now and then, you’ll get a common question disguised as an uncommon one. Here are five of them:

1. “What was your best MacGyver moment?”

When an interviewer asks a question similar to this, they’re really looking for examples of your adaptability and resourcefulness. Have you ever had any unconventional homework assignments or projects where you didn’t have common resources? This is a good time to talk about them.

2. “How many employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

This is a unique way to see where you stand on being a team player and if you have problem-solving skills. Most careers have a fair amount of group projects, so interviewers want to see if you’re a lone wolf (“Just one. Me.”) or if you can work with others (“As many as it takes to do it efficiently.”)

3. “What is our receptionist’s name?”

This could also be a question about something or someone else in the building. The interviewer is looking to see if you’re observant, paying attention and have a good memory. Just be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be prepared for this question.

4. “If you were in the NBA, what position would you play?”

Believe it or not, you don’t have to follow sports to answer this question correctly. The interviewer simply wants to know if you’re a leader or team player and ready to contribute immediately. Focus on answers that show off your willingness to do anything for the team/company.

5. “If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?”

This is a good opportunity to talk about a variety of things, from your hobbies to who you value. It can be a current or past figure, but should be someone you truly admire. This is a great way for you to relate to the interviewer and ease any tension or awkwardness.

Again, these specific questions are rare, but if you’re prepared to talk about things like your resourcefulness, leadership abilities and interests, you’ll be ready to answer them. A good starting point would be to look at lists of the most common questions and rephrasing them in a unique way. It can be fun and a great way to prepare for your first job interview.

What are some of YOUR favorite interview questions?

 

The Millennial Boomerang

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“My kids will never come back to live with us after they are launched.”

“I don’t have worry about boomerang children, mine have great jobs.”

“Junior would never get into trouble and need me to bail him out, he’s a good boy.”

Have you ever made a declarative statement that you had to take back and eat, along with a big, fat slice of humble pie?  I have. In fact, I’ve eaten so many humble pies that I’ve put on five pounds just thinking about it! That’s why I’m approaching today’s blog very circumspectly.

“Failure to Launch” was not only a popular Matthew McConaughey movie (would someone puleeze give that man a shirt!). It’s also a syndrome in America among Boomer and Gen X parents and their Millennial babies. There are many reasons for this boomerang barrage. One primary factor has to do with the unemployment rate among 20 to 24 year olds, which was 15.4% last year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Furthermore, statistics from the Pew Research Center indicated that 13% of American parents with an adult child had a child move back into the family home. While 40% of recent college graduates still live at home.

Money matters are the number one reason why these kiddies come back home to mommy and daddy as well as the struggling economy, student loan debt, consumer debt and in some cases legal troubles. Another primary reason is that some parents just enjoy having their kids at home and don’t really see the need for them to move on and move out.

There is good news and bad news for families in this situation. A boomerang incidence is detrimental when the children have an entitlement mentality, don’t carry their own weight in the home, are not looking for work, and cause their parents to delay retirement to get them financially settled. No one wins in that situation.

The good news of the situation exists when this living arrangement is only temporary and involves a solid exit plan. In fact, it can be a great bonding time between generations, especially if there are grandchildren involved.

But one thing is certain:  boomerang babies introduce more stress into the household. If the old adage is true that “company and fish are alike, after three days they both begin to stink” then having adult children home for an months on end has the ability to raise your blood
pressure significantly.

But what to do? What to do?

Here is the Ellie Kay motto for a situation like this, just tell your adult children:  “My love for you is unconditional, by my money is not.”  Your “money” in this case includes your home, furnishings, food, car, cash, retirement fund, home equity, phones, insurance, and anything else in your monthly budget that is impacted by new peeps living with you!

Here are some guidelines to follow if you find yourself in this situation:

