4 tips for buying your first home on active duty - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Buying your first home on active duty may be intimidating and the jargon can be confusing, but the good news is that others have walked this path and made it through — and you will, too. Active duty service members and veterans have a secret weapon that civilians do not possess: the VA Guaranteed Loan. While the VA will not issue the loan itself, the guaranty provides the veteran with the means to obtain a loan without a down payment or mortgage insurance premiums.


First thing’s first; one must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility to prove their entitlement as per the VA fact sheet. The lender can obtain this on the veteran’s behalf, or the veteran may do it themselves through eBenefits to get started. The process may seem daunting at times, but these tips should help you along.

Explore VA Home Loans

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Estimate your monthly payment before you start looking at anything

A pre-approval letter determines your maximum loan amount, and is based on your credit and finances. This document may be requested from the loan officer or lender (bank) to calculate your monthly payments. You can estimate what your monthly payments will look like by using a mortgage calculator and the data contained in the pre-approval document.

Input your down payment (if any), maximum amount approved by the lender, and interest rate to have a realistic picture of what the payments are going to look like. Adjust the price of the home to determine an acceptable monthly mortgage for your situation.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Maintain some savings for unexpected expenses

As a new homeowner, we can guarantee that you’ll run into unexpected costs. To prepare for these, make sure you have some sort of savings cushion — even if you aren’t buying a house, you should have some savings tucked away, just in case.

When you take out a loan and buy a house, you’ll encounter all sorts of unexpected expenses, like paying a funding fee, paying for inspections, and covering closing costs. Sure, you can roll several of these fees into your loan, but that’s just going to add to debt that you’ll already spend decades paying off.

In general, you should save as much as you can, but you should have at least ,000 – ,000 in reserve. Worst case scenario? You don’t use it all and you’ve got some extra cash.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Find a realtor and lender with VA experience

If you’re diligent, you will find a realtor who is prior service and has walked a mile in your shoes. A lender like USAA (or other military-oriented lenders) can also offer a huge amount of help.

To find leads that will unite you with a realtor who understands your needs, reach out to your local military support group on Facebook for recommendations. A friendly inquiry can result in a list of individuals who have been recommended by your peers.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Keep your options open

After the preliminary paperwork is complete, you’ll be able to place an offer on a potential home. There are a few scenarios that can unfold here: the seller may accept your offer right away, decide to wait for another offer but not deny your offer, or send a counteroffer. It is absolutely essential to know that you may place offers on several homes at once.

However, once you have an offer accepted by a seller, you are obligated by contract (as per the purchase agreement) to not place new offers on other homes.

MIGHTY MONEY

18 important lessons financially savvy parents teach their kids about money

What are the most important lessons to teach children about money? It’s a good question to consider, particularly because, thanks to a distinct lack of a broad financial literacy curriculum in schools, it falls on parents to be the ones who instill the core concepts of spending, saving, and handling money in general. While there are certainly lessons all parents should be teaching kids about money, we wondered, what do financial planners, accountants, and others who work in the financial industry teach their kids about money? What concepts are essential and how do they distill them down so they can be understood by, say, a seven-year-old? That’s why we asked a broad array of financial professionals, “What lessons do you teach your kids about money?” The varied responses include everything from envelope systems and understanding wants versus needs to the creation fake debit cards and engineering simple lessons about compound interest. All provide inspiration and instruction on how to help kids get a head start on the road to financial success and serve as a reminder that it’s never too early to begin teaching kids about money.


Try the Sticker Chart Reward System

“We use a sticker chart reward system with our young ones, who are in Kindergarten and second grade. You get a sticker for doing homework, practicing, household chores, and the like. After earning 20 stickers each child then gets to pick out a toy, experience, goodies, etc. of their choosing (up to a $ value). This is a foundational value in our household; to instill that effort and hard work is required to earn many of the ‘wants’ in life. And that it takes time.” — Ronsey Chawla, Financial Advisor at Per Sterling Capital Management.

