The seven-time Grammy Award-winning country trio Lady Antebellum has teamed up with Quicken Loans to offer seven fans some nice perks including a year’s worth of mortgage payments.

Yes, you read that right. All you have to do is impress a panel of judges with your creativity, clarity and reasons for deserving a mortgage break. The mortgage prize is worth a minimum $12,000 to a maximum of $24,000 (principal and interest only).

The 7FOR7 Sweepstakes is part of the band’s upcoming Wheels Up 2015 Tour. The contest ends Aug. 20. To enter the contest go to and fill out the entry form. You have to answer this question: “What would meeting Lady Antebellum and getting one year’s worth of mortgage payments on behalf of Quicken Loans mean to you?” You’ll have to convince the judges in 50 words or less.

The first drawing is scheduled for April 10. But you still have time for the next entry deadline, which is May 7 at noon. Then there are five more opportunities to win, as long as you submit your entry by the following dates: May 28, June 4, June 25, July 30 and Aug. 20. Only one entry is allowed but all non-winning entries will be carried forward to subsequent random drawings.

Don’t have a mortgage? No problem. You can still get a break from your housing costs. The contest rules say that “non-mortgage holding winners’ prizes will be determined by a random drawing of all eligible mortgage amounts starting from $12,000 to $24,000, and the selected yearly mortgage amount (up to $24,000) will be awarded to that corresponding winner.”

“Even after paying taxes on the prize, the grand prize winners may be able to make a significant dent in their debts,” writes Christine DiGangi for “You might even be able to use the money to pay extra on your mortgage and save money on interest in the long run. However it works out, the additional cash flow could be quite helpful — as long as you like country music.”

I’m more a Motown girl, but right about now I’m feeling a lit bit country.

The price of being poor

Not to bring you down but there were some stories this week about poverty that had me singing the blues.

I’m quite disheartened by legislation aimed at people who need public assistance. There is an assault on the poor that is appalling.

Legislators in two states are considering bills to restrict what recipients can buy. For example, a proposed Missouri law would make it illegal for food-stamp recipients to use their benefits “to purchase cookies, chips, energy drinks, soft drinks, seafood, or steak,” reports the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank.

As Milbank opines: “Never mind that few can afford filet mignon on a less-than-$7/day food-stamp allotment; they’re more likely to be buying chuck steak or canned tuna. This is less about public policy than about demeaning public-benefit recipients.”

He goes on to point out that the “surf-and-turf bill is one of a flurry of new legislative proposals at the state and local level to dehumanize and even criminalize the poor as the country deals with the high-poverty hangover of the Great Recession.”

Legislators in favor of such restrictions try to make the point that public dollars shouldn’t be used on people who make poor choices.

But the Post’s Emily Badger, a reporter for Wonkblog covering urban policy, sees it another way (and I do too). In writing about the bills, she says, “Poverty looks pretty great if you’re not living in it. The government gives you free money to spend on steak and lobster, on tattoos and spa days, on — why not? — cruise vacations and psychic visits. Enough serious-minded people seem to think this is what the poor actually buy with their meager aid that we’ve now seen a raft of bills and proposed state laws to nudge them away from so much excess.”

Badger argues these bills are really about punishing people for being poor, writing, “there’s virtually no evidence that the poor actually spend their money this way.”

The bills also ignore the fact that many better-off people in American also benefit from public assistance, although they don’t see it that way.

“We rarely make similar demands of other recipients of government aid,” she writes. “We don’t drug-test farmers who receive agriculture subsidies (lest they think about plowing while high!). We don’t require Pell Grant recipients to prove that they’re pursuing a degree that will get them a real job one day (sorry, no poetry!). We don’t require wealthy families who cash in on the home mortgage interest deduction to prove that they don’t use their homes as brothels (because surely someone out there does this). The strings that we attach to government aid are attached uniquely for the poor.”


Color of Money question of the week

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For the love of sports and college money

I was really interested in a story about the parents of a 16-year-old who are suing the volleyball league their daughter was playing for because she didn’t get what they believed was promised playing time, according to the Post’s Justin Jouvenal.

“When her coach benched her and the league told her she couldn’t join another team, the action shifted from one court to another — she and her family sued,” he wrote.

As Jouvenal wrote: “Some experts see such lawsuits as part of a shift in youth sports in recent decades away from sandlot play and intramural teams to professionalized leagues and tryout teams partly aimed at snagging scholarships for players and giving them a leg up in college admissions.”

So for last week’s Color of Money question of the week I asked:

What should you expect in return for the hundreds if not thousands you spend to put your kid on a sports team?

The comments were very thoughtful.

Chuck Anderson of Chesapeake, Va., has a great view of the debate both as a parent of two daughters and a coach.

“I tell parents that if they are doing this because they think it will result in a college scholarship, forget it and put all the money you will invest in travel sports into a 529 and you will come out way ahead,” Anderson wrote.

He had me at 529 plan. But his wisdom didn’t’ stop there.

He continued: “I ask them what would you do if your daughter who wants to become an engineer only gets an offer to a DIII school with no engineering program? I also advise them that scholarship offers are normally not 100 percent for females. A softball team with seven scholarships may divide them up between 20 players.”

Sandra Wade of Chapin, S.C., wrote: “Many of these parents are ruining sports not only for their kids, but their kid’s teams and sometimes even the opposing teams. They are not setting good examples for any kids. Everyone wants their child to play as much as possible, but the less talented kids need to play too. How are they ever to become better players if they are not allowed to play?”

“A parent who enrolls their child in an amateur sports team is turning over the decision-making authority for their child during practices and games to someone else. It is part of the deal and if the parents don’t like it they should yank their kid off the team and out of the league,” wrote Thomas J. Druitt, of Paducah, Ky., who has umpired amateur baseball. “Suing a coach over a particular child’s playing time is exactly the same as suing a math teacher for handing out a grade of ‘C’ or ‘D’ to a pupil. I am sure the parents in that situation would rather have seen ‘A’ grade, but the teacher is not required to hand out grades to suit the wants and desires of the parents

Roberta Ponis of Arvada, Colo., remembers the days when many more kids just played for fun and parents weren’t micromanaging the sports careers of their young children.

“As two public school educators, we were keenly aware that sending all three to college would require some scholarship support, either academic or athletic. But we also made sure the kids knew they could quit a sport if their interest waned. All of this occurred during the 80’s and 90’s when kids could play more than one sport, when kids could still play for fun; when kids didn’t have to attend a sports camp in the summer in order to make the school team in the fall; when parents didn’t interfere with coaches’ decisions on who to play.

“Glad they had the sports experience when they did. Now, there are agents who sign on with young kids to shape their sports career; kids are compelled to focus on only one sport. Our eight-year-old granddaughter loves gymnastics but is practicing three days a week from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The gym staff spots future stars and encourages parents to send them to their school for academics for four hours a day and then gymnastics for four hours . . . at a cost, of course. Sports as a business is booming. But fear kids are the losers.”

“As the mother of two daughters currently on competitive dance teams — I expect respect, good grades and wise choices,” wrote Cindy Bunker of De Pere, Wis. “I would walk away rather than sue the organization. I would reserve a lawsuit for injury, harm or illegal actions.”

Cindi of St. Louis wrote: “My husband and I have spent thousands of dollars supporting my son’s passion for golf. I have zero expectations of any financial gain from golf not even a college scholarship. I am just thrilled he is happy and having good clean fun.”

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to