Military members are accustomed to significant challenges. Combat tours, deployments, and frequent transfers are a few of the difficulties they face frequently. Because of this stress, many military members experience significant struggles when it comes to getting ahead financially.
Possibly one of the greatest benefits to U.S. government or military service is the Thrift Savings Plan. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings and investment plan offered to current employees of the military and federal government.
Since it’s a “defined contribution” retirement plan, the retirement income you receive from the TSP will depend on how much you (and your agency, if applicable) contribute during your working years–along with how well your investments perform over that time. Though it offers numerous advantages for retirement savings, the TSP is an under-appreciated and under-utilized benefit offered by the federal government.
Being a service member gives you access to investment opportunities that civilians don’t. That’s a great thing! At the same time, many service members are young and haven’t had much formal financial education, so navigating the investment options to invest is tough. Though sometimes confusing, investing early is the key to wealth! I know several retired service members who made it a point to start early. They didn’t just rely on their retirement, but also bought rental properties in areas where they were stationed, and invested in taxable accounts. After 20 years, they were set for life.
To start with, the TSP is cheap.
When you make any investment, the investment company is going to take some of your money as a service fee; nobody works for free. The TSP currently charges a service fee of 0.04%, which is probably the lowest you will find anywhere in the world. Even index funds, which some investors swear are the best investments, normally have service fees at least twice as high as the TSP. Most employer-sponsored retirement savings plans are at least three to four times more expensive than the TSP.
The TSP is also a tax advantage. Since the TSP is a tax-deferred or tax-qualified retirement program, you are making a deal with the IRS that you won’t use this money until you are close to retiring. In return, the IRS says it won’t tax you on a portion of that money. This is one of the big selling points of any retirement savings plan. With traditional TSP contributions, you get a tax break now and pay taxes in retirement. Conversely, you make Roth TSP contributions with after-tax dollars. So, you don’t get a tax break now, but the account grows tax-free over the years. Additionally, your withdrawals in retirement are tax-free.
Can a real estate investment be funded using a TSP?
The TSP can be invested in real estate with some conditions. The only option is to use the funds for a residential loan, which is real estate that one is living in as a primary residence. In theory, one could rent out a couple of extra bedrooms, which would be considered an investment. However, if you are still employed, you may be able to transfer some of the TSP funds to an IRA or solo 401k, which both allow for investing in real estate. If you are retired, the entire TSP balance can be transferred.
Using your funds to buy an investment property
Borrowing against your TSP contributions can be an easy way to establish a down payment and closing costs for your investment property. The loan is limited to the funds that you have contributed to your TSP account – not matching funds from your agency or service – and any accrued earnings. The loan amount must be between $1,000 and $50,000 and gets repaid at the interest rate for the G Fund at the time of processing. A $50 processing fee gets added to your loan as well.
Benefits of buying an investment property with TSP
Interest from a TSP loan gets paid to you – not a commercial lender – and payments can be taken directly out of your paycheck. When you repay your loan, you repay it with interest. The repayment amount gets deposited back into your TSP account and is invested according to your most recent contribution allocation. There’s also the option to amortize the loan as needed to change repayment details like extending the payback period for up to 15 years– which tweaks the number of payments or adjusts its amount.
How does a TSP loan work?
Loan payments are paid proportionally from your traditional and Roth balances, and from each TSP fund in which you have investments. Applying for a TSP loan is easy and there are no denials as long as there’s sufficient money in your account. If you default on your TSP loan, your credit isn’t affected– because although the remaining balance becomes taxable income, the default isn’t reported to credit bureaus. Before taking out a TSP loan, be sure you’re not sacrificing your long-term retirement goals by doing so. There are possible financial ramifications to TSP loans, including having to postpone retirement to replenish your nest egg. TSP accounts grow through contributions and compounded interest both of which are reduced by loans taken out against them. It is always recommended to speak to a financial counselor before taking out a TSP loan.
When you’re underwriting potential deals, include the payment from your TSP loan in the cash flow analysis and budget ahead of time for the payroll deduction. If it still makes sense for you after all expenses including the loan repayment, it can be an amazing opportunity to fund your investment properties.
But since he’s a Fort Bragg soldier, there’s also a real chance he’ll spend his money this way:
1. Taxes will be taken out
30.75 percent, or $615,000 goes right back into government coffers. That leaves the enterprising soldier with $1,385,000.
2. Dip and jerky
The winner’s first stop will be base shoppette where he’ll pick up the proper amount of dip for millionaire soldiers, as well as a little jerky to much on.
3. New car
This is an obvious stop, but for some reason, the new millionaire will still take out loans of 20 percent or more. Over the next five years, that b-tchin’ Corvette will cost him as much as a Lambo would’ve if he’d paid cash.
4. Electronics store
Every new video game console, 10-20 games for each, a huge TV, and surround sound. A few movies will round out the purchase, about 500 of them. Most of the movies are about World War II paratroopers.
5. Adult “book” store
This is for other movies. We will not explain further.
Finally, the soldier will find a new place to live. Unfortunately, he’ll only realize after the fact that his surround system doesn’t properly fill the new entertainment room with sound. Since he threw away the receipts, he’ll buy a new one and give the old system to a groupie (he’ll have those now).
7. Energy drinks
This will take up more money than any non-soldiers would expect.
8. All the booze
There are roughly infinity liquor stores at the Fort Bragg perimeter, as well as a Class VI store on base. These will become empty.
9. Noise citations
Once the party starts, Fayettnam police officers will be visiting every 15 minutes or so and writing a ticket. By the end of the night, the lottery money will be almost played out.
