How to Build a Family Emergency Fund, Even on a Tight Budget

The truth is that, even in a two income household, most families are not immune from chaos a financial emergency can cause. From a car that dies unexpectedly half way between the school drop off and the office, to the dog that was fine yesterday but seems terribly sick today and in need of an emergency vet to larger crises like a sudden loss of income thanks to an unexpected illness or injury the simple fact is that a financial crisis can strike at any time.

While such things cannot be predicted – for example, if you’d known you were going to get into a car accident you’d already have the number of a Pittsburgh personal injury lawyer on hand and a claim form pre filled, but life and luck don’t work like that. The one thing you can do however is make having an emergency fund a priority to help you cope financially with these kinds of curve balls.

Unfortunately, for many working mothers already balancing a tight budget, the idea of being able to put away extra cash for a stormy day seems like an unattainable goal. It can, however, be done, as long as you go about it in the right way. Here are just a few pointers to help you get that all-important emergency fund started and then grow it in the right way.

Revisit Your Monthly Budget

Set aside an hour to go through your bank and credit card statements form the last six months and actively look for ways you could cut a little fat from your monthly budget to set aside for an emergency fund. You don’t have to look for hundreds of dollars, especially as the chances are that that amount is simply not there, but even a commitment to save $20 a week can make a huge difference if that money is then invested the right way.

It is pretty likely you can find that, by making simple, relatively painless changes like opting for generic brands at the grocery store instead of pricier brands or shaving a few channels (the ones that you know only the cat watches when everyone is out) by going down a tier on your cable service.

Keep Emergency Funds Separate

If you simply deposit your emergency savings dollars into your standard savings account there is a good chance it won’t stay there too long and it simply won’t be working hard enough either. Take some time to look for a savings account that offers a good interest rate and then only use that account for these emergency funds and nothing else. If your credit is reasonably good you may even want to consider getting a new credit card, but not using it, keeping it on ice until you really need it.

Be Clear About What a Financial Emergency Really Is

Unplanned splurges like a last minute family vacation or a new big screen TV are not financial emergencies. They are nice things to have and are worth saving up for if you can, but any funds saved for those kinds of expenses should be kept separate from your real emergency fund.

Keep Building

An emergency funds takes time to build, but doing so is a great way to give yourself – and your family – a little piece of mind in an uncertain world and in many ways that’s pretty priceless. Don’t set a cut off point for your fund either. Keep depositing that monthly ‘payment’ and if you never really need it that’s great, but at least it will be there if you do.

Teens and Insomnia – Causes and Treatments

Even though they are not “little kids” anymore in need of a rigid bedtime routine,  teenagers still need to get plenty of sleep, about nine hours is optimal. As their bodies are still developing they certainly still need more sleep that an adult. Yet many teenagers do not get enough rest and quite a few of them suffer from at least a mild form of insomnia. It’s easy, as a busy working military parent to fail to pick up on this right away, especially as insomnia is often thought of as something that only affects stressed out adults, a busy employment lawyer in Charlotte, NC might be expected to have problems sleeping, but their kid? Not so much.

Why do Teens Have a Problem Sleeping?

As is the case with adults there are many possible causes of insomnia in teenagers. Some of the more common cases include:

  • A bad diet, or eating too much later in the evening (that trip to the burger place with their friends perhaps).
  • Overstimulation (playing video games until all hours for example).
  • Anxiety and stress (high school is no picnic).
  • Depression
  • Rebellion (they don’t want Mom or Dad telling them what time to go to bed anymore, that kind of thing is for little kids).
  • A medical condition like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

Signs of Teenage Insomnia

It’s rare that a teen that will go to their parents voluntarily to complain about not being able to sleep at night. Unfortunately, most of the time it is up to mom and dad to spot the symptoms of insomnia in their teen and then talk to them about it. Any of the following could be a sign that a teen is not getting enough sleep:

  • They say things that they may as well keep playing video games or surfing the web because they won’t sleep anyway
  • Obvious daytime fatigue
  • Loss of appetite/change in eating habits
  • They are more irritable than usual
  • Unusual clumsiness
  • Falling grades at school

Treating Teens for Insomnia

Before any kid can be effectively treated for insomnia the cause of the problem has to be explored – which should involve a visit to their doctor. A serious illness like depression may be to blame and that is not a condition that should be ignored.

However, in many cases it is simply a case of what doctors call “bad sleep hygiene” that is the real cause of teen insomnia. It is then up to the teen and their parents to establish good habits that will make getting a good night’s sleep easier. establishing a good sleep hygiene routine will include:

  • Re-establishing a set bedtime
  • Finding a way to create a small relaxation time between the end of their day’s activities and bed. Bringing back the bedtime glass of milk that they may have had as a child can be a great way to do that.
  • Limiting the number of caffeinated drinks a teen consumes over the course of the day, especially energy drinks like Red Bull which can contain many more times the caffeine of a regular soda or a cup of coffee
  • Eliminating heavy meals later in the evening and attempting to eat a healthier diet that is lower in sugar
  • Limiting the use of video games and computers later at night.
  • Getting some form of exercise on a regular basis

Most of these measures will not only help a teen with insomnia get a better night’s sleep but they will help improve their overall health and well-being as well, something that left to their own devices many teens are too busy to pay much attention to themselves.

The most important thing about teenage insomnia is that it is not ignored. Teen insomnia is often a temporary thing but if allowed to continue unchecked it can turn into chronic adult insomnia which can be much harder to treat, and cause problems for years.

Five Top Tips for Better Note Taking for Adult Students

Taking notes is an extremely valuable skill for both recalling and understanding information and it’s one that every student needs to master. And that is not just true for young students, older students in higher levels of tertiary education – for example law students preparing to take the bar with the hope of joining a prestigious firm in your chosen field – such as estate and elder care law – can still benefit from upgrading their note taking skills. Here are five top tips to help you do just that.

1. Use a Notebook, Not a Laptop

In this tech-driven age it’s far from unusual for it to seem more convenient to take notes on a laptop – or even a smartphone – instead of relying on old fashioned pens, pencils and paper. However, according to a study undertaken and published by researchers at Princeton University note takers of all ages understand and retain information significantly more if they take handwritten notes.

