A Financial Education Event

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!”
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

Cyber Safety and Savings

Military families, especially those stationed overseas will order more items online this year than ever before. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that 87.5 billion will be spend on retail e-commerce sales. Whether you are buying online or on your phone, it’s important to take extra steps to stay safe from cyber criminals while you shop.

Here are a few items to keep in mind when you shop, not only during this time of the year, but year-round:

  • Convenience Can be Costly – I know that when I shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Amazon, I like to save my credit card information so that I can use it more conveniently the next time I shop. However, allowing a retailer to keep your credit card information can be a security risk. So keep your info to yourself and enter every time you shop rather than saving it on the site.
  • Check Your Statements – In an effort to go green, many of you may have elected to have paperless delivery for credit card and bank statements. It’s important to review those statements each month to check that all the charges are accurate. Even a small discrepancy could indicate a larger problem.
  • Say “No” to Public and Free Wi-Fi – Criminals love to hack into your connection and steal your info. So while you can use free wi-fi to surf the web or check your email, don’t use it to purchase items where you have enter your credit card or bank information.
  • Be Diligent With Passwords – It’s a lot easier to repeat the same password over and over with different online accounts, but it also sets you up to be a victim of fraud if your information is compromised in a security breach. So create new passwords and emails to associate with different accounts.
  • Speaking of Passwords, Set One On your Phone – I was at a Starbucks recently, prepping my coffee at the creamer bar when I saw that someone left their phone. A couple had just left that area and walked out so I grabbed the phone and ran after them. When I caught up with them and gave them the phone, the man was so excited, he looked as if I had just given him the Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize. Even though our phones are usually in our hands or within arm’s reach, who of us hasn’t experienced the panic of thinking we lost it or left it somewhere. So set a password on your phone and change it every couple of months.
  • Don’t Click Through on Emails – I opted in to get certain notifications from retailers of deals, coupons and special offers. Cyber thieves know this and regularly send our pfshing emails for major retailer like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sam’s and Walgreens. Never click through on an email’s special offer. Instead, capture any coupon code information, then go to your browser and enter the website address directly.

What ways do you use to stay safe online? Share your ideas with me and let me know how stay safe online and when shopping on your phone.

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay


Heroes at Home Speaker Receives International Recognition!


Palmdale resident finds success as Accredited Speaker

Author, speaker and corporate educator becomes 67th Toastmaster to earn professional designation

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif., Oct. 27, 2015 — Ellie Kay of Palmdale, Calif., didn’t join Toastmasters because she feared public speaking. A professional speaker, she joined to practice her new material before presenting it to large groups. She also wanted to help other speakers move their presentations skills from good to great. To further advance her speaking skills, Kay recently earned the Accredited Speaker designation – the most prestigious title offered by Toastmasters International.


“I am so thrilled to be an Accredited Speaker,” says Kay. ”I look forward to the opportunity to help others in their speaking journey even as I have been encouraged by so many in this pathway to Accredited Speaker.”


Toastmasters International is a nonprofit, educational organization devoted to communication and leadership skills development. Those seeking a career in professional speaking can apply for the Accredited Speaker designation, which includes a rigorous set of requirements, including the presentation of at least 25 speeches before various audiences within three years. The presentations must vary in topic and purpose, and include speeches that persuade, entertain, inform and motivate. Only 66 other Toastmasters have earned the title since the Accredited Speaker program began in 1981.


Kay works as a family finance expert for Fortune 500 companies. As a keynote speaker at conferences and events, she mixes humor with hard facts to spread her message about making smart financial decisions.


Kay’s true passion is advising military families on finance—a topic she knows intimately. Raised in a military family (her father served in the Navy and in the Air Force, and her grandfather served in the Army Air Corps during WWII), Kay married a fighter pilot and was one of a handful of U.S. Air Force spouses who graduated as a Master Trainer through the Army Family Team Building training and awareness program. Of the couple’s seven children, three are serving in the U.S. military—one is in the Marine Corps (USNA 2011), another is in the Air Force (USAFA 2015) and another is in the Army (USMA 2017). As an Admissions Liaison Officer for the U.S. Air Force Academy, she has counseled and mentored high school students on admissions requirements for the academy.


Her career has taken her far, both literally and figuratively. Kay travels the world providing financial literacy education to families who live on U.S. Air Force bases. “It’s where my passion and profession overlap,” she says. “I love helping these military families.” She sits on the advisory board of the Military Family Advisory Network and has received the Army’s highest civilian medal, the Dr. Mary E. Walker Award, for outstanding dedication to improving the quality of life for soldiers and their families.


