4 simple ways to start saving money - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Recent changes with the 2020 NDAA and how they impact you

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.


It addresses military pay

The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.

Military spouse education and employment

Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.

The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.

Military housing reforms

One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.

One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.

Military family needs

The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.

One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.

Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.

Surviving spouses receive relief

Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.

If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!

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

Articles

Trump’s federal hiring freeze could impact veterans who’ve already been offered a job

4 simple ways to start saving money
President Donald J. Trump arrives at the Inaugural Parade during the 58th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20, 2017.


In a moved that shook the federal workforce, President Trump ordered a freeze in the hiring process of all executive branch departments, effective at noon on January 22, 2017.

A report from the Office of Personnel Management estimates that veterans made up about 44 percent of new hires in the executive branch during fiscal year 2015. The total number of veterans employed was 623,755, or roughly 31 percent of the entire executive branch.

So what does this mean for veterans now in the process of seeking employment with the government? Unfortunately, even federal employees currently working in the executive branch aren’t sure.

We Are the Mighty consulted with a Division Director at one of the federal departments, who asked to remain anonymous due to the department being ordered to cease all public communications.

“We just don’t have many answers,” the source told WATM. “This is a very different political environment and we don’t know what to expect.”

We Are the Mighty obtained the “Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies,” signed by acting director of Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy.

Sent to the heads of the departments, the memorandum read, in part, “An individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before February 22, 2017, should report to work on that start date.”

Individuals who were offered a position before Jan. 22 but do not have a start date (or a date after February 22) may find that employment offer rescinded. According to the Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, those positions offered will be under review.

Agencies will be tasked with considering “merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels” when it comes to determining whether job offers should be rescinded.

At this time, the hiring freeze applies to every executive department except for the Department of Defense, and even then, it only allows for recruiting into active duty.

The leadership in any given executive department may grant an exemption to the freeze if he or she believes it to be in the best interest of national security or public safety, according to the press release from the White House.

This public safety exemption rule could be what helps the Department of Veterans Affairs continue to attempt to fill what it might deem necessary positions among the 3,473 jobs listed on its website — though it is unclear exactly how many of those positions could be considered in the interest of national security or public safety.

That same argument can be made for a large number of positions available at the Department of Defense. As DoD employees are directly related to national security, the department seems to have wide latitude over how it will respond to the hiring freeze.

The President has given the Office of Management and Budget 90 days to present a “long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.” Upon implementation of that plan, the executive order will expire.

This hiring freeze is part of one of the many campaign promises President Trump made last year to drastically shrink the federal government.

4 simple ways to start saving money

4 simple ways to start saving money

MIGHTY MONEY

5 important investments that every veteran should make

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.

This article originally appeared on Active Duty Passive Income.

Articles

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

4 simple ways to start saving money
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

4 simple ways to start saving money
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

4 simple ways to start saving money
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

4 simple ways to start saving money
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

Humor

15 last-minute Valentine’s Day gift ideas from actual military spouses

4 simple ways to start saving money
Pfc. Harley Dennis, of Anderson, who serves with the Missouri National Guard’s 276th Engineer Company in Pierce City, assists Sgt. 1st Class Eric Corcoran to deliver more than 300 Valentine’s Day balloons to area school kids in the southwest Missouri town. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis Chambers/Missouri National Guard)


In our house, Valentine’s Day isn’t really a thing. As a general rule, the Marine isn’t home for the “holiday,” and since there are a lot of holiday’s he spends away, courtesy of the USMC, this is one day we just don’t really concern ourselves with.

But this year we ran into a snag. Their names are Bethany, Zachary, and Christopher — also known as the three youngest members of the Foley Fire Team.

On the edge of the dreaded teenage years, Bethany came home a few days ago armed with a love note from her “boyfriend” (that asshole), and sat down with her younger brothers to plot out “The Best Valentine’s Gift Ever;” it apparently consists of a lot of bacon (they DO take after their mother, after-all), and a seven-hour nap time while they’re at school. Because adulting is hard.