  • DTR – “Define The Relationship” by discussing the living arrangement and defining the expectations on both sides. Come to an agreement as to what is expected of one another and delineate the boundaries.
  • Develop An Exit Strategy First – A solid exit strategy will have them back on their own between 3 and 6 months. If they know when they will be expected say “sayonara”, then that gives them a deadline to work toward in becoming financially independent again. It also helps to eliminate resentment when the time doth draw nigh.
  • Do What – Do What? – This is your new song, in that you are going to ask that son or daughter to do their portion for the household, whether it is doing chores and paying rent, or contributing by buying groceries and paying the light bill. The more uncomfortable it becomes in the parent’s nest, the more motivation that birdie has to re-launch.
  • Define the Rules – Part of the exit strategy will include the establishment of a budget for the adult child. I like the mint app because multiple people can track the spending at the same time. If they are living in your home, then you have the right to oversee a budget that will help them live on their own again. The idea of this may seem to restrict their freedom but it’s all part of the diabolical plan to kick them back out of the nest again.
  • Do have them pay Rent – Once they are employed, then begin to increase the rent over the course of the next months until they are paying the same rent to you that they would be paying for a place of their own. If you want an idea of what rent is in your neighborhood, go to Rentometer to find out a fair rate. YES, it’s probably more than what your lovely room and board is worth—BUT THAT IS THE POINT! You want them to see how it’s not worth it to live with mumsey; it’s a better value elsewhere.
  • Do Unto Others –– If you want to be kind (and sneaky in a good way), then you can take half the rent they give you and put it in an account that you can then relinquish to them. This will help them pay the first and last month’s rent on a place of their own. But you don’t “owe” them this act of kindness, your money, after all, is conditional while your love is unconditional and don’t fall into the trap by defining your love with how much you pay their way.
  • Do Give Them Wisdom – In some cases, the best assistance you can give them (besides the establishment of a budget) is to get them to a financial counselor such as nfcc.org that will help them for free. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can renegotiate loans, restructure debt and provide accountability outside of your direct influence. There’s nothing like a third party to be the bad guy when it comes to letting them know the real deal in the real world.
  • Don’t Bail them Out! – Just remember the idea of precedence: what you do once, you will have to do again for the same child or for another one of your children. Keep in mind your needs such as retirement, paying your bills, your credit scores and your financial future. We owe our children food, shelter and clothing for 18 years. We owe them unconditional love for a lifetime. But we don’t owe them a bailout when they overextend themselves or fail to plan responsibly.  

 

And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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“Mama, can you ask Miss Natalya if I can hold the baby?” my 6’ 4” son asked with hopeful expectation.

Moments later, he was holding the pretty little three-month-old baby girl and smiling proudly, “now take my picture.”

Ever since he was a teenager, he absolutely loved babies. Holding them. Having his picture made with them. Then giving them back when they made the tell-tale popping sounds that let him know the infant was filling up her diaper.

Father and son

Fast forward ten years. Past his years as a midshipman at Annapolis, past his years as a graduate student at Stanford, past combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fast forward to the present. Now, this Marine is holding his newborn son, Robert Philip Kay, III.

 

“Why are you picking up the baby when he’s sleeping?” I watch my son cuddle his 4-day-old son, the infant’s tiny features pronounced next to his big father’s duplicate profile.

 

“Because I’m the dad and I can hold him whenever I want.” He holds him. He has his picture made with him. And when the tell-tale popping noises indicate little Robbie is filling his diaper, he’s suddenly changed. He goes from a boy who has never changed a diaper to a man who changes every single one his tiny son fills (and his namesake filled six of those bad boys in only 24 hours.)

I’m proud of my man child who grew up so quickly, met a beautiful mermaid, married her before she got away and made me a “Glam-ma” to a tiny human who has my Hispanic hair, my husband’s name, his mother’s nose and his father’s legacy.

My daughter in law is a precious asset to the Kay family and not surprisingly, she’s great with money. Here are eight new mom tips that come from her recent experience and my background as a mom of many.