Since its founding in 1924, Toastmasters International has helped more than four million men and women become more confident in their speaking and leadership skills. The organization’s membership exceeds 332,000 in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries.


Kay can be reached at ellie@elliekay.com , www.elliekay.com or (661) 274-2008. For more information on the Accredited Speaker Program or Toastmasters International, please call (949) 858-8255 or visit www.toastmasters.org.


About Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a worldwide nonprofit educational organization that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., the organization’s membership exceeds 332,000 in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators and leaders. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit www.toastmasters.org. Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.


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Fantastic Free Financial Help for Military Families

As “America’s Family Financial Expert”® I love to help families learn how to live in financial freedom. As “America’s Military Family Expert” ™ I enjoy traveling to bases around the world assisting our military members in ways they can improve their quality of life. Every now and then, those two worlds come together and I get to talk about Military Finance. In fact, our Heroes at Home Financial Event is geared toward helping military readiness through financial readiness. Recently, I’ve been able to continue that quest by becoming a part of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) advisory board, a like-minded 501(c)(3) that is on a mission to connect military families with the resources they need to thrive.

I’m pleased to announce a new resource that will be coming to military families in October 2015 called MilCents. It is a one-of-a-kind financial literacy program that combines information, online events, social media conversations and free resources into a 10 –week program designed to empower all military families to get their money in gear. As the Heroes at Home tour travels to various bases around the world, we’ve seen wonderful military members who have been asked to leave the service because their finances prevent them from holding a top-secret security clearance. In some cases, the Department of Defense has a million dollars invested in these members in terms of education and military training costs, so saving these valuable human resources is beneficial to the DoD and to the military family at the same time.

While MilCents is not a part of the Heroes at Home Financial Event, it is definitely a program I can get behind because this resource will help you learn skills such as:

  • How to read a Leave and Earnings Statement
  • How to pay down debt
  • How to protect your money and avoid predatory lenders
  • How to get your credit score and learn to improve it
  • How to categorize your spending and saving

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Event

This fantastic, free financial resource has been provided by the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) with support from the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Military and Veterans Initiative, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

If you forward this blog to EVERY military family member you know, then you would have done your part to help protect military readiness through financial readiness as a Hero at Home!

Sign up for MilCents at MFAN today!

Financial Readiness and FICO Scores

On our “Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour” in FY15, one of our most loved segments was given by Gerri Detweiller, who wrote the original book on personal Credit. The Department of Defense realizes that financial readiness impacts military readiness. In fact, credit scores (or Fair Isaac Credit Score) follow you from assignment to assignment and don’t just determine if you qualify for an auto or mortgage loan. Your credit score also can also be an indicator of whether you are allowed to stay in the military or whether you are kindly asked to leave. It’s not so much the score itself, but what the score represents—your credit worthiness. If you have too much debt, then you cannot get the security clearances necessary to do your job and this can follow you into the civilian world as well. Even utility companies check these and decide whether you have to pay a deposit based on the score.

According to recent figures provided by FICO, 25.5% of consumers (nearly 43.4 million) now have a credit score of 599 or less, marking them as bad risks for lenders (see the chart). It makes it is unlikely that this group of people will get credit cards, auto loans or mortgages under the tighter lending standards that banks now use.

These credit ratings can also make the difference between whether you are accepted or rejected for a new insurance policy or as a renter and much more. That’s why it’s important to know your number. Furthermore, some employers check these scores, which could be the determining factor in whether you get that new job at the next assignment.

Summary: Why do I need a good FICO score?

A good credit score is invaluable to everyone. Here are the benefits of a good score in a nutshell:

  • Security Clearances — If you are having financial problems, as indicated by a FICO score, then you are a security risk and cannot be allowed to work in certain areas requiring a security clearance.
  • LoansA good credit score helps you qualify for loans and get faster loan approval.
  • Interest Rates Your FICO score oftentimes is the determining factor when it comes time to be assigned an interest rate. A better rating can help you get a better mortgage rate and could even make the difference between becoming a homeowner versus a continued renter.
  • 0% APR Have you ever been tempted by the advertisement on a new car, furniture or a new credit card that offers a special “0% APR”? No wonder so many people get in line for these special deals. Few people realize that these kinds of special offers only go to those who have the top levels in the national distribution of FICO scores. If a good credit score holder acquires too many of these kinds of loans, they’ll deteriorate their score. So reserve these for long term loans such as a new automobile.
  • So Close and Yet so Far Sometimes the difference between qualifying for a great deal and not qualifying for it can be as close as twenty points on your FICO score. You may say: “So what? I don’t qualify for it, I can still qualify for a fairly low interest rate.” But it adds up and matters a great deal. The difference on a $20K car loan at a 0% APR versus a 7% to 8% APR is around $1800 over the course of the loan.
  • Job Applications – There are jobs that require high security clearances and government positions that can be impacted by your score as well as employment in the financial sector.
  • Renting – Some people cannot rent a home or an apartment without a good credit score.
  • Utilities – You can often have your security deposit waived if you have a good FICO.
  • Insurance Rates It could also affect what kind of an insurance premium you will pay. Some auto insurers are using credit data to help determine insurance rates. In fact, ninety-two of the 100 largest personal auto insurance companies in the country use credit data in underwriting new business, according to a study by Conning & Co.

Improve FICO Scores in Three Easy Steps:

  • Pay credit bills a day early rather than a day late – Set this up online using automatic pay so that you’ll never be late again.
  • Pay attention to proportionality — Keep your charges at 50% or less of the available credit, even if you pay off the card at the end of each month. This means that if you have a $5,000 credit limit, you should never charge more than $2500.
  • Pay at least $5 more than the minimum each month – It will show up on your report as paying down your debt which will make your credit score go up!

 For a copy of your FICO score, go to Credit.com and for a free copy of your credit report go to Annual Credit Report and for more help go to your local Airman and Family Readiness Center (or the equivalent in your branch of the service). You can improve your FICO, pay down debt and get fiscally healthy so that you can find the financial freedom that is worth fighting for!




The Homestretch – Hearts Apart Stay Connected

I became a Veteran at sending a husband away for stretches of time while keeping the home fires burning. It wasn’t fun when the five youngest kids all had the stomach bug at the same time and Bob was stuck in Hawaii with a broken jet for two weeks. But we made it work.

These days, my military sons and I are apart as they serve at home an abroad. My Marine is overseas and some days, I just miss him something fierce (as they say in Texas). Here are some ways to stay connected whether you are a spouse, a sibling or a parent.

Special Connections – My Army son, Joshua and I will take
a screen shot of our phones when all the numbers are the same, then we send it to each other. We don’t have to add words because that is a unique connection that means “I’m thinking of you and I love you.” I have another friend who bought a watch for her son and her husband that has an audible timer. She set the watches for the same time in her part of the United States and her husband’s location overseas. Every day when the alarm went off, the father/son knew that the other was thinking of them and they felt connected every time.

Your Local Base, Post or Unit – Be sure you stay in touch with a military support group that is sponsored by your local unit. Family support groups will be in the know about the status of your military member’s communication capabilities. Often, you can sign up for free services that are offered to the bases such as pillow cases with a photo of your military member for each of the kids or a Stand Up Daddy project. They will also let you know when the unit allows email or other contact and where to mail packages. We are members of a Marine parents group that keeps us informed and reminds us of OPSEC (Operation Security.)

Skype – Schedule regular and free communication with www.oovoo.com or www.skype.com. Be sure your military member is allowed this kind of access and that it’s not against any regulations. We have a date with our Marine at the same time every week and we prioritize it. Keep the dialog positive while they are deployed and share the negative stuff with a trusted friend or chaplain. Deployed members need us to keep it light, but when they come home, they’ll get diaper duty. 

Apps and More – Viber is a free app that allows for free texting and calls. Text 4 free is also a free app that allows you to text when your phone is connected via Wi-Fi (in case they don’t have cell phone access). Facetime is a great app for users of iPhones, iPads, Macs, or iPods. Words With Friends is also free and lets you play games with free texting through the game.

It’s also important when they get back home to try and spend time together as well. But you don’t want to go off budget either. It’s important to not give into the temptation for “splurge spending” just because they are back home again.

