Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender - We Are The Mighty
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Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

When you’ve made the decision to start shopping for a home loan, it is important to make sure you find a lender who will be your partner in the home buying process. It is encouraged to shop around; you won’t be penalized because the credit bureaus expect it. This is a lot of money you’re about to invest! The most frequently asked question from home loan shoppers is, “What is your interest rate?” but it is absolutely essential to understand that there is so much more to a home loan than just a rate.


Dealmakers and breakers beyond the stated interest rate:

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

media.defense.gov

Are there fees or points baked into the loan?

You want to make an apples-to-apples comparison, and that goes far beyond rate. Take a look in “Section A” of the lender estimate to look out for things such as origination fees, processing fees, underwriting fees, and points. All of these fees impact your bottom line, and even if the interest rate is better, it could still be the worse deal for you. Mortgage math can be complicated; you want a lender that will not charge these fees and break down your estimate line by line. Your lender should empower you to make an informed decision, rather than boxing you in a loan product that wasn’t necessarily the “right choice” for you.

Is your lender accessible?

When you’re out shopping for a home on your evening and weekend time, you want someone who is available to answer financing questions on the particular property. A good lender will work real-time with your Realtor to send over updated approval letters specific to the home, to include accurate property tax information (which is important because I’ve seen many cases where a lower-priced house costs more monthly because of taxes or HOA). You want a lender who will answer your frantic calls on the weekend when you have a burning question that just can’t wait. You want a lender who will answer a text when you have something pop up. You want a partner in the process that values you as a person, not just another file.

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

Can you close on time?

Look at your lender’s track record of closing turn time. Some lenders will advertise interest rates with a lock period of 45+ days. That is an indicator of how long it is going to take them to get the job done. Most mortgages need to close within 30 days or less, and the last thing you want is to jeopardize the contract on your home or the sweet rate you’ve locked in.

Does your lender educate you?

You want a trusted guide that takes the time to answer all of the questions you ask, and the ones you didn’t. A mortgage loan is full of information you don’t know that you don’t know. You want someone who takes the time to explain #allofthethings and makes you feel well informed and empowered throughout the entire process, start to finish.

Bottom line is you want to feel like you’re working with a lender that is your advocate and partner throughout the entire home purchase experience. It is important to have a relationship you can trust with the most important of all investments – your home.

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9 incredibly successful companies founded by military veterans

It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.


People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.

Also read: 10 entertaining military podcasts you need to know about

After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.

Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.

1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
RE/MAX

Prior to founding “Real Estate Maximums” — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.

“The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place,” he told Airport Journals. “It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.”

After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.

2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Sperry

You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world’s first boat shoe.

In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn’t stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.

Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.

During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.

3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith

Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.

After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.

Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.

“Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine,” he wrote forMilitary.com. “The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture.”

4. Walmart, cofounded by Army veteran Sam Walton

WalMart is the largest company in the world.

It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.

According to the company’s history, Sam Walton’s first WalMart store, called Walton’s Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.

5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Creative Commons

The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world’s web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.

Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.

“I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps,” he writes on his website.

In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts

6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Adam Neumann | Adam Neumann

Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.

Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.

Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Neumann served as a navy officer there for five years before moving to the US in 2001.

7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Taboola Founder and CEO Adam Singolda. | Taboola

Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.

Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.

He ended up serving for seven years as an officer with the elite Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s version of the NSA.

He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature “Content You May Like” that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.

8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder

The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.

He earned his law degree at the University of Missouri before serving in Vietnam as a US Army captain. He was in uniform for four years as a Judge Advocate General officer (aka a military lawyer).

9. USAA, founded by a group of Army officers

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Flickr/Fort Rucker

It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.

Interestingly though, it doesn’t have just one founder. It has 25.

Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.

So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.

Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.

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The 9 worst scams targeting military veterans

Numerous scams often target military members due to their consistent paychecks and many troops being young and financially inexperienced. From predatory lending to online scams, it’s important for service members to learn how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of. Here are 9 scams every military service member needs to be aware of.


1. Social Media Scams (Card Popping)
Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

Fake accounts are being created on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where scammers often impersonate military personnel. They will then friend military troops and begin building a relationship through direct messaging. Eventually they will claim they can make you quick money by depositing money in to your account and in exchange you just send them a fee. They will ask for personal banking information such as your username, password, bank card number, and pin. Once the information is exchanged they deposit fraudulent checks and withdraw the cash, leaving you without money and possibly liable for the losses.

2. Rental Housing Scams

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

Scammers will post fake rental properties on classified websites in areas around military bases and communities targeting troops. Service members moving in to the area will be offered fake military discounts and be asked for a security deposit by wiring money to the landlord.

3. Military Loans

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

Military car and personal loans that require no credit check, have instant approval, upfront fees, or promise guarantees are highly likely to have hidden fees and terms that take advantage of service members, leaving them with crippling debt.

4. Veterans’ Benefits Buyout Scam

Military veterans hard pressed for cash may be lured into this buyout plan offering a cash payment in exchange for their future disability pension payments and benefits. However, these payouts are only about 30 to 40 percent of what their value is and structured in ways harmful to veterans’ finances.

5. Car Purchase Scams

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer

Using websites that offer classified ads, scammers will create car ads targeting military members. They will pretend they are a service member who is being deployed or moving because they are being stationed somewhere else and need to get rid of their car quickly. They will ask for wire transfers or up front fees and will offer fake claims such as free shipping or discounts.

6. Employment Scams

Veterans and active duty members searching for jobs may come across employers who offer special consideration for their military service. Be wary of employers asking for personal information such as bank account numbers or that want to conduct a credit or background check. Some are scams that use your personal information to steal your identity and/or expose you to fraud.

7. Jury Duty Scam

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender
Photo: Marine Corps Sgt. Rebekka Heite

Military members will be targeted by callers who claim they work with the court system and tell the service member has a warrant out for their arrest due to not showing up for jury duty. Fearing they can get in trouble by their command, the caller says it can be taken care of by providing personal information such as a social security or credit card number.

8. Veterans Affairs Scam

Military veterans are being targeted by phone scammers who call claiming they work for Veterans Affairs and say they need to update their information with the VA. The VA never calls and asks for your private information by phone.

9. Military Life Insurance Scams

Hard sales tactics are used by agents who target military members. They will make false and inflated claims about life insurance policy benefits which are expensive and most likely unnecessary.

Learn how to protect yourself!