By the second week, the former millionaire will be attending finance classes on base and applying for an Army Emergency Relief loan to make his payments for the Corvette.
What are the most important lessons to teach children about money? It’s a good question to consider, particularly because, thanks to a distinct lack of a broad financial literacy curriculum in schools, it falls on parents to be the ones who instill the core concepts of spending, saving, and handling money in general. While there are certainly lessons all parents should be teaching kids about money, we wondered, what do financial planners, accountants, and others who work in the financial industry teach their kids about money? What concepts are essential and how do they distill them down so they can be understood by, say, a seven-year-old? That’s why we asked a broad array of financial professionals, “What lessons do you teach your kids about money?” The varied responses include everything from envelope systems and understanding wants versus needs to the creation fake debit cards and engineering simple lessons about compound interest. All provide inspiration and instruction on how to help kids get a head start on the road to financial success and serve as a reminder that it’s never too early to begin teaching kids about money.
Try the Sticker Chart Reward System
“We use a sticker chart reward system with our young ones, who are in Kindergarten and second grade. You get a sticker for doing homework, practicing, household chores, and the like. After earning 20 stickers each child then gets to pick out a toy, experience, goodies, etc. of their choosing (up to a $ value). This is a foundational value in our household; to instill that effort and hard work is required to earn many of the ‘wants’ in life. And that it takes time.” — Ronsey Chawla, Financial Advisor at Per Sterling Capital Management.
Incorporate Financial Topics into Everyday Life
“This can be as simple as taking my kids to the bank to open a checking/savings account, involving my two kids — I have a 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter — in household budgeting conversations during a trip to the store, or planning for a family vacation. It’s important to share lessons and what you learned from your experiences with money management, with the depth of that conversation being up to your individual family. It’s also a good idea to start them saving early. Developing smart saving habits is the first step to becoming money-wise. Encouraging children to contribute a realistic amount to savings, even if it’s just a month, is an easy way to put them on the right track for future financial success.” —Daniel Cahil, SVP, North Dallas Bank Trust Co.
Trust the Lemonade Stand
“With my own kids, who were four and six at the time, we opened lemonade stands, as cliché as it may be. It teaches them literally the fruits of their labor. The help made the lemonade, with real lemons, at every step, until they have the product ready for market. They learn the lessons of “location, location, location,” understanding that where they set up can make a big difference in the traffic they can expect. Setting up on the corner brings some traffic, but not nearly as much as by a nearby field on a hot day where a bunch of kids are at soccer practice.
When they’re done, they bring their profits back home and count it up. This helps them identify and understand what different coins and paper currency mean. They also have piggy banks that are broken up into four different chambers – save, invest, spend and donate. This helps them understand the different utilities of money, immediate gratification, delayed gratification and being a contribution to others.” — Chet Schwartz, RICP, registered representative with Strategies for Wealth, a Financial Advisor with Park Avenue Securities, and a Financial Representative of Guardian Life Insurance
Teach Them to Save — But Also Enjoy the Rewards
“To clarify, this all starts with being responsible, working hard, and earning some dough. But this particular piece of advice is about what I do with that earned money. When I come into some kind of bonus or non-recurring income, I always, without fail, carve off some small-ish amount of that bonus for me, my wife, and my daughter, and we all go out together and buy something fun for ourselves, something that we would not otherwise have bought because we thought it was frivolous or hard to justify. We save the bulk, but the rule is that we have to spend that smaller allocated amount on something fun, and we have to do it together as a family.
This is important to me because one, if you don’t enjoy some part of your money “now,” you may never get the chance, and two, it gets us out, as a family, doing something that breaks the normal rules of saving and spending. I’m all about saving of course, but I’m also about enjoying the rewards of hard work, and that’s what this is really all about. If you don’t treat yourself well, you sure as heck shouldn’t expect anyone else to.” — Dan Stampf, VP, Personal Capital Cash
Use “Skip Counting”
There’s more than one way to count to 100. You can take the long way, starting with the number one. Or you can also count by twos, tens, twenties, even fifties to get there faster. Learning to “skip count” is an important precursor to developing fluency in calculation, number sense, and the basis for multiplication and division — not to mention counting money. Just pour a bunch of coins on the table and put them into piles by coin type (pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters). Work with your child to “skip count” using different coins and values, reinforcing what they’ve learned. For example, ask them if they notice any patterns (e.g. while counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s). If “skip counting” is still too complex for your kids, continue practicing by changing the number of coins they are counting. That will encourage your children to figure out another total value.” —Jeremy Quittner, Resident Money Expert Editorial Director, Stash
Put Pocket Money to Good Use
“It’s important to teach your children about saving, and the potential benefits. I think a fun way to do this is with their pocket money. Say you give your child for the weekend. Once its spent, it is gone. But I like to introduce the offer that if, for every change they bring back at the end of each week, that change is matched from my money, and saved until it reaches 0, and they can buy themselves something special. For example, if they bring me change, I put aside for them, and this pot grows until it hits 0. The opportunity here is for the children to really think about what they are spending their money on, while also seeing that saving can result in a better purchase that is actually wanted at the end.” — Andrew Roderick, CEO of Credit Repair Companies
Use The Token Economy with Toddlers
“Make money fun. Toddlers can start to experience a ‘token economy’ by pretending to play in grocery stores or banks: games that can actively involve your child in playing and beginning to understand money. It’s also important to recognize that it may be more constructive to create other activities for older kids, by introducing them to easy-to-read financial books, like this one. Explain to them how your family approaches investing, paying for taxes, and seeking financial advice from an advisor” – Dillon Ferguson, CFP, Head of Product, Zoe Financial
Make the Concept of Prioritization Crucial
“We ask our three kids to do certain activities at home that are outside of their normal chores for which we compensate them with small amounts of money. This way they learn that to make money they need to put extra effort and work hard. They also learn that the money they make at home can be spent on a variety of different things, but we teach them about the concept of prioritization, since money is a scarce resource. Most importantly, we teach them that the best investment they can ever make is their own education, since education leads to better job opportunities and better quality of life.
