The idea of relocating immediately sparks a desire to jump online and start looking at houses. It is a natural curiosity to start visualizing where home will be. One late night jump down the rabbit hole of internet home searching will have you falling in love with the stainless steel kitchens, shiny polished floors, and before you know it, you’ll be itching to book a realtor and make this possibility a reality! What I’m about to tell you goes against everything in your gut, but I promise it makes sense to press pause.
Four reasons you NEED to talk to a lender first:
Time is valuable
Any realtor that values their time and takes their jobs seriously is going to ask you if you are pre-approved. A realtor will want to make sure they get you in front of homes that are within your budget and not waste time researching and showing homes that are outside of this range. A realtor also wants to make sure you’re in a financial position where homeownership is the right choice for you.
Be ready to jump on your dream home
You want to have a solid pre-approval once you begin browsing homes. Some markets are more competitive than others. Especially here, you want to be financially ready to jump in with that solid pre-approval (and not a pre-qualification) to have your offer taken seriously.
Solid financing=increased offer acceptance rate
If you start a pre-approval before home shopping, you are better positioned for a quicker closing time, which makes for happier agents and sellers. Bonus points when your lender calls the listing agent when you make an offer to tell them that you have a full-document pre-approval, which is a reassuring sign that financing is not going to fall through.
Once you start looking at homes online, if your price range drops, nothing will meet the same expectations that you had when you started imagining moving into those larger, fancier homes. To set the right expectations up front, it’s best to have an honest conversation with a lender about short term and long term financial goals.
Once you start home shopping, there is a lot coming your way between contracts, inspections, addendums, moving boxes, and more. Taking the time to understand various procedures and costs ahead of finding your dream home will leave you less stressed and more confident in your choice. Having the right lender to be your partner in the process is key!
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.
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.
If you sit down at your computer and search for, “Help with PCS,” you will find dozens of articles telling you what to do. Heck, the military even hands your spouse a list that says, “DO THIS.”
This is not one of those lists.
Instead, this is a list to help you de-crazy your brain in those weeks leading up to the Big Move. This is a list that reminds you that everything that needs to get done will, in fact, get done.
And, if it doesn’t? It probably wasn’t that important to begin with.
1. Do Not expect to de-clutter, organize and label every aspect of your life before the movers come.
We have big plans to separate and label all of the junk we aren’t willing to part with this time around, and we may even purchase the storage bins as a proactive move. But, let’s face it. Moving day comes at lightning speed, and you end up lugging all those loose pictures you planned to consolidate into albums. Try again next PCS.
2. Do Not become too attached to those expected dates for your Household Goods to arrive.
Riiight, 5-10 business days? Try two weeks, or a month. Or, half of it within three days, and the other half in six months after they locate it. The point is, bring enough clothes, enough toys and at least one pot for making macaroni and cheese with you to the new duty station, and you’ll survive until the movers get here. … Whenever that is.
3. Do Not bother doing all your laundry before they pack up the house.
If you plan on driving to the next duty station, toss the laundry basket of dirty clothes in your car and finish it while you sit in temporary lodging. Trust me, you’ll need something to do while you’re waiting for your spouse to out-or in-process. Candy Crush gets boring after a while.
4. Do Not plan too many activities the week of moving day.
You will be stressed out, you will be overloaded, and you will already be racking your brain to think of the million and one things you’re probably already forgetting. Plan your last Girl’s Night Out, or your kiddos last play dates the week before, and reserve those final days for the last-minute-details that always seem to pop up.
5. Do Not assume the movers will know not to pack certain things.
Even obvious things like trash, car keys and cat litter boxes. And, if they don’t have a problem packing cat feces, they’re for sure going to assume your child’s favorite stuffed animal that they tossed on the floor — the one that they have to sleep with or the world falls apart — is fair game. So, if you don’t want them to pack it, my best suggestion would be to take open a safety deposit box at the bank and keep all of the stuff you want to take with you in it. I assume that will prevent them from finding it, but no guarantees.
6. Do Not get hung up on what the movers put in which boxes.
As long as it all generally goes in the same room—or floor—of the house, just call it good. You’ll run yourself ragged trying to micromanage an entire house move, and annoy the movers at the same time. Remember, happy movers mean the potential for less damaged items.
