A Financial Education Event
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What was a problem you solved today?”

“How did you make someone laugh today?

“What was the best part of your day?”

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

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

1. “What was your best MacGyver moment?”

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

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

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

3. “What is our receptionist’s name?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are some of YOUR favorite interview questions?

 

The Millennial Boomerang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what to do? What to do?

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

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

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

 

And Baby Makes Three – Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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

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

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

Father and son

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

8 Ways to Save Bucks on Babies

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

Three generations of Robert Philip Kay

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

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

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

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

Back to College – The Kay Way – part two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

 

Summer Jobs For Kids

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Nifty Ways for Kids to Earn Money This Summer

The first job my sons Daniel and Philip ever had was a paper route. It gave them something to do during the summer, helped them start managing their finances and was even a little fun (at first). While we said they could only do it if they committed to it for a year, they occasionally passed duties on to their younger brothers, Jonathan (age 7 at the time) and Joshua (age 6).

While mama (age undisclosed) did the driving, the little boys did the delivering. On Joshua’s very first house, he grabbed the paper in his tight fist, barreled up the sidewalk, got his arm into an admirable wind-up and pitched the paper on top of the house! Rooftop-bound periodicals aside, allowing your kids to earn money can be a fun and prosperous adventure, as long as you’re willing to supervise them. Simply set boundaries that are appropriate and let them go to work.

Here are some great ideas to help your kids raise their own cash this summer while enjoying the benefits of earning, saving and sharing:

  • Rent-A-Kid – If you, a church or neighbor (someone you know) needs any odd jobs done, this is a great idea. When advertising the service, it’s important to plan early and be specific, polite and careful. You can even help your child make a small business card on the computer!
  • Washing cars and/or windows – This can be advertised similar to the Rent-A-Kid idea and only requires suds, soap and elbow grease. Focus on safe neighborhoods and quality work. Always accompany your child until you know the employer better.
  • Babysitting – A popular choice for young guys and girls, safety is key for this job. Encourage your child to take a babysitting/CPR course and babysitting people you know. Also, if they keep the house tidy and the kids happy, it can lead to repeat business.
  • Caring for pets – Since summer is a popular time for vacations, people are usually looking for affordable ways to care for their pets. For kids who like animals, this is perfect. Recommend they pass out flyers and visit the animal before they take the job.
  • Mowing lawns – For older kids, this is a go-to summer job and an excellent source of income. It can be dangerous, so it’s important to exercise caution and safety. Make sure they have the proper supply and safety gear and encourage a job well done (the best form of advertising).
  • Making and selling candy or drinks – Everyone loves candy, cool drinks and cookies/cakes, so this is a great option for the future chef. With permission, you can sell at sporting events, church bazaars, carnivals, festivals or farmer’s markets.

Before your kids take on a job this summer, be sure to think about safety, age-appropriate work, training, quality and following through. And after they’re finished, praise them for a job well done! Be sure they are working for family members or trusted friends and feel free to supervise their work by tagging along as long as they are young enough to need you!

What kind of summer job did you do as a kid?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Wedding Budget: Step One

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Wedding Budget: Step One

“They say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life.” That’s a line from a song in one of our favorite musicals, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” It’s also a good reminder that when you prepare for your wedding, you need to think about details beyond the big day. In the Kay family, we have two Kay weddings in a two month time period. Since we’re in wedding season, I’ll use the next couple weeks to cover a few wedding preparation topics. Today’s post is about the budget.

An old proverb says, “A wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower.” One of the main mistakes engaged couples make is not setting a wedding budget, or expecting parents to cover expenses beyond their ability to pay. So how do you figure out who’s paying for what? You have to ask the right questions so you can gather all your financial facts.

What are the financial expectations from the bride’s parents?

The biggest mistake you can make here is assuming the bride’s parents will be covering all the expenses. All parents have some form of financial limitation, so it’s important to talk to them about it ahead of time. Some may give a lump sum; some may pay for specific things like the dress and/or reception. It’s usually best to be direct, polite and flexible when gathering information from the parents who traditionally pay for the majority of the expenses.

What are the financial expectations from the groom’s parents?