They presented their plan to the Marine, and then waited with bated breath for him to tell them his grand scheme for the Day Of Love.

“I just bought Mom curtains and a new curtain rod. I suppose I could hang them up before she wakes up?”

The two youngest of the fire team promptly ran off to tattle on Daddy. Not buy Mom a “love” gift? He’s practically an abomination to them right now.

While the boys were relaying the horrifying ordeal to me, I wondered how the Marine was going to get out of this one. It’s perfectly fine to explain to the 12-year-old that sometimes Dad just doesn’t really subscribe to romantic things. As a girl she’s going to have to come to terms with the fact that dudes like him really do exist.

But try explaining that to two 8-and 9-year-old boys who are currently at the dining room table gluing pink and red hearts all over their camouflage Valentine boxes because they know that, while they like camo and guns, girls sometimes like hearts. How Daddy doesn’t understand this is totally beyond their capacity.

“Maybe Daddy is planning a surprise and he doesn’t want to ruin it,” I whispered conspiratorially. The boys nodded and agreed that that’s exactly what was happening. It was the only thing that made sense to them.

“You’re going to want to brain storm some last minute ideas, dude,” I told the Marine later.

“Can you do that crowd-sourcing thing you do on your Facebook and I’ll pick something from that?” he asked.

So that’s exactly what I did, and let me say, I was surprised. Not one girl said she wanted flowers, chocolate, jewelry, or even anything expensive or time consuming, and a lot of their gift suggestions included food.

In fact, because I know the Marine isn’t the only one out there who is finding himself in a gift pickle at the last minute, here’s what actual military spouses said they really want for Valentine’s Day, word for word and complete with all their annoying little emoji things:

1. Bacon roses

Because Valentine’s Day just screams “pork,” right?

2. Not celebrating Valentine’s Day at all.

Jeesh, more “romance” in our marriage/dating? We already have enough of that already…

3. Homemade vouchers for cool stuff

How about a movie night, a kiss and makeup session no matter how upset I am, free kisses anytime all day, etc.

4. Stay at home “date”

My husband is hitting up the USO tomorrow during lunch for flowers and cheap chocolate. ?. Yes he told me he wants to do that. He’s ridiculous. Lol. But in seriousness, even a nice walk or living room picnic on the floor. Super cheap, corny, and fun

5. Waffle House

Hands down. If you sneak them like $10, they’ll let you smuggle in wine sometimes (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything).

6. Beach stroll

This year we are going to take a few hours during the day to run to the beach and just put our toes in the sand before kids get home from school.

7. Mom time

Netflix movie, homemade desert, and pjs. 🙂

8. Cheap sushi

We went to Hamazushi last night because it’s very inexpensive (most items are ¥100 a plate), all you can eat, good quality sushi. Plus it’s all served on conveyor belts and ya can’t beat the novelty of that. 😉 Also, [He] started college again and has a lab tonight, so he won’t be home for “actual” Valentine’s date stuff.

9. A cuddle

After being apart—just being together is enough. I know that may sound cheesy, but it’s so the truth. Being preggo and sick, I’m hoping our date will include pj’s and our couch and the latest “this is us” episode.

10. Couch time

We spend all our budget on the kids. We will stay home with popcorn and a movie to celebrate it.

11. Old School necking

In the car…in the driveway!! ??

12. A load of beef … with love

I’ll make him his fave meal at home… meat loaf!

13. Learn something new

We are taking a couples cooking class tomorrow ❤️

14. A full-on pizza and bubbly extravaganza

[He] & I have done the same thing every year since we’ve been together: Heart-shaped homemade pizza (with mini heart pizzas for the puppies) + our favorite prosecco (the same brand from our wedding) and chocolate covered strawberries (sometimes homemade, sometimes from HEB)… and then turning on a cheesy movie or tv show on Netflix.

It started out the first year or two as our “thing” because we really couldn’t afford too much else. But now it’s a special, almost sacred ritual for us. I wouldn’t trade our little cozy tradition for a world-class meal. It’s just too important to me. I should clarