A Financial Education Event
 

Valentines Day

Even after 30 years of marriage, Valentines Day is still consider an important day in the Kay house! In our large family, I would also get the boys a card/gift and Bob would get our daughter the same. Today, I send Valentines to my grands and my single sons. That can add up, when you also add in my main Valentine–the old fighter pilot.

But you don’t have to spend a lot for your gift to mean a lot, here are some ideas that may help.

Is it OK to Scrimp on Valentine’s Day?

For Valentine’s Day, you might feel the need to pull out all the stops, but it’s not necessary. Sure, some people want to celebrate the holiday in a lavish way, but others prefer to go the low-key route. Whether you fit into these descriptions or fall somewhere in the middle, there are a romantic date ideas for Valentine’s Day or the weekend before that suit every budget.

The Least Expensive Way to Spend Feb 14th

After a home-cooked meal, snuggle up with your honey and enjoy a movie night on the cheap. Look for specials at Redbox and get a romantic dramedy plus an action movie to keep both of you happy. If you are “zero tv” and have netflix, hulu, or amazon prime member then you have access to free movies that are not available for free to non-members. You may not even be aware of the freebies offered, so be sure to check them out.

Gifts that Give to Non-Profits

By shopping at amazon, you can give the gift that gives! If you haven’t link

ed your amazon account to the amazon smile option, then do that right away. Every purchase you make will benefit Heroes at Home and they’ll make a contribution to our non-profit that helps military members by helping to provide free financial education.

 

Flower Power

When it comes to flowers, you usually get what you pay for and one way to cut costs is to hand deliver, this can save anywhere from $8 to $20. You could look at GrouponLiving Social for offers such as $20 for $40 worth of flowers with FTD.

One kind of fun option reminds me of one of my favorite romantic comedies, “Kate and Leopold” and that is to give flowers with specific meanings. Go to TheFlowerExpert.com to find out the meaning of different flowers. For example, red roses mean romantic love while a bouquet of mixed roses means “I don’t know my feelings about you yet, but I’m sending you roses anyway.” Carnations are a less expensive option and a red carnation conveys love pride, beauty and admiration. Daisys are also inexpensive and convey “loyal love.” A sunflower symbolizes pure thoughts. So you can select a cheaper flower if, and only if, you write a note explaining the meaning of the flower and why you chose it for your true love.

Dinner and a Show

Going out for dinner seems to be a Valentine’s Day mainstay and dinner for two can range anywhere from $20 to $200 or more. How to you have a nice meal without sending a signal to your mate that you want to spend as little as possible? After all, aren’t they worth a splurge on Valentine’s Day?

There are quite a few ways to save a lot in this area and still have a nice time together. Lunch or brunch can be half the price of dinner and you could go on the Sunday before the big day. In fact, some restaurants are offering prix fix menus for the weekend or entire Valentine week. Go to your favorite restaurant’s twitter or facebook page and see what specials they are offering to get the best value. Some of these values are only offered to social media friends.

You can also go to restaurant.com where gift certificates have gone on sale this week. You can get a $25 gift certificate for your favorite restaurant for as little as $6 by entering the coupon code found at RetailMeNot. Check community billboards at your local chamber of commerce website. For example, in our area, a local Greek center is offering a romantic, candlelight dinner for two with champagne, flowers, dinner and dancing for $50 a person. While this may not seem like a bargain at first, when you add up the cost of the individual items like the food, flowers, bottle of bubbly and a cover charge you would have to pay to dance, it’s an all inclusive deal that is sure to please. Plus, you can learn how to dance the Kalamatianos, a traditional Greek dance. Can you say, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding!”?

Great Dates that Double As A Great Gift

Right now, there are some great deals to be had at Travelzoo such as a quick, 2 night getaway on a $299 cruise, with an oceanview room. Bob and I took a cruise this way and really loved it. This week, there are also really nice hotels from Orlando to Seattle that range from $49 to $99 a night. Or, if you want to get up, up and away, there’s a $125 two hour helicopter ride featured.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Giving Tuesday, Facebook Matching, Shopping at Amazon Smile–Many Easy Ways to Give

What does Giving Tuesday do for our Heroes? Here’s a recap of our last event of this tour season.

Heroes at Home completed their 26th event on 17 bases in 4 countries when they blew into Pensacola Naval Air Station like a storm—actually, the Tropical Storm Gordon. The Heroes at Home speaker team barely made it to Florida ahead of cancelled
flights and delays to stay at Pensacola Naval Air Station and provide free financial education to the Airmen, Sailors and Marines stationed at that base. The morning of this free event, the base was closed, due to the storm to “all non-essential personnel.” But since financial readiness equals military readiness, the Heroes at Home event was deemed an essential event and it’s speakers were given Distinguished Visitor status.

In the military, a service member must maintain financial health or they could lose their security clearance. If a military member has excessive debt or other money issues, they could be a target for compromised security and they are kindly asked to leave the military since they cannot hold their security clearance. This is one of the many reasons financial education is so very important to our young military members.

Our audience consisted primarily of Airmen who were going through Combat Systems Officer Training, to become Electronic Warfare Officers and Navigators. Since flying was cancelled, we had almost all the students present from the CSO course and they were enthusiastic and engaged with the program. The audience was almost all servicemembers in uniform and they primarily ranged in age from 23-25. They seemed eager to begin their military careers financially healthy.  They were released to come to our program during the duty day because of the importance given to financial education by the Command. They left excited and with autographed copies of 200 books for the 200 servicemembers present. Many expressed gratitude for our sponsors and our speaking team who weathered a near hurricane to provide this essential education.

Our four top level speakers trained the audience in budgeting, how to purchase a vehicle without excessive debt, how to plan for retirement, how to build savings, and other special financial programs only available to military audiences.

Thanks to donors like you, this program was executed flawlessly, and was the 26thand final event at 17 bases in 4 countries. This was also the conclusion of a very successful 2017-2018 Heroes at Home world tour.

Later that night, we were staying on base when the storm gained force, the entire base population lost power and we were in the dark for many hours. But once the lights came on at 1:30 AM, we were back on track to get home that day.  We could see how valuable our time had been at Pensacola. Many thanks to donors like you for helping to sponsor this event and for making a difference in the lives of our young servicemembers.

