When it comes to credit cards, understanding your interest rate and how it works can be the difference between staying out of debt with an excellent credit score and falling behind in your payments and dipping to sub-par credit score ratings.
Your interest rate is the amount your credit card charges you to borrow money. If you pay your credit card balance in full and on time, you generally don’t need to worry much about your interest rate, which is expressed as an annual percentage rate (APR).
But if you’re carrying a balance on your credit card, you’ll notice you owe more over time, and that’s because of the interest rate. Credit cards are notorious for being one of the most expensive types of consumer debt, with an average interest rate of about 17%.
While in most cases you probably don’t need to calculate your credit card card interest rate — your statements should clearly reflect how much interest is owed on any unpaid balance and your APR should be clear on your statement and your bank’s website — you may want to get an idea of how much your balance is costing you on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet to help you when it comes to calculating your own credit card interest rate.
1. Pull up your credit card information
Log on to your financial institution’s website or pull out your latest statement (if you haven’t switched to paperless billing yet, get on that!) to find the pertinent information you’ll need to calculate your credit card interest.
You’ll need to find:
your purchase APR
the number of days in your billing cycle
2. Get to know the terms
The way your credit card works boils down to a few different terms, two of which include annual percentage rate (APR) and, more generally, your interest rate.
Although APR stands for annual percentage rate, your credit card company uses this percentage number to determine the interest you’ll be charged each month when you don’t pay your credit card off in full and carry a balance.
Keep in mind that your credit card may have different types of APR, like a:
purchase APR (usually applied to the overall purchases you make with a card),
balance transfer APR (usually applied to any balances transferred from another credit card)
introductory APR (usually applied to purchases made during the promotional period after opening a new credit card)
3. Find your purchase APR
In order to calculate the interest you owe on any leftover balances on your credit card, you’ll need to find your purchase APR. If you can’t find this information readily, try calling your bank, or click on your card’s terms and conditions section.
4. Determine your average daily balance (or balance subject to interest)
This is the aggregate total of what you spent and either paid off and/or were refunded every day throughout your billing cycle, divided by the number of days in your billing cycle.
If you’ve always paid your purchases in full by the due date, you won’t have any interest payments to make and your average daily balance isn’t really a factor. However, if you plan to carry a balance, to calculate your average daily balance when you need to determine interest, log onto your bank account online and track the charges and credits that went through on each individual day, creating a rolling total as you move through the days of your billing cycle.
This will provide you with an aggregate total that you can then divide by the number of days in your billing cycle (which you’ll find in step five).
5. Get the number of days in your billing cycle
Different credit cards have different amounts of time between billing cycles. A typical credit card statement is paid out in 30-day billing cycles.
6. Divide your APR by 365
Since your APR is your annual interest rate, you’ll need to divide your APR by the number of days in the year to get your daily interest rate. So for example, an APR of 13.99% would become: 0.1399/365 = .00038 daily interest.
7. Multiply your daily rate by your average daily balance
Once you know what you’re charged daily for interest, you can multiply that number by your average daily balance to find the daily interest you’ll owe. So for example, if your leftover balance after paying your credit card is id=”listicle-2639175991″,000, you would get: .00038 x id=”listicle-2639175991″,000 = .38.
8. Multiply your daily interest rate by the number of days in your billing cycle
If you determined that you have a 30-day billing cycle, then the credit card interest you would owe on a balance for the 30-day cycle in this example would be: .38 x 30 days = .50 in interest.
9. Ask about your credit card’s grace period allowance
Some credit cards offer a grace period between when items are purchased and when they absolutely need to be paid off before accruing interest. Check in with your bank to learn if you have a grace period on your accounts and what the exact grace period is in order to better avoid paying interest.
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.
Think it’s hard making it month to month in the barracks on just an E-1 pay? Well, the recruits who won America’s earlier wars had to make ends meet with much, much less to draw on. See how much troops made in each conflict, both in their own currency and adjusted for inflation:
Author’s note: The pay structure changed over time. From the Korean War to today, military pay has been relatively consistent across the services and the numbers listed in entries 8-11 reflect the financial realities of an E-1 enlisted servicemember. For earlier conflicts, pay was calculated using the salary of a first-year Army private or a junior infantryman.