This, the researchers concluded, is likely because if you are taking notes on a laptop you will tend to just directly transcribe what you are hearing or reading verbatim, while those writing things down are more likely to pay closer attention to the material to jot down only the most relevant information. That, and if you’re anything like me, an open laptop is an invitation to distractions of all kinds.

2. Be Prepared

It may sound rather basic but before a student goes to any lecture or class or even begins a study session at home they need to make sure that they have all of their note-taking supplies on hand, to avoid distractions like scrambling for a pen or pencil while they miss the first five minutes of the teacher’s lecture.

Essentially the most basic note taking supplies include pens, sharpened pencils, a notebook or loose leaf paper and a binder. If the student is a glasses wearer they should make sure those are in place too, to avoid wasting time searching for them, or worse still squinting uncomfortably at the board trying to decipher what it says because they left them at home!

3. Learn to Be a More Active Listener

When they are taking notes, far too many students make the mistake of jotting down everything word for word, without really comprehending what is being said or what they are reading. Notes are just that, snippets of information that will, at a later date help jog the memory about the information they pertain to. Concentrate on absorbing the information the first time and while note-taking is still a must, learning the proper use of keywords and abbreviations can be extremely helpful. To make your notes more useful, only jot down individual words or key phrases that are most relevant to the topic – dates, names, theories, equations, definitions – and leave the fluff words out.

4. Get More Colorful

Many students find that making use of colored highlighters makes their notes – and the whole process of note- taking – far more effective, especially when reviewing them at a later date. And there is actually a scientific reason for this. According to researchers, bright colors, like those found in a basic pack of highlighters – stimulate the creative side of the brain, making the notes seem  more interesting and therefore the information they contain easier to retain.

5. Do a Relaxed Review

To make the most of the notes they have taken encourage your student to review them briefly just after class and then later the same day, as that will also help them retain the information more effectively. You don’t need to study them intensely though, a relaxed few minutes is really all that is needed, maybe as little as fifteen to twenty minutes every time.

Benefits of Informational Interviews for High School and College Students  

There comes a point in every college student’s educational career when they need to begin thinking more seriously about what they actually want to do for a living when their time in school comes to an end. Or, if they are still in high school, an insight into the realities of an occupation they are interested in can help them make the right choices as they begin their college applications. For these students going on informational interviews can be very helpful.

An informational interview is not about getting a job. Instead it is a meeting with a professional already working in an industry and/or niche, an opportunity to gain important insider insight and to begin building the all-important professional network that will benefit students later, when they are ready to begin seeking employment for real.

Informational Interviews – The Basics 

An informational interview is very different from a job interview as the student will essentially be interviewing the person who has been gracious enough to share their time. It’s up to the student to formulate intelligent questions before the meeting so that they come away with all the information that they were hoping for. Researching the person and the company they work for is a must, not only so that the right questions can be posed but also to demonstrate a true interest in what they have to say.

What Can Be Achieved from an Informational Interview?  

When you participate in an informational interview you can potentially gain some – or all – of the following benefits:

  • You gain an “insider’s perspective” into a certain job that you could never learn from reading a classified advertisement for a job or a textbook in class. Not only will you have a better insight into the real day to day duties involved in the kinds of positions you are interested in obtaining, but also the real skills and attributes that hiring managers in your field are looking for, not just the “keywords” that they put into job advertisements they may place.
  • You often gain access to management level executives and they can often help you understand how to tap the “hidden job market’ within your industry.
  • In a more relaxed situation, where the interview pressure off, you are more likely to be able to ask the kind of relevant questions that you should ask in a “real interview”, so it can be excellent practice for those that will come later down the line.

How to Identify Potential Informational Interviewers

Students searching for possible informational interviewers should begin close to home. Speaking with friends, family or acquaintances can often provide you with just the right name, or contact to interview. It is often surprisingly easy for motivated high school or college students to gain an informational interview, as most executives do tend to like the idea of providing mentorship to younger people.

You still have to go about requesting in an interview in the right way though. According to Layne Davlin, who runs a professional employer organization in Georgia, “The key to successfully landing an informational interview is to make it clear from the first letter or email you send to your target that you are not looking to find a job, only to benefit from their knowledge.”

With this in mind a letter (a letter is better than an email, even in this electronic age) should:

  • Introduce the potential informational interviewer to you
  • Very briefly describe your educational background and why it is that you are interested in the contact’s organization and meeting with them specifically.

 

  • State exactly how you believe the reader can help you.
  • State a day when you intend to follow up the request letter by telephone
  • Be brief and to the point, and polite without pandering.

At the Informational Interview 

You should certainly wear your best interview outfit to your informational interview but you need to make it clear (once more) that you are not there for a job, but to benefit from your interviewer’s experience and knowledge. Listen carefully to what they have to say and, of course, make notes that you can refer back to later.

After the interview is over, send a formal thank you note to your interviewer (and include your contact information) Again, send a formal written note, not an email, as doing so is far more professional and creates a good lasting impression.

Tapping into the Power of Social Wi-Fi

Free wi-fi has, over just the last few years, become something that customers are coming to expect will be available to them when they visit a restaurant, cafe, or bar and increasingly they are looking to other service providers like doctors’ offices, hospitals and stores to help feed their need to be ‘connected’ at all times.

Faced with this customer expectation many businesses both large and small do indeed now offer their customers free Internet access. But what many don’t know, yet anyway, that doing so can offer them more in terms of ROI than just basic customer satisfaction. By making use of what is termed ‘social wi-fi’ they can in fact benefit from offering free wifi in some less expected ways.

Social Wi-Fi operates a little differently as it allows users to one click connect to a company’s Internet connection via one of their social media accounts, most commonly Facebook, Twitter, Google or LinkedIn. And after they have done so the benefits of the service really begin to kick in.

What Can Social Wi-Fi Do for Your Business?

In a nutshell, social wi-fi solutions can be a win-win situation for everyone. Many companies who have implemented such solutions offer coupons and discounts at sign in, in return for a like, follow or check-in. As far as many customers are concerned this is great, free Internet access and a perk in return for simply signing in.

Businesses can gain even more though. Having access to social media information about clients and customers can be exceptionally useful both for basic demographic research and future advertising purposes.

