Challenge Yourself to Save Money

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

Aside from making a New Year’s resolution, there is perhaps no better time for military families to save money than April. If they are early tax filers, a tax refund may be coming or may have already arrived. In addition, big winter home heating bills are in the rear view mirror and, ideally, lingering holiday credit card bills too.

Photo by Steven Depolo
Photo by Steven Depolo

What’s the best way for military families to save money? There is no one right answer. Automatic payroll deductions work well for many people, For example, they have deposits into a credit union account or Thrift Savings Plan retirement savings automatically taken out of their paycheck, before they spend it. Other people do well saving loose change in a jar and depositing it periodically in a savings account as the jar fills up.

A third way to save money is to complete a savings challenge that gradually ramps up deposits. While many people start these challenges during the first full week of January, as a New Year’s resolution, they can be started in April or at any other time. Another option is to make a “catch up deposit” in April, perhaps using tax refund money, and then complete a calendar year challenge from that point forward until the end of December.

Below is a description of four different savings challenges and how they operate:

The 52-Week Money Challenge– Perhaps the oldest of the money challenges (original source unknown) that are all over social media, especially in January, this challenge begins with a $1 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $1 per week and reaches $52 during the final week of the Challenge (Week #52), with total savings of $1,378. Some people have suggested doing the 52-Week Money Challenge in reverse. Some people have more money in January (e.g., from holiday gifts or a year-end bonus at work) than they do in December, which tends to be a very expensive month for many people with holiday gifts and travel. The “reverse challenge” strategy is also very motivating. After five weeks, you already have $250 saved. A third way to do the 52-Week Money Challenge is to pick an amount each week that you can afford (e.g., $25 one week and $16 the next) and complete the challenge in any order. Tracking forms are available at

http://walton.ifas.ufl.edu/fcs/files/2014/01/52-Week-Money-Challenge.pdf

https://www.affinityplus.org/Portals/0/Documents/Blog/52Week.pdf

https://www.lgfcu.org/sites/default/files/docs/52week_challenge.pdf

The 52-Week Youth Money Challenge– I created this challenge for parents to use with their children. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/52-week-money-challenge-for-youth0315. Weekly savings deposits are 10 weeks each of $1, $2, $3, $4, and $5, resulting in $150 of savings. Week #51 is an optional $25 from birthday gifts and Week #52 is an optional $25 from holiday gifts ($200 total). There is also an option for parents to provide a 50% ($100) match of their child’s savings, resulting in total annual savings of $300.

The 15-Week Money Challenge– I created this challenge for high school and college students and adults with short-term financial goals. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/15-week-college-student-money-challenge0715. The Basic Challenge includes five weeks of $10 savings, five weeks of $20 savings, and five weeks of $30 savings, resulting in a total accumulation of $300. The “Hard Core” Challenge starts with a $10 weekly deposit and ramps up the savings deposit by $5 per week for a final deposit of $80, resulting in a total accumulation of $675. The 18 students in my Fall 2015 Rutgers University Personal Finance class took the challenge as an initial pilot test and collectively saved almost $6,000 over the course of the semester.

The $2,500 Savings Challenge– I created this challenge to ramp up the amount saved from the 52-Week Money Challenge. I also like round numbers. Hence, the $2,500 savings goal. See http://www.slideshare.net/BarbaraONeill/50-week-2500-savings-challenge. The challenge begins with a $2 deposit during Week #1. The weekly deposit rises by $2 per week and reaches a high of $98. There are two weeks “off” at a saver’s discretion and a $50 deposit is made during the final week of the Challenge (Week #50), with total savings of $2,500. Like the 52-Week Money Challenge, the $2,500 Savings Challenge can be done forward, backward, or in any order that works for individual savers.

Want to save money for future financial goals? Challenge yourself and/or your children to save by completing one of the four savings challenges described above. For more information about the benefits of saving money, visit http://articles.extension.org/pages/8634/financial-security:-saving-and-investing and http://www.americasaves.org/.