We opened college savings accounts for all three kids via UNest and our older one is already contributing into her own account. We show her how money grows over time and teach about the concept of investing, compound interest and tax-free growth. In addition, we emphasize that lack of savings can lead to the student debt. Money that is borrowed can be very expensive and the need to pay off student loans would create setbacks in life and delay other important decisions like buying a house or starting a family. Putting a small amount aside each month and investing for education teaches our kids discipline and motivates them to think long-term.” — Ksenia Yudina, CEO and Founder of UNest
Teach them About Coins — And the Four Pillars
“I think that six years old is a good age to start teaching kids about money. A great first objective is teaching them about coins. While that might seem simple, it is not as easy a subject as you might think. Take a step back and think this through: Why is the big nickel worth less than the small dime? I think it’s fun to play games with kids once they understand the value of each coin by having them make different combinations to get to one dollar. 10 dimes. 20 nickels. Four quarters. One-hundred pennies. Fifty pennies and two quarters.
Start with teaching them one of the four pillars of financial literacy: save, spend/budget, invest and charity. For younger children, savings is the easiest as you can simply use a clear jar where they can put loose coins and see them build up. Remember to keep lessons age-appropriate and that developing money-smarts is not an exercise in trying to create the next Warren Buffet. It is about making them feel comfortable talking about money, understanding basic money vocabulary, and eventually starting good habits that will last a lifetime. You want to avoid the firehose method of teaching where you pile on too much information too soon. Rather consider using the drip-drip-drip method that starting them at a young age gives you plenty of time for them to build a great foundation.” — Thomas J. Henske, Partner, Lenox Advisors
Be Open About Your Financial Goals
“When my kids were younger, my wife and I agreed on an aggressive goal to pay off our house in a set number of years. When that goal was reached, we agreed to take the family on a trip to Disney World. We bought a Mickey Mouse puzzle, assembled it, and disassembled it in a way that for each id=”listicle-2646259052″,000 we reduced principal on the loan, we put so many pieces of the puzzle together. It created a visual representation of our progress. We explained our goal to the kids in terms they could understand so they saw the progress and the reward at the end after several years of work. While the kids now understand the financial side of the goal, it is the visual representation of the puzzle they recall most.” — Phil Kernen, CFA | Portfolio Manager, Mitchell Capital
Teach Them About Compound Interest
“As a financial planner and fastidious investor, my kids are being taught about compound interest at a young age. When my five-year-old daughter receives birthday money from our relatives, I show her how putting 25 percent of her money away can give her many more Barbies and dolls in the future. Would you rather buy one Barbie today, or be able to buy five Barbies later, I ask? Even a child can understand that by deferring some instant gratification today, they can enjoy greater luxuries later.” — Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos, Financial Planner, Life Managed
Never Say ‘There is No Money’
“Say instead, money is valuable and needs to be used wisely. Or money is not to be wasted. The reason is that children should not grow up with a limitation mindset but an abundance mindset while learning to be careful with money. Saying ‘there’s is no money,’ tells the child that when they get money in their hands, they can throw it away, and that’s not a good thing.” — Kokab Rahman, author of Author of Accounting for Beginners
Don’t Forget the Power of Delayed Gratification
“My children are 2 and 4 years old currently, and while it’s definitely too early to teach any significant money lessons to the two-year-old (aside from showing him how to put coins in a piggy bank), the four-year-old is another story. I recently tried this simple method of teaching savings and it worked well. Each night, I gave her a quarter for straightening up her toys before bed. She could choose to use a quarter to get a treat from the candy dish, but if she saved five of her quarters, we could do something special that weekend (go to the zoo, a favorite restaurant, etc.). Delayed gratification is such a valuable skill to learn at a young age, and I plan to use more complex ways to incentivize saving as she gets older.” — Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent
Turn Financial Mistakes into Teachable Moments
“We don’t pay our kids for daily chores like making their bed, feeding the dogs, or picking up after themselves. But I do pay them for mowing the yard (my 10-year-old) or helping cut firewood (all my children), things that are above and beyond their normal family contributions that they worked hard to attain. It’s also important to let them make mistakes. Recently my 10-year-old wanted to purchase a new movie release for .99, so I let him. The next day he wanted to buy a video game. I said sure pay me and he could buy it. He then realized he spent all his money on the movie. That’s the time to have a good conversation around it. Was it worth it? What could you do differently?” — Joel Hodges, CPA, Intuit, Tax Content Group Manager
Explain The Difference Between Needs and Wants
One of the most important money lessons I’m already teaching my young children is the difference between needs and wants. If she holds up something at a store — say, something from the candy aisle — I’ll ask ‘Do you need that, or do you want that?’ It took a few tries, but she got the hang of it. It can be helpful to set a firm cap on the ‘wants,’ such as one per week, while showing that we always take care of our needs.”— Matt Frankel, CFP, The Ascent
Introduce the idea of Money Early and Often
“At home, we value speaking openly about our financial lives and the value of saving such that our kids learn by example. A great way we teach our 4-year old about money is to have them understand the value of a purchase. The other day my son wanted us to buy him a new game for his iPad. To ‘convince us,’ we had him walk through the value in relation to the actually cost of the game. It’s never too early for your children to understand the cost of things. “- Andres Garcia-Amaya, Founder, Zoe Financial
Enlist the Envelope System
“Kids are never too young to learn how to handle money, one fun way for them to learn about money is to have them separate their allowances on what they want to spend. They can do this by having small envelopes and placing a certain amount from their allowances. This helps them learn about budgeting and the value of money when that certain envelope reaches the goal amount. Children are also allowed to have bank accounts, so it is good for them to have their accounts so that they can start learning to save early. — Leonard Ang, CMO, iProperty Management
Try The “Bank of Dad” Approach
“By the time my daughter started elementary school, she had a few chores each week for which she got a small allowance and she might get the odd bill in an Easter card from her grandparents. Instead of a piggy bank, we went forward looking and with the ubiquity of debit cards, I created ‘The Bank of Dad.’ Using an old hotel key card I made a make-believe Bank of Dad debit card and she opened an ‘account.’