Many Easy Ways to Contribute

  • Amazon Smile – Sign up to support Heroes at Home, 501(c)(3) at amazon smile. From that point on, every time you shop at amazon, year round, just click on the amazon smile link and our Heroes benefit. Don’t worry, we won’t see how much you purchase, so we won’t spoil any holiday secrets!
  • Giving Tuesday on Facebook – On Tuesday, November 27, Facebook will match your donations, so please donate today!
  • Heroes Come First – If you are military, veteran, first responder, medical professional, educator or clergy, then you qualify for up to $2000+ in a cash back check when you buy, sell or refi. Plus, Heroes at Home benefits when you use our link.

For more information on Heroes at Home or to make a donation, go to www.heroesathome.org

Why Do We Love The Plutus Awards?

This week’s blog highlights the upcoming, prestigious, Plutus Awards for which our podcast, The Money

Millhouse, is a finalist in the category, Best New Personal Finance Podcast.

We also love the fact that the Plutus Foundation recently gave Heroes at Home a grant for our free financial education among service members.

Last year’s Plutus Awards emcee, Bethany Bayless, who is also the co-host of The Money Millhouse wrote the following blog that explains the background on the podcast and the grant.

 

 

 

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“Financial readiness is equal to military readiness.”

That statement is what compels the Heroes at Home team to continue their mission to combat financial illiteracy on military bases. It is also what persuaded Ellie Kay to found Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that holds free Financial Education Events on military bases around the world.

To tell the story of Heroes at Home, one must always start with Ellie Kay, the founder and CEO of Heroes at Home, 501c3.

When Ellie married her husband 30 years ago, she got what she calls “a 3-for-1 deal.” She married the worlds greatest fighter pilot, and gained two step-daughters. Her husband, Bob, said, “Let’s join the active duty Air Force and we can see the world.” 

Ellie left her job as a broker and signed up for this life of adventure. What Bob showed her was 5 more babies in the first seven years of marriage and 11 more moves in 13 years.

Ellie also married into $40k of consumer debt. When they joined the active duty, Bob had to take a $30k a-year-pay cut, and Ellie had to quit her job as a broker. With child support and paying down debt taking up two-thirds of their single income, they were making the equivalent of an Airman First Class’s salary as a Captain in the Air Force. While being pregnant and constantly moving, Ellie made it her mission to save money by cutting coupons and keeping her family on a strict budget.

Through her diligence and perseverance, she was able to take her family to financial freedom and a debt-free life in 2.5 years. They have remained debt free ever since.

Using the concepts she learned through this journey to financial freedom, she started teaching others to do the same. Years later, she is now the best-selling author of 15 books, her work has reached one million people and as a popular international speaker, and she has delivered messages to 2000+ audiences as large as 10,000 people. As a media veteran, she’s given 2000+ media interviews including CNBC, CNN and Fox News, and her Heroes at Home program has reached thousands in the hopes to bring hope, help, and humor to military members and their families stationed around the world.

It was out of this that the Heroes at Home non-profit was born. While Ellie and her team was giving a Marine Corps spouse oriented presentation, a member of the A1 Air Force Leadership sent a representative to see the event in Quantico. They loved the message so much, they said that if Ellie was able to make a financially-centric event, they could roll it out to the Air Force.

What they came up with was a 2-hour presentation that was different than typical financial briefings. The program has 4 high-quality speakers that kept the material concise to fit in their 20-minute segments, while remaining entertaining and accurate. They cover a range of topics including general budgeting, credit reports and scoring, and saving for retirement. Though this program is geared mainly towards young Airmen, even senior ranking service members are able to learn new money-saving techniques.

In between each presentation, high-energy-millennial Emcee, Bethany Bayless, gets up and shares her favorite tips and tricks to save money via-apps and popular websites through a very unique presentation style. She also conducts a live Twitter party for each event, where audience members are able to tweet their favorite moments of the show. This allows them to stay engaged as the presentation goes progresses. At the end of the event, sponsors provide free gifts and door prizes, including books, gift cards, and in some cases, an iPad mini, are given away.

Partnering with USAA to start their events, the Heroes at Home team conducted their first Air Force tour to six northern-tier bases in 2015—often holding 2 separate events in one day. Thanks to corporate and private donations and grants from organizations such as The Plutus Awards, Experian, USAA and Credit.com, the team is able to provide this event completely free to all its attendees.

In preparation for each event, Ellie and her team fly out two days ahead of time. The day before the presentation, the team meets with Command Leadership to discuss base-specific issues to better understand the financial challenges as well as the mission of the installation. Through these meetings, they are able to tailor make each presentation to fit the needs of the men and women who serve on that base.

After the Command Meeting, the team embarks on a tour of each base. On these tours, the team is able to get hands on experience and meet Airmen face to face as they are on the job. It is through these tours that the team connects directly with the service members of the base. They have toured nuclear missile silos, visited flight lines, met working guard dogs, flown various flight simulators, and much, much more.

The most significant thing that makes Heroes at Home unique and different than any other financial presentation is the final segment of the show given by Ellie. She draws on her experience as a 30-year spouse of an Air Force fighter pilot and the mom to three active duty military sons, including a Marine Infantry Officer, an Air Force fighter pilot and a Mechanized Infantry Army officer. Ellie shares the 5 characteristics of a Hero and their Heroes at Home: a sense of humor, patriotism, courage, faith, and a legacy.

In this powerful part of the presentation, Ellie’s unique, powerful speaking style literally brings both laughter and tears to her audience. This final segment of the show has nothing to do with financial education, but everything to do with encouraging the military members and their families. The main message: We love you. We are proud of you. And Together, we are going to be okay.

Since their pilot tour in 2015, the Heroes at Home Financial Event has been conducted 51 shows on 33 bases in four countries with sponsorships from The Plutus Foundation, USAA, Experian, and other philanthropic sponsors. The Heroes at Home tour recently concluded their final event of the season at Pensacola Naval Air Station, speaking to an Air Force detachment stationed on a Naval Base. The room was filled with 300 uniformed military members listening to the presentation in the midst of the pending tropical storm Gordon.

After working in the space for several years, the Heroes at Home team also developed a fun, upbeat, podcast, The Money Millhouse, which is a high-energy show geared around money conversations. To find out more or to donate to Heroes at Home, please visit heroesathome.org. To find out more about the podcast, visit themoneymillhouse.com.

How I Earned A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador – part 4

I’m gearing up to present this Brand Ambassador Workshop at Fincon this year and it makes me reflect on the last time I presented in that venue. It was 2014 and we were in a small space that accommodated about 40 people. In the audience were several bloggers and social media gurus who were interested in how they might be able to leverage their skills to be able to make money in this space. One of the people listening carefully was Tiffany Aliche, The Budgetnista, who was on the cusp of her potential career as a brand ambassador.