7. Do Not sweat the small stuff.
That first PCS will make you crazy as you balance trying to clean out base housing to the housing office’s satisfaction and feeling helpless watching as the packers touch every single item of your personal effects and pack it away for who-knows how long.
A PCS only comes around … well, to be honest, they come around pretty often, which is why a “don’t” list is something we all need. Do Not fret; you learn something from each move, and by the time you make your final one, you’ll be a pro.
Where did the thrift savings plan come from and why do you need it?
In the beginning there was work; and then people died. Back in the day, American civilians simply worked until they couldn’t work anymore, and then they either relied on family to care for them, or they passed away. In the mid 1800s, a couple of companies took a look at the military’s retirement system and decided to give it a try.
The Thrift Savings Plan as we know it came into effect long after the civilian version of retirement due to the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986. The TSP is the public sector’s version of the 401(k) that was established under the Revenue Act of 1978.
But the TSP was not the military’s first pension plan. According to Pension Research Council, pensions for the military predate the Constitution, but the U.S. Navy and Army struggled to manage pension funds — so much in fact that the new government had to bail them out at least three separate times.
Despite early issues with managing pension funds, the Army and the Navy continued to offer them as a means to attract and retain men in the services.
Eventually corporate America got on board and started to adopt its own retirement system modeled after the public pension system offered by the American military.
The private pension system was designed to reward line workers (those who worked in factories or on production lines) for years of service to one company. This worked both to the advantage of the individual as many skills were not transferable outside of a specific industry, and to employers because it guaranteed most of their employees would be loyal to them.
There were two problems with the way the pension system was set up: companies had to figure out how much money every year to set aside based on the number of employees they had, and many companies mismanaged that money just as the military had a century prior.
Thus, the 401(k) Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, was born by an act of Congress in 1978. With this system, employers agreed to set a predetermined amount of money aside, and employees agreed to manage it themselves.
As a result of the remodeling of the private pension system, our modern day public pension (the Thrift Savings Plan) was designed nearly a decade after the private pension plan.
So why do you need a TSP? Regular military retirement pay was never intended to fully provide for normal retirement.
The TSP was designed to supplement retirement pay, and while it is optional for military members, it makes money sense to set aside funds throughout your career to supplement the retirement pay that was never intended to fully financially support you.
In short, the TSP makes sense, and you should have one.
For more information on the TSP, you can check out the Thrift Savings Plan website.
It should be no surprise that skills learned in the military such as decision-making under pressure, organization, and leadership translate well to the corporate boardroom. And those skills tend to make a big difference, with companies led by former military officers tending to show better performance.
People like Fred Smith or Sam Walton have become household names for their business success. Lesser known is their service prior to the companies they founded.
After World War II, nearly 50% of veterans went the entrepreneurship route, though that number has substantially declined today. Still, there are currently around 3 million veteran-owned businesses.
Here are 9 companies started by military veterans.
1. RE/MAX, cofounded by Air Force veteran Dave Liniger
Prior to founding “Real Estate Maximums” — better known as RE/MAX— Dave Liniger served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
From 1965 to 1971, he served as an enlisted airman in Texas, Arizona, Vietnam, and Thailand, according to his LinkedIn.
“The military really gave me the chance to grow up. It was fun. I thought it was a fabulous place,” he told Airport Journals. “It also taught me self-discipline and a sense of responsibility.”
After he got out of the military, he started flipping houses for profit, and eventually got his real estate license. He cofounded RE/MAX with his wife Gail in 1973.
2. Sperry Shoes, founded by Navy veteran Paul A. Sperry
You can thank a former sailor in the US Naval Reserve for inventing the world’s first boat shoe.
In 1917, Sperry joined the Navy Reserve, though he didn’t stay in for very long. He was released from duty at the end of the year at the rank of Seaman First Class.
Still, his experience there and further adventures sailing led to the founding of his company, which eventually created the first non-slip boating shoe. He founded Sperry in 1935.
During World War II, his Sperry Top-Sider shoes were purchased by the boatload by the Navy. Now nearly a century later, they are still a favorite of sailors everywhere.
3. FedEx, founded by Marine Corps veteran Fred Smith
Back before FedEx was the behemoth logistics company it is today, founder Fred Smith was observing how the military was getting things from point A to point B.
After graduating from Yale University, he was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served two tours in Vietnam. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts,according to US News.