Incorporate Financial Topics into Everyday Life

“This can be as simple as taking my kids to the bank to open a checking/savings account, involving my two kids — I have a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter — in household budgeting conversations during a trip to the store, or planning for a family vacation. It’s important to share lessons and what you learned from your experiences with money management, with the depth of that conversation being up to your individual family. It’s also a good idea to start them saving early. Developing smart saving habits is the first step to becoming money-wise. Encouraging children to contribute a realistic amount to savings, even if it’s just a month, is an easy way to put them on the right track for future financial success.” —Daniel Cahil, SVP, North Dallas Bank Trust Co.

Trust the Lemonade Stand

“With my own kids, who were four and six at the time, we opened lemonade stands, as cliché as it may be. It teaches them literally the fruits of their labor. The help made the lemonade, with real lemons, at every step, until they have the product ready for market. They learn the lessons of “location, location, location,” understanding that where they set up can make a big difference in the traffic they can expect. Setting up on the corner brings some traffic, but not nearly as much as by a nearby field on a hot day where a bunch of kids are at soccer practice.

When they’re done, they bring their profits back home and count it up. This helps them identify and understand what different coins and paper currency mean. They also have piggy banks that are broken up into four different chambers – save, invest, spend and donate. This helps them understand the different utilities of money, immediate gratification, delayed gratification and being a contribution to others.” — Chet Schwartz, RICP, registered representative with Strategies for Wealth, a Financial Advisor with Park Avenue Securities, and a Financial Representative of Guardian Life Insurance

Teach Them to Save — But Also Enjoy the Rewards

“To clarify, this all starts with being responsible, working hard, and earning some dough. But this particular piece of advice is about what I do with that earned money. When I come into some kind of bonus or non-recurring income, I always, without fail, carve off some small-ish amount of that bonus for me, my wife, and my daughter, and we all go out together and buy something fun for ourselves, something that we would not otherwise have bought because we thought it was frivolous or hard to justify. We save the bulk, but the rule is that we have to spend that smaller allocated amount on something fun, and we have to do it together as a family.

This is important to me because one, if you don’t enjoy some part of your money “now,” you may never get the chance, and two, it gets us out, as a family, doing something that breaks the normal rules of saving and spending. I’m all about saving of course, but I’m also about enjoying the rewards of hard work, and that’s what this is really all about. If you don’t treat yourself well, you sure as heck shouldn’t expect anyone else to.” — Dan Stampf, VP, Personal Capital Cash

Use “Skip Counting”

There’s more than one way to count to 100. You can take the long way, starting with the number one. Or you can also count by twos, tens, twenties, even fifties to get there faster. Learning to “skip count” is an important precursor to developing fluency in calculation, number sense, and the basis for multiplication and division — not to mention counting money. Just pour a bunch of coins on the table and put them into piles by coin type (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters). Work with your child to “skip count” using different coins and values, reinforcing what they’ve learned. For example, ask them if they notice any patterns (e.g. while counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s). If “skip counting” is still too complex for your kids, continue practicing by changing the number of coins they are counting. That will encourage your children to figure out another total value.” —Jeremy Quittner, Resident Money Expert Editorial Director, Stash

Put Pocket Money to Good Use

“It’s important to teach your children about saving, and the potential benefits. I think a fun way to do this is with their pocket money. Say you give your child for the weekend. Once its spent, it is gone. But I like to introduce the offer that if, for every change they bring back at the end of each week, that change is matched from my money, and saved until it reaches 0, and they can buy themselves something special. For example, if they bring me change, I put aside for them, and this pot grows until it hits 0. The opportunity here is for the children to really think about what they are spending their money on, while also seeing that saving can result in a better purchase that is actually wanted at the end.” — Andrew Roderick, CEO of Credit Repair Companies

Use The Token Economy with Toddlers

“Make money fun. Toddlers can start to experience a ‘token economy’ by pretending to play in grocery stores or banks: games that can actively involve your child in playing and beginning to understand money. It’s also important to recognize that it may be more constructive to create other activities for older kids, by introducing them to easy-to-read financial books, like this one. Explain to them how your family approaches investing, paying for taxes, and seeking financial advice from an advisor” – Dillon Ferguson, CFP, Head of Product, Zoe Financial

Make the Concept of Prioritization Crucial

“We ask our three kids to do certain activities at home that are outside of their normal chores for which we compensate them with small amounts of money. This way they learn that to make money they need to put extra effort and work hard. They also learn that the money they make at home can be spent on a variety of different things, but we teach them about the concept of prioritization, since money is a scarce resource. Most importantly, we teach them that the best investment they can ever make is their own education, since education leads to better job opportunities and better quality of life.

We opened college savings accounts for all three kids via UNest and our older one is already contributing into her own account. We show her how money grows over time and teach about the concept of investing, compound interest and tax-free growth. In addition, we emphasize that lack of savings can lead to the student debt. Money that is borrowed can be very expensive and the need to pay off student loans would create setbacks in life and delay other important decisions like buying a house or starting a family. Putting a small amount aside each month and investing for education teaches our kids discipline and motivates them to think long-term.” — Ksenia Yudina, CEO and Founder of UNest

Teach them About Coins — And the Four Pillars

“I think that six years old is a good age to start teaching kids about money. A great first objective is teaching them about coins. While that might seem simple, it is not as easy a subject as you might think. Take a step back and think this through: Why is the big nickel worth less than the small dime? I think it’s fun to play games with kids once they understand the value of each coin by having them make different combinations to get to one dollar. 10 dimes. 20 nickels. Four quarters. One-hundred pennies. Fifty pennies and two quarters.

Start with teaching them one of the four pillars of financial literacy: save, spend/budget, invest and charity. For younger children, savings is the easiest as you can simply use a clear jar where they can put loose coins and see them build up. Remember to keep lessons age-appropriate and that developing money-smarts is not an exercise in trying to create the next Warren Buffet. It is about making them feel comfortable talking about money, understanding basic money vocabulary, and eventually starting good habits that will last a lifetime. You want to avoid the firehose method of teaching where you pile on too much information too soon. Rather consider using the drip-drip-drip method that starting them at a young age gives you plenty of time for them to build a great foundation.” — Thomas J. Henske, Partner, Lenox Advisors

Be Open About Your Financial Goals

“When my kids were younger, my wife and I agreed on an aggressive goal to pay off our house in a set number of years. When that goal was reached, we agreed to take the family on a trip to Disney World. We bought a Mickey Mouse puzzle, assembled it, and disassembled it in a way that for each id=”listicle-2646259052″,000 we reduced principal on the loan, we put so many pieces of the puzzle together. It created a visual representation of our progress. We explained our goal to the kids in terms they could understand so they saw the progress and the reward at the end after several years of work. While the kids now understand the financial side of the goal, it is the visual representation of the puzzle they recall most.” — Phil Kernen, CFA | Portfolio Manager, Mitchell Capital

Teach Them About Compound Interest

“As a financial planner and fastidious investor, my kids are being taught about compound interest at a young age. When my five-year-old daughter receives birthday money from our relatives, I show her how putting 25 percent of her money away can give her many more Barbies and dolls in the future. Would you rather buy one Barbie today, or be able to buy five Barbies later, I ask? Even a child can understand that by deferring some instant gratification today, they can enjoy greater luxuries later.” — Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos, Financial Planner, Life Managed

Never Say ‘There is No Money’

“Say instead, money is valuable and needs to be used wisely. Or money is not to be wasted. The reason is that children should not grow up with a limitation mindset but an abundance mindset while learning to be careful with money. Saying ‘there’s is no money,’ tells the child that when they get money in their hands, they can throw it away, and that’s not a good thing.” — Kokab Rahman, author of Author of Accounting for Beginners

Don’t Forget the Power of Delayed Gratification

“My children are 2 and 4 years old currently, and while it’s definitely too early to teach any significant money lessons to the two-year-old (aside from showing him how to put coins in a piggy bank), the four-year-old is another story. I recently tried this simple method of teaching savings and it worked well. Each night, I gave her a quarter for straightening up her toys before bed. She could choose to use a quarter to get a treat from the candy dish, but if she saved five of her quarters, we could do something special that weekend (go to the zoo, a favorite restaurant, etc.). Delayed gratification is such a valuable skill to learn at a young age, and I plan to use more complex ways to incentivize saving as she gets older.” — Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent

Turn Financial Mistakes into Teachable Moments

“We don’t pay our kids for daily chores like making their bed, feeding the dogs, or picking up after themselves. But I do pay them for mowing the yard (my 10-year-old) or helping cut firewood (all my children), things that are above and beyond their normal family contributions that they worked hard to attain. It’s also important to let them make mistakes. Recently my 10-year-old wanted to purchase a new movie release for .99, so I let him. The next day he wanted to buy a video game. I said sure pay me and he could buy it. He then realized he spent all his money on the movie. That’s the time to have a good conversation around it. Was it worth it? What could you do differently?” — Joel Hodges, CPA, Intuit, Tax Content Group Manager

Explain The Difference Between Needs and Wants

One of the most important money lessons I’m already teaching my young children is the difference between needs and wants. If she holds up something at a store — say, something from the candy aisle — I’ll ask ‘Do you need that, or do you want that?’ It took a few tries, but she got the hang of it. It can be helpful to set a firm cap on the ‘wants,’ such as one per week, while showing that we always take care of our needs.”— Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent

Introduce the idea of Money Early and Often

“At home, we value speaking openly about our financial lives and the value of saving such that our kids learn by example. A great way we teach our 4-year old about money is to have them understand the value of a purchase. The other day my son wanted us to buy him a new game for his iPad. To ‘convince us,’ we had him walk through the value in relation to the actually cost of the game. It’s never too early for your children to understand the cost of things. “- Andres Garcia-Amaya, Founder, Zoe Financial

Enlist the Envelope System

“Kids are never too young to learn how to handle money, one fun way for them to learn about money is to have them separate their allowances on what they want to spend. They can do this by having small envelopes and placing a certain amount from their allowances. This helps them learn about budgeting and the value of money when that certain envelope reaches the goal amount. Children are also allowed to have bank accounts, so it is good for them to have their accounts so that they can start learning to save early. — Leonard Ang, CMO, iProperty Management

Try The “Bank of Dad” Approach

“By the time my daughter started elementary school, she had a few chores each week for which she got a small allowance and she might get the odd bill in an Easter card from her grandparents. Instead of a piggy bank, we went forward looking and with the ubiquity of debit cards, I created ‘The Bank of Dad.’ Using an old hotel key card I made a make-believe Bank of Dad debit card and she opened an ‘account.’

At 12 years old and a long-time Bank of Dad customer, she was definitely ready for a real account. With our bank, the account was connected to a parent’s account so we had visibility into everything. At the start, we sat down and introduced the basics of a budget. We talked about understanding how much she “made,” how everyone needed savings for an emergency/rainy day, and how to also save for something “big” like those fancy new embroidered and bedazzled jeans she just had to have.

Now at 24 years old, my daughter came to me and asked if I could help her fix a spreadsheet she made because she wanted to try and pay off her student loans early, but couldn’t make the formulas work. If there’s anything that makes an accountant parent happier than hearing ‘Hey dad, will you check my spreadsheet?’ Turns out she was very close, but having her do the work and walk me through it, made fixing her error make sense to her and empowered her. — Gregg Gamble, Intuit, Lacerte Tax Content Development Manager

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

This is the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transfer exception for your dependents

The Department of Defense (DoD) has granted a temporary exception to policy to allow select service members to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to dependents until July 12, 2019.

NAVADMIN 020/19, released Jan. 24, 2019, announces that for a limited time, sailors with at least 10 years of service who are unable to serve four additional years, due to statute or standard policy, may transfer their education benefits to dependents if they agree to serve the maximum time authorized. For example, enlisted sailors within four years of high year tenure or officers within four years of their statutory limit of service are eligible.


The policy exception is retroactive to July 12, 2018, and ends July 11, 2019, after which sailors will need to commit to the full four years of service to transfer their benefits.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Billy Ho)

Sailors with at least 10 years of service whose transfer of education benefits applications were rejected due to the policy changes announced in NAVADMIN 170/18, and who are still serving on active duty or in the selected reserve (SELRES), must reapply for transfer of education benefits by following guidance in NAVADMIN 236/18, including completion of the new statement of understanding at https://myeducation.netc.navy.mil/webta/home.html#nbb.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

4 basic things you should be doing with your money

Millennials as a group may be delusional about the future, but some are making good decisions with their money today.