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

To help military members and their families the Better Business Bureau has created a BBB Military Line to educate service members on how to protect themselves. Be sure to follow their Facebook page to keep up to date on all current scams and ways to protect yourselves.

(Note: The BBB has put out a warning about scammers trying to take advantage of the military and veteran community during Memorial Day weekend. Read how you can protect yourself.)

SEE ALSO: Army Captain saves 3 lives while wearing ‘Captain America’ t-shirt

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ADPI H.E.L.P.S: Six Secret Hacks to Financial Freedom for Your Family

How to use your Veteran Benefits to Help Achieve Financial Independence

Can you, as a veteran, hack military benefits to financial freedom?  Yes.  The average American household spends $5,000/month.  Let’s imagine that this represents you.  If you succeed in stacking your benefits as monthly passive income to outweigh $5K/month, then you win in hacking your way to financial freedom.

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

You can win freedom by increasing money flowing in or reducing the money flowing out.  I prefer to focus on income, to think offensively, vs. the defensive approach of aggressive saving and living frugally.  Your expenses can shrink to the floor, but your income has no ceiling.  And as we say in the military, the defense sets up the offense.  The offense remains decisive.

As a veteran, there exist at least four significant sources of passive income that you should hack:  retirement, VADC, SSDI, and VR&E.  You also have at least two state-level benefits on which to give serious thought:  zero property tax, and free college for your dependents.

For illustration, let’s say that you’re an Army Captain (O-3E) retiring at 20 years in 2020.  Let’s also say that you fall under the High-3 pension, with two dependent children, and have a good chance at VA 100.  And yes, presume $5,000/month in expenses.  Sneak peek.  That means $3,700/month (pension), $3,300/month (VA 100), $2,800/month (SSDI), and maybe $1,500/month (VR&E housing stipend).  That adds up to $11,300/month, best-case scenario.

Veteran Retirement and Pension


Retirement qualifies you for a pension.  There exist four pension types:  Final Pay, High-3, CSB/REDUX, and BRS.  The math goes as follows, monthly pension = (retired base pay) x (multiplier) x (years of service).  At present, you can’t choose.  It’s a moot issue.  You have what you have, and that got determined by when you entered.  In our example, the High-3 applies to you.  It calculates as follows, $3,700 = (approx. $7,400) x (2.5%) x (20 years).

There exist five types of retirement:

  • Regular.  Completed 20 years of active service.  You can begin active duty as early as age 17 and retire at 37.  Some do.
  • Reserve.  Reservist with 20 years of service who has reached age 60.  Sometimes called a non-regular retirement.  Ready Reserve recalled to active duty or in response to a national emergency, shall have the age 60 requirement reduced by 3 months for each cumulative period of 90 days (3 months) so performed in any fiscal year after 28 Jan. 2008.
  • TERA.  Temporary Early Retirement Authority.  At least 15, but less than 20 years of active service between 2012 and 2025.  Program expected to end 31 Dec. 2025.  Future use of TERA will require approval by Congress.  Specific eligibility criteria for TERA depends on the service branch.  The Army has in place a limited use of TERA, enough to conclude that it’s not an option.
  • TDRL.  Temporary Disability Retirement List.  Temporary disability rating, placed on retirement rolls by member’s branch of service (max of 5 years) before returning to duty, separating, or proceeding onto PDRL.  Results from a med board.  This results in a military pension.  This retirement check comes from the DOD and not the VA.
  • PDRL.  Permanent Disability Retirement List.  Placed on the retirement rolls by member’s branch of service.

All of the above will result in a pension.  The math will differ for each.  We’ll continue with our High-3 and regular retirement example.  But I’m guessing that you’ll want an idea of how to retire as soon as possible, and with the highest return you can get.  Keep reading.

Regular, reserve, and TERA allow with reasonable certainty for Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP).  That means both the pension plus VADC.  CRDP requires retirement under the first three, as well as a ≥50% VA disability rating.  In our example, that means $3,700/month plus $3,300/month (VA 100), or $7,000/month so far and well over the average in household expenses.

Otherwise, the only way to get both, concurrently, is through Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC).  The criteria:

  • Entitled to or receiving retired military pay
  • Rated at least 10% by VA and combat-related
  • Have waived VA pay from retired pay (the VA waiver or offset) (it’s a bit complicated)
  • Can present documentation for the event resulting in the condition

Notice that CRSC can occur before 15 or 20 years, and pay the pension plus VADC.  The math will adjust accordingly.  To keep this article from getting too long, I won’t go over it here.  Know that less time in service or a lower disability rating means a smaller compensation amount.  Also note that yes, with CRSC, you can stack both the pension and VADC, and well before 15 or 20 years.  Such a case would most likely look like TDRL/PDRL plus CRSC.

By the way, combat-related need not refer to actual combat.  Combat-related may mean training that simulates war, e.g., exercises or field training.  It could mean hazardous duty, such as dive, flight, parachute.  Or come from an instrumentality, such as combat vehicles or weapons.  In 2011, as a Second Lieutenant (O-1E) at Fort Lee, a Private negligently discharged her rifle during a range and almost shot my foot.  If she had shot my foot, that would’ve counted as combat-related.

VA Disability Compensation (VADC)


Here’s the big one.  A high enough VADC rating can lead to SSDI, VR&E, zero property tax, free college for dependent children, student loan forgiveness, and more.  The goal here is not to be disabled but to obtain disability compensation.  And winning compensation is probably much easier than you think.  There’s no lying or cheating required or encouraged – only diligence.  We’ll go over ways to give your claim the best chance possible.

Keep this framework in mind:  How much is it?  How long will it take?  Claims, conditions, criteria, and appeals?  Anything quirky?  Where can I get help?

How much is it?  The amount will depend on the VA’s final composite rating and the number of dependents.  The higher the composite and the more dependents, the higher the amount.  In our example, a 100% VADC (or VA 100) with two dependent children would pay $3,300/month, non-taxable.

The final or composite score consists of adding up the ratings of each separate disability.  Two disabilities, each rated at 50, do not add up to 100.  The VA uses a unique table.  If you search Google for a VA disability calculator, try punching in 10 different disabilities.  With 10 disabilities, you’ll need to score the following individual ratings at the least for VA 100:  70, 40, 40, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10.  Notice that using lay math, these individual ratings add to 220.  The rule of thumb is to shoot for 250+ points to reach VA 100.

