A Financial Education Event
 

It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 1

This is the Academy time of the year—no I don’t mean the heat of summer, although this time of year is lovely in Southern California. But I mean it’s the time of the year when students begin to fill out applications to compete to get a little piece of paper in the mail worth more than $425,000. This would be an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, West Point in New York or the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.

As both an ALO (Admission Liaison Officer for the Air Force Academy) and a mom of three sons who went to academies, I’m here to say that this is a VERY exciting time for applicants to work toward their appointment! I remember when my sons received theirs, we ate on “Happy Plates” (a Kay family tradition when we celebrate a family member achievement). If someone in your world is interested in pursuing this kind of a dream, then share the following insiders tips with them to maximize their opportunities to succeed.

 

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

A couple of our sons garnered one million dollars in scholarship offers, and in both cases two of those offers were from federal service academies.  These are highly competitive and look at the whole person. So it’s not enough to be a brainiac, they are also looking for students who are exceptional in the area of athletics, community involvement and leadership.  In return for this amazing education valued at $425,000, your student will be required to serve in the military for their “commitment” period. The commitment is a minimum of 5 years of service and can be longer, depending on a number of factors in regards to additional training after graduation. For example, our Air Force Academy grad owes 10 years of service because he went to pilot training to fly the F15E Strike Eagle.  If you have a “hero at home” who wants to go to a service academy, there are several things to keep in mind.

One of the first places to visit is your service academy’s admissions site:

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy

USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA (Merchant Marine)

Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

  • Prospect:  A student who has filled out the initial response form showing interest. This means they are essentially on an admissions mailing list. You can fill this out as early as middle school by going to the academy’s website.
  • Applicant: The individual has filled out a pre-candidate questionnaire and provided initial info on PSAT/SAT/ACT scores, grades and extra-curricular activities. This is usually done NO LATER than the spring of their junior year. This is also the time to contact your congressman and senator in regards to a nomination. In addition, if the student’s parent is qualified for a Presidential nomination, (see nominations and appointments below) then the student can contact the academy directly to pursue this nomination as well.
  • Candidate: To move from applicant to candidate indicates that you have cleared your first competitive hurdle. This step is decided by the Academies admissions staff in the early summer of a student’s Senior year. Not all students will get to this point, but this is when they will be interviewed by the Academy Liaison Officer (or the equivalent). It is from this list that appointments will be offered as early as the fall. For example, one of our sons was offered an USNA appointment by October.
  • Appointee – This means that the candidate has been offered an appointment into the Academy. They can choose to accept it or turn it down, but it means they have not only received an official nomination, but they have also been approved by the Academy’s admissions board and offered an actual appointment.

Basic Requirements

It’s important to check the specific military academy website for updated information on your desired academy, but in general, here are the basics that you will need before you even consider applying:

  • A United States citizen
  • Unmarried with no dependants
  • Of good moral character
  • At least 17, but not past your 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year entering.

Recommendations

Because it is so incredibly competitive to gain entry into a service academy, the following high school courses will help make the applicant more competitive:

  • Four years of English
  • Four year of college-prep math
  • Four years of lab science
  • Three years of social studies
  • Two years of a foreign language
  • One year of computer study

Character

One of the academies defines character as “One’s moral compass, the sum of those qualities of moral excellence which compel a person to do the right thing despite pressure or temptations to the contrary.” (USAFA) They also define leadership as “The process of influencing people and being responsible for the care of followers while accomplishing a common mission.”  These academies are looking for future leaders with the highest moral character possible.

Diversity

Academies are looking for people from a wide variety of life experiences and the word “diversity” at these institutions no longer applies exclusively to race or cultural background. USAFA defines diversity as: “a composite of individual characteristics that includes personal life experiences (including having overcome adversity by personal efforts), geographic background (e.g., region, rural, suburban, urban), socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background (including academic excellence, and whether an individual would be a first generation college student), work background (including prior enlisted service), language abilities (with particular emphasis on languages of strategic importance to the Air Force), physical abilities (including athletic prowess), philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

Join us again for part two of this blog series when we will cover nominations and appointments, The Liaison Officer, and Summer Leadership Programs. Please share this blog with someone you know would love to attend a service academy and who has the potential to be among the best and brightest in our nation who will be offered appointments.

Mother’s Day and Working Mom’s – What Is Your Time Worth?

When I married my husband we had five babies in seven years and moved eleven times in thirteen years. I also had two stepdaughters for a total of 7 children to support. I left a nice job as a broker to have a more rewarding career as a SAHM (stay at home mom). One of the questions that I frequently heard was: “Do you work?”

“What do you mean do I work?” I would think even though I politely answered, “Yes, I work very hard as a stay at home mom.” Sometimes, an unsuspecting troglodyte would go on to say something totally thoughtless such as “Well, I meant do you really work. Do you have a job?”

I would bite my tongue until it bled….

What I wanted to say was, “What do you mean do I really work? I work a heck of a lot harder that you do, mister! I’m an accountant, a contract administrator, a chauffeur, a teacher, a nurse, a soccer mom, a stylist, a wife, and a chef! Plus ten other job specialties! I do all these things as a mom—I’M A CEO MOM, MISTER!”

They usually didn’t ask the same question twice.

These days, as a financial writer & speaker, the Founder of Heroes at Home, podcast co-host at The Money Millhouse, a Admissions Liaison Officer, —and a mom, I’ve talked with scores of spouses who work outside the home because of the status of our economy and by necessity–not choice.

Each year, Salary.com issues a report on what a mom’s time is really worth. According to this site, “Based on a survey of more than 40,000 mothers, Salary.com determined that the time mothers spend performing 10 typical job functions would equate to an annual salary of $112,962 for a stay-at-home mom.  That’s a lot of worth associated with this great job of motherhood!

What is your time worth? You can log into a calculator that tells you what you would be paid on the economy for all the work you do as a SAHM or as a mom who also works outside the home and inside the home!

How effective is the mom’s work outside the home? Does it pay to work in today’s economy with rising prices and a modest hourly wage? Many spouses who move frequently do not often have the luxury of annual pay raises at the same company. For example, let’s look at Jennifer.

Jennifer was an administrative assistant who needed to work outside the home to make ends meet. She made an average wage of $9.50 per hour and felt she contributed greatly to the family’s finances. She only had one child in day care, traveled a short distance to work, and paid no state income taxes. Then Jennifer attended one of my Living Rich for Less seminars and was challenged with the idea of “crunching the numbers.” She completed the “Working Mom’s Compensation Chart” and was shocked.

The amazing fact Jennifer discovered was, by working full time–she was making $3 per week! She didn’t realize how those extra pizza nights (because she was too tired to cook), and the trips to the beauty salon (to maintain a professional hairstyle), and all those lunches (away from home) added up! She realized she needed to make some dramatic adjustments. She decided there was a better use of her energy and quit her job outside the home.

But Jennifer didn’t stop there. She implemented some money savings strategies found on this blog and is making ends meet at home. She has less stress in her life and the freedom to contribute to her family’s financial needs through saving money and by launching her own homebased writing business. In her case, a penny saved was more than a penny earned.

For more info on how to  plan for  a new baby,

listen to The Money Millhouse  episode with Tonya Rapley  

Once you come up with a figure, ask the big question. Is my time, energy and effort worth ______ dollars a week? It may be worth it and that’s great for you if it’s your choice.

Whether you are a SAHM or a mom who works outside the home—you’re work is priceless in terms of all you do for your family and for others. You deserve a Happy Mother’s Day! Thanks for your hard work, you’re leaving a legacy through your children that will last for decades to come.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Are You Teachable?

When I was a young mom, we had five babies in seven years and moved 11 times in 13 years. While on that journey and at my husband’s urging, I decided to go back to school and finish my Bachelor’s degree. Yes, I went back into the classroom between babies #3 and #4 to reach that personal goal. Colorado Christian University had a program designed for adults who worked full time and taking care of all those kids was a full-time job! In my class were other adults including Madeline, a 70-year-old great-grandma who wanted to finish her Bachelor’s degree. When the professor asked each of us our motivation for enrolling in this difficult, accelerated program, Madeline sweetly replied,

“I always want to keep learning and remain teachable.”

