A Financial Education Event
 

I Do Not Hate You

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My daughter, Bethany, and I have a close relationship that often baffles the unassuming bystander. While we have been known to have a hearty row every now and then, we prefer to laugh early and often. One of our shticks is performed when we try to call or text each other and the recipient fails to answer. Our ever-mature response is to call and leave voice mail saying,

“Why do you hate me?”

The other party is to respond as soon as possible with assurances that you are not nearly as hated as you think.

We have variations of this hilarity and while it seems unhealthy from the outside looking in, it works for us.

At the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017 we hear a lot about how eager some are to release 2016 to the dregs of a year gone sour: a year of political strife, unequalled loss and anguished setbacks. In short, they hated 2016.

But I have to say to 2016—I do not hate you.

In 2015 my Marine son was in a combat zone in Iraq, in 2014 he was in regular firefights in Afghanistan as an infantry platoon commander. Had I been prone to hate a year, it would have been 2014.

In 2016 that Marine married his true love and I gained a daughter. I know it’s a cliché, most mother-in-laws have to say that, right? But in my case, I really expanded the tent pegs of my heart to let another inside. This young lady read my books before she met me, she knows my son better than I, and she works kindly and lovingly behind the scenes to foster our family’s unity. She calls me “mama” and she calls me regularly. She gives me gifts (my love language is gift giving) and she makes me laugh. Yeah, I hear you “Ellie, you are painting this girl in shades of YOU—what she does for YOUR son, how she makes YOU feel, and the value she brings to YOUR family.” You are right. I am.

In 2013 my daughter Bethany, a recent college graduate, left the good old US of A and moved to England to serve at a non-profit that benefitted children. She mended hearts of kids who needed to hear about hope. She got to see a number of countries and experience other cultures and that was good. But the non-profit organization broke her heart. Amidst poor leadership, false accusation and territorial dogmas my daughter lost her joy. The “bouncing Bunny” came back shattered and in need of healing. If I could have hated a year, it could have been 2013.
In 2016 that daughter married her true love and I gained a son. Yes, here we go with the cliché’s again. But if you’ve never enlarged your heart to let someone who is not your own child in, then you don’t know what I’m talking about, so don’t judge me. This young man is guileless. Truly, he knows no guile. I don’t know if he’s a good poker player because he just doesn’t lie very well. My daughter had mended from her terrible-no-good-very-bad-year and was able to present him with a whole, healthy heart to have and to hold forevermore. He calls me “mama” even though he has a great family of his own and they are part of the assets he brings to our lives. He adores my daughter. He gets her. She chose well and they gained a “happily ever after.” Of course they’ll have challenges, loss and heartache. But they’ll have each other and that does a mama’s heart good.

In 2016, our family saw other great gains—my grandson’s 2nd birthday party with doting parents, Army beat Navy after 14 years, a son started pilot training, another son began his senior year at West Point, my children gathered from far away places for the weddings & holidays, and we welcomed our first grandfurbaby named Schmidt (yep, from New Girl, but the dog is better behaved.) My conference team successfully completed 15 events at 10 bases with Heroes at Home, providing financial literacy education to service members thanks to USAA. I have a passion for these people and I got to live that in my work this past year. The last part of 2016 had us planning 2017 with 25 events at 17 different bases in five countries—a success by any standard.

In 2016 had my focus been on politics, social justice or mortality, I would have hated this past year. Had I chosen to look at the family drama, broken friendships, missing family & friends associated with the two Kay family weddings—I would have hated 2016. There was plenty of negativity to focus on this past year both in our family and in our world, but I chose to focus on what went right, not what went wrong. I chose (not based on feeling, but based on a decision of the will) to focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have. I tried to choose wisely.

No, 2016, I do not hate you.

As I’m writing this blog on January 1st, I turned off my phone to concentrate on the task at hand. I missed a few texts, a call goes to voice mail. I proof and edit my work, choose the photos to accompany the blog and populate it for the appropriate day. Then I listen to my voice mail. I have a “Happy New Year” message from my daughter that begins with,

“Why do you hate me?”

I smile to myself.

Hello, 2017, I think we’re going to have a good year.