How long will it take?  Six months to a year or more.  Anecdotal evidence from my friends who’ve reached VA 100 tell me about two years.  You can begin your claim at https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/login, six months from separating or retiring, or upon referral to a medical board.  Fill out the VA Form 21-526EZ.  If you’ve been referred to a medical evaluation board (MEB), your claim will happen as part of the IDES (Integrated Disability Evaluations System) process.

Claims.   Two types, standard and a Fully Developed Claim (FDC).  File an FDC.  The standard claim relies on the VA to obtain your medical information.  The FDC lets you take charge.  It means more work for you, but you don’t want to leave this up to the VA.

When filing your FDC, look for a form to attach to it called a Disability Benefits Questionnaire (DBQ).  DBQ refers to a category of standardized forms for specific disabilities.  The VA has created over 70 DBQs, one per disability.  For example, if you intend to file a claim for scars or disfigurement, the DBQ for that is Form 21-0960F-1 (scars/disfigurement).  Check if the disability you intend to claim already comes with a corresponding DBQ.  If not, no worries.  Continue mission.

Conditions.  Two types, primary and secondary.  Primary disabilities refer to those which military service caused or aggravated (made worse).  Notice the part about the military having made worse the condition.  Even if pre-existing, it suffices VADC that military service has exacerbated it.  Primary conditions represent the category that most of us know, and on which we spend most of our efforts trying to win.

There also exist secondary disabilities.  Whereas primary refers to a direct service-connected condition, secondary refers to indirect.  Secondary connects to primary.  These seem easier to win.  Whether they are, know that they represent one more way to increase odds of VA 100.  Some of the more common reasons connecting secondary to primary include behavioral health, illness, medication side effects, and overcompensation.  Also, note that the connecting primary may suffice at a non-compensable rating of 0%.

Yes, 0%.  0% compensation for a primary condition still means service connection, although non-compensable.  You may still use it to achieve compensation for a secondary.  One more time, realize that a 0% rating on a primary can still service-connect to a 100% rating on a secondary.  Makes sense?  It doesn’t matter.  One more way to stack the odds and the benefits in your favor.

Criteria.  For the VA rater to decide, you must connect at least three records:

  • What · your present impairment limits your earning capacity
  • When · you experienced an illness/injury while serving active duty
  • Nexus · that illness/injury caused/aggravated the present impairment (service connection)

Something happened on active duty.  That something, or set of somethings, produced or made worse your present medical condition.  You indeed have a medical condition that limits your earning capacity.  Get straight to the point.  Give the rater these records and nothing more.  If you lack one of these records or clog his inbox, it makes work difficult for him and unlikely for you to win.

The medical nexus letter will look like a memo for the record (MFR).  It should contain four parts:

  • Records review.  The medical professional writing the letter must state that he has looked at your relevant medical records.
  • Medical opinion.  The opinion, which must at minimum say, at least as likely as not (the 50% probability evidence standard).  Equipoise.
  • Medical research.  Reason and evidence to support the opinion.
  • Credentials.  The examiner states his relevant credentials.  An eye doctor probably knows more about feet than a VA rater.  But when it comes to your foot problem, the VA doesn’t want your eye doctor’s opinion.

For each disability you claim, you should also fill out a VA Form 21-4138 (statement in support of a claim).  Tell your story.  Say what the condition is.  Identify what it resulted from, the symptoms, and the severity of those symptoms.  Describe the degree to which it has limited your life.

If the claim requires lay evidence, ask someone relevant to your case to fill out a VA Form 21-4138.  When filled out as lay evidence, it now becomes a buddy letter.  In his letter, he should state how well he knew you during the qualifying incident, and then what he observed about you.

Along the way, the VA may ask you to undergo a C&P (compensation and pension) exam.  It’s a medical review with a VA doctor.  It could be a few questions or a comprehensive physical exam.  Be honest, of course, but do not be on your best day either.  The C&P examiner aims to disqualify you.  Furthermore, carry with you the attitude that you gave military life your best effort.  If he sniffs you out as lazy or looking to milk the system, he’ll decide accordingly.

Even if he does decide against you, you may still get a second opinion from an approved examiner of your choice.  Notice the word equipoise above.  Given a 50% probability, such as when the C&P says no, but your doctor says yes, the benefit of the doubt goes to you.

Appeals.  Yes, you can appeal.  Search for VA Form 20-0998 (your rights to seek further review of our decision).  It outlines four review options:  supplemental claim, higher-level review (HLR), appeal to the board, and a U.S. District Court complaint.  File a supplemental claim given new and relevant evidence.  File an HLR when you have no new evidence.  These first two, especially HLR, appear to result in more success than the last two and happen much quicker.  The last two take years.  The VA Form 20-0998 gives instructions on how to file for review.  More ways to win.  Keep at it.

Quirky things.  We’ll discuss SMC (special monthly compensation) another time.  Know that there exist four types of VA 100:  temporary, schedular, TDIU, and P&T.  Temporary means you’re incapacitated or suffering a severe condition.  If schedular, you reached about 250 lay points.  TDIU pays the equivalent of VA 100 if the member rates at least VA 60 or 70 and cannot obtain substantially gainful employment.  Permanent and Total (P&T) provides the least likely chance of reduction later.  You want P&T.  If you’ve reached VA 100 the other ways, you may write to your local VA Regional Office to request P&T.

Recap.  Stack the odds in your favor.  Use FDCs and DBQs.  File for both primary and secondary disabilities, and claim as many as reasonable.  Shoot for 250+ lay points.  Add buddy letters.  Present the rater with what he needs, and nothing more.  Realize TDIU could shortcut to VA 100.  And use supplemental claims and HLRs.

Get help.  Check out www.VAClaimsInsider.com.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)


Yes, the SSA computers talk to the VA computers.  But eligibility with one doesn’t automatically translate into the other.  Check out www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

VADC covers a veteran for loss of earning capacity because of a service-connected medical condition.  SSDI compensates the applicant for the loss of the ability to do substantially gainful work because of a medical condition.  For SSDI, the condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or to result in death.

How much is it?  For our notional Captain (O-3E) with 20 years of work credits, that’s $2,000/month plus $400/month each for two dependent children, or $2,800/month.

How long will it take?  Expect about six months to get a response from the SSA, and a mandatory five-month wait if approved.  Oh, and the five-month wait comes with no back pay.

