Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Tale of Two Congressmen

Last week was a crazy busy week for me. Not only was I working in DC/MD for YRF but I was also there for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. Being a part of both organizations and being able to pay our blessings forward is just indescribable. I had one of the busiest, yet amazing weeks last week and I just have to tell the tale of the two Congressmen I met.

Tuesday night I was invited to a dinner. Floating around me were some huge names that have a big effect on the Department of Defense. Also in attendance was a Congressman. I did not go out of my way to introduce myself, but once he heard my husband was wounded I had his undivided attention. He wanted to know all about our family. Then he asked me if I knew a few Marine and Army families that he had met. He knew them all by name as well as their family members. Then I learned he knew one of my favorite families, the McConnell family. His Chief of Staff joined in our conversation and we all shared some of our favorite moments we had had with that family. What a gift it was that we could all be brought together because we had a great family in common. That moment made my heart smile.

Then he told me a story about how Walter Reed wouldn't let him on post to see the wounded one time. His staff had been trying for days and finally he called himself. He told me how important it was to him to meet as many of our families as possible. Then when chatted about the VA and he felt our frustration and then assured me questions would be answered. You could tell how much he cared for our veterans and their families.

Not even 48 hours later I was on Capitol Hill. I went with another Dole Fellow and had two great meetings with the staff members of our two Tennessee Senators. Then I went and had two meetings Tennessee Representatives. The first one went really well, but the second meeting was not how I wanted to end my day.

Monday I noticed a Tennessee Representative boarding the same plane. He recognized me and we had that "how do I know you" moment. I informed him that he met Chaz and I back in 2011 and that Chaz had been wounded. He then asked what was I heading to DC for and I told him. He then told me to call his office and set up a meeting with him. I relayed that information to the Dole Foundation and they set it up.

When I got to his office for our meeting, he was not there. I was perfectly fine meeting with his staff. So I did. A few minutes into our conversation the Congressman appeared. He looked at me with a less than thrilled look and said "Are we going to do this?" His staffer jumped up and I sat for a second. The staffer asked me to join him. We went to the Congressman's office. I could tell the Congressman was in a foul mood, but I was not prepared for the hostile conversation that was going to take place.

I gave him the folder with information about the Dole Foundation and the bill Senator Murray was introducing. He picked up the folder and put it down and then asked me, "Do you actually understand how things get funded around here?" It was in such a hateful tone that I sat back in my chair and said, "No, please enlighten me." (He didn't like that.) I was given a cliff notes version on how a bill becomes a law, which School House Rock does a much better job of doing. He was so flippant and rude that I am still in shock that any person would speak to another like that.

Then he asked me why was all of this so important and I told him about caregivers like myself and what all we do. Then he says, "But how is your husband's care at the VA?" I told him fine because we go to the Murfreesboro VA, but the system of processing was a nightmare. He quickly told me that, "If you are fine with your VA care in Tennessee that is all I care about. I have 540,000 Tennesseans without health care because of medicare cuts that I need to focus on."

Then he asked where our kids go to school. I told him we home school. He had an appalled look on his face. He then informed me we have some of the best schools in the state of Tennessee. I asked him when was the last time he sent a child through our school system. He didn't answer that but told me that Nashville had two of the country's best high schools. I told him I am very aware of MLK and Hume Fogg and I am also aware of the lottery that you chooses if your kids attend that school. He didn't like that.

Then he said "If there's nothing else, I should move on with my day." I told him that was a great idea.

And I voted for him......It will NEVER happen again. I am pretty upset that I wasted my previous votes on that jerk. I understand that as a Congressman you have a lot of irons in the fire. I understand you are representing the people. I understand that picking issues is important and also difficult. But how in the Hell can you look at a constituent and tell her that you only care about the treatment her husband gets.

Our veterans are our national treasures and their caregivers are the hidden heroes that help them heal everyday from the wounds of war. It doesn't matter what state they reside in, you should care about them all. I know I do!

One thing I have learned from my week in DC is I now know where to invest my time. It's sad to say that I will not spend anymore time on the man I voted for and he lost my future votes. And I find it interesting that people I cannot vote for value my opinion and are still in touch with me. I have always loved politics, heck my degree is in it. (So yes, I do actually know how bills become laws and so on.) I am more invested now than I ever thought I would be. I just pray that as my life moves on, I will never become as flippant as the man I voted for.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Behind the Picture....

