A Financial Education Event
 

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Ellie Kay

www.elliekay.com

Credit Card Choices — Big Benefits With Right Choices

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Southwest Airlines is running a credit card offer for qualifying applicants where they will get a companion pass for the rest of this year and all of 2018, plus 40,000 points. My daughter uses credit cards sparingly and her score is in the 800s (on a FICO scale up to 850). She decided to get the card and is thrilled to add her husband a companion to her recent round

trip purchase from Burbank to San Francisco for only $59. Pretty good deal for her. Since I already have a companion pass on a #SWA card, it wouldn’t be a good deal for me.

But not all deals are that good. How do you know which choice is best for your needs?

On my recent trip to #USAA, I learned a lot about the latest offerings in credit cards.

In fact, Yasmin Ghahremani, a writer with USAA, contributes the following information on how to navigate your first rewards card in three easy steps.

Credit cards that offer rewards like airline miles or a percent of cash back on everyday purchases can be a pretty great deal. But with so many different rewards credit cards available, choosing one that’s right for your lifestyle can feel overwhelming. Not only that, are you sure a rewards credit card is a smart financial move?

First off:  rewards credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’ve never owned a credit card before or have a not-so-great credit score, you may not even qualify for a rewards card in the first place. And because interest rates for rewards cards tend to be higher than most credit cards, if you are the type to miss payments, make minimum payments only, or carry a hefty balance, your best bet is to look for a credit card with a low interest rate.

Once your cash flow and spending habits are more favorable, you can give rewards cards another look–otherwise, the interest you’ll pay on a carried balance will easily outstrip the value of any rewards you’ll receive. “Rewards cards are really best for transactors: those who pay off their balance every month,” says Mikel Van Cleve, Advice Director and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with USAA

That said, if your credit card hygiene is superb and you make a habit of paying off the balance in full each month, then you’re probably ready for your first rewards card!

1. First, consider the kind of rewards you’d like to earn. If you’re a jet-setter and love to take frequent vacations, travel rewards cards that can earn airline miles, waive luggage fees, grant access to posh airline lounges and more might be right up your alley.

Not the globe-trotting type? Then a cash-back rewards card might be more your style. These essentially give you a small percentage discount (anywhere from 1–5%) on the stuff you’re already buying with your credit card, like groceries, gas, online purchases and more.

Once you’ve identified the type of rewards you’d like to earn…

2. Match your spending habits to your overall rewards card management. Take a look at how much you actually spend in certain categories on an annual basis to pinpoint where you could earn the most rewards. If you’re single and eat out a lot, a card that offers extra cash back for grocery spending might not be the best fit.

Plus, not all rewards cards work the same way: some offer more complex variations, like extra cash-back percentage points for spending in certain categories, such as 3% at supermarkets and 1% on all other kinds of purchases.

Other kinds of rewards cards offer additional percentage points on a rotating calendar for certain types of purchases, with bonus categories changing every quarter. For example: you might earn 5% on groceries one quarter, 5% on gas the next quarter, 5% at restaurants for another quarter, etc.

Complex earning structures may ultimately earn you more, but only if you’re really familiar with your own spending habits and the amount of time you care to spend tracking expenses and managing rewards redemption. Depending on the card you choose, you’ll need to keep up with rotating categories that may require an opt-in action (like visiting a website or filling out a form) every quarter, or you miss out on the perks.

If you don’t want to hassle with that, consider choosing a card with a flat base earning rate. Many credit cards now offer 1.5% or even 2% on every purchase you make. For instance, if the card offers 1% cash back for every dollar you spend on the card and you’ve spent a total of $2,500, you can earn $25 cash back. Even better, you often have a choice on how to spend those rewards, usually via a check, a credit to your statement, or points good towards purchases with other retailers. (Beware the latter as it may encourage you to spend needlessly!) 

