A Financial Education Event

Summer Jobs For Kids


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


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)

5 Ways to Stick to That Summer Budget!


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)

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?

Job Interviews for Millennials

Back in May, I wrote a blog called (Un)Common Interview Questions, which talked about those questions that potential employers ask to find unique answers from their interviewee. Now is the time to get back to job interview basics. This time of year, children are going back to school and many are looking for part-time jobs to add extra income on top of schoolwork. If your teenaged or college-aged child is going for an interview, it is always great to review the basics before you walk into your (hopefully) potential employers office.

There’s an old saying we need to teach our kids: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to dress to fit the job. If you child is applying for a summer job as a bank teller, they need to wear nice business clothes. If they’re applying at Peter Piper’s Pizza, they don’t need to wear a suit. They will need to bring a resume that lists their past jobs or experience. They should include addresses, phone numbers and the supervisor’s names. They should also have a couple of references with all the information listed. Here are a few quick tips for your child to keep in mind when they interview.

¨     Be Prepared – Your teen needs to be able to answer all questions about themselves and their interests. The answers should be short and concise.

¨     Homework – If possible, research the business to learn as much about the prospective employer as possible.

¨     Timely – Be on time. If the car ran over your cat and you have to run to the vet, which makes you late, then call the interviewer who is waiting for you. Leave early enough to compensate for these possible delays.

¨     Listen – Teach your child to never interrupt and have them practice with you! Listen to the interviewer’s name and repeat it if possible. Now is not the time to tell jokes or give additional information other than the questions that are being asked. Making eye contact while you listen is important, and it shows they’re listening.

¨     Money – Your child needs to know that the employer should bring up the topic of salary or the hourly wage. Any interviewer with at least two interviews to their credit knows that money is an important topic and they will get to it eventually.

¨     Watch Your Ps and Qs – Kids need to know that little things matter—especially in a job interview. They should never use slang or make uncomplimentary comments about other people. The handshake should be initiated by the interviewer, and they should never accept refreshments unless the interviewer is taking refreshment as well. Tell them to sit up straight in the chair and never comb their hair, file their nails, play with their nose rings or study their tattoos during an interview. Impression is everything.

¨     Ask Questions – Teach your child to listen so carefully that they can ask intelligent questions. Practice some questions they may want to ask, but tell them not to overdo this. A couple of insightful questions helps to clarify the job while giving a generally favorable impression.

¨     Fond Farewells – When they leave the interview, they need to graciously thank the interviewer for their time. Your child could lose the job in the last few minutes of the interview if they let their guard down for a minute. Make eye contact as you say goodbye and keep a positive attitude—even if the job offer is not made on the spot.

¨     Follow-up – The job offer is usually made within one to two weeks after the interview if there are several people being considered for the job. Teach your child to wait for this length of time before they call to check on the progress of the hiring process. In the meantime, they can send a thank you note to the interviewer, which is a gracious gesture that doesn’t appear overly anxious.

¨     Persevere – Practice makes perfect and the more job interviews your child has, the better they will become as they gain experience.  Don’t let a “no” to a certain job opportunity discourage your child, but teach them that God could have an even better job waiting right around the corner. But they’ll never find it unless they persevere. If your child is waiting to find the right job, encourage him to create a profile on http://Linkedin.com/ to start building his resume. It also lists unique job and internship opportunities in your area. Another great website to search for jobs in your area (and to post your resume) is http://indeed.com/

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Career Choices for Teens and Beyond

Career Choices

My husband always said that “flying jets beats working for a living.”  But he didn’t start out flying fighters, he had to develop a good work ethic as a teen. He washed airplanes at the Van Nuys airport, dug ditches and he managed to get good grades in high school that earned him the privilege of going to the Air Force Academy.

Part of getting ready to go to college or launch into a career involves finding a good job. Many high school students want part-time jobs. Often these part-time jobs help finance their college and can become stepping-stones which lead to lifetime careers. For this reason, high school part-time jobs are to be taken as seriously as an adult’s profession.

  • Where do I begin? – Looking for work means looking—profound, huh? Here are a few places to start:
  1. Referral – There are decided advantages to a job referral by someone who is in the company. You might hear about a position before it is advertised through the idea of a referral. Ask people that you respect for a referral within their company. If they are respected, you can benefit from their recommendation.
  2. Help Wanted – Pursue help wanted ads in your local newspaper if your personal connections fail.
  3. Employment Agency – Go through a state or private employment agency to open other options
  4. Door-to-Door – One last area that should not be overlooked is to go from business to business to ask if there are any job openings.  Warning, make sure you look the part before you knock on that first door!
  • Developing Confidence – Oftentimes a young person is lacking in confidence, but parents can help them overcome this insecurity by helping them to see areas in which they have experience and skills.  Sometimes kids ask, “How can I gain experience if I don’t have the job?”

