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Military Spouse Life, Are You Brave Enough to Hack It?

Who needs the spooks and haunted stories of Halloween when you have to deal with the red tape that is the military? Sometimes the things military spouses deal with on a daily basis are enough to scare the bejeezus out of civilian folk.

  1. Are we going to be paid? Sure, we’re extremely proud to defend our nation’s honor. But when our nation’s politicians can’t decide on a budget, well, that pride turns to anger and then worry as we try to figure out how to pay the next month worth of bills, on well, nothing. If we can balance children, full-time jobs, earning a degree, volunteering and caring for the home surely they can sit in their office for a week and devise a plan that will let us continue to be paid for our service without giving us all ulcers as we wait and plead and hope that they will come through. Most civilians can’t imagine and would not continue to work for no pay or the threat of no pay.
  1. We were paid, too much! Oh the horror of opening your bank account and realizing that DFAS overpaid you. Don’t move a muscle. Seriously. Don’t withdraw it. Don’t try to pay it back. And for the love of God, don’t spend it. They will take it back. Whenever they darn well feel like it. It may be tomorrow, it may be six months from now. And they don’t just withdraw it from your account, they dock your paycheck. So sometime in the future, be certain, you will have a smaller paycheck, if any paycheck at all. And if you already spent the extra money, you are out of luck.
  1. TMO lost, broke, smashed your stuff. Moving can be like Christmas. You open boxes after months of living in hotels and empty housing to unveil things you own that you totally forgot about, and it is awesome! And then you open some boxes to find the stuff you had been praying for the last 90 days would make the trip unscathed has not only been damaged but absolutely destroyed. Throw in the fact that you have a limited time to submit a claim to be reimbursed for those items. And, you will probably forget about that date as you navigate the busy schedule of a cross-country move until it’s too late, meaning moving can be a real nightmare. 
  1. Everyone knows, everything. Living on base is a bit like living in a fishbowl. Military families are notoriously gossipy. And, the houses are close together so when you are screaming at your kids, or your husband for that matter, most of the neighborhood can hear your tirade drifting through the open windows. And because it is the unit’s job to make sure your family is doing ok, it essentially makes it their job to know what is happening in your household: the good, the bad and the ugly. This is a great thing when you are married to an E-3, pregnant with twins and already have four kids and no money for Thanksgiving dinner because that unit is most likely going to make sure your family eats on the holiday. This is a bad thing when you are having a meltdown in the commissary because your twins just knocked over an entire display of tampons and you are caught screaming and cussing as your husband’s commander’s wife walks by. You eventually get the feeling you are almost always being watched, by someone.
  1. The commissary – the day before a holiday. Want to know what the night of the living dead actually looks like? Check the mile long line at the commissary before any four-day weekend or major holiday. That bad boy stretches from the check-out and wraps its way through the frozen food, past the milk and meat and almost into the veggie aisles, filled with exhausted soldiers, harried moms and crying children all staring blankly ahead as they wait desperately to inch forward. Why can one of the largest military forces on the planet manage to plan and execute massive surprise attacks on other nation’s but fail to buy buns and beer more than 24-hours before the Fourth of July? That, my friends, is an unsolved mystery.
Military Spouse Designs Land on Tori Spelling’s “Must Have” list

By Lisa Kain

Army spouse Stephanie was far from family, and her husband was on deployment far from home. She spent many days and nights studying YouTube sewing sessions and was fascinated with the hobby. The mother of two was already dealing with caring for the homefront alone and working through deployment, so why not built a business from the ground up. And that meant learning to sew. Stephanie began with a few tutus and burp cloths and now her company, Abby Maddy, designs and produces an entire line of accessories to include scarves, earrings and clutches, and this fall, was coveted by Hollywood royal Tori Spelling.

Staff writer Lisa Kain sat down with Stephanie to discuss the ups and downs of starting a business as a military spouse (and while dealing with deployment!)

1. What was the inspiration in starting your business? How did the idea come about? My daughter (Abigail Madison) the namesake of my company was definitely my inspiration. I started Abby Maddy when she was only 18-months-old and I was pregnant with my son. At the time, my father was terminally ill with cancer and my husband was about to deploy again. There was a lot going on back then, and now when I look back on it, I realize just how therapeutic launching a business was for me. Originally, our line consisted of baby items, until we phased them out in 2013. There were a lot of late nights spent sitting at my dining room table with a sewing machine and a computer. Oh yeah, did I mention I didn’t know how to sew and I had to teach myself? There was a lot on my mind back then and working through each piece of Abby Maddy was soothing to me and still is.