According to Steven Gacovino, a personal injury lawyer, “Previously, online-based businesses – especially retail – have had an advantage over their brick-and-mortar counterparts, as they could place a cookie to retarget and advertise to people visiting their website. Social wi-fi levels the playing field, as it can act as a cookie in the real world, allowing business owners to use the same tactics as they now have the same information, even if the customer never has, and never will, visit their promotional website. If they have one.”

But Does It Actually Work?

All of this sounds great but the big question any business owner will have is does it actually work? Many say yes it does. Take the Subway restaurant chain. According to a published shareholder report the company installed social wi-fi technology in 52 of their locations in Canada and began running a test that ran from February through May of 2016.

During that time the company says that they saw a 17% increase in coupon redemption thanks to coupons offered at sign in, almost 16,000 new sign ups to their loyalty program, an option also offered at sign in to their wireless network, and 1.8 more return visits made by those who had logged into their free wi-fi versus those who had not.

It’s not just larger businesses, or food service concerns benefiting though. Retail stores are reporting similar successes as are other service providers like auto shops and even dentists. And the good news is that there are a number of affordable solutions that should be within the financial reach of even the smallest businesses, something that may even help them level the playing field a little with larger competitors.

Finding Affordable Car Insurance for Your New Teen Driver

Finally getting their driver’s license is really exciting for any young person and getting their first car is even more so. Getting their own car gives a teen freedom and means no more waiting for their parents to pick them up or begging someone to drive them somewhere. It’s thrilling stuff.

Buying first time car insurance is generally very low on the list of exciting car related activities in the mind of the average teenage driver, but you can bet it’s very much on their parents minds, especially when it comes to getting the best deal.

All car insurance companies base their rates partially on driving record and credit history so every young driver is already at a financial disadvantage when it comes to the cost of car insurance. They really do not have any kind of driving record yet and very few young people have much of a credit rating either.

What makes matters worse for those seeking young driver car insurance is that the statistics that all insurance companies rely on a great deal to access risk don’t usually paint a picture of young drivers as very good or careful ones either.

Year after year, these statistics show that drivers under the age of 21 end up in the most accidents and involved with and responsible for more vehicle damage, both to their own car and other people’s than other age groups. Sadly, as any Dallas DWI attorney can tell you, teens are also right up there in those DWI/DUI and distracted driving accident figures as well, making them an even poorer risk as far as insurance companies are concerned.

Shopping for Car Insurance for a Young Driver – Getting Started

So the idea that a new teen driver’s car insurance is ever going to be “cheap” is a very unrealistic one. However, there are a few ways to find less expensive car insurance for first time drivers.

Taking the time to shop around and compare a number of quotes really helps. Even though they see young drivers as the biggest risk to them, the car insurance companies still want their business. With a little research you will find that many insurance companies offer discounts for good school grades. The logic behind this discount is that a young person who can rise above peer pressure and maintain good grades is a more responsible one and likely to be a better, safer driver. Young people who work part time can often be offered a similar discount as well.

Learn About Car Insurance Basics

Before buying a young driver an insurance policy they are going to pay for themselves, the very best thing anyone can do in order to get the best possible coverage at the best rates is educate yourself – and them – a little about the different levels of coverage that are available for the vehicle they have chosen to drive.

You see, the vehicle a person drives can make a big difference to the cost of their insurance policy. If it were up to a lot of young drivers, both males and females, their first car would be as sporty and as sleek as possible. Such a car may not be very good for their insurance rates though.

Sports cars are more expensive for anyone to insure, whatever their age or driving record. Again statistics are what insurance companies look at here and the stats show that a sporty car is just not as safe as say, a nice hatchback. Couple together a sports car and a teen driver and most car insurance companies are going to charge the highest rates they can! Cars with great safety features score extra discounts as well, and as a parent they’ll give you some extra peace of mind as well.

Therefore if you are a the parent of a younger driver shopping for a first car take the time to run the car they are considering through an insurance company’s online quote service. By doing so you may find that it’s the cost of insuring the car, not its actual on the lot price tag, that makes it a prospect that is just too expensive for you – and them – right now.

4 Military Student Loan Forgiveness Programs to Wipe Out Your Debt

A number of student loan forgiveness programs are available to military personnel to relieve them of the bondage of crippling debt. You put your life on the line for our freedom and country. You should not come home to a mountain of debt simply because you furthered your education.

Thankfully, there is help in the form of discharge and deferment programs.

1. The National Defense Student Loan Discharge (NDSLD)

The NDSLD program provides debt relief to military personnel who took out National Direct Student Loans or Perkin Loans.

To be eligible for this loan discharge program, you must:

  • Have served at least one year in an area with direct fire and/or imminent danger

To apply, you must fill out a DD 214 discharge form, and provide an explanation for why you believe you should qualify for the program. The form and letter must be sent to your loan servicer.

2. The Military College Loan Repayment Program (CLRP)

The CLRP program helps people pay for student loans they contracted before joining the military. Payments are made directly to your loan servicer, with the first one being sent after one year of service.

To qualify for this program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a college degree.
  • If applying for the 4-year program, you must give up your rights through the GI Bill.
  • Have a federal student loan.
  • Have an Armed Forced Qualification Test score above 50.

The CLRP program is available to all branches of the military, and the amount forgiven will depend on which branch you serve.

  • Army Corps: $65,000
  • Navy: $65,000
  • Navy Reserves: $10,000
  • National Guard: $50,000
  • Coast Guard: $30,000
  • Air Force: $10,000

The Marines does not have a CLRP program.

3. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Military personnel may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives loans for people working in the government or a qualifying non-profit.

The PSLF program cancels all remaining student loan debt after making 120 on-time monthly payments. You must maintain a job while paying off the loan.

The only drawback with this program is that you must wait 10 years to have your loans forgiven.

4. Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Discharge

If you become totally and permanently disabled while serving in the military, you may qualify for the TPD Discharge program.

This program will wipe out all of your remaining debt, and can be applied to FEEL, Direct or Perkins loans.