Well, your kids do have experience, even if it isn’t the specific job experience they think they need. There are plenty of other skills that are a good compensation for work experience. Here are a few questions from Larry Burkett’s excellent resource entitled Get A Grip On Your Money—Student Text (order at http://crown.org/) to go over with your teen. Ask your teen the following questions and discuss the answers to help them gain confidence in applying for a specific job. Then help them go through the job wanted ads to get an idea of how their answers can place them in a specific job.

  1. What skills has your life at home taught you which might be helpful in serving others?
    1. Do you have younger siblings? This could prepare you to do child-care.
    2. What about lawn care, being a farmer’s helper, wood cutting, snow removal, house cleaning (spring or fall), or painting or papering?
    3. What academic skills have you developed?
      1. Are you good in math, English or other subjects? If you are, you might be a good tutor to a lower-grade student or a teacher’s aide.
      2. What skills have you learned in school such as typing, computer skills, filing, shop classes automotive mechanics, sewing or cooking? These are all marketable skills.
      3. What skills and personal qualities have you developed in outside of

school activities such as athletics or clubs?

  • Following Up on an Ad – If your child decides to answer a want-ad placed by an employer they should read it carefully and do as the ad instructs. If it says they need to present a resume, apply in person, or talk to a specific person, then they need to follow those instructions.  That way, the first impression on the employer will be a good one.
  • Telephone Follow Up – Practice phone etiquette with your child before they make the call. Pretend you’re the employer and they are trying to get an interview. Ask for the person specified in the ad, say please and thank you and speak clearly. If the person is not available, ask when they will be back and call at the specified time. Teach your child to identify themselves by saying something like, “Hi, I’m Ellie Kay and I am calling in reference to your ad about writing financial humor books.” Have a pencil and paper by the phone and write down instructions. Tell them to ask questions to make sure they understand and never, ever ask about salary or pay in the initial contact.

What is your dream career?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Real Tips to Teach Kids About Money

Real Tips to Teach Kids About Saving

Children, Banks, and saving money. Sometimes, those things are difficult to weld together. Here are a few practical tips to get your children saving wisely, and, more importantly, learning the principles of money.


  • From Piggy Banks to Real Banks – Let’s look at the practical part of saving money. A good place to start when you have elementary aged or preschoolers is to get a piggy bank. This visual aid will help to make their savings visible and real. Then you can help your child open their own bank savings account and help them make deposits each month. Around seven-years-old is a good age to open that account—that way, saving money in a piggy bank and transferring it to a real bank will be more memorable.
  • Children’s Banks – These banks are tailored for children; some even have steps in front of the teller windows where children can stand. If you live in a smaller community without a children’s bank, then get out your handy dandy yellow pages—or smart phone—and call your banks. Find a child-friendly bank by asking what programs they have for children’s savings plans and if they offer tours to families.
  • Your Bank – If, for convenience sake, you want your child to bank at your bank (instead of a special children’s bank), you’re not a mean, selfish ogre of a parent—you’re just wise with your time. Call your bank and tell them you want to bring your child in to open an account. Ask them if they can help make the child’s first visit special because you want to encourage your child to save their money and establish the trip to the bank as a fun and enjoyable exercise.
  • No Fee, That’s Me! – Some banks offer a no-fee, no minimum balance accounts for minors. If you bank charges a fee, ask if any special arrangements can be made for your minor child. Sometimes you have not because you ask not.
  • Pay Yourself – When it comes to saving money both adults and children need to just do it. By paying God first and yourself second, you can consider it a job well done. Saving twenty cents on every dollar is a way of paying yourself.
  • You’ve Got Mail! – Kids LOVE to receive mail in their name. Ask your bank if they will mail monthly statements to your home and include your child’s name (as well as your own). This is a great, regular reminder of the growth of their savings and interest.
  • Goals – Larry Burkett said in Financial Parenting, “When we teach our children to save to buy something instead of getting it on credit, we teach them two basic financial principles: responsibility and wisdom in stewardship.” Some kids will save money to buy a new bike or doll, while others will just save it for the savings sake. Either way, we need to teach the benefit of balance when it comes to saving. If you can never allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor by hoarding every penny, then this leads to a spirit of stinginess. On the other hand, if your child spends his allowance before it can see the inside of a wallet, then he needs to learn the balance in their spending habits and the value of saving money.

        While savings goals are important, it’s also important to keep some money in savings that will not be spent, but will be a long-term investment. This teaches the true value of compounded interest and saving for the long run.