Claims, conditions, and criteria.  First, you need to meet the non-medical requirements:  sufficient work credits, below retirement age, residency, and not working or earning too much.  As a veteran, you likely already meet all of those.  Then, the SSA asks five questions when evaluating SSDI:

  • Do you work too much or make too much money?
  • Is your medical condition severe?  Will it last at least 12 months?
  • Does the condition meet or exceed a listing?  A listing is a condition found on the SSA’s Listing of Impairments.  It outlines the SSA’s established set of medical conditions determined severe enough to prevent one from performing any gainful activity.
  • Can the applicant perform past relevant work?
  • Can the applicant retrain for new work?

Income, condition, listing, past work, and retraining.  To award SSDI, the applicant must reasonably answer, respectively:  no, yes, yes if so, no, no.  But the gist of it is that the condition must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or to result in death.

Appeals.  Yes, you can.  Your denial letter should explain.  You typically receive only 60 days from the date of the denial letter to appeal.  If you miss the deadline, you may have to start from the beginning.  Recommend that you seek help by this point.

Quirks.  Instead of applying online or in person, call the SSA at (800) 772-1213.  One book on Social Security puts the burden back onto the SSA when it comes to form-filling and the nuisances of interpreting the forms.  The SSA would know best anyway on how to fill out its own forms.  If you don’t finish it all in one day, the SSA will schedule another phone call to work around your schedule.

You can get SSDI while still serving on active duty.  In what scenario?  Assignment to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU).  Not easy, but not impossible.

Get help.  Check out Side by Side Solutions, LLC, https://www.facebook.com/sbssolutions, founded by Lisa Hiering, mother of a disabled Marine.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E)


VR&E intends to help a veteran fix his vocational impairment or employment handicap, resulting from a service-connected disability.  It consists of five tracks.  I’ll just cut to the chase.

How much is it?  Track 4 (employment through long-term services) can work just like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and pay a monthly housing stipend, or subsistence within the VR&E language.  Think of it as BAH.  It depends on the school and on attendance, but we could reasonably estimate around $1,500/month.

There’s also a Track 3 (self-employment) that could pay up to $100K towards business startup costs.  Yes, up to $100K, to you.  You can ride Track 4 up through a doctorate and then get $100K through Track 3 to start your practice.

How long will it take?  Expect about a month to get a meeting with a Voc. Rehab. Counselor (VRC), then another two months to get a decision.

Claims, conditions, criteria.  Fill out a VA Form 28-1900 at www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/login.  The VA will also ask you to fill out an Individualized Employment Assistance Plan (IEAP), in which you outline exactly what it’ll take to help you.  You’ll need at least a VA 20 rating, or VA 10 for a serious employment handicap.

There’s a 1,200-page manual called the M28R that the VRC uses to do his job. If you’re wondering what questions he’s trying to answer, then check out Part IV, Section B, Chapter 2 (evaluation and planning determinations).

Appeals.  Can you?  Yes.

Quirks.  The C in VRC may stand for counselor, but you should treat him like the C&P examiner.  Think of him more as an interviewer.

Get help.  Check out attorney Benjamin Krause at www.DisabledVeterans.org.

Zero Property Tax · State-Level


Some states, like Texas or Florida, provide zero property tax for disabled veterans.  Also called a homestead exemption.  Typically for VA 100.  Rules vary by state.  For a quick list of states that offer this, check out https://hadit.com/disabled-veterans-property-tax-exemptions-state/.

For a summary of all benefits by state, check out https://myarmybenefits.us.army.mil.  It’s an Army website that summarizes veteran benefits applicable to all service members.

Free College for Dependents · State-Level


Florida and Texas also offer free college tuition in-state up through a BA/BS for the dependents of a disabled veteran.  Typically for VA 100, but a lower rating might suffice.  Varies by state.  Check out https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/scholarships-for-veterans-and-dependents/.

Although not direct cash, that’s still a BA/BS degree that would’ve cost $40K at a public four-year college (in-state student), $90K public four-year (out-of-state), or about $180K private.

Bonus · Four More Financial Freedom Hacks!

House Hack · VA Home Loan Guaranty


Use the VA home loan guaranty to get zero down on a residential property.  This hack lets you obtain up to a four-plex.  You could reside in one unit and rent out the other three.  In the unit you live, you could further hack that with roommates or Airbnb.  Eventually, you could refinance to then re-use the VA home loan guaranty and obtain yet another multi-family.

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Credit Card Hack · SCRA (Title 50 USC Chapter 50)


Credit cards typically come with a low introductory rate (anywhere from 0% APR to a little more) before becoming about 20%+ APR.  However, if you serve on active duty or if the military called you onto active duty, among other benefits, the SCRA provides a cap at 6% APR and a waiver of service and renewal fees.

By the way, Chase gives me 0% APR as part of its SCRA benefit.  If your side hustle consists of e-commerce, use this credit card hack to boost your margins from arbitraging goods.  How often do the credit card companies check?  About once a year, otherwise, they use your anticipated (hint, self-reported) end date.  Self-reporting applies to those with indefinite contracts.  If this is you, I’m sure you can see how you could self-report an end date far into the future.

Student Loan Hack

 https://DisabilityDischarge.com


On 21 Aug. 2019, President Trump signed a memo to cancel student loan debt for disabled veterans.  To qualify, you’ll need to have either reached VA 100 or have been approved for SSDI.  See https://disabilitydischarge.com for details.

Time Hack · Army Career Skills Program

 www.DODSkillBridge.com


The Army’s Career Skills Program (CSP) allows a Soldier to spend the last six months of active duty interning with a school or employer.  While on CSP, the Soldier still gets paid as if on active duty but instead reports elsewhere.  I’ve seen this flow as smoothly as a one-page form signed by an OIC.  Are you separating or retiring?  Do you have a friend who also happens to have her own business?  It’s like shaving six months off your contract.

This article originally appeared on Active Duty Passive Income. Follow them on Facebook.

MIGHTY MONEY

T-Mobile will give its biggest discount ever to the military

Supporting the military is nothing new to T-Mobile. The carrier is one of America’s most dedicated veteran employers. In keeping with the practice of asking customers what they want and giving it to them, T-mobile asked its veteran employees what they needed. The veterans answered truthfully. T-Mobile listened — in a big way.


“We change to adapt to our customers’ needs, we listen to their pain points” says Matt Staneff, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of T-Mobile. “Our veteran employees and customers transitioning out of the military were just making ends meet during long periods of unemployment.”

And so began the company’s Military Support Initiative.