3. Examine the fine print of any offers you see. Does the card charge an annual fee that costs as much or more than you will likely earn back via rewards? If you feel pressured to spend more just to get enough rewards to justify the annual fee, that card might be causing you to spend more than you normally might.

Does the card place limits, or “cap” how many rewards you can earn in bonus categories? Some cards allow you to earn 3% on only the first $3,000 a year you spend on groceries, and after that rewards may diminish or disappear entirely. You’ll want to factor those considerations into your decision.

“Make sure you know how the cards you’re considering work, and figure out which one works best for your habits,” advises Van Cleve. “If you do that the rewards can really help you save some money and work toward other goals that you have.”

What Does Freedom Mean to You?

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The Kay family loves the 4th of July.  That includes 12 of us who appreciate Independence Day and what this holiday represents. However, there are three of the Kay family members who loathe the holiday.  I know I shouldn’t single them out, but I’m tired of the way that they take the freedom they enjoy for granted. These Kay family members have never thanked our Marine, Airman or Soldier for their service, they don’t send care packages when our sons deploy into harm’s way in Afghanistan and Iraq.  They seem to resent the extra attention given to these sons and the way people celebrate the holiday—in fact, they are very vocal in their displeasure and let everyone around them know it. I know it’s probably bad form to out these unpatriotic, self-centered individuals, but I’ve decided I’m going to call them out. After all, who are they to dampen the enthusiasm of millions of revelers on such an important day in our nation’s history? So here it goes:

Buddy, Anna, and Belle—you are ruining the holidays for all of us.

Yes, our three mini schnauzers would rather bark, whine or run and hide under a bed when they hear fireworks in our neighborhood than appreciate the holiday in all its noisy glory. It’s gotten so bad, that we must get sedatives to get them through the 4th of July each year (to clarify, the sedatives are for them and not us—although I’m tempted.) Poor, unpatriotic puppies are terrified by the Black Cats, M80s and Lady fingers that the neighbor kids fire off every year. But I don’t share their disdain for the holiday.

Today, I like to thank those who serve as well as those who have served in the past and those who love them. It’s because of these heroes we can enjoy these freedoms. As I reflect on the freedom of speech, the press and religion, I’m grateful to live in the land of the free because of the brave.

 

I’m also grateful for the opportunity we have through the non-profit Heroes at Home to educate our Airmen, Soldiers, Marines and Sailors in Financial Literacy. Our free show provides our audiences with four, top-level speakers, a live twitter party and over 100+ door prizes to include free financial books and gift cards. This is all made possible by generous donations from USAA, Experian and other companies as well as individuals like you, who believe in helping our military members stay financially healthy so that they can keep their security clearances and do their important life-and-death work. All our speakers are volunteers and Heroes at Home doesn’t pay honorariums—these educators believe in our military members and their families. Currently, less than 1% of our donations go toward fundraising and over 90% goes directly to the support of educational programs for our troops.

What do I believe freedom means today?

I believe it means a free America.

I believe we can enjoy our freedom because of those who serve and those who love them.

I believe our Creator has freely given us gifts, talents and resources to make the lives of others better.

I believe in those who fight for our freedom both at home and abroad.
I believe in the land of the free because of the brave.

And I believe it’s time to go give those pesky puppies their sedatives before the fireworks begin.

What does freedom mean to YOU today?

 

 

 

 

Heroes at Home Tours Europe

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  1. As part of the “Heroes at Home Financial Event” 2017 world tour, we will visit military members and their families around the world, giving advice and practical tools on how to cope with the military lifestyle and advice on how to manage their money. Heroes at Home is visiting USAFE in Europe as well as AWAG in the next three weeks, thanks to our presenting sponsor, USAA and with help from educational partners such as Experian. You can find our schedule here. Our stops include Ramstein Air Base, Spangdahlem Air Base, Aviano Air Base, Royal Air Base Mildenhall , and Royal Air Base Alconbury

One of the ways we help military families save money overseas is to give them tips to “layer the savings.” Here are the steps to save big online:

1. The first step is to go to MySimon or bing which are shopping robots that will search the internet for your item to find the best deal possible. Then, there’s always amazon as well.

2. Once you’ve found the best deal, the second step is to go to a code site such asRetailMeNot or  coupon cabin  to find the codes you need to save even more. Sometimes these codes are for free shipping, gifts, or discounts.

3. The final step is to get a rebate for your shopping, by going to eBates or SlickDeals. On some of these sites, for example, if you have an account and get your friends to sign up under your account, you can earn $5 per referral. There are hundreds of participating online sites that will give you a rebate off of your purchases and you get a check at the end of each month.

CAUTION: To avoid spam: Be sure you deselect any “offers” you don’t want while signing up for a site. I also recommend that you use unroll.me to manage your subscriptions. They roll all of your emails into one larger email and you can easily deselect or unsubscribe. Bethany Bayless, our emcee has been unsubscribed from 700+ email lists in the last two years using this site. That’s a huge time savings!

Here’s an email from one of our audience members in Europe from one of our previous tours.

Dear Ellie Kay,

I would like to tell you how wonderful it was to have you speak at our meeting at Spangdahlem AB this past week. Your tips were great –I bought a bunch of clothes and with your tips and a $25 gift card I earned from mypoints.com I spent only $14!– and they really do work and are easy to do. Your military topics touched my heart and made me proud of what I am doing here for my husband as well as other military members . Thank you for telling our story to the world and for being an inspiration.Thank you so much!

Sincerely,Christina Aiken

 

Check out our schedule to see if we are coming to a base near you! Or, if you want to support our efforts, you can contribute to the financial education of our military members and their families at our Heroes at Home website.

Characteristics of a Hero at Home

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Are you a Hero at Home? There are all kinds of heroes and I remember when my Marine came home from Afghanistan. We waited for hours in anticipation 100 degree weather in dusty 29 Palms, listening for the announcement their company was on its way. What a thrill it was to see his platoon marching up the road after 7 months of praying, worrying, emailing, skyping, waiting, and hoping he and his men came back unscathed. As we sat there amongst various, mostly young families, I couldn’t help but notice the strong heroes around me. There were women who held down the fort while their husbands were away, there were babies who had not met their fathers yet, and there were Moms, like me, who were waiting for the hero they raised to return home. All of these people are heroes at home–those who fight behind the scenes to keep our heroes in uniform safe on the field.

Characteristics of a Hero at Home

I’ve heard it said that if you follow your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, my passion is military families because we are one! I’ve given over 500 presentations of my “Heroes at Home” Financial Event in six countries and dozens of states including Hawaii (what a hardship tour that was!). In each and every venue I get to meet military members, spouses, kids and parents who love America and know what it means to serve.

I’ve been asked to please post the Top Ten Characteristics of a Hero at Home as a written version of what I speak about in these military venues. So today’s blog is dedicated to you, the hero at home. You may have your servicemember with you, they may be deployed, or they may be due back home any day.

The Top Ten Qualities of a Hidden Hero

1. Sense of Humor: An ability to laugh at oneself and with each other.

2. Flexibility: What it’s called when you create an elaborate candlelight dinner and farm out the kids for the night, and your husband calls to say he’s not coming home because they have an inspection coming up.

3. Courageous: The ability to wave good-bye for the two-hundredth time, fight back the tears, smile, and say, “I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’ll be all right.”

4. Extraordinary: An ability to move fifteen thousand pounds of household goods in twenty-four hours.

5. Strong: Nerves of steel (for all those close calls and near misses).

6. Patriotic: Unashamed to shed a tear during the presentation of the colors or the singing of the national anthem.

7. Faith-Full: Brimming over with faith in God and true to your country.

8. Independent: Confident during solo parenting gigs, but ready to move to interdependence when the spouse comes back home.