 

When I talked to her about it recently, she reflected, “I remember looking at the list of workshops and thought that I really wanted to see what that was all about. When you were talking, I kept thinking about brands I could possibly partner with and didn’t really know. But now, four years later, I’ve exceeded my expectations with your help.”  Tiffany is modest, but she’s currently in the top 5% of non-celebrity spokespersons/brand ambassadors. I worked with her on her first major deal and I’ve represented her ever since. I’ve also worked with a half dozen others who were at that Fincon presentation. What made Tiffany pop out as a top performer? Let’s look and see:

Characteristics of a Top Brand Ambassador:

  • Great work ethic– Tiffany delivers on time or early. Period. No excuses. I had another  rospective brand ambassador who couldn’t keep her phone appointment with me THREE times. I know, why did I give her so many chances? My daughter says I’m too nice sometimes, but I do like to believe the best in people.  However, if she can’t keep a phone appointment with me, how could I trust her to manage the deliverables on a contract?
  • Great questions– A great brand ambassador knows the right questions to ask when working with a client. While I (the agent) ask all the deliverable and money questions (the talent doesn’t need to talk money when they have a representative), Tiffany usually asks things like “What are your expectations?” and “How do you measure success?” She wants to know the client’s target so she can hit it every time.
  • Great Performance– Repeat work is a big part of income for a brand ambassador and getting a client to want you again…and again…and again is a gift. Tiffany makes it her goal to exceed a client’s expectations. This doesn’t mean that she does extra work for free (I don’t let her) but it does mean that she’s open to revising her work, she’s flexible and she gives the client better results than they ever dreamed of getting.

 

The Upward Spiral for a Spokesperson

I’m a pretty big Bradley Cooper fan and I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie, A Star is Born with Lady Gaga. That’s one premiere I’d like to go to as an influencer! I saw the previous version of the film with Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand as well as the 1937 original. It’s a painfully sad story of someone on top who works their way up and then enters a downward spiral to destitution and despair. That same story can happen to brands when they believe their own press, think they are better than others, or they let success go to their head. But just as there is a downward spiral, I believe that there’s also an upward spiral that incorporates the adage, “success begets success.” Here’s how that happens:

  • Start – The brand ambassadors start somewhere. Some of the best begin as bloggers, writers, podcasters, media personalities, or speakers.
  • Skills – We already discussed the different skills, but the best of the best spokespersons will move outside their comfort zones and develop additional skills. Some bloggers are afraid of public speaking—but a top 5% brand will go to Toastmasters and get over that fear and then achieve the elite Accredited Speaker status (the top 1% of 4 million Toastmasters globally). A skilled podcaster will learn to become a better writer. An old-school book author will learn about social media. They seek to become the EGOT of their space in the marketplace—achieving excellence in all areas.
  • Success –As they develop their skills, they get gigs and execute all the deliverables in their contracts with excellence—exceeding client expectations.
  • More Success – As they are successful in contracts, this leads to their ability to develop even more skills and confidence, which leads to more success. They remain teachable and realize there’s always room for improvement.
  • A Star is Born – Some of the most remarkable and successful spokespersons are people that will never achieve celebrity like Kendal Jenner, who gets a cool mil for an Instagram post. Nonetheless, these top 5% non-celeb spokespersons are stars, like Tiffany, because they are working it and getting better every day.

In this blog series, we already learned the definition of a spokesperson/brand ambassador, the skill sets of a spokesperson,  the process involved in garnering, negotiating and contractinga spokesgig. Now it’s time to look at some of the specific deliverables as well as how to remain in compliance so you don’t get in trouble with the Feds!

Deliverables:

In the SOW (Scope of Work) and in your spokesperson contract, there will be an Appendix or a specific outline of what you are to deliver as well as the timeline (due dates) for those deliverables. When working for my brand ambassador clients, if these areas of the SOW or the contract we get from the corporation are not clearly defined, I’ll push back and ask for clarification. Here are examples of the various kinds of deliverables that are part of a working brand ambassadors rate sheet.

  • Per day or part of general appearance day (national TV, local market media TV, print, radio interviews, trade show appearances, podcasts, press conferences, etc.); per pre-tour development day.
  • Per travel day, if required, prior to or following work days
  • SMT (Satellite TV Media Tour) day – These are one of the most lucrative aspects of a contract because they are VERY difficult and require the highest skill set for a spokesperson. You have to be 100% in your messaging (you deliver at least the primary client message in each and every interview.) You usually arrive in a studio at 4:30 a.m. (EST) for makeup and rehearsal, then you have your first media hit around 6:00 a.m. with a morning news show via Satellite. You continue this for 3-4 hours and anywhere from 10 to 35 TV shows. They key is to be upbeat, perky and consistently deliver messaging the entire time. These SMTs earn 3K for a neophyte up to 30K for a non-celebrity pro.
  • Keynote message (speaking)
  • Workshop/Seminar or Breakout Session
  • Panel (as a panelist or moderator)
  • Media training day – This is usually the day before you kick off a campaign or the day before an SMT or RMT. This rate is usually 2x a social post.
  • RMT (Radio Media Tour) day– This is where you are on 10 to 30 radio shows, back-to-back, delivering key messaging for your client. This are usually done from a landline from your home or office and you can even do these in your pajamas. They make about 10x what one social mention makes for you.
  • Facebook Live – They pay you to go live on either their platform or your own platform. This is a premium deliverable and is usually about 6x the cost of one social mention on facebook. Make sure the contract doesn’t include a “Facebook Live” bundled into all the other social deliverables, because this item should rate more.
  • Email or Newsletter – Believe it or not, some clients still like newsletters or a blast of a promotion to your list. This is never free for the client and the price you get for doing this depends on how big your list is and your open rate (how many people open your email when you send it out.)
  • Fully Sponsored Podcast Appearances – You go on to a podcast like The Money Millhouse and if a sponsor is covering it, then you get paid to go on the show and mention the product, campaign or idea. You make sure to give disclosure about the partnership, but more about that in the FTC/Compliance section below.
  • Initial use of name and likeness and continued use – you get paid for the use of your name and likeness. If the client wants to continue to use it on a social platform or a website, then they rent it monthly.
  • Webinar – These are very popular and can be sponsored as long as they don’t seem like a commercial. They need to be organic or your brand ambassador presence can quickly turn into that of a commercial huckster. Keeping it informational, educational and non-commercial is the key to see both the brand ambassador and the client succeed in this kind of partnership.
  • Pitching tips (up to 3 tips) – Separate from Interviews. You get paid to create pitches for media and then if the client pitches them and you get a hit, then you also get paid to go on the show (or the media.)
  • Branded Educational Content – helping companies develop education material as a public service is really hot these days. You step in to help develop this and you put a friendly face on a corporation so that this content is more human.
  • 5 Day Course – Pricing varies depending on deliverables, but you are creating the course for the brand and will get compensated accordingly.
  • Branded 1-sheet PDF with client links – this is a product that you create with the input from the client.
  • Video Series – you get paid per video and the length of the video needs to be defined. There’s a world of pricing difference between a 1 hour video and a 3-minute video.

 

Federal Trade Commission

I’m not an attorney, but I know how to read a brand ambassador contract. I’ve been known to catch more stuff and nonsense than our attorneys who are not working in this space full time. I read, push back and sign every contract that has my name on it for myself or my brand ambassadors.  A big part of every contract is FTC disclosures. In fact, when I went to select a photo for this section, I didn’t just grab a logo off the internet, I purchased the FTC pic—that would be ironic, violate copyright law when writing about the Federal Trade Commission!

In short, you have to disclose any material connection between you and the corporate client you are working alongside. You have to let your public know you are being compensated in some way–whether financially or materially. If you are in doubt about what this kind of disclosure looks like then look at a recent letter written to influencers from a key official at the FTC and make sure you are in compliance.

The corporate contract will outline, specifically, how you are to disclose in the different forms of media. Follow that part of the contract as if your life depends on it—because your life as an influencer DOES depend on following those rules.

Remember Your Why

As you navigate new territories in this space, remember why you are doing what you are doing. If it’s all about the money with you and that’s all you care about, then please don’t call me. I’m not interested in working with you. I want to work with people care about something more than money.

I entered into these waters as a side hustle from home, to supplement our family income and my own income as an author/speaker. I started as a mompreneur and saw that I was leaving money on the table. I didn’t like that.

My goals were pretty simple: to send my kids through college (debt free) and to pay for their weddings. Along the way, I not only met those goals, but I was also able to reach financial independence and start a non-profit Heroes at Home which provides free financial education to service members, veterans and their families.

Why do you want to do this thing?

This concludes our four part series on How to Become a Brand Ambassador/Spokesperson. Feel free to ask me any questions or let me know how you are doing in this journey. If you’re at FinCon, I’d love to meet you and hear about your experience.

And remember, if you are interested in becoming a part of our beta team for a new Brand Ambassador Course, then submit your name to assistant@elliekay.com and we’ll see if you qualify.

One last word of advice as you continue this journey. Comparison is the thief of joy. You’re going to find amazing people doing amazing things in this space but remember that YOU are amazing, too! So have fun and run your own race.

 

Receive Extra $$ Rewards & Grants as a Hero When You Buy, Sell, or Refinance

This week, to kick off our new podcast season on The Money Millhouse, we have a special interview with Joseph Kelly from Heroes Come First that share how heroes of all kinds can enjoy rewards and grants from a program that benefits Heroes at Home.

Enjoy this great information and be sure to share the following blog from our guest writer, Joseph Kelly, with a hero that you know.

Ellie Kay, Founder and CEO

 

You may or may not feel like it, but as a military veteran, active duty or reserve you are designated an American Hero, and that means you qualify for significant rewards you probably are not aware of when you take out a mortgage or buy or sell a house.

Most are aware that they have VA Benefits that include mortgage benefits.  And that program has some wonderful advantages.  But few are aware that there are additional benefits available that can give you an extra $2,000 to the $7,000 or more without any cost or added paperwork!

A national program called Heroes Come First defines heroes as people who serve their community. This includes active duty military personnel, veterans as well as  all current and former medical professionals (nurses, doctors, dentists, EMS, etc.), police officers, firefighters, first responders, teachers, and clergy.

Before I tell you how this reward program works please allow me to offer two key pieces of advice if you are considering buying a home in the next year that will save you from added stress and confusion.

1st Key– BEFORE you find of call a realtor and start looking at homes GET PRE-APPROVED from a trusted, reputable, recommended lender. (if you desire we offer this in all 50 states). Get your questions answered on your qualifications, credit, savings, options, etc. BEFORE starting to look at properties.  This will allow you to make adjustments if needed and be prepared to speak to real estate professionals who will have confidence in working with you.

2nd Key– Using sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. are great tools to see what properties are out there however I encourage you to be VERY CAREFUL before entering your contact information on these sites.  Read the “fine print” at the bottom of the website.  These companies will sell your information to multiple lenders and realtors who then will call you and email you for months!  While some of these companies be ones you wish to consider it can be overwhelming and confusing as lenders buy your information as a “lead.” (FYI the program we are about to discuss does NOT sell or provide any information to other companies)

How the rewards work …

Buying a Home

There are several ways that the Heroes Come First program saves you time and money when you purchase a primary or second home or an investment property and get a mortgage to finance the purchase.

If you, or another hero you know, is thinking of buying in the next 12 months the most important first step is speaking to a pro-hero lender and getting “pre-approved” for your financing. The Heroes Come First team can introduce you to a participating lender who focus on heroes with both financial and added service rewards to get you on the right track for your purchase.

Benefits include:

  • You get a Lender Hero Reward of a minimum of $500 – $1000 toward closing costs.
  • Work with a pro-hero realtorand receive a portion of the realtor’s commission. For example receive $700 for every $100,000 in the sales price, which is a rebate of a quarter of the realtor’s commission. So if you were to buy a home worth $300,000, you would get a check for $2,100; if the home you buy costs $600,000, you receive $4,200.
  • You can earn a discount over usual title fees, averaging about $350, from the title companies that participate in the program.
  • You may qualify for a Purchase Grantof up to $10,000, to be used toward the down payment on a home or closing costs. This grant does not have to be repaid. 

Selling Your Home

When you sell your home, you get a break on all of the real estate fees that are usually part of the closing. The average reduction is $2,000, but it could be more for a high-priced home. The participating realtor that handles your listing rebates one quarter of their commission to you at the closing, which could amount to several thousand dollars more, depending on the price of the home.