Staying Connected When You’re Together:

  • RetailMeNot – This isn’t just a great app to look up discount codes inside every store you visit in person or online. It’s also a resource for coupons. I had a Mimi’s “Buy one entrée, get one free” in my email inbox but forgot to bring it to the restaurant. Happily, I found it on the RetailMeNot app and used it from my phone!
  • Google Search and Social Media – Find your favorite restaurant’s web site and check out their values or like them on their Facebook or Twitter to get special deals. Many sites will offer printable coupons as well as weekly specials. Or download Coupon Sherpa or Yowza apps to find deals.
  • Two for One/One for Two! – If your fave place doesn’t offer a “buy one/get one free” special, then why not share a meal? This savvy approach is especially smart at a restaurant that’s notorious for serving larger portions. You may have to pay a small surcharge for an extra plate, but your wallet (and waistlines) will thank you.
  • Entertainment Books – These coupon books cost around $35 (and sometimes run on sale for $10). Go to entertainment.com to find offers near you. Not only do they feature restaurant coupons, but they also offer great values on a variety of local and national services. But be forewarned: they’re not cost effective if you leave them at home!
  • Restaurant.com – At this site, you can get $25 restaurant gift certificates for only $10 and be sure to sign up for their sale notifications when you can get that $25 gift certificate for only $2!

Heroes at Home Goes International

What happens in Vegas, never stays in Vegas—it gets populated on Facebook! If you follow us on our Facebook page, you’ll see that “Heroes at Home” made a big splash in that city.

In our Heroes at Home Financial Event Tour, I present a segment called “Heroes at Home” where we talk about the amazing way that our military members and their families not only survive the challenging lifestyle, but they thrive by demonstrating key characteristics. Every time we present this, we find our audience laughing and eventually crying, but they leave feeling inspired and they know that the sacrifices they make are worth it.

As “America’s Family Financial Expert” I’m often in the media giving advice and as a corporate spokesperson, I help Fortune 500 companies launch new products and services. In all these venues, I talk about our Heroes and our Heroes at Home, informing a civilian population about the unique characteristics that comprise a heroic group of Americans. While my profession is finances, my passion is military families.

This past weekend, the Heroes at Home message went international when I presented this keynote to a Toastmasters International audience of over 1000 Toastmasters and more as it was streamed live, internationally, as well. WHAT AN AUDIENCE! They not only caught the vision of what it means to serve our country, they got behind the message 100%. In the process, I received the very rare designation of “Accredited Speaker” which is awarded to less than 1% of all Toastmasters globally.

A quick recap of the characteristics of successful military families:

  • A Sense of Humor – this lightens the load and brings joy to the journey.
  • Patriotism – Even if you are riding a mechanical bull in Billy Bob’s you can still be a patriot and proclaim that you are proud to serve America.
  • Courage – Admiral Chester Nimitz said of the Marines in Iwo Jima – “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” I believe those who serve today show that same kind of courage.
  • Faith – There’s a chapel at every base and a chaplain assigned to every unit in our armed forces. Whether you are an atheist or an Anglican, you have an equal place at the table.
  • Legacy – Even though 1% of the American population protects the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us, we are still a part of a long line of military service. In this audience and all our audiences, we see 80%+ of the hands going up saying that someone in their family has served.

My husband, daughter and friends were in the audience, and others who can be called Heroes and Heroes at Home. The exciting part of the message was that this audience gave our Heroes at standing ovation when I encouraged them to tell our Heroes:

We love you.

We are proud of you.

And together, we will be all right.

We are building this tour for Fy16 and will be going to Europe and wherever else we are invited, spreading the word of hope, help and humor to our military members and their families.

Thank YOU for your service and thank you for your time.



USAA Car Buying Service – “How to Buy a Car” 101

Our Heroes at Home Financial Event just finished our FY15 tour where we gave 10 presentations at six bases and we’re gearing up for FY16. In fact, you can contact us about whether we are coming to YOUR base next year.

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Eventnext! Our non-profit tour is brought to military families by USAA and one of the main topics that is of the most interest to our military families is: HOW DO I BUY A CAR and save money?

Let me start by asking you the question we ask our audiences: How do you lose around $8000 in 8 seconds?

Did you get the answer yet?

The answer is: you drive your brand new car off the lot.

