Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month

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!

military saves month
Financial wellness takes time to build, and we all have to start somewhere!

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.

MIGHTY MONEY

Meet this combat veteran turned rapper and music label executive

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital. Follow @VCMtweets on Twitter.

Economic harmony

Raymond Lott is a decorated combat veteran. He spent 10 years in the Marine Corps as a war reporter and combat photographer. He earned the Combat Action Ribbon and an award for combat photography while deployed in Iraq. He is also a hip-hop recording artist, the CEO of Military Musician Platform, and owner of Ninja Punch Music.

When Lott left the Marine Corp he felt lost. He recalls “thinking why am I here? Why am I doing this?” He started to feel that he didn’t have a purpose. Yet, music was a form of therapy that helped calm the noise in his head.

Lott knew his savings would run out. He needed to get a job. But he spent the last money he had to buy a one-way ticket to LA.

Once in Los Angeles, Lott didn’t have a place to stay and was out of money.

“I was broke. I didn’t have any money. So, my last resort was to go to the VA.”

The VA helped Lott get on his feet and helped him get into school. He eventually started earning money. The VA, Lott recalls, gave him the opportunity to focus on becoming the musician he set out to become. It put him on the path to financial stability. That allowed him the independence to be creative. It was his breakthrough.

Lott learned about the music business. That’s when things started to happen for him. He started posting short music videos on Instagram. The following he gained in those viral posts helped him start making money as an artist. From there he crowdfunded his first album. It was the springboard to building his music business.

Today, Lott publishes albums with other veteran musicians. He says it feels good to share their stories. But it takes money to make music. It takes money to run a business. That’s why having a financial foundation is so vital.

Leveraging the resources of the VA helped Lott gain the financial foundation necessary to build a successful music business. And there are other resources available to veterans. That’s why he offers this advice.

“Whether you’re looking to start a business or just get on your feet financially, those things are available for you. It’s out there. All you have to do is look…”

Some examples include:

1)      Veterans Entrepreneur Portal

Offers training and employment programs, and information and access to various resources to start, finance, and grow a business.

2)      The Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development

Provides training, counseling and mentorship, and guidance on how to sell to the federal government.

3)      The National Veterans Foundation

A charity dedicated to advocating for veterans and members of the guard and reserves. Services include crisis management and job referral.

4)      Department of Defense Office of Small Business Programs

Provides veterans interested in starting their own small business links to the type of public and private programs that can support those efforts.

For more information and useful financial tools visit Victory Capital.

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital. Follow @VCMtweets on Twitter.

Articles

4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

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


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

1. Be the best bartender you can be!

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

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

2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Dive for buried treasure.

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

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

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

The institute is a VA approved school.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.


I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.

I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Holden Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate paralegal, assists Senior Airman Terrence Eaton, logistics readiness squadron vehicle maintenance journeymen, in filling out a form at the Langley Air Force Base, Va., tax center Feb. 5, 2013. Joint Base Langley-Eustis tax centers are set to open Feb. 2 for the 2015 income tax season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White/ Released)

I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.

And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.

Adulting is hard AF, amiright?

Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.

There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month
Army Spc. Coltin Jenkins, tax preparer, works with customers of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Consolidated Tax center in Building 205 on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base March 17, 2015. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Rachel Larue)

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.

2. Military OneSource

This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.

3. IRS Free File

Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.

4. TurboTax

Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.

5. TaxSlayer.com

This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.

6. H&R Block

These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”

Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.

Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.

Articles

Wells Fargo illegally repossessed hundreds of US troops’ cars

While Army National Guardsman Dennis Singleton was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan, Wells Fargo suddenly repossessed his car. Now Singleton is getting some retribution.


The Justice Department says the repossession was illegal under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which requires Wells Fargo to get a court order before repossessing a military member’s vehicle. DOJ also says the bank didn’t stop there. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ Jim Puzzanghera, Wells Fargo charged Singleton and his family a $10,000 balance and then reported the repossession to credit agencies.

Wells Fargo allegedly did the same thing 413 times, according to the Justice Department — more in a series of misdeeds and misuses of customer information that now has the bank and its CEO in hot water, especially with the U.S. Congress.

CNN’s Jackie Wattles reports the bank will pay $10,000 to each service member, with interest. They will also pay for the lost equity on the cars and repair their credit for a total of $4.1 million.

Wattles’ report says the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency also fined Wells Fargo $20 million for denying federally mandated protections for active duty military members, which includes capping interest rates at 6 percent.