At 12 years old and a long-time Bank of Dad customer, she was definitely ready for a real account. With our bank, the account was connected to a parent’s account so we had visibility into everything. At the start, we sat down and introduced the basics of a budget. We talked about understanding how much she “made,” how everyone needed savings for an emergency/rainy day, and how to also save for something “big” like those fancy new embroidered and bedazzled jeans she just had to have.
Now at 24 years old, my daughter came to me and asked if I could help her fix a spreadsheet she made because she wanted to try and pay off her student loans early, but couldn’t make the formulas work. If there’s anything that makes an accountant parent happier than hearing ‘Hey dad, will you check my spreadsheet?’ Turns out she was very close, but having her do the work and walk me through it, made fixing her error make sense to her and empowered her. — Gregg Gamble, Intuit, Lacerte Tax Content Development Manager
The Department of Veterans Affairs says that it is “amending its regulation” on the copays that veterans pay for medications they receive that are not for service related conditions.
Currently, veterans pay $8 and $9 for a 30-day (or less) supply of prescriptions.
The VA says that the new system will “keep outpatient medication costs low for Veterans.”
Dr. David J. Shulkin, the VA Undersecretary for Health, said “Reducing their out-of-pocket costs encourages greater adherence to priscribed outpatient medications and reduces the risk of fragmented care that results when multiple pharmacies are used.”
The new system tossed out the old way of determining costs, which was based on the Medical Consumer Price Index.
Three classes of outpatient medications have been designed to help curb the costs.
Tier 1 is for preferred generics, and will cost veterans $5 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 2 is for non-preferred generics, which includes over the counter medications, and will cost veterans $8 for a 30-day or less supply.
Tier 3 is for brand name medications, and will cost veterans $11 for a 30-day or less supply.
The new system will go into effect February 27th, 2017, and only apply to medications that are not for service connected issues.
Veterans who are former Prisoners of War, catastrophically disabled, or are covered by other exceptions will not have to pay copays.
Veterans who fall into Priority Groups 2-8 will have a $700 cap on copays, at which point the copays do not apply. To find out which Priority Group you fall into, check out the VA’s list of Priority Groups in their Health Benefits tab (here).
According to 38 U.S.C. 1722A(a), the VA is compelled to require veterans to pay a minimum copay of $2 for every 30-day (or less) supply of medications which are prescribed for non-service related disabilities or connections, unless there is an exemption for the veteran. 38 U.S.C. 1722A(b) gives the VA the authority to set the copay amount higher and to put caps on the amount veterans pay.
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.
Buying a car in today’s world is a necessity. Even the troops who grew up in a city where they never needed anything more than a subway pass will find themselves needing a set of wheels to call their own. Military installations are way too big and timetables are way too tight for a young private to make it around comfortably on foot.
So, be prepared to fork over a bit of your enlistment bonus just to adhere to a standard. Meanwhile, it’s kind of ingrained into military culture to belittle and mock the unfortunate lower enlisted who thinks they’re getting a good deal on a sports car and ends up paying a 28% interest rate over five years.
Instead, shouldn’t we actually, you know, help the poor soul?
(U.S. Army photos by Cpl. Han, Jae Ho and Dean Herrera)
You can’t throw a rock outside of a military installation’s main gate without hitting a sketchy used-car lot that boasts that “E-1 and above” are automatically approved for a loan. Because so many young troops are told they must get a car and have no idea how to do so intelligently, they’ll usually shop at the first stop — often coming away with a car without even taking it for a test drive.
Yes, a young private has few bills to pay — they’re given a barracks room rent-free and their meal card deductions hit their LES instead of their bank account — but too many troops are crippling their credit report right out the gate. A simple bad decision will follow them for life.
This is where their first line supervisor or their non-commissioned officer can step in and spend a Saturday afternoon making sure their troops are taken care of.
“A new set of wheels and this baby will be good as new! But for you, my special friend, I’ll see if I can sweet talk one of the guys to throw in a few air-freshening trees for the rear view.”
(Department of Defense)
Leaders have been around for a while and generally have a good sense of the installation and its surrounding area. Given that an NCO likely has a vehicle, they could talk the rideless private past all of those sketchy spots and take them to a reputable dealership. Depending on your location, this might be an hour-long drive, but it’s still better letting someone fall prey to months of ridiculously high payments.