Only two years after he left the Corps, he started Federal Express.
“Much of our success reflects what I learned as a Marine,” he wrote forMilitary.com. “The basic principles of leading people are the bedrock of the Corps. I can still recite them from memory, and they are firmly embedded in the FedEx culture.”
It was founded by a former Army intelligence officer named Sam Walton.From 1942 to 1945, Walton was in the Army and eventually rose to the rank of captain. His brother (and cofounder) Bud served as a bomber pilot for the Navy in the Pacific.
According to the company’s history, Sam Walton’s first WalMart store, called Walton’s Five and Dime, was started with $5,000 he saved from his time serving in the Army and a $25,000 loan from his father-in-law.
5. GoDaddy, founded by Marine Corps veteran Bob Parsons
The company responsible for registering a large portion of the world’s web domains, GoDaddy, is the brainchild of Marine veteran Bob Parsons.
Parsons enlisted in the Corps in 1968 and later served in Vietnam, where he earned a Combat Action Ribbbon, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Purple Heart for wounds he received in combat.
“I absolutely would not be where I am today without the experiences I had in the Marine Corps,” he writes on his website.
In 1997, he started GoDaddy. In 2014, it filed for a $100 million IPO. He left the company around that time to focus on his philanthropic efforts
6. WeWork, founded by Israeli Navy veteran Adam Neumann
Hot coworking startup WeWork is the 9th most valuable startupin the world, and it was started by a veteran of the Israeli navy.
Adam Neumann started a coworking office space for entrepreneurs in New York City back in 2011.Today, WeWork has 128 offices in 39 cities around the world.
7. Taboola, founded by Israeli Army veteran Adam Singolda
Another veteran of the Israel Defense Forces is Adam Singolda, the founder of content recommendation engine Taboola.
Like many other successful Israeli entrepreneurs who served in the IDF (military service ismandatory in Israel), Singolda developed many of the skills that would help his company later on in the military intelligence field.
He started Taboola back in 2007, and you have surely seen his work under the many millions of articles who feature “Content You May Like” that the company generates at the bottom. Taboola raised a round of financing in 2015 that put its value at close to $1 billion.
8. Kinder Morgan, cofounded by Army veteran Richard Kinder
The fourth largest energy company in North America was cofounded by Vietnam veteran Richard Kinder. Along with his business partner William Morgan, he started the company in 1997.
It may not be a huge surprise that USAA — a company that exclusively caters to military veterans and their families — was started by veterans.
Interestingly though, it doesn’t have just one founder. It has 25.
Back in the 1920s, it was pretty hard for military service members to get (or keep) auto insurance, since it was either way too expensive or likely to get cancelled since they moved around so much.
So Maj. William Henry Garrison and 24 of his fellow Army officers got together in 1922 and formed their own mutual company to insure themselves, according to Encyclopedia.com. Today, the United Services Automobile Association provides insurance, banking, and investment services to nearly 12 million members.
Disclosure: I personally have USAA insurance and use its banking services.
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.
I know you’re supposed to put away 15 percent of your salary if you hope to retire at a normal age. I’m not panicking, but my wife and I are well below that mark. Bills just seem to eat up too much of our paycheck. What are some tactics of people who can put away a lot of money into their savings? I don’t want to be working when I’m 80. – Leo, Newton, Massachusetts
If you’ve started saving well before your 30th birthday, you’re okay diverting 10 percent of your income toward retirement, says Alicia Klein, a Tucson, Arizona-based financial advisor and a member of the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners. But for everyone else — and it sounds like you’re included — you should really bump that number up to 15 percent.
It may give you some solace to know that you’re not exactly alone when it comes to a skinny investment account. According to a recent Bankrate survey, only 16 percent of Americans said they’re saving more than 15 percent of each paycheck for their post-working years. Twenty-one percent aren’t kicking in anything at all, which is a stark commentary on the state of affairs in America.
While the fact that a lot of families are struggling may be cold comfort. At some point — preferably sooner than later — we all need to take a hard look at how we’re saving. Otherwise, retirement as you envision it simply won’t be an option.
It sounds like you’ve had that epiphany already. So what next? Here are what financial advisors say are the best ways to ramp up your savings.