 

More than Words: The Role Communication Plays in a Relationship

By Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Couple talking in restaurant
Flickr [Talk by Karsten Bitter, September 11, 2011, CC BY-ND 2.0]
I love you. Certainly a common phrase used in relationships. But, does it mean the same thing to everyone who delivers and receives it? In the 1970’s, it was Gregory Bateson who taught us about meta-communication, the idea that communication is so much more than just the words we speak [1]. We all communicate with each other all the time, even if we don’t ever utter a single word.

Now, let’s go back to I love you. Here are a couple of scenarios to consider:

  • Joe and Tina have been married for 10 years. Tina often tells Joe that she loves him. She tells him before they go to bed and when they are both leaving for work. She tells him when they hang up the phone from each other and via emails and texts. But when Tina and Joe are together, Tina rarely has any interaction with Joe. She spends most of her time on her phone texting or making calls and often spends time alone in her favorite room in their house. When Joe tries to hug or kiss Tina, she often acts as though she is inconvenienced by this interaction and will effortlessly hug or kiss him back so that she can quickly go back to what she was previously doing.
  • Now, think about Elizabeth and Ben. They have also been married for 10 years.  Ben tells Elizabeth that he loves her often. Just like Tina and Joe, before bed, when they’re leaving for work, before hanging up the phone, and via emails and text messages. But when they are home together, Elizabeth and Ben hold hands often and talk to each other about work and personal things. They often laugh together and enjoy working on projects in their home as a team.

Although both couples use the same phrase at the same frequency and in the same situations, do you think it means the same for both couples? What is the meta-communication that is happening during these interactions? Obviously, with Tina and Joe, the message and meta-message are not the same. What Tina is saying to Joe with her words does not match what Tina is saying to him with her actions. But, Elizabeth is receiving the physical messages the same way that she is receiving the verbal messages Ben is sending.  So, what does all of this mean? This means that while we understand the importance of communicating with one another, we really need to understand that the ways in which we communicate are much better received when all of the modes we use are aligned. If we experience more relationships with communication similar to Tina and Joe’s, we find ourselves confused and frustrated. Imagine where that can take a relationship.

It’s easy to see how relationships can be greatly impacted by the contradicting messages being conveyed within. It’s also easy to see why some couples will say in therapy that they are not communicating well with each other, when it may appear on the outside that they are communicating just fine. But, when a therapist watches the body language and pairs it with the words spoken, the disconnect may become more apparent.

Now what do we do with this information? While it is much easier said than done, I think it’s important that we slow down and spend more time thinking about how and what we are trying to communicate with others. While there is still possibility for some conflictual communication, being more cognizant of both messages and meta-messages may help relationships to be a little less confusing. And, couldn’t we all use a little less confusion in our lives?

References

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the social media and webinar coordination specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Why Research Is Important To Today’s Caregiver

iStock_000068078715_Large

Blog post written by Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D., MBP Consulting, LLC, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Extension

As a caregiver, I focus on the needs of my husband and on ways to manage our hectic lives. So when I get a request to participate in a research study about my caregiving experiences, my first thought was, “NO way.” I don’t have an extra minute to spare to take time to complete a survey or talk to someone on the phone. Yet lately, I’ve been wondering if by not participating in the research my voice and others like me aren’t included. My personal realization about needing to participate in research is reinforced as I reviewed some of the most recent studies on family caregiving. So the goal of this blog article is to convince you to join me in saying, “YES,” the next time you are recruited for a caregiving research project.

In looking at the research on family caregivers, a majority of the studies done over 20 years ago were mostly about caring for older adults. There was little research on military caregivers, especially younger military caregivers. There was some research on caring for children with disabilities who were under 18 years of age, but nothing on children caring for their parents. Within the last few years the amount of research on caregivers has increased for several reasons: (1) an aging population resulting in more people needing caregivers, (2) public programs (Medicare, VA, and other military programs) responding to needs of their clients, (3) recognition that family members providing care is less costly than institutionalization, and (4) interest in disease or illness specific research such as caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injury. This research provides data needed to help policy makers make better decisions, offers information to professionals so they can provide better services, and highlights the needs of families so services can be created and educational programs developed.

Regardless of the study’s caregiver audience, there are similarities and differences between the caregiver types. For example, all caregivers experience stress but the reasons for the stress are different. A young caregiver may experience stress because they are employed and caring for other children, while an older caregiver may be caring for an aging parent or spouse. There are many combinations, but what is important is that the differences come to light in the research. These studies have been helpful in creating public policy and educational programs resulting in professionals treating all caregivers as individuals as one size does not fit all.