Generally, many millennials have little to no credit-card debt, put a portion of their income toward retirement, and have a savings account, an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey found.

Of the 4,400 Americans polled, 1,207 identified as millennials, defined as ages 22 to 37 (237 respondents did not select a generation). The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.

Here are a few of the ways millennials are smart with their money, according to responses to our survey:


1. They have a savings account.

About 69% of millennials said they had a savings account, compared with 65% of Gen Xers, the survey found.

But while the existence of a savings account is inherently positive, it’s nothing without consistent contributions. A whopping 58% of millennials said they had under ,000 in a savings account, about 19% had between ,000 and ,000, and 11% had between ,000 and ,000.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

(Photo by Sharon McCutcheon)

Many financial planners recommend a high-yield savings account over a traditional savings account for an emergency fund or other short-term need. The best high-yield online savings accounts are offering an annual percentage yield between 2% and 2.5%, and many have no fees and low minimum deposits.

2. They have little to no credit-card debt

Millennials seem to know that keeping a balance on their credit cards isn’t going to make for a good credit score. About 32% said they had no credit-card debt at all — a greater share than Gen Xers (28%). Of the millennials who do have debt, a plurality (36%) said they had under ,000.

It might make sense that Gen Xers, who are older and presumably have more expenses, would be more likely to have credit-card debt, but in this survey the oldest millennials were 37 — and people’s 30s tend to come with houses, kids, pets, and expenses that are no longer limited to Gen X.

Two smart strategies to pay off credit-card debt, according to financial planners, are the “debt snowball,” which prioritizes paying off the smallest debts first, and the “debt avalanche,” which prioritizes paying off the highest-interest debt first. Either method is effective, so the best approach may be to pick the one you can commit to.

3. They would use a id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 windfall to pay off debt or save.

Given an extra id=”listicle-2634449531″,000 cash, 27% of millennials (a plurality) said they would choose to pay off debt, while 22% said they would save the windfall, the survey found. Only 6% said they would put it toward travel or shopping.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

(Photo by Artem Bali)

This is good instinct, as financial planners typically suggest stamping out debt with high interest rates first and foremost, even before saving for retirement or another financial goal. Carrying a balance on a credit card can erode your credit score, and fees and high interest rates can continually add to the overall debt load.

In the survey, the millennials who indicated they wouldn’t use the windfall to pay off debt or save said it would go toward outstanding bills (17%), necessities (12%), or an investment (9%).

4. They put more of their income toward retirement than Gen Xers.

Even though 52% of millennials said they didn’t have a retirement savings account, the ones who do are serious savers.

In the survey, nearly 16% of millennials said they set aside 11% to 20% of their income for retirement — more than any other generation. About 5% of millennials, the same share as Gen X, said they save more than 20% of their income for retirement.

A plurality (33%) said they put away between 1% and 10% of their income for retirement, which is a fine place to start. Experts recommend increasing savings rates annually or every time you get a raise.

One of the easiest ways to build wealth is through automatic and consistent contributions, starting with a retirement account. The contributions to a 401(k) or IRA are pretax, so the money will be taken out of your paycheck before it even hits your bank account. Many employers will match contributions up to a certain percentage or dollar amount. It’s basically free money, but you won’t get any of it unless you’re already contributing something on your own.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

These are the 2020 military pay dates

One of the greatest perks of military life is having a reliable, consistent paycheck. Military pay is issued once mid-month and once at the end of month. We have a chart for you to see exactly which dates are 2020 military pay days and when those funds are available through Navy Federal Credit Union* and United Services Auto Association. *NFCU funds availability is only shown for the active duty checking account, not their other programs.

Building a budget and living within your family’s means are both much easier when you know 2020 military pay dates and the USAA pay dates and NFCU pay dates.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty
MIGHTY MONEY

This is why cash bonuses are different for each troop

You’ve probably seen it plastered all over billboards by now. The Army is offering “up to $40k in an enlistment bonuses!” Some hopeful recruits will learn that they can, in fact, get that down-payment for a Corvette. Another guy could come in that same day and walk out with just the “honor of serving.”

