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.
Doug Nordman is admittedly hooked on surfing. It makes him feel as if he’s flying atop the water. This is an interesting contrast for a guy who spent much of his career beneath it. Nordman is a retired Navy submariner.
The tight confines of a submarine leave little room for personal privacy. The cramped environment also makes it imperative that sailors work together. This is something Nordman took very seriously.
The ocean is a complex and dangerous place. Onboard a submarine, you have very little time in an emergency. If there’s a flood or a fire breaks out, decisions have to be made in seconds.
The Navy showed Nordman that he was part of something bigger than himself. That was tremendously motivating, and today he still carries that sense of community.
After 10 years in the service, Nordman advanced to become the executive officer on a boat. But the promotion came with a surprise. He was listed as XO in excess. Nordman made the cut but wasn’t assigned a vessel. He had no job.
He had trained his entire career for that next assignment and suddenly the deck dropped out from underneath him. He worried about work and leaving the Navy. Would he be able to find a civilian job? Would he like it?
“It was the first time in my career that I actually had to think about what I was going to do next,” he says. He was accustomed to a steady paycheck and didn’t want to give that up.
What happened next, he now regards as a mistake. Nordman remained in the Navy 10 additional years. He stayed for his full pension.
In hindsight, he realizes how many choices were available to him then. He could have joined the National Guard. Joining the Navy Reserve would have given him more time to spend with his family. And he could have afforded doing this. The Nordmans were big savers.
But they still made many common investment mistakes. They paid high fees and expenses. They moved money around more than necessary. Nordman recalls that they, “spent more money chasing performance than we would have made if we had just stayed invested and let it grow.”
He acknowledges that every one or two percent they paid in fees, delayed their financial independence by 6 months to a year.
If only he just had a little more financial knowledge…if only the Navy had provided financial literacy training.
“If someone had come up to me and said, ‘put down your tools and go to a training session on how to invest in the TSP or how to save for retirement’, I would have had a much better quality of life along the way.”
But Nordman’s life didn’t turn out so bad. When he retired in 2002, he learned to surf. He’s been doing it for nearly 20 years now. His financial independence lets him surf every day.
And he pays his good fortune forward. The sense of community that motivated his naval career leads him to teach service members and military families about financial literacy so that they can make better choices. Nordman is an avid blogger and author of The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement.
Nordman points out that the resources are there and that service members should talk to their command. They should understand what kind of investor they are.
He also says that, “retirement is just the beginning of life 2.0. You have new choices and new ways of designing your life, to enjoy the things you’re passionate about.”
Many taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases around getting their tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service at the earliest possible date.
In 2017, that may no longer be the case.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds for people claiming Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15, 2017.
Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.
Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The IRS said the change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.
“This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”
As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.
Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, it reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days after being accepted for processing by the IRS.
Are you ready to start the business you’ve always wanted? Do you have a million dollar idea but are not sure what to do first, second and third? Are you excited to leave military service behind and earn a living through your own entrepreneurial drive? Military service is a wonderful background for business ownership.
But there’s a difference between military service and startup business management.
A key factor that affects startup viability is how fast entrepreneurs adapt to their new job description as a business owner.
Many entrepreneurs say they started their companies for the opportunity to pursue their heart’s desire. New bakery owners like to bake. Fitness coaches like to train clients. Contractors like to build. But successful entrepreneurship is not defined just by how well you bake or coach, but how well you manage your overall business.
You can direct a brilliant film, but if you don’t make money at it, you may not get a second chance to make another film. Besides your specific passion, other skills are required to succeed.
Being the boss of a prosperous business involves focus and careful decision-making.
New business owners who assume that entrepreneurship is all about the freedom to do “whatever I want, whenever I want,” are also at high risk of business failure. Too much managerial spontaneity and freewheeling fun cost more than a young company can typically handle.
Here are three strategies to help you make the mental shift to money-making self-employment with precision.