Next comes the choice of car. The young troop, fresh out of mama’s basement, might see all those numbers in their bank account and fail to piece together that 00 isn’t really all that much to grown adults. Feeling like Mr. Moneybags, the young troop may casually stroll up to the car of their dreams — and it’s kind of up to the NCO to be the reality check.
Hell, NCOs could even pop out a PMCS checklist right then and there. It’ll establish dominance over any crooked salesmen and show you mean business.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wilmarys Roman Rivera)
That new muscle car seems nice, but it’s not the best fit for for someone who gets paid half of federal minimum wage. So, you’ll want to pinch pennies. You might think that used cars are the best option then, but that opens another can of worms if the NCO isn’t careful.
So, here’s a little trick for you: insist that both the troop and the NCO must take the car for a test drive. The troop should be busy deciding if the car is comfortable for them, while the NCO should be looking out for deficiencies. If the car lot is reputable, they’ll always allow you both to ride. If not, you found a solid reason to move on to the next place.
Nipping this in the butt early can also help prevent even more paperwork if that troop has to go through financial aid.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, 143d ESC)
Finally, we arrive at haggling. A young, dumb idiot willing to throw cash around is a used car salesman’s wet dream. If the troop doesn’t know the actual cost of a car but is willing to sign the papers because “they threw in a free tank of gas,” then they’re about to get screwed. It’s up to the NCO to be the middleman. A well-placed knife hand and serious demeanor could mean the difference of hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars.
Once the troop has found a vehicle that is within their price range, from a dealership that isn’t trying to ripoff service-members, runs excellently, and makes the troop happy, you move on to the paperwork. Read every single line before the troop signs anything. Make sure they never take the “zero-down” offer and advise them to put at least id=”listicle-2607400034″,500 down — regardless of the vehicle. Just that bit can change a horrific 28% interest rate to a reasonable 8% for someone without an established line of credit.
However, what you cannot do is co-sign the lease with them. It doesn’t matter if you trust them to pay the lease of on time or you’re willing to take the hit for your guy. It’s strictly forbidden by the UCMJ to enter a financial agreement of any kind with a direct subordinate.
What you can do is cattle prod your troop into making the payment every month. Yeah, it won’t be pleasant for them to be reminded every month to do it, but their financial security is at stake. They’ll thank you once they realize that you helped them out immensely.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — There was a bit of irony in Bill Putnam’s first job as a civilian who’d just transitioned out of the military: He was sent back to Iraq to cover the war, the same place where he’d honed his skills as a photographer for the U.S. Army.
“I knew before I got out of the Army that I wanted to specialize in news photojournalism,” Putnam says. “I happened to meet a lot of people along the way who saw my work and told me I had the drive and talent to do it in the civilian world. It was all about reaching out to people and meeting the right people at the right time.”
Among “the right people” that Putnam ran into along the way was Michael Ware, Time magazine’s bureau chief in Baghdad.
“When I was a soldier going home from Iraq I ran into Michael,” Putnam says. “I was getting out of the military, and I told him I was willing to go back to Iraq. He wrote a letter on my behalf and that helped make it happen.”
Putnam explains: “This one was made fairly early in the morning after an all-night raid. The unit, Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry, had been sent out with an SF team and bunch of Iraqi Army to hunt down a car bomb builder. They didn’t find him. This was early in the unit’s deployment (they were the guys who were extended in 2006 for three months during an early and not so effective ‘surge’ into northwest Baghdad). To me it says a lot, not really about that war, but just war in general, especially war down at the nasty end of the spear. Hunter, the guy pictured, just looks exhausted. War is exactly that – exhausting in every sense – but this is physical exhaustion. The kid waving the gun (it was unloaded) was actually playing with a newly-installed laser pointer.” (Photo: Bill Putnam)
After working in the war zone for nearly a year, he returned to the U.S. and freelanced his way from Washington, DC to Oregon, diversifying his portfolio and expanding his network. Eventually, he was picked up by Zuma Press Agency, and the assignments started coming in at a more regular clip.
To date, his photos have been published in The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Army Times, The Oregonian, Columbia Journalism Review, The New Republic, NPR.org, and digitaljournalist.org. His work also appeared in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Operation Homecoming: Writing The Wartime Experience.”
He opened a 40-print solo exhibition of his Afghan work titled “Abu in Bermel: Faces of Battle” in February of 2011 at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. That exhibition moved to Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Pa., in April 2011. His work has also been included in group shows at Glen Echo Photo Works in Glen Echo, Md., and Montgomery College in Rockville, Md. And in August 2013 Putnam opened a 60-image solo exhibition at Healthy Rhythm Gallery in Fairfield, Texas. Life as a civilian photographer was quite different than military life, but his hard work paid off.
“It’s really all about hustle,” he says. “You gotta hustle to make that transition. You have to constantly be on the phone with people, you have to constantly think about new projects and what you want to do next.”
And that sort of proactive stance is what brought him to Cleveland to cover the Republican National Convention for Verify Media, a new agency that specializes in mobile device video. At the same time, Putnam has his classic 4-by-5 film camera, which he uses to capture the atmosphere surrounding the convention for Zuma.
Putnam is an imposing figure — tall and bearded — but he possesses a casual manner and calm demeanor that allow him to blend into the background — a very desirable attribute for a photojournalist. As he takes in the scene along Fourth Street, Cleveland’s famed walk lined with bars and restaurants, he’s barely noticed even though he’s a full head taller than the crush of delegates, pundits, TV personalities, protesters, and regular civilians around him.