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

  • Amazon Baby Registry – Whether you have three baby showers or none, it’s smart to have a list of items you can use for baby. Even if friends and family don’t buy off the list, they can still mark it as “purchased” to minimize duplicates. Once everyone buys what they want, the new parents are entitled to a 10% off one order (wither 60 days before and up to 180 days after the baby’s arrival) and 15% off if you are an Amazon Prime Member. My DIL used this discount to buy eligible items off her registry that had not yet been purchased and she used Amazon gift cards, to further minimize their OOP expenses. Plus, she had $1000 worth of gifts purchased by friends and family, which scored her $100 worth of free diapers and wipes.
  • Return Duplicates Promptly – Get a store credit or exchange items for something else you can use right away. If you wait until after the baby arrives, you may not have the chance to get around to returning the items in a timely manner and you’ll lose out.
  • Don’t Open Those Diapers! – My first son, Daniel, weighed 11 pounds and was 24” long. He never wore newborn diapers. My last son, Joshua, was 10.5 pounds. He never wore newborn diapers. Even if you don’t give birth to a sumo wrestler, you still need to be careful on your timing in opening new bags/boxes of diapers. Once you open them, they can’t be returned for a larger size. This is especially true when you open a 180 count box from Exchanging a brand name diaper is easy at Walmart or Target, where you don’t need a receipt to get a larger size package. But not if they’re opened.
  • Calling All Freebies – I went out to Annapolis to nest before the baby arrived and it seemed like every day, my DIL was getting freebies delivered to her door—especially baby formula. She also got free toiletries, diapers, books and more from the hospital. Manufacturers of baby products and hospital auxiliary groups provide freebies for new moms. Look inside the baby bassinet cabinet in the hospital and you’ll probably find diapers, swaddling blankets, alcohol swabs, a nasal aspirator, disposable nipples for bottles, a thermometer, and more. These are valued at $30 to $40 and you can always use them.
  • Nurse if Possible – Not only will your baby get colostrum, that helps to fight infections and illnesses, but you’ll get valuable bonding time with your little one. It’s been estimated that nursing moms save $1400 in the first year over those who use formula. My DIL got reimbursed for a pump through Tri Care and other insurance plans cover the cost of a pump as well. Don’t take the one from the hospital because those (usually) aren’t free and nothing can ruin a peaceful day at home with your newborn than the breast pump Po Po at your door, asking why you stole an $800 breast pump.Don’t give away your sample formula either, 85% of nursing moms stop by the time their babies are 6 months old.
  • Free Advice – Many hospitals have a lactation expert who makes the rounds and helps new moms learn how to nurse a baby. When Anne, the lactation consultant came by to see my DIL, I learned a few things as well. Even after nursing 5 babies, I didn’t know that “infants are nocturnal beings.” Um, yeah. I should have figured that out. This service is free and can cost $200 if you pay a lactation advisor. Ask about free hotlines and even volunteer services that may pay for a home visit. Plus, check your insurance provider’s coverages as well.One of the nurses, Leslie, was helping my DIL and when she realized I had raised 5 infants, she pointed at me and said to my son and DIL, “You are blessed to have her in your life. She’s one of the greatest resources of knowledge you have at your disposal.” I loved Leslie, she was my favorite.
  • Double Duty Accessories – When you’re filling out a wish list, try to get items that have more than one function. Like a Graco pack n play that also has a changing table built in as well as a bassinet. We got my oldest son a crib that converted into a toddler bed for his son, Liam, and we bought the conversion kit when we bought the crib. These styles are new every 9 months and if you wait to buy the conversion kit when you need it (2 years or so), then it may no longer be available.
  • You Have Not Because You Ask Not – Be sure you ask the OB/GYN and the pediatrician for product samples. Not only will you discover whether you like the product before you purchase a full size, you may only need a little of it to get you through the crisis (we will not talk about nipple cream now.) Sign up for baby food company newsletters and coupon offers. Go to Gerber, Beechnut, Earthsbest, and Stonyfield to get these offers.

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

Congratulations on your new baby. Whether you are the parent, grandparents, auntie, uncle or just a favorite friend—this is an exciting time for your entire family.

My husband and I are and thankful for our children and now our children’s children. We are often asked how we raised so many successful children, with success being measured as kids who are living their purpose and making the world a better place.

We usually answer this question with, “We tried to think of what was best for the child. I didn’t think about what I wanted to do, I thought about what was going to be the best option for my child.”

Gotta go check instastories for the latest baby video—until next time!

Back to College – The Kay Way – part two

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When people ask me how we are put our kids through college debt free, the answer is multi-fold.

First, we train our children from a young age that going to school, doing your homework and getting good grades is their primary “job.” By teaching them a good work ethic, we are laying the groundwork for scholarships and more.

Secondly, we send them to schools that we can afford or where they get the best scholarship offers to cover the most expenses.

Thirdly, we have saved a modest amount of college money to help them pay their room and board and partial tuition in some cases.

Lastly, but certainly not least, we require that they work part time in the summers or during the school year (through a work/study program or a regular job) in order to do their part in paying for college. By implementing these four disciplines, graduated debt free, with our most recent grad finishing up this past May. The older Kay kids had over ½ million in scholarships and and the last two garnered over a million dollars in scholarships.

Priorities
In any discussion of college costs, it’s important to keep priorities straight:
Parents need to leave yourself some fun money for retirement. How else can you afford that mechanical bull riding lesson and those parasailing flights (been there, done that, LOVE it)?
I really believe that you, as a parent, should try to avoid borrowing on your future in order to pay for your child’s future. Why would you want to take one of your greatest investments and leverage it for college expenses? Yet millions of parents make that devastating financial choice every year. I’m talking about avoiding any college funding plan that includes a home equity loan, a HELOC (home equity line of credit) or refinancing of an existing home mortgage. These options reduce the amount of equity in your home, increasing the risk of possible foreclosure and you incur costs in interest charges that may cost you more if the term on the new mortgage is greater than the remaining term on the existing mortgage.