What have been some of your failures, and what you learned from them? I’m always trying new things, sometimes they work, sometimes, they don’t. I take notes and move on! It absolutely makes me crazy when someone has a beautiful business but gives it up after one set back! Failures and mistakes are going to happen. Consider it a learning experience and keep going. I would personally never want to be in business with someone who hasn’t experienced failure at least once.

How many hours do you work, on average? It varies greatly, but during the school year and at the height of new launches, 20-30 hours a week.

Is this your first business? If not, what were your others, and what happened to them? It’s my first time launching my own brand, but I’ve been in love with business for as long as I can remember. I learned retail at an early age working in my grandmother’s store -  when I had to use a chair to be able to reach the cash register. I started my own direct sales business from my dorm room at age 19. It’s in my blood.

How did you finance your business and what was the process like? It’s important to me to build a debt-free business, and for the most part, we have done just that. In the beginning I carried a few items on my website that I didn’t make and the cash flow from those items financed my time to make the others. Eventually we phased those items out and now everything on the site is handmade in the studio. I am super budget conscious and I still teach sewing classes to help add cash flow to the business. It seems there is always an endless list of expenditures for a growing business!

How many employees do you have? I have an assistant, and a few others that help out on an as-needed basis, plus lots of great businesses we work with on marketing, branding, website design, etc. We’re hoping to add another team member this fall.

What is an average work day like for you? Well I’m a mom of a 6-year-old about to start kindergarten and a 3-year-old who is in preschool so there is no average day, it seems. Most school mornings, I’m up before the kids, have coffee, check emails, do a little social media posting on our various accounts, dress everyone, breakfast, get everyone off to school, then back to work for about two or three hours until it’s time to pick up my youngest. After lunch when everyone is down for nap, I work a bit more until late afternoon. Usually we try to do a craft, activity or play outside for a bit. Then its dinner, bath, bedtimes and more work in the evenings for me! They can be long days, especially when my husband is deployed or TDY but I absolutely love what I do, so it never feels like work.

Who are your customers?  Initially, like most businesses, it was family and friends, but now we have customers all over. Generally, its women ages 25-45, but then again, sometimes it surprises me!

What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business? Just do a little bit each day. You can’t go weeks and months in between product or updates. You have to stay relevant and stay in front of your customer. That’s just the reality of small business. And leave no stone unturned, Don’t listen to negative people and don’t let anyone plant pre-formed opinions in your head. Go to networking groups, hold speaking engagements and meet up with other business owners. Building your network is crucial- and a very important skill to have as a military spouse!

What plans do you have for expansion? Right now we are working hard at putting Abby Maddy in boutiques. So far we’ve had great feedback and our line seems to work well with fashion forward, independent shops. It’s been a lot of fun and whole new education working with retailers! But it is definitely where I want to be!

What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique? We’re always trying new things, but you just can’t beat word of mouth advertising. When people love you, and love your products, especially women, they tell everyone. Take care of your customers, under promise and over deliver and your customers won’t let you down.

What are some of the challenges you have faced being an entrepreneur while living a military lifestyle? There are a lot of challenges, the obvious, of course, is how much we move, and not really being able to open a storefront. But I’ve always viewed it more as an opportunity. With every move we are planting our business in a new place and since I’m online, my customers are very loyal to me when I move. It also opens doors to contact retailers about having Abby Maddy being carried in their store - I have a connection to so many places that it allows my business to have roots that are as deep as they are wide.

What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today? 1) Start small, there is no shame in taking it slow. Don’t try to do too much right from the beginning. 2) Know that you are not going to get paid for a long time and make peace with it. 3) Whatever you do, don’t quit!

Visit Abby Maddy Designs on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AbbyMaddyDesigns

Visit the website and shop! www.abbymaddy.com

Visit the Blog for tips and inspiration! www.abbymaddyinpired.com

Follow us on Pinterest! http://www.pinterest.com/abbymaddy/

Military Spouse Job Fairs in November

Christmas is coming, which means some employers will be hiring extra staff to manage larger crowds and demand during the holiday season. Even if seasonal employment is not your ultimate goal, those part-time jobs can be turned into a permanent gig by employees with great attitude and work ethics.

To kick off your holiday-time job search, check out these upcoming, spouse and military-focused hiring fairs. Remember to register as soon as you decide to attend. Some fairs limit the amount of attendees and do not allow walk-ins.