What’s the difference here? Why does one guy get a ‘vette and the other nothing but a hardy handshake? The determination process is kind of convoluted, but it all comes down to the military trying to get the right people in the right places.


4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

I mean, it’s better to have a brilliant lawyer become an infantry officer than to have an idiot defending troops at a court martial, right?

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Ayana Pitterson)

Troops get a bonus based on what they bring to the military, how long they plan on staying in, and when they sign the contract.

So, if you have just a high school education and you want to enlist in a field that’s pretty crowded at a time when everyone is trying to get in for just the 3 years required to get full access to the GI Bill, your bonus prospects are looking pretty bleak. If you have a college degree and plan to use said degree to benefit the military at a time when it’s almost impossible to find others like you — the cash is yours.

With that being said, the stars need to align for everything to work out perfectly. Even if, say, you have a doctorate in law and decide to use your skills in JAG, if you arrive a time when the Army needs more infantry officers, you’re going infantry. Uncle Sam will always have the final say.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Obviously I’m making fun of water dogs (because they’re so used to enduring jokes by everyone that they won’t flip sh*t in the comments section).

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

Highly trained and highly skilled troops, like cyber security NCOs, often leave the service and jump into higher-paying, civilian-equivalent jobs. The troop that was once the backbone of their unit is now working the IT help-desk at Google, dealing with a quarter of the stress for double the pay. The civilian sector is gunning for these troops by offering sweet cash deals — and the military can’t sustain this kind of personnel hemorrhaging.

If the military didn’t offer retention bonuses, those cyber security NCOs would all jump ship. Suddenly, offering that bonus of 0,000 over a four-year period for an indefinite contract doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

All that being said — and this isn’t to diminish the service or need of anyone who didn’t get an enlistment or a reenlistment bonus — the more competitive your specific skill set is to the outside world, the more of an incentive the military will offer to keep you in.

MIGHTY MONEY

Why NCOs should never let their troops buy a car alone

Buying a car in today’s world is a necessity. Even the troops who grew up in a city where they never needed anything more than a subway pass will find themselves needing a set of wheels to call their own. Military installations are way too big and timetables are way too tight for a young private to make it around comfortably on foot.

So, be prepared to fork over a bit of your enlistment bonus just to adhere to a standard. Meanwhile, it’s kind of ingrained into military culture to belittle and mock the unfortunate lower enlisted who thinks they’re getting a good deal on a sports car and ends up paying a 28% interest rate over five years.

Instead, shouldn’t we actually, you know, help the poor soul?


4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

(U.S. Army photos by Cpl. Han, Jae Ho and Dean Herrera)

You can’t throw a rock outside of a military installation’s main gate without hitting a sketchy used-car lot that boasts that “E-1 and above” are automatically approved for a loan. Because so many young troops are told they must get a car and have no idea how to do so intelligently, they’ll usually shop at the first stop — often coming away with a car without even taking it for a test drive.

Yes, a young private has few bills to pay — they’re given a barracks room rent-free and their meal card deductions hit their LES instead of their bank account — but too many troops are crippling their credit report right out the gate. A simple bad decision will follow them for life.

This is where their first line supervisor or their non-commissioned officer can step in and spend a Saturday afternoon making sure their troops are taken care of.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

“A new set of wheels and this baby will be good as new! But for you, my special friend, I’ll see if I can sweet talk one of the guys to throw in a few air-freshening trees for the rear view.”

(Department of Defense)

Leaders have been around for a while and generally have a good sense of the installation and its surrounding area. Given that an NCO likely has a vehicle, they could talk the rideless private past all of those sketchy spots and take them to a reputable dealership. Depending on your location, this might be an hour-long drive, but it’s still better letting someone fall prey to months of ridiculously high payments.