I had to laugh when I saw that ABC News used this picture. There is such a great story behind it. This picture was actually one of the best days of our healing after our OIF PTS (Post-Traumatic Stress). To me it is a snapshot of a victory for us.

Chaz was in Iraq September 2005-06. That deployment was Hell, I mean Hell for us. That was the deployment that tried to take my husband, in more than one way. Chaz lost over 30 guys in that year. His friend Mac was killed and the "Green Incident" occurred. It really was a true breaking deployment for us. Chaz was battling everything there and I had a baby with every baby thing a baby could get and a 3 year old with almost uncontrollable asthma that at one point required breathing treatments every other hour for over 24 hours.

I remember noticing on his R&R he was different, but those 2 weeks flew by so it wasn't enough time to really see the difference. No the difference came home in September 2006.

My fun, silly husband was this angry, jumpy man I didn't recognize. He barked orders at us and got mad when the simplest things didn't go his way. I couldn't stand to be around him a lot of times. Cutie #1 screamed in his face all the time. Life was rough then. Worst of all, if you asked for help from the Army then, you were cast out like damaged goods. We knew we were on our own to figure it all out.

I fought for our marriage. I remember one day I told Chaz I wasn't leaving and that we were going to figure this all out and we needed time to do so. It was a day when he barked orders at me like I was his soldier. I just lost it.

Well the answer to us was moving, we needed a fresh start. But the Army locked us into Campbell so we were stuck. A Senior NCO got Chaz an interview with the NCO Academy. It was a long shot because his rating NCOs has crushed him with a Bronze Star denial and horrible NCOERs (performance reviews) all thanks to the "Green Incident" that he and so many others in the platoon had nothing to do with but they were sure getting messed up for it.

To make matters worse, we couldn't escape the Green Incident. Every time we turned around someone was talking about Green or Chaz was being called to testify. One day I lost it on the lawyer who showed up on our door step to ask us questions about everything. I slammed the door in her face and told her, to give Green back to Iraq and let them figure it out. No she never came back to our home. Yes I was rude and she was only doing her job. but I was just at my end with the Green case. I just wanted to put it all behind us.

We needed a fresh start, but the Army wouldn't let us leave Campbell. So we bought a new house in Clarksville in 2007. Then Chaz worked his ass off to get into the NCO Academy. That work paid off and he was invited to be an instructor. His schedule was 15 days on 4 days off, but he finally was able to spend time with us. And thanks to the Academy we finally had Federal holidays together and 2 weeks of leave every 6 months. I finally had my husband more than a few hours at night thanks to the Academy. Don't get me wrong those 15 days straight were rough, but time flew by and before we knew it another 15 day cycle was behind us.

During this time Chaz started dating me again. We had to find the times where it was just us. We had to find those places where we could find those kids who fell in love before 9-11 changed everything.

Chaz started "dating" Cutie #1. Their relationship was so strained we thought Daddy-Daughter dates would help a lot and they did. But Cutie #1 had a lot of resentment towards the Army. She was so smart even back then. She knew where Daddy's anger came from. She would talk to someone in civilian clothes, but not in uniform. She related Daddy's anger to the uniform. It was something else we knew we had to work on.We would have friends come over and get to know her without uniforms, then when they were in uniform she seemed to accept them. We had to ease her into knowing the uniform was just clothes. We even had to have Chaz change immediately when he got home to ease her stress.

Cutie #2 was only 2 when we moved and started over. Chaz had a blank slate with her. This might explain why they are so close even today. #2 showed Chaz a lot of love just for being present and he really needed that.

Two years later in August 2009, Chaz's term at the Academy ended. He worked so hard at healing our family and being a great instructor, he won NCO of the Cycle 4 times and then won the MG Aubrey "Red" Newman Award (the one around his neck in the picture). But this picture of Cutie #1 hiding is so funny. We tried to get a family picture again and again. But every soldier in the room was standing and applauding Chaz that made the girls panic. You see Cutie #1 is hiding in our legs and #2 is holding blankey and Doug as tight as possible with that thumb in her mouth. Chaz and I were laughing. They just did not understand what was going on. It was so stinking cute.

