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Entries in Finances (27)

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.

Thursday
Aug022018

Setting Up a Successful College Transition

An accomplished speaker and writer, Ellie Kay is best known for her financial wisdom and work with Heroes at Home, but in this Financial UPGRADE, she branches out to a topic that’s especially important this time of year for many: high schoolers’ transition to college.

Ellie says, “I believe that every student can be successful in college by following the Do’s and Don’ts of a smooth college transition.”

My (Dawn’s) first granddaughter is entering college this fall, so that’s on my mind a lot these days.

Ellie hits on some points I’ve never considered, both for parents and their college-bound students.

Ellie continues . . .

How can you prepare for a smooth move to college that sets you up for success?

When my daughter was four years old, she came home from a friend’s house sobbing uncontrollably. While comforting her, she blurted out, “I don’t want to go to college!”

Apparently, her friend had an older sister going to college and my daughter couldn’t imagine leaving us. I reassured her that college was a long way away and by the time she left, she was ready.

When parents are preparing their kids for college, I think they may have flashbacks of them as four year olds. It can be hard to send them away.

As a mom of seven, I’ve found there’s some “homework” you can do in the summer to make college transitions more successful.

1. PRIORITIZE key relationships.

DON’T fill up free time with friends at the expense of family. 

  • Friends come and go but family is forever.
  • Only a small percentage of your friends from high school will still be your BFFs throughout college.
  • Less than 2% of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships will last until college graduation.

DO tell your mama (and papa) that you love them.

  • Mend fences and build bridges with family members.
  • Expect there to be some pre-separation anxiety on both sides—parents and kids—so give each other lots of grace.
  • Students, please understand that this is hard on your parents, especially if you are moving away to go to college.
  • Parents, understand that this is hard on your child because they are about to do something they’ve never done before.
  • Students, take the time now to thank your parents, grandparents, friends, educators and coaches for their help in high school.

2. PLAN Your Finances.

DON’T think that you are too young to budget the money you have.

Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” This verse reminds us that it’s important to plan when it comes to our finances. “

  • You can set up a spreadsheet to track your money. We like to use mint because multiple people can track finances on the app.
  • If your parents give you money for tuition, books, rent or food, then this gives them a right to see how the money is spent, so be prepared to share your budget with your financial sponsors. Their love is unconditional, but their money is an investment in your education and it has conditions.
  • Be prepared to work hard and add income to your monthly budget through work-study programs, a part-time job or even an entrepreneurial source of income.

DO be prepared to develop good financial habits that will set you up for success before, during and after college.

  • Do listen to fun, upbeat podcasts like The Money Millhouse to learn more about managing your money.
  • Parents, you may want to get an additional card on your credit card to help your student build credit. These cards usually allow you to modify the spending limit.
  • We added additional cards on American Express and put these under our kids’ social security numbers. They charged preapproved items and then we paid the bill in full (and on time) each month.
  • By the time each of our children graduated from college, they had a 750 or higher FICO score which helped with everything from getting a lower rental down payment to paying less on car insurance.

3. PREPARE for Positive Changes.

DON’T make this all about you.

  • Parents, don’t create drama before they go or after they’ve gone.
  • Moms, don’t sob and cry and tell them you don’t’ know how you’re going to survive without them. Shedding a few tears is OK, but doing what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” isn’t.
  • Don’t post a bunch of “poor me-isms” on social media because it distracts your student from focusing on a successful transition to college.

DO keep it positive and focus on faith.

  • Do send happy texts, emails, cards, and care packages to your college student, these mean a lot. 
  • Do tell your student funny stories about a younger sibling or the dog, it will make them feel more connected to home and send pictures of the dog or pet.
  • Students, do clean up your social media channels because you never know what can come back to haunt you in college and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or become a target of unwanted attention.  
  • Do subscribe to Our Daily Bread and consider joining CRU to connect with others in a safe, faith based community.
  • Parents can join Moms in Touch or a Bible Study with parents in a similar situation.

Moving away from home can be hard but I believe that every student can find success by preparing your relationships, finances and faith as you make this journey into adulting.

What can you do today to prepare for success in college tomorrow?

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 over 2,000 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. She writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street JournalNew York Times and Washington Post. She is the cohost of The Money Millhouse podcast. 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, courtesy of YannaZazu at Pixabay.

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.

Thursday
Jun082017

Smart Women and Financial Choices

Known as "America's Family Financial Expert,"® Ellie Kay walks her own financial talk. She knows the power of following clear  financial principles. In this Financial UPGRADE, she suggests wise tips to help women become more money savvy.

Ellie asks, “Would you like to make smarter decisions when it comes to money matters? Think about the woman who ‘considers a field and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard’ (Proverbs 31:16). She’s smart!”

I (Dawn) know the Bible has a wealth of wisdom regarding finances* and Ellie has some great tips to encourage the wisdom process too.

Ellie continues . . .

When I was a young bride, I was overwhelmed in learning how to manage a household. I didn’t even know how to cook and I remember asking my mom how to boil an egg.

She said, “Boil it until it floats.” I had no idea she was joking, and I boiled it for an hour until the water evaporated and the eggs exploded. They never floated.

Today, I have young millennial daughters and daughters-in-law who are learning to manage their own homes, and I developed guidelines that can help them a little more proactively than my mom’s advice helped me.