Watching Putnam in action it’s obvious that he loves his work. He moves through the crowd with an easy gait, taking everything in, at once in the weeds and mindful of the big picture. But for all of his apparent satisfaction with his career choice, he’s quick to note that getting to where he is was a hard-fought series of rejections and missteps. He points out that — unlike the military — oft times pursuing an unorthodox civilian career is a non-linear proposition.
“When I got back from the war, I was dumbfounded that I had to find all of this on my own,” Putnam says. “I like going out and doing stuff, but to get from Point A to Point B, I had no idea how to do that.”
In the face of that reality, Putnam says, “You just do it and hope you find the right path.”
For more about Putnam’s work, visit his website here.
The stock market took a massive dive just before and moments after Donald Trump was declared the President-Elect around 0230 today.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that there was a moment of panic felt around the world as countries like Australia, Mexico, and Japan had market slumps in response to voting results showing Trump’s gradual climb.
Fortune reported that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped almost 650 points during after hour trading; SP 500 was down 4 percent, the Nikkei was down 5 percent, and the Mexican peso had plummeted almost 12 percent. The drop in the Mexican peso was the largest the currency has seen in over 20 years.
The Economist reports that “vague and erratic” statements from Trump in regards to trade and foreign policy have the rest of the world worried.
This might motivate some service members and veterans to pull their funds out of Thrift Savings Plans, 401(k)s, and other investment tools. Before they do that, take note that the dive was temporary and seems to be recovering. According to The Guardian, U.S. yields (interest rates) on U.S. debt is on the rise.
That bounce, according to The Guardian, is due in part to Trump’s acceptance speech.
Alex Edwards of UKForex wrote “[Trump’s] appeasing tone has definitely helped” the market response.
Jeremy Cook of World First writes “It’s because he sounded more presidential.”
That said, Paul Krugman from the New York Times writes “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”
So how does this impact your investment and retirement dollars?
Most experts would say don’t panic just yet. Right now, it’s still unclear how exactly Trump’s election will impact the U.S. and global economies in the long run. It would be premature to pull funds out of the TSP and other market investments, but should you decide to do that, consult a financial advisor.
As the holidays get closer, many military families find themselves looking for ways to save money and budget appropriately for the upcoming gift-giving season. Random COVID-19 impulse buys, a downward spiraling economy, job loss, and purchases related to new homeschooling or virtual schooling curriculum are leaving many of us financially stressed in 2020. Check out these holiday budgeting tips that will help you start the new year off on the right financial footing.
Tips on budgeting for the holidays
So how do you try to save and budget for this holiday season when your finances may have taken unexpected hits because of the coronavirus pandemic? Financial expert and military spouse Lacey Langford from The Military Money Expert says there are three things you should evaluate when you start budgeting for the holidays: your current holiday savings, the total amount you want to spend for the holidays, and who is on your list.
“Knowing how much you have to spend is the jumping-off point for your budget,” Langford said. “Then you can look at [ways to save] between now and Christmas.”
You will also want to examine how much you want to spend for the holidays. You can do this by looking at your current savings account balance. Subtract the amount you want to keep in savings as your emergency and investment amounts to find your total holiday shopping budget. Once you have that number, you can write down the people on your holiday shopping gift list, and assign each person an amount of money you would like to spend on them. “[When you] know who you’re buying for it makes it easy to firm up your spending budget,” says Langford.
“Save money every month, starting in January. … Set up an automatic $100 transfer from your checking to your savings at the beginning of the month. By the time November rolls around, you’ll have $1,100 to holiday shop with,” Langford suggests.
But don’t fret — if you aren’t that organized with your holiday budgeting this year, you can still do some things to help you save some cash for the next several weeks:
Don’t procrastinate: Shop sales when you see them. You can even do this throughout the year.
Use apps like Qube Money that utilizes the popular envelope system or Tiller that helps you budget throughout the year.
Cancel your cable or streaming services.
Honey and Rakuten are two websites that offer cash back for purchases made on other sites — even Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target participate
“Don’t forget to use your military benefits when shopping for the holidays,” Langford said.
Shop My Exchange, ID.Me Shop, and GovX are all military-specific and provide discounts or lists of companies that give military discounts online.
The military exchanges also offer a new layaway program as well. Layaway not only helps you pay for what you can manage in a certain timeframe but also allows you to stick to your monthly budget. There are several different options for layaway, from 30 days for clothing and handbags up to 120 days on fine jewelry. A deposit purchase of $25 and 15% of the item’s purchase price, plus service fees are required to put your items on layaway at any military exchange. You can find out more information by visiting the Exchange website.
Even if your family is in a good place financially, you should start considering your holiday budget about 6-8 weeks using the funds you have saved away throughout the year. Budgeting is a great way to keep your family on track, make sure your nest eggs continue to thrive, and help your family prepare for the unexpected — like a worldwide pandemic.
When the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange rang out on Monday, July 23, 2018, it was Chris Isola, head of Veterans Affairs at UBS, ringing the bell. You may not know who Chris is, but you will be interested in what he’s bringing to the New York Stock Exchange: Veterans – and in a big way.
Isola represent UBS, an investment bank like many others on Wall Street, providing financial advice and other products to wealthy institutions, individuals, and corporate clients all over the world. The bank has indexed the price movements of certain companies’ stock — companies with policies, practices, and outcomes that support the employment of American veterans.
From that index, you can now buy into an Exchange Traded Fund that supports the best companies that meet UBS’ liquidity and stability standards while being the best example of military veteran employers. It’s all based on Viqtory’s Military Friendly employer rating.
In a world where both Main Street and Wall Street are increasingly removed from the wars and conflicts currently fought by the military, the economic powerhouse that drives America is working to create jobs and opportunities for the men and women who make the world’s largest economy possible: U.S. military veterans.