1. Pay attention to cash.
Businesses close when they run out of cash. It’s that simple. As the boss of your startup enterprise your top priority is to make sure your company always has enough cash to operate. This means that you have to embrace numbers and money issues; take full ownership of financial projections and understand what kinds of business decisions can drain cash faster than others.
You don’t need an MBA to manage cash well, just a desire to do it. Check out some accounting books or take an accounting class to boost your money management skills.
2. Plan to achieve
It’s not enough to hope to succeed; you have to plan to succeed. Hoping for customers, won’t get them to your website. Hoping to raise money from investors won’t get you in front of top check writers. Hoping the check is really in the mail is not the best way to collect past due invoices. Successful startup entrepreneurs set specific goals and then lay out practical day-by-day strategies to secure their first paying customers and profits.
3. Get help
Just because you are the boss of your new enterprise doesn’t mean you will always have all the right answers. You will across a lot of issues and decisions that you never encountered before in your military career. It’s only natural that beginner’s mistakes will be made, sometimes costly ones.
When you face business unexpected problems in product development, product packaging, sales, marketing, customer service, or finance, don’t guess the answer. Find someone who has already “been there and done that” and ask for help. Remember, every mistake you make now comes out of your pocket.
Here’s one last tip. It’s not enough to just get by in business; your managerial objective is to get ahead in business by using your head. You have a background of excellence in your military career; now just apply it to your new business.
You can do it!
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.
It addresses military pay
The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.
Military spouse education and employment
Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.
The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.
Military housing reforms
One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.
One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.
Military family needs
The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.
One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.
Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.
Surviving spouses receive relief
Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.
If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!
It’s happened to the best of us. The second our service member boards that plane to deploy, Murphy decides to insert himself into our world.
It’s almost a given: someone gets sick, one of your spouse’s bills doesn’t get paid, or something inevitably breaks down…and often it’s our mode of transportation that ends up busting out on us.
If this happens to you, I PROMISE, you aren’t alone. But if your car breaks down, how are you going to do all of the things? Well, if there’s no getting around having to purchase a vehicle while your service member is away, we have some tips and tricks to help you through the car buying routine WITHOUT breaking your bank in the process. We realize that big purchases are usually done as a team, and these decisions should (when possible) be made together. Obviously, that isn’t always possible, but here are some things you can do if/when you find yourself squaring off with Murphy over your car.
(Flickr / David Wall)
1. Power of attorney (POA)
If you plan on having your service member’s name on the loan or registration, you’ll want to make sure you have your POA handy. This legal document will allow you to act on behalf of your service member for transactions that would otherwise require their physical presence. NOTE: Depending on the financial institution you use to finance your vehicle, a general POA may not pass muster with their terms, so make sure you call to make sure. Some banks just require a faxed copy of the general POA, while others have a special form of their own or require a “special” or “limited” POA.
2. Research, research, RESEARCH!
What kind of vehicle do you need? How much can your family afford each month? Are their certain dealerships in your area that are known for inappropriate practices? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself before you even think of stepping foot into a car dealership.
There are plenty of websites that will help answer these questions so that you’re better able at making an informed decision. One of the first things you can do is figure out the type of features you need and find a few makes and models to look over. It’s not just about the price…it’s about knowing what it is you’re looking to buy. Kelley Blue Book is a one stop shop that has plenty of research tools to help spin you up on the “must-knows” of car buying.
3. Get financed FIRST
When it comes to financing, it’s best to get pre-approved BEFORE you start your search. You aren’t required to know what kind of vehicle you’re purchasing before being approved for financing because the financial institution is approving you…not a certain vehicle. Make sure you understand the terms of your financing as well. If you end up negotiating, say, 00 off the sticker price of the car when you’re haggling with the dealer, that isn’t going to matter in the long run if your interest rate is out of this world.
4. Don’t rush
Buying a car is a big deal, so take your time and don’t rush the process. You need to make sure the car is everything you need/want, both literally and financially. Make absolutely sure you know exactly what your family can and cannot afford. If you find a car you want but it’s a bit over budget, other websites, like Auto Trader, might be able to find you the same car at a lower price somewhere else.
