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Financial Literacy - Families and finances Click Here
Spending less, living more
Finance expert Ellie Kay says living rich is about making a positive contribution to the community.
Families and finances

Spotlight: Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay, an experienced skydiver and parasailer, shrugs off the danger associated with her risky pastimes by focusing on the rewards -- conquering fear and the exhilaration of freefall.

At a glance
Name: Ellie Kay
Hometown: Palmdale, Calif.
Education: Bachelor's degree, Colorado Christian University in Lakewood
Career highlights:
  • Best-selling author of 13 books, including "Living Rich for Less" and "A Woman's Guide to Family Finance."
  • Financial commentator for ABC's "Nightline," ABC's "Money Matters," Fox News' "Your World With Neil Cavuto," CNBC "Power Lunch," CNN, MSNBC, PBS and more than 800 television/radio stations.
  • Consumer finance educator and consultant to Fortune 500 companies including Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart.
  • Founder and CEO of "Heroes at Home World Tour" conferences.
  • Recipient of Dr. Mary E. Walker Award for outstanding volunteer service to the U.S. Army.
  • Co-founder of The Smart Woman's LifeStyle Conference.

Taking on unnecessary risk is not normally a trait associated with the staid world of personal finance, but Kay isn't your ordinary household finance wizard.

If there's a novel way to squeeze an extra dollar out of the household budget, chances are she's mastered it.

Fifteen years ago, things were different. Newly married and a stepmom to two children, Kay's family was mired in $40,000 of debt and squeaked by on a single military income provided by her husband, Bob, an Air Force pilot.

But rather than throw up her hands in defeat, Kay went on the offensive and shifted how the family consumed. Among other things, she became a coupon guru and bought used clothes for her kids at garage sales. Whenever the family came into "found money," Kay used it to pay down debt.

Her tricks she learned helped the family become debt-free in just two and a half years and she authored the book "Living Rich for Less."

For Kay, now a mother of seven, the lean years taught her important lessons. She spoke with Bankrate about the merits of volunteerism, why Americans should learn to live debt-free and why anyone would want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

How important is it for children to understand the fundamentals of financial literacy starting at an early age?

It's critical for children to be financially literate from a young age all the way up until the time that they graduate from college. With our own children, we've seen how important it is for our children to have an understanding of finances, a good work ethic, understanding credit, etc.

If you look at the No. 1 reason for divorce today, it's cited as arguments over finances. If we teach our children financial literacy, not only are we helping them on a practical level in life, but we may actually help them preserve some of their future relationships. They'll be less likely to argue about money in their own relationships or their marriage.

Should financial literacy be part of the school curriculum?

Yes, I believe that it ought to be taught in schools and that the kids should have the option of learning that.

-- Posted: July 21, 2009
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