1. Revolutionary War
Privates in 1776 earned $6 a month plus a bounty at the end of their service. That pay would equate to $157.58 today, a pretty cheap deal for the poor Continental Congress. Unfortunately for soldiers, Congress couldn’t always make ends meet and so troops often went without their meager pay.
That $8 translates to $136.28 in 2016. The bounties ranged from $528.10 to $2,112.40 for terms of five years to the duration of the war.
3. Mexican-American War
Young infantrymen in their first year of service during the Mexican-American War pocketed $7 per month, according to this Army history. That’s $210.10 in 2016 dollars.
4. Civil War
Union privates in 1863 brought home $13 a month which translates to $237.51 in modern dollars. Confederate privates had it a little worse at $11 a month. The Confederate situation got worse as the war went on since the Confederate States of America established their own currency and it saw rapid inflation as the war situation got worse and worse.
5. Spanish-American War
An undated photo shows soldiers manning a battle signal corps station during the Spanish-American War. Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command
While Army private pay in the Spanish-American War was still $13 like it had been in the Civil War, a period of deflation had strengthened the purchasing power of that monthly salary. In 2016 dollars, it would be worth $356.26.
6. World War I
A private, private second class, or bugler in his first year of service in 1917 was entitled to $30 a month. In exchange for this salary, which would equate to $558.12 today, privates could expect to face the guns of the Germans and other Axis powers.
World War I was the first war where, in addition to their pay, soldiers could receive discounted life insurance as a benefit. The United States Government Life Insurance program was approved by Congress in 1917 and provided an alternative to commercial insurance which either did not pay out in deaths caused by war or charged extremely high premiums for the coverage.
7. World War II
In 1944, privates serving in World War II made $50 a month, or $676.51 in 2016 dollars. It seems like toppling three Fascist dictators would pay better than that, but what do we know.
8. Korean War
The minimum payment for an E-1 in 1952 was $78 a month which would equate to $700.92 in 2016. Most soldiers actually deploying to Korea would have over four months in the Army and so would’ve received a pay bump to at least $83.20, about $747.64 today.
This was in addition to a foreign duty pay of $8 a month along with a small payment for rations when they weren’t provided.
9. Vietnam War
E-1 wages were not increased between 1952 and 1958, so Korean War and Vietnam War troops made the same amount of money at the lower ranks — except inflation over the years drove the real value of the wages down. New soldiers pocketing $78 would have a salary that equates to 642.71 now, while those with over four months of service who pocketed $83.20 were receiving the equivalent of $685.56 in today’s dollars.
10. Persian Gulf War
Grunts who went into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein were paid the princely sum of $753.90 a month in basic pay, unless they somehow managed to make it to Iraq with less than four months of service. Then they received $697.20.
These amounts would translate in 2016 dollars to $1318.12 and $1,218.98 respectively.
11. War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War
Troops bringing the American flag back to Iraq in 2003 or deploying to Afghanistan in the same time period received just a little more than their Persian Gulf War predecessors, with $1064.70 for soldiers with less than four months of service and $1,150.80 for the seasoned veterans with four months or more under their belts.
In 2016 dollars, those salaries equate to $1377.93 and $1,489.36, a modest increase from the Persian Gulf War.
As a service member or veteran, the importance of fitness is ingrained into every fiber of your being. From the beginning of your military career during your basic training, to later spending years locating your PT belt before early morning sessions, you know that fitness and gains are everything.
What about your financial fitness?
How often do you check in with your income, expenditures, savings, retirement, and investments? No one’s testing you on them, no one’s leading you in weekly training sessions, and there is no chance of “busting tape.” So, what sort of battle buddy do you have for accountability when it comes to your money? Who’s staying on top of you to make sure that you’re staying financially fit?
Military Saves Keeps You On Track
We’re not drill sergeants, but we are a small team of veterans and military spouses who apply behavioral economics to motivate the military community to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. One of our team members is even an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC®) and the other two have proudly learned from experience (a.k.a. The School of Hard Knocks), so we’ve all been there!
Military Saves is a participant in the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Network. Our research-based program is coordinated by the nonprofit organization, Consumer Federation of America.
We won’t have you sign on the dotted line, (once was enough), but we do encourage you to take the Military Saves Pledge. Once you make a promise to yourself to embark on your financial fitness journey, you’ll join a community of #MilitarySavers, and can look to Military Saves for accountability. We’ll keep you on track with emails, text reminders, free resources, and tips to help you realize your financial goals.