It was a very great day for us. We committed those two years to our family. Chaz went from bad NCOERs to winning awards. We learn that for us surviving PTS meant investing in our family's love. Are we healed? No, I really don't think you ever are fully healed from PTS. I think you learn how to cope.

Chaz and I think we have handled healing from his physical injuries so well because we already fought with PTS and won. We know how to respond to PTS when it rears its ugly head and know how to minimize the damage it can cause. Our battle with PTS is so very far from over, but we the love and support of each other we are ready to battle and win every time!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kids and Money in the School Years (SMSK Post #5)

Every parent has had that chat about "Well (fill-in-the-blank) has it." I remember having a conversation with both of our girls while they were in Kindergarten about cell phones. There were kids in their classes with cell age 5......still blows my mind today. Our girls just didn't understand why if that kid had it and their parents bought it for them, why wouldn't we buy it. We realized when Cutie #1 got to Kindergarten we had to have a new approach.

Neither one of our girls understood the concept of money in Kindergarten, but they understood saving and earning. The Responsibility Chart had worked very, very well. But our girls needed something else. We had to figure out a new approach for our girls....enter the marble jar.

Kids are visual learners. We needed something that would show what "adding up the good and taking away for bad" would look like. I love to make jellies and canning during the summer months, so I grabbed two pint jars and used some marbles we had. We decided the girls would get 5 marbles a day. If they were great and did everything that was asked then they kept all five marbles. If they were disrespectful we took a marble. If they didn't clean their rooms, we took a marble. If they didn't help around the house, we took a marble. And yes we had days when we dipped into the jar for number 6. Once the girls filled up the jar they earned $5. They also had to have a goal for that $5. So we would do some saving research along the way. It took a while to earn that $5 so don't think we were passing out $5 bills on weekly basis.

It may seem cheap of us to only pass out $5 for a full jar, but seriously think about it. With a school schedule, dance and girl scouts, we were not going shopping on a weekly basis. The jar allowed them to have a target goal and gave me just enough time to encourage hard work with a relatively fast rate of return for the girls. Most of the things they wanted were "two jars full" so it worked out very, very well.

When Chaz was hurt the jar went out the window, the girls were 8 and 5 at the time. I am sure you can imagine a lot of things changed when he was injured. Once our lives got into our "new normal" we knew we had to begin a new plan. Our girls were older now. Unfortunately Chaz's injuries forced us all to grow up a lot, but it did force our girls, especially Cutie #1, into maturity. Chaz and I had to look for a more mature plan that would work for our family now. We decided to set up a real world scenario for the girls that would go right along with their homeschool education.

We wanted the girls to earn, give, spend and save. I hunted around pinterest and google and discovered this chart. We decided it could work very well in our home. We decided we had to go a little farther with the chart so out came the Allen house ground rules.
  1. We will not pay you if you do not complete your responsibilities. We expect you to clean up after yourself and be a team player in this home.
  2. We will decide on tasks that are eligible for commission together as a team. We do encourage you to think outside our chart and look for other payable opportunities. 
  3. There will be fines for bad behavior. Think of us as the police on the highway, you go too fast and we will give you a ticket. (In our home, this is really about disrespectful language and attitude). 
  4. If you are bragged on by a stranger for your behavior or helpfulness that is an immediate $1 bonus. You never know who is watching so you want to always be your best. 
  5. Random acts of kindness will also be rewarded with $1. So think about how you can bless someone else. 
  6. You will put back 10% into savings and 10% will go to giving. You will decide what you give to, but you will give. 
  7. You have to remind the bank to pay you. Sometimes the bankers will forget it is Sunday.
  8. You must keep your ledger up to date. If you don't then you will lose your debit card. 

This is one of our charts. We laminated it so we could use it again and again. When they forget to remind the bank for money then they are allowed to erase the 1 and make a 2, 3 or 4. Eventually they remind the bank on a Sunday that money is due. ;)

Now a few of you caught number 8 are thinking whaaaaat?! Yes our girls each have debit cards. Yes our girls are 8 and 11 and they have had the cards for a while now. Let me tell you they do a pretty darn good job of keeping up with those cards.