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This is Wells Fargo making off with your credit rating.

“In those instances where some service members did not receive the appropriate benefits and protections, we did not live up to our commitment and we apologize,” the company said in a statement. “We have been notifying and fully compensating customers and will complete this work in 60 days.”

Aside from its infractions against military members, Wells Fargo is also accused of creating millions of fake bank and credit card accounts over five years. The bank allegedly set up an incentive system for its employees who falsified customer accounts to reach sales targets.

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In its largest fine to date, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau fined Wells Fargo $185 million for opening 1.5 million fraudulent deposit accounts and more than 560,000 credit card accounts in its customers’ names. The bank repaid $5 million to its affected customers.

Since the story broke, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 of its employees, withheld $41 million of CEO John Stumpf’s unvested stock awards, and denied him an annual bonus as well as a chunk of his $2.8 million salary.

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Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf testifies before the House Financial Services Committee. (Photo: CSPAN)

The New York Times reports that in recent years, the bank has paid $10 billion in fines for violations like subprime loan abuses, discrimination against African-American and Latino mortgage borrowers, and various home foreclosure violations.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These are some of the best federal jobs for veterans

The federal government invests a lot of time and money into training service members of the armed forces. As a result, it’s to the advantage of the government to retain service members for as long as possible. Retention programs and bonuses incentivize service members to stay in, but if you no longer wish to volunteer for an all-volunteer service, you can leave (provided your contract is up, of course).

After all, skills and certifications acquired in the military are highly sought after in the civilian workforce. Whether you’re a missileer who goes to work for Raytheon, an intel analyst with a secret clearance who gets scooped up by Booz Allen Hamilton or a diesel mechanic who takes a job with Union Pacific, your experience and training in the military makes you a valuable asset to any organization. For those that want to continue serving their country outside of the military, many federal agencies are more than willing to hire vets to fill their ranks.


In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order establishing the Veterans Employment Initiative. Meant to promote the hiring of veterans in the executive branch, the program has also served as a model for companies in the private sector to make hiring veterans a priority. “As the nation’s leading employers, the federal government is in need of highly skilled individuals to meet agency staffing needs and to support mission objectives,” said the director of veteran services at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Air Force vet, Hakeem Basheerud-Deen. “Veterans get a lot of training and development during their military service, and their wide variety of skills and experience—as well as their motivation for public service—can help fulfill federal agencies’ staffing needs.” In no particular order, these are some of the best federal jobs for veterans of any background.

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(National Park Service)

1. Park Ranger

If you’ve been stationed in Alaska, Colorado, Fort Drum (you have our condolences) or any other location where outdoor activities are plentiful, you may have developed an affinity for open-air recreation. If you have, you might consider a job as a ranger for the National Park Service. As a ranger, you would investigate complaints and violations of park regulations, provide visitors with guidance and information, and generally protect the land set aside for future generations to enjoy. If an office job sounds like a prison sentence, this might be the job for you.

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(Fort Bliss Public Affairs Office via DVIDS)

2. Law Enforcement

Looking for a post-military career that will keep you in the action? You might consider a job in federal law enforcement. This is a very broad job field, though. You could work as a federal police officer at a military installation, a park police officer under the National Park Service or even an FBI agent serving as a legal attaché to an overseas embassy.

Another commonly thought of job under this umbrella is Border Patrol Agent. However, under Customs and Border Protection, you can also find CBP Officers. These are the men and women who protect the country at all ports of entry. From screening passengers at passport control to combing through cargo containers for illicit cargo, CBP Officers oversee everything coming into the country. Aside from DEA and FBI agents who train at Quantico, Federal Law Enforcement agents train at specialized Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. FLETC is headquartered at the former Naval Air Station Glynco in Georgia and operates two other residential training sites in Artesia, New Mexico and Charleston, South Carolina.

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(207th Regional Support Group via DVIDS)

3. Human Resources

Paperwork is the lifeblood of the government. It moves information, initiates action, and can mean the difference between you getting paid or owing money. Though many systems have moved online to database or system entries, there is still a plethora of Standard and Agency-specific Forms that the federal government relies on.

Coming from the military, you’ll be familiar with having to fill out paperwork for everything from life insurance and emergency contacts to leave requests and requisition forms. Though more senior positions might require civilian HR certifications (a good time to use that post-9/11 GI Bill), there are still entry-level positions that allow veterans to get their foot in the door with their service experience alone. If it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.