In you aren’t aware of recent caregiver studies here are a few that might interest you:

  1. Caregiving in the United States – Focuses on older adult caregivers with information about caregivers over 75 years of age and multicultural caregivers.
  2. Rand Study of Military Family Caregivers – Focus on caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
  3. Creation of Multi-Institutional Center – Study the needs of families caring for people of all ages who have disabilities.

If you want to explore ways to participate in family caregiver research, search family caregiver websites review researcher’s descriptions of their project and identify characteristics of the caregivers within their studying. For example, there is currently a research project on TBI from the Family Caregiver Alliance.

Researchers also seek caregivers by connecting with blogs, other social media sites and caregiver networks as a way to secure possible caregivers for their studies. As caregivers, we can also promote and share announcements of research studies with caregivers we know and the caregiver social media outlets we visit.

So share your thoughts, ideas, and wisdom about being a caregiver so research will have the voice of military caregivers!

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This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on March 18, 2016.

 

Friday Field Notes

In our first Friday Field Notes blog post we are highlighting how cooperative extension educators in Wisconsin worked with County Veterans Service Officers in their community to build capacity to address PTSD and Criminal Justice Response to Veterans in Crisis. Though the post focuses predominantly on veterans, the lessons herein apply to any practitioners engaged with military service men and women,  whether active duty, reserve  or National Guard, or discharged or retired veterans.  As you read this post, consider how your efforts to build community capacity to enhance the resilience and well-being of military families might benefit  from a collaboration with cooperative extension in your community.

Friday Field Notes

Hello from Wisconsin! My name is Jessica, and my colleague Sandy and I recently became engaged in educational programming in partnership with our county Veterans Service Officer and our local Veterans Home. We are county-based Coop Extension educators located in Waupaca County, Wisconsin, and we’d like to share our story.

Discovering collaborative partnerships through educational programming

Jessica photo Jessica
The day our local County Veterans Service Officer showed up at my office to ask for some advice for an educational program he was planning, I had been in the middle of planning pretty typical programming for someone in my position as a Community Development Educator – I don’t recall exactly what it was, but I’m sure it had something to do with downtown vitality or comprehensive plan updates. I never expected that this meeting would be the beginning of unchartered territory for my programming.

I knew very little about military families, veterans and their experience, even though both of my grandfathers and my father are veterans and I grew up as a military kid. So when Jesse, our local County Veterans Service Officer showed up at my office that day, I was interested in finding out more about our local veterans and about the role of a CVSO. Since he was only looking for advice, the time commitment would be minimal anyway, right?

That one meeting led to several more, and from the start we invited my office colleague and Family Living Educator, Sandy Liang, to lend her expertise as well. As many Extension colleagues across the U.S. can probably relate, sometimes it is these small requests that can open your eyes to seeing larger, impactful, “Big P” opportunities (P = Program. So what’ a “Big P”? Check out this video for an explanation).

Sandy Liang 001 resized 2015 Sandy

Jessica invited me to a meeting with Jesse. I knew little about the issues facing military service men and women, but what I did know was that mental health was a concern facing many of them, and their families. I wasn’t sure what I could offer at first. “I’m on a suicide prevention coalition with members across sectors of the community. I can send the invite of the summit to the members,” I remember suggesting…trying to be useful. I was concerned that my lack of expertise in the area meant that I could not contribute much more—after all, my plate at the time was focused on parenting support, family finances, and of course, helping people ensure that their pressure cookers did not explode. What did I have to offer in this area?

Yet, at the meeting, the evidence was there—veterans, which comprise of 10% of our county population, needed more support. His enthusiasm was contagious. Like Jessica, what began as a small “p” became a big “P.” And such is the life of an Extension educator. In Extension work, your “Plan of Work” is a working document. Needs evolve or emerge. New partnerships develop.

So there it was, the beginning of something new for two relatively new county educators.

Planning and Hosting The First Event – PTSD Awareness and Criminal Justice Response to Veterans in Crisis

During our planning meetings with the CVSO, it became clear that there was widespread support among service providers – counselors, suicide prevention professionals, various agencies serving veterans. The number of people that wanted to speak kept growing and the schedule was getting tight.