Why cards? Why not cash? Well I am busier than a one-armed paper hanger (little bit of the South coming out there.) I do not carry cash and I forget all the time to get cash. So yes our girls have pre-paid debit cards. The best part is they cannot overspend. If they try to buy something and there's not enough money on the card, then they have to put it back. When pay day comes I simply have to log into our accounts and transfer the money to their cards after they have balanced their ledgers. When they get cash for their birthday, they give it to me and I put it on the card. If they lose the card, I report it lost and have another one sent. We've been doing this for two years now and I have never had to replace their cards.

Our girls have addition and subtraction down so why not make them use it. We make them keep a ledger of all of their transactions. We make them balance their books and make them stay in charge of their personal finance. They are mature enough to handle it, so why not let them handle it.

You know what the coolest part has been....we make them save 10% and they both save so much more. Deryn saved enough to buy herself an iPod touch. It was almost $300 and she saved that money in just a few months. And she knows where that iPod is at all times. We did buy her an otterbox as a birthday present to protect her investment, but other than that they now buy all of their wants.

Will our chart and plan work in every household? No, it will not. Every home is different. Like parenting, personal finance is not one size fits all. You have the overall concepts, but really you have to take the small details and personalize them to a plan that works for your home. Maybe cash works better for you? Maybe your kids need to stay with the marble jar longer than our crew. These are all decisions your home will need to make. The most important thing you learn about all of this is you need to start talking to your cuties about money now....not at!!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids Post #4 (Kids and money in the early years. introducing the early concepts. )

How in the world do you start talking money with your kids? We feel you first have to introduce delayed gratification and responsibility to them. How do you do that? Well let me tell you what we did.

You are constantly presented with opportunities to introduce delayed gratification and responsibility to your cuties as they grow. The first time I really think you can introduce both concepts is during potty training. I remember having a bag of dum dum pops here. Cutie #1 went #1 on the potty she got a sucker.

Then we introduced the star chart. Every time she went potty she got a star, then when she went 5 times and put her 5 stars on the chart she got a sucker. Then we had the dry all day goal, she stayed dry all day and then she got to go pick out big girl undies. (Yes she still earned her stickers and suckers.) Then when she went a week without using a pull-up she got to go get another pack of big girl undies. See what is going on here. We made a goal and we worked together to get there and she was rewarded, but not instantly. Therefore she learned the concept of delaying gratification.

Both of our cuties were under 2 when we started the potty dance. I think that because we gave them a goal to focus on they were able to potty train very quickly. And no we did not force potty training on them, but we did encourage it and those dum dum pops and star stickers sure did help.

Once we achieved the potty goal, we had to have a new goal, so I bought a Responsibility Chart. We started small with easy things like using your manners and picking up your toys. On Sundays the chart was wiped clean and we would introduce new responsibilities. On Sunday before we cleared the board, we would look and count smiles. If the cutie earned 10 smiles or more during the week, she earned a trip to the Treasure Box. For every multiple of 10 she earned a treat. So if she had 20 smiles she got 2 treats from the box. In other words the more she earned, the more she was rewarded. Get it? The harder she worked, the more she earned.

"Ohhhh the Treasure Box, what's that?" Many of our cuties' friends have been inside the Treasure Box. It is only available to children who are helpful and kind. I always extended the Treasure Box option to friends who were responsible, polite and helpful while visiting our home. It helped me not have to clean up all sorts of messes after cutie play time. (Every Momma knows exactly what I am talking about here.)

What is the Treasure Box? It is an old filing box I had that I dumped suckers, smarties and various little things into (think party favors, oriental trading, or the Target dollar section during 75% off time). We kept it very simple and affordable and fun.

In their book, Dave and Rachel suggest that you can start paying your children commission as young as 3. I agree that is totally accurate for some households, but not accurate for this one. I can tell you in this house our cuties would have rather had the Treasure Box then have cash. Cash would have been lost in the room somewhere or even ripped up during play time. So for this house the cash option wasn't an option during the early years.