5. When possible, find the right time to buy
Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.
Yes, There Really IS a Right Time to Buy
Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.
The end of the month is usually a good time to buy because dealers often have a quota that needs to be met each month. Each car on their lot needs to be paid for at the start of each month, so car salesmen are looking to unload as many as possible to meet their quota. But buying a car at the end of the year is even better (though, again, Murphy can rarely be planned for).
6. History reports are KEY
If you’re not out to purchase a brand new, right off the assembly-line vehicle, you’ll really want to get your hands on a vehicle’s history report. Don’t just take someone’s word that it’s “good to go” as is.
Most dealerships (if they’re worth a darn) will pay for the cost of a vehicle history report themselves, but you can do this as well. Car Fax is a great resource for consumers, and they provide a report that will tell you just about everything you need to know about the car: hidden issues, who owned it last, where it came from, etc. It does cost money to obtain a history report, but it’s chump change compared to the investment you’re making in a vehicle.
7. Don’t skip the test drive
Once you’ve narrowed down your choice(s), it’s time to take it for a test drive.
Sure, the car’s body looks fantastic, but the only way you’ll know that everything is in working order under the hood is if you take it for a spin. Listen for noises that shouldn’t be there, trouble shifting gears, service lights on the dashboard, etc. Many people will return to test drive in the evening, but if that isn’t feasible (because, you know…who wants to pay for a babysitter ON TOP of having to pay for a new car), a lot of dealerships allow you to take the car home for 24 hours to see how it works out. Either way, do NOT skip the test drive.
If you’re just not sure it’s the right vehicle for you or need a night or so to sleep on it, don’t rush it. Take the time you need to mull it over. This is YOUR money, YOUR time and YOUR choice; don’t let anyone push you around. Speaking of which…
8. Don’t be intimidated
It’s not uncommon to feel intimidated when buying a car…especially if that role isn’t really your jam (i.e. it is SO not MY jam). But there’s a difference in FEELING intimidated and BEING intimidated. If, at ANY point in the negotiation process, you feel uncomfortable, or don’t like how you’re being spoken to, SPEAK UP. You hold all the cards and the ball is in your court. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly, tell the service manager. Or better yet…
9. Don’t be afraid to walk out
If you feel like you’re being pushed into signing a contract, or just aren’t picking up what the dealer is putting down…WALK IT OUT. There are plenty of other places that would love to have your business. Do not feel guilty about keeping your money, and your family’s financial security, safe.
This guide is a great way to get started on your car-buying adventure, but we want to add to it! If you have a strategy or a story about buying a car when you were flying solo, we want to hear it!
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
An unraveling marriage is not unlike a sinking ship. Everyone is scrambling, trying to salvage whatever they can while, in the wheelhouse, everyone is pointing fingers and figuring out who’s to blame. And, just like on a sinking ship, there are always a few people who set aside their scruples in favor of saving their own skins. This usually means hiding money in hopes that, when the dust settles, they’ll have a little nest egg for themselves.
Ask any divorce lawyer and they’ll tell you that hiding money is never, ever, the right move. “It is always a bad idea to hide money or assets,” says Benjamin Valencia II, a partner and certified family law specialist at Meyer, Olson, Lowy and Meyers, who says that, in California, where his practice is located, ” if you are caught committing fraud in failing to disclose an asset, the court has the ability to award 100 percent of the asset to the other party as a sanction.”
Consequences aside, it’s also just a really shady thing to do. Nevertheless, people still try and keep their assets under wraps in all sorts of ways, ranging from the mundane to the totally outrageous.
Christina Previte, a divorce lawyer and the CEO of NJ Divorce Solutions has seen quite a lot of money-hiding schemes in her 15 years of experience. Some of the more pedestrian ones include making regular ATM withdrawals that aren’t large enough to draw attention but frequent enough that the cash is likely being pocketed rather than spent, or earning cash from a cash-heavy business and then neglecting to report or deposit the funds.