We were all interested in obtaining behavior change. We wanted to offer more than just “information and education.” Given the short amount of time we had available to us in the already-packed schedule, we decided to design a session that would allow the participants to have a role in defining the issues, as well as a chance to identify what they could do now – without additional resources or authority. Our hope was that this would empower them to take action on their own.

Picture1
This summit-style, rural county event attracted around 40 participants from several employment sectors. After the speakers and testimonials (and the tears), we separated the participants into “like” groups according to their industry or profession.
It is important to note that, although these were “like” groups, many were meeting for the first time—even though 100% of those who turned in surveys work with veterans. Emails were exchanged and connections were made…and in a small community, connection is critical.

What were the top needs for serving veterans in our community?

The resulting conversations provided us with a rich picture of their interest and willingness to act, as well as what they need in order to be effective. Qualitative analysis of the discussion notes revealed these top five needs for serving veterans in our community:
1. New resources.
2. More networking among service providers (“I didn’t know so many people cared,” a participant shared).
3. More community awareness.
4. More training opportunities.
5. More Veteran Liaison Officers (in law enforcement).

Another key role we played in pulling off this event was designing and administering the evaluation. Just over half of the participants completed an evaluation.

evaluator

Gaining knowledge from an educational summit was one of our identified outcomes—and the summit was successful at that. As shown above, the majority of those that completed the evaluation left being more knowledgeable about PTSD, and felt that the topics were relevant to their field of work.

How has the momentum continued?

Though participants gained knowledge , they also seemed hungry for more. This was not surprising given the energy in the room after the group discussions. To keep the momentum going, on Pearl Harbor Day we followed up with an infographic about the effort and a link to a short survey that was aimed at gathering information on what they would like to do next.

PTSD Infographic graphic

But what ended up happening next was another unplanned twist in the story, one that has opened up a world of possibilities for future programming partnerships related to serving military service men and women, veterans and their families. So what happened? And where are we know? Stay tuned for more of our story in a future installment of MFLN CCB’s Field Note Fridays on how our partnership with Jesse led to the nearby Wisconsin Veterans Home at King, and is continuing to blossom and add to our programming (and our learning) in ways we could not have imagined.

A final note: Our programming has been enriched by being open to working on these issues, and it seems the feeling is mutual – we asked Jesse for a simple quote and he sent us a beautifully written letter, calling Cooperative Extension a “force multiplier” and sharing that he feels his office was made more effective because of his partnership with his local Cooperative Extension office. You can’t get more rewarding feedback than that.

letter

About us:

Jessica Beckendorf
Jessica became passionate about communities while growing up as a military kid, making frequent cross-country moves and living in many different cities. After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Studies at UW-Green Bay, she proceeded to work in just about every sector of community development – Geographic Information Systems, urban planning and zoning, and economic development. In 2014, Jessica finished her Master of Arts degree in Communications & Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University, and began her journey as an educator with the University of Wisconsin Coop Extension where her current focus includes building capacity and facilitating an environment conducive to resilient communities.

Sandy Liang
Sandy Liang is a Family Living Educator for Waupaca County with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Her work includes community assessments, parenting education and family support for at-risk populations. Liang enjoys collaborative efforts, and is on several coalitions to support families in the county. She believes that together, we create a community to support thriving, resilient individuals and families.
Liang has a M.S. from Purdue University in Child Development and Family Studies. One particular project she enjoyed working on at Purdue was “The Purple Wagon” project, investigating children’s understanding and emotions relating to issues of war and peace.

Interested in learning more about this subject? Want to share a story? We invite you to comment.

 

Parent Perspective: An interview with a military dad

Parent Perspective Logo
Image by R. DiPietro-Wells

This month the Early Intervention team brings you a unique interview with a dad who is also a soldier.  We are grateful for his willingness to share his experiences and knowledge with us.  This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What were the ages of your children when you were deployed?

My children are ages 13, 9, and 7 years old.

What were some things you did to prepare yourself for being separated from your children prior to your deployment?