Nov. 1

Macomb County, MI

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/macomb-county-mi

Nov. 3

Germany

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/eucom

Nov. 5

Fort Bliss, Texas

Reception: http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/ft-bliss-tx-military-spouse-networking-reception

Hiring fair: http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/ft-bliss-tx-military-spouse-hiring-fair

Nov. 6

Pensacola, Fl.

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/pensacola-fl

Nov. 8

Detroit, MI

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/ft-bliss-tx-military-spouse-hiring-fair

Nov. 11

Des Moines, IA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/des-moines-ia-2

Orlando, FL

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/orlando-fl-4

Nov. 12

Portland, ME

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/portland-me-0

Washington D.C.

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/joint-base-anacostia-bolling-dc-0

Nov. 13

Los Angeles, CA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/los-angelesgardena-ca

Nov. 14

Portland, OR

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/portland-or-2

Nov. 17

Leavenworth, KS

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/ft-leavenworth-ks

Reno, NV

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/reno-nv-2

Nov. 18

Warwick, RI

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/warwick-ri-3

Ft. Jackson, SC

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/ft-jacksoncolumbia-sc

Nashville, TN

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/events/hiringfairs?page=1

Pittsburgh, PA

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/pittsburgh-forum

Nov. 19

Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

Reception

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/wright-patterson-afb-oh-military-spouse-networking-reception

Nov. 20

Wright-Patterson AFB, OH

Hiring Fair

http://www.uschamberfoundation.org/event/wright-patterson-afb-oh-military-spouse-networking-reception

EFMP: The Good, The Bad, The Lengthy Wait

By Tiffany Shedd

No one ever wants to find out that they or one of their family members has a health problem. But once you know, if you’re like me, you probably go through a process of dealing with that information.

My first reaction is usually to call my mom (assuming my husband was with me when I got the news). My second step is usually to cry. When I’m done bawling my eyes out (an ugly cry is good for the soul every now and then), I generally get irrationally angry. Why is this happening? What have we done to cause this? And when I can’t answer those questions, I start looking at the questions I can answer. I turn to one of my strengths, research.

I love to dig into new topics and not stop until I feel like I know everything there is I can possibly know.

When my son was diagnosed with epilepsy, one of the first pieces of advice I got from the emergency room doctor was to not Google epilepsy. She told me that if I needed to find information to go to the Epilepsy Foundation website.

Surprisingly, I followed her advice, even though it went against all my instincts. We have so few answers about the whys in regards to my son’s epilepsy, it was just easier to not drive myself crazy trying to figure it out on my own.

Because I have taken a less inquisitive attitude toward my son’s diagnosis, I turned my need to do research on to another subject, the Exceptional Family Member Program. Before my son was diagnosed, all I knew about EFMP was that dependents had to be screened before they were granted permission to PCS with their spouse.

I didn’t understand why that was, and frankly, I was a little scared that I might not get to be with my husband if I was deemed “exceptional.” Of course, I am not “exceptional,” so I had no reason to dig any deeper when we were first married. I just thought it was another hoop the Army liked to see me jump through every three years.

If you’re just coming to the EFMP program or whether you’re a long time veteran of it, there may be information and resources that you may not know about. The first place I started my research was with the U.S. Army Medical Department website. They have an entire section devoted to explaining the EFMP program. You can find out why it is mandatory for you or your family members to enroll in the program, and, you can find out how to begin the process.

Beginning the process can seem daunting. I was lucky, because my son’s primary care manager is an EFMP expert and was very kind and understanding in helping me through it. If you or your family member has an on post PCM, the process is one step simpler, because these providers are trained and know how to help you through the process. Usually that means once you or your child has had a special need identified, whether it be special medical needs or special educational needs, you’ll be referred to the EFMP office, and they will provide you with paperwork to begin the enrollment process. Or if you’re like me and have already looked up all the information, you probably already downloaded and filled out your part of the DD Form 2792.

 If you’re seeing an off-post provider, your process may be a bit more involved. They may or may not know about the EFMP program. Once your PCM has determined your need, you can take that information with you to the EFMP office on a military facility where you’re stationed. Again, they will give you the paperwork that will get you started. Or you may have already gotten your head start.

It is a lot of paperwork, 13 pages to be exact. Be very thorough and precise when filling it out. You will likely need your spouse’s help, unless you’re one of those informed spouses who actually knows the duty phone number (unlike me). Next, you’ll need to make an appointment with your PCM to have them go through the form and fill in the portions of it that you cannot, which is basically everything after page 2, which is actually physically page 4 (it is very confusing).