9. Acronym Reader: The ability to decode three-letter acronyms (TDY, PCS, UOD, MRE, OIC, SOF, BDU, SOL, etc.).

10. Superhero: The capability to conquer new lands, stay in touch with old friends, keep the home fires burning, jump buildings in a single bound, and stay out of the funny farm.

Which characteristic is your favorite and which one do you need to work on today?

MilCents Helps Build Your Financial Foundation

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Are you ready to understand, manage, plan, and protect your money? I know I’m ready and helping others do the same!

I love creative ways to learn about money that are easy and interactive. That’s why I work in Washington DC on the advisory panel of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN).  I am writing to share an exciting update about MilCents — MFAN’s financial education social learning program.

Over the last few months, MFAN has worked with financial education experts to develop five customized program tracks that correspond with stages within the military life cycle.

While our Heroes at Home Financial Event helps families learn in a live show, MilCents goes further online and at your own pace. Stages include: ROTC/Service Academies, actively serving, transitioning military, veteran, and retiree. The customized tracks allow users to get the tailored information they need, when they need it. In addition, they’ve enhanced their monitored social community, added gaming elements, and refreshed all MilCents content — especially the content focused on military retirement. 

Are you confused about the changes to military retirement? Don’t worry — MilCents breaks it down so it’s easy to understand in the retirement section.

BONUS: The first 150 participants to complete MilCents and earn all the program badges will receive a $20 Amazon gift card.

Click here to get started. And make sure to tell your friends and family — learning’s more fun when you’re doing it with others.

There’s also a better way to budget. Take control of your money by joining the @Military Family Advisory Network’s customized online #MilCents financial education program and get help with your spend plan.

To the partners who helped make MilCents possible — thank you. We know this program will continue to help families within our broad military community.

Ellie Kay

Advisory Board Member

Military Family Advisory Network

 

Driving Cars for Free

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In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, one of the most popular segments deals with “how to drive a car for free.” The concept is fairly simple, but less than 10% of Americans actually follow the steps to experience debt free living when it comes to transportation. We love our military audiences because even though some military members are “ordered” to attend our show, by the time it is over, they are laughing, they’ve learned something and they realize how much fellow Americans loves them.

So how do you do it? Just follow three steps:

  1. Start with a Debt Free Car – This is usually going to be the car you just paid off. Or, it might be a vehicle a parent or someone else gave you (it might even have seen better days). In our lives, we were “given” one car and we gave away 8 cars. It might be that you agree to be a one-car family for 18 months instead of a two-car family. This is how the Kays did it to start with. If you don’t absolutely have to drive a car (you are a one car family, public transportation, driving someone else’s car, etc.), then you can go to step #2.
  1. Pay Yourself – The monthly payment for your car that you used to pay before it was paid off is a payment you will now pay to yourself instead of to the lienholder. So let’s say your car payment was $300. You will pay yourself $300 every month for 18 months. At the end of that time, you take the $5400 you have saved and then sell your existing vehicle for as much as you can get for it. You will get more money for your vehicle if you detail it, get everything running as well as possible (without a huge investment) and then sell it yourself. Go to KBB for 10 steps on how to sell your car yourself.  Let’s say you sell it for $8000. Now you have $13,400 to work with.
  1. Pay Cash for Your Next Car – Follow my steps from my previous blog on How to Buy A Car 101 – Even if you aren’t a USAA member (for an additional military discount), you can still follow the steps listed to pay the least price possible for your next vehicle. Make a special note: You cannot do this with a new car! It has to be a used car. The average new car depreciates $8000 in 8 seconds (when you drive it off the lot). So you have to buy a car that is slightly used (or real used until you trade up). The example in my blog shows how I traded up consistently until I was driving a modest Mercedes. (Is there such a thing as a modest Mercedes? I believe there is).
  1. Trade Up Until You’re Satisfied – After you’re in a new-to-you “paid for” car, then start with step number two all over again and start paying yourself. Let’s say you bought a car for $13,400 and you got into it low (as I showed you how to do in my previous blog), then in only 18 months a used car won’t depreciate that much (if you take care of it and try to keep low mileage on it) and you can sell it for close to what you paid for it. You sell it after 18 months for $13,000 and add the additional $5400 that you have saved by paying yourself every month. Now you have $18,400 going into step #3 and you can trade up your vehicle.