Tradition says that the groom’s parents are only expected to pay for the rehearsal dinner, but sometimes they may be able to cover more (or all) of the wedding costs. Talking to them about their financial limitations will both help your budget and encourage them to contribute willingly.

Are there any others who can contribute financially?

Sometimes grandparents or other relatives will offer to pay for part of the honeymoon or something else as their wedding gift. While you probably shouldn’t approach them about contributing, it’s a good idea to keep a list of who has offered to pay for what.

What expenses will the bride and groom cover?

It’s not uncommon for the bride and groom to pay for the entire wedding, especially if they are getting married later in life. But if they aren’t, it’s important to think about things the bride and groom are expected to cover, like the honeymoon, marriage license, flowers and the ceremony officiant’s fee.

It may be hard to ask some of these questions, but it will be harder if you’ve already gotten the financial ball rolling or if you’ve waited until the last minute. Setting an appropriate budget will help you avoid going into debt, which is what I’ll talk about in my next wedding post.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

5 Ways to Stick to That Summer Budget!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Pre-Deployment Check List – Part 1

What are the most important financial details to take care of before a deployment?

As a long time wife of a fighter pilot, we lived through a lot of separations and I’m glad we had our financial house in order before he left. Today, we have a Marine who recently deployed and since he is single, there were aspects of this checklist that involve us as well. Whether you are married or single, it’s important to take care of business before you leave the states. This is part one of a three part series and it can make all the difference for family members back at home.

Here’s a checklist to help you get through.

  • Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) Make sure that this info is up-to-date for all family members since this impacts everything from being able to get Tri-Care to keeping a current military ID.  If you do not live in the same household with all your dependants, be sure that you have all the current information (i.e. children who do not live with you or children in college).
  • Military IDs – Make sure they are up-to-date and won’t expire during deployment. This is, once again, true for all your dependants and sometimes the expiration dates are different on the cards than they are on your own military ID, so double check this so that your dependants can have access to everything from the commissary to discounted Disneyland tickets through MWR.
  • Passports –Make sure family members have current valid passports.  If a military member is severely wounded, then parents or spouses would need current passports to come and see them. If you are single, and your parents would be the ones to come see you, then contact them and make sure they have current passports.
  • Record of Emergency Data – If your family needs to be notified of a severe illness or injury, they will be contacted based on the information you have in your emergency data. Are you newly married and your name has changed? What about other changes to your information? We recently decided to go from having a house phone line to only having cell phones. The house phone line was the one in the emergency data information for our single,  Marine son, so we had to make sure that he updated that very important info. Check with your parents and children who are dependants but do not live with you and make sure you make note of any info that has changed.
  • Family Care Plan  – If you are dual military spouse, a single parent or have another family member dependent on you for care, you need to update your family care plan. Your family services center can help you walk through the updates necessary to make sure all your family members are taken care of if you are the sole source of their provision.
  •  Power of Attorney- The person designated in the power of attorney document should be the service member’s spouse, a parent or trusted friend, since it give that person the expressed written permission to act on the service member’s behalf. There are three different kinds of POAs.

A General power of attorney allows for the person to buy, sell, trade or sign for almost any legal act on their behalf. If you and your spouse are having marital issues that may lead to a separation, then it might be better to have the spouse on a specific/limited POA rather than a general POA.

A Specific/limited allows only specific powers for a specific period of time. For example, they can sign your tax documents to file taxes or sell a specific car. This kind of POA is good when you are single and having a parent or trusted friend handle your business affairs.

A Durable POA is the most comprehensive of the three kinds of powers of attorney.  It remains valid even if the servicemember is incapacitated. If you don’t specifically select this while drafting a general POA, then it will automatically end if they are incapacitated. Therefore, if you want a family member to have the POA even if you are incapacitated, this has to be indicated by securing a durable POA before deployment.

Set aside an hour a week before your deployment to start chipping away at this list and be sure to check back next time for part two of this series.

What is your favorite pre-deployment tip? 

Ellie Kay

Job Interviews for Millennials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Real Tips to Teach Kids About Money

Real Tips to Teach Kids About Saving

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

Banking

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

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

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

What are YOUR tips to teach kids about money?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

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