She became my hero that day.

Madeline finished the program and walked the stage with the rest of us, then she went on to publish three books—always remaining teachable.

As a veteran speaker of 2000+ paid gigs, an author of 15 published books, a spokesperson for 100+ brands, and a media veteran of 2800 interviews, I’m often asked to mentor neophytes on how to succeed in these areas. It seems that everyone (and their mama) wants to write a book, become a brand ambassador or launch a professional speaker career. That’s cool, it’s great to have dreams. Many have read that they should “go to someone who is successfully doing what you want to do.”  Consequently, some will come to me. That’s not a bad thing, that’s what I did when I started out. I’ve received hundreds of requests for this kind of coaching and the requests infer a pro bono offering. This can be overwhelming.

How do you decide who to mentor when you have a limited amount of time?

My answer:  they must be teachable.

I have a business and non-profit to run, a podcast to push out, a husband to flirt with, and several grandbabies to visit. Time is limited and I can’t take every meeting that I’m asked to take. How do I decide who gets a meeting and who will get the closed door answer: “I’m honored you would ask, but I regret to say that I cannot accept.”

I’m not alone, you’re probably juggling work and home, trying to find that work/ life balance that is ever illusive. You need to know what meetings to take and which ones deserve a pass. Or, you may be the person asking for the meeting—why should the experienced veteran in your field, take a meeting with you?

They need to be teachable.

Just like Madeline, are you willing to humble yourself, do the work you’re asked to do and realize that you have something to learn?

I’ve found that the least teachable people are those who feel they have nothing to learn. Some of the worst speakers I’ve ever heard are Generals, CEOs, actors, teachers, and preachers—those who speak in front of groups often. They feel that because they are already doing it, they don’t need to improve. The English teacher who is not a publishable author feels she knows her grammar, but that doesn’t mean she can write a book. The professional speaker, who can’t make the leap to media interviews because he doesn’t know how to deliver a sound bite. You get the idea.

I have several ways of vetting someone before I take a meeting. For example, I’ll send them a file on the topic they want to discuss with me, “call me after you’ve read the file and we’ll set up a time to answer your questions.” Roughly 9.5 out of 10 never read the file—BAM! I don’t take that meeting.

Or for those who want to be speakers, I’ll say, “attend a Toastmasters meeting and then we can talk.” But they don’t do the bare minimum—attend one, little meeting! In both vetting cases, the proposed mentee feels they are advanced well beyond the need to read a file or attend a meeting.

The same thing happens at conferences, when attendees have a chance to speak with the faculty to talk about their work. Occasionally, a faculty member or speaker will request more material from an attendee.  According to my literary agent, Steve Laube (super agent extraordinaire) 9 out of 10 attendees never send him their info on the rare occasion he requests it. It’s a huge open door that they won’t walk through due to fear, laziness or procrastination.

After I spoke at FinCon one year on the topic of monetizing brand ambassadorships, an attendee followed up with me as I requested. She did her research, followed my advice and today, she’s a very successful brand ambassador. You can read about “The Budgetnista” and see the work she’s doing in the space—a truly teachable lady who found success.

Madeline, from my CCU class all those years ago, remains a hero of mine and I want to grow up to be like her. Towards that end, even after 25 years as a professional speaker, I remain teachable in my primary areas. I attend Shop Talk Toastmasters, and practice new material, receiving feedback from those Toastmasters. After every speech that my speaking team does with the Heroes at Home Financial Event, I get feedback on the presentation from my team. This way, I continue to learn and grow.

Are you teachable?

Are you willing to do the work?

Do you have a way to vet your time to determine what meetings you’ll take?

Have you ever been asked for a response from someone in your field of interest and what did you do?

For more information on how to structure your work/life balance, listen to our interview on the Money Millhouse with an exceptional life coach, Ann Vanino.

Where ever you go and whatever you do, remaining teachable is the best way to grow and continue to find success along the journey.