Does this work? It absolutely does. Not only do I do this in my own family, but I have children who do it as well. When my kids ask for my advice (sometimes it’s nice having a mom who is America’s Family Financial Expert ®), I advise them to not be wasting money on expensive car interest payments or crazy expensive leases. The difference is enough money saved over the course of five years to be able to put money down on a house instead of having to rent. It truly adds up!

Keep trading up until you are satisfied with your car and you can trade up into a car with a substantial manufacturer’s warranty (or negotiate that warranty). I do practice what I preach, and I did this to get my 2014 Mercedes, which is under mfg warranty until 2022. The only perceived downside is that my dream car is red and I thought that red cars get more speeding tickets than other colors. But good news! That’s a myth. Pedal to the metal!

What can you do today to drive your cars for free tomorrow? Let me hear from you!

Ellie Kay

Do You Believe in Good Credit?

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I love a good hero.

When I was a little girl, I saw “Peter Pan.” I fell in love with Tinkerbell for all her spunk and fairy dust, she became my hero. I believed in fairies. I was convinced that if I wished hard enough and focused on happy thoughts, I could fly like Peter and Tink!

My BFF, Nanette Woffard, and I made fairy wings out of panty hose, wire hangers and glitter. We began to exercise our belief by jumping off her circular second story stairway, climbing a step higher each time. We were (five-year-old) girls interrupted when, about step number 8, her mom walked through the room with a load of laundry and discovered our exploits.

Mrs. Woffard encouraged our creativity, but grounded us from flight school. We wallowed our disppointment in homemade chocolate chip cookies and milk.

But I never forgot about my hero and how she could fly.

As a young adult, I met a hero who could fly—for reals (that’s millennial-speak for really and truly).

He flew jets and his wings were hard earned through Air Force pilot training.

We’ve had a fairy tale life so far and raised a passel of Kay kids who also learned to dream, believe and soar to greater opportunities than they thought possible. One of those kids even earned his own set of pilot wings last month. Flying, in life and in dreams, is something we’ve always encouraged.

But there’s nothing that will bring a dream crashing down faster than financial difficulties. That’s why we taught our millennial children how to manage credit and earn great credit scores.

When each of the Kay kids graduates from college, they have a good-to-excellent credit score at the age of only 22. It can be done, but the first step is to understand how credit and credit scores work.

Credit scores impact interest rates, insurance premiums, security deposits, employment and even security clearances. In our Heroes at Home Financial Events, we have various segments. I teach on spend plans and car buying. USAA sends JJ Montanero to speak on saving and investing. But we also have an entire segment on how to develop and maintain good credit in order to keep their security clearances so they can do their jobs.

Gerri Detweiller has been writing in the consumer credit space for years and as one of our speakers, she can attest that credit and debt are themes that bleed into all financial areas. A lot of what I’ve recently learned comes from Rod Griffen a financial educator from Experian, who teaches me the latest nuances in this sometimes complicated space.

What do you believe about credit and are those beliefs fact or fantasy? Here’s a quick quiz for you to gauge how much you know about today’s world of credit.

Answer the following as either FACT or FANTASY:

  1. If I have never had a credit card or debt, then I won’t have a good credit score.
  2. Carrying over a balance on my credit card helps me build good credit scores.
  3. My credit history is the area that has the greatest impact on my score.
  4. If I pay off my balances each month, then I don’t have to worry about Debt Usage or Utilization (the amount of debt to credit available).
  5. If I co-sign a loan for someone else, it will still be their debt and not mine.
  6. I have three credit scores.
  7. I can get a free copy of my credit report at Annual Credit Report for each of the three main credit reporting bureaus.
  8. My credit report and my credit score are both free and they are basically the same.
  9. It’s a smart credit move to repeatedly take advantage of introductory APR rates by opening new credit cards and transferring these balances to the lower APR. Then cancel the cards and you will still have a good score while taking advantage of the lower rates.
  10. If I only have credit cards and student loan debt, then it’s important for me to get a car or motorcycle loan for the expressed purpose of building diversification to help my credit score.