Refinancing Your Mortgage

When you refinance your existing mortgage to get a lower rate and payment, you qualify for a Lender Hero Reward between $500 and $1,000, which is applied toward your closing costs. The lenders who participate in this program offer competitive interest rates in all 50 states, so you don’t have to compromise on settling for a higher mortgage rate to get these discounts. The participating title companies also offer discounts of up to $350 for title searches that are needed when you refinance your mortgage.

Example of Heroes Come First Savings

Real Estate Transactions:

  • Sell your home for $300,000
  • Purchase a new home for $450,000
  • Take out a $360,000 mortgage on the new home

Costs and Discounts:

Realtor’s rebate of selling commission:                                         $2,250

(25% of standard 3% commission)
Pro-Hero Realtor reward on purchase of new home:                  $3,150

(up to$700 per $100,000)

Lender discount on $360,000 mortgage:                                      $1.000

Title company discount for title settlement costs:                           $350

Total Savings: $6,750

  

Find out more

It really is simple to get started with the Heroes Come First program when you are in the market to buy or sell your home or refinance your mortgage. There are no restrictions, paperwork, fees, or fine print to read in order to qualify. Start the process by registering at www.HeroesComeFirst.com or call them at 800.272.5626 and they will refer you to a participating lender, title insurance companies, and realtors who serve where you live.

Know other heroes? Help them too!

The Heroes Come First program can help not only you but also other heroes you know. And if you tell other heroes in your life—like your children’s teachers, your local firefighters and police officers, or any veterans or active duty military you can be a hero to them by saving them a significant amount of money on their home transactions.

Since 1989 Joseph Kelly has brought a unique blend of technical, marketing, sales and leadership experience to the mortgage industry. As a graduate of the University of Virginia with a degree in Aerospace Engineering (yes….a rocket scientist), he realized that the mortgage industry was lacking a critical component – consumer education and programs to help increase savings and reduce debt through mortgage management.

Joseph Kelly is very proud of having three sons who are veterans.  Two Army and one Navy.  Their service inspired the development of a national financial program to help all military (active, reserve and veterans) receive mortgage financing advice focused on their long term benefit, not a one time “sale” for a mortgage company.

Heroes Come First was launched to include all of our nations heroes; Military (active, reserve and veterans), current & former Firefighters, Law Enforcement, Medical & Educational professionals and is dedicated to saying “Thank You”  in a practical & financial way when they Buy, Sell or Refinance a Home. 

How I Earned A Six Figure Income As a Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador – part 3

On one of my early spokesperson gigs, my co-host was a wiener. He was one-dimensional, wouldn’t speak his lines and always managed to be the center of attention for every one of the 30 media interviews we did via Satellite on the coast-to-coast Satellite Media Tour (SMT). I had to carry the client messaging for each and every morning news television interview, yet this co-star managed to soak up all the limelight and get the closeups, while I did all the heavy lifting. An SMT was brutal work and involves a high-level skill set that can only be successfully accomplished by the top 5% of Spokesperson / Brand Ambassadors. I was 100% on my messaging, no thanks to this high maintenance, hot dogging, co-host. The client was Oscar Meyer.

We’ve covered quite a few aspects of spokesperson work in parts one and two of this series, from the definitions of the work to the skill set required. Now let’s talk about the process of what happens from start to finish during the brand ambassador experience.

 

Step One:  Initial PR Ping

The first outreach for a potential spokesgig is usually a PR firm, who googles experts in the area they are researching (finance, beauty, mommy bloggers, chefs, etc). Then they will send an email, fill out a contact message on your website or reaches out through social media platforms. This began to happen to me after my first book, Shop, Save and Share, came out in print. There was a query from Quaker Oats, then one from Dial soap, then another from Blue Diamond Almonds. The first time, I wrote back a message that quickly made it clear to the PR representative that I was absolutely clueless and didn’t even know what the outreach was about. I didn’t get the gig. I didn’t even know that I didn’t get the gig because I didn’t even know there was a gig to get.

The second query was turned over to a speaking agency that repped me at the time and they buffooned it because they didn’t know how to handle spokeswork. The third time, I turned it over to my publisher’s marketing rep and then discovered that’s it’s against policy for them to represent this kind of work—it’s a conflict of interest. In some cases, it’s even illegal. Oops!

 

Then there was the 4thtime a brand reached out, and I reached out to a group of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association to see if anyone knew a spokesperson representative. I was connected with a reputable agent and she helped me get that first contract that was with MasterCard. She also garnered 25% of my earnings—but 75% of something was better for me than 100% of nothing. Eventually, I was catching items on the spokes contracts that I didn’t want and the agent didn’t always catch them. Since then, I realized that 20% commission is common for gigs that the agent brings the talent and 15% is common for gigs that the talent brings the agent. My business background allowed me to become a master at reading, negotiating and executing my own contracts. But that took years of experience to achieve. At first, I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I paid dearly for it before I got an agent.

Action Item: Make it easy for PR people to find you, add the term “brand ambassador” and “Spokesperson” to your social platforms, website and in any groups where you are a member. Set up a contact form on your website set up a dedicated website if you don’t already have one for your brand–a social platform isn’t enough.

 

Step 2: The Initial Conference Call

Today, I know that 9 out of 10 initial “Pings” or inquiries from an employee at a PR firm or from a corporation do not progress past the initial inquiry. If the brand influencer or spokes agent that answers
the inquiry knows how to manage the initial inquiry, then it can progress to an interview or conference call with the potential client.

It’s during this fact-finding conference call that you (or your agent) let them know who you are, how well you do verbally and what your skill sets look like. They also want to hear what ideas you might have for the project. Creativity is a must during this phase.

It’s also during this phase that you decide if you can get behind the brand or product. I made it a point of never endorsing a product I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in and that philosophy helped me keep my integrity intact. In addition, as a spokesperson agent, I won’t work with potential clients of mine that would take a deal just for the money–endorsing something that is bad for the general marketplace. Integrity matters.

This step is where your agent or other team member does the selling. They do the bragging on you and your abilities while you just talk about your projects and passions. You might also be required to sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement) and that’s not unusual.

Action Item:  Never endorse a product you don’t believe in and keep a high level of integrity. Make a point of eliminating “uhs” and “ums” and filler words like “so” and “yeah.” The overuse of these words make you come across to the client as unsure or lacking in confidence. An organization like Toastmasters is a great place to go in order to learn to master the kind of extemporaneous talk that will occur during crucial conference calls.

