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Entries in Ellie Kay (16)

Thursday
Jul042019

Honoring Heroes at Home

Ellie Kay is known as America's Family Financial Expert, but she's also the founder and CEO of Heroes at Home and an alumnus of the Military Family Advisory Network. She is an Air Force spouse, mother of seven—including three in the military—and the author of 15 books. In this July 4th UPGRADE, with a special emphasis on the military, Ellie shares financial tips for the military that are helpful for everyone!

"I looked out at the audience of 1300 young Airmen who had gathered at Sheppard Air Force Base to watch Heroes at Home Financial Education event." Ellie said.

"They were tired, hungry and had been told that: 1) they would skip dinner at the 1800 hour, and 2) they were going to sit in on a mandatory 2-hour financial brief.

"To say they were not a happy audience would be a gross understatement."

I (Dawn) got to know Ellie Kay because of her emphasis on financial freedom, but soon found out her strong passion for the military—which is why I wanted her to write something for July 4th. In this article, she combines two of her passions: financial freedom with helping our military Heroes at Home.

Ellie continues . . .

During our live Twitter contest, they were to tweet the best financial tips from the show and a winner got the prize.

Instead, they tweeted photos of hamburgers, tacos, and fried chicken.

One of our resourceful team members had a conversation with the powers that be and we got the chow halls to stay open past the normal time, so they could eat. When our emcee made the dinner announcement, it got the biggest applause thus far in our show!

But by the time we finished with our high-energy, quickly-paced show, they were smiling, happy and getting into the tips we shared. We are dedicated to helping military families and all Americans, find financial freedom. 

We celebrate Independence Day and the less than 1% of our nation’s population who serve in our military, to protect the rights and freedoms of the other 99% of us. 

But we can all support our military members by saying, “Thank you for your service,” and letting them know we appreciate their work on our behalf.

If you want to go above for those who have gone beyond, then you could also:

  • send care packages during deployments,
  • offer to do free yard work for the family left at home,
  • or give a military family gifts cards for the movies, restaurants or other forms of entertainment.

One more way to thank our military is to help them with financial readiness.

Here are some tips that apply to everyone.  

1. Credit Scores

Military members can lose their security clearance if they get into trouble with credit, so their jobs depend on having a decent credit score and what that represents about their debt.

No matter what your financial picture is, it’s critical for every person to improve their own FICO (Fair Isaac Credit Scores). These scores determine not only the APR you pay on a home or car loan, but they also impact auto insurance premiums, whether you’ll get the promotion or the job (many employers check FICOS), whether you pay a security deposit for utilities, and much more.

You can go to Credit.com  or Experian.com to check your score and they’ll even give you specific ways to improve each area of your credit score.

You can improve your FICO in three easy steps:

  • Pay early. Set up automatic payments online so you will never be late.
  • Pay More. Add $5 to $10 more than the minimum balance that is due; this indicates you are paying down debt.
  • Pay Proportionally. Also known as credit utilization, make sure that you don’t have more than 30% of the available credit charged on any one card at any time. For example, a card with a $5000 limit should never have more than $1500 charged.

2. Cut Existing Costs. 

It only takes 15 minutes to save hundreds of dollars. Once you save money in one area, then use those funds to pay down consumer debt or to build up a savings account.

  • Auto Insurance. Once a year, compare policies by getting a variety of quotes. Take the cheaper price back to your existing provider and tell them you will switch companies unless they can match the price. Be sure to check out quotes from USAA.com since you are military and qualify to be a member.
  • RetailMeNot. Download the RetailMeNot app or bookmark it on your computer. This is a code site that offers 400,000 coupon codes at any given time. Just enter the store’s name and you’ll see all the codes to get the better prices. Use this on entertainment, travel, electronics, or any kind of online shopping or in the mall.
  • CouponMom.com. I was one of the original extreme couponers, and I saved 161k while raising my kids by using coupons. If you go to this site, she’s done all the work for you and will tell you what is on sale in your neighborhood, what codes are available, what coupons are out for the item and which stores double coupon. I calculated that over the course of twenty years, I saved our family over 160K!

3. Free Credit Counseling

With a slow economy comes an influx of those who want to "help" prepare you for the worse by consolidating your debt. However, most “for profit” debt-counseling companies charge a hefty fee for their services, which is usually tacked onto your debt load.