I make time for them. My wife and I try hard to bring everyone together as much as we can prior to each deployment. I am blessed with a good amount of time off prior to deploying and we just try to enjoy as much time together as possible.

What were some things you did to prepare your children for your deployment?

I give each child a “special a day with Dad” prior to deployment. My boys opted to share their day with me and we went to a college basketball game. We had a boys’ night out and a fun road trip that included a stop at Krispy Kreme!

For my daughter I checked her out of school one day and took her shopping. We went to Build a Bear and I helped her pick out a new stuffed animal. I had my voice recorded and put inside so she could hear me while I am away.

Whenever I am away for extended periods of time we do a “Kisses from Dad” jar. My wife has a large glass jar we fill with a Hershey kiss for each of them per day I am expected to be gone. The kids enjoy taking one out each day as a countdown until I return.  It can be shocking at first to see how many kisses are in the jar but they enjoy seeing them disappear in anticipation of my return. It is worth noting that she has had to adjust the amount while they are sleeping sometimes due to unexpected changes in redeployment but overall they have enjoyed this concept.

Please describe the conversations you had with your spouse prior to your deployment in regards to supporting her and your children.

We have some very private talks and I am very open with her about the dangers at hand and my wishes for her and the family if something happens to me. Those topics are extremely difficult to talk about but there needs to be an openness and honesty in order to bring peace of mind to both spouses. Unfortunately I have seen too many friends pass away and it is extremely sad to see the burden laid on the spouse to make many decisions in a time of mourning and shock; there are things that could have been settled and talked about together prior to deployment. These are never easy talks but something I feel is necessary.

We made an extensive “honey to do list” of things that would alleviate stress for her while I was away. None of them were very intensive, just things that would have been a pain for her to have to deal with while I was not there to help. I worked to accomplish everything on the list and the things I couldn’t get done I found someone to do them while I was away or I told my wife to pay for them while I was gone.

My wife is quite independent and will go out of her way not to inconvenience others. Knowing this, I asked close friends and family I knew she would be comfortable with, to check in on her periodically and offer help because I knew she wouldn’t ask. For example, a man from our church volunteers to cut our lawn while I am away. People are willing to help but they need to know what we need. Unfortunately some people simply don’t ask for help.

What were some of your main fears and/or concerns regarding your children’s well being when you were deployed?

I have an amazing wife who seems at times to have been specifically programmed to be a military spouse. She handles the stress of the kids and the household extremely well. My concerns usually revolve around me not being there to support her and balance things out. While I am away it is difficult for my wife to simultaneously play the multiple roles required of her on a daily basis. The many roles of a parent can be overwhelming to any person parenting alone but throw in the added stress of knowing your spouse is in harms way and it can be overwhelming.

Another fear is that the added stress can cause friction on the relationships between the kids and my wife, along with the distance between the kids and myself. It is hard to remain emotionally close without being physically close. Staying close as a family unit is my largest concern while I am away.

What were some ways you were able to stay connected with your children when you were deployed?

I have had to force myself to walk away from my work and make time to talk to my spouse and my children. I routinely have to counsel others to do the same. Time zone changes and operational demands can make staying connected extremely difficult. You have to make time and do what you can to make it happen. Your family appreciates the effort made even if the communication is sporadic. It is important they understand they are still a priority in your life.

The topic of communication also relates to realistic expectations for both parties and having the hard talks prior to deployments. Prior to leaving I try to let my wife know how much she should expect to hear from me and what it might mean if she hasn’t heard from me for a long period of time. By having realistic expectations she can calm her nerves if my operational tempo picks up or takes me away from normal communication.

Fifteen years ago I remember being happy to make a phone once in a while but now there is wifi in some of the most remote areas of the world. While operational security should always be adhered to, it is much easier to stay connected today than in years past. I have been able to FaceTime with my spouse and children in some places while audio calls were all that was afforded in others. We normally have the longest gaps in communication when I am out on actual operations.

Please describe your transition back home. Did you do anything to prepare yourself and/or your children? Were there any challenges?

Transitioning home is something that often gets overlooked and something for which both sides need to prepare. Many people are aware of specific combat related concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and other adjustment related issues. However, I want to share a few other examples that could cause martial friction if not discussed prior to returning home.