Answers

  1. Fact. No credit history means you haven’t started to positively build your credit score. This means you would have a low score on many of the scoring models.

FIX: Start out with a secured credit card where you can’t charge more than you have secured in the credit card account. You can review cards at Bankrate but read the fine print to know what you are getting. This will establish a history and help you start to develop good credit.

  1. Fantasy. Carrying over a balance only means you’re paying interest every month on the balance you carry—which isn’t a smart credit move. Maintaining a credit card balance doesn’t help to build your credit.

FIX: Pay your credit bills on time, carry lower balances and have credit cards for a longer period of time in order to build positive credit.

  1. Fact.  Credit history accounts for 35% of your score and Debt Usage (Utilization) accounts for 30% of your score.

FIX: Concentrating on these two areas (Credit History and Debt Usage) are the most effective means of helping you build good credit.

  1. Fantasy. Even if you pay off your balances every month, you could take a hit in the Debt Usage area if you charge more than 30% of the available credit at the time that the snapshot of your account is taken. So if you have 10K available on the credit card and you’ve charged 9K in order to get points, you’ll have a 90% utilization record if this account is recorded before you pay the balance when the bill is due.

FIX: If you charge items to get points and your utilization is high, then transfer a payment BEFORE the bill is due. You’ll still get your points, but you get ahead of the Debt Usage scenario.

  1. Fantasy. Once you co-sign, then you are responsible for the debt if the other person doesn’t pay. If they pay, it’s not problem, but if they don’t, you will.  You’ll have to pay off that motorcycle, the remainder of the lease or the credit card, should that person default.

FIX: Don’t co-sign on a loan. We’ve lost friendships and relationships with family members when they tried to take us hostage by trying to force us to co-sign. If the lender determines they won’t take a risk on them without a co-signer, then why would you take the risk?

  1. Fantasy. Rod Griffin from Experian, our Heroes at Home credit educator says he could probably pull 80+ scores on any of his audience members. There are three main credit reporting bureaus, but many credit scoring models.

FIX: To know if you have a good credit score, pay attention to the scoring model. On some scales 750 is a good score and on other scales, it could be average.

  1. Fact. You can and should get your free copy of your credit history from each of the three main reporting bureaus listed at Annual Credit Report. But be careful, you have to opt out of paying for scores, monitoring or other services.

FIX: When you order your free score at this site, don’t ever give your credit card info or you could inadvertently be signing up for a product or service you don’t want. However, you do need to be prepared to give your social security number at this secured site.

  1. Fantasy. A credit history is different from a credit score. The history gives a list of all the various credit accounts/debt you’ve have in your lifetime. The credit score is a number that determines your credit worthiness to lenders. The credit history is free at Annual Credit Report.

FIX: Free credit scores are available at Credit.com and CreditKarma.com. But make sure you are getting the free service and not accidentally signing up for a paid service. You can also check your credit card bill to see if your company provides a free copy of your score. If you are military, get a free score at your Family Readiness Center.

  1. Fantasy. This is a good way to deteriorate your credit score. Lenders can see you are transferring balances and taking advantage of a new card’s APR offer. It can even look like you are floating the note or trying to pay Peter by robbing Paul. When you open and close multiple accounts, you shorten the overall length of your credit history and can ruin your score.

FIX: Pay attention to your credit history and remember that every new card you open shortens the overall credit history length of all your accounts combined. Open new credit accounts sparingly and don’t credit card jump to try and save money.