Tis The Season For The End Of Year Bargains

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I don’t stress during the holidays anymore. About a decade ago, I started participating in year round buying for those Christmas gifts and I start working on my cards in early November. So I’m usually ahead of schedule and all I have to do is cook for my kids who come home and go drink some eggnog at holiday parties!

But the buying season for 2017 starts now. Here are ways to save money now that can pay off later, if you can set aside some funds to take advantage of these super deals.

Outlet Malls – I’ve told my adult children that there are real outlet malls and pseudo outlets. The best ones were reviewed by Consumer Reports and the chains that received the highest scores take into consideration value, quality, selection and customer service. These chain stores that are highest rank include Cartr’s, BonWorth, L.L. Bean and Haggar. If you can shop on Dec 26th, then you’ll get an even greater bargain. Go to Premium Outlets or Tanger Outlets online to find the best location nearest you and to see what kind of after Christmas specials you can expect.

Clothing – The day after Christmas is better than Black Friday (when you can expect 40% off) when it comes to clothing deals especially in the area of jackets, sweaters and robes (as much as 70% off.)  Look online to see when the stores open as some are offering Black Friday type hours so people can come in and shop til they drop.

Last Minute Bundles – There is still time to get bundle deals this time of year. For example, a free case and flash drive for your tablet or laptop or a free gift card or extra games with your gaming system. Go to Amazon to comparison shop bundle deals and while you are there, look for “Today’s Deals” tab to check out daily specials. Target is stepping up the game this year when it comes to bundling and you can always find an extensive list of codes for other deals as well as sales at RetailMeNot.

Donations – How can the timing on a donation make a difference?  If you were going to make a holiday donation and believe you’ll have enough in donations to itemize in 2016, then go ahead and make that donation to make a difference in someone else’s life in a significant way. But if you weren’t as generous as you would have liked and you won’t be able to itemize, then wait until Jan 1st, 2017 to make that donation so that you can make it a goal to donate enough in 2017 in order to itemize.

Be sure to consider donating to Heroes at Home and all the fine work we are doing in teaching our military members financial literacy.

What are your favorite end of the year savings tips? Let me hear from you!

Before You Push “Send”

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In the movie “Father of the Bride” Steve Martin’s character, George Banks, announces to Brian, the groom-to-be, “We come from a long line of major over reactors. Me. I can definitely lose it. My mother… a nut. My grandfather… stories about him are legendary. The good news, however, is that this overreacting tends to get proportionately less by generation, so your kids could be normal.”

Our family loves that movie; it’s a Kay cult classic amongst our family movies and quotable movie lines.

Like George Banks, the Kay bunch tends to be over reactors at times—especially under the pressure of the holidays. But we have hopes that our grandchildren may be normal.

In fact, if you ask my kids what I’m like when I’m upset, they will say that they hate my Texas accent, because it comes out with a flourish and generally not in their favor. Add to that fact that I’m ½ Latina and no one wants to be around me when I lose it.  The good news is that I have been working on this issue for years. I don’t like to say I’m an “over reactor.” Instead, I call myself “passionate.” This passion can be a “strength” at times but it sometimes becomes a “weakness” when it serves to miscommunicate my heart or intent.

One of the ways I advise all families, especially military families is to caution them to think before they push “send,” or before they tweet, or post something on Facebook and Instagram. This is especially important when it can come back to haunt you or your military member in a negative way. I know this is hard because I tend to process things by writing them down, but before I hit “send” I do three things:

1)  Sit On It—Because I know that when I write in a passion (anger, hurt, indignation) my EQ and IQ go down about 20 points (and I can’t afford to lose any of those points), I wait a few hours or overnight. Then I reread it, edit it and send.

2)  Share it with Fresh Eyes—My professional mentor who is a wise and wealthy literary agent, once said, “Ellie, less is more.” I have him, my assistant, or my hubby look at my message with fresh eyes to make sure I’m communicating in the most effective manner. My assistant will often be lovingly blunt, “You sound like a diva” or “Do you REALLY want to say that? You are coming across as too direct and even as cruel.” I don’t have to take every edit, but at least I have the perspective of someone who cares about me and desires me to be reflected in a positive light. They often save me from myself.