Kitchen duties: When deployed I eat prepared meals on paper plates with plastic utensils. I grab a drink and then scarf down my food at a rapid rate. Upon finishing, I throw it all away and go back to work. No thought is ever put into where the food came from, when or how it was cooked, who provided the service ware, etc. In my mind they magically appear at scheduled hours.

No family in America has a military kitchen staff working military hours in their home. Nor do they typically have an endless supply of paper plates and plastic utensils in a bin by the entryway. There is grocery shopping to do, meals to make, and dishes to do. Sometimes service members need to prepare themselves just to come back to a normal kitchen.

Quiet time: While deployed I spend a lot of time in silent or quiet areas. I am married with three kids which means that this is a busy, noisy home to which I must readjust. This takes preparation and intentional effort.

A sense of urgency: When deployed I am often called upon to meet unrealistic expectations and work an unreasonable amount of hours; many times to address life or death situations. Life is truly on the line and seconds do matter. While this is extremely stressful it is quite rewarding when done successfully. However, when transitioning home after months of these kinds of demands, the request to pick up cheese on the way home before Taco Tuesday, while heroic in its own right, pales in comparison in the mind of the warrior.

Intimacy: This is an area a couple should discuss throughout the deployment so neither partner is expecting different things when transition happens.

Time with the fellow service members: Team camaraderie while deployed in combat is something hard to put into words. I have a hard time explaining the bond made with these individuals but it is safe to say transitioning home means spending less time with them. While I welcome the idea of spending more time with my family, many service members build a bond in war that leaves them feeling depressed or alone when similar bonds are not found in their life back home. It is hard to replicate the camaraderie at home that is experienced overseas.

Survivor’s remorse: One of the hardest things I ever did was go home from deployments where fellow team members had died. Realizing you are going home while others will never see their loved ones again is very difficult to comprehend and even harder to accept. It needs to be talked about and people need to be told it is ok to feel horrible that you are still alive.

I have learned over time there is no greater act a person can do than to pour his or herself into the lives of their loved ones. When I was younger I had trouble transitioning home. Now with more age and experience, I gladly count down the days anxiously awaiting redeployment home. Healthy discussion and expectation management has helped me tremendously.

This post was edited by Robyn DiPietro-Wells & Michaelene Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

IRAs: Last Chance to Reduce 2015 Income Taxes

By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, oneill@aesop.rutgers.edu

It’s “crunch time” for federal income taxes. While the tax filing deadline is usually April 15, it is April 18 this year due to a Washington D.C. holiday called Emancipation Day. Bottom line: taxpayers, including most military families, have an extra weekend to prepare their taxes. That’s the good news. The bad news is there is not much you can do now to lower your tax bill. Opportunities, such as charitable donations and Thrift Savings Plan contributions, and capital losses on investments, all went out the window at midnight last New Year’s Eve.

A photograph of a male solider sitting in a classroom at a desk with a tax form in front of him.
U.S. Army photos by Pfc. Ma, Jae-sang

The only way that taxpayers may be able to save money on taxes now is to contribute to a tax-deferred individual retirement account (IRA). The deadline for deposits to 2015 traditional and Roth IRAs and SEP IRAs for self-employed workers is also April 18, 2016 (see https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs). Below are some key points to know about IRAs and the tax savings that they can provide:

  • There are many types of IRAs: Roth, Traditional, Rollover, and Spousal, to name a few. Not every IRA provides an initial tax deduction, but they all provide tax-deferred growth on both the amount contributed (saved) and earnings on that money. Roth IRAs also provide the potential for tax-free growth.
  • The maximum contribution allowed by law for IRAs (Roth and/or Traditional) in both 2015 and 2016 is $5,500 for workers under age 50 and $6,500, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution, for workers age 50 and older. These numbers assume an earned income equal to these amounts. Workers can contribute the smaller of the annual limit allowed by tax law or their taxable compensation during the calendar year.
  • Income limits apply to qualify to contribute to Roth IRAs. For 2015 income taxes, the adjusted gross income (AGI) phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA was $116,000 to $131,000 for single taxpayers and heads of household and $183,000 to $193,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • When workers qualify by income for a partial Roth IRA contribution, they can put the remaining amount of the contribution limit into a Traditional IRA (e.g., $2,500 Roth IRA and $3,000 Traditional IRA in 2015).
  • If single workers, or both spouses in a married couple filing jointly, are not covered by an employer’s retirement plan, Traditional IRA contributions are deductible regardless of income.
  • If a worker has an employer retirement plan, income limits apply to qualify to deduct a contribution to a Traditional IRA. The phase-out AGI ranges for 2015 income taxes are $61,000 for single taxpayers and heads of household and $98,000 to $118,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • If workers don’t qualify, income-wise, for either a tax-deductible Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA, they can still fund a non-deductible Traditional IRA and later convert it to a Roth IRA, if desired.
  • Workers can’t make contributions to a Traditional IRA once they reach age 70½. However, they can still contribute to a Roth IRA, provided that they have earned income (e.g., salary from a job or net earnings from a small business or freelance work).