Financial Literacy Month- Teaching Kids To Score Great Jobs

April is financial literacy month and it’s also a time when students may be looking for part-time jobs to add extra income on top of schoolwork, or line up a job or internship for the summer. 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. Feel free to give them a mock interview to help them prepare. 

¨     Homework – If possible, research the business to learn as much about the prospective employer as possible. Then work in some of what you’ve learned into the interview you have with the interviewer. 

¨     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. If you live in California, like we do and have to travel the 405, then allow TWICE the commute time! 

¨     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 might 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. Be realistic about the salary by going to salary.com to find out the going wage for the job. 

¨     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 check their phone 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. Tell them you’d really like the job. 

¨     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 Linked In 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 Indeed.  

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Smart Money Habits for Millennials (and Their Mamas)

The Kay Family had five babies in seven years. That roughly adds up to 3 kids in diapers at once, 10 years of not sleeping through the night, 4 teenage drivers at the same time, 3 kids in college at once and today, we have 5 millennials in their 20’s simultaneously.

Fun .

But the good news is that they eventually slept, pottied, drove, graduated and even mastered money habits in the journey. Here are the habits we helped teach our millennials to make sure they didn’t have to move home, they could remain financially independent, have a great start for their families, and still buy their mama nice birthday gifts.

Habit #1 – Create and Live By a Spending Plan

Many millennials have heard of the value of creating a budget and even have apps that help. But it’s of little use if they don’t know how to stick to it. Here are my favorite apps to help:

  • Mint Budgeting App – I met the founder of Mint, Aaron Patzer, in a green room, years ago, when we were both going to be on ABC News in NYC. At the time, he was building his success with Mint. I just remember him being (as he says in the video) “full of myself.” Ha! But his budgeting app is probably the best out there because it makes it easy to create a budget. You connect the Mint app to your bank and the app uses your details to help create a personalized budget.
  • PocketGuard Budget App – This app also connects to your bank accounts and shows you what you currently have in your pocket. It tracks your money to show what you are spending and automates where you’re going off budget and where you need to cut back.
  • You Need a Budget – This app’s claim to fame is that it creates a budget you can stick to based on the info provided in your bank accounts and spending habits. It even teaches you what to do if you overspend and how to live on last month’s income. This is the only app that cost money in my list and it’s $50 for the year, but there are hoards of devotees that say this app helped them to finally live on a budget.
  • GoodBudget – Back when dinosaurs roamed the financial space, there was an “envelope system” where you put the money you needed in each envelope labeled with expenses such as gas, food and entertainment. It helped Bob and I get out of 40K in consumer debt in only 2.5 years when we were first married. This app is the digital version of that system, making sure that everyone knows how much is left in the “envelope.”

You might need a money buddy to stay on track, too. Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, talks about her journey on our fun podcast The Money Millhouse and how she went from broke to anything-but-broke through techniques that kept her on track.

Habit #2 – Cook Creatively and Consistently

Money evaporates when you order out for lunch or dinner more than one or two meals a week. Bob took leftover dinners (the

re’s a microwave and fridge at work) for our entire marriage and we calculate that he’s saved $20,000 by doing this! Make Pintrist your pal or watch The Food Network to learn easy ways to create nutritious and tasty meals. Ask for an Instant Pot for your next birthday and make more than you need for dinner so you’ll have leftovers for either lunch or dinner later in the week. Or freeze the leftovers. My daughter lived with roommates for a few years and they would assign different nights for each of them to cook to simplify the work. Cook more and your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

Habit #3 – Care About Your Retirement

When we take our Heroes At Home Financial Event on the road, we teach young service members the miracle of compounding interest with the mantra: start early, start small and stay committed. Be sure to start with funding a Roth IRA and take advantage of your company’s matching portion of your 401(k). Lacey Langford, an Accredited Financial Counselor gave some great tips on a segment called “I Aint Afraid of No Money.”  She discussed retirement planning from her experience in working with the military (but many tips apply to civilians as well.) If you’re military, be sure to go into your Family Readiness Center to discuss the Blended Retirement System and what your options are for your situation. It’s free and a benefit you can use early and often.