Pump Up Your Money – Military Saves Month
If your money habits could use a boot camp, or your account balances could get stronger, and you’ve decided it’s time for your money to start working for you, then you’re in luck!
April is the annual Military Saves Month, a free, virtual event where hundreds of organizations come together to encourage the military community to do a financial wellness check in.
Over the course of a month, we’ll cover money-related topics from a relatable, down-to-earth, positive perspective. Savers end the month with tools, resources, and clarity on their current financial situation, new savings goals, and a realistic plan to achieve them.
In addition to this wealth of information, participants have the chance to win $500 during our #ImSavingFor Sweepstakes! It’s like pre-workout for your bank account and is a great way to propel you toward your financial fitness goals!
We also invite our Savers to submit their story of how they turned their finances around, paid off debt, bought a home, saved up six figures, or even retired early. Not only can you get featured on our blog, but we’ll send you $50 if your story is selected!
The truth is, accountability works, and we have the research to back it up. As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish.
We look forward to having you join us for Military Saves Month in April, and cultivating a savings account that reflects your physical and mental discipline. Visit us at militarysaves.org for more information.
Permanent Change of Station has gotten more expensive, and the Department of Defense doesn’t know why. That’s the general findings of a report released by the Government Accountability Office last year.
Military.com reported earlier this week that the Defense Department would begin a review of the system that oversees military moves as a result of the report.
Accounting for inflation, the cost of a PCS was up by 28 percent between 2001 and 2014, capping at around $4 billion that year, or 3.7 percent of the overall military personnel budget.
The study found that “the services have not reported complete and consistent PCS data, thereby limiting the extent to which DoD can identify and evaluate” the current PCS system. It went on to explain that the Pentagon had not maintained required data nor required the services to independently maintain data that would help the DoD in determining how to reduce the cost of PCS.
PCS moves ranged on average from $2,289 to $13,336, with the Air Force spending the most on average per move and the Marine Corps spending the least.
In a review between services, the Marine Corps was most likely to accurately and consistently report PCS data outside of the direct cost of moving, i.e. the cost of temporary storage, lodging expenses, and tour extension incentive payments. The Air Force and the Army were least likely to report the data.
Because of the lack of proper reporting by the services and the DoD, the report found, it is impossible to determine exactly how to address the rising costs of PCS.
In addition to a lack of complete data on the cost of PCS, the report found that the DoD was not able to explain why personnel were not meeting “time-on-station requirements” because it had not required any of the services to maintain that data themselves.
Of the services who could provide any data on time-on-station requirements, the Air Force was most likely to have some data, and the Marine Corps was least likely to have any data.
The Government Accountability Office described four recommendations to improve the issue of rising PCS costs:
Improve the completeness and consistency of PCS data
Complete periodic evaluations of whether the PCS program is efficiently supporting DoD’s requirements for assigning military personnel… [and] identify changes in PCS per-move costs
Improve the completeness and consistency of data on exceptions
Improve the completeness and consistency of data on waivers
The Pentagon agreed most of the recommendations in the report, writing in its response, “We recognize the importance of improving the availability of information needed for effective management of the PCS program.”
“You get a raise, and you get a raise, and you get a raise. You all get a raise!” That’s what Oprah Congress is telling its military and civilian Department of Defense counterparts this month, according to military.com.
The summary for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 throws a bit of shade toward President Obama, stating:
Unlike the President’s request, the NDAA:
Provides the full 2.1% pay raise for our Troops, as required by law
Stops the drawdown and actually increases the end strength of our Armed Forces
Increases ground and aviation training to address shortfalls that have contributed to accidents across the Services
Provides Operation and Maintenance support for a larger force, including increased depot maintenance, facilities sustainment and modernization, and ship maintenance
Replenishes depleted munitions inventories
Begins a turnaround in ship procurement with advanced funding for submarines and amphibious ships.
Effective January 1, 2017, members of the military and Department of Defense employees will see a slightly more than 2 percent pay hike. Additionally, threats to bachelors allowance for housing, (or BAH, were thwarted and the current BAH rates will stay put.
The NDAA provides funding for Israel’s missile defenses, plans to “deter” Russian “aggression in Europe,” prevents women from being required to enroll in the selective service, orders the Pentagon to reform commissaries and healthcare, and requires changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Getting your first paycheck on active duty is awesome — because getting paid is the best. But most of us don’t know what to do with that money. Buy a Camaro? Stuff it in a mattress? Maybe…but what about turning it into a million dollars?