Instead, go to the National Consumer Credit Counseling Service found at www.nfcc.org and use their FREE services.

4. Budget Baby

If you don't have a budget as part of your lifestyle, then yesterday was the day to start.

Set one up with a budgeting app such as mint, Wally or Every Dollar.

The problem for a lot of families is not having a budget, it’s sticking to a budget.

Set up a “budget date” once a month with your spouse to revisit how the plan is working. This kind of regular accountability works as well in finances as it does in Weight Watchers. When you know there will be someone asking you why you bought that purple mohair sweater for $198, you’re less likely to give into the impulse to go off budget.

EVERYONE: During this time of the year, be sure to thank those Heroes at Heroes at Home—and if you know a Vietnam Vet, then say “welcome home” because most of them have never heard those words from a grateful American.

For more information on where Ellie Kay’s Heroes at Home is visiting next, explore their website at HeroesAtHome.org.

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

Graphic adapted, Flags of the Military, Wikipedia.

Thursday
Jan312019

Financial First Aid for the New Year

Ellie Kay is one of the people I trust to always give wise financial counsel, and in this Financial UPGRADE, her "financial first aid" kit is a good place for everyone to begin if they want to prepare for a financially healthy future.

"If you want to set your family up for success in 2019, then you may want to create a financial first aid kit," Ellie says. "It’s a lot easier than you may think."

I (Dawn) know what Ellie says is true. My own financial advisor has wisely helped set up this "kit" for us, and it really eases my mind.

Ellie continues . . .

When our youngest son, Joshua, was born, we started saying, "If he had been our first, he would have been our last." That boy had more energy and could get into more scrapes than all our other children combined.

When he was 18 months old, he stripped down to his diaper, took a plastic sword, and chased his four older siblings around the house—thus earning the nickname, "Conan, the Baby Barbarian." By that age, he had also jumped off the top bunkbed (three stitches) and "flown" off our travel trailer (four stitches).

Joshua was the reason we purchased a serious first aid kit.

Just as every family needs a good first aid kit for those unexpected accidents, they also need a financial first aid kit, or practical ways to help safeguard their financial future.

1. An Emergency Savings Account

This account is not an investment account—it doesn’t include IRAs, retirement accounts or CDs. Its purpose is not growth, but safety.

These are funds that are accessed in the event of spouse unemployment, emergency home repairs, or unexpected auto repair bills.

The best way to build this account is to establish a family budget using an app such as mint, pocketguard or YNAB (meaning, You Need A Budget). I recommend automatically transferring funds from a paycheck or checking account into a savings account every week.

A good guideline is to save three months of living expenses for dual income households or six months for a single income family.

2. Life Insurance

This is an easy ingredient in your financial kit. You will need enough money so that your dependents could invest the money and live modestly on the proceeds.

Use a QUOTE COMPARISON site—it will not sell your info, it is confidential—instead of a LEAD GENERATION site (they will sell your info). You can try insurify, Policy Genius, or Nerdwallet.

3. A Will

Here’s another easy one—as easy as making an appointment with the JAG  (Judge Advocate) if you are military or your HR department to see if your company offers free legal service for wills.

The main section of this critical document will assign a guardian for your children.

In many states, the surviving spouse may only get one-third to one-half of the assets that were in your sole name. Your children get the rest and if they are minors, a court administrator could handle their money until they become adults.

Make sure the beneficiary designations on any 401(k) plans, IRAs, life insurance and bank accounts are also up to date. 

To find a free service for a will, just type “pro bono will” followed by your state’s name into an online search engine to see about programs that you might tap.

4. A Retirement Account

If your company offers a 401k, then you could be leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the matching part of that vital retirement tool.

Set up an automatic withdrawal to fund this account or start a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA so that you can get started on tomorrow’s retirement today. As little as $50 a month will get you started and the earlier you begin this account the more you can take advantage of the miracle of compound interest.

A good place to being with as little as $500 in an investment account is with Emperor, who specializes in helping beginner investors. Be prepared to give your social security number and bank information on the secure site and enjoy the adventure of investing!

5. A Good Credit Rating

The best way to rebuild good FICO, or credit score, is found in three steps: 

  • Pay more than your minimum payment (even if it’s only $5/month more).
  • Pay a day early rather than a day late (set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your credit card company for minimum payments.)
  • Pay attention to utilization and never let your available credit fall to less than 30% of the total credit available (for example, $2,000 on a $6,000 credit line.) 

Each year, get a free copy of your credit report by going to Annual Credit Report, or go into the base’s Family Support Center where they can also run a free copy of your report and check your score.

Do you have all these tools in a financial first aid kit? If not, get started soon to build the kit. Guard your financial health!

Ellie Kay is a best selling author of 15 books and a popular co-host of the Plutus Award finalist podcast that she hosts with her millennial daughter called The Money Millhouse. She is the mother of seven and a veteran speaker of 2,000 events. She’s the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit providing free financial education to military members. 

Graphic adapted, original courtesy of Gigabeto at Pixabay.

Wednesday
Jan312018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 2

In Part 1 of the Self-Care UPGRADE, “Create More Opportunities for Margin,” Dawn Wilson, explained the importance of creating more “spacious opportunities” in our lives to counter the busyness and mindlessness that can lead to stress, over-commitment and exhaustion.

To repeat from Part 1: We won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

“Margin,” said Richard Swenson, M.D., “is the space between our load and our limits.” We want to intentionally fill that space wisely, even if it means “not filling” by allowing more space to grow.

In Part 1, we considered the need for more margin in our home, calendars and budgets. In Part 2, let's tackle four more areas: Health, People, Mind and God.

4. Create more space in regard to your HEALTH. For the Christian, this is important not only for ourselves, but as a testimony to others of the power of God working in our habits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

How do we create margin for better health?

  • Leave more time at nightfall for quality sleep. Work toward a healthy nightly rhythm that leads to better and deeper rest.
  • Think: healthy eating! Stop stuffing your body with multiple snacks and processed foods. Give your stomach “room” to function efficiently. Intermittent fasting can be beneficial. So is mindful planning for a weekly caloric budget and sticking to it.
  • Carve out time to move your body with whatever exercise you find most enjoyable. Think in terms of freedom of movement and building core strength.
  • Practice deep breathing! Breathe in through your nose, hold that breath, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

One of the strongest voices helping me create nutritional margin is Lysa TerKeurst in Made to Crave, especially her devotional based on the book. Also, Lean Body, Fat Wallet is a double-whammy for health and finances, writen by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre. Danna is one of the founders of Ageless Woman Living.

5. Create more space for PEOPLE, especially for family and friends. Our office files can’t hug us, and the television won’t give us love. Creating margin for relationships is even far more than social media, although that can play a small part.

Time is limited, so aim for true connection. Quantity time AND quality time.

Shut things off and turn up the volume on face-to-face connections. These times together will feed our need for emotional growth, and they will help us understand how we can “spur on” family and friends “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

We need one-on-one time to practice the "one anothers" of scripture.

Our busy lives leave us less than satisfied. God’s Word and people, it is said, are the only two things that last from earth into eternity; and that should give us a sense of what is truly important.

There are so many good books available on this topic. Just be sure their relationship counsel lines up with scripture truth. I learned a lot from Mary Kassian's Conversation Peace; Shaunti Feldhahn's book, The Kindness Challenge; and Gene Getz' book, Building Up One Another. And "Relationship specialists" Bill and Pam Farrel at Love-wise offer many, MANY books on building relationshps.

6. Create space for your MIND … time to think, ponder and meditate.

If we don’t want our brains to become mush, we need to feed them with truth and wisdom (James 1:5; Psalm 90:12). We need to renew our mind so we can know and do the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Spend time with a good book. The Bible, of course, will train our minds (2 Timothy 3:16); but biblically-based books or books of wise principles that do not contradict scriptural truth will also challenge us to think better. Or planning a social-mental “spacious opportunity” in a Bible or book study with a group of friends (Proverbs 13:20)

Think Biblically! (edited by John MacArthur) helped me think with a Christian worldview; and Lies Women Believe (updated/expanded edition) by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helped me zero in on some foolish, unbiblical thinking. (Note: Lies Men Believe, written by Nancy's husband Robert, will come out in August 2018.)

