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.
Scenario #1: A young service member walks into their newly assigned barracks room and notices how nasty it is. And on top of that, they have to share the small space with two or three other people that may or may not be very clean. The struggle is real.
Scenario #2: A service member may just have received orders to go on a 13-month deployment wants to make some cash while they’re gone.
Both of these very real circumstances of military life can be strong motivators for troops to tie the knot — and not for love.
Often called a “contract marriage,” these pairings are purely for monetary gain or medical benefits. No one is suggesting you do this versus saving your money or getting a second job if your command allows, but if you do it, keep these very important things in mind.
If you do get a divorce, the military typically won’t stop the extra pay right away. So don’t go spending all that extra cash too fast. The government will take back every cent from your paycheck until they recoup what’s theirs.
The answer is, yes. (images via Giphy)You’re welcome America!
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.
Are you PCSing soon? Or is a PCS in the works? While it can be hard to tell exactly when you might be leaving before hard orders are issued, in the military world, it’s pretty much a given that you will be leaving. If not anytime soon, then soon after that.
It’s just a part of the lifestyle.
Why it’s a Potential Setback
As a military spouse who works as a civilian (but tied to military schedules and locations in “normal” careers), PCSing can throw a wrench right into your plans. Before you can promote, before you can achieve seniority … or just as you get settled, it’s time to move. That means finding another job, and wondering if you’ll have your frequent moves held against you.
But how do you tell your current job you’re PCSing? And when?
Look at Your Work Relationship
This is a tricky situation; there are horror stories of spouses suddenly being laid off once orders arrived. Don’t fall victim to this scheme. Consider the type of relationship you have with your current company and let it guide you. Do you get along well? Is there a hostile corporate environment where the competition is high?
Technically, you do not owe anymore more than two weeks of notice before you leave. But in most scenarios, it’s courteous to let your employer know when you’ll be leaving town 1) so they can start looking for a replacement and 2) you can be a part of the training process. OR secret option 3) you can start working with them on a remote position setup.
If you have a good relationship with work and get orders well in advance, tell them. Talk about possibilities for staying on, and what the change might look like. However, if you’re genuinely worried about getting the boot, keep mum. Your work is not owed any personal information, especially when you fear that sharing will hurt your income.
Staying on Remote
A growing option among military spouses is the ability to work for a single company remotely. With easier online access and accountability, telecommuting is not only viable as a long term career, it’s cost effective.
Bring up this move to your boss; go in with a plan so they aren’t worried about logistics. Talk about your hours, your workload, and how you’d love to stay on with them well into the future. Help your chances by including stats on remote work, platforms that can help keep everyone on track, and even savings that are in it for the company but not paying for an additional office seat.
Of course, the biggest perk to working as a remote employee is that your company gets to keep you. They don’t have to train a new worker or start over with brand nuances or expertise. Play up your specialties for a solid sell.
How To Drop the News
There doesn’t need to be anything formal about sharing military orders. A simple, “Hey we’re moving to Texas!” Or “Colorado will be seeing us soon.” Remember to drop in all the hard details, as well as the ones you don’t yet have. For instance, when you’re moving, how long you’ll be there, what it means for your availability, and any specific report times.
There can be light at the end of the tunnel by letting your current job know you’re moving, and when. Consider current working relationships and how that can plan into future moves for all involved, including the possibility of remote work.
Returning to civilian life after active duty can be confusing and somewhat daunting. Whether you have been in the military for many years or if you have returned home after a grueling tour, adjusting to your previous life is definitely not an easy task. While there is a myriad of questions you need to answer and many issues you need to tackle during this adjustment period, one of the most pressing questions is how to achieve financial freedom for your family.
5 Investment Opportunities for Veterans
Achieving financial stability can seem like a huge task for a veteran, but you can achieve it by creating passive income and even returning to the workforce. Most importantly, to achieve financial stability and freedom down the road, you need to make the right investments in your professional and personal realms.
These investments range from setting up a retirement plan to actively investing in real estate, but this can also include upskilling and getting certified to take on a completely new career path. Let’s put the best options into perspective and look at some important life investments every veteran should make.
Investing in health and life insurance
First and foremost, you need to set up your health insurance, which is especially important for veterans requiring long-term medical treatment, professional counseling, and more. Unless you have been in the service for 20 years and have health insurance through Tricare, you will have to look into health coverage outside of the military. Keep in mind–if you have a medical condition that is a direct result of your time on active duty, you may be eligible for Veteran Affairs health care coverage.