To take advantage of this program, you must notify the Department of Education that you have a TPD and also submit an application with appropriate documentation proving your disability. The form must be sent to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

If you do not qualify for any of these programs or you still have student debt even after having loans forgiven, you have military service deferment options, which include:

  • Active Duty: You can postpone your payments if you’re serving on active duty during war, a national emergency, or other military operations – and immediately after active duty.
  • Public Service Deferment: You can defer your payments if you are on active duty in the Armed Forces.
  • Post-Active Duty: You may defer payments if you were served on active duty, and were enrolled at least half of the time at an eligible school, or within six months prior to being called to duty.

Heavy Duty Cell Phones to Take Anywhere

If you use a cell phone in a hard line of work, you need one that will stand up to major wear and tear. You need a phone that meets the United States Dept of Defense MIL-STD-810G battlefield standard — these are the phones with the most survivability, maneuverability, and durability. Most come with a very high IP certification, which can come in very handy under such heavy hitters as hurricanes and earthquakes. They’re not built for beauty but for lasting the course under the roughest of conditions — whether it’s a hiking trip or a natural disaster. Especially if you’re traveling or deployed to different parts of the world where sometimes you might even need a new Birmingham number for a short period of time.

These five are considered the roughest and toughest cell phones for civilian use:

The Samsung Galaxy Rugby Pro

This bad boy is diminutive but durable. As recommended above, it is IP-68 military certified, and a great fit for an outdoors lifestyle. It meets all military specifications for stormy weather, such as wind whipped rain and blowing grit. It can withstand tropical high humidity, as well as subzero conditions if taken into the Arctic or Antarctic regions. Very shock resistant, it’s also dust proof and stand underwater up to three feet for a half hour. It has a four inch scratch resistant screen that is touch sensitive, and most models come with standard backlighted keys so that it can be fully utilized during moonless nights, during blackouts, in caves, and during severe weather.

The Caterpillar CAT S60

Caterpillar’s CAT S60 is the first global thermal image-recording smartphone. It’s an Android, with a four point seven display screen, which is excellent for those whose work takes them outside often and places them in rugged, unpredictable terrain. This CAT S60 smartphone by Caterpillar is compliant with all military cell phone standards, including for battlefield use. It’s IP68 certified and will withstand up to sixteen feet of fresh or salt water for up to an hour. It’s die-cast framing is reinforced and tempered so that a drop of up to three straight feet will not affect it whatsoever.

The Kyocera Brigadier

The innovative sapphire crystal on the Kyocera Brigadier cell phone makes it one of the toughest and most drop resistant on the market today. It’s manufactured by Verizon and meets all United States Dept of Defense Standard Military requirements for, among other things, immersion in salt or fresh water, solar radiation, atmospheric low pressure, temperature extremes, shock, and vibration. It’s considered the most glove friendly display screen on the market, because of the sapphire crystal touch screen. Another big plus is that workers who toil in loud places such as assembly plants and trucking depots can dial up the dual speakers to hear over almost anything.  

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active

It’s IP-68 certified and goes well beyond MIL-STD-810G requirements. This is really the same cell phone as the regular Galaxy S7, with the difference being it’s encased in a shell specially designed to withstand temperature extremes, deep water immersion, and falls from up to five feet. It includes an exclusive fingerprint scanner on its five point one inch display screen.

The LG X Venture

It’s a military-standard anti-shock cell phone that gives you a five point two inch screen. Water resistant to the max and nearly dust-proof. It can be operated while wearing gloves. Reinforced metal corners protect it from damage from accidental drops. It’s manufactured by AT&T, rated IP-68, and features a front and rear camera.

Tips for Having a Fun and Safe Labor Day Weekend

As the final days of summer quickly approach, you’re probably looking forward to the penultimate summer holiday: Labor Day. We all associate it with barbeques, the occasional pool party, and summer’s last stand. But this time of year always comes with it’s own trials and tribulations. So what can you do to ensure you and your family have the very best holiday? Here are a few recommendations for ending summer on a high note with a fun and safe Labor Day.

Find Local Events (or hold your own!)

Every city from New York to San Francisco is gearing up for Labor Day weekend events—many cities have special parades or parties for the extended weekend. While Knoxville’s Boomsday may have once taken the cake, you can have just as much fun in your own neck of the woods. Checking your local newspaper or searching online according to your region can help you find great ways to enjoy the holiday. Here are a few sites offering local or regional event options:

Midwest Labor Day Celebrations

Labor Day in NYC

Californian Labor Day Idea Guide

And if all else fails, start your own party. Drag out the grill for one last summer hurrah and put on your own DIY Labor Day party.

Discover a National Treasure

Another great option for Labor Day weekend is to visit one of the 59 national parks or the many historic sites in the United States. Some offer deals or events in accordance with the holiday, too. Whether you go 5 or 50 miles to visit one these beautiful places, it is a great way to cap off the summer, and if you’re lucky, you may even learn something! Just keep a few tips in mind, if you’re looking to visit Yellowstone or Yosemite, as they can get quite busy!

Take a (Safe) Trip

Beyond staying in town or taking a day trip to see a national landmark, if you’ve set your sights on taking a long distance vacation for Labor Day, there is a lot to keep in mind, especially if you’re driving. There are so many places to see, and plenty of recommendations for how your family should spend Labor Day weekend. A lot of families take trips during the extended weekend, so keep your safety in mind as well. Behind Memorial Day, Labor Day is the second deadliest holiday for motor vehicle crashes. A combination of more drivers on the road, distracted driving, and impaired driving causes a lot of trouble. Atlanta is one of the top cities to visit, citing Civil War museums, shopping, and food bonanzas as just a few options to fill up your weekend. There are plenty of car accident lawyers in Atlanta if needed, like www.atlantacaraccidentlawyer.com – but save yourself the trouble. Be more vigilant and be mindful of your limits while driving, so you can have more fun during your final summer vacation.

No matter where you decide to spend your final days of summer, if you use your resources and keep an open mind, you’re bound to have a fantastic Labor Day holiday with family and friends.

4 Benefits Service Members Can Take Advantage of to Save More Money

Everyone says the same thing: save more. Financial advisors expect you to save 10% – 15% of your income, and oftentimes, this figure doesn’t include putting money away for retirement. When you’re a service member, finances can be even tighter.

Making matters worse, 34% of Americans have $0 in savings.

If you’re a service member that falls into this category, there is hope for you. There are ways that you can leverage your time in the service (or your spouse’s time) to start saving money today.

1. Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

If you’re not familiar with it already, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) is available to all service members. This is an especially important piece of legislation for new service members. What this act does is allow you to:

  • Terminate your auto lease if you have a 180-day order
  • Terminate a residential lease if you have a 90-day order
  • Reduce interest rates for debt incurred during service, including: mortgages, auto loans and credit cards
  • Request protection from legal proceedings, evictions and foreclosures

You won’t have to pay money for breaking your lease, and a reduction in interest rates will also save you a lot of money.

2. Ask for Discounts

A lot of stores and service providers respect military members. You can get discounts at a lot of big-name retailers, such as Lowes or Wal-Mart, but this isn’t enough. I recommend calling your service providers and asking for some sort of discount.

This can work with everything, including:

  • Mobile companies
  • Cable companies
  • Electric companies

Oftentimes, you’ll be offered the “intro price” – the low price a person receives when signing up for a service initially.

You can also hunt down retailers that offer discounts for veterans.

A lot of companies offer Veterans Initatives, which offer ways to save money on products. A lot of times, all you need is a military ID to receive a discount. Also, take advantage of Veterans Day programs and savings.

You can save a lot of money by shopping on Veterans Day.

3. USAA is Your Friend

The USAA offers some of the best programs for military members and their families. USAA offers different products for:

  • Auto insurance
  • Home owner’s insurance
  • Banking
  • Loans
  • Credit cards
  • Investments
  • Renters insurance

Auto insurance is said to be superior compared to other insurers, and members save, on average, $330 per year. There are free checking options as well as personalized insurance options for homeowners and renters.

4. Choose the Right Legal Residence

Did you know that you can choose your legal residence? For example, if you live in Texas but are now at a base in New Jersey, you can choose Texas as your place of residence. Why does this help?

Income tax.

Texas doesn’t have income taxes, so it’s a great choice to pick over a state with high taxes, such as New Jersey. Of course, you can only pick your origin state or your destination state when choosing your legal residence. I recommend searching for income tax rates and choosing the state with the lower tax rate.

Dealing with Children and Alcohol While On Base

Alcohol has been associated with military service since probably the first soldier was paid with a stiff drink after a hard battle. But keeping children away from alcohol while on base is more difficult than it may seem. And when the “children” are old enough to be active duty members of the military the problem is much more complex.

Alcohol Access

The fortunate thing for young children is that it’s harder for them to get access to alcohol than it is off base. Military bars and commissaries are under stricter rules than a convenience store clerk who is willing to look the other way. Buying alcohol on behalf of a younger person is also much harder. If a kid turns up drunk then it’ll quickly go up the chain of command and someone will get punished.

However, that’s not to say that it’s impossible that a member of the military could buy alcohol for themselves and share it with someone they shouldn’t. But the odds of that person getting caught are much greater than it would be off-base. Risking a military career just to impress some kids is a dumb move.

Sherry Cross, a drunk driving defense lawyer in Los Angeles, says “It’s natural for children to want to act like adults and drink alcohol, but the laws of the country are very clear about minors, drinking, and driving. If a minor is pulled over and any alcohol is detected in their system, that’s enough evidence to convict them of a DUI. Just because they’re under 0.08 doesn’t mean they’ll avoid conviction, especially on a military base where the laws are different.”

In short, it’s not likely that children will be able to get alcohol on-base unless someone gives it to them under the table, and the chances of someone discovering a drunk child and who gave them the alcohol are much higher.

Active-Duty Members

The question about whether or not active-duty members over the age of 18 should be able to drink alcohol has plagued the military ever since drinking limits started to come under scrutiny in the mid-20th century. It used to be that if you could be called to die for your country then it was your right to enjoy alcohol whenever you wanted. Now it’s not so simple.

The short answer is that the commander of the base sets the drinking age. Usually, that age is set to whatever the laws of the state the base is in are, which puts it at 21. However, they can ask for special permission to lower the drinking age for certain events, especially if they are military-related. Commanders also have the authority to lower drinking ages to match the laws of the country of a foreign base, but they do not have to do this.

There also used to be a law that if a base was located within 50 miles of another nation’s border then the base could lower the drinking age to whatever the other nation set. The purpose of this rule was to prevent troops from running over the border to purchase alcohol legally and getting back to base. However, to our knowledge, there is no base that took advantage of this rule.

Sometimes members of Congress do try to pass laws to permanently lower the drinking age for active-duty members. But not everyone in the military thinks that lowering the drinking age is a good idea. The military has had problems with drinking on bases in the past and it has affected relationships with some foreign countries.

If you live on base with children, make sure that other service members won’t give alcohol to your children, especially if you’ve just moved to a new base. After you’ve lived there for some time, the locals will probably know your children well and know to avoid giving them alcohol. If you’re an under-aged active member of the military, however, the laws of your state or country and the orders of your commander will let you know when it’s okay to have a beer.

How to Reduce Car Accidents among Young Drivers

Every year, drivers throughout the globe are injured or killed in road traffic. The young drivers run a greater risk everywhere than the elder ones, but this challenge is still greatly unsolved. The 18–24 year age group is the one with the biggest risk of all new drivers.

“More than just traffic enforcement – ensuring that young drivers stay safe is a matter of education,” says Rose Burberry-Martin, who works with Total Disability Individual Unemployability lawyers. “Teenagers don’t always understand that bad things can happen to them, as their age makes them feel invincible. We have to educate them on the risks of driving so that they learn to drive safely from the start.” A clear understanding of the underlying processes could be a useful tool in preventive endeavors.

Various methods of persuasion can be tested out, so as to change the young drivers’ goals behind driving, and the context in which it’s done. Both “hard” and “soft” methods should be used. For instance, increased enforcement and proper communication may be simultaneously used. But first, authorities should consider these factors:

Age

One important aspect which has been studied is how the driver’s age and the driving experience gained after licensure influence the risk of accidents on the road. Age is highly critical in terms of the level of accident risk. 15-year olds, in particular, are at an elevated risk. The chances of accident risk due to low driving experience usually decrease as the driver ages.