1. Trick yourself into saving more.
Once your paycheck hits your bank account, there’s a big chance you’ll use it for something other than your retirement account — and probably much less important, like a trip to the mall or a nice meal. So, don’t give yourself that temptation. If 10 percent of monthly earnings is automatically being diverted toward your 401(k) now, Klein recommends going up a notch to 11 percent. “It might feel tight for that first month or two, but you acclimate,” she says. “Then incrementally increase again until you reach 15 percent or whatever your target is.”
Rodger Friedman, a founding partner at Steward Partners Global Advisory in Bethesda, Maryland, says he uses a similar approach for clients who are just starting on their nest egg. He tells younger workers to start by putting away 1 percent of their income, or 0 a year for someone making a ,000 salary. “It’s just a cup of coffee a day,” says Friedman.
Over time he asks them to increase their contribution by one percentage point at a time. “Over the course of a year, they may be saving three, four, or even five percent,” he says. “It’s like getting into a cold pool one toe at a time.”
2. Hold off on the BMW, at least for now
One of the surest ways to get off-track in the savings department is by over-reaching on your bigger purchases in order to impress friends. If you’re behind on your investment goals, looking at your car payment is a good place to start. Klein says she has the same reaction whenever clients tell her about a bloated auto loan: “There’s your retirement savings – you’re driving it!”
Getting in over your head with a pricy house can be an even bigger trap. For most households, Klein recommends capping your home purchase to two or two-and-a-half times your annual income (though folks in pricier markets may have to stretch that a bit).
By keeping your mortgage payment realistic, you free up more money to spend on other needs — and you’ll tend to worry less about keeping up with the family next door. “It puts you in a neighborhood where most of the other people’s income will be similar to yours,” she says.
3. Keep a lid on your credit cards
As your career develops and you start making more money, your credit balances should go down, right?
Well, that’s probably the way it should work. Unfortunately, the exact opposite happens in real life. The average American under the age of 35 carries ,808 in credit card balances, according to data compiled by the ValuePenguin. That number jumps to ,235 for those in the 35-44 age bracket. It’s hard to bump up your 401(k) contribution when you have that kind of debt on your shoulders.
The best thing you can do is reduce that temptation. Rather than shoving a handful of cards into your wallet, limit yourself to one or maybe two, says Friedman. Cutting down on your collection of plastic will not only help you reduce the urge to splurge, but make it easier to track how much you owe.
Already have debt from revolving credit accounts? Pay down the ones with the highest interest rate first, says Friedman. There’s no sense in chipping away at a card charging 10% APR when you have another account costing you 25 percent a year in the meantime.
4. Track your expenses
Big shocker here, right? Klein recommends a simple exercise: writing down every purchase you make for two to three months so you can see where your money is actually being spent. Often, families discover that a big part of their budget is being flushed down the proverbial toilet. “You may find that you’re paying for Amazon, Hulu and Sling, which is costing you 0, but you only use Netflix,” she says.
These days, consumers have access to any number of budgeting apps that let them track purchases right from their phone. For those who like simplicity, for example, Mint is especially popular. Consumers who are willing to drill down into the minutiae of what they’re spending often gravitate toward tools like You Need a Budget.
For Klein, any of the bigger-name apps can be effective for a given individual, helping them free up money that they can then squirrel away for retirement. “The best budget is the one that works for you and that you stick to,” she says.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.
“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.
The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.
“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.
NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets
In many ways, Lakesha Cole is the typical military spouse. A mother and wife, Cole has spent the last five years like many other military spouses: focused on a passion while juggling her family responsibilities.
But it’s the way she’s done it that sets her apart. Recently, Cole and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, and their children completed a Permanent Change of Station from Okinawa, Japan, to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
And along with their kids and personal effects, the Coles also took their successful business inside the Okinawa Exchange with them.
This was the second time Cole packed up her company, She Swank Too, and hauled it overseas. Two years after debuting their company aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Cole’s took on a PCS to Okinawa, embarking on a mission to open the first brick and mortar She Swank Too there.
Cole spoke with We Are the Mighty about her experience just trying to get a meeting with the retail manager in Okinawa.
“He was reluctant to do business with me,” she recalled, after waiting for six months to secure a meeting with the manager. He argued that military spouses didn’t believe “the rules apply to them,” citing spouses who formerly ran businesses in the retail space with poor business practices.