It might sound too good to be true, but it actually isn’t. Let’s talk about a simple financial product for beginning investors: the Roth IRA.
First: Some good news for service members. America’s new tax plan combined with a military pay raise is giving troops a nice little bump in their wallets.
Pay grades E-1 to E-6 are now in a new, lower Federal tax bracket.
This could be add up to 00 a year in savings — and that’s before you start making those deductions, so your newfound wealth might even be higher.
PLUS you got a pay raise of up to 00 so that’s an extra two grand a year right off the bat. Baller.
But before that wad of cash burns a hole in your pocket, consider the smart way to spend this money – money you won’t even miss. The Roth IRA is one easy way to do it — and it could make you a millionaire.
You can take that post-tax income and make non-taxable money while you sleep. This is literally the least you can do for retirement — and again, it’s super easy.
With a Roth IRA, you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA) after taxes (meaning there is no tax benefit) BUT you are not taxed when you withdraw the funds. And those funds are going to growwwwww.
The Roth IRA is an account that holds your investments — you can select the investment options and risk strategies yourself or seek advice from the brokerage entity you’re investing with.
Each year, you can max out the yearly contributions the government allows, which in 2018 is ,500 (It’s ,500 if you’re over the age of 50, but for now, we’re just going to do the math for the fifty-five hundred dollar bracket).
So you select your investment options, probably with higher risk if you’re younger, and set up an automatic contribution of 8 per month.
Do this from age 18 to 65….
…with a decent compounded interest rate of… say …. 6 percent (the market actually did 8.3 percent in the last ten years but just to be safe…)
…and you will make 1.59 million dollars over your lifetime.
The most important thing to remember when investing is compound interest.
Investing consistently over time means you are increasing the amount invested AND earning interest on what you’ve invested AND earning interest on your interest.
This is why it’s critical to start early and be consistent. Even a small amount invested over time can yield greater results than a large amount invested later with no time to grow.
So if you’re getting a later start, don’t panic. If you begin at age 30 and max out your Roth IRA until age 65, you can still end up with 0,000 at retirement — and again, that’s just with a 6% rate of return, which is a conservative estimate based on lower-risk options.
The bottom line is to start as early as you can and be disciplined about it.
Spending 8 per month to max out your Roth IRA might seem like a lot when you’re an E-1 earning about 00 a month — but remember, that income is discretionary. The military has benefits like BAH and health insurance — it’s got the big stuff covered, so be wise with how you budget the rest of your income.
And again, if you set up automatic payments, you won’t even miss that money.
I know you want to buy video games and an 80-inch big screen for the barracks…but resist that urge and set yourself up to be a ballin’ millionaire later.
So, you’ve been told that you should use your VA Loan for your home purchase, but the question is: Why? In this post, we’ll talk about some of the benefits and advantages of using your VA Loan for your home purchase.
Benefits of the VA Loan
1. No Down Payment
The VA Loan does not require a down payment for an eligible property purchase. While a 20% down payment on a conventional loan would be difficult for most service members, the VA Loan enables borrowers to put down 0% to buy a home. As of January 2020, there is no cap to a first-tier VA Loan-making it even better! Remember, though – there are still closing costs involved – even if there’s no down payment, so make sure to budget those in when considering a home purchase!
2. No PMI
While other types of mortgages usually require Private Mortgage Insurance for a lower down payment, the VA loan does not require it. This means less money out of pocket for borrowers and is yet another benefit of using your VA loan.
3. Lower Interest Rates
VA Loans are continuously competitive in their mortgage interest rates. By using a VA Loan, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a better rate than other types of loans.
4. Refinance Opportunities
VA Loan borrowers have two types of refinance options. The VA IRRRL can reduce your interest rate and possibly lower your monthly payment. Then, there’s the VA Cash-Out option that can give you the opportunity to pull cash out based on how much equity is in the property. By doing this, you can use the cash for purchases like renovations or repairs, car purchases, or whatever you need!
If you happen to be facing foreclosure, the VA has a loan program that provides foreclosure avoidance counseling and advocacy. These counseling programs help find possible alternatives to foreclosure to save you from a low credit score and heartache.