3)  Scrutinize it—After I’ve had some distance from the passion, I reread it to make sure I’m not hurting someone’s feelings or taking on an unnecessary fight. If I find that I’m more concerned with “the principle” rather than “the person,” then I have to take another look at my motives. If I err, I’d rather err on the side of kindness. My agent’s words, “Less is more” is my guiding grace. After all this, I’ll select send.

 

Do I always follow my own advice? No, to my great discredit I do not.

 

Do I regret it when I fail to vet my passionate emails before I send them? Yes, it has cost me friendships, business relationships and even contracts.

So, if you are experiencing the stress of the holidays (or any time of year) and you are tempted to vent via an email or other written communication. I encourage you to take that passion and follow the steps outlined in order to have the best possible outcome for all involved.

I’d like to hear from you. How do you process your passion in the written word?

Time for a Health Care Checkup

BGadmin

Lean Body, Fat Wallet, the Health Wealth connection!

As a mom of many, we had our five youngest children in seven years. This not only meant a lot of trips to the hospital to welcome a new family member, but it also meant countless trips to the doctor for checkups, aches and pains, and even an occasional accident. We couldn’t afford to be without health insurance.

 

Now that my kids are young adults, they still need their own health insurance and need to navigate the options, which can be confusing in the current healthcare system. But with open enrollment season upon us, now is the time when you can pick a new health insurance plan, and it’s time to make that topic part of your family meetings so you can be prepared for the New Year. Here are some areas to consider as you make these critical decisions:

Mama and her boys

Financial Impact: We raised four rowdy, active sons, and while they turned out to be great young adults, making it through their childhood was not incident free. We discovered one broken leg can cost $7,500 or more. Since most American families don’t have that amount of money saved in the bank, this one incident could wipe them out financially. So the main question isn’t just, “How much will insurance cost me?” but it’s also, “How much will not having insurance cost me?”

 

Freedom of Choice: During open enrollment, now is the time you will need to choose, and there are a number of things to consider in this decision making process. Whether you are purchasing your own plan, have options provided by an employer, or are eligible for Medicare, there are a lot of factors involved. First of all, take an honest look at your budget and at the insurance plan’s premium, deductible and out of pocket expenses.

 

This is a good time to think about what you expect the next 12 months to hold for you and your family. Ask yourself the following questions so you can make a better choice:

 

  • What is coming up? Are there big expenses coming up like childbirth or knee replacement surgery? If so, you might want to invest in a plan with a lower deductible.
  • What are my out of pocket expenses? When you visit your doctor, the amount you are responsible for paying is considered your co-payment. If you have imaging tests, like an MRI, you may have to pay a percent of those costs, which is called co-insurance. Again, if you think you’re going to visit the doctor a lot next year, these are things to consider.
  • What medications will we need? In addition to visiting the doctor, you should think about what kind of medication you and your family need. There are typically co-pays and separate deductibles for prescription drugs. If you’re already taking medication to maintain your cholesterol or blood pressure, you might want to check to see if there are ways to save money, like taking advantage of mail order pharmacy programs.

Future Options on My Plan: The main choice you have during open enrollment is which plan you will choose, but once you’ve selected a plan, make sure you’re visiting doctors and hospitals that are in your network. The network is made up of the doctors contracted with your insurance company to provide care for you. If you go out of that network, you will typically have to pay more. In some cases, you may sometimes have to cover the entire bill depending on what kind of plan you have. Because of that, it’s critical you stick with the plan you’ve chosen, or it could ruin your family’s finances.

Final Financial Considerations: When you are looking at this significant expenditure, it’s important to consider a number of factors and compare plans while understanding your options. You may want to go through this list to make sure you’ve considered everything in order to make an informed decision:

  • I have partnered with other resources available to help you better understand your options. Health insurers such as Anthem, Application Assistors, Navigators, and brokers in your local communities are available to help you navigate your options during open enrollment season and find a plan that is a good fit for you. For more info go to Anthem or gov
  • Are you about to turn 65 and will be eligible for Medicare? If so, you will have new options to consider.
  • Are your kids under age 26 and unemployed or don’t have a great plan through their employer? They can remain on your plan until they turn 26.
  • If you’re buying insurance on your own, you may qualify for financial help to pay for your monthly premium.

 

No matter what you decide, if you’ve followed the outline in this article, then you will be far less likely to have confusion and doubt when you are set up in your new healthcare plan and can no longer make decisions until next year’s open enrollment. As I tell my young adult children, the only failure when it comes to your finances is to do nothing at all and thereby lose out on an opportunity to improve your family’s financial future. I’m grateful Anthem has provided this information in our partnership so I can spread the word to American families as they navigate the sometimes confusing road to financial wellness in regards to healthcare options.

Giving Tuesday – As a Family, Honor Our Heroes

BGadmin

Parents want their kids to learn how to give back to others, but sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to do that effectively.

The Kay Family Christmas Card – 1996

When my kids were growing up, from the time they were toddlers, they worked alongside us to gather groceries for the local food pantry, they were with us as a family when we collected used coats from the neighborhood for the homeless shelter and they helped us buy toys for the Marine Corps “Toys for Tots” program, handing them off to a handsome Marine in the store. The result is that they grew up thinking of others during the holidays and today, they give back in proactive ways to communities both home and abroad.

Those children are now young adults and they still give back in amazing ways. Three of them serve in the Army, Air Force and Marines and the others help support Heroes at Home, a 501 (c) (3) that provides financial education for military members.

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving is “Giving Tuesday” when there is an effort across the nation to give back to our communities. In 2017, the Heroes at Home Financial Eventwill provide 25 presentations at 17 bases around the world including:

  • Joint Base San Antonio Randolph AFB – San Antonio, TX
  • Sheppard AFB – Wichita Falls, TX
  • Peterson AFB – Colorado Springs, CO
  • Joint Base Charleston – Charleston, SC
  • Shaw AFB – Sumter, SC
  • Wright Patterson AFB – Dayton, OH
  • Hanscom AFB – Bedford, Mass
  • Malmstrom AFB – Great Falls, Montana
  • Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson – Anchorage, Alaska
  •  RAF Alconbury – Huntington, England
  • RAF Mildenhall – Suffolk, England
  • Spangdalem AFB – Germany
  • AWAG -American Workers Around the Globe – Edleweiss Resort -Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  • Aviano AFB – Italy
  • Offut AFB – Omaha, NE
  •  Joint Base Andrews – Prince George’s County, Maryland
  • Ramstein AFB – Germany

These events feature four top level financial speakers, a live twitter party (with prizes for the best tweets) and thanks to our non-profit’s presenting sponsor, USAA, we are able to give away over 100 door prizes, including copies of my financial books.

When our service members learn how to manage their money, then it helps with military readiness because these members are less likely to lose security clearances due to financial problems. This allows them to do their jobs.

Last year, my family and I participated in a fundraiser to help  Walmart donate $1 million to Fisher House Foundation, which for the past 25 years has provided a home-away-from-home for military and veterans’ families whose loved ones are in a nearby military or veterans hospital. In my visits to Fisher House and my work with them, I’ve seen how important this is to military families.

Another way my family is giving back is through the Greenlight A Vet campaign to help create visible support for veterans nationwide. We can show support for veterans this season by changing one light bulb in our home to green, raising awareness on social media, volunteering and serving with veteran groups in their community, or starting a mentor/mentee relationship with a veteran.

How are you going to give on Giving Tuesday?

Ellie Kay

Time for a Health Care Checkup

BGadmin

Lean Body, Fat Wallet, the Health Wealth connection!

As a mom of many, we had our five youngest children in seven years. This not only meant a lot of trips to the hospital to welcome a new family member, but it also meant countless trips to the doctor for checkups, aches and pains, and even an occasional accident. We couldn’t afford to be without health insurance.

 

Now that my kids are young adults, they still need their own health insurance and need to navigate the options, which can be confusing in the current healthcare system. But with open enrollment season upon us, now is the time when you can pick a new health insurance plan, and it’s time to make that topic part of your family meetings so you can be prepared for the New Year. Here are some areas to consider as you make these critical decisions:

Mama and her boys

Financial Impact: We raised four rowdy, active sons, and while they turned out to be great young adults, making it through their childhood was not incident free. We discovered one broken leg can cost $7,500 or more. Since most American families don’t have that amount of money saved in the bank, this one incident could wipe them out financially. So the main question isn’t just, “How much will insurance cost me?” but it’s also, “How much will not having insurance cost me?”