Communication campaigns should highlight the consequences of unsafe behaviors—and in particular target young males. The communication campaigns that employ emotional and persuasive messages are the most effective where the young drivers are concerned. Studies reveal that attitudes about safety are usually formed at an early age—long before legal driving—and therefore, it would also be essential to target young adolescents. Laws require that for enforcement to be effective, it should target areas of particular risk.

Experience

Several reviews and studies prove that experience is more crucial than age when it comes to accident risk in traffic

Driver education and Education Campaigns can’t be expected to change the goals of a young person radically. For that purpose, active learning methods which make use of the learner’s own experiences should be applied. Whether offered at driving schools or via the ordinary school system, some specialized courses for the young drivers designed to make them conscious of their personal tendencies; and the type of social context which affects their driving behavior could be fruitful.

Alcoholism

This is a significant factor that contributes to most accidents among young drivers.

While the law legalizes drinking alcohol among the 21-years and above, it is very keen on warning that drinking while driving at any age is illegal. Most of the young drivers, especially 21-26 years of age, usually take advantage that they are above the minimum age required for drinking without thinking about the legal limit for driving while intoxicated, which can get them into serious trouble.

According to the America’s NHTSA, approximately one-third of drivers ages 15-20 who lost their lives in car accidents had been drinking. This only means that to ensure safety on our roads; there shouldn’t be any measurable amount of alcohol in the young drivers’ bodies.

The conclusion which can be made from the above surveys are that: age correlated causes and experience, as well as drinking too heavily are crucial to the accident risk a driver is exposed to while in traffic. Studying these and trying to better reach young people and help them understand the risks in their behavior may someday result in lower accidents and crash-related deaths in younger drivers.

What is Your Life Insurance Policy Worth?

If you are someone who makes investments, then you likely check your accounts annually at the very least. You might even check your monthly or quarterly statements. There are even people who will check their accounts on a weekly or even daily basis. When it comes to life insurance though, most people are lucky to remember how much insurance they have, or even which type of insurance they have. Some people haven’t taken a second look at their policy since it was purchased.

According to Brian Greenberg, founder of True Blue Life Insurance, “It’s important to review your policy when something major happens to you that could have an effect on your coverage – whether it affects the cost, the amount of coverage you need, or who will be your beneficiary.” At the very least you should check your policy every few years. Things that can affect your policy including losing weight, quitting smoking, and having speeding tickets struck from your record. These can affect how much you pay in premiums and so they are valid causes for reviewing the policy. Of course, there are also times when you could find yourself getting much more money than you would before by reviewing your policy.

I have two clients; both of whom are aged 75 and married. I sold them both a $150,000 universal life policy over 20 years ago. The policies were priced in the same manner as twenty-year term insurance with the first 20 years coming with a guaranteed premium. After this 20th year, the premium would increase significantly. The clients were comfortable with this because they planned on having coverage for only those 20 years, and letting the policies taper off after that period.

I recently called up the husband and, after wishing him a happy birthday, discussed their policies that were on the verge of lapsing. I was aware that his wife was living in a nursing home now following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. He made it clear during our conversation that he wasn’t going to renew the policies and would just surrender them. I suggested to him that I could get an appraisal from a life settlement company, so that the policy of his wife could be sold rather than lapsing without value.

Ultimately, my client was able to sell that $150,000 life insurance policy for $65,000. Given that he would be getting nothing if the policy was to just lapse, he was ecstatic to be getting such a large amount of money. It would no doubt give him extra financial security during his retirement. These clients were also childless. If they had children they might have changed their minds, and it would certainly have changed my recommendations for them.

Most of the time it would be the right choice to keep your existing policy. That way your family will be able to benefit from the full death benefits. If you’re in a situation where you really don’t want to afford the premiums to keep your policy running, or you just feel that you no longer need life insurance, then you should at least consider what options you have. Give it some real thought and come to an informed decision about what to do next. In this situation, you can lose a lot of money through your ignorance. Imagine if the clients I discussed before had $1,500,000 in their policies. They would have been able to sell their policy for $650,000.

There isn’t any cash value to term insurance unfortunately. But, if you have a policy that comes with a conversion option, then you could still get value out of the policy with a life settlement transaction. A permanent policy will likely come with a cash surrender value as well as the death benefit. You should consider settling any permanent life insurance policy. This includes all forms of permanent life insurance such as whole life, universal life, variable universal life, and indexed universal life. If you have a permanent life policy then the only time you should consider selling the policy is if the money you get from selling the policy will be more than the current cash surrender value, otherwise you would just be down a lot of money.

A life settlement is typically a good idea if you are aged over 70 or you have a serious health issue. This is because having a shorter life expectancy will usually result in the life settlement transaction being worth more. There are requirements that a policy must meet in order to qualify for a life settlement transaction. This could be having more than a certain death benefit and being beyond the period of incontestability. How much your policy is worth in a life settlement is based on a range of factors. This is so that the annual premium needed to pay the rest of the policy based on assumptions and how much the policy is worth can be taken into account.

So, how much is your policy worth? If you fall under the criteria mentioned above, then you should understand the value of your policy before you make any decisions about what to do with it. If you don’t, then you could find yourself missing out on plenty of money.

The Importance of Self-Care in Parenting, and How you can Make Time for It

The command post behind the lines of a traditional war tended to be well stocked with good food and dry clothes. The reason for this isn’t because the command was selfish, or they felt they deserved it. It was because, if they were to suffer from low morale, then the entire war effort would suffer. The leaders making the major decisions needed to be at their very best at all times.

The same could be said of parenting. Parents are the commanders of the household. Chances are that you’re left run down by your children. The thought of good food and dry clothes is just a pipe dream to you.

When this happens to you, how do you think the little troops (your children) will do? If you aren’t doing well, then your children aren’t either. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s actually an important thing to do for the kids. Parents always feel guilty and have anxious feelings if they take a break from their families, but taking some time for yourself leaves you energised and ready to get back to doing what parents do best. Trying a blend of restful essential oils could do just the trick.

It’s very demanding to have to maintain the daily life in a home. It doesn’t leave you much in the way of time to have fun, relax, and just have a bit of downtime. You get burned out pretty quickly when you’re always on and waiting on your children. It leaves you feeling like everything is a chore. This is why you should start taking a regular day off. It could be asking your partner to take a day off from work to spend time with the kids, getting a family member to look after them for you, or even hiring a sitter for them. I know a couple who take days off and hit the golf course while there son is in school. What matters isn’t what you do, but that you do it.