  1. Fantasy. While it is true that different kinds of loans build diversification in your credit profile, diversification only accounts for 10% of your score. So the idea that you SHOULD go out and buy a car or motorcycle (and finance it) in order to get a better credit score is pretty ludicrous.

FIX: Buy a car or motorcycle because you need one and you can afford it. Make sure you budget to be able to pay the note, insurance and other vehicle ownership expenses.

 

Scoring

10 Correct

 Superstar – You know a lot about credit, so you are probably: 1) in the financial industry or 2) really well informed and good with money or 3) you cheated. If you didn’t cheat, you might even qualify to be one of our superstar speakers at Heroes At Home because you certainly know enough to teach this topic!

 

8-9 Correct 

Excellent – You may be kicking yourself or crying “trick question” because you got almost all the right answers. Nonetheless, even experts can learn a few things about the ever-changing world of credit. Be sure you are giving your mentees up to date advice and pay attention to the nuances of building excellent credit.

 

6-7 Correct

 Good – You have a good working knowledge of credit, but you’re no expert. You’ve believed a few fantasies instead of the facts in some of these areas. Pay attention to the questions you missed and make it a point to readjust your thinking so that you can build even better credit.

 

5 or less Correct

 MEH – You know just enough to be dangerous and you are at the greatest risk of crashing and burning when it comes to credit mistakes. Study the wrong answers and make sure you understand how credit works before you open new lines of credit, cosign a loan or try to get a loan for a new vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

Being a Landlord While On Active Duty by Elizabeth Colgrove

Today’s post is by a military spouse I met through FinCon. She provides a unique perspective on what it means to own and rent property while still on active duty. Many thanks to Elizabeth Colgrove for today’s contribution. 

Is Being a Landlord While Active Duty Worth the Stress?

It is almost that time of year- the PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season. For many, that means making the decision to sell or rent their home in an already stressful time and

Ellie Kay’s active duty family moved 18 times in 20 years.

usually with very little notice. This decision is often even more difficult because being military means your next duty station could be hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

While multiple houses can add significant financial stress, it can also result in significant gain (check out our October Income Report). As an ordinary military spouse, I have been able to turn our transient nature into a second income for my family as a real estate investor.

*Note: We got started from very simple beginnings by buying a foreclosure with our VA loan and fixing it up. When we were transferred, we rented it out. We invested the income from my first job into two rentals (two investments under 100k) and then bought a new house at every duty station possible. When my husband deployed, we downsized, saving 60k and allowing us to buy another investment and personal property. The point is not to boast, but to give you the back story.

Over the years, it has felt like the financial strain and tenant stress that is involved in being a landlord has been explored in every way possible, but no one has discussed the blessing that comes from being a landlord. For us, owning houses has given us so many amazing blessings that I couldn’t imagine not owning real estate while my husband is on active duty.

Here are just a few of the positives of being a landlord:

1) You Have a Place Holder For When You Come Back

By keeping a house in a specific area, you can capitalize on the market whether it goes up or down. This way, you are not priced out of an area. For example, the house that we bought in Hanford, California in 2012 for $163,199 is now worth over $215,000. On the other hand, BAH rates have fallen in this area, while rents have increased.

Even if your house is too small for your family to move back into, you can sell it to buy another house, using the equity as a down payment. If you do not want to sell the house, you can use the cash flow from the house’s rental income to finance your next home’s down payment. That is what we have done with great success to allow us to live mortgage free, without having our houses paid off.

2) Someone Else is Paying Down Your Mortgage

The great thing about your tenant is that they are paying down the mortgage. This allows you to continue to build equity in your house even if you are not living there. As you can see, based on our October Income Report, our tenants paid down $1,633.78 over our 6 houses. This is silent pay down, as it is the loan amount that is being paid down and is in addition to the cash flow.

3) Cheaper Than Renting

We got started buying instead of renting because it was cheaper to buy than rent. With our first house in Virginia, our mortgage was $1,415 and rent was $1,700. The same thing was true at our house in California (check out all the numbers here — as you can see, we save $419 a month). This was great, because we saved money while we were living in the house. When we left, we were able to rent it for a profit. Since rent was considerably higher than our mortgage, they made great long term investments.