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T-Mobile’s veteran employees who participated in the 2017 NYC Veterans Day Parade
(Twitter @JohnLegere, T-Mobile CEO)

T-Mobile decided to go all-in for the military-veteran community in a number of ways. On top of the benefits of buying into T-Mobile’s ONE family plan (of which there are many, including a Netflix subscription), T-Mobile will now offer that plan at half-off for military families — along with half-off of popular Samsung smartphones. It’s not just the biggest discount T-Mobile has ever offered, it’s the biggest discount in the wireless industry. Ever.

But the carrier’s plan is more than just a discount and some great service, it’s a real investment in military communities. It starts with the discount, but T-Mobile quickly recognized that making it easier for transitioning military families to make ends meet was solving only part of the bigger problem: the long period of unemployment. So, T-Mobile decided to do something about that, too.

“Our plan to hire military veterans has had phenomenal success to date,” says Staneff. “We have vets in every department performing very well. What veterans bring to the culture of T-Mobile is one of the keys to our success.”

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The Military Honors Wall at T-Mobile’s Snoqualmie, Wash. office
(Twitter @NevilleRay)

A few years back, the company pledged to hire some 5,000 veteran employees, and not just for entry-level positions. The company employs vets at all levels and in all areas. Now, they’ve pledged to hire 10,000 more veterans — and their spouses — in the next five years.

“It took a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do during transition,” says Tana Avellar, once an active duty Army officer who now serves in the Washington State National Guard. She is also a T-Mobile employee. “I can’t be more proud to work for a company that is such an advocate for their employees, veterans, and their families overall.”

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Avellar in her National Guard role.
(Photo from Tana Avellar)

But T-Mobile is looking to help out all veterans, not just the ones who want to work for them. It’s teaming up with FourBlock, a career readiness nonprofit designed for veterans and their families. The company is funding FourBlock’s Massive Open Online Course, a training course based in 15 cities in the U.S. (with four more on the way). The training helps spouses gain employment while giving them the confidence to pursue the jobs they’re more than qualified to do.

The last part of T-Mobile’s investment plan is a real investment, in both T-Mobile’s future and military families. The company is rolling out a $8 billion investment in new infrastructure, and will start that with a $500 million plan to build new 5G towers in military communities.

“Our mission is to have the best coverage for all Americans,” says Staneff. “And bases aren’t always near big cities. So, we wanted to make sure everyone had access to the fastest networks, whether they live in cities or rural small towns, military bases or somewhere in between. They all deserve the same access.”

MIGHTY MONEY

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

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National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu announces its expansion of sites within the Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Amaani Lyle)


Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.

The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.

Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.

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Masks, decorated by service members, sit on display as part of the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (National Endowment for the Arts courtesy photo)

The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.

Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.

The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.

Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.

“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”

MIGHTY MONEY

Tips for budgeting for the holidays

As the holidays get closer, many military families find themselves looking for ways to save money and budget appropriately for the upcoming gift-giving season. Random COVID-19 impulse buys, a downward spiraling economy, job loss, and purchases related to new homeschooling or virtual schooling curriculum are leaving many of us financially stressed in 2020. Check out these holiday budgeting tips that will help you start the new year off on the right financial footing.

Tips on budgeting for the holidays

So how do you try to save and budget for this holiday season when your finances may have taken unexpected hits because of the coronavirus pandemic? Financial expert and military spouse Lacey Langford from The Military Money Expert says there are three things you should evaluate when you start budgeting for the holidays: your current holiday savings, the total amount you want to spend for the holidays, and who is on your list. 

“Knowing how much you have to spend is the jumping-off point for your budget,” Langford said. “Then you can look at [ways to save] between now and Christmas.”

You will also want to examine how much you want to spend for the holidays. You can do this by looking at your current savings account balance. Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings as your emergency and investment amounts to find your total holiday shopping budget. Once you have that number, you can write down the people on your holiday shopping gift list, and assign each person an amount of money you would like to spend on them. “[When you] know who you’re buying for it makes it easy to firm up your spending budget,” says Langford. 

“Save money every month, starting in January. … Set up an automatic $100 transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month. By the time November rolls around, you’ll have $1,100 to holiday shop with,” Langford suggests. 

But don’t fret — if you aren’t that organized with your holiday budgeting this year, you can still do some things to help you save some cash for the next several weeks: 

  • Don’t procrastinate: Shop sales when you see them. You can even do this throughout the year.
  • Use apps like Qube Money that utilizes the popular envelope system or Tiller that helps you budget throughout the year.
  • Cancel your cable or streaming services.
  • Honey and Rakuten are two websites that offer cash back for purchases made on other sites — even Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target participate

“Don’t forget to use your military benefits when shopping for the holidays,” Langford said. 

Shop My Exchange, ID.Me Shop, and GovX are all military-specific and provide discounts or lists of companies that give military discounts online. 

The military exchanges also offer a new layaway program as well. Layaway not only helps you pay for what you can manage in a certain timeframe but also allows you to stick to your monthly budget. There are several different options for layaway, from 30 days for clothing and handbags up to 120 days on fine jewelry. A deposit purchase of $25 and 15% of the item’s purchase price, plus service fees are required to put your items on layaway at any military exchange. You can find out more information by visiting the Exchange website

Even if your family is in a good place financially, you should start considering your holiday budget about 6-8 weeks using the funds you have saved away throughout the year. Budgeting is a great way to keep your family on track, make sure your nest eggs continue to thrive, and help your family prepare for the unexpected — like a worldwide pandemic. 

Want more money tips? Download our free 2020 Military Money Guide

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

8 steps to executing the perfect do-it-yourself move this PCS season

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(Photo courtesy of Penske)


At first glance, the Personally Procured Move (or PPM) Program (what used to be called DITY move) may seem to be more trouble than it’s worth. After all, you have to take care of your own moving arrangements and expenses, rather than letting the government do it for you. But if you do a little planning and put forth a bit of effort, doing a PPM offers several advantages over a normal military move, like these:

Money, Money, Money. In the PPM Program, you receive a government payment of 95 percent of what it would cost the government to move you. In addition, you receive the standard travel allowances for you and your family. If you end up spending less than the 95 percent payment the government provides, you get to keep the rest. This may sound difficult, but if you take advantage of moving company discounts and other special offers, you’ll find that you can make money for yourself. You should especially consider a PPM if you have a limited amount of items that need shipping or moving — you may be able to take care of all the packing and transport yourself.

Time, Time, Time. When you receive orders to move to another area, you’re authorized permissive TDY or travel time in order to take care of all your moving arrangements. If you make a PPM, you’ll receive additional time to handle your move — time that you can use to relax if you’re efficient about planning your move.