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(U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy via DVIDS)

4. Range Tech

Almost everyone who has donned the uniform has been to a range. Even some chaplains hop on the firing line to test their aim (unofficially, of course). You know those civilians who run the computers? You could be one of them! Though some bases contract these jobs out to private companies, there are still jobs that pop up on USAJobs.gov for range tech positions across the country.

As long as you have some experience learning something new and working with your hands (you went to basic training, after all), you’re good to go. Now, there’s a bit more to it than just pressing buttons, laughing at the people who struggle to qualify, and refreshing the ancient program running on Windows 95. But, if you like being on the firing line and you’re willing to learn how to maintain and operate a range, this job could be your perfect fit.

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(USPS)

5. Postal Service

As of February 2020, the USPS employs more than 97,000 veterans and is one of the largest employers of veterans in the country. Don’t want to be a letter carrier or work customer service? Contrary to popular belief, Postal Service careers extend beyond the aforementioned positions. USPS offers careers in accounting and finance, operations, marketing and sales, human resources and admin, processing and delivery, and many more. If you’ve deployed overseas, you know just how valuable mail is. Especially during the COVID-19 timeframe, the personal touch of a physical letter can be just what someone needs to brighten their day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…

Whether you’re retiring from the military or separating after your first contract, your service and experience in the armed forces sets you apart from people that haven’t served. A federal job allows you to continue that service. A steady paycheck and maintaining your TSP aren’t bad perks either.


MIGHTY MONEY

Finance Friday: should you invest in a bear market?

As I sit in my concrete bunker surrounded by hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, a wall of toilet paper ready to thwart any potential Coronavirus threats, I feel the need to press pause on regularly scheduled mortgage education and address a topic that has flared up in newsfeeds over the past few days: investing when the market has “crashed”.


Although I joke about my bunker stash (I can’t even find hand sanitizer to stock), personal finance is a highly individualistic and serious subject full of licensing requirements and government regulations. I did what any person not wanting to bring the Financial Industry Regulation Authority fire down upon them and called in the experts. Long-time trusted advisors Nick Stone and Craig Harris were both able to offer some advice to my investment-curious audience who feel that they may be missing out on a Golden Goose Egg during this bear market.

Stone provided examples over the history of time where markets have typical cycles of ebb and flow, and this was bound to come full circle even before the Coronavirus scare (which surely did compound the effect). Putting our economy into the analogy of a marathon, no one sprints 26.2 miles to a finish line. Instead, there are steady-set paces accompanied by throttles and breaks. We may not have seen the bottom of this yet since stocks are priced on what expected earnings are, and companies have yet to report on their current quarter. It could be speculated that markets will dip even a little more. Only time can tell. A piece of advice offered is to maximize on your current contributions such as 401K, IRA and other tax-friendly opportunities versus a narrow lump-sum investment to allow for dollar-cost averaging.

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Harris emphasized a good time to invest when the market is in a down point. “Buy low and sell high” is not a catch-phrase but a pillar of investing. Regardless of market conditions, ANY time is a good time to start investing, but there is certainly an advantage when we are in a low market since you can get a little more with your cash. Even at the highest point, like where we just were, there is still a good strategy to be employed for investing your money. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but the market is designed in a way that, over a long enough period of time, your money should grow. He stressed that individual situations and goals are the primary driving factor in how the portfolio is built and how your money can be invested wisely.

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month

Both discourage dumping money blindly into crashing stocks today in hopes of getting rich next week. The singular most important thing you can do with your money is to have a goal in mind versus chasing performance returns. It can be retirement, paying for a child’s college, purchasing a home, etc. but you HAVE to know what you’re working towards in order to get there. The last thing you want to do is be cash-poor and investment-rich without a plan if you need access to that money in the short term. This knowledge is especially important for my mortgage clients who may need to hang on to some cash to close on a new home.

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month

There’s a big myth out there that financial advisors are expensive, but they’re really not. There are traditional brokerage accounts where you pay a small commission on everything bought and put into your account and every transaction made on your behalf. There are also fee-based accounts where you forego commissions and pay an annual fee that varies between firms, typically averages out to be less than 1.5 percent of your invested assets. If you find yourself shopping around for a financial advisor, ask about their cost, make sure they are also a licensed stockbroker so you are diversified instead of pigeonholed into one certain commodity, and ask them if they would invest you like they would invest their own family. It’s a relationship of trust, and you have the ability to establish how you want that relationship to be shaped, whether it be by twice a year comprehensive reviews, weekly phone calls or somewhere in-between.