 

Step 3: The Money Talk

If the PR firm and/or the client they are representing is interested in you and is seriously considering hiring you as their Spokesperson / Brand Ambassador then they ask what you charge. If you have an agent, they handle the money talk while you remain the happy talent.  At this point a smart brand ambassador or a smart agent asks for a SOW in writing (scope of work), otherwise there can be a he said/she said in terms of what the work actually is during step 4 or step 5.

There’s an art of negotiating a deal and I absolutely love this part of the process—whether I’m negotiating my own deal or one on behalf of my clients. You give a price based on the fair market rates for someone with your following and skill set. I usually start a bit high at this point. It’s a delicate balance because you want to price yourself at the value you are worth without pricing yourself out of the market. I figure if they are interested, then they will be willing to come back during step four and negotiate for a deal within their budget. At this point, instead of a one in ten chance (as in step one) you have about a 50% chance that the deal could go to a contract.

Action Point:  The money talk is a very important part of the process, establish a rate card ahead of time and know what the charges are for different deliverables. Make sure your agent (if you have one) or your other team member has also eliminated the filler speech we previously outlined in step 2’s Action Point.

I’m developing a course and we will get into greater detail when it comes to the money part of the contract. If you are interested in being a part of the initial core team for the “How to Earn a Six Figure Income as  Spokesperson,” then send us an email at assistant@elliekay.com or fill out the contact form.

The PR firm will present anywhere from 3 to 5 different spokespersons to a client as either part of an existing contract (that they’ve already negotiated and secured) or a pitch contract (where they are trying to get business with the client.) Obviously, a secured contract will be more likely to end in a contract for the spokesperson than a pitch contract.

 

Step 4: The Negotiation

After the PR folks have taken your name to pitch to the client, the client may ask for a meeting with you (this only happens about 20% of the time) so that they can decide for themselves. Or, they’ve trusted the PR person, reviewed your media kit and believe you are a good fit.

This step is the reason I decided to become a spokesperson agent because this is the step where brands take advantage of the spokesperson. PR firms are in the business of getting the best value for their client and you can’t blame them for that. But it also means that they try to get the brand ambassador to do more work than they proposed in step 3.  Don’t be afraid of a negotiation, but do be prepared so that you can make the most of the deal that is being discussed.

Action Step:  Read up on how to become a better negotiator, so that you can handle this step if you are representing your own contracts.

 

Step 5:  The Contract

Once you’ve navigated the negotiation, then it’s time to go to contract. Hopefully, you’ll be chosen as the brand ambassador to represent the product, company or goods and services. Be sure you have a professional review the contract and understand that someone who may manage a brand ambassador may not be familiar with the pitfalls of a spokesperson / brand ambassador contract. You don’t know what you don’t know. But making sure that there are NO additional deliverables or restrictions that weren’t disclosed in the negotiation is a basic part of handling the contract. Recently, I was sent a contract on one of my existing clients and it was for a company that we had already signed a half dozen contracts with in the past. To my surprise, there were actually $180,000 in additional deliverables or exclusivity stipulations that they tried to sneak by us in the contract!

Action Item:  Hire a professional to read your contract or partner with a spokesperson agency that can guide you through the sticky wickets of the contract.

 

Coming up next week:

 

We will discuss and define specific deliverables as well as legal disclosures that the FTC requires for all brand ambassadors in order to be in compliance.

 

 

It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 3

The Resume and Essay

In the first two parts of this blog series, we talked about the steps you need to take to help your student maximize their opportunity to get into a service academy. In the third and final part of this blog series, as promised, we are sharing some additional examples of a resume and an essay that helped to successfully secure multiple nominations to multiple academies.

 

The Resume:

Once in high school, the resume fodder begins. Keep in mind that these schools are looking for the “whole person” approach and the resume will need to show accomplishments in academics, athletics, community involvement and leadership. Here is a sample of one of our son’s winning resume that garnered one million dollars in college scholarships from USNA ($425,000), USAFA ($425,000) and UCLA ROTC ($180,000).

Experience:

Lancaster City Youth Commission Chairman (this is legitimate, sworn-in commissioners for Lancaster City. It was after and application process, an interview, and a popular vote to get to chairman out of at least 50 top youth in the region)

Assistant Manager and tutor for Math Magicians in Quartz Hill  (July 2010-present)

Blockbuster Video (August 2009- August 2010)

Intern at the Honorable Buck McKeon’s office in Palmdale, (Summer of 2009)

Captain for DCHS Varsity Volleyball team for 2 years

Captain for DCHS Varsity Mathletes

Current Class Rank: 2 of 107

Cumulative, Unweighted GPA: 3.97, Weighted: 4.2

Over 1250 hours of volunteering since 9th grade

Summer of 2010

–  Attended the United States Air Force Academy Summer Seminar

–  Attended the United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar

2009-2010: Junior, Desert Christian High School

–  ASB, Activities Representative (Coordinator)

–  Vice President of CSF (California Scholarship Federation)(VP of 80+ members)(Is a position for a 12th grader, achieved in 11th grade)

–  Member of NHS (National Honor Society)

–  Varsity Cross Country (Runner, and Manager)

–  Varsity Soccer

–  Varsity Volleyball (Team Captain as Junior)

–  Varsity Mathletes (Starter)(year round)

–  Worship Team, Leader (In charge of 13 musicians), at Desert Christian High School, at The Highlands Christian Fellowship, and at Central Christian Church (playing Guitar, and Bass Guitar)

– Approved Tutor: Chemistry, Biology, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Physical Science, Math A, English 9, English 10, English 11, Spanish I, Spanish II, Spanish III

– Attended RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards)(Recommendation from School Administration, then accepted through application process)

Awards for Junior Year:

–  United States Achievement Academy: National History and Government Award in AP United States History

–  United States Achievement Academy: National Leadership Merit Award in Leadership

–  United States Achievement Academy: National Leadership and Service Award for being an All American Scholar

– ACSI Distinguished High School Student for outstanding Achievement in both Academics and for Leadership

(Note: All of these awards are based of raw data [grades, service hours, activities, demonstrated leadership] as well as multiple teacher recommendations. During this awards night, I was one of 3 people, of 400, to receive the last two awards)

2008-2009:, Sophomore, Desert Christian High School

– Varsity Volleyball

– Junior Varsity Mathletes, (Team Captain)

– Worship Team

– Honors English 10, Algebra II, Chemistry (All advanced courses, the only ones offered)

– World History, Spanish II

– California Scholarship Federation, Cabinet, Sophomore Class Representative (3.5 GPA and above)