Total Control. While it’s nice to do without the headaches of planning a move, many military personnel had less-than-ideal experiences when the government took care of their moves. With the PPM program, you’re in control every step of the way, from deciding which moving services you want to how much of the actual move you want to handle yourself.

If you’re ready to take advantage of the PPM program make sure you follow each of the steps outlined below:

Step 1. Apply for the PPM move by scheduling an appointment with your base Personal Property Transportation Office (PTO).

A PTO representative will cover all factors of the program in detail, and provide you with all forms and instructions you need. Foremost among these is the DD Form 2278 (Application for Move and Counseling Checklist). Other forms you may need to fill out or provide include:

Standard Form 1038 — Advance of Funds Application and Account (for advanced operating allowance).

Certified empty weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Certified loaded weight ticket for each shipment with name, your Social Security number and signature of weight master.

Original DD Form 1351-2 — Travel Voucher or Subvoucher (ask your PTO representative if you have specific questions about this form)

Copy of registration for your boat(s) and/or trailer(s) if applicable.

Only after applying for and being authorized for a PPM move can you proceed with the move. If you make a partial PPM move (i.e., only shipping a certain amount of household goods), make sure you work out all the details with your PTO representative. Note that you will not receive full government payment for your PPM move until after your move.

Step 2. Decide on your type of move.

Will you be doing this all yourself? Will you have packers help? Will you have a moving company take care of the actual transport? Nail down these arrangements as soon as possible.

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(Photo: Military.com)

Step 3. Arrange for any rental equipment or moving services you need.

You can either do it all yourself, have a professional handle tasks, or some of both. Packing materials can be purchased from commercial suppliers.

Step 4. Confirm your insurance coverage.

Make sure you are up to date on your car and accident insurance. If you use a trailer, check your auto insurance policy to make sure you’re covered. State laws regarding liability for accidents during a PPM move vary, so if you’re involved in an accident while performing a PPM move, you should contact the legal office at the military installation nearest the accident site as soon as possible.

Step 5. Pick up your operating allowance from your local disbursing office.

Step 6. When your vehicle (whether you own it or are renting) is ready, calculate the total weight of what you are moving.

You should weigh your vehicle both fully loaded and unloaded. This is extremely important, as your PPM payment will be based on this weight ticket. To calculate the weight of your shipment, follow this formula:

Loaded Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + all of your property loaded + no drivers or passengers inside

Empty Weight = Your vehicle with a full tank of gas + no drivers or passengers inside

Loaded Weight – Empty Weight = Net Weight of Property

Each weight ticket should have the following information:

Name, grade, Social Security number

Name/location of scales

Vehicle/trailer identification

Date of weighing

Weigh Master’s signature

Legible of weights

Step 7. Get receipts for all moving expenses.

All costs associated with the move are not taxable, and will be deducted from the allowance you receive from the move to determine your actual financial profit. Only your profit will be taxed, so be sure to keep track of everything to maximize your profit. Authorized expenses include:

Payment for rental vehicles/trailers

Packing materials

Moving equipment (including hand trucks and dollies)

Gas and oil expenses

Highway tolls, weight tickets and any other transportation expense directly related to the PPM move

Step 8. Make your move, and submit your settlement.

Once you complete your actual move, you have 45 days to submit a claim for full payment of your PPM allowance. This should include the following:

Empty and loaded weight tickets (two copies of each)

DD Form 2278

PPM Move certification (attach all receipts for moving expenses)

PPM Move expense sheet

Change of Station Orders

Advance operating allowance paperwork (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

Vehicle/trailer rental contract (if you are renting a truck or trailer)

More specific details can be obtained from the Personal Property Transportation office at your installation. To get more PCS tips or information, visit Military.com’s PCS Moving Guide.

MIGHTY MONEY

Apple just announced a game-changing new credit card

At an event on March 25, 2019, at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, Apple announced the next stage in the evolution of Apple Pay: a rumored Apple rewards credit card.

The card, issued by Goldman Sachs called “Apple Card,” will offer cash rewards and various features and integrations with Apple’s Wallet and Apple Pay apps.

The card will earn “Daily Cash,” Apple’s version of cash back. Daily Cash is issued to the user’s Apple Pay Cash balance each day. From there, it can be spent on purchases using Apple Pay, applied as a credit toward the user’s Apple Card balance, or transferred to contacts through Apple’s peer payment feature in iMessage.


It was not immediately clear whether Daily Cash could be withdrawn to an external bank account, including Goldman Sachs accounts.

The card will earn 3% Daily Cash back on purchases made with Apple, 2% cash back on purchases made with Apple Pay, and 1% Daily Cash on purchases made with the physical card, or online without Apple Pay. It was not immediately clear if purchases made online through Apple Pay would qualify for the 2% back.

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(Apple)

According to Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey, who presented at the event, the new card is “designed for iPhone.” People can apply directly on the iPhone, and start using the digital card immediately upon approval. Cardholders can update information and review transactions through iMessage as the card uses machine learning to recognize transactions.

iPhone users can view their balances and transactions within the Wallet app, including automated breakdowns of spending by category and merchant.

The card will have no annual fee, late payment, or foreign transaction fees. The Apple Card features in Wallet will show various payment options, and help users calculate “the interest cost on different payment amounts in real time,” according to a news release. The Card app will also offer automated suggestions to pay down any carried balances sooner.

The card has several built-in security features, including some that are native to Apple Pay, and offers various privacy features. While users will get a physical card to use at point-of-sale terminals that do not accept Apple Pay, it won’t have a printed number, expiration date, or security code. For online purchases, that information can be accessed in the Wallet app, with Touch or Face ID used to authenticate the user.

The card runs on MasterCard’s payment network and will be available summer 2019.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 best industries for military spouses to work in

Would military spouses be happy with any ol’ job, as long as they were out of the house and earning an honest income?

My guess is, generally, no.By and large, military spouses are calling for employment that does much more than pay the bills. They want meaningful, purposeful employment that helps them advance their goals. Numerous studies support this, and the military spouse employment movement is making enormous strides.

So, if you’re a military spouse looking for meaningful employment, where should you start? What are viable career options?


Given your lifestyle, you’re probably looking for something portable, flexible, universally necessary and barrier-free. It just so happens that a number of our country’s growing industries have opportunities that fit the bill.

Let’s take a look at five promising industries that military spouses should consider for employment.

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1. Health care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the health care industry will have the highest growth over the next decade, predicting over 3.4 million additional jobs by 2028. That’s a lot of opportunity!