I truly think that you have to do what works for your home. Every house operates differently. The important thing to get out of all of this is that you have to start talking about money with your kids yesterday. If they are too little to understand money, then introduce them to the concepts of delayed gratification and responsibility. If you develop those concepts then they will be more prepared for handling money when the time comes.

When does that time come?! I'll share when we did what here on my next post. ;)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids Post #3 WORK

I love the title of Chapter 2--"Work is NOT a Four-Letter Word." It made me laugh. The truth does that sometimes, right?!

We are living in a culture of "work smarter, not harder." Well I say why not do both?! You really can if you try.

I worked for H&R Block for 7 years. The Block office model consisted of greeters, filers, preparers, transmitters and list could keep going. I worked in one of the smallest stores in Nashville for the majority of my years with Block. We only had that list of people during peak week. Even then we really didn't need all of those people in our small office. We were a small team of folks, but we had this amazing work smart and hard bond. We were fair and we all took our turns doing the long list of jobs that were delegated to one person at the bigger stores. I will never miss H&R Block, but I will always miss the team I had at that little store. We were a family of tax preparers. We never delegated who did what, no we all learned all the jobs and we did them without asking. Everyone in that office worked smart and hard and that is what made our office so successful.

I was moved out of the office my last year at Block. My brain thinks like a robot when processing tax returns it is the weirdest thing. Home Office Block loved that I could key in a tax return from start to finish in 3 minutes without an error. However I was actually called into that new office by the manager one day and was told to please take at least 5 minutes to process the returns. I asked why and was told I made those who had been there longer look bad. I was told that the Senior preparers complained that I was doing too many returns. I was even accused of "stealing a client," when really the lady was tired of waiting for that preparer.

I can testify that office did not want to work. The manager didn't even want to work. Everyone stayed in their lane and stuck to their job description, but then complained about things not getting done. I cannot tell you how many times people would be sitting down doing nothing and then whining about something that they could do themselves not getting done. The thing that killed me was if those things were all done correctly then we had a happier office and our productivity would increase. This is what my small office taught me. But in the large office it was not seen that way. Many of the people in that office were just riding the clock to get that hourly wage. But I knew the was called work!

Here's the thing about Block, you have a base salary and then you have the chance to earn commission. Guess what drove me to increase my speed, work harder and work smarter.....that's right that one word.....commission. The more tax education classes you took, the more you were paid. The more tax returns you processed, the more you were paid. You had to work for that commission and boy did I. I always had a nice check at the end of the season and so did my friends at the smaller office. Yes, the employees of the large office only received small checks if anything at all. Why?! Because they didn't want to work. They didn't want to get to the next level, they wanted to sit and collect that hourly wage.

I laughed a few times during this chapter, so many events in my life made me look at that word work and think about others. My years at Block, my years waiting tables and now my years of working in the non-profit community all made me reflect on how others really view work as a four letter word. Well in this house work becomes a five letter!

Like the Ramsey family, we do not offer allowances to our girls. We offer commission. Why?! Because why in the world should I pay you for existing? No one pays me for existing. We have told our girls we allow you to live in this house and eat our food. That is the only allowance you will get from us.

Working for Block was eye opening for me. I had only had hourly paid jobs before. I waited tables and I always had nice tips, but Block was where I really learned about commission. I really learned about working harder and smarter through my 7 years there. Now I run my own tax company and I love it. What do I love the most about it? I love being an in-home example of hard work to our girls.

Our girls are learning first hand what commission really is. They see me working like crazy during tax season balancing a full-time job, caring for them and their father, homeschooling and then preparing taxes and financially counseling other families.Yes our girls have a tax season grumble. And yes they love April 16th as much as I do! And yes we usually celebrate April 16th. ;)

We have sat the girls down a few times and explained that the harder I work the more money comes into our home. The more money we have at our disposal, the more things we can go and do. This idea also extends to them. We pay them for their assistance around our home. Chaz is very limited on where and when he can help. But if they help him, they are all helping our family. If they help me help him we will reward them with money. How in the world do we do that and when did we start?! I will lay all of that out tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids (Post #2-Comparing the Ramsey and Allen Household Set Up)

Like Rachel Cruze, I have never personally gone broke. Why? Because I watched devastation happen right in front of my eyes. I don't remember as much about my parents divorce as my older siblings do. I do remember not wanting for anything and then, what seemed so sudden, having to find my own income for everything. I remember living in a house I loved, then being told "we lost the house" and helping move my mother and myself to an apartment that was one-half of one story of our previous home. I remember getting almost everything I asked for and then taking a summer job pulling tobacco in a field of at friend's family farm. Poor pitiful me, right?! WRONG!!