  • Get Some Money From That Wall – When we were driving by my husband’s favorite ATM haunt, our youngest started yelling, “Get some money, mama!” and pointed. Sometimes kids know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but they think it comes out of a wall. Teaching them the concept of the safe and wise use of an ATM is as simply as explaining where the money comes from, who pays it and why you should never get in the habit of getting money out without marking it toward your monthly budgeted expenses.
  • Online Savings Resources & Teaching Tools – There are some great resources online to reinforce the value of saving. At http://www.jumpstart.org/, there are resources and activities that seek to insure personal financial literacy in young people from grades K-12. This site lists resources that represent a wide range of formats including the four main areas of income, money management, saving and investing, and spending. This site will show them how to set up a budget, how the stock market works, the role of insurance and responsible credit card use. Some other similar sites are http://bankingkids.com/, http://firstkidbank.com/, and http://www.younginvestor.com/.

What are YOUR tips to teach kids about money?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Benefits of an Allowance

Benefits of an Allowance

When our son Joshua was four years old, he began to learn that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and we were proud of our youngest child. About this time, he started bringing home snacks for Mama and Papa that he save from his kids group at church. He would bring us watermelon, animal crackers, and even butterscotch candy with the endearing explanation, “You can have dis cuz I dun’t like it much anyway!”

The next week, he came home very excited about sharing his special snack with his “wunnerful” mama and papa. We found ourselves caught up in the whirlwind of bedtime for five children, poor Joshua went to bed still jabbering about the cookies he’d brought home. I hadn’t had the chance to get them from him, so he gave them to Papa with the instructions, “You can made sum coffee and hab it affer we all git to bed!”

After the kids were tucked in and all the kisses had been equally dispensed, I asked Bob about Joshua’s treat. He gave me a wry grin, got up from the couch, and went to the kitchen. He came back with the “treat” wrapped very neatly in a tissue. “Here’s our special surprise—for us to share.”

He unwrapped the two black parts of an Oreo cookie—all that was left of the white filling were two little teeth marks.

Teaching our kids to share, give, save, and work are all part of preparing them for a healthy future when it comes to their financial lives. This is like the cookie part of an Oreo. This training not only helps in the long run, it can help us in the short run—with more money in our pockets! That is the filling! One way to best teach kids is by giving them an allowance and allow them to learn how to budget money, to shop smart, to not ask for stuff, and more stuff, then we spend less and save more!

  • Money Matters – The most obvious benefit of an allowance is that it gives the child an opportunity to learn to manage money.
  • Safe Haven – When kids learn to manage their money while they’re under our care, they have the freedom to fail in a relatively safe haven. This doesn’t mean that we bail them out, but it does mean that we’re here to help walk them through the steps that will lead the back to the road of financial stability.
  • Self Worth – An allowance can make a kid feel good about himself.  How do you feel when you’re at the beginning of a paycheck? Your child will learn to feel good over the fact that they have some money of their very own to manage. They’ll feel even better when they learn to give freely, save diligently and spend wisely.
  • Consistency – It’s important to pay a child their allowance on the same day of the week or month. This gives them something to look forward to and allows them to budget their needs and wants accordingly.
  • Budget – An allowance should be budgeted into your family’s budget, and your children need to know this. It shows them that teaching them about money, through the use of their own allowance, is so important that it ranks in the family budget. It also sends a message to kids about the importance of a budget, thereby priming the pump for the day you will help them develop a personal budget of their own.
  • Theirs Alone – The money they receive is something that is theirs; they own it and we help them learn to spend it wisely, according to biblical principles of good stewardship. If we give them their “own” money and then turn around and refuse to let them spend it as they see fit, then it’s just an exercise in futility. We have to create the climate where our children have the freedom to test their limitations, discover how money works and learn in the process. Some of these lessons will be hard, but they won’t learn them if we continue to make all the decisions for them.
  • Responsibility and Accountability – These are the main benefits of an allowance as this exercise gives the parents an opportunity to tie in these two elements so that our kids can learn both of these invaluable life skills.

What do you do that is unique in your kids’ allowance?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Lean Body, Fat Wallet: The Health and Wealth Connection

I’m announcing, in this blog, my new upcoming release with friend Danna Demetre!

What would you do if you finally lost all that excess weight and had energy to burn?  How different would your life be if you were completely out of debt and in control of your finances? And what if you could do both at the same time with just few simple lifestyle changes?

Those were some of the questions we wanted to answer when I wrote this book with Danna Demetre. In the interest of full disclosure, there were other reasons I wanted to pen this work as well. One of them was because it was a good excuse to spend time in Danna’s lovely San Diego home doing the writing (and drinking beverages from Italy)! Plus my hubby likes her hubby, Lew (except when the West Point grad takes on the Air Force Academy grad and they engage in a death-match-war-of-the-words to see whose academy is superior.) It also meant that I only had to write ½ of a book instead of a whole book.  Don’t laugh, this is a very important reason I engaged in this project.  In fact, my literary agent, Steve Laube, says, “Ellie you are the kind of author who likes to have written books.”  So what’s your point, Steve?