The College Mantra
When I began a young adult, got married and began having kids (in that order) I was first exposed to the whole idea of “the college my child gets accepted to.” As a mom of many I frequently heard, “What college did they get accepted into?” The part of that question that amazes me is that the answer that is most impressive are also the most expensive (Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, etc). While an average of 40% of the students who attend these schools either get financial aid, grants or scholarships, they only average out to an assistance of $9600 per year. This leaves a boatload that the student and mom/dad owe for college. Most of this is usually in loans of some kind. So then the average student graduating from some of the most prestigious colleges have student loans upwards to $80,000 or more.
So why is the question: What college did they get accepted into?
The question should be: What college did they get accepted into that they can afford?
Why do you want to leverage your future (through HELOCS or loans) or leverage their future (through massive consumer debt) when it will take many years of earning power, for them to pay back those loans? One of the most common problems in young married Millennials is the burden of dual student loans in a marriage.

I’m doing what I can to help families minimize student loan debt so that both the parents and the graduates can have a better quality of life with more flexibility once they start those new careers. For more practical aspects of very specific ways you can pay for college. Please email assistant@elliekay.com and put “College Crunches” in the subject line. Our offices will send you a wonderful resource file that I wrote to help you fund a quality education for a fraction of the debt.

Ellie Kay

 

Back to College – The Kay Way – part one

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Back To College

When Bethany was four years old, she came running in the house sobbing uncontrollably. I smoothed her blond curls and held her, “What’s wrong, Bunny?”
“I don’t want to leave you and go to college!” Her chubby arms held my neck tight.
“Um, well, Bunny, you don’t have to go to college any time soon!” I soothed, while rubbing her back.
She sat up straight, “I don’t?”
Wiping away her tears, she sniffed, “Good! Can I go back to Julie’s house and play again?”
I figured out later that all the drama was because Julie’s older brother was leaving for college and her friend’s family was sad to say goodbye. She thought she was going to have to leave us and it made her sad.
Fast forward the better part of two decades and she’s now a rising senior at Moody in Chicago, majoring in media communications. She’s not crying when she goes back to school, although we miss her. The good news is that she, along with all our other kids, are graduating debt-free! We don’t have any student loans and we didn’t have to refinance our house. Here are a few quick tips to pay for college. For more info, email assistant@elliekay.com and ask for the “College Crunch File.”

1. Make the Right Choice – Choose a school not because it’s the best, but because it’s the best value. Change the conversation from “I’ll go to the best college that I can get into” to “I will go to the school where I can get the best education possible for the least amount of student loan debt.” Our son, Daniel, chose the University of Texas (Arlington) over the scholarship he got to Syracuse and TCU because he would still have 60K in student loan debt after the scholarships ran out. He graduated with honors and a degree in journalism. He’s a working writer in Texas and doesn’t regret his college choice. In fact, when his department downsized and he needed to find another job, many in his section were overwhelmed because of their student loan debt. But his lack of college debt allowed him the freedom to find a job he really enjoys and he didn’t have to take the first job that came along.

2. Save Big on Books by Renting – The average student pays more than $600 for course materials – the largest expense after tuition and room and board.  You may want to look at renting textbooks through Follett’s Rent-A-Text program, students can cut costs by 50 percent or more. Or go to amazon to find used textbooks, making sure that you have an amazon prime account and can filter the options with the prime filter to get free shipping.

3. Make Scholarships a Part-Time Job – Millions of dollars of scholarship money go unclaimed every year. This is free money that parents or prospective students who are willing to do some detective work may find more quickly than they think. Have your student go to College Board or Fast Web  to find scholarships that might be a fit for your student.

4. Create a Budget, and Stick to It – As a parent of a college student, your love for your student is unconditional, but your money is conditional. That’s what we’ve always told our kids. To ensure students are making the most of their money, set a budget for spending and manage it by downloading Mint to help track spending. And determine which on-campus retailers accept financial aid to be certain you’re making the most of your college dollars.

Join us next week for part two of our Back To College series and let me hear your tips and idea to make college more affordable!

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert

I Do Not Hate You

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Technology–you gotta love it, and hate it, too.

On Jan 1, I published a very fun blog, that my readers loved. Then we transferred over to a new platform and it was forever lost.

So I’ve revived it, now that we are a few months into 2017 to remind us that this is going to be a good year!