Next comes the choice of car. The young troop, fresh out of mama’s basement, might see all those numbers in their bank account and fail to piece together that 00 isn’t really all that much to grown adults. Feeling like Mr. Moneybags, the young troop may casually stroll up to the car of their dreams — and it’s kind of up to the NCO to be the reality check.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Hell, NCOs could even pop out a PMCS checklist right then and there. It’ll establish dominance over any crooked salesmen and show you mean business.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wilmarys Roman Rivera)

That new muscle car seems nice, but it’s not the best fit for for someone who gets paid half of federal minimum wage. So, you’ll want to pinch pennies. You might think that used cars are the best option then, but that opens another can of worms if the NCO isn’t careful.

So, here’s a little trick for you: insist that both the troop and the NCO must take the car for a test drive. The troop should be busy deciding if the car is comfortable for them, while the NCO should be looking out for deficiencies. If the car lot is reputable, they’ll always allow you both to ride. If not, you found a solid reason to move on to the next place.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Nipping this in the butt early can also help prevent even more paperwork if that troop has to go through financial aid.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, 143d ESC)

Finally, we arrive at haggling. A young, dumb idiot willing to throw cash around is a used car salesman’s wet dream. If the troop doesn’t know the actual cost of a car but is willing to sign the papers because “they threw in a free tank of gas,” then they’re about to get screwed. It’s up to the NCO to be the middleman. A well-placed knife hand and serious demeanor could mean the difference of hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars.

Once the troop has found a vehicle that is within their price range, from a dealership that isn’t trying to ripoff service-members, runs excellently, and makes the troop happy, you move on to the paperwork. Read every single line before the troop signs anything. Make sure they never take the “zero-down” offer and advise them to put at least id=”listicle-2607400034″,500 down — regardless of the vehicle. Just that bit can change a horrific 28% interest rate to a reasonable 8% for someone without an established line of credit.

However, what you cannot do is co-sign the lease with them. It doesn’t matter if you trust them to pay the lease of on time or you’re willing to take the hit for your guy. It’s strictly forbidden by the UCMJ to enter a financial agreement of any kind with a direct subordinate.

What you can do is cattle prod your troop into making the payment every month. Yeah, it won’t be pleasant for them to be reminded every month to do it, but their financial security is at stake. They’ll thank you once they realize that you helped them out immensely.

MIGHTY MONEY

Budget proposal prioritizes pay increase, quality of life, modernization

With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.

The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.

After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.


While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.

“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.

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Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.

To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.

The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.

“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.

The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.

The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.

(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)

The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.

“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.

While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.

The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.


*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.

1. Be the best bartender you can be!

While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.

The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.

2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch

With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.

There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.

Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.

Southeast Technical Institute offers an associate’s degree in horticulture and it is a VA-approved school.

3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio

The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes. Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.

This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.

Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.

4. Dive for buried treasure.

Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.

The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”

The kicker? Some commercial divers like underwater welders can reportedly make upwards of $300,000 a year. Suit up. And make sure you aren’t barefoot.

The institute is a VA approved school.

For more information on exactly what the GI Bill will cover, check out the VA’s website.

MIGHTY MONEY

Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.


Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson had strong words for the National Guard and the Pentagon after allegations emerged that the DoD is forcing California Guard troops to reimburse the government for enlistment bonuses it paid in error.

“It is beyond the bounds of decency to go after our veterans and their families a decade later,” he said in a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty. “These are rounding errors to the Pentagon, but these demands for repayment are ruining lives and causing severe hardships for service members whose sacrifices for the nation can frankly never be adequately be repaid.”

Johnson was referring to a Los Angeles Times story that alleges the National Guard is forcing nearly 10,000 guardsmen from California to repay reenlistment bonuses they were awarded 10 years ago.

According to the paper, more than 14,000 California Guardsmen were awarded the reenlistment bonuses as a result of the Army’s incentive program to retain soldiers during the height of the Iraq war.

The U.S. government investigated the California Guard reenlistment bonuses and found a majority of the requests had been approved despite the soldiers’ not qualifying for the bonus. There has been no suggestion that any of the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses were aware that they did not qualify for them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe was the California Guard’s incentive manager at the time, and that after the Pentagon discovered the overpayments 6 years ago, Jaffe pleaded guilty to fraud. She was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Three other officers associated with the fraud also pled guilty, receiving probation after being forced to pay restitution.