If you’re not eligible for either of these, then private health insurance is the way to go. You can find a plan that works for you through the Affordable Care Act or a new employer. Take your time to learn the key terms like deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums and how different insurers use them in their policies. You can extend your military healthcare coverage for up to 36 months post-service through the Continued Health Care Benefit Program to buy more time and sort out your health insurance.
Consider Investing in Real Estate
The next big move you should make is to invest in real estate as a retired veteran. Due to rapid urbanization across the US and the world–real estate continues to be a thriving sector with many opportunities for long-term professional growth. Becoming a real estate investor allows you to sell properties for a quick influx of cash or rent real estate to business leaders and tenants to create a steady income. Both commercial and residential real estate investing are good options–and you should strive to invest in both over time.
Now, starting in real estate investing is best done with an experienced professional at your side – and by educating yourself first. There are many online platforms where you can learn the ropes quickly. The most -important step is to do your research to find up-and-coming real estate markets and good deals on properties and new developments. Over time, you should diversify your investments into commercial and residential properties–with a focus on sales-oriented and rent-oriented real estate.
Get Certified and Invest in a New Career Path
Another great way to build financial stability over the long term while actively working is to change career paths through upskilling and online certification. For example, if you were a corpsman or a medic in any military branch– you might want to pursue a career in medicine and continue helping others in the civic healthcare system.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for highly-trained medical professionals– investing in advanced medical certification online is a great way for veterans to transition quickly into the healthcare industry and find stable employment. As a medic, you are already familiar with emergency response techniques and practices–now all you have to do is get the right certifications to work in a hospital or private practice.
Because of the pandemic and many other socio-economic factors, the healthcare industry will be booming in the years to come, which is a great opportunity for you to thrive professionally.
Set up a retirement plan
When you leave active duty, the first thing that can come to mind is how to ensure a healthy retirement. Naturally, you need money to do so, and you can do it by ensuring a steady cash flow from your real estate and other investments. However, you can also set up a retirement plan in other ways, mainly by saving up over the next few decades.
If you have 20 years of service, you are eligible for regular military retirement and a steady pension. If not, then you should start saving up now to meet your goals when you reach your retirement age. You can do this by opening up an individual retirement account (traditional or Roth), or you can contribute to a 401(k) plan.
Invest in reducing your debt
Finally, make an investment plan to reduce your debt over the long term. It might not sound like an investment at first, but reducing and eliminating debt is one of the best ways to ensure a financially stable future. Make sure to set up a debt-repayment roadmap, and consider working with a financial advisor to minimize your losses and retain as much of your wealth as possible.
Coming home from active duty can be tough–, and while you might want to deal with other immediate issues first, you should prioritize your finances and long-term stability. Consider making these investments now and over the next few years to build financial stability and freedom.
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.
Working in a hotel is no joke – those jobs are hard. Think about how hard you worked in basic training under the latrine queen, using a dirty sock to dust the day room, and how clean the barracks had to be to pass a drill sergeant’s inspection. Even if you’re looking to work in management, Hilton hotels host hundreds of thousands of event every year. It’s suddenly your job to manage that. Wherever you’re working in a hotel, it takes grit, organization, and attention to detail.
Do those traits sound familiar? They do to Hilton Hotels.
And to Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, a World War I veteran who served in France.
This might be part of the reason Hilton is all aboard with the mission of hiring 20,000 veterans by 2020. That is a good chunk of the hotel brand’s overall employees. As a matter of fact, when Hilton completes its most current mission, hires from the military-veteran community will comprise more than 17 percent of the company’s overall workforce. It first launched the initiative to hire 10,000 vets and spouses by 2020 but upon completing that mission two years early, Hilton set the goal to hire an additional 20,000 in the same time frame. That’s an astonishing dedication to the community of veterans.
It’s part of an initiative named Operation: Opportunity. The company and its CEO Chris Nassetta believes in what they call “the military skill set.” The hotel chain believes veterans bring incredible assets to their team and are affecting the company culture for the better as a result. So it makes sense for Hilton to hire as many veterans as possible. These skills include discipline, organization, problem solving, and teamwork.
Yeah, vets might know a little something about all that.
The company says hiring veterans is not only the right thing, but is also helping the company achieve its own goals.
“Operation: Opportunity is a shining example of the convergence of doing something that is good for society, good for our business, and good for our culture,” says CEO Chris Nassetta.
Hilton has a long history of supporting veterans, dating back to founder and Army vet Conrad Hilton’s postwar years. The elder Hilton had a knack for hiring vets after World War II, giving Korean War veterans and their families free nights (and spending money!) at some of his most popular hotels. Even during Vietnam, troops could get a free RR stay at the Hiltons in Hawaii.