Here are my top ten tips for women to make better financial choices.

1. Avoid Emotional Spending.

Never shop online or in the store when you are depressed, sad or lonely because you are far more likely to engage in “shopping therapy” and overspend.

2. Show Love through Actions and Not Things.

If you have a love language of gift giving, or if you tend to show love to others by what you buy for them, then you may want to shift your point of view and save your budget in the process.

3. Volunteer Often.

Those people who have the best balance in their financial lives understand how fortunate they are by giving back to their communities.

4. Err On The Side of Generosity.

By following the principle of tithing 10% of your income, you invite God’s blessing upon your money matters and live a more abundant financial life.

If you are going to err, don’t let it be on the side of stinginess, but let it be on the side of generosity.

5. Ask Yourself, "Is This a Need or A Want?"

Most of us do not have unlimited financial resources and for every purchase we make, it’s wise to ask ourselves this question BEFORE we buy.

6. Play the Waiting Game.

In order to avoid impulse buying, when you see something on sale in the mall or online, wait 24 hours to purchase it. This helps you get beyond the impulse to see if it’s something you truly need.

7. Have A Money Buddy.

Accountability is a wonderful thing.

Every woman should have a person who can ask the hard questions about sticking to your budget, paying down consumer debt, or funding a retirement. In community, you are far more likely to keep your financial commitments towards good stewardship.

8. Become a Master Saver.

The Millionaire next door rarely pays full price on anything when they can save money. Read money savings blogs, download apps for coupon codes, and be prepared to compare prices on goods and services.

9. Become Comfortable with Negotiation.

Whether you are negotiating the price of a car or the bid on painting your house, you have to feel it’s the best deal for you.

Tell the other person, "I don’t feel comfortable with that price," and then be quiet. I’ve found that nine out of 10 times, I’ll get a counterbid that is something I feel more comfortable with; and if I don’t, then I feel the freedom to walk away.

10. Pray about Money Matters.

Recent PEW Research indicates that 80% of Americans admit to praying weekly or even daily. Even a financial expert like myself needs to pray to be make wise financial decisions, that people won’t be able to take financial advantage of me and that I’ll be able to find the best provision for my budget.

When in doubt, pray.

Which of these steps do you already practice and which ones can you implement today?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet (with Danna Demetre), 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.

* Some Key Scriptures about finances: Matthew 6:24-25, 33; Philippians 4:11-13; Luke 12:15; Psalm 37:21; Mark 8:36; Proverbs 15:27; 22:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19; Philippians 4:19; Malachi 3:10; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Luxstorm at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun062017

You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money

Rhonda Rhea's posts always go deeper than one might think at first. Such is the case in this Stewardship UPGRADE.

"Don’t even try to pretend," Rhonda says. "Don’t pretend you don’t know that the hamburger and the French fries have to come to an end at exactly the same time."

I (Dawn) was intrigued by Rhonda's title until I saw a longer version and scanned the article.

The whole title is: "You Can Ketchup More Fries with Money—And Catch Fools with It Too."

Ah... I see. This is about stewardship!

Rhonda continues . . .

Bite of hamburger. Bite of fry. Burger. Fry.

Once you invest your money in the full meal deal, it feels like bad stewardship if any one bite doesn’t live up to the others.

Burger, fry, burger, fry.

These are the rules, people. Hey, it’s not like I make this stuff up.

When you think about it, it’s the only cultured way to eat a burger.

Of course, “culture” and “full meal deal” don’t always go together like… well… like burgers and fries.

I was eating my burger, fry, burger, fry the other day and I happened to glance over at the ketchup packet and noticed it said, “FANCY.”

Well, that was just frustrating. I felt underdressed the whole rest of the meal.

And you don’t want to feel underdressed when you have to go back for that extra order of fries. Because when you’re explaining to the kid taking your money that you had too much burger at the end of your fries, you don’t want to look stupid.

When it comes to dealing well with money, there’s always a challenge not to get stupid. Not because money is evil. Because loving it is.

And it’s a trap.

“But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (1 Timothy 6:9-10, HCSB).

Obsession with material things leads to more obsession with material things, and then more—a trap of our own spiraling desires. It’s like always needing one more fry.

How sobering to read verse 9. Our craving for money can lead us away from our faith and right into all kinds of piercing pain. Foolish sinfulness. Certainly nothing sophisticated about that.

Paul tells us to “run from these things” (verse 11). Run away from that temptation to focus on getting rich.

People who already enjoy wealth are not safe from the trap either. It can become all too easy to find security in a big bank account rather than in Christ.

Verse 17 says, “not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy.”

When Paul tells us to run from the love of money and all the other evils, he doesn’t just leave us running wildly off without direction.

“But you, man of God, run from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness" (verse 11).

As we pursue all the right spiritual things, our view toward all things physical comes more clearly into focus.

When we’re not distracted by loving or trusting in money and things, we see what’s real.

“Instruct them to do what is good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good reserve for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real,” (verse 18).

Investing in Kingdom work. That’s real investing.

Incidentally, anytime you’ve invested the meal deal and you’re feeling a little unsophisticated… ketchup. It’s the fancy condiment.

Anything else just won’t cut the mustard.

Are you pursuing the physical or the spiritual? How is pursuing the spiritual a better "deal"? 

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10 books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at www.RhondaRhea.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of eisenmenger at Pixabay.