 

Freedom of Choice: During open enrollment, now is the time you will need to choose, and there are a number of things to consider in this decision making process. Whether you are purchasing your own plan, have options provided by an employer, or are eligible for Medicare, there are a lot of factors involved. First of all, take an honest look at your budget and at the insurance plan’s premium, deductible and out of pocket expenses.

 

This is a good time to think about what you expect the next 12 months to hold for you and your family. Ask yourself the following questions so you can make a better choice:

 

  • What is coming up? Are there big expenses coming up like childbirth or knee replacement surgery? If so, you might want to invest in a plan with a lower deductible.
  • What are my out of pocket expenses? When you visit your doctor, the amount you are responsible for paying is considered your co-payment. If you have imaging tests, like an MRI, you may have to pay a percent of those costs, which is called co-insurance. Again, if you think you’re going to visit the doctor a lot next year, these are things to consider.
  • What medications will we need? In addition to visiting the doctor, you should think about what kind of medication you and your family need. There are typically co-pays and separate deductibles for prescription drugs. If you’re already taking medication to maintain your cholesterol or blood pressure, you might want to check to see if there are ways to save money, like taking advantage of mail order pharmacy programs.

Future Options on My Plan: The main choice you have during open enrollment is which plan you will choose, but once you’ve selected a plan, make sure you’re visiting doctors and hospitals that are in your network. The network is made up of the doctors contracted with your insurance company to provide care for you. If you go out of that network, you will typically have to pay more. In some cases, you may sometimes have to cover the entire bill depending on what kind of plan you have. Because of that, it’s critical you stick with the plan you’ve chosen, or it could ruin your family’s finances.

Final Financial Considerations: When you are looking at this significant expenditure, it’s important to consider a number of factors and compare plans while understanding your options. You may want to go through this list to make sure you’ve considered everything in order to make an informed decision:

  • I have partnered with other resources available to help you better understand your options. Health insurers such as Anthem, Application Assistors, Navigators, and brokers in your local communities are available to help you navigate your options during open enrollment season and find a plan that is a good fit for you. For more info go to Anthem or gov
  • Are you about to turn 65 and will be eligible for Medicare? If so, you will have new options to consider.
  • Are your kids under age 26 and unemployed or don’t have a great plan through their employer? They can remain on your plan until they turn 26.
  • If you’re buying insurance on your own, you may qualify for financial help to pay for your monthly premium.

 

No matter what you decide, if you’ve followed the outline in this article, then you will be far less likely to have confusion and doubt when you are set up in your new healthcare plan and can no longer make decisions until next year’s open enrollment. As I tell my young adult children, the only failure when it comes to your finances is to do nothing at all and thereby lose out on an opportunity to improve your family’s financial future. I’m grateful Anthem has provided this information in our partnership so I can spread the word to American families as they navigate the sometimes confusing road to financial wellness in regards to healthcare options.

Thanksgiving Traditions

BGadmin

Thankful Traditions

The Kay family photo for Woman’s Day magazine.

Not every “savings” can be measured in dollars and cents. One of the things we emphasized in our family is the saving of memories. Our Thankful Tree was featured in a Woman’s Day magazine one year. It took two photographers 8 rolls of film and four hours to get one 3 x 5 photo in the magazine. Joshua was missing for one roll of film and we didn’t notice until we saw him making faces from behindthe photographers and we asked, “What are you doing back there?”

The tip we gave is how we’ve stayed in touch with family and friends during this holiday. On November 1st, we made a Thankful Tree on poster board and put it on our wall or front door. The tree was bare because the leaves that we made out of construction paper have not yet been gathered. The leaves have the person’s name on them and say, “Uncle Steve is thankful for _________.” But we left the tree bare at the beginning of the season to teach the children how barren our lives are without the giving of thanks.

We made and sent the leaves to friends and family around the world along with a self-addressed envelope. When these envelopes came back, the children got excited as they took turns opening them. At dinner that night, we read the leaf and give thanks along with those who are thankful and put the leaf on our tree. By Thanksgiving Day, we had a tree full of thanks. We carefully saved the leaves in an envelope marked by the year and kept all in our Thanksgiving decoration box. Each year, we read the leaves from past years.