The decision to hire veterans picks up where Conrad’s legacy left off, ensuring veterans have sustainable employment in a growing industry with one of the world’s top hospitality brands. Hilton is even supporting a number of veteran-related non-profits, no more appropriate than the Military Influencer Conference.
These days, Hilton may not be able to give veterans their own Hilton to run, but they do provide opportunity and training to run their own businesses through donating to events like the Military Influencer Conference. 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.
So, you’ve been told that you should use your VA Loan for your home purchase, but the question is: Why? In this post, we’ll talk about some of the benefits and advantages of using your VA Loan for your home purchase.
Benefits of the VA Loan
1. No Down Payment
The VA Loan does not require a down payment for an eligible property purchase. While a 20% down payment on a conventional loan would be difficult for most service members, the VA Loan enables borrowers to put down 0% to buy a home. As of January 2020, there is no cap to a first-tier VA Loan-making it even better! Remember, though – there are still closing costs involved – even if there’s no down payment, so make sure to budget those in when considering a home purchase!
2. No PMI
While other types of mortgages usually require Private Mortgage Insurance for a lower down payment, the VA loan does not require it. This means less money out of pocket for borrowers and is yet another benefit of using your VA loan.
3. Lower Interest Rates
VA Loans are continuously competitive in their mortgage interest rates. By using a VA Loan, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a better rate than other types of loans.
4. Refinance Opportunities
VA Loan borrowers have two types of refinance options. The VA IRRRL can reduce your interest rate and possibly lower your monthly payment. Then, there’s the VA Cash-Out option that can give you the opportunity to pull cash out based on how much equity is in the property. By doing this, you can use the cash for purchases like renovations or repairs, car purchases, or whatever you need!
If you happen to be facing foreclosure, the VA has a loan program that provides foreclosure avoidance counseling and advocacy. These counseling programs help find possible alternatives to foreclosure to save you from a low credit score and heartache.
6. Lower Closing Costs
The VA limits closing cost amounts from lenders who offer VA loan lending. Unlike other types of mortgages, you won’t have to worry about outrageous closing costs where you have to bring a large amount of cash to the closing table. To add to the benefit, the VA also allows up to 4% of the buyer’s closing costs to be covered by the seller – saving you even more money.
7. VA Loan Assumability
Loan assumability is a big benefit to a VA Loan. Because the loan is assumable or transferred to a new borrower, a new eligible buyer could take advantage of a lower interest rate than what is currently offered in the mortgage market. Having the ability to advertise your VA Loan as “assumable” may even help sell your home when the time comes!
8. No Prepayment Penalty
If you are required to PCS, sell the home, or decide to pay off the mortgage, there’s good news! There is no prepayment penalty on a VA Loan. That is yet another reason why using a VA Loan could save you money in the long run. The last thing you need to worry about is paying MORE money when you need to pay off your mortgage!
9. VA Loans are Government-Guaranteed
Another advantage of a VA Loan is that it is backed by a government agency. What does this mean? It means that the federal government guarantees to pay back 25% of every VA Loan regardless of the reason for default. Because this provides participating lenders with a less risky situation, lenders can offer better term agreements to borrowers.
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
Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.
And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.
Then you can keep your savings in one place.
GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.
The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.
If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.
But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”
Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.
In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.
Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.
However, if you’re an active duty US military member, AmEx will actually waive the annual fee. As reported by US Navy veteran Richard Kerr for The Points Guy, service members must request the benefit by calling the number on the back of the card — it isn’t applied automatically. AmEx uses an automated program to confirm your service, and refunds the annual fee in the form of a statement credit.
This can be particularly useful for military members who find themselves traveling frequently, either as a part of their service or during leave periods — or for traveling spouses and children, who can be added as authorized users. But the card can be incredibly valuable even for non-service members who have to pay the whole fee. Here are some of the benefits that make that the case.
Airport lounge access
Airport lounges are exclusive areas where you can enjoy seats, an internet connection, food, drinks, and sometimes other amenities. Although lounges were traditionally reserved for first class and business class passengers, many are accessible to any traveler who holds either a lounge membership or certain credit cards — and the Platinum Card from American Express offers access to three different kinds of lounge.
The first type is AmEx’s own proprietary lounges, located at eight airports in the United States — and in Hong Kong — with three more US locations set to open in 2019. These chic venues offer an oasis in the middle of the main terminal’s chaos, featuring comfortable seating, complimentary cocktails and food created by award-winning mixologists and chefs, respectively, and other amenities. Access to these lounges is limited to holders of the AmEx Platinum or AmEx Centurion cards.