I gave the idea a try myself after listening to a podcast about burnout and discouragement. I’m juggling a lot of things in my house. I stay at the house with a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old with ADHD, and I find myself writing while the kids sleep. My husband is in the US Army Reserves, drilling one weekend a month and for two weeks during the summer. He also works a regular job, working nights and weekends. He’s been deployed before, and we know it could happen again.

I told my husband I wanted to take one day a month off to myself. The first time I took a day off, I went out for a drive and explored a new town and the shops there. I was visited by my cousin the next month, and we went dancing. I felt a little too old for it, but she reminded me of how much I love dancing. I did have to take an electrolyte drink to keep up with her though. There was one month when I didn’t take a day off because my husband was out of town all month on a work assignment. Looking back, I really needed that day off.

Parents often miss the days off that they really need to take, whether it’s because their spouse has been deployed, someone died, or they’re going through a divorce. When there is extra stress involved it quickly drains you and leaves you vulnerable to developing l health issues . Make sure you sleep, eat, and move. Remember that you are the linchpin that keeps the family running. They need you.

So, what should you do when you take a day off? You should do something rejuvenating. Perhaps you could try on clothes ready for next season without the kids making you rush. Perhaps you could have a nice workout and then relax with a book in a coffee shop. Or perhaps taking a spa day with a friend is just what the doctor ordered.

What the doctor did not order is errands. You shouldn’t be trying to find a dry cleaner or a repairman during your day off, but there’s nothing wrong with leisurely picking up the groceries on the way home.

Studies show that anticipating a vacation is often just as psychologically rewarding as the vacation itself. This is a process known as “nexting”. You are left energised and ready for action when you know that you’re close to relief and relaxation.

Just think about having a day off for yourself. You should prioritise for yourself the same way you prioritise for your kids. You wouldn’t let your kids miss an appointment because of how much they mean to you. You need to prioritise your own needs just as much.

To help you feel better about taking a day off, remember that you aren’t doing something you used to do before you had kids. You’re regrouping and giving yourself a bird’s eye view of your life. Is there anything you should change?

Myself and a friend put down all of our responsibilities in the form of a stay-at-home-mom job description. Since then we’ve been looking at these responsibilities and tweaking them. Is there anything we could take out or add in, for the benefit of our kids, ourselves, and our house? It’s during my days off I think about these things.

All too often I fall into the trap of believing not being around my kids means I don’t love them. The truth is that I can lose the energy it takes to play with them when I’m worn out. I’m bored at the prospect of taking a walk, and I start snapping at them for being kids. You wouldn’t let some tired, run-down babysitter look after your kids. So why would you look after them in that state?

Here are five great ways you can re-energize:

  • Learn to Say No

You’ll lose less energy when you set limits on what you will and won’t do. Learn to say no to doing things that don’t serve you, and say yes to the things that replenish and fulfil you. It’s fine to say no when asked to do more volunteer work at the school, and say yes to having a dinner with friends.

  • Get Counselling

Don’t think it’s too soon to get help, whether you need help with a long-term issue, or something that recently happened in your life as a parent.

  • Get a New Hobby

Taking up a new hobby such as knitting, cooking, or even martial arts, is great. Not only does it benefit you but it sets a great example for the kids too. They’ll be more interested in trying new things if they see you doing it.

  • Set Goals

Give yourself a long-term goal to work towards – such as running 10 miles. That way you encourage yourself to make time each week to practice. This time is a great way to replenish.

  • Ask for Some Alone Time

Many women feel like they could do with a bit of solitude. Introverted people need different things from extroverted people to relax and refresh. Ask your partner if they can take the kids out for a bit to give you some alone time in the house.

  • Take Time With your Partner

You should take some time away with your partner whenever you get the chance to. If you can’t go away for a day or two, then just try to meet up for lunch. This gives you some alone time to focus on each other. Don’t underestimate the power of taking a break with your parenting partner. It’s good for you, your kids, and your relationship.

Military Parenting is Great!

The children of military parents have got opportunities that civilian kids never get!

Think about it. Military parents get to take their kids all over the United States as they are stationed for different assignments.

Do you know how many military camps in the United States are located within ten miles of the Atlantic Ocean? Twenty-one! And how many are located within ten miles of the Pacific Ocean? Sixteen!

Florida alone has got over two dozen military bases, where families can have fun in the sun all year round!

Military parents should definitely take their kids out on a family trip at least once a month. Even if you’re stationed in Minot, North Dakota, you aren’t stuck in the middle of ‘nowhere’. You’re within a hundred miles of the beautiful Turtle Mountains and the International Peace Garden at the Canadian border.

If you’re stationed in Tupelo, Mississippi, you can take your kids to the Tupelo Pony Races, held every year from May to September. Or rent a cabin on Lake Spencer to fish for the local ‘chaw daddies’ and whiskered catfish.

Get the idea? Wherever you and your family are stationed you’ll find interesting places to visit if you take the time and trouble. And then you’re kids will always have something to remember that can never be matched in a civilian family!

Post 911 Military Parenting

Military parents have a special duty to care for their children in a world that is becoming more and more threatening in many respects.

To do this, they need to cultivate a positive attitude that is sincere and coherent. Children are like mirrors, say psychologists; they reflect whatever they see, hear, or feel. While dealing with terrorists is now part of our military world, military parents must make sure that this constant state of alert does not become upsetting to their children.

This can be done mostly by attitude adjustments. No one should run around laughing and grinning all the time. But neither should they be constantly depressed or afraid. Prudent diligence is called for; and once that is established, it’s time to get back to having fun with your children; teaching them about life from your own experience; loving and hugging them just because they’re your kids, and for no other reason!

Try to fit just one more smile into your busy military life today. Spend just one more minute with your children at the beginning or the end of the day. Take one more opportunity to tell them you love them today.

It’s one of the best strategies we have to beat the terrorists!  

Using the New Parent Support Program

The New Parent Support Group is a military program for all military personnel who are pregnant and their spouse. It has its roots back in World War Two, when military authorities realized that young couples thrown into the maelstrom of war needed help in understanding their duties and responsibilities when it came to fostering new life.