Major Gen. Matthew Beevers, the deputy commander of the California Guard, accused the nearly 10,000 soldiers of owing a debt to the Army.

In his statement to The Los Angeles Times, Beevers claimed that the soldiers were at fault and that the Guard couldn’t forgive them. “We just can’t do it. We’d be breaking the law,” he said, not addressing whether the Guard was breaking the law by reneging on the contracts.

Several of the Guardsmen went on to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom sustained injuries as a result.

Military Times reports that the Pentagon is searching for ways to overcome the issue. “This has the attention of our leadership, and we are looking at this to see what we can do to assist,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Monday.

A host of lawmakers have stepped forward to condemn the Pentagon for harassing the Guardsmen who received the reenlistment bonuses, calling for congressional investigations into the matter. Though as of publication, no presidential candidate other than Johnson had addressed it.

Calling on President Obama and Congress to act immediately on the impacted Guardsmen, Johnson said, “The Pentagon needs a good dose of common sense far more than it needs these dollars, and making our service members pay for the government’s incompetence is beyond the pale.”

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In a statement obtained by We Are the Mighty, Governor Johnson called for immediate action to be taken to keep the faith with California National Guardsmen.

MIGHTY MONEY

Veterans in cannabis industry denied VA home loans

Veterans in the cannabis industry have been denied home loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs, prompting a response from Congress.

When one veteran was denied his home loan benefit, he reached out to Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Massachusetts), who joined with 20 members of Congress in writing to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The lawmakers wanted to know why their constituents were denied loans after citing their income sources as state-legalized cannabis activities.

“Denying veterans the benefits they’ve earned…is contrary to the intent Congress separately demonstrated in its creation of VA benefit programs,” Clark wrote in her May 23, 2019 letter.


4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Read the letter:

In the letter, shared with Roll Call, Clark stated, “A substantial number of veterans earn their livelihoods in this industry and, in coming years, that number is likely to further rise. The VA must acknowledge this reality and ensure veterans who work in this sector are able to clearly understand and can equitably access the benefits they’ve earned.”

She also acknowledged that “the ambiguity under which the cannabis industry operates is unique, and we fully understand the VA’s resulting aversion to legal and financial risk. [However]…in recent years, the Department of Justice has substantially narrowed its prosecutorial priorities in this area, and Congress has taken action to prevent federal interference with the implementation of state cannabis laws.”

More: Time to slay the myth around the magical unicorn called the ‘VA Loan’

Though Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug, illegal under federal law, Military.com points out that “thirty-four states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands now have some variation of medical marijuana programs, while a dozen other states allow cannabidiol that is low in tetrahydrocannabinol — or THC, the psychoactive component of pot that makes a user high — for medicinal purposes.”

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dan Anglin, CEO of CannAmerica, was also denied a VA home loan due to his work in the cannabis industry — and he’s not afraid to speak out about it.


Veteran Dan Anglin Denied Home Loans Due to Owning a Cannabis Company

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Veteran Dan Anglin speaks out

Also read: Why this Army vet ditched pills for cannabis and yoga

Articles

Pentagon to relieve debt of most Guardsmen

Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.

Also read: National Guard chief says ‘tie goes to the soldier’ in California re-enlistment bonus scandal

Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty
Maj. Gen. William H. Wade, the adjutant general for the California National Guard administers the oath of enlistment to Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 143rd Field Artillery during a recent visit Victory Base Complex, Iraq in 2007.

“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.

“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.

Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.

Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.

“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.

“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty
Soldiers of the California National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division rehearsing an air assault mission at Fort Hunter Liggett Feb. 8. | Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Cossel

There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.

“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.

Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”

As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.

Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:

— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.

— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.

— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.

“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.

“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”

Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.

“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”

Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”

“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”

Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.

“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.

The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.

In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.

In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.

In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”

Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.

“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”

MIGHTY MONEY

Guard to see changes in GI Bill transfer benefits

Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.

“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.

The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.


“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.

“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”

For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.

“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”

Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.

“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.

The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.

“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.

Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.

“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.

“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.

Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.

4 tips for buying your first home on active duty

Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)

“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.

“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.

After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.

“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”

However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”

Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.

“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”

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