When the paperwork is all done and turned in, it’s out of your hands. It will be reviewed by medical personnel to determine if you’re eligible for the program. This part can take a while. Waiting is never fun, but try to be patient. This program is one of the many that has taken a hit in staffing with the recent DOD budget cuts.

If you think that it is taking an extraordinarily long time, by that I mean months, give the office a call and find out where they are in the process. If you’re like me, you may already be enrolled, and no one bothered to tell you.

Don’t forget that the most important thing to remember when you’re trying to get through the process is that you’re doing this so that you or your child or children will be able to receive the best possible care and if that means you have to make a couple of extra trips to the EFMP office to replace misplaced forms, so be it.

Military Myth Busters

There’s a lot of unbelievable things that we witness as military wives, but sometimes the things we hear are just the stuff of modern fairy tales. Staff writer Sandra Moyer is here to dust the darkness off those closely held, widely believed rumors in our new monthly column, military myth busters.

Myth: You can charged with damaging government property for suffering a severe sunburn.

Background: There are many times that service members (including myself) have been told that getting a sunburn can earn them consequences under the Uniform Code of Military Justice’s (UCMJ). Typically, the portion of the UCMJ that is used to enforce the claim is Article 108, which deals with the destruction of government property.

Research and Analysis: Under Article 108, people and property are discussed separately, rather than people being considered property. That is because people are not property. They cannot be assigned a monetary worth, and, are not legally subject to being purchased or sold. That being the case, a sunburn on a service member is simply not defined as damaging government property.

Unfortunately, I can’t drop my microphone and walk out just yet, because there are two another articles of the UCMJ that make this situation sticky.

Article 115 refers to malingering, which is just a fancy word for faking or exaggerating an illness or injury in order to avoid duty. The issue here means that someone would not only have to get sunburned, but also excessively seek medical treatment and claim that because of the burn they are incapable of performing their duties.

Article 192 references disobeying direct or lawful orders or regulations . . . and that’s where the real possibility of reprimand comes into play. If a regulation or someone appointed over a service member clearly states that, say, service members must stay inside to avoid sunburn (which is likely never, ever going to actually be said) and a service member willfully disobeys that order and gets a sunburn, they could indeed be punished for disobeying that order. As the chances of anyone being ordered to stay inside to avoid sunburn are seriously slim to none, so are the chances of someone being punished for violating it.

Myth (mostly) Busted: The short answer to this question is no, you cannot be charged with damaging government property for getting a sunburn. The longer answer is that service members are not free to damage themselves all willy-nilly without the possibility of repercussion.

Regardless, you should just be smart about your health and your job and follow the wise words of Mary Schmich: “Wear sunscreen.”

To Love, And Cherish and Keep My Own Name!

When my children complain that they do not have their own rooms, I tell them I had my own room for exactly one year.

As a child, I shared with siblings. In college, I shared with roommates. And when I finally moved overseas for my job, then and only then did I have my own sweet, sanctuary of space. My very own room. And then I met my husband.

So much for personal space. He dropped his boots and Kevlar helmet in the middle of the joint and I’ve been tripping on them ever since.

But marriage means a lot of sharing. This week, Pamela McBride wrote about sharing that new last name, and whether it is a good move for you, career-wise.

And with the recent marriage of the world’s most eligible bachelor, George Clooney, to London-based attorney Amal Alamuddin, the decision to change monikers is a hot topic. The high-profile career woman, a stranger to tabloid readers, but a power player in international circles, will now be known as Mrs. Clooney, both personally and professionally.

Professional women everywhere, who have built a brand with their maiden name, may have shuddered a little at the thought. Most writers I know still use their maiden name, having married long after their byline became a permanent fixture on the front page. Performers can find themselves stuck in the same situation, as will any professional who makes a living by being recognized by their name.

But, it seems the somewhat antiquated practice is seeing a resurgence. A 2013 poll found that just 8 percent of women are choosing to keep their maiden name. That is down from a whopping 23 percent in the mid-90s.

So, as a newly minted military wife who is learning the lingo, the locations and probably dealing with deployment, here is a yet another to do list, to make sure that you are known as Mrs., not just among your friends and co-workers, but to the government and other official sources.