I was blessed to learn about money in my teenage years. I hated dipping that tobacco, but boy I loved that money. I hated going to high school full-time and then working full-time, but I loved being able to go and do things with my friends. Not only did I love buying things for myself, I loved seeing the stress it took off of my mother. She worked so hard to provide for me and I loved being able to help take some of the burden off of her shoulders. What some would see as poor pitiful me, I see as the seeds that made me who I am.

Like Rachel I grew up in a home of money-learning. I learned from the mistakes of my parents. I learned that credit is not your best friend. You cannot depend on him, he will stab you in the gut the first time he gets a chance and then he'll laugh at your failure and charge you insane fees for thinking about laughing at him. I learned that anything you truly want you will earn. I learned that jealously truly is counting other people's blessings rather than counting your own. I learned a lot from those mistakes and I am thankful every day that my parents went through them and I learned from them.

In their book, Rachel talks about families coming and screaming "We're Debt FREE" for the Dave Ramsey show. We have been debt free except for our house for a long time, since we were 23 actually. Now I want to get completely debt free and take our girls there to Dave's studio and scream into that microphone and plant that seed in their heads and hearts. I want to plant a seed that will help not only them, but our generations after them. We have already planted some very valuable seeds in our girls, but we want to plant more. Luckily many ideas that we have instilled into them have simply come from being a military family.

We were married at 22 and we decided then we would always budget on one income only. Why is that? Well it's called PCS and TDY. That's Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty. You never know where the military will send you and your spouse has NO guarantees of a transferable job or license. I have a college degree, that was the kiss of death in 2001. When I tried to get jobs around Ft Campbell, I was "overqualified" or "over-educated" for every job. But what that really meant was we don't want to pay you more than we have to since you are an Army wife and you might move. So we budgeted on Chaz's E4 income only. And let me tell you, it wasn't a lot, but it was enough.

I finally got a job working at a Sonic where I would quickly rise up and become the General Manager. We took all of my paycheck and saved it and paid bills with Chaz's. At that time we had rent, utilities, car payment, student loans and credit cards. But we took my check and saved up enough to put a down payment on a home. We saved a bit there because the house was cheaper than our rent. And in the same weekend we closed on the house, we discovered God was blessing us with cutie #1. Then God laughed and I was fired from my job for missing an audit that September. Guess where I was.....yes, in labor with cutie #1.Where was Chaz? Yup, he was in Korea. It was not a happy time for us. It was actually a dark and stressful time, but we look back now and we can show you how God worked it all out for us.

After a lot of tears and frustration I made a plan. What did I do? I had a delightful chat with the Department of Labor. My employer and I settled out of court (Thank you FMLA) for enough to pay off all of our bills except for the house. Then I took at job at H&R Block to earn some fun money for us and we needed it. I remember specifically working for 2 weeks to afford a plane ticket to bring Chaz home for a visit from Korea. Oh yes back in the day the Army did not pay for R&R, even if they were in a hazardous duty zone on an unaccompanied tour. Oh yes, I remember it well!

Even though Chaz was an E4, we still qualified for WIC and Food Stamps. And you'd be shocked to learn not much has changed since 2001. A large amount of our service members still qualify for public assistance because yes, their income is still that low. Here's the WIC link and here's the Army Pay Scale so you can compare. Chaz and I refused to take public assistance. We felt I could and should work and we should leave that assistance to the other families who couldn't work.

Then after 7 years at Block, I decided to work from home and start my own tax preparation company. Cutie #1 had started school and Cutie #2 was big enough for pre-school. Chaz had already deployed once and was gone every time we turned around. We wanted one of us there for everything Cutie #1 and #2 needed.