If you’re flying with Delta and carry a Platinum Card, you can also access any Delta Sky Club lounge. With more than 30 locations, Sky Clubs offer snacks, complimentary soft and alcoholic drinks (with more “premium” drinks available for purchase), fast Wi-Fi, and a place to unwind. Some locations also feature showers.
Finally, the Platinum Card comes with a Priority Pass membership. Priority Pass is a network of more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world. With the membership provided by your Platinum card, you and two guests can access any location (as long as there’s room) to enjoy free snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers, and more, all separate from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal. If you have an international version of the card, instead of the US version, be sure to double check the guest policy for your card’s Priority Pass benefit. Priority Pass also offers credits at some airport lounges and restaurants.
Membership Rewards points
The Platinum Card earns Membership Rewards points, which are the currency in AmEx’s loyalty program. Points can be exchanged for statement credits or cash back, used to book travel through the AmEx Travel website, or transferred to any of 17 airline and three hotel transfer partners (transferable points are among the most valuable).
The card earns a whopping 5x points on airfare purchased directly through the airline, as well as flights and prepaid hotels reserved through AmEx Travel. It earns one point for every dollar spent elsewhere.
The Platinum Card comes with a welcome offer of 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend ,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening. The value of the points depends on how you use them, but by transferring them to airline frequent flyer programs, it can be possible to use those welcome points to fly round-trip to Europe, or even one-way in first class.
0 airline fee credit
Every calendar year, the Platinum Card offers a 0 credit toward incidental fees on one airline (that you can choose at the beginning of each year). While it doesn’t cover tickets, it applies to a wide variety of charges and fees, such as checked bags, change fees if you need to change your flight, in-flight food and drinks, fees for traveling with a pet, airport lounge day passes (if you don’t already have complimentary access), and sometimes even things like seat assignments and extra legroom upgrade fees.
Up to 0 in Uber credits
In March, 2017, American Express added this as a new perk to the Platinum Card. The credit works within the US, and is worth up to 0 per year, broken into monthly chunks; each month, you’ll get a credit added to your linked Uber account, with an extra for a total of each December.
(Stock Catalog photo)
If you travel on a regular basis or live anywhere near most cities, this is an easy perk to get value from. You can also put the credits toward UberEats orders.
In addition, your account will be upgraded to Uber VIP status. There aren’t a ton of perks with this, and it’s only available in certain cities, but with Uber VIP, you’ll only be connected to drivers rated 4.8 stars or higher. Uber also says that Uber VIP drivers have “high-quality cars.”
This is a brand new benefit that AmEx added to the Platinum Card in July 2018. US card members can enroll to get up to 0 in statement credits each year in store or online at Saks Fifth Avenue. The credit is broken into two parts, with up to available every six months.
Although many things at Saks are quite pricey, there are plenty of items in the -100 range — and lower — that you can find by browsing the website. Sneakers that are on sale, things like Converse shoes, t-shirts, sweaters, or more. You can learn more about the benefit here.
Elite status at Starwood, Marriott, and Hilton hotels
Elite status at hotels can be incredibly valuable, often including free perks like daily breakfast, room upgrades, early check-in or late check-out, premium internet, lounge access, free nights, points-earning bonuses, and more. Usually, only the top frequent travelers earn status, but with the Platinum Card, you can earn it before you’ve stayed a single night.
The card comes with gold-level elite status at both Hilton and Starwood hotels. Because Starwood is owned by Marriott, the latter matches your status at Starwood. If you stay at hotels even a few nights a year, these benefits can be extremely valuable — especially considering how expensive hotel breakfasts can be.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry (which comes with PreCheck) are absolute musts for just about any traveler. Once you enroll, you can use special lanes to breeze through airport security — you won’t have to remove shoes and light coats, and you can leave your laptop in your bag. With Global Entry, you can use a fast lane when you return to the US from abroad, which makes clearing immigration and customs easy and quick. The programs cost -0, and American Express will provide a credit for that fee every four years (memberships are valid for five years).
AmEx also Platinum card members access to the AmEx Fine Hotels and Resorts program. When you book participating hotels through AmEx Travel (there are nearly 1,000 worldwide), you’ll enjoy valuable perks including room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, free Wi-Fi, and a unique amenity at each hotel, like a credit to use at on-property spas or restaurants.
An exclusive concierge service is available to Platinum cardmembers, too. While the services are complimentary, you’re responsible for paying for any services booked or purchases made on your behalf (don’t worry, the concierge will always ask for approval first). The service can come in helpful for things like getting tickets to shows or making reservations at exclusive restaurants.
The Platinum Card from American Express comes with a high annual fee of 0, but the value of the card’s annual benefits more than outweighs the fee. That’s especially true the first year, when you can earn welcome points.
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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.
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.