Important to remember when you see big movement in the economy is this: What do you want to invest FOR, not what do you want to invest IN. That mind shift will help you make smart financial decisions for your future.

Articles

Here’s how veterans can get a head start to become a successful entrepreneur

We all know that when you leave the military, it can be a cruel employment world out there.


Despite the confusion that often comes with transitioning from service, there’s potentially never been a better time to take a stab at becoming your own boss. And fortunately, there is a host of organizations out there to help former service members crack the code on starting a successful business.

At the end of March, the organizers behind VETCON are hoping their roster of A-Listers in the tech and business world will open more than a few veterans’ eyes to the opportunities out there. Billed as an “annual gathering of visionaries, hustlers, and game-changers from around the world,” the folks at VETCON say they represent a wide community of so-called “vetrepreneurs” that want to pass on their secrets to their military brethren.

“Military veteran entrepreneurs are an untapped market with huge potential,” said Ian Faison, VETCON co-founder, West Point graduate and former U.S. Army Captain. “Despite mutual interest from both venture capitalists and veteran founders, there’s never been a conference that delivers true ROI to entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors at the same time – until now.”

Hosted in Redwood City, California, this year’s VETCON is slated to feature more than 200 veteran entrepreneurs and more than 35 professional investors, including “The Godfather of Silicon Valley” Steve Blank, Mike Maples of Floodgate Ventures, Trae Stephens of the Founders Fund, as well as leaders from Andreessen Horowitz; Facebook; GrowthX; Wildcat Ventures; HubSpot; IBM; Salesforce; and Indiegogo.

Held between March 23 and March 25, the conference is intended to “develop a 30-day plan to take your business to the next level … [with] a mixture of fireside chats, workshops, solo talks, networking events, and Action Hours.”

“VETCON changes the game for veterans and investors alike,” VETCON’s Faison said. “With programming that rivals any startup event in the country, we’re catalyzing the nationwide veteran ecosystem, providing investors with genuine business opportunities and helping entrepreneurs boost their customer pipeline and raise funding faster in 2017.”

MIGHTY MONEY

4 insanely expensive versions of childhood games

If you ever passed the time in your childhood by desperately trying to get four plastic tokens to line up before your opponent did, you just might be thrilled by the new home décor collection by designer Edie Parker.

The collection, available on Moda Operandi, sells fancy, elevated versions of several classic, childhood games — perhaps the most noteworthy being Connect Four.

Officially called “Four in a Row,” the upscale version by Parker is handmade of acrylic and costs $1,495. You’re probably more familiar with the one that looks like this:



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The Connect Four you probably recognize is collapsible and made of plastic.
(Amazon photo)

The whimsical collection also features a colorful $2,495 Tic Tac Toe board with golden letters, a $2,295 domino set, a $1,295 box to hold playing cards, and a $1,395 glow-in-the-dark puzzle box decorated with obsidian sand.


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Designer Edie Parker made a $1,495 version of Connect Four.u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

Pump up your savings with Military Saves Month
This fancy Tic Tac Toe board can be yours for just $2,495.
(Moda Operandi photo)

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Who doesn’t need a bedazzled $1,295 card box?
(Moda Operandi photo)

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u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

In addition to the games, the home décor line offers several brightly-colored vanity trays ranging from $750 to $850 and coaster sets.

If you’re lucky enough to have a budget that allows you to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy board games, you’d better act quickly — the collection will only be available until June 29, 2018, according to the website.

But if you don’t have a spare $1,500 lying around, you can always indulge your nostalgia with the classic Hasbro version of Connect Four that sells on Amazon for $8.77.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Articles

10 back-to-school deals for military families

As summer camps wind to a close and kids make their final splashes at the pool, parents have one thing on their minds: back-to-school shopping.


But when you add up the cost of all the items on your kids’ classroom supply lists, backpacks, clothes and shoes, back-to-school is expensive! The following is a list of discounts to help military families get the kids off to school in style while staying within your budget.

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U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis

1. Operation Homefront’s Back-to-School Brigade

Operation Homefront partners with Dollar Tree to collect school supplies for military children as part of their Back-to-School Brigade. Dollar Tree stores put out collection barrels from July 5 through August 11, and then Operation Homefront volunteers distribute them to military children at events throughout the country during the back-to-school season. Click here for more information and to find programs in your area.

2. Tax-Free Shopping Days

For a few days each year, some states offer a “sales tax holiday” right around back-to-school time when shoppers can buy specified items tax-free. This is a great way to save on back-to-school necessities like clothes, shoes, and other school supplies. To see if your state participates in the sales tax holidays, click here.