Yes, the average new vehicle will depreciate $8000 in the first year. So WHY oh WHY do you continue to buy NEW? Some folks answer, “for the warranty.” But if you bought the vehicle a year old, you could do two things to make up for that 12 months of warranty you lose over buying new:

  • Warranty Purchase – you could purchase an extended warranty, which (depending on the car you drive) is only $800 to $1500 per year. This is WAY LESS than the 8K you are losing by buying new. Plus warranties are negotiable. When I had to renew the warranty on my Mercedes 280SLK, the dealership gave me their best price. Then I called USAA, telling them the best quote I got and they beat the price by $800. Plus, instead of the $200 deductible I had with the other quote, the USAA deductible was $0! I used that warranty at my local Mercedes dealership (world’s best service department) and paid $0 deducible and got the same excellent service that I normally get.
  • CPO or Certified Previously OwnedIf you get a vehicle with a CPO on it, then part of the deal is that the dealership extends the warranty a year and this is a full manufacturer’s warranty. Plus, there are more stringent inspection standards and additional roadside assistance. Once, I had a BAD salesperson who told me the car was CPO, “All our cars are CPO” she said, but she never presented me with CPO paperwork to sign at the deal’s closing. You guessed it, the vehicle was NOT CPO and she lied. Be sure you get CPO paperwork if you are told it is a genuine CPO. It costs the dealership anywhere from $1000 to $2500 to CPO your vehicle, depending on the year, make and model. You HAVE TO sign CPO paperwork that is dated from BEFORE the date you buy the car or it’s not valid. Remember that asking a dealer to make a vehicle CPO is part of the negotiating process and this will increase the value of the deal anywhere from $1000 to $2500.

A few months ago, I was on my way to Disneyland to meet another author friend and a careless driver made an unprotected left hand turn right into my vehicle (about 5 feet off the bumper). I had NO TIME to react or even take my foot off the brake. The fact that Mercedes are so well built and the fact God sent his angels to protect me are the only reasons I walked away from this terrible crash with only a few cuts and bruises.

This accident put me back in the market for a vehicle. So this time I decided to try USAA’s car buying service. Since I’m driving my Marine’s car (who is overseas) for a few months, I could take my time to find the best deal. The car buying service told me the price, the discount, gave me free access to a CarFax report, showed me a chart of similar cars purchased in my area to indicate an average, good, or great deal, and more. I compared the prices I saw on the site to Kelley Blue Book and did all my research. Then I followed the same three steps we teach in our Heroes at Home Financial Events.

Step One: Negotiate Price First

Negotiate the price of the car at a dealership apart from the value of the trade-in. Tell the salesperson you want to determine the price of the car without the trade-in. The reason you want to do this is because salespeople will often give you far more for your trade than you expected—thus hooking you on the deal. However, this higher-value-for-the-trade-in shtick can be part of the technique they use to get you to purchase the car. If a higher value is given to the trade, then they will give a lower discount on the price of the vehicle, because all the discounting went into the value of the trade.

Step Two: Negotiate the Value of the Trade-In

Now that you’ve determined the price of the car, ask what the dealer will give you for your trade-in. Most likely, you will get more for your car if you sell it yourself. A little elbow grease and some top-notch detailing can net you hundreds of dollars more than a dealer can give you, if you can find a buyer. Some people (like military families) don’t always have the time to sell their car because of mobbing schedules and so forth. So if you are going to try to trade in your car, look up the value of your existing car at Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds, then print the page (or screen shot it), and bring it with you to the car lot to negotiate the price. Bottom line: try your best to gather enough facts so that you make a wise decision.

Step Three: Secure Your Own Financing

The F&I (finance and insurance office) is where the lion’s share of a dealerships profit is made. In this office, you will have to navigate interest rates, payments, terms, additional services, and warranties. Unless you put miles on your car for business or you are purchasing a car that will cost a lot to repair (and you intend to keep it longer than the warranty lasts), extended warranties are usually not a good value. When it comes to vehicle financing, you can generally do better on interest by selecting your own creditor unless the manufacturer is offering a lower APR. Keep in mind that the .99% APR offers only go to the top 10% of those who are the FICO score elite, chances are good that you will not qualify. The credit life insurance that dealers offer is more expensive than raising your regular insurance premium by twenty thousand dollars to cover this expense. And don’t forget to go to USAA to see if you qualify for great insurance at a great price.

By following my own advice, I talked to David Cardoza, my sales representative and I was able to:

  • Negotiate the best price on the vehicle.
  • Get the USAA discount added to the deal.
  • Get a car that had less than 3K miles on it.
  • Get CPO added to my vehicle.
  • Drive a vehicle that is now under warranty until 2022.
  • Get a like-new car that had only been in service officially for a mere three months.
  • Save $9K off the brand-new-plus-CPO price.
  • Pay cash for my car (stay tuned for next week’s blog on how to pay cash for cars).
  • Get the year, make, model and color of the car I wanted.
  • Walk away feeling good about the deal and the value I got.

When are you in the market to get a vehicle, which of these tips will you follow to get the best deal?

Ellie Kay

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