We never know when this year’s leaf might be someone’s last, or which family might have a new leaf on next year’s tree. So we give thanks.  These days, we gather “thankful comments” from facebook, email and twitter, but the point is we are connecting with friends and family in a meaningful way.

This holiday, what are YOU thankful for?  Besides our health and our family, we are thankful for two weddings this year, healthy grandchildren, and the chance to be together during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ellie Kay

8 Ways to Thank a Veteran Today and Every Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

5.5 Million Square Feet of “Serving Those Who Serve”

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I made the cover!

There are a few conference I speak at every year that make me leave me feeling proud to be associated with such quality. This year, at #USAADigiMil, I bonded with my tribe of financial writers, podcasters, bloggers and speakers who want to serve the military in a plethora of ways. They #sponsored my trip out as I presented on “How to Be A Paid Speaker” and gave some favorite tips on how to up your game. One pretty basic technique is to have someone start to count your “ums” and “uhs” when you speak. Awareness is half the key in eliminating those bad habits. Another tip is to develop a speaking event sheet that asks for all the event’s info including the budget for the speaker.  Email assistant@elliekay.com if you want a sample copy.

This year, the podcasters were particularly inspiring as I heard the very humble Ron Fugle, from the highly successful Fire and Adjust  talk about how staying true to your purpose and your voice to find those like minded listeners. Joe Crane with Veteran on The Move manages to balance life as an airline pilot with a very popular podcast that has grown exponentially through his tireless efforts. He said that if you are one in a million, then you still have thousands of those who are just like you and finding them is key to getting your message out.

Hanging with Rylan Tuohy, Wendy Poling and Jen Hartzung at #USAADigiMil

I got to meet the 2016 grad from the Naval Academy, Rylan Tuhoy who is responsible for so many of our favorite Navy spirit videos including the Naptown Funk.  I also found out that Jenn Hatzung of She Percolates has a baby daughter with my exact legal name, Eleanor Ruth!

The tribe that attends is so generous and helpful including Joe Saul-Sehy, whose podcast Stacking Benjamins not only celebrated 400 episodes this week, but it was just named as on Kiplinger’s Annual Best List for Best 2016 Personal Finance Podcast.  He’s the emcee of the popular FinCon and the founder, Philip Taylor, was there as well to cheer on all the FinCon community who attended. Wendy Poling of My Military Life as well as Krista Wells, The Military Spouse Coach helped me come up with some fantastic ideas for my own podcast that I hope to launch in early 2017.

Besides the speakers, attendees and USAA community we also got to take tours of the ever fun innovation lab that is chock full of drones, 3D imaging and robots that allow virtual

USAA Innovation Lab

employees to traverse the 5.5 million square feet facility. Krista Wells and I decided to do our best model-like photo shoot inside one of the world’s largest air conditioners.

Inside a very large air conditioner for a photo shoot with Krista Wells

At the Exposition Hall, we got chocolate to keep our strength up and learned about products I had not yet learned about. I’ve used the USAA car buying service to get $800 off my car but I didn’t know that you can search for cars and select options where you can buy cars from other USAA members. Plus, I learned that you can get a mortgage prequalified online and print out the documents needed when buying your home.

It’s hard to say which part of the trip to USAA was my favorite, but the seeing two of my partners in the Heroes at Home Financial Event was definitely a highlight. Mike Kelly and JJ Montanero are so wonderful in their support and advocacy for our non-profit work with the military. I’m grateful for their friendship and support.

My friends Mike Kelly and JJ Montenero who help bring Heroes at Home to the USAF

The best tribes are bound by not only common interest but common passions and this tribe is fully committed to serve those who have served our country.

Who is in your tribe and what are you doing to connect with them on a regular basis?

Secrets to Launching a Money Smart Millenial

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A Full house at Sheppard AFB. Photobombing my fellow speakers Ingrid Bruns from USAA and Bethany Grace our high energy emcee!

Rumor had it that a major retailer was about to lay off employees—again. Brandon sat in his cubicle, efficiently working through a pile of projects and forcing himself to focus on the task at hand. He survived previous rounds of cutbacks, but didn’t know if his number would be up this time. With a wife and baby to support, the heavy sense of responsibility weighed on his mind. His concentration was broken by a supervisor informing him to report to the Vice President of his department.