Cole says she presented her business plan, complete with financial reports, customer data and testimonials, and samples, to the manager. They agreed to a 30 day trial run of a brick and mortar She Swank Too. Three years later, the store accompanied the Coles on their PCS.
When asked what steps an entrepreneur should take during a PCS, Cole was quick to answer, “Stay active and… communicate with your customers.” Customer interaction is one of the focal points of the company. “We tapped into the hearts and homes of our customers,” Cole said.
The motivation behind the company was simple. “We debuted our first children’s collection … to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter,” Cole recalled.
Cole’s husband is equally involved in the business. “The least recognized role in a business is … that person’s spouse,” Cole said. Cole’s husband is not only an active participant in the company, but a financial investor as well.
Cole isn’t just a business owner. In addition to She Swank Too, Cole is a military spouse retail coach, the founder, CEO and owner of Milspousepreneur, and an active advocate for military affiliated entrepreneurship in hopes of reversing high milspouse unemployment.
“My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back,” Cole said
The holidays are over, and we are now in the year 2020. It’s a good time to start working on our 2019 taxes, because April 15 will be here before we know it. Taxes are overwhelming and complex, but there are numerous tax benefits for military families, so it is important to understand the basics.
Servicemembers receive different types of pay and allowances. It is important to know which are considered as income and which are not. For servicemembers, income typically includes basic pay, special pay, bonus pay, and incentive pay.
Items normally excluded from income include combat pay, living allowances, moving allowances, travel allowances, and family allowances, such as family separation pay.
Combat pay exclusions are a substantial benefit to servicemembers and spouses. Combat pay is that compensation for active military service for any month while serving in a designated combat zone. This may also include a reenlistment bonus if the voluntary reenlistment occurs in a month while the servicemember is serving in the combat zone. Note that for commissioned officers, there is a limit to the amount of combat pay you may exclude.
The most common living allowances are Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Moving allowances are those reasonable, unreimbursed expenses beyond what the military pays for a permanent change of station.
Sale of Homes
Servicemembers and spouses often decide to purchase homes when moving to new duty stations. Often, we then turnaround and sell the homes a few years later before moving again.
What happens if you make a profit from the sale of this home? If you are fortunate enough to profit, you may qualify to exclude up to 0,000 of the gain from your income, or up to 0,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse. This is referred to as the Sale of Primary Home Capital Gain exclusion. Normally, this exclusion requires that you owned the home for at least two years and lived in it for at least two of the last five years. There is an exception, however, for servicemembers. If you were required to move as the result of a permanent change of station before meeting these requirements, you still may qualify for a reduced exclusion.
Claim for Tax Forgiveness
If a servicemember dies while on active duty, there are circumstances where the taxes owed will be forgiven by the IRS. Contact your closest Legal Assistance Office immediately for assistance using the website provided later in the article.
If April 15 is quickly approaching and you are running out of time, remember, there are several different extension requests that military families may make. If the servicemember is in a combat zone, an automatic extension covers the time period the servicemember is in the combat zone plus 180 days after the last day in the combat zone.
Avoid Tax Scams
In November 2019, I wrote an article on common scams during the holidays. Unfortunately, scams are not limited to the holidays. There are numerous tax scams that have stolen personal information and millions of dollars. Scammers use the mail, telephone and email to initiate contact. Please remember that the IRS never initiates contact by email, text messages or on social media pages to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contact through the regular U. S. Postal Service mail. Finally, the IRS never uses threats or bullying to demand payments.
If you have any questions, contact the IRS with a telephone number you find on its website (www.irs.gov) and verify what you received is legitimate before doing anything. To protect yourself, only use an IRS telephone number from its website. Do not use a telephone number you received that you suspect may be part of a tax scam from an email, text message or social media page.
Signing Tax Returns
Normally, both the servicemember and spouse must sign jointly filed tax returns. If one spouse will be absent during tax season, it is advisable to have an IRS special power of attorney, IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative). You may access this form on the IRS website.
Military Tax Centers
Annually, many Legal Assistance Offices worldwide help servicemembers and spouses file their federal and state income tax returns starting in early February. Last year, for example, Army Legal Assistance personnel and volunteers prepared and filed over one hundred thousand Federal and over sixty-four thousand State income tax returns saving servicemembers and their families more than million in tax preparation and filing fees.