7. And this is most important: create a greater margin of time for God.

  • We need space to pray and worship without distractions.
  • We need time for the Lord every day (Psalm 55:16-17) to feed our spirit, train our responses and calm our hearts.
  • We need to “Be still” and listen—to get to know our Father’s heart so we’ll know how to make wise choices (Psalm 46:10; Proverbs 2:6).
  • We need to live with eternity in mind, walk by faith, and aim to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:6-10).

A life filled to the brim with a crowded or misguided schedule will never allow time for the Lord to fill us to overflowing with Himself.

By far, the book that helped me understand the need to create a daily time with the Lord was Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth) and Tim Grissom; but Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby also built that relationship.

Notice the word “create” in each of my seven points about margin.

Be creative. Be intentional.

How can you create more spacious opportunities? Ask the Lord what would be best eliminated or pared down in your life so you will have more room to breathe and grow.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe

Tuesday
Jan302018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 1

More and more, people are talking about “margin.” Dawn Wilson tackles this topic in a Self-Care UPGRADE in a two-part post to encourage those who find themselves stressed and over-committed, exhausted and near burnout.

Marginless living is the story of millions of Americans today. That’s part of my story too. I desperately needed more margin.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2014), Richard A. Swenson, a medical doctor, points out the lack of margin in American society in spite of all the “progress” we have made.

“The disease of marginless living is insidious, widespread and virulent,” Dr. Swenson said. “We live with unprecedented wealth and all it brings. We have leisure, entertainment, convenience and comfort…. Yet stress, frustration and oftentimes even despair unexpectedly accompany our unrivaled prosperity.”

His book is an excellent study of the reasons for marginless living, and he offers wisdom for every area of life. (I recommend it to stretch your thinking.)

But even before I read his book, I was thinking about the reasons for my own stress. Here’s what I discovered.

When some people think about margin, they envision the word “boundaries”—the need to not let others overrun the priorities in their lives.

I totally understand that. It’s important to have biblical priorities and values for our lives and families. We have to learn to say no to others’ expectations when they don’t understand, or when they either intentionally or unintentionally try to push past our boundaries.

But I think that’s only one side of margin.

My version of margin includes freedom. It focuses on space and freed-up time.

I like to describe margin as “spacious opportunities.”

In other words, yes, we need to establish firm boundaries so people will not take advantage of our kindness and desire to serve. That’s a necessary part of healthy relationships.

We want to live in a sacrificial way, but the Lord still may direct us to say “no” to some intrusive or unnecessary things so we can say “yes” to other things that fit our calling and biblical priorities (Colossians 4:1-2).

But we have to be sure we’re creating space for those “yeses.”

If we don’t, we’ll simply be piling good things onto other good things and causing over-commitment and stress.

We all need positive space to think, create, and breathe. But our lives are so busy, we won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

There are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t change)—the priority of a relationship with God and the priority of our key relationships (Matthew 6:33; Mark 12:30-31).

But beyond that, we need to see and embrace opportunities for margin throughout our lives. It’s a wonderfully positive approach.

There are at least SEVEN WAYS to create more opportunities for margin—for what really matters.

1. Create more empty space in your HOME. We don’t have to stuff every closet and fill every shelf. It’s OK to leave some empty space. Even healthy and freeing.

Part of the Titus 2:4-5 mandate for women, even those who have careers, is to work at home—to manage the home well. It doesn’t have to be a duty or drudgery. Make it fun. Create a freeing space to minister to people in your family and neighborhood.

Join me in creating that freedom! Evaluate your “stuff.” Go through one room per week with a big box or bag. What can you find to give away? Ask yourself:

  • How many of these do I have?” (Why do you need 12 pair of scissors—and they aren’t even crafting scissors? Learn to practice contentment: Hebrews 13:5a)
  • Why am I keeping this?” (An out-of-date college textbook. A 10-year-old jar of face cream, probably rancid.)
  • “Do I really need to have this object to keep a memory alive?” (A photo might suffice.)
  • “Is this a legacy item—and does my family want it?” (And usually, our millennial kids don’t.)
  • “Do I really need this?” or “Might someone else need this more than me? (Consider a homeless person, a struggling single mom, a low-paid teacher, etc.)

I have often used some of the home and office organizing techniques I've learned from "Organizing Pro" Marcia Ramsland in her book Simplify Your Life.

2. Create more space in your CALENDAR. Just as our homes can be cluttered with stuff we don’t need, sometimes our lives are cluttered with activity and our schedules need some paring down.