Nervously, he met this VP for the first time and was told his department was being outsourced, but he would stay on an extra month to handle the transition. Many of Brandon’s Millennial peers had a hard time with the sudden loss of employment due to student loan bills, consumer debt and no emergency fund. They couldn’t afford missed paychecks.

But Brandon was different. He worked his way through college with no debt and had a nine-month savings account to weather this storm. He survived the layoff and landed an even better job because he was financially healthy—and because his parents taught him good money-management skills.

Every parent can prepare their child for life on their own by unlocking five keys to healthy finances for Millennials.

Key #1: Build A Good Credit Score

Long gone are the days when someone could get by with no credit cards. It’s one thing to have no debt — something I strongly advocate — but it’s quite another thing to have no credit history. A Millennial’s credit score will impact their auto insurance rates, the deposit they pay for utilities or an apartment, their employment and a dozen other areas. If they are in the military, it influences their ability to get (and keep) a security clearance. In fact, about 80% of our audiences in our Heroes at Home events are millennials.

Teach your teens about credit by going to Credit.com and reviewing the different areas that impact a credit score. As your child is learning to “adult,” have them listen in on one of my favorite programs, #CreditChat @Experian_US on Periscope at 2:30 PM ET daily. They can even ask their own questions.

In our family, the Kay kids are added as additional cardholders with their own AMEXgreen cards when they are 18 (using their own social security numbers.) We set the limit low and can freeze their account at any time, plus we see how they use the card. We have them charge books, phone plans and anything else we’ve agreed to pay, and then we pay those bills on time. All the Kay kids graduate from college with a 760+ FICO score by following this technique.

Key #2: A Spend Plan is the Best Plan

A teen can learn to budget while they are still at home if parents help them set up a spend plan on Mint (also a great app) for areas like clothing or school supplies. Just give them a budget for the semester and have weekly meetings to review how they are doing. In our family, we let them keep what they don’t spend, which motivates them to not only stay within budget—but to come under budget. We extended this as they launched into their young adult years with college spend plans and eventually a lump sum they managed as we contributed to weddings. Learning to spend less than you have can be a fun challenge with a lucrative reward.

Key #3: Start Small, Start Early, Stay Committed

This is the motto we use in my work with Heroes At Home, a non-profit dedicated to financial literary for Millennial service members. Brandon, our example at the beginning of this article, started saving early, when he was in college with a small sum set aside each month and stayed committed to that goal so that he could weather emergency expenses. Your child can learn the discipline of saving for specific goals, whether that is a mission trip in the summer or a good used car. By learning to flex these muscles early, they develop a discipline that can last a lifetime.

Key #4: Make Saving Money A Way of Life

In our global financial education events, the audiences usually love it when our high-energy Millennial emcee shares savings hacks that hit them where they live: food and entertainment. Tell your teen about money-savings apps that can help them make the dollars from their spend plan go further. For example, if you give them a clothing budget, then tell them about RetailMeNot (also an app) that offers more than 400K coupon codes for everything from clothing, to food and entertainment. While they’re standing in the Old Navy line, they can pull out the phone, look up the store on the app and see if there’s a code to save even more.

Key #5: Low or No Debt Leads to Freedom

Brandon’s peers were in trouble because they saw student loan and consumer debt as a way of life. While your Millennial is learning the credit score piece, use that opportunity to teach them about consumer debt. As they prepare to live on their own, help them make wise choices in career and college choices. In our family, we said, “You won’t go to the best school you can get into. You’ll go to the best school you can get into where you will graduate with the least amount of student loan debt.”

Our daughter graduated from Moody Bible Institute with no student loan debt. After graduation, she was able to accept a job on the mission field in Europe, helping children. They offered no wage, but paid room and board. She only had to pay for toiletries and souvenirs. She had the freedom to embark on this adventure because she had no debt and she saw six different countries, making forever memories and friends along the way.

As the mom of enough Millennials to make up a solid basketball team, I can say from experience that every parent can prepare their teen for life on their own by unlocking the five keys to healthy finances.

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