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My daughter, Bethany, and I have a close relationship that often baffles the unassuming bystander. While we have been known to have a hearty row every now and then, we prefer to laugh early and often. One of our shticks is performed when we try to call or text each other and the recipient fails to answer. Our ever-mature response is to call and leave voice mail saying,

“Why do you hate me?”

The other party is to respond as soon as possible with assurances that you are not nearly as hated as you think.

We have variations of this hilarity and while it seems unhealthy from the outside looking in, it works for us.

At the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 we hear a lot about how eager some are to release 2016 to the dregs of a year gone sour: a year of political strife, unequalled loss and anguished setbacks. In short, they hated 2016.

But I have to say to 2016—I do not hate you.

In 2015 my Marine son was in a combat zone in Iraq, in 2014 he was in regular firefights in Afghanistan as an infantry platoon commander.  Had I been prone to hate a year, it would have been 2014.

In 2016 that Marine married his true love and I gained a daughter. I know it’s a cliché, most mother-in-laws have to say that, right? But in my case, I really expanded the tent pegs of my heart to let another inside. This young lady read my books before she met me, she knows my son better than I, and she works kindly and lovingly behind the scenes to foster our family’s unity. She calls me “mama” and she calls me regularly.  She gives me gifts (my love language is gift giving) and she makes me laugh. Yeah, I hear you “Ellie, you are painting this girl in shades of YOU—what she does for YOUR son, how she makes YOU feel, and the value she brings to YOUR family.” You are right. I am.

In 2013 my daughter Bethany, a recent college graduate, left the good old US of A and moved to England to serve at a non-profit that benefitted children. She mended hearts of kids who needed to hear about hope. She got to see a number of countries and experience other cultures and that was good. But the non-profit organization broke her heart. Amidst poor leadership, false accusation and territorial dogmas my daughter lost her joy. The “bouncing Bunny” came back shattered and in need of healing. If I could have hated a year, it could have been 2013.

In 2016 that daughter married her true love and I gained a son. Yes, here we go with the cliché’s again. But if you’ve never enlarged your heart to let someone who is not your own child in, then you don’t know what I’m talking about, so don’t judge me. This young man is guileless. Truly, he knows no guile. I don’t know if he’s a good poker player because he just doesn’t lie very well. My daughter had mended from her terrible-no-good-very-bad-year and was able to present him with a whole, healthy heart to have and to hold forevermore.  He calls me “mama” even though he has a great family of his own and they are part of the assets he brings to our lives. He adores my daughter. He gets her. She chose well and they gained a “happily ever after.”  Of course they’ll have challenges, loss and heartache. But they’ll have each other and that does a mama’s heart good.

In 2016, our family saw other great gains—my grandson’s 2nd birthday party with doting parents, Army beat Navy after 14 years, a son started pilot training, another son began his senior year at West Point, my children gathered from far away places for the weddings & holidays, and we welcomed our first grandfurbaby named Schmidt (yep, from New Girl, but the dog is better behaved.) My conference team successfully completed 15 events at 10 bases with Heroes at Home, providing financial literacy education to service members thanks to USAA.  I have a passion for these people and I got to live out that in my work this past year. The last part of 2016 had us planning 2017 with 25 events at 17 different bases in five countries—a success by any standard.

In 2016 had my focus been on politics, social justice or mortality, I would have hated this past year. Had I chosen to look at the family drama, broken friendships, missing family & friends associated with the two Kay family weddings—I would have hated 2016. There was plenty of negativity to focus on this past year both in our family and in our world, but I chose to focus on what went right, not what went wrong. I chose (not based on feeling, but based on a decision of the will) to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have. I tried to choose wisely.

No, 2016, I do not hate you.

As I’m writing this blog on January 1st, I turned off my phone to concentrate on the task at hand. I missed a few texts, a call goes to voice mail. I proof and edit my work, choose the photos to accompany the blog and populate it for the appropriate day.  Then I listen to my voice mail. I have a “Happy New Year” message from my daughter that begins with,

“Why do you hate me?”

I smile to myself. Hello, 2017, I think we’re going to have a good year.

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)

Tips For Graduates Student Loan Debt

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By now, the hats are tossed, tears are wiped away and the celebratory cake is gone for recent graduates, and now they are beginning their new lives in the real world. Like many of their predecessors in previous years, this year’s graduating class faces a wretched job market where there may be as many as five candidates for every job. Consequently, one of the most daunting tasks becomes the challenge of not falling behind on student loans. While challenging times can build moral fiber, you don’t want to build character by getting involved in the debt trap. Here are common questions I am frequently asked, as well as tips on how to keep student loan healthy:

Q. First of all, what are some of the consequences that graduates face by getting behind on student loans?

Ellie: As a mom of kids in college as well as a recent graduate, I know personally, how difficult the job market is and what a challenge these graduates face. First of all there will be interest charged for late payments as well as fees that will inflate the amount they owe—and chances are good that they owe too much as it is! If you default, the government could garnish your wages and withhold your tax refund. Not to mention a huge hit on your FICOscore, when you’re just starting out and trying to build a good score that will help get lower interest rates on a car or a house. It is also becoming more common for employers to check your credit history when considering which candidate to hire.