3. Clothing and Accessories

By the time summer is over, the kids have either outgrown all their school clothes or worn them ragged from vacation and camp. Update their wardrobe with new clothes and accessories using military discounts at Banana Republic, Claires, eBags, New York and Company and Old Navy. If you’re mall shopping, be sure to ask for a military discount in every store you stop in. Some malls, like the MacArthur Center in Norfolk, Virginia, offer military discounts in many of their stores. And outlets like Tanger Outlets offer discounts and free coupon books.

4. Shoes

No back-to-school wardrobe is complete without new shoes. So take advantage of the military discounts offered by Payless and Rack Room Shoes.

5. Classroom Supplies

Most schools now expect parents to help stock classroom supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, folders, scissors, glue, and binders, as well as necessities like tissues and hand sanitizer. Find these supplies and use military discounts as Michaels, Jo-Ann Fabric and AC Moore.

6. Backpacks and Lunch Bags

Looking for backpacks and lunch bags? Pottery Barn Kids has an adorable collection of both, and they offer a 15% in-store military discount.

7. Tutoring and Test Prep

Does your child need a little extra help with homework and studying?Tutor.com, where expert tutors are online 24/7, offers free tutoring for military families.

Do you have older kids getting ready for college testing? eKnowledge donates their SAT and ACT College Test Preparation Programs to service members and their families. You pay only a minimal price per standard program to cover the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.

8. Computers

If you’re looking to buy a computer or other necessary electronics, check out the military discounts offered by Dell.

Need tech support? My Nerds offer military discounts as well.

9. Wireless Communication

AT&T Wireless, Boost Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular and Verizon all offer military discounts, so if you’re in the market for new cell phone plans to keep in touch with your active student, you have a great variety to choose from. (Some offer military discounts on devices and accessories as well.)

10. Exchange Price Match Policy

Don’t forget that the Navy Exchange (NEX), the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) and the Army and Air Force Exchange (AAFES) all offer price matching. That means if you see a lower price for the same item at another store, bring proof to the Exchange and you can buy that item for the competitor’s price.

MIGHTY MONEY

Gary Johnson speaks out on California Guard repayment scandal

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 best industries for military spouses to work in

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

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

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


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

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

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1. Health care

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

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

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

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2. Entrepreneurship

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

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

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

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3. Leisure and hospitality

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

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

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

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4. Professional services and business

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

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

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

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

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5. Information Technology

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

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

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

Explore more for you:

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

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

Articles

Navy announces applications for tuition assistance are due

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Petty Officer 1st Class Abdul Yusef teaches a Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) business course in a training classroom aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower


The Navy announced Wednesday that sailors interested applying for fall classes should get their applications for tuition assistance turned in as soon as possible.

The Navy tuition assistance program covers up to 100 percent of tuition for eligible sailors. Eligibility depends on grades, active duty time (for activated reservists), accreditation of the chosen institution, and whether the sailor agrees to fulfill an obligatory 2 years of service beyond the his or her scheduled end of active service.

Covered under tuition assistance are high school and general equivalent degrees, vocational and technical programs, undergraduate and graduate programs, and certification programs. The funds can only be applied toward tuition, and may not be used for books, fees, and other course materials.

Tuition assistance is capped at 16 semester hours at $250.00 per semester hour, 24 quarter hours at $166.67 per quarter hour, and 240 clock hours at $16.67 per clock hour.

The Navy requires that sailors wishing to utilize tuition assistance follow these steps:

  • Notify the command
  • Complete required training
  • Complete education counseling and formulate an education plan
  • Submit education plan to Navy and review with counselor
  • Submit WebTA application at My Education Portal
  • Generate voucher and submit to institution

Command approval is required for tuition assistance, and that approval must come from the sailor’s commanding officer or by Direction Authority. Sailors will be required to enter their commanding officer’s email into the application.

There are specific obligations required for sailors utilizing tuition assistance. Grades must be a C or higher for undergraduate studies and a B or higher for graduate studies. Tuition assistance must be reimbursed for any grades that are determined to fall below those requirements.

Sailors must notify their Virtual Education Center of any changes in courses (including those changes which are not controlled by the sailor). Failure to notify the Virtual Education Center of changes can result in loss of tuition assistance and a requirement for reimbursement to the institution.

For more information and to apply for tuition assistance, Sailors can visit the Navy College Program.

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