Habit #4 – Count the Cost of Debt

The average millennial college grad owes 37K in student loan debt and the average household owes $8500 in credit card debt. Work on minimizing the debt you accrue and pay off the debt you have so that you’ll have the flexibility to move or wait on the right job. One of my sons worked for JC Penney, and they eliminated his entire department. Most employees were freaking out because they had student loan debt, consumer debt and car debt—but not our son. He made a practice of living on less so he wouldn’t accrue debt and he was able to have less worry in the process of finding a new job.

Be sure you also pay attention to your credit score. Rod Griffin, from Experian, came over for a discussion on coffee and credit. He works with us on our tours and he teaches that if you have bad credit, you’ll pay an average of 360K more (over your lifetime) for the use of basic credit, than the person who has a good score. Improve your score by paying on time, paying more than the minimum balance due and make sure you never use more than 30% of your available credit.

Habit #5 – Choose Contentment

This is a tricky habit because it’s a mindset that you choose. There will always be something to spend money on to make you go off budget or get into financial trouble. There’s the new phone, tablet, car, vacay, boyfriend/girlfriend, baby, or a plethora of other reasons to want to spend more and have more. This is where your friends, family and even faith come into play. Coveting what others have or do is a lesson in futility and discontentment. Your friends either contribute to this mindset or they keep you focused on what matters most. If keeping up with their lifestyle is an important platform in your friendship, then you may want to find new friends. Remember that this financial journey is a marathon not a sprint. I’ve always said, “you can have it all—just not at the same time.”

What is one habit you are good at? What is one habit you want to improve upon? Share it with us, a friend or even a money buddy, so that you can be fiscally healthy in 2018 and for a lifetime.

 

Avoiding Last Minute Christmas Panic!

 

So….here’s  some of this year’s Kay Christmas photos, that were a part of our annual photo greeting card. This was mailed the day after Thanksgiving. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday of every year, I get all my shopping done so that we can have a simple holiday–no last minute panic, no stress–just a simple life. But a few Christmases ago, I got talked into having “some work” done in our kitchen that was “a three day job.” I remember stressing to my husband that, with all the college kids coming home for the holidays, I didn’t want my house in a mess. But in accordance with Murphy’s law, most of my kids came home to 6 inches of snow on the ground that completely shut down our desert California town. Plus, I had A MESS OF KITCHEN! Workers couldn’t drive in t
he snow.  With no kitchen, there was no holiday baking, no traditional truffles, nothing but a sense of panic that there was too much to do and not enough time.

Whether you’re still shopping for last minute gifts, prepping your cards, cooking for the big meal or cleaning the house, you can avoid the associated expense and stress that comes with last minute panic by becoming proactive and purposeful in the midst of your panic. Here are some tips to attack the anxiety before it attacks you.

 