Even though Danna and I are experts from two seemingly different fields – finance and fitness,  in our new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we let readers in on a remarkable discovery – the habits that are good for your wallet are equally good for your body. The principles that help you stick to a budget are the same ones that help you eat better, lose weight and keep it off.

The simple and practical teaching in this “two for one” bargain of a book will help you put those principles and habits to work using an innovative approach to improving both your wealth and your health.  Lean Body, Fat Wallet, includes real life stories of failure and success readers will identify with and draw inspiration from. It also links common issues of health and money, such as balancing a budget along with a diet and how overspending relates to overeating.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find in Lean Body, Fat Wallet:

  • Four essential habits for satisfying, sustainable change and how to make them part of your life
  • Ten “failure factors” that trip us up and how to steer clear of them
  • Proven strategies to overcome emotional eating and spending
  • A wealth of stress busters that don’t rely on food or money
  • A game plan for raising fit and frugal kids

We also offer a tool kit of charts to track your accomplishments and a recap menu that allows readers to easily navigate each chapter and pick out specific sections relevant to current needs.

Here’s a list of reasons people fail to develop that Lean Body, Fat Wallet we will give you ways to overcome these:

Top Ten Failure Factors

  1. Set unrealistic goals ­
  2. Motivated by the wrong motives
  3. Believed failure was inevitable
  4. Fulfilled the need for immediate gratification too often
  5. Influenced unduly by other people
  6. Practiced a “deprivation mentality”  – all or nothing/black or white
  7. Rationalized and made excuses rather than taking responsibility
  8. Displaced emotional issues through overspending and overeating
  9. Procrastinated rather than taking action
  10. Lacked the tools to make compounding incremental change

Through this book you, too, can discover a new way to approach your financial and physical challenges. Join Danna and I on this amazing journey and at the end of the road, you’ll develop your very own lean body and fat wallet!

Pre-order the book and we’ll send you a special surprise!

What would YOU rather have, a Lean Body or a Fat Wallet?


A Drama Queen’s College Savings Tips

I read an excellent blog on #USAA about 4 Smart Moves when saving money in college. It reminded me of a time many years ago, I remember hearing the sound of a child crying. It sounded like it was coming from the back of the house. When I opened the door to my daughters room, I found my then five-year-old Bethany sobbing into her pillow. Crying wasn’t terribly unusual for our “Bunny,” as she could have starred in a movie called I was a Preschool Drama Queen. She was usually laughing and hopping for joy, but she did have an occasional bad day and when she did, we had to watch out!

“What’s wrong, Bunny-rabbit?” I asked as I stroked her hair.

“Well… it’s… just.” She tried to catch her breath.

“…it’s just. It’s just that…” her tiny frame shook as she tried to compose herself.

“I’m going to… (whimper) to go away for college!” At this, her sobbing started all over again.

Apparently, she had a friend whose much older sibling just graduated from high school and was headed off to college. So Bethany was under the impression that when she “graduated” from kindergarten, we were going to ship her off to school.

Thankfully, we were able to keep Bethany around for another 13 years, but she did eventually go away to college—and graduated over a year ago. Here are some more tips we gave each of our children as they went away to college to save money on school and to put it towards their coffee budgets instead!


  1. Buy Books Online: It’s way cheaper to buy books online instead of used at the bookstore. For example, my son Daniel got a journalism book that was $30 used at a bookstore, but he found it for $1.50 online. Amazon usually has the best deals for books, but Campus Books compares prices across the Internet and finds the best deals new and used. Just be sure you buy them at least two weeks before classes.
  2. Avoid The Meal Plans: First off, college-based meal plans are usually unhealthy (fast food, fried, high calorie, high carbs, etc.). Second, they are way more expensive than just buying your own groceries. Consider buying the cheapest meal plan, or none at all. simply cut a few coupons, and don’t buy the expensive brand stuff at grocery stores, and you’ll do fine (you can eat fancy later!).
  3. Take Tests! There are many exams that can be taken for college credit, such as CLEP, SAT II, and more. These tests usually run around $50-$75, but if you pass, it’s a lot better than shelling out over a thousand dollars for the course.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid To Live Modestly: From the dorm furnishings to clothes, you don’t have to live flashy in college. Just because other young adults are spending their money foolishly doesn’t mean you have to. College is just a step before getting a job where you can earn some real money and but the little things you want. Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls are great for clothes, and there’s always great clearance furniture items at stores that will serve your purpose.
  5. Find a Roomie: If you’re searching for an apartment, or even a dorm room, it is better to split the cost with one, two, or more people. Sure it’s always better living by yourself, but you have the rest of your life to do that if you want. Many colleges also have the option of getting a single or a double room. Double is always cheaper, and a great lesson in learning to live with someone else!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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