Q. But you say there is good news and that these dire consequences are avoidable, as least as far as federal student loans are concerned. The key is to understand your options and take action before you fall behind on payments. The first tip you list is to understand your grace period, when do students have to start paying back these loans and how do grace periods vary?

ELLIE: Borrowers typically have a few months after graduation before they are required to start repaying their federal student loans. For most federal student loans, the grace period is only six months. Most loans have up to ten years to repay. It’s important that you contact your loan provider and find out when the statements begin—especially if you haven’t received notification yet.

Q. What if the graduate has trouble finding work or they find an entry level job that typically doesn’t offer much in the way of compensation? Is there recourse for the amount they are required to pay for their loans?

ELLIE: That’s an excellent point and it brings us to our second tip, they need to find out whether they qualify for the income-based repayment program. Under this program, your loan payment could be reduced, based on the amount of discretionary income you have available. In most cases your loan payments won’t exceed 10% of your total income. After 25 years, anything you still owe on the loan will be forgiven.

Q. Is this income based repayment program an automatic enrollment or does the graduate need to apply for it?

ELLIE: You definitely need to apply for it by contacting the company that is servicing your student loan. If you’ve moved a time or two and your loan papers have not been forwarded to you and you are not sure who services your student loan, then you can go to the database of the National Student Loan Data System  National Student Loan Data System.

Q. Is there some paperwork you need to compile before you apply for the income based repayment program?

ELLIE: Yes, it’s important to have this paperwork on hand in order to streamline the process because you do want to get this filed as soon as possible—especially if you’re in danger of being late on loans and you have a genuine financial hardship due to your current income levels. You’ll need to authorize the IRS to provide last year’s tax return to the Department of Education. If you feel that your tax return doesn’t reflect your current situation, there’s a form you can use to show how your situation has changed. Get info on these forms and criteria, as well as links to major student loan servicers at the Project on Student Debt.

Q. We’ve looked at income based repayment, but what about those who need a quick, temporary fix? Maybe they have to take an unpaid internment at first or they may have a job that will become available in six months. Are there options such as deferment or forbearance available to this class of graduates?

ELLIE: If you are unemployed, still in school or experiencing economic hardship, you can apply to have payments on your federal student loans deferred for up to three years. If you have subsidized Stafford loans, which are provided to students who demonstrate financial need, the government will pay the interest on the loans during deferment. Interest on unsubsidized Stafford loans will accrue during deferment. If you don’t qualify for deferment, then you still might be eligible for forbearance, which allows you to put off payments for up to three years. It’s harder to qualify for deferment than it is for forbearance because in forbearance you will still have to pay interest that accrues.

Q. Does it take a long time for the paperwork to go through for these kinds of programs we’ve discussed: income based repayment, deferment and forbearance? Couldn’t a graduate find themselves in default by the time the paperwork is processed?

ELLIE: It’s important that you continue to make full payments until you’re notified otherwise. It takes longer for income based repayments and doesn’t take as long for deferment and forbearance because the latter two are temporary relief from loan payments. Whereas income based repayments could be longer term, depending upon how long you are in that job, making that salary. It’s important to look at forbearance and deferment as short term fixes and not long term—that’s why it’s really important to file for these right away, while you’re looking for a job. But if it looks like your payment problems will last longer than a few months, you definitely need to look at income-based repayment.

Q. Some graduates have huge student loans, in some cases, they have more than $30,000 in principal and interest. It is especially difficult for these grads to face this mountain of student loan debt. Can they extend the payment term in order to get through the first few years?

ELLIE: If you are a borrower who owes more than 30K , most lenders will allow you to extend the term beyond the standard 10 years, thus reducing monthly payments. The amount of interest you pay will increase, though, particularly if you extend payment over the maximum term of 25 years. And who wants to spend the next 30 years paying off a student loan? So I would only recommend this option as a last resort. Try to pay it within the standard 10 year term so that you can avoid thousands of more dollars in interest.

Q. Finally, we’ve discussed federal student loans, but a lot of viewers may hold private student loans that they have to repay. What are their options?