Nurses, home health care aides, social workers and medical aides are examples of jobs in this field. These jobs generally pay well and are necessary everywhere (check!), making you highly marketable every time you PCS. While the process of transferring licenses or honoring licenses from other states has yet to be completely smoothed out, officials are working to lift those barriers (check-almost!).

One thing to consider is that not all health care-related jobs require a license. For example, home health aides, the fastest-growing subsection of the industry, may not have to be licensed, but certification requirements vary depending on the state.

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2. Entrepreneurship

You probably can’t go a day without hearing that a friend has started a home-based business, quit her job to become a freelancer or established his own web-based company. Entrepreneurship isn’t a trend that will soon fade; it’s a legit movement, which many military spouses are joining, excited to take ownership of their own careers.

While entrepreneurship can be risky, it offers you portability and flexibility (check! check!). Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need to maintain and transfer licenses across state lines, but you’ve probably done your homework and found a niche that’s needed in the market (check!), making any paperwork worth it.

Plus, numerous organizations have established training and support programs, designed to help military spouse entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground in the strongest way possible. As a military spouse entrepreneur, you’ll have a wide community of experts and supporters ready to offer advice and mentorship, as well as cheer you on.

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3. Leisure and hospitality

Like health care, BLS predicts favorable opportunity for the leisure and hospitality industry. Over the next 10 years, BLS says that over 1.5 million jobs will be added to this sector.

This industry is growing across America, including right in the backyard of every military spouse. It just so happens that these leisure and hospitality companies were named among the 2020 Military Spouse Friendly Employers: Motel 6/Studio 6, Hilton and La Quinta by Wyndham.

These companies offer tailored onboarding practices, career portability and flexibility (check! check!), opportunities for advancement and more – specially for military spouses. Plus, you generally won’t have to worry about transferring a license or going to school for decades to begin working (check, check and more checks!).

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4. Professional services and business

As a military spouse, you’re resourceful, adaptable, cool under pressure and organized. These “soft skills” make you an excellent contender for the types of jobs in the professional services and business sector.

This sector, which BLS projects will add 1.66 million jobs by 2028, includes a wide variety of jobs, such as sales managers, human resources managers, executive assistants, advertising, financial managers, operations managers and more. It even includes highly technical jobs like architects and engineers.

You can adapt your mad military spouse skills to suit a number of different career paths, and many of them could lead to remote work (check!). For example, virtual assistants are becoming hugely popular with real estate companies, corporations and high-achieving entrepreneurs. Many companies are outsourcing managerial and research work to remote employees, too.

Think about this industry as your oyster. With so many options to consider, you can zero in on just the right job that suits your ever-changing lifestyle – talk about flexibility! (Check!).

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5. Information Technology

Technically, this bad boy falls under the professional services industry, but since it’s such a behemoth, it makes sense to discuss it separately. There’s not a corner of civilization that isn’t wired, making information technology experts absolutely essential to any business or organization (check!).

Despite what you might think, this industry offers a lot of flexibility, too (check!). Although your particular skill set might be defined, the type of company you can apply it to (i.e., your work environment) ranges far and wide.

From schools to ski resorts, national corporations to nonprofit offices, information technology specialists are needed everywhere. Whether you prefer working solo or with a team, in an office or at home, chances are that no matter where you PCS or how often, you’ll be able to take your work in computers with you.

Explore more for you:

Is it time to find just the right job for you? Explore our complete list of Military Spouse Friendly Employers, where you can search companies by industry.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

DoD denied benefits to a widow over one mistake

Joseph Parrinello served his country during three wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He met and married Margaret Donnelly while serving in England. They married on December 27, 1957. She followed him to all his assignments and did what many wives did at that time: she took care of the children and managed the household.


In 1972, Joseph retired after 28 years of service. His chief concern in life was making sure Margaret, who was 14 years younger than he and only ever worked in the home, was taken care of if he died. After a lifetime of investments, the Defense Department denied his beloved her survivor benefits because of one wrongly checked box.

 

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After many years together, they divorced in 1991. There was no love lost, Margaret married Joseph at 19 and had just never really known life without Joseph. He still loved her and she was still the mother of his children, so she remained the beneficiary of his Survivor Benefit Plan, even though they were no longer married. During their time apart, Joseph gave his beloved money every month to take care of her, even after the children came of age and left home. It was a surprise to no one when they remarried in 2006. Joseph was 83 and Margaret was 69.

By that time, Joseph had battled cancer and kidney failure. His overall health declined for years, but he never filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs because he only wanted what he was due and felt the VA didn’t owe him anything. So he lived on Social Security and his retirement pay as an E-7 with 28 years in service.

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Throughout his retirement, Joseph paid 15 percent of his income to take care of Margaret. He had an allotment taken out of his retirement to cover her in the event of his death, resulting in several decades of investment. His survivor benefit plan listed her as the sole beneficiary. At 83, he was tired, ill, and not as sharp as he once was. He didn’t change Margaret’s status from “former spouse” back to “current spouse” on the SBP form because he didn’t think he had to. In his mind, his Margaret was both former and current, and was going to be okay.

When he died at age 91 in December 2014, his daughter Lisa, also an Air Force veteran, tried to help her mother claim her survivor benefits. They initially filed in December of 2014 – but the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said they didn’t receive Margaret’s claim, though DFAS was sure to stop Joseph’s retirement pay and take back pay for part of the month of December. So Margaret refiled in January and was told it takes about six weeks to receive benefits.

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Joseph Parrinello

After six weeks, Margaret called DFAS to check the status. The answer was the claim was “still processing”. When her daughter Lisa called in February 2015, the claim was “still processing.” In March 2015, Lisa was told her mother “will get paid by the end of March.” In April, the claim was “still processing” and DFAS asked Margaret to send more documents to support her claim.

Lisa, frustrated, contacted her congressman, Mark Sanford. Sanford’s office was able to get an answer from the Defense Department. On June 1, 2015, Margaret was officially denied her benefits because the form had “former spouse” checked even though she is both the former and current spouse and her name is also on the form stating her as beneficiary. The family was told the form needed to be changed through the Air Force Personnel Center. The change (if approved) can take up to 18 months but the Air Force is “backlogged and must go in order.”

As Margaret waits for the Air Force to check a different box, she’s about to lose the house she shared with Joseph, their car, their treasured possessions, and the last wishes and lifetime work of a 28-year Air Force Master Sergeant, who only wanted the love of his life to be taken care of when he died.