In 2008, we took $1,500 from our fun money account. (It's known as the S&G fund here, S&G for Sh!ts & Giggles. Please remember we are military, curse words are adjectives to us in our acronyms.) We invested that $1,500 very wisely and do you know I made back our investment in week one of tax season?! I am pleased to report that last year I served 125 clients through my little business that was started on $1,500 cash with no debt years ago.

Over the course of our marriage, after we saved up our emergency fund, we did add a new bill to our lives....our Roth IRAs. We treat our retirement savings like a bill. That bill has to be paid. No one is going to fine us, but we will be fining ourselves by not funding our IRAs every year. Chaz and I are not getting any younger or cuter and we really want to enjoy the later years of our lives together. How do we get there? We plan for the future in the past! We feel the best gift we can give the girls is us taking care of ourselves. We do not want them to have to support us so we have made plans to avoid that.

What are we doing today? I still run my tax prep company, but I was blessed in 2012 to be offered at job at the Yellow Ribbon Fund as the Director of the Family Caregiver Program helping families just like ours. Chaz medically retired in 2013 and now I am the primary wage earner. Our roles have been somewhat reversed, but we are all loving how faith has worked things out for us.

What are we doing as retirees now versus active duty then? Well everything is budgeted on my income only instead of his. Yes we took our military life style philosophy and flipped it to my side. Or as Chaz's refers to it...."The Sugar Momma Plan has been activated."

Over the past few years we have learned the government offers a lot for our veterans, but sometimes those offers come with so much red tape you cannot see the offer. And so many times you have to pay for it and wait for reimbursement, then denial, then more red tape and then silence. And if you notice the benefits of our veterans and their families are always on the chopping block for Congress. So we will remain an one income budget home for the foreseeable future. We feel it just has to be that way. We feel we cannot depend on the government to live up to it promises to take care of our severely wounded. Yes we feel we must take care of ourselves. Our S&G fund has become the "oh crap what now" fund. And yes this fund is separate from the emergency fund.

Our current adventure is trying to build an adaptive house for Chaz. Right now we are on the beans and rice diet-and you aren't getting it unless you need it-savings plan. Like the Ramsey's and their "Sharon's Kitchen has the best food in town," I am blessed the Allen's think Jessica's kitchen is the best.

Do we involve the girls in financial talks about the home? We absolutely do! We have walked them through the needs and wants of this new home. We have a lists for both. The girls are on our team here. Team Allen requires all four families members' participation to be successful. How did we develop this team? Well I'll save that for another post! ;)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Smart Money, Smart Kids (Post #1)

Several weeks ago I stumbled upon a new book that was to be released. I found a link to a survey that asked, "Would you want to read this book early and review it?" The book was Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze's Smart Money, Smart Kids. So yes, yes I filled out the survey and threw my hat in the ring. And guess what....I was one of the 157 who were chosen. Woot-woot!!

In between my March Madness basketball games, I knocked the book out quick. Like I read the entire thing in just a few hours. I didn't want to put it down. And yes, yes it was that good. I found it to be a quick, easy and fun read. I laughed quite a bit while reading the book.

I have to confess, this was the first Dave book I have read. I love his show and have listened for a long time, but I have never read one book. Chaz and I were debt free before we found Dave. We have used his principles without even knowing it. I have sent dozens of clients down his path. I have even bought them books. However I have yet to read the other books. I will tell you that reading this book makes me want to grab The Legacy Journey and make it my next read.

This book has both Dave and Rachel telling what it was like to be raised as a Ramsey. I loved seeing the Ramsey life from the eyes of both the parents and the child. And I had to laugh at how many things went on their house that have been going on in ours for a long time. I guess great minds really do think alike!

I was asked that once I finish the book that I blog about it. Well I have decided to begin with a general, yes I liked the book post. Yes, you should go pre-order the book here. In my next few blogs, I will provide some overview of the topics and let you know what it's like to be an Allen versus a Ramsey growing up. I think my military friends will really appreciate me taking this a step farther. We all know that being a military family is an anomaly and we sometimes cannot use the civilian way of thinking in our homes. I will take Dave and Rachel's ideas and show you how we have done and will do things in this house. ;)