“We believe this is an innovative way for investors to express their support for the veteran community,” said Richard Cea, Executive Director of Exchange Traded Products at UBS. “This ETF provides investors with exposure to companies that recognize the value of our nation’s veterans to the workforce.”
ETFs are financial products that trade like common stock, complete with a ticker symbol, but is essentially a pool of different stocks owned by the fund. Investing in an ETF means you’re buying shares of the pool of companies owned by the fund. The overall value of the pool is divided into shares.
In this case, the ticker symbol HONR represents the InsightShares Patriotic Employer ETF and the fund owns stocks in businesses that value veteran employees, based on Viqtory’s Military Friendly employer reviews. The HONR fund also actively donates portions of its profits to veteran-related charities. Some of the stocks held by HONR include:
JPMorgan Chase Co.
General Mills, Inc.
So when you buy into the HONR fund, you’re buying into a fund that supports only corporations who proved their mettle in hiring America’s veterans, are genuinely good business investments, and will routinely give back to military-veteran oriented charities and nonprofits.
It’s a small way of giving a buck to veterans while doing something good for your retirement portfolio.
Many principles of physical fitness are similar to those of financial fitness. They both require patience, discipline and consistency to be successful.
Fitness and lifestyle content creator and Navy veteran, Austen Alexander, recognizes the benefits and challenges of both. During his first years of service, Alexander accumulated debts that impacted his financial future as well as his mental and physical health.
By applying physical fitness principles to his financial well-being, Alexander was able to pay down debt and start a business. Today, he is also in the best shape of his life. The lessons Alexander learned along the way are an inspiration to others – both in and out of uniform.
Growing up in Florence, Alabama, Alexander was interested in working out and staying physically strong. When he went into the Navy, the military kept him fit.
Mission-focused military life places a high priority on physical health. But for some, financial health may be an afterthought.
Although his family was frugal when he was growing up, Alexander says he went “a little haywire” while at his first duty station in Bahrain. He admits there was a void he was trying to fill being away from home, leading him to purchase things he couldn’t afford.
As his physical fitness became more robust, Alexander’s financial fitness was quickly declining. During his brief periods of relaxation, he purchased a GoPro, a laptop and stayed in expensive hotels…all purchased on credit. The discipline he used in the gym didn’t translate to his finances.
In Navy boot camp, recruits have to pass a physical assessment twice to test their capabilities. There is no financial class to show them how to manage their money, how to open a savings account or when to begin investing.
At his low point, Alexander started to educate himself on financial fitness. He was resourceful and dove into books. He taught himself financial terms like Annual Percentage Rate and 401(k) – a retirement savings vehicle offered though civilian employers. He learned about different types of investments like mutual funds and IRAs.
He realized that credit card companies were charging him high APRs and the money he was paying was mostly covering interest (the cost of buying on credit). He learned that minimum payments reduce only a tiny portion of the principal (the actual money he borrowed). So, he decided to reduce his credit card debt.
Alexander transferred the balance of his highest card to a new card with a 15-month 0 percent APR. This allowed his payments to go directly toward the principal, not interest.
In addition to this method of paying down his debt, Alexander created a six-tiered approach to paying off debt quickly:
Make an Attack Plan
Create a monthly budget to track expenses and designate amounts spent in various categories. Budgets are organic and can change. Alexander suggests using three months of expenses to catalog what you or your family typically spends. Once an inventory of spending is taken, determine what money can be used to attack debt. If there isn’t enough to make a dent each month, consider where to cut back. Channel extra income to start paying back what you owe.
Set financial goals that are practical, measurable and have a deadline. Macro goals like paying off debt, paying cash for consumables and buying a house are all long-term goals. Alexander suggests establishing micro goals as stepping stones to help reach macro goals. These might include paying off one credit card by Christmas or staying under your monthly grocery budget.
Credit card statements generally arrive weeks before payment is due. Alexander suggests automating monthly payments to arrive a day (or even a week) early. This practice may help reduce late payments, which incur additional fees and can negatively affect your credit score. Higher credit scores can help reduce the cost of borrowing and, over time, can lower lifetime debt.
Create a Debt Snowball
Alexander recommends a snowball effect to reduce debt. The debt snowball is the total monthly principal and interest payment of all your credit cards. He suggests shifting all principal payments to the smallest balance first and making only minimum payments on the other cards. After eliminating the card with the smallest balance, add that payment to the next card’s monthly minimum. Continue the practice until you’re making that same huge monthly payment on just the one remaining card.
Making just the minimum payment is like firing a squirt gun on a burning building. It won’t be very effective to accomplish the bigger goal. Even if it is $40 more each statement, this actively pays down the principal instead of just the interest.
Pay with a plan
Many resources, including free financial counseling, are available to military members. On base Family Support Centers have counselors that can help you create a debt snowball, establish investment accounts, or answer questions about the Thrift Savings Plan. Services that you would normally pay for in civilian life may be available for free while you’re in uniform. The finance officer at your deployment location may be another helpful resource.
The path to military financial readiness is paved with steps to show you how to make interest work for – not against – you. Additionally, savings vehicles like the TSP, mutual funds, IRAs and 401(k)s are great ways to build wealth. For more financial tools and tips visit Victory Capital.
It’s happened to the best of us. The second our service member boards that plane to deploy, Murphy decides to insert himself into our world.
It’s almost a given: someone gets sick, one of your spouse’s bills doesn’t get paid, or something inevitably breaks down…and often it’s our mode of transportation that ends up busting out on us.