ELLIE: Well, the outlook is not as sunny for those who have private loans. They have fewer options. Private education lenders don’t participate in the income-based repayment program and they’re not required to allow you to defer payments, even if you’re out of work. If you’re having trouble with your private loans, read your loan agreement. It may require that the lender grant you forbearance under certain conditions. Even if your contract doesn’t include an economic hardship provision, your lender may be willing to provide relief. Some lenders have become more flexible in this post-great recession environment. You could ask for interest only payments or even to change the terms of the loan. For more information, go to Student Loan Borrower Assistance

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

5 Ways to Stick to That Summer Budget!

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I love summer. It means a lot of fun things for the Kay Family. We have two weddings this year with one on Memorial day weekend and another in July! It means a lot of travel and budgeting to make sure we don’t go into debt!

Summer is a tough time for anyone to control spending, much less stay on a budget.  With the kids out of school and summer vacation around the corner, it’s a time when people fall victim to the thought, “I’ll go on vacation now and deal with the bills later.”

But there are ways to cut back on spending to stay on budget before summer hits. The three areas that require consumers to spend money on a regular basis, that do not go away with difficult economic times: groceries, gas and family essentials (such as clothing, birthday gifts, etc). You can plan for summer and still stay on budget for these “little” areas that add up to big expenses. Here are some questions I got when I went on ABC NEWS that you might find helpful.

Q. Ellie, we often think of the holidays as a difficult time to stay on a personal finance budget, but this time of the year is really is a difficult time to stay as well. There are end of the school year gifts to buy, vacations to plan and a summer clothes to get for the kids. We have to start somewhere, and you say the first step is to start with a plan?

ELLIE: Yes, it’s amazing how kids keep growing every year and the summer clothes they wore last season are two sizes too small this year. But having a plan is a good place to start and while the basic a plan is a budget,  now is the time to break down the household budget into a plan for the more manageable subsections. This time of year, stores and websites are cleverly designed to get you to spend more than you intended. So it’s important to know what you are going to get and spend before you go to the mall or online. This plan will take into consideration past spending behavior and any impulse buys that tend to kick in while you’re in spending mode. Write down what you are going to spend in the little areas and be specific. If your two preschoolers need clothing, then conduct an inventory of what each of them has—including any hand-me-downs and the vacation gear they may need for the entire season. If you’re planning a vacation and find that you will eat fewer meals at home because you’re going to be away, then don’t budget the same amount for the grocery store. Otherwise, you’re adding spending upon spending when you should be cutting in one area and adding in another.

Q. So we have a plan, the next step is to not fall for questionable “deals.” What do you mean by this?

ELLIE: This time of year, you’ll see sales on summer clothing, electronics and even summer foods—all the things that people are thinking about as the school year winds down and vacation time starts to gear up. But not all sales are created equal and you may see a lot of $90 digital cameras and $100 GPS sales but there can be a huge difference in the models. So before you pick up a steal of a deal, do a general price search on the specific model at Shopping.com or amazon.com before you get too excited. Plus, if you go into the store and they do not have it in stock, ask for a substitute that is an upgrade from the model that is on sale. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save by just asking. It’s also important to read the fine print in a sale advertisement. If there is a “limited quantity” or “no substitutions” then that could impact your spending plan. Finally, look at the whole world of “price comps” this is where a store offers to match the price of competitors in any sale advertisement that you bring into the store. While one store may not have that GPS in stock and may not offer rainchecks, another store might match the sale and have plenty in stock. We’ve taken advantage of this kind of offer quite a few times, so much so that price comping has become a habit in our family. This can also save quite a bit of money and help to keep you on track in the “little” areas that can tend to torpedo the budget.

Q. So we have a plan, we’re not falling for questionable “deals” and now you say that the next step is “don’t miss any discounts.” How can this help keep us on track and what if there aren’t any discounts—especially for things like gas and other essentials?

ELLIE: Just because a store or website doesn’t mention a discount on merchandise or shipping on its site or in the ads doesn’t mean its not offering any. There is often a number out there in cyberspace that can be retried into either the promotional code box online or even a coupon code into the register at the mall. To find out if what you are buying has an additional discount, go to RetailMeNot.com on your computer or smartphone and enter the store’s name. Or you can go to CouponCabin.comBradsDeals.com and you may find digital coupons that you can download from the store’s websites.
The same principle applies in the grocery store or when filling up your tank with gas. Go to couponmom.com to save in the grocery store and Go to gaspricewatch.com to find the best values on gas. Don’t forget to check and see if the gas station may offer an unadvertised free car wash, cup of coffee or soda. I just found out that I could have been a lot more caffeinated, for free, at my neighborhood gas station when the attendant asked me, “are you going to get your free cup of coffee?” Once again, if you just do your research you’ll find all kinds of freebies and these “little” things, when multiplied and combined will add up to big savings if you create this awareness level.