The Defense Department did not tell the Parrinellos where Joseph’s 20-plus years of investments went or where they will go if they’re not given to Margaret.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The pros and cons of a separate bank account from your spouse

Mina and Jason Burbridge have been married for two years. She’s 47. He’s 48, and they’ve always maintained separate bank accounts. It gives the Boston couple some freedom to act unilaterally. As Mina says, “If he wants to buy something that’s dumb, he can do it. And so can I.”

They also set up a joint account early on in order to pay for big household expenses, although another motivation came right before their October 2015 wedding. Mina’s account was hacked into and had to be frozen for two weeks as the situation was rectified. The incident made them realize the benefit of two things: spreading their money around and having some always be mutually accessible, she says.


But the separate accounts have continued to show their worth. Mina is a psychologist and clinical trainer. Jason works from home, building a business buying and selling baseball cards. It’s all online, much of it on eBay, and having distinct accounts provides another layer of protection, as he could be doing 20 transactions a day, Jason says.

Mina and Jason’s arrangement is not as atypical as it may seem. A Bank of America study found that Millennial couples have separate bank accounts more than twice as much as Generation X and Baby Boomers. At first glance, it could be seen as affirming their independence and pushing back against the idea that marriage has changed much in their lives. But it’s more than that, says Dr. Robyn Landow, a psychologist in New York City.

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(Photo by Evan Forester)

Millennials are waiting to tie the knot. A Gallup poll showed that 27 percent of Millennials are married versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Boomers at comparable ages. Couples often live together for longer and have separate accounts, and, when they do marry, they don’t change the setup. It’s part inertia, part lack of urgency, part, “If it ain’t broke,” Landow says.

Still, while said couples may not see a need, having a joint account carries symbolic and concrete weight. It’s an awareness that there’s now an “ours”, which one day might involve expenses for houses, children and extended family. There’s the above-mentioned minimizing risk and making money available for a worst case scenario. And on a more granular level, a check made out to both people – gift, joint tax return refund – is an easier deposit if both names are on the account, says Brian Haney, financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland.

But the type of account in and of itself doesn’t predict or guarantee marital success or failure. Trust, commitment, and love are still the must-haves, says Landow, adding “The truth is if someone wants to hide or withhold money, with enough planning, they could do it.”

Whatever the system, couples first need to understand each other’s financial type. It involves figuring out whether a person believes in enjoying life as it comes, or in being a hardcore saver, always wanting something in the bank in case of emergencies, which Haney says, are not theoretical occurrences but realities. When attitudes are talked about, decisions become less arbitrary. “It makes it easier to know where you’re coming from and easier to find common ground,” he says.

Finance Friday: 4 things to look for in finding the right lender

(Flickr / reynermedia)

And if all that’s in place, responsible people can make individual accounts work – it just becomes a matter of assigning out the bills. But the setup loses the macro perspective of building something together. “You’re not roommates,” Haney says. In other words? Being married means sharing all parts of life – one house, one bed – and money is another component.

The joint account takes down barriers, because, especially when using a budgeting tool such as Mint, a couple can see all money coming in and going out. The information may be uncomfortable, but with everything out in the open, problems can be reconciled, plans can be tweaked, and spouses can make more informed decisions based on what they want.

“It reinforces stability in your relationship,” Haney says. “You’re a team, and when you keep things separate, it’s harder to be a team.”

That doesn’t mean individuals accounts don’t have a place, whether it’s for surprise gifts, the occasional indulgence, or something else. They just need to be another joint decision in what they’re going to look like and be used for. And to help get to the decision, Haney says to merely look at the monthly budget. The numbers will provide the answer to what’s needed for shared expenses, and then how much partners can donate to themselves. The approach is more detached, less emotional. “It takes the feelings out,” he says. The big thing is that it’s discussed and transparent to prevent suspicion, surprises and distrust.

“If you know it, you may not like it, but you can deal with it,” Haney says. “But if you don’t know, you automatically don’t like it. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable.”

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Senior executive with Navy Federal Credit Union says now is the time to buy

In the midst of COVID-19, there is really good news for veteran and military home buyers: It is the perfect time to buy.

Kevin Parker is the Vice President of Field Mortgage Originations for Navy Federal Credit Union. Parker shared that now, more than ever, is the perfect time for veterans, service members and military families to buy. He explained that the market currently has great rates, no “junk” fees and experienced VA loan lenders ready to work for them.


Parker advises the new service member to do their research first though. “Talk to lenders early and become familiar with the company that funds them. Many who provide [originate] don’t service the loan. Navy Federal Credit Union services every one,” he said. Parker also shared that it is important to compare both the rates and the fees. He explained some lenders will even offer an estimate of fees before you apply, making it easier to understand the total costs associated with the home loan.

For many active duty military families, purchasing a home can be intimidating and even anxiety provoking. This can be attributed to the frequent moves associated with military life and the concern of being able to sell the home when it is time to PCS again. But Parker wants military families to be at ease when considering purchasing a home. “Historically, it is a good investment and can create investment power in terms of future income,” he explained.

He also suggested that military families work with Realty Plus through NFCU.

Realty plus is a program through NFCU that pairs you with a coordinator who then connects you to a real estate agent who is specifically trained to work with military families. This program also comes with a cash back offer if you close on your home with one of those agents.

Veterans or recently separated service members may have different ideas in mind for their home purchase. Many are looking at states which will be their retirement homestead. Parker suggests that they pay attention to the economy in general and seek areas with good value for their money.

Parker also said that finding an area with NFCU branches wouldn’t hurt either.

The NFCU website states that they aim to, “Be the most preferred and trusted financial institution serving the military and their families.” NFCU was Founded in 1933 and is the world’s largest credit union. When they opened their doors, they had seven members.

Now, they have over nine million members.

Membership is open to all Department of Defense, Coast Guard Active Duty, veterans, civilian and contractor personnel and their families. They pride themselves on their original charter being to the military community and for having over 40 years of experience in servicing loans. In fact, half of their loans are VA home loans.

Parker credits NFCU’s success to the company’s commitment to the culture of focusing on the families. The NFCU website also promises that, “Once a member, always a member. You can leave the military, change employers, move, retire, get married – yet always stay with Navy Federal. Your life is our mission.”

To learn more about Navy Federal Credit Union, click here. To see their current VA and Conventional Fixed Home Loan rates and decide if a mortgage with NFCU is right for you, click here.

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