6. Lower Closing Costs
The VA limits closing cost amounts from lenders who offer VA loan lending. Unlike other types of mortgages, you won’t have to worry about outrageous closing costs where you have to bring a large amount of cash to the closing table. To add to the benefit, the VA also allows up to 4% of the buyer’s closing costs to be covered by the seller – saving you even more money.
7. VA Loan Assumability
Loan assumability is a big benefit to a VA Loan. Because the loan is assumable or transferred to a new borrower, a new eligible buyer could take advantage of a lower interest rate than what is currently offered in the mortgage market. Having the ability to advertise your VA Loan as “assumable” may even help sell your home when the time comes!
8. No Prepayment Penalty
If you are required to PCS, sell the home, or decide to pay off the mortgage, there’s good news! There is no prepayment penalty on a VA Loan. That is yet another reason why using a VA Loan could save you money in the long run. The last thing you need to worry about is paying MORE money when you need to pay off your mortgage!
9. VA Loans are Government-Guaranteed
Another advantage of a VA Loan is that it is backed by a government agency. What does this mean? It means that the federal government guarantees to pay back 25% of every VA Loan regardless of the reason for default. Because this provides participating lenders with a less risky situation, lenders can offer better term agreements to borrowers.
We’re down to the wire at our house for Christmas gifts. Due to our crazy travel and flight schedules over the last two months, my husband and I have barely even scratched our shopping list for gifts this year.
And yeah, I know we suck.
So we decided we’d find a few quick gifts that are still awesome and won’t totally break the bank.
1. You almost can’t go wrong with Disney
Disney offers a special program for the military called the Armed Forces Salute. Service members or their spouses can purchase either a five-day or four-day package for $224 or $209, respectively. This is a savings of nearly 50 percent.
Total cost of taking my family to Disney for five days: $1,120 (does not include lodging).
2. Buy an iPhone and get $250 off an iPad
Verizon does this thing where, if you buy an iPhone, you pay for it monthly, and only pay the tax up front. But right now, if you buy that new iPhone your daughter has been eying, you’re going to get $250 off an iPad — which puts the iPad mini at around $150.
Don’t forget to sign up for your military discount if you haven’t already. Total cost of my Verizon shopping trip today for tweenager gifts: less than $250.
3. Great news those of you who wear Oakleys
If you don’t already know, Oakley has a thing called the Oakley Standard Issue, offering approved eye-pro sunglasses to service members at about a 25 percent discount. Total cost of my husband’s preferred shades: $128.
4. Pretty much anything from Best Buy, amiright?
Best Buy has a 15 percent military discount, so it looks like tomorrow I’ll be buying a bunch of electronic gifts I won’t know how to use.
But the kids and husband will be stoked!
5. Last (but certainly not least), adult grape juice
It’s kind of like a gym membership, except you don’t have to go anywhere, and you don’t have to wear yoga pants (though I do recommend wearing something comfy).
The only thing is that instead of the gym, you get a case that you pick up and set down. Okay, it’s wine — a wine club membership, to be exact.
With the military discount at Twisted Roots Vinyard, it’s $255 every four months. That’s a lot of wine, and it’s worth it.
Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.
And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.
Then you can keep your savings in one place.
GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.
The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.
If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.
But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”
Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.
In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.
Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.
Pfc. Harley Dennis, of Anderson, who serves with the Missouri National Guard’s 276th Engineer Company in Pierce City, assists Sgt. 1st Class Eric Corcoran to deliver more than 300 Valentine’s Day balloons to area school kids in the southwest Missouri town. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Chambers/Missouri National Guard)
In our house, Valentine’s Day isn’t really a thing. As a general rule, the Marine isn’t home for the “holiday,” and since there are a lot of holiday’s he spends away, courtesy of the USMC, this is one day we just don’t really concern ourselves with.
But this year we ran into a snag. Their names are Bethany, Zachary, and Christopher — also known as the three youngest members of the Foley Fire Team.
On the edge of the dreaded teenage years, Bethany came home a few days ago armed with a love note from her “boyfriend” (that asshole), and sat down with her younger brothers to plot out “The Best Valentine’s Gift Ever;” it apparently consists of a lot of bacon (they DO take after their mother, after-all), and a seven-hour nap time while they’re at school. Because adulting is hard.
They presented their plan to the Marine, and then waited with bated breath for him to tell them his grand scheme for the Day Of Love.
“I just bought Mom curtains and a new curtain rod. I suppose I could hang them up before she wakes up?”