This list is courtesy of www.bankrate.com

  1. Have copies of your marriage certificate on hand. You will need proof of your union and the Social Security Administration will request a copy that you will never receive back.
  2. Contact the Social Security administration first. Don’t worry if your address labels are incorrect, worry first that your name matches your social security number. If it doesn’t, it could impact your payroll and tax return.
  3. Update your driver’s license and voter registration.
  4. Tell your employer, this may also be a good time to look over your benefits and insurance coverage now that you have a new family member
  5. Contact your bank. This change will most likely have to be made in person, with proof, such as the marriage certificate or a new driver’s license.
  6. Tell your creditors. Still receiving bills and paying them, so it doesn’t matter, right? Wrong. If you are still paying your bills under your maiden name, you will not build credit under your correct name. So, next time you apply for a loan, with stellar credit you’ve built up since the honeymoon, you will be declined. Why? Because the old you built the good credit, not the married you.
  7. Finally, make it a point to compose a list of all the professional associations, doctor’s offices, pharmacies, associations and other places that you frequent. They all need to know who you are now too.

And don’t forget to practice that new signature!

Exhausted, but Marching On

Amazing how a couple weeks can go by and I can go from the highest of highs and then quickly fall flat on my face.

A month into our new, packed schedule and I feel like I may have bitten off more than I can chew. It doesn’t help that this is a very busy time of year for my husband. But in this lifestyle when isn’t it?

When it comes to all the duties on the homefront, I am up to bat. Which normally I can handle. But add carpooling preschoolers and volunteering three days a week on top of it all and I am holding up my white flag and silently shouting, “I surrender!”

But there is no way I can admit to anyone that I am failing. Why? Because I chose this. It’s my job. My house is a disaster, which makes me anxious. My kids are acting out because I am away from home more. And when I am home, I have little to no patience. If I am not disciplining them I am giving into things I wouldn’t normally let slide because its just easier.

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t multitasking when I was home with my kids. I feel like I have separate 'to do' lists for every role I have - mom, wife, volunteer  #1, volunteer #2 - but can never manage to complete a list in its entirety. I am on a hamster wheel and can’t seem to get off.

I wasn’t quite prepared for this feeling. I know it may take some adjusting for all of us but frankly, I am overwhelmed. So my friends, how do you do it? How do you manage it all? Work, home, military life?

It’s time to work out the kinks, get some suggestions and get a little more organized. I thought I would have it all figured out by now. Does something have to go? I am not sure if I am willing to give up anything up quite yet because I truly love all of the things I have going on right now, but, at what expense makes it worth it?

I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, but I am not really at home much any more. Then again, I certainly do not have a paycheck to “prove” my hard work is worth it.

So I apologize, I am not my usual bubbly, optimistic military spouse today. Today I am just exhausted and overwhelmed.

I brought it on myself so it’s a little hard to admit to. I am still loving our military life and where it has brought us (even if my husband will be out of the country for our son’s birthday), but struggling to keep my head above the water.

I am hoping a weekend with my husband at home will be the cure. Or maybe a clean house will do the trick or a good family day at the beach. Or maybe all of the above?  For now I will tuck my white flag back in the bunker and push through another day. After all, I am a military wife. We don’t know how we do what we do - we just do it.

Websites We Love: Fastweb.com

Many adult students remember checking the board in the guidance counselor's office for scholarship opportunities or reading about them in the local paper. The process was slower, kinder, gentler.

But today, those opportunities will fly past you and possibly smack you in the face as they truck on by if you are not careful. There are thousands of scholarships available for students and now the competition isn't just local. It is nationwide and it is fierce.

And, you won't find most of them on the school bulletin board. Just like everything else, you'll find them on the internet. And you can search for hours.

Our favorite website this month, www.fastweb.com, has done some of that work for you.

The editors there have created a dizzying and busy webpage full of links to scholarship opportunities. You can scroll through every single one or you can search through an array of factors: year of school, ethnicity, military service and even whether you were an orphan.

This month the site features a blog that details the weirdest scholarship opportunities out there, in celebration of Halloween.

For example, the Horror Writers Association will give $2,500 this year to the applicant who submits the best example of horror writing and details why they deserve the award. No word on whether the two topics can be combined into a single work of prose...

The Tall Clubs International will give $1,000 to a college freshman who measures above average height, 5'10" for women and 6'2" for men.

And if you attend Loyola University and your last name happens to be Zolp, you are really in luck. The Zolp Scholarship is awarded to individuals who meet only those two criteria.

And you thought only the smart kids got all the money. The opportunities, apparently, are endless.

Happy Scholarship applying!

Want to Apply for a VA Home Loan? Get Your Documents in Order

By Mandy Rebmann

As covered in an earlier piece, one of the major factors used in qualifying for a VA loan is your Debt-to-Income (DTI). Generally, the DTI you will need to qualify for a VA loan is 41 percent or less. But how does your lender determine what your DTI actually is? The debt part is the total monthly debts found on a credit report. But the number determined as your monthly income can seem like a complicated conclusion. 