(Photo by CafeCredit)
Previte also said that she’s encountered those who’ve planned out their cash-stashing well in advance and taken withdrawals from various assets either holding them as cash or putting the withdrawals in someone else’s name. This way, when the discovery process begins, she explains, the withdrawals don’t show up as being recent transactions.
“One egregious but very clever one I heard from an accountant once,” she says, “was overpaying on the credit card accounts so that the bank issues a refund in the form of a check, which the spouse then cashes and pockets.”
Another shocker Previte also recalled was one partner forming a limited liability corporation and then funneling all of her earnings through the LLC. “That was particularly egregious and required a tremendous amount of trust in the other party holding the LLC,” she says.
Then there are the really crazy stories, the ones that sound like they were penned by a script writer.
“The craziest one I’ve had was an opposing party who hid diamonds in his father’s prosthetic leg,” says Valencia. “He then sent his father to Israel to sell them so wife could not track them. His father was detained at the airport when the diamonds were detected and we found out.” The wife, Valencia says, was awarded all of the diamonds as a sanction against the husband for his fraudulent conduct.
(Photo by www.tradingacademy.com)
Valencia also recounted a story in which a husband hid a $350,000 recreational vehicle in a hangar in Arizona.
“We only knew it was in Arizona because we saw an invoice for a gas purchase in Arizona accidentally produced in discovery,” he says. “At trial he was ordered to disclose where the RV was hidden and refused. The judge charged him with 150 percent of the value (there was money owed on it) as a sanction against his interest in the family residence.”
Previte, too, has seen more than her share of oddball schemes. One guy, she says, siphoned off millions of dollars over a five-year period from various assets. “He gave them to his foreign escort who was apparently part of a drug cartel and absconded with the money.”
As long as there is divorce, there are going to be people thinking that they can put one over on either the spouse, the courts or both. However, both Valencia and Previte advise strongly against it. “I hope you are not planning on using these in your own divorce,” Previte cautions. For one, it’s a morally objectionable — and illegal practice. For another, she says, you’ll almost never get away with them.
“These are almost all discoverable in some way if you have a clever attorney.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent overhaul of the defense commissary program aboard military installations will result in higher costs for its customers, according to a recent MilitaryTimes report.
New rules, which were put in place as part of the latest annual defense authorization act allow the defense commissaries, or DeCA, to up the prices on about 1,000 products in 10 stores. Additionally, all 238 commissaries were authorized to raise prices on national brand products.
According to MilitaryTimes, this will allow officials to explore how the overall impact of raising these prices might help them to reduce operating costs that taxpayers cover, which currently sits at about $1.3 billion annually.
Before the rollout of the overhaul, DeCA was able to sell items at the commissaries at cost plus 5 percent. Under the new system, DeCA is able to purchase items at a reduced rate, but sell them at their previous rates or higher.
For example, if DeCA purchases a product at $.10 cheaper than before, it might not sell that product for the reduced price at the commissary, MilitaryTimes explains.
That extra cash might go, instead, toward operating costs or toward lowering the price of a different product, or both.
One of the issues with this new system, according to MilitaryTimes, is that the consulting company who designed it may be benefitting financially. MilitaryTimes claims that “unofficial reports from members of industry” say that Boston Consulting Group (or BCG) stands to make between 50 and 60 percent of the amount prices are reduced.
So that dime savings per sale of a particular item might net BCG between a nickel and 6 cents per unit sold.
DeCA officials are unable to confirm those claims, saying instead that the details of extra awards, fees or incentives for BCG won’t be available until they are “determined at a later date”, MilitaryTimes says.
Chris Burns, the executive director of business transformation at DeCA, told MilitaryTimes that the money DeCA saves is going toward reducing product prices or toward operating costs, but MilitaryTimes could not determine if consulting fees were included in those operating costs.
The effects of the overhaul are being felt elsewhere, as well. Some national brands who are pressured to lower prices below cost are pulling their items from the commissary altogether, MilitaryTimes reports. They claim that “multiple sources” are saying that other programs, like scholarship donations, could be cut.