Today the program is available at every major American military installation, and in places where it is not physically on site its programs and personnel can be accessed over the internet.

One of the most important aspects of the program is that helps new military parents find local support networks for things like medical care, post partum depression, financial counseling, breastfeeding, and other challenges that are unique to new parents.

Perhaps the most vital benefit of the New Parent Program is that it lets new parents in the military know that they are not alone, and that their emotional, physical, and spiritual needs can be met by trained experts who are just a few blocks away, or an email or phone call away.

To find the nearest New Parent Program to you, just go to Military Installations Locator and use the drop down menu to go to the New Parent Support Program.

Discipline for the Military Child

The military is all about discipline. One of the first things a soldier or sailor or marine learns in boot camp is to obey orders, instantly and without question.

But with children, it’s a different situation altogether! Their young minds are not yet ready to process very much information at once. So when you tell them to wash their hands before dinner, all they may understand is that it’s time for dinner. So they show up at the table with unwashed hands.They are not being disobedient; they are only being kids!

To help them understand discipline, it’s important to use repetition and echo. Repeat your request, calmly, for them to wash their hands first, and then ask them to repeat what you just told them to do. Praise them for being able to repeat an order, even a simple one. Once you establish this as routine, your children will become comfortable with it and learn to respond somewhat like a soldier or sailor by doing it (sometimes after a bit of prodding!) and without asking too many questions (don’t expect miracles!)

Military Families and Holiday Traditions

 

Parenting in the military is always a challenge, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done well, with a lot of fun and good memories to go along with it!i

With the holidays so near, it’s a good idea to work together to create some special traditions and memories for your children. Instead of focusing on a family member who has to be away for the holidays or the dangers and distractions of the military lifestyle, gather all the family members together for projects to help others at this time of year.

Gather food on your base for a local food shelf. Collect gently used blankets, mittens, hats, scarves, and purchase hygienic supplies like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and bars of soap, and  for a local homeless shelter. Make this a family holiday tradition for your children and they’ll soon be more excited about the warm feeling that comes from helping others than their delight in their own presents!

Helping Your Children Accept Deployment

Military families are called upon to make sacrifices that ordinary families never have to deal with.

One of the biggest challenges faced by military families is the constant possibility of deployment overseas, to be stationed somewhere that is too dangerous or inconvenient for your other family members.

This can be traumatic to military children if they are not educated and prepared for such an eventuality.

Don’t paint a picture of deployment as a difficult and tragic time for your family. Instead, encourage your children to be proud that they have a parent who is trusted enough by Uncle Sam to go overseas to help others in distress and protect our country’s safety.

Make sure your children know that you will not disappear completely from their lives once you are deployed. You’ll be able to write to them, email them, and probably even Skype to them as circumstances permit. Depending on the type and length of your deployment, you may even be granted family leave from time to time to come home and be with them. Assure them that the time will go by faster if they remain as positive about deployment as you are.

Educating Your Military Teen about Substance Abuse

 

The military has a traditional image as a hard fighting, hard drinking bunch. While everyone understands that this is pretty much just a Hollywood cliche, there are still too many cases of substance abuse in our armed forces.

This is certainly a challenge for parents raising a teenager in the military. Your first line of defence is to always keep channels open with your teenager(s). If they feel comfortable telling you about the stress and peer pressure they feel to use recreational and addictive substances you in turn can assure them that those pressures can be counteracted without becoming totally ‘uncool’.

Of course, if you yourself use tobacco, alcohol, or other recreational substances, you’ve got a tough row to hoe when it comes to convincing your teenager not to experiment. You have an obligation to your children to discontinue such unhealthy practices. At least show them you are trying to do so.

No matter what, it’s always going to be your example that is strongest in their minds and memories as they struggle to establish themselves in this challenging world we live in

Money Management for Military Teens

Military parents know that until they reach the upper ranks of command, the salary of a service man or woman remains modest and needs to be budgeted carefully.

This is especially true when there are teenagers in the house. They need to be taught the importance of wise money management to avoid the inevitable conflict that results when there’s too much month at the end of the money.

One of the best ideas for teaching military teens the importance of smart money management is to help them find part-time employment when they reach the appropriate age.

Help them set up their own savings and checking accounts once they have a job, so they can have their wages automatically deposited. This is a huge step for most teen, to have money in the bank instead of in their pockets where it inevitably starts burning a large hole.

Be patient with them; they’re bound to make some mistakes and go a little wild with those first few paychecks. But as they discover the consequences of poor money management, they’ll gradually learn the right way to use their hard-earned dollars to make their lives better — if not Rock Star glam!

 

Children and Religion in the Military

It’s important for your child to feel a sense of belonging while you are serving your country in the military.

Service men and women can take advantage of many different types of organizations to build relationships and a sense of belong, any of which can be a positive influence in military parenting.

But perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make as a military parent concerns the religious upbringing of your child. Studies show that children who identify with a specific religious group feel more secure and stable than those whose parents do not have any specific religious affiliation.

So give this some serious thought as you raise your children. If your parents had a religious affiliation, do you want to follow them? Or do you feel the need to explore other religions? Even if you are an agnostic, remember that your children are born with a sense of wonder and awe at the world around them — talk to one of your base chaplains to find a religious organization that can serve both your needs as an adult and your children’s innocent desires.

The Importance of Routine for Children

Sometimes military parents wonder if the massive amount of routine that they are subject to in their duties should be reflected at all in their children’s lives.

The answer is, yes; children do better when they are encouraged and trained to follow a set routine in daily life. Perhaps not to the extent of an adult member of the military, but certainly child experts agree that children grow confident and more creative when some routine is introduced into their lives starting at an early age.

Some simple routines to establish for children are:

Bedtime.

Hand washing before each meal.

Scheduled time reserved for family activities.

Household chores.

Doctor and dental checkups.

One of the biggest helps in establishing routines with your children is to map it all out on a large calendar that can then be put on the refrigerator door or some other open space. That way your children identify their name (usually the very first thing they learn to spell) with assigned routines that they know are their responsibility.

And finally, always make sure you praise your children for following the routines that are set for them. Make them feel it’s important and pleasing to you when they follow through on routine. That will help build an ingrained desire to have routines throughout the rest of their lives.