4) Tax Benefits

Owning a house has great tax benefits; both when you live in the house and when it becomes a rental. The great thing about keeping your house as a rental is that the IRS allows you to deduct many items from your income (rent), such as repairs, improvements, travel expenses, etc. To see a complete list, check out the IRS schedule E publication found here.

Many investors, including myself, have found that, due to the small cash flow they experience, they have a very tiny profit or even a book loss because of the depreciation that IRS allows. Depending on your tax position, this could decrease the amount you owe to taxes. This is one of the reasons that I love rental properties. There are so many awesome legal tax breaks for rental properties that don’t exist in other investment sources

5) Long-Term Asset

At the end of the day, for us, being landlords is a long-term investment. Owning real estate is a marathon, not a sprint. It is not a “get rich quick” scheme. It can (and will be) stressful, and like anything worth it, it involves a lot of ulcer-inducing moments. I love the fact that my tenants are paying off my houses. Especially the ones that I bought with very little to nothing down as investments. At the same time, they are appreciating, earning cash flow and creating tax benefits. I view that as a plus.

A Piece of Advice

Owning real estate is not for everyone, just like being an investor in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Make no mistake — owning a house is a form of investment and should not be treated lightly. At the same time, it can be a blessing, and being active duty should not be a reason to avoid buying.

Please look at all your options, your exit plans, and your ability and willingness to be a landlord. It is not for everyone, but please do not buy because of the horror stories. While there have been families that have lost everything in real estate, there have been many more that have been successful with being a landlord while active duty.

What has been your experience being a landlord while active duty?

Heroes at Home Financial Event – JBSA and Del Rio

“You crashed!”
Again?
It seems that every time I get in a simulator, I either run off the runway before I take off or I crash it once I get airborne.
I suppose I’ll leave the flying to the pilots in the family!

We’ve officially launched our 2016 Heroes at Home Financial Event with the help of our friends at #USAA. We are meeting great military members from all branches at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA). Every attendee received a “Command Your Cash” from the USAA Educational Foundation through their MFRC or AFRC. At the back of that book is information on how to have the Ed Foundation bring a course on “Command Your Cash” to your military unit. We also gave away 100 copies of the choice of two of my books: either “Heroes at Home” or “Lean Body, Fat Wallet.”
Our high energy millennial emcee, Bethany Grace, kept the fun level high in the room and gave away quite a few gift cards and an IPad at the end of the events.

Bethany Grace, Ingrid Bruns and Ellie Kay at Laughlin AFB

One of the things that struck me about the men and women of JBSA was that they were part of a huge network of 11 units and billions of dollars of military assets, yet they had their own identity. This was evident in our tours of Lackland AFB, Fort Sam and Randolph AFB.
Next, we immediately dovetailed a trip to Laughlin AFB in Del Rio where I connected with my friend, Beth, whose husband flew the Stealth F117A with my husband a few years ago. She was instrumental in the kind of welcome we received there and I had the opportunity to speak to the military spouses the night before the main event.
As soon as we drove on to Del Rio, a buzz started traveling the base at warp speed and continued throughout the entire time we were there.

I loved seeing the flight line and hearing about the mission. The pride in the Airmen when we toured the Medical Facility, Fitness Center, and Altitude chamber was evident.

      When our four speakers are up on stage, presenting 20 minute segments of financial education, it’s a gratifying feeling to know that the audience is appreciative and eager to learn. But the greatest sense of all is the knowledge that these strangers in the audience are my tribe–my new friends and even my family. I love these military men and women and their families and my whole heart’s desire is to make their lives easier by helping them with their money matters. But I also leave them with the knowledge that they are loved and appreciated by America.

If every military audience gets one main message, I would want that to be:

We love you, we are so proud of you and together, we will be all right.

Ellie Kay

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