Some good news does come out of the overhaul, however. DeCA will begin rolling out store brand items later this month that should be cheaper than national name brands.
While Congress approved the Department of Defense’s DeCA program, they are keeping a close eye on it and on whether it actually saves anyone money, MilitaryTimes says.
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.
With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.
The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.
After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.
While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.
“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.
To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.
The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.
The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.
The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.
Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.
“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.
While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.
The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.
The business world seems to have realized that veterans make great entrepreneurs. Profiles of vets starting coffee shops, tech support companies, landscaping services, security firms, and a whole host of other businesses appear across the web on a frequent basis these days.
This should not be a great surprise. There are nearly 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S., representing almost 9 percent of all businesses nationwide.
And, a study by the Kauffman Foundation, a well-respected entrepreneur support organization, indicates that approximately 25 percent (some say as high as 45 percent) of all active duty personnel want to start their own businesses upon leaving the service.
So, what makes veterans such successful entrepreneurs?
It is finally being recognized that the attitude, training, and skills gained from military service, such as discipline, hard work, a commitment to accomplishing the mission, the ability to both lead a team and function as a member of a team, and, most important, the almost innate ability to immediately pivot from plans that aren’t working to plans that do, are valuable traits that make for a successful entrepreneur.
Indeed, the Kauffman Foundation states that veterans’ “commitment to excellence, attention to detail, strategic planning skills and focus on success are the same traits that make business owners successful.” And, Dan Senor and Saul Singer, in their book, “Start-Up Nation,” say the main reason Israel is one of the most entrepreneurial nations on earth on a per capita basis is the country’s compulsory military service, which creates an environment for hard work and a common commitment to accomplish the mission.
But, even though veterans have received excellent training in the military in the skills necessary to be successful entrepreneurs, not enough younger veterans returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are choosing to start their own businesses. And, we don’t know why.
After World War II, nearly one-half of all returning veterans started their own businesses—but, by 2012, that rate had dropped to less that 6 percent. Even more important, just over 7 percent of all current veteran-owned businesses are started by veterans under 35 years of age. The rest are started by older vets.
This makes some sense. Personnel mustering out of the Armed Forces after 20 years or so have a pension that gives them a financial cushion to take the risk of starting a new business. And, older vets retiring from a traditional job at around 65 years of age, and who are looking for something else to do, would most likely have their house paid off and their kids out of college, giving them the financial means to start a new business without risking their family’s financial future.
But, it is the lack of younger veterans who are choosing entrepreneurship as a viable career path that is the critical issue in veteran entrepreneurship today.
Fortunately, over the past several years, there has been a burgeoning industry that has sprung up to help veterans who want to start their own businesses. Veteran led incubators and accelerators, as well as university and community college programs, government services, online resources, and community-based organizations have all answered the call to help aspiring veteran entrepreneurs realize their dream of owning and operating their own businesses.
While it is not possible to list all of the resources available to help veterans–and, particularly, younger veterans–who want to start businesses, a small sample of these programs in each of the categories mentioned is provided below:
Veteran Led Incubators—Bunker Labs (https://bunkerlabs.org) is probably the best known and most successful veteran led incubator in the country. While headquartered in Chicago, it has expanded to eleven cities around the nation. Its Chicago location is in the 1871 incubator facility, which gives veterans the crucial opportunity to interact with non-veterans who are creating new businesses. The “Bunker in a Box” program (http://bunkerinabox.org) enables veterans who are not near one of its urban locations to get some of the basic tools necessary to start a new business.
Veteran Led Accelerators—Vet-Tech (http://vet-tech.us) is the nation’s leading accelerator for veteran-owned businesses. Located at Silicon Valley’s Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA, it has an extensive network of financial, government, and management resources to bring a veteran-owned business to its next level of success.