People rely on many types of income, and for loan purposes, not only is the amount important, but also the probability you will keep earning the income at roughly the same amounts. And it’s up to you and your lender to verify and document this.

The following are among the types of income that may be considered: base pay, incentive and allowance pay, wages and salary, self-employment, tips, commissions and rental income. Additionally, income sources such as disability payments and public assistance can be included. Income derived from child support, alimony, or separate maintenance may be volunteered to help qualify, but is not required to be divulged. Regardless of what type of income it is, the amount and probability of continuation needs to be documented. 

  • Duty, incentive, and allowance pay is verified by a Leaving and Earnings Statement (LES). The LES verifies amounts paid and frequency. An underwriter will also check the expiration date for active duty service for enlisted service members and members of the National Guard or Reserve. 
  • Special consideration is needed if you are close to ending your enlistment period, or if you are part-time and will be coming off active duty. Your higher active duty or hazard pay may still be considered in some circumstances, or may be used to offset short-term debt. 
  • If you were injured while serving on active duty, and receive disability payments from the VA, they may be used as income. The key, like all income used to qualify for a mortgage, is it needs to be documented it will continue. Documentation required for disability payments generally includes proof of receipt (checks or direct deposit) and the award letter ensuring continuation.
  • If you receive any non-taxable income, it may be “grossed-up” to 125 percent. For example, if you receive $100 non-taxed income each month, it may be grossed-up to $125 for DTI purposes.  This allows non-taxable income to be counted more accurately.
  • Generally, for non-military sources of income, a two-year history needs to be established to justify current amounts and reasonable belief it will continue. There are general guidelines for all types of income. For example, wage income will require paystubs and a VA Form 26-8497, Request for Verification of Employment. Self-employment income may require two years of income tax returns, plus a current year-to-date profit and loss statement.
  • Income contributed by a spouse follows the same rules. However, it is not required a spouse disclose their income in the loan process unless that spouse will be named as a co-borrower on the loan, or if the applicant is relying on the spouse’s income to qualify for the loan.

In addition to verifying income to satisfy DTI requirements, VA loans require the borrower/s    demonstrate Residual Income - an amount determined by household size and location that is left over after your monthly housing payment and debts are paid.

It is a good idea to gather much of this information before you apply so you’ll have it handy when your lender asks for it. And, depending on how long your loan takes to close, be prepared to have to provide updated documents. Like milk and frequent flyer miles, they expire.

What’s in a Name?

Maiden name? Married name? Some combination thereof? Which one should you use professionally, especially if you marry after you’ve established your career ... and your name isn't Beyoncé.

When you hear 'Beyoncé', you know exactly who she is, no last name needed. Her husband, Jay-Z, is also known by only one name, and that name isn't even his birth name or a ‘real’ name. But when the two tied the knot, they both legally changed their last names to Knowles-Carter, paying homage to both sides of the family.

Unlike ‘regular’ people, neither Beyoncé nor Jay-Z had to be concerned about name changes after their nuptials, because they already had established hugely famous careers.

That's great for them. But then, there's everybody else - the rest of us whom the whole world doesn't know. We  may be well-known in our own circles, but if you are trying to determine whether your career may be impacted by a name change, take these three steps.

1. Consider these questions:

Are you a well-published writer, musician, television or radio personality or artist who counts on name recognition for sales and your fan base?

Are you a doctor, dentist, or veterinarian with a thriving practice under your maiden name?

Are you professionally licensed to practice law, accounting or another field where clientele come from referrals from past customers?

Are you a scientist, researcher, or  professor who has made contributions to your profession that may lead to funding or notoriety or tenure? 

2. Determine what can be done to minimize any negative impacts to your career. Thankfully, technology can make it easy to communicate the name change. Just be sure to make the changes across the board. Update your website, social media accounts, signature block on email, etc.

3. Become familiar with the name-changing laws in your state to make sure all your business stays in order.

If you decide that you still want to be known by the name you used to build your brand or career before marriage, have a little fun choosing which variation to use. You could keep your maiden name; use your maiden name professionally and the married name everywhere else; use the maiden name as your middle name; or hyphenate your names.

Either way, stick to your choice once you make it. In 2013, Beyoncé announced the The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, yet another version of her identity, but still, we knew exactly who it was. You might not be so lucky.

 

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