If you don’t live near a military installation, visit the Department of Defense Military One Source website at https://www.militaryonesource.mil for additional information on accessing free online tax assistance.
Legal Assistance Offices
If you have specific tax questions or receive correspondence from the IRS, contact the closest legal assistance office to schedule an appointment. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website (https://legalassistance.law.af.mil) that I provided in the October 2019 blog to locate your nearest legal assistance office. The quicker you address your issues, the better likelihood that you will successfully resolve them.
Valuable Tax Tip for 2020
Finally, here is a valuable tip for next year’s taxes. Does it seem like every year you are scrambling to find tax documents and receipts from throughout the tax year? Relieve this stress by getting a folder and writing “Tax Year 2020” on the front of it. Keep it in an easy-to-find place, and every time you receive a document or receipt that may impact your taxes place it in the folder. That way, at the end of this year, you will have most of the supporting documents you need already together.
Be on the lookout for future blogs that will continue to discuss specific legal issues often encountered by servicemembers and military spouses. As always, this blog series will help to protect your family and you!
The Department of Defense has approved the Navy’s request for an extension to hardship duty pay for deployed sailors. Though the Navy requested the extra money for two years, the current funding expires in September, 2017, and does not include new money for Marines.
According to the Navy, an “extended deployment” consists of 221 consecutive days in an “operational environment” (aka: deployment), and the sailor assigned to those areas will earn $16.50 per day, “not to exceed $495 per month.” That amount is not dependent on rank or time in service. (Photo from U.S. Navy)
“The Navy is in high demand and is present where and when it matters,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, Chief of Naval Personnel. “Hardship Duty Pay – Tempo is designed to compensate sailors for the important roles they continue to play in keeping our nation safe during extended deployments around the globe.”
A Marine Corps financial office source said the reason the authorization was only approved for a year has more to do with politics than logistics.
During an election year, it is difficult to get additional funding for programs, he said.
“There are going to be budget cuts across the whole of the federal government in order for any progress on the national debt to be made,” the Marine financial office source said. “The next administration’s defense and fiscal policies will ultimately determine the fate of [Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo].”
A Navy spokesman said the service has paid out nearly $16 million over two years to about 24,000 sailors from 1,129 commands or units.
“This is something that the Navy wants for our sailors as we believe it positively affects sailors’ morale,” said Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel. “It’s one small way to help them during long and difficult deployments away from home.”
(Photo from U.S. Navy)
The Marine officer, however, was hopeful that “since it was reauthorized after its first go or ‘trial run,’ I think we can conclude that it was determined to be a success by our legislators in Congress and by the Department of the Navy’s upper echelon decision makers. Thus, I’m optimistic that it will continue in the future.”
Right now the reauthorization only applies to the Navy and does not include the Marine Corps. The same financial officer noted that though the extension of Hardship Duty Pay- Tempo does not apply to Leathernecks, he is hopeful that the Corps will issue its own extension.
The Marine finance officer didn’t believe that the lack of guidance for Hardship Duty Pay for the Corps would be a morale hit.
“If it turns out that Marines are not given HDP-T, I’m sure there will be a small level of frustration at first,” he said. “But Marines have always and will continue to put the needs of their country first, and are honored to do so. I have no doubt that what little frustration does occur will dissipate quickly.”
His father worked three jobs to put him through private school. He served in the US Navy as a nuclear weapons transshipment pilot, before winning a National Football League Superbowl title with the New York Giants.
He is now president at Academy Securities, a broker-dealer founded in 2009 that employs veterans and service-disabled veterans in areas like investment banking and trading.
McConkey sat down with Skiddy von Stade, CEO of finance career services company OneWire, to talk about his background, and Academy Securities.
During that conversation, he laid out why experience with the military is valuable for those who want to break into the cutthroat financial services industry.
Military culture is honesty, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and by the way, service. We’re in a service industry. Who knows more about those qualities than military veterans? When those qualities and experiences come into helping our clients, it really resonates.
We’re a small company, growing. We’d like to be a bulge-bracket investment bank broker-dealer at some point. We don’t have the resources that the big banks have, but we’re nimble, we’re quick, and we have differentiated types of value that we add. We got nine senior-level retired generals and admirals, people who have fingers on the pulse of geopolitical macro world we live in. And that’s a value to customers if they’re in capital markets. If they’re managing money.