University Programs—Syracuse University’s Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (http://ebv.vets.syr.edu) is one of the most extensive programs in higher education for veteran entrepreneurship. This program is offered at eight other colleges and universities around the nation.C
Government Services—The SBA’s Boots to Business program (http://boots2business.org) is an example of the type of program offered by the government to transitioning service members to give them the basics in starting a new business.
Online Resources—VeToCEO (http://www.vettoceo.org) is a free online training program that assists veterans in leveraging their skills to start or buy a business and run it successfully. The American Legion Entrepreneur Video Series () is another no-cost source to give aspiring veteran entrepreneurs at least a basic introduction to starting and running a business.
Veterans interested in starting a business should research what resources are available to them in their local communities, and then pick a program that fits the type of business they are interested in creating.
Given all of the resources that are currently available to veterans interested in starting businesses, what does the future of veteran entrepreneurship look like?
It looks pretty robust.
There are only two cautions that need to be mentioned about support for entrepreneurship initiatives for veterans:
The first is that many of these veteran entrepreneur support programs are relatively new—within the last couple of years, or so. The proof of their efficacy—of their value and worth—will be when they produce long-term, sustainable and profitable veteran-owned businesses—and, by long-term, I mean businesses that are in existence for at least five years, at a minimum. Some of these support programs are so new that not enough time has passed where this can be determined.
The second “caution”, if you will, would actually be a good problem to have. While there is no evidence that this is presently occurring, there could come a time in the future when there are actually more veteran entrepreneur support programs than there are veterans to fill them. This will become evident when these programs begin to admit non-veterans in order to maintain their viability.
But, for now, it’s all “blue skies and smooth sailing” for veterans who want to start businesses and the programs that support them.
Paul Dillon is the head of Dillon Consulting Services, LLC, a firm that specializes in serving the veteran community with offices in Durham and Chicago. For more visit his website here.
If someone told you the only way for you to survive the coming recession unscathed would be to start your own business, would you even know where to begin? Would you be able to afford the startup costs on your own? Can you handle the workload that might come with such a venture? For most people, especially veterans, that answer is no. That’s what startup accelerators are for – access to knowledge, access to capital, mentorship, connections, talent – all these things can be acquired through these programs.
Vets have some unique skills and traits that make them natural entrepreneurs. And that’s why a startup accelerator like Bunker Labs has big plans for those who are ready to take the first steps toward entrepreneurship.
When some of the most powerful brands get together for vets, big things happen.
Veterans are an interesting slice of Americans, especially where entrepreneurship is concerned. Time and again, veterans show they have the work ethic and drive it takes to start their own enterprises. Of the 200,000 separating veterans every year, 25 percent of those are interested in starting their own businesses but only 4.5 percent of those 50,000 vets are actually able to pursue their own entrepreneurial vision. The reason is because starting your own business takes knowledge veterans may not have and capital most definitely do not have.
That’s where a veteran-owned business accelerator can come into play. If you don’t know where to begin but you have a great idea, an accelerator like Bunker Labs is a great place to start. Starting a business isn’t obvious – there’s a lot that goes into it that you will just not know. Bunker Labs is a non-profit startup accelerator for the military-veteran community comprised of veteran volunteers with the tools and resources to help their fellow vetrepreneurs start their business.
Bunker Labs has helped create more than 1,000 veteran jobs in the United States and helped raise some million in startup capital. This accelerator captures the ambition and innovation veterans bring to startups and equips them with knowledge, mentorship, and opportunities they might otherwise not have had access to. There are labs online, labs in-residency for vets, and when the ball really gets rolling, a cadre of CEO vetrepreneurs who are taking their work to the next level. Bunker Labs is even a partner with the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day entrepreneurial workshop which brings together the brightest and most inspiring veteran entrepreneurs to teach and share their lessons learned and best practices.
To get started with Bunker Labs, vets simply have to start with registering for their Launch Labs Online, fill out some quick demographic information and from there you can connect with other new members, find a mentor, engage the Facebook group, and more. After activating your account, you can start taking classes with Bunker Labs right away. The core classes include knowing yourself, knowing your customers, and how to make money. From there, the sky could be the limit.
If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.