We need to plan “down time” as carefully—and with as much joyful anticipation and dedication—as work, event and activity times. Part of making “the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-17) is understanding the Lord wants us to know when to stop working, to stop pushing… to just stop!

Plan breaks and times of refreshing on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. God wants His loved ones to get “proper rest” (Psalm 127:2).

Again, Marcia Ramsland can help with her book, Simplify Your Time.

3. Create more space in your BUDGET. Rather than thinking, “How much do I have left to spend?” think, “How much can I save?” or “How much can I invest?” Thinking we have money to indulge our every whim is seldom wise.

Rather than letting covetousness rule, give money its proper place and think in terms of faithful and wise stewardship.

When we plan wisely, we will feel more secure (Ecclesiastes 7:12); but remember the true Source of your security. Even so, it’s still smart to create sufficient financial margin—sometimes called a “cushion of funds”—to carry you over in times of stress or crisis. Financial experts may not agree on the exact amount, but they all agree on the necessity!

For financial wisdom beyond the scriptures, I seek out people like "America's Family Financial Expert," Ellie Kay and The 60-Minute Money Workout. I also learned so much from Ron Blue and Jeremy White's Faith-based Family Finances, Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Randy Alcorn's Managing God's Money.

How can you create more spacious opportunities in these three areas: Home, Calendar and Budget?

Part 2 of this post will appear on January 31st,  with four more areas needing margin.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Wednesday
Jan032018

Upgrade Your Finances: Financial Freedom in 2018

Ellie Kay, better known as "America's Family Financial Expert," loves to teach people how to find financial freedom. In this Financial UPGRADE, she focuses on three steps that can help anyone find that freedom in the coming year, and she shares her "financial testimony" to make this personal and practical.

“Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run," Ellie says.

I (Dawn) think financial freedom is a wonderful tool for growth and ministry. Why? Because, as Ellie Kay shows in her own life and teaches so powerfully, there is so much we can do for the Lord if we're not deeply in debt!

Ellie continues . . .

In Romans 13:8 it says, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.”

What does financial freedom mean to you?

When I think of the times I’ve felt truly free, it’s when I’m on a roller coaster, bungee jumping or on a zip line. These “adventures” are full of letting go, experiencing the moment and screaming until I’m hoarse!

Financial freedom is very similar, because it can be a roller coaster filled up ups, downs and unexpected turns. But it is also the freedom to let go of worry, live life in the moment and enjoy the adventure around the next bend.

Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily mean an early retirement, but it does mean you are financially healthy.

But that’s hard to do when living paycheck to paycheck or with excessive debt.

Conquering consumer debt can be as daunting as stepping into a roller coaster or stepping off the bungee platform . But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience if you take a few easy steps to get started.

1. Assess Your Debt.

The first step toward financial freedom is to find out where you are in your journey and how far you need to go to reach your goal.

Start by ordering your credit report for free at annual credit report. Use this report to add all your consumer debt (for both spouses if married). Most consumers don't know how much debt they have, which is why this step is so important.

2. APR Reduction

This is where the miracle of compounding interest happens and it can either work for you or against you.

If you’ve been working on your credit score and still have high interest rates on your credit cards, then it may be time to call your credit card provider to ask them to reduce your APR. A lower APR can save hundreds of dollars a year. Just tell the customer service person you want to reduce your APR because your FICO has improved, you’ve been paying on time for many months and you could transfer the balance to a different card (outside of their company) if they can’t help you.

If you don’t get the answer you want, kindly ask to speak to a manager. Then repeat the process. You’d be surprised at how often this works.

3. Absolute Commitment

When my husband and I had 40K in consumer debt early in our marriage, we had to fully commit to getting out of debt. This helped us pay off that debt, on only one income, in 2 years.

This means all the money saved will go toward consumer debt including tax refunds, bonus checks, birthday dollars and items you sell. We even sold one of our cars, when we lived on base, and my husband rode his bike to work or car pooled for a year.

We realized that we couldn’t have debt and a lot of extras at the same time. Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run.

What is one step you can take today to be financially free in 2018?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of 15 books, veteran of 2800 media interviews and podcaster of The Money Millhouse. She is the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that provides financial education to military members. She’s married to Bob and they have seven millennial children.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stevepb at Pixabay.