For more information about IRAs, visit this IRS page with frequently asked questions (FAQs): https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-IRAs-Contributions

How to Easily Access My Training Hub Website

Trouble accessing the Community Capacity Building Training?
Work Arounds For Access Issues on My Training Hub Website

Congratulations on pursuing the Community Capacity Building training modules available on My Training Hub.  Many of you will have no issues logging on to take the training, but we know some of you may run into some issues when trying to log onto the site and we are here to help you with that.  The site is hosted by the Department of Defense and as such is a very secure site, which sometimes makes it a little difficult at first for your browser to work with all that security.  There are a few things you can try if you have any issues and can’t figure out why.  There is a FAQ section on My Training Hub https://myhub.militaryonesource.mil/MOS/f?p=332:21:0::NO which can answer many of your questions.  Or you can call  the My Training Hub helpdesk at 1-888-363-6431 for immediate assistance.  Or you can view one of our You Tube videos which will show you how to work around the security pop-ups  safely if you are using Chrome, Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox browsers.

For issues with Chrome chrome logosee workaround for Chrome

For issues with Internet Explorer exlorer logo see workaround for Explorer

For Issues with Mozilla Firefox firefox logo see workaround for Firefox

Don’t let those annoying security pop-ups keep you from viewing the excellent training modules on the My Training Hub website.  There are many ways to get help with logging on so we invite you to view the training soon.

Breast Feeding-Nature’s Best! Meet our presenter Rose Marie Straeter, MA, RLC, IBCLC

 Rose Marie Straeter, MA, RLC, IBCLC

Rose Marie Straeter, MA, RLC, IBCLC

by Robin Allen, MSPH, RDN, LDN

Rose began working with breastfeeding mothers and babies in 1988 as a La Leche League (LLL) Leader.  She has held area positions in Indiana and Illinois La Leche League as Assistant Area Professional Liaison, Area Professional Liaison, Communication Skills Instructor and Communication Skills Coordinator.  She enjoyed breastfeeding their two children.  She became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in 1994.  While living in Indiana, she wrote monthly articles for the magazine “Hoosier Parent”.  Her articles were also published in newsletters in both Indiana and Illinois including one titled “Texting 101 for La Leche League Leaders”.  She participated on the Illinois Breastfeeding Blueprint Committee.

She owned and operated a private practice serving a wide area in Southern Indiana.  She worked as the head of the Lactation Department at a Women’s Hospital after they purchased her private practice business.  She has conducted numerous in-services at hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.  She has presented sessions at conferences and workshops.  She has been a speaker at the Indiana and Illinois State and regional conferences for LLL.

She worked with a local Indiana WIC office as a contractual employee providing breastfeeding education for employees and providing client follow-up.  She worked at a local Health Department in Illinois as a Senior Peer Counselor, Breastfeeding Coordinator, and the Peer Counselor Supervisor.

Rose was contracted to do four webinars by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Springfield Urban League Community Health Training Center.  The targeted audience included Breastfeeding & WIC Coordinators, Hospital Staff, Health Care Professionals, Peer Counselors, Doulas, Front-line staff, Regional Task Forces and Coalitions and other Coalition Members and Breastfeeding Advocates. She is an instructor for the “Loving Support” training for new Breastfeeding Peer Counselors in Illinois through the IDHS.