– National Honor Society (3.2 GPA and above)

– National Honor Roll Award

– Chemistry, Biology, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Physical Science, Math A, English 9, English 10, English 11, Spanish I, Spanish II

2007-2008:, Freshman, Desert Christian High School

– JV Volleyball

– JV Mathletes

– National Honor Roll Award: Academics, Honor Roll

– Honors English 9, Geometry, Biology, Advanced String Ensemble-Cello (All advanced courses, the only ones offered)

– Spanish I, Freshman Studies (Speech and Health)

– California Scholarship Federation

– Worship Team Member

Education:

– Graduate, Desert Christian Middle School, 4.0 GPA (All A’s, no weighted classes offered)

-Student, Desert Christian High School. Expected graduation: June 2011

Special Awards/Recognition:

– National Honor Roll Award: Academics, Honor Roll

– International Foreign Language Award: Spanish

– Presidential Award for Academic Excellence

– Mathletes, Team Captain, 2007-2008, 2008-2009

– Student of the Month: Leadership (Freshman and Sophomore Year)

– Student of the Month: Genuineness (Junior Year)

– Desert Christian High School Letters:

-Varsity Cross Country, Soccer, Volleyball (2 years)

-Fine Arts (Advanced Strings Ensemble)

-Academics (3.5 or higher) (6 of 6 possible Semesters)

-CSF

-NHS

-Clubs

-Principle’s List: Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years

The Essay:

It’s never too early to begin to think about what you would like to write in your admissions application essay. These are very important and should be well thought out before submitting. Be sure to have you liaison officer review it before you submit it or ask an academy graduate to help. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a faculty member from your school review it as well. More eyes on the project can mean a broader perspective, but it still needs to be your own voice, so you will have the final word on the essay.

The following is an essay that garnered another one of our son’s appointments to both USNA ($425,000) and USMA ($425,000) .

The Essay – Following in a Father’s Footsteps

In the military lifestyle, heroes beget heroes. There are so many families that have a history of military service, and oftentimes, military “brats” will grow into adults who have the desire to serve, as well. Here’s is Philip’s essay:

Growing up in a military home, I saw very little of my father at times. As an officer, he was often gone taking care of his troops, performing his duties, and faithfully serving his country. I never truly understood why he did what he did until his dream became mine. When I walked on the campus of the Naval Academy this past summer during the Summer Leadership Seminar, I saw greatness. I saw an institution that taught men and women to be leaders, thinkers, and people of character. But most important, I saw my cadet commanders as men of high leadership with a servant’s heart. They put our comfort ahead of their own, as my father did with his men.

All my life I have dreamed of one day leading hundreds or possibly thousands of men and women. I have sacrificed much in the process of becoming a competitive candidate for the academy. It was not Summer Leadership School that made me want to be in the military, it was my father’s integrity and service. However, it was the midshipmen that I met that made me determined to attend Annapolis. It was my goal to become an officer; now it is my goal to become a warrior and a gentleman, in the finest sense of the word. To learn “Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.” I desire to carry on the legacy of the service academies and to achieve a sense of accomplishment that no other college or career can offer.

Many nights I would stay up late, wondering if my father would come home or be deployed. I wondered if he was okay, or if it was his life that had been taken in one of the plane accidents that occurred in his various Air Force squadrons. However, these experiences did not make me turn against the military—it was quite the opposite. I began to see my father as someone very different from my friends’ fathers. I saw him as a warrior and a true hero. So many times I read about or see the actions of evil men. These are men who would not hesitate to strike down those whom I have come to love and cherish. I knew there was only one thing standing between me and those men—it was my dad. It was men like my father and those with whom he served that rose to stand up to people who seek to destroy everything we hold dear. I knew that I was called to be one of those men who took a stand, and I know it is the service academies that will teach me to stand, and to stand strong and proud.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s Academy Time! (#USAFA, #USNA, #USMA) – Part 2

In part one of this series, we looked at the process and requirements to get into a service academy. This is the second part of a three part series on how students can get into service academies shared from the perspective of a mom of three Academy appointees (#USNA-2011; #USAFA 2015, #USMA 2017) and also a woman who happens to be an Admissions Liaison Officer for the United States Air Force Academy. 

Nominations and Appointments 

Admission to one of the service academies requires both a nomination from one your nominating authorities and an appointment from the academy the child wishes to attend. I would strongly suggest that the child also contacts your Congressman and Senators to request a nomination and contact the academies to express their interest. There are also Vice-Presidential and Presidential nominations available. If the student is the child of a retired military member or an active duty member currently serving with at least 8 years of service, then they should also contact the academy directly to apply for a Presidential nomination. Furthermore, a child would also qualify for the Presidential process if their parent is currently in the reserves serving as a member of a reserve component and credited with at least eight full years of service (a minimum of 2880 points).  Both of our sons competed to receive these nominations. They are limited in number and highly competitive, but well worth the effort.

To apply for a nomination through a congressional office, you will be required to completely fill out an application packet (see your representative’s website). To be eligible for appointment, you must be an American citizen, at least 17 years old and not yet 23 years old on July 1 of the year you enter an academy. Also, you must have no legal obligation to support children or other dependents.

All applications are usually due in October. Then the offices will conduct interviews during the months of November and December. The nominations will be announced in January.

The Interviews

If you are a prospective candidate for any of the military academies, you can anticipate two of the most important interviews you will ever have in your life: the Congressional or Senatorial Interview and the Liaison Officer interview.

Come to these interviews in a suit with short hair if you are a male and a conservative hairstyle if you are a female. Sometimes the interview can make or break a candidate’s chances of garnering an appointment if all other aspects of the competitive field are equal. A good interview can make you stand out or fall out—it all depends upon the amount of work you put into it.

As an ALO, I advise my candidates to write out answers to the following questions and practice them by themselves in clear, direct, brief answers. The next step is to go over the Q&A with a parent and solicit their inputs on how to improve the interview skills. Ask the parent to count the number of “uhs” and “ums” and “likes” to remove these from your vocabulary.

Next, ask your school counselor or Scout Master to set up a mock interview with teachers and administrators (or JROTC commanders) to go over these questions. Then, you’ll be prepared to knock it out of the park in your real Congressional or Senatorial and Liaison Officer Interviews.

Interview Practice Questions

These are not necessarily the interview questions you will receive in your evaluation interviews. But if you know the answers to these (especially those highlighted), then you’ll be well prepared for a panel of interviewers as well as a one on one with your Liaison Officer.

Why do you want to go to the Air Force academy?

Why do you want to serve in the military?

What are your greatest strengths?

What are your greatest weaknesses?

What accomplishment are you the most proud of?

What do you want to do in the Air Force and what is your backup plan if you cannot fly?

Who is your favorite leader?

Define integrity.

Define leadership.

Rank the service academies. Why do you rank them this way?
If not an Academy, how about ROTC? Why or why not?
When and how did you first get interested?
Describe your typical daily schedule.
How does your family feel about this?
Which parent or other adult has the most influence on you?
Have any relatives or friends of the family attended one of the academies? Who do you know in the military? What have you learned from them?

What will be your career? Why?
How long do you think you’ll remain in the military?
What’s the importance of integrity in the service? Examples?
Favorite subjects in school?
Describe your extracurricular activities.
What do you read for enjoyment? Why?
What community service do you do? Why?
How would your best friend describe you?
Who motivates you the most?
Describe your leadership style.
Are you a good follower?

What is your best leadership example?

Your worst? Your hardest leadership experience?

Explain the Academy’s Honor Code.*

*Look this up online to know the Honor Code.
Describe your sports participation.

What are your major life goals?
What have you done to research more about the Academy? The Service?
What is the best thing you have to offer to the Academy?
Describe a time you tried to lead but failed. What did you learn?
Describe your worst stress situation.
Give examples of how you’re a self-starter.
To whom do you look for good advice?
How do you manage and organize your time?
What’s the purpose of the US military?
What changes has the US military been through recently?
What changes will the US military soon have to adjust to?
What would your harshest critic tell us about your potential at an Academy?

If you could do one thing over in your life, what would that be? Why?

The Liaison Officer

Each military academy will assign an officer to assist you in the process of applying.  The McCormick brothers featured in the picture were two of my candidates as an ALO. Each Academy has a different title for their respective liaisons:

USNA: Blue and Gold Officer

USAFA: Admissions Liaison Officer (ALO)

USMA: Military Academy Liaison Officers (MALO)

Merchant Marine Academy: Admissions Field Representatives

Coast Guard Academy:  Military Fairs Liaison Officer – (Please note this academy does not require a congressional nomination.)

In addition to having to meet certain physical requirements, you will also have to be interviewed by this intermediary. I would encourage you to attend service academy nights that are hosted in your community and where you can speak with these officers. Our son’s “Blue and Gold” representative, LTC Jerry Geil, USMC (Ret), was an outstanding inspiration as he interviewed Philip for his candidate requirement. Make good use of your liaison. One will be assigned to you and should contact you once you have applied as an applicant.

Summer Leadership Seminar – For High School Juniors

In the summer between a student’s junior and senior year, each institution hosts an excellent program that provides an “up close and personal” view of the academy. These seminars are where your hero at home can compete to attend that will give them an idea of what life is like at that institution and it will also look great on a resume.  These applications are usually available in January at the academy’s website and should be turned in as early as possible. The applications are so involved that some have said they are an excellent precursor to the final academy application. Also, you will be in the system and a lot of this information will transfer over into that directory. Two of our sons attended two different academy summer seminars and it actually changed the mind of one of our son’s as to where he would attend. So feel free to look at more than one option. You will have to pay transportation to/from the academy as well as a camp fee ($300 to $400).

Join us next time for part three of this series, which will feature samples of the essay and the resume.

Please feel free to share this with a bright young person who might want to attend a service academy and please don’t forget to share your insights of what worked for you or your student when they got into a service academy!

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

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

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

 

Service Academies and Military Funded Education

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

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

USAFA – The United States Air Force Academy

USNA – The United States Naval Academy

USMA — The United States Military Academy

USMMA (Merchant Marine)

Coast Guard Academy (does not require a congressional nomination)

From Prospect to Appointee:  

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

Basic Requirements

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

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

Recommendations

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

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

Character

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

Diversity

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

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

Car Buying Do’s and Don’ts

Financial Readiness equals Military Readiness and whether you are a civilian or a service member, the number one financial mistake has to do with how you buy your vehicles. But if you’re smart, you can avoid this mistake and eventually drive your cars for free.

Our Heroes at Home Financial Event is in the midst of a tour where we are giving 25 presentations at 17 bases in 4 countries. In fact, you can contact us about whether we are coming to YOUR base later this year.

McConnell AFB Heroes at Home Financial Event. One of the main topics that is: What is the smart way to buy a vehicle?

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

Did you get the answer yet?

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

Yes, the average new vehicle will depreciate $8000 in the first year. Since most folks finance that new vehicle, it’s more like losing $10,000 in 8 seconds!

So WHY oh WHY do you continue to buy NEW?

Some folks answer, “for the warranty.” But if you bought the vehicle a year old, you could do two things to make up for that 12 months of warranty you lose over buying new:

  • Warranty Purchase – you could purchase an extended warranty, which (depending on the car you drive) is only $800 to $1500 per year. This is WAY LESS than the 8K–10K you are losing by buying new. Plus warranties are negotiable. When I had to renew the warranty on my Mercedes 280SLK, the dealership gave me their best price. Then I called USAA, telling them the best quote I got and they beat the price by $800. Plus, instead of the $200 deductible I had with the other quote, the USAA deductible was $0! I used that warranty at my local Mercedes dealership (world’s best service department) and paid $0 deducible and got the same excellent service that I normally get.
  • CPO or Certified Previously OwnedIf you get a vehicle with a CPO on it, then part of the deal is that the dealership extends the warranty a year and this is a full manufacturer’s warranty. Plus, there are more stringent inspection standards and additional roadside assistance. Once, I had a BAD salesperson who told me the car was CPO, “All our cars are CPO” she said, but she never presented me with CPO paperwork to sign at the deal’s closing. You guessed it, the vehicle was NOT CPO and she lied. Be sure you get CPO paperwork if you are told it is a genuine CPO. It costs the dealership anywhere from $800 to $2500 to CPO your vehicle, depending on the year, make and model. You HAVE TO sign CPO paperwork that is dated from BEFORE the date you buy the car or it’s not valid. Remember that asking a dealer to make a vehicle CPO is part of the negotiating process and this will increase the value of the deal anywhere from $1000 to $2500.

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

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

Step One: Negotiate Price First

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

Step Two: Negotiate the Value of the Trade-In

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

Step Three: Secure Your Own Financing

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

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

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

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

Ellie Kay

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