Q. The final step you recommend in order to stay on budget in the little things is to use cash or debit cards. There are pros and cons to using debit instead of credit, what are your thoughts on this?

ELLIE: Yes, there is a time to use a credit card instead of debit when it comes to charges that you may dispute on your credit card or when you want an extended warranty or the added protection that comes from using a credit card. However, for these little areas, we tend to track the spending better by using cash or debit and consumers are far less likely to go into debt because people simply spend less when they are using cash according to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Applied. Store clerks have long found that it is easier to persuade people who are using credit cards to spend more than they were intending. And when it comes to shopping online, you dn’t necessarily need a credit card to have more protection than using your debit card online. One other option that won’t get you into debt is to research the layaway plan at your local retailer by going to eLayaway.com

Happy Summer!
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

Be A Hero, Help A Hero

 

When I married my husband, I married “The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot” and I also inherited two step-daughters in the process. Then he said we could “join the military full time and see the world.” But what he really showed me was five more children in the first seven years of marriage, for a total of seven children to financially support. Then we took the show on the road and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I learned that I was going to have to look at life in a funny way or end up on the funny farm.

Today, I’m not sending a husband into harm’s way, but I’m sending sons as we have three sons serving in the Marines, Air Force and Army.

One of the critical ways I found help was through our community. When my husband was deployed, the local community helped me and now with a Marine son deployed, there are those who are helping him by sending care packages. Here are a few ways you can inform others on how to be a hero to our heroes and their families.

The Kay clan in front of an F-117

Operation: Courageous Character

When my husband, Bob, flew the F-117A fighter and was on long military deployments, he spent many days away from family and needed reminders of what he was fighting for overseas. You can help in this area by creating a Service Member’s “Wish Book” for the deployed military member or their family members. Be creative and put together these “wishes” (and some of your own):

  • I Wish For You. . . the Courage to Laugh With Friends (a funny card, humor book or share a family anecdote)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Redeem Beauty for Ashes (send something lovely created out of something unusual.)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Choose Peace and Tranquility (include a instrumental music CD with a note as to why your family likes the music)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Cherish Memories (a personalized family photo)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Keep in Touch (pre-addressed cards to family and friends)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Wise (a favorite self help book)
  • I Wish for You. . . the Courage to Be Cool and Fresh (mints)

Operation: Compassionate Kids

It’s also important to encourage military kids. Consider approaching your child’s classroom teacher, Scout troop or after school club about the idea of sponsoring a different military member each month. In English, the children can write letters; in Art class, they can draw pictures; and in Scout Troop, they can put together care packages. Children can learn the value of caring in community with others and it can teach lessons in altruism by creating an “others” orientation that will last a lifetime. Be sure to get instructions for shipment before sending care packages so that all regulations are followed. Some of the care packages might include:

  • Toiletry Pack – Sample size shaving cream, disposable razors, wet wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss q-tips, shampoo, lotion, bug repellent, foot powder, & socks.
  • Food Pack – Pre-sweetened drink mix, slim jims or jerky, granola bars, power bars, bag of candy (non-chocolate), gum, canned soup, canned fruit, fruit snacks, cool scar, nuts & trail mix.
  • Smart Pack – Books of all kinds, crossword puzzles, stationary, stamps, phone cards, online gift certificates and fact books.

Help Others Help You

There are a number of organizations that can help you get in contact with ways to serve military members.

  • TreatTheTroops.orgThe “cookie lady” Jeanette Cram, can help you organize your own “cookie bakes” for the troops overseas. “We are always looking for ‘crumbs,’ or people who bake for us,” says Jeanette, “we have them all over the country.” Or, you can make a tax-deductible donation to help with postage. The have shipped almost 3 million cookies since 1990!
  • OperationShowBox.comDonate travel sized toiletries that you may not use from your hotel stays or business trips. They also pair up troops and teachers as a way of allowing school children to learn geography and reach out to volunteer troops overseas.
  • OperationGratitude.com – This group has local assembly days where you and your family can arrive at a central location and help put together care packages.
  • Heroes at Home — A non-profit that I run which provides financial education for military members and their families. All donations go through our Women of Purpose 501c3. For more information on how to donate, write us at assistant@elliekay.com

What is YOUR favorite way of helping our heroes?

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