  • Simplify – It may have been a tough year economically for your family or you may an uncertain financial future. It’s the ideal time to simplify the holidays by taking a deep breath and thinking about what you do have rather than what you don’t have. I believe that each of us has two kinds of attitudes within us: there is a minimalist as well as a materialist in each of us. It’s time to tap into the minimalist and give the materialist less power in your life. Be sure that you are talking this through with your spouse. Dr. Jennifer Degler has some great ideas to manage these conversations when we interviewed her on The Money Millhouse. The holidays are all about friends and family, they’re really not about spending yourself into oblivion or stressing the small stuff.
  • Strategize – Get the free Christmas Radio app and sit down for a strategy session. At the root of most of our last minute anxiety is a basic lack of control. In order to separate emotional panic from the plan, take charge by implementing a specific strategy for these last few days.
    1. Step One: Take ten minutes to write down what you have left to do (gifts, grocery shopping, cards, baking, cleaning, etc). You could use the Christmas List app for $2.99 or just use the notes on your tablet so that you can share this with appropriate family members that may be impacted. Maybe you don’t really have as much to do as you thought and that, in and of itself, will help eliminate stress.
    2. Step Two: Go back over your list and mark the items as optional or mandatory. Do you really have to paint the bathroom before the guests arrive—optional.  Do you really have to change the sheets in the guest room before your mother-in-law arrives—mandatory.  Do you have to bake those three step chocolate truffles or can you get them at the local bakery–optional.
    3. Step Three: Take the optional items and place them on the bottom of the list. If you get to them—fine, if you don’t fine. This takes off TONS of pressure.
  • Stash the Cash – It’s soooo hard to really stay on budget with only days before Christmas. One tried-and-true way our family has been able to stay on a last minute budget is to get the budget remainder in cash and divide it into specially marked envelopes, for example, “food” and “gifts.” When I’m in the grocery store, I take the food budget envelope and it serves as a visual reminder of what I have left. On one hand, it keeps me from splurging on some treats if I’m running out of cash but on the other hand, it can also allow me to splurge (guilt free) on certain products if I realize that I have money leftover!
  • Split the Efforts – This may come as a news flash but… you don’t have to do everything in order for it to get done right! This is not the time to be Miss Polly Perfectionist. In this step, we need to delegate responsibilities. Assign tasks to different family members and cut your work in half. In fact, you could use this time as an opportunity to teach your teens the value of a dollar. Let them go to the store for you and get the items on your list, asking them to find the best deals. If they are not certain, then they can text you the options (what teen doesn’t love to text?) You can text them back some suggestions and in the process they are learning to evaluate a good deal and a bad deal.
  • Separate – It’s highly likely that you’re going to be charging some last minute expenses on your credit cards. But don’t let those purchases hurt your FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Score) by charging more than 30% on any one card. Check your credit card limits as well as your balances online or by phone and then make certain that you charge on the card that is lowest proportionally. Even if you are able to pay off these credit card bills next month, charges of more than 50% of the available limit on any given card can hurt your FICO. So be strategic by separating those purchases and saving your credit score.
  • SAVE – It used to be that Black Friday was just a day, this year it’s an entire season. It’s truly a buyer’s market amongst retailers and there are last minute deals to be had, especially electronics and clothing. But what if you don’t have time to go and battle the crowds at the store? There’s an easier way to give last minute gifts that simplifies your time, saves you money and keeps you on budget.
    1. Gift certificates (online and physical cards) – If you want to send an online gift certificate to someone, it’s as easy as pointing and clicking. They’ll receive notification in their in-box that you’ve bought them a gift certificate and you can follow up with an e-card alerting them that the notification they will receive from the retailer is not spam. For some great options, go to restaurant.com for discounts on eating out or check out potential deals at amazon.com For a review of codes that can give you a better deal, go to RetailMeNot.
    2. Gifts of Time – Some of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received are gifts of time. One girlfriend gifted me with a certificate good for lunch at my favorite bistro. My kids have given me handmade “coupons” that are good for doing the dishes, cleaning the living room, babysitting a younger sibling or not back talking me for a week (hey, I’m happy for a day). You could write out your own coupon and give the recipient a card that says, “This card entitles you to dinner and a movie” or “This card can be redeemed for a night out on the town while we babysit your teething twins.” This can be FUN!
  • Share – I’m all about multitasking and getting the most out of my efforts as well as my money. Now is the perfect time to give to charity in a way that also benefits you financially with your taxes. This year, given the current economy and the great material needs in communities why not consider giving the “gift” of a donation in someone’s name? Our favorite non profit organization is Heroes at Home which provides free financial education for military members. Currently, 95% of your donations go directly to programs on base.  Look over your list of people and consider making a donation in their name instead of giving them a material gift. You don’t have to tell them the amount of the gift and you can make one donation in the names of several people—thereby giving an amount that allows you stay within your budget. Furthermore, this kind of gift could be tax-deductible and help you (if you itemize) on your taxes as well. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Merry Christmas!
Ellie Kay
www.elliekay.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What was a problem you solved today?”

“How did you make someone laugh today?

“What was the best part of your day?”

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

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

1. “What was your best MacGyver moment?”

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

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

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

3. “What is our receptionist’s name?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of YOUR favorite interview questions?

 

The Millennial Boomerang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what to do? What to do?

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

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

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

 

And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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

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

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

Father and son

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

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

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

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

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

Back to College – The Kay Way – part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

 

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