Rose’s educational background in secondary education has provided beneficial knowledge in the area of providing breastfeeding education to clients and other health care professionals.  Her training as a Communication Skills Instructor has provided additional skills that facilitate positive communication.   She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology with a concentration in Organizational Leadership.  Her Applied Research Project examined the negative and uncomfortable feelings women have toward breastfeeding and their underlying factors.  In addition, she recently completed all course work for a Ph.D. and is in the process of completing her dissertation.

This post was written by Robin Allen, a member of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebookon Twitterand LinkedIn.

FD Webinar| Pathway to Practice: Incorporating Evidence into Military Family Services

Pathway to Practice: Incorporating Evidence into Military Family Services

Date: April 28, 2016

Time: 11:00 am – 12:30 pm Eastern

Location: https://learn.extension.org/events/2541

Stone pathway in the woods
Flickr [Woodland Pathway by wplynn, September 1, 2012, CC BY-ND 2.0]
Dr. Daniel Perkins, PhD  is a Professor of Family and Youth Resiliency and Policy and a faculty member of the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development. In this webinar, Dr. Perkins will assist service professionals in “bridging the gap” between research and practice. He will be teaching our audience how data can be applied to our everyday work with clients. Join us on April 28th at 11:00 am Eastern!

We offer 1.5 National Association of Social Worker CE credits and CE credits for licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in the state of Georgia for each of our webinars, click here to learn more. For more information on future presentations in the 2016 Family Development webinar series, please visit our professional development website or connect with us via social media for announcements: (Facebook & Twitter)

Announcing Friday Field Notes – Stories from the Field from Practitioners Using Cooperative Extension to Build Community Capacity

We are excited to announce that Friday Field Notes will begin in April, 2016. The objective  of Friday Field Notes is to present powerful, replicable examples of how cooperative extension is a readily available force-multiplier for the Family Readiness mission area. Friday Field Notes will present first person accounts of how cooperative extension and the land grant universities are helping to build the capacity of communities to enhance the resilience and well-being of military service men and women and their families.  You can expect stories from extension educators, from practitioners from across the military’s family readiness programs, and from experts at land grant universities.    These stories will hopefully inspire additional powerful collaborations that capitalize on the cooperative extension service and the land grant colleges and universities.

Friday Field Notes

But, what are land grant colleges and universities you ask? A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education. There are 106 of them, and they have always been related to the military in some way. It is interesting to visualize them geographically, especially when also visualizing military installations. One of the goals of the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) Community Capacity Building concentration area is to better link these various nodes towards a community capacity building network.

map of military installationsmap of land grants

A key feature of the land grant colleges and universities is the Cooperative Extension System. The 1914 Smith Lever Act established extension on a nationwide basis as a unique cooperative effort by federal, state, and local governments. The theory behind university extension is that education and research developments achieved through public funding should be more broadly available to those not attending the institutions and throughout one’s lifetime, especially, we believe,  in the case of servicemen and women and their families. To realize that goal, programs were developed that geographically extended the availability of the educational resources of an institution by special arrangements such as correspondence courses, on-site consultations to persons otherwise unable to take advantage of such resources, and today, by use of electronic resources such as provided by the  Military Families Learning Network.  The Cooperative Extension System is a potentially HUGE community capacity building asset and catalyst for military families, in great part due to its reach, with a presence in all of the more than 3,100 counties in the US.

county map

The potential of the Cooperative Extension Service and the land grant colleges and universities to be a readily available force-multiplier for the Family Readiness mission area was recognized by leaders at the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture, and an MOU was signed between the two agencies to facilitate investment in developing, refining, and deploying the Cooperative Extension Service in the area of Family Readiness.  This MOU is the foundation of our work in the Military Families Learning Network, in the Community Capacity Building concentration area of MFLN, and of Friday Field Notes.

dod-usda proclomation

Our first Friday Field Note will come to us next Friday from Waupaca County, Wisconsin, where Jessica Beckendorf, a Community Resource Development extension educator and Sandy Liang, a Family Living extension educator are demonstrating how cooperative extension can help build a community’s capacity to enhance the resilience and well-being of transitioning military service men and women and their families. Save the date, mark your calendar, and join us next Friday the 15th of April!