The two youngest of the fire team promptly ran off to tattle on Daddy. Not buy Mom a “love” gift? He’s practically an abomination to them right now.
While the boys were relaying the horrifying ordeal to me, I wondered how the Marine was going to get out of this one. It’s perfectly fine to explain to the 12-year-old that sometimes Dad just doesn’t really subscribe to romantic things. As a girl she’s going to have to come to terms with the fact that dudes like him really do exist.
But try explaining that to two 8-and 9-year-old boys who are currently at the dining room table gluing pink and red hearts all over their camouflage Valentine boxes because they know that, while they like camo and guns, girls sometimes like hearts. How Daddy doesn’t understand this is totally beyond their capacity.
“Maybe Daddy is planning a surprise and he doesn’t want to ruin it,” I whispered conspiratorially. The boys nodded and agreed that that’s exactly what was happening. It was the only thing that made sense to them.
“You’re going to want to brain storm some last minute ideas, dude,” I told the Marine later.
“Can you do that crowd-sourcing thing you do on your Facebook and I’ll pick something from that?” he asked.
So that’s exactly what I did, and let me say, I was surprised. Not one girl said she wanted flowers, chocolate, jewelry, or even anything expensive or time consuming, and a lot of their gift suggestions included food.
In fact, because I know the Marine isn’t the only one out there who is finding himself in a gift pickle at the last minute, here’s what actual military spouses said they really want for Valentine’s Day, word for word and complete with all their annoying little emoji things:
1. Bacon roses
Because Valentine’s Day just screams “pork,” right?
2. Not celebrating Valentine’s Day at all.
Jeesh, more “romance” in our marriage/dating? We already have enough of that already…
3. Homemade vouchers for cool stuff
How about a movie night, a kiss and makeup session no matter how upset I am, free kisses anytime all day, etc.
4. Stay at home “date”
My husband is hitting up the USO tomorrow during lunch for flowers and cheap chocolate. ?. Yes he told me he wants to do that. He’s ridiculous. Lol. But in seriousness, even a nice walk or living room picnic on the floor. Super cheap, corny, and fun
5. Waffle House
Hands down. If you sneak them like $10, they’ll let you smuggle in wine sometimes (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).
6. Beach stroll
This year we are going to take a few hours during the day to run to the beach and just put our toes in the sand before kids get home from school.
7. Mom time
Netflix movie, homemade desert, and pjs. 🙂
8. Cheap sushi
We went to Hamazushi last night because it’s very inexpensive (most items are ¥100 a plate), all you can eat, good quality sushi. Plus it’s all served on conveyor belts and ya can’t beat the novelty of that. 😉 Also, [He] started college again and has a lab tonight, so he won’t be home for “actual” Valentine’s date stuff.
9. A cuddle
After being apart—just being together is enough. I know that may sound cheesy, but it’s so the truth. Being preggo and sick, I’m hoping our date will include pj’s and our couch and the latest “this is us” episode.
10. Couch time
We spend all our budget on the kids. We will stay home with popcorn and a movie to celebrate it.
11. Old School necking
In the car…in the driveway!! ??
12. A load of beef … with love
I’ll make him his fave meal at home… meat loaf!
13. Learn something new
We are taking a couples cooking class tomorrow ❤️
14. A full-on pizza and bubbly extravaganza
[He] & I have done the same thing every year since we’ve been together: Heart-shaped homemade pizza (with mini heart pizzas for the puppies) + our favorite prosecco (the same brand from our wedding) and chocolate covered strawberries (sometimes homemade, sometimes from HEB)… and then turning on a cheesy movie or tv show on Netflix.
It started out the first year or two as our “thing” because we really couldn’t afford too much else. But now it’s a special, almost sacred ritual for us. I wouldn’t trade our little cozy tradition for a world-class meal. It’s just too important to me. I should clarify and say “every year he was actually HERE to celebrate.”
15. Some shootin’
Well, we got married Valentine’s day. We celebrate by hanging out and we go to dinner either the day before or the day after (since payday is always afterwards)because it’s always less crowded. This year is our 20th and we both took the day off. We’re having a range and lunch date. Since it’s a work day, lunch isn’t as crowded and definitely cheaper.
So what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
And if the Marine is reading this, bacon roses are totally appropriate.
Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.
“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.
“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”
Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life
Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.
“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”
Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.