If this happens to you, I PROMISE, you aren’t alone. But if your car breaks down, how are you going to do all of the things? Well, if there’s no getting around having to purchase a vehicle while your service member is away, we have some tips and tricks to help you through the car buying routine WITHOUT breaking your bank in the process. We realize that big purchases are usually done as a team, and these decisions should (when possible) be made together. Obviously, that isn’t always possible, but here are some things you can do if/when you find yourself squaring off with Murphy over your car.
(Flickr / David Wall)
1. Power of attorney (POA)
If you plan on having your service member’s name on the loan or registration, you’ll want to make sure you have your POA handy. This legal document will allow you to act on behalf of your service member for transactions that would otherwise require their physical presence. NOTE: Depending on the financial institution you use to finance your vehicle, a general POA may not pass muster with their terms, so make sure you call to make sure. Some banks just require a faxed copy of the general POA, while others have a special form of their own or require a “special” or “limited” POA.
2. Research, research, RESEARCH!
What kind of vehicle do you need? How much can your family afford each month? Are their certain dealerships in your area that are known for inappropriate practices? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking yourself before you even think of stepping foot into a car dealership.
There are plenty of websites that will help answer these questions so that you’re better able at making an informed decision. One of the first things you can do is figure out the type of features you need and find a few makes and models to look over. It’s not just about the price…it’s about knowing what it is you’re looking to buy. Kelley Blue Book is a one stop shop that has plenty of research tools to help spin you up on the “must-knows” of car buying.
3. Get financed FIRST
When it comes to financing, it’s best to get pre-approved BEFORE you start your search. You aren’t required to know what kind of vehicle you’re purchasing before being approved for financing because the financial institution is approving you…not a certain vehicle. Make sure you understand the terms of your financing as well. If you end up negotiating, say, 00 off the sticker price of the car when you’re haggling with the dealer, that isn’t going to matter in the long run if your interest rate is out of this world.
4. Don’t rush
Buying a car is a big deal, so take your time and don’t rush the process. You need to make sure the car is everything you need/want, both literally and financially. Make absolutely sure you know exactly what your family can and cannot afford. If you find a car you want but it’s a bit over budget, other websites, like Auto Trader, might be able to find you the same car at a lower price somewhere else.
5. When possible, find the right time to buy
Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.
Yes, There Really IS a Right Time to Buy
Of course there’s no real way to know when Murphy will strike…if we could plan that, Murphy’s Law wouldn’t even be a thing! But it doesn’t hurt to know that timing is everything in the car buying business.
The end of the month is usually a good time to buy because dealers often have a quota that needs to be met each month. Each car on their lot needs to be paid for at the start of each month, so car salesmen are looking to unload as many as possible to meet their quota. But buying a car at the end of the year is even better (though, again, Murphy can rarely be planned for).
6. History reports are KEY
If you’re not out to purchase a brand new, right off the assembly-line vehicle, you’ll really want to get your hands on a vehicle’s history report. Don’t just take someone’s word that it’s “good to go” as is.
Most dealerships (if they’re worth a darn) will pay for the cost of a vehicle history report themselves, but you can do this as well. Car Fax is a great resource for consumers, and they provide a report that will tell you just about everything you need to know about the car: hidden issues, who owned it last, where it came from, etc. It does cost money to obtain a history report, but it’s chump change compared to the investment you’re making in a vehicle.
7. Don’t skip the test drive
Once you’ve narrowed down your choice(s), it’s time to take it for a test drive.
Sure, the car’s body looks fantastic, but the only way you’ll know that everything is in working order under the hood is if you take it for a spin. Listen for noises that shouldn’t be there, trouble shifting gears, service lights on the dashboard, etc. Many people will return to test drive in the evening, but if that isn’t feasible (because, you know…who wants to pay for a babysitter ON TOP of having to pay for a new car), a lot of dealerships allow you to take the car home for 24 hours to see how it works out. Either way, do NOT skip the test drive.
If you’re just not sure it’s the right vehicle for you or need a night or so to sleep on it, don’t rush it. Take the time you need to mull it over. This is YOUR money, YOUR time and YOUR choice; don’t let anyone push you around. Speaking of which…
8. Don’t be intimidated
It’s not uncommon to feel intimidated when buying a car…especially if that role isn’t really your jam (i.e. it is SO not MY jam). But there’s a difference in FEELING intimidated and BEING intimidated. If, at ANY point in the negotiation process, you feel uncomfortable, or don’t like how you’re being spoken to, SPEAK UP. You hold all the cards and the ball is in your court. If you don’t feel like you’re being treated fairly, tell the service manager. Or better yet…
9. Don’t be afraid to walk out
If you feel like you’re being pushed into signing a contract, or just aren’t picking up what the dealer is putting down…WALK IT OUT. There are plenty of other places that would love to have your business. Do not feel guilty about keeping your money, and your family’s financial security, safe.
This guide is a great way to get started on your car-buying adventure, but we want to add to it! If you have a strategy or a story about buying a car when you were flying solo, we want to hear it!
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
At age 18, Cpl. Andrew Richardson was serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. His squad maintained a perimeter around a medical sanctuary where local civilians could get treatment. Doing so gave Richardson an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and value.
Returning to civilian life, Richardson struggled to find that same sense of value. For five years he floated from job to job, doing construction and working as a roadie and security guard, among other gigs.
Today, he enjoys a fulfilling career in the tech industry, working at Microsoft, and has discovered a passion for programming — all thanks to a chance encounter while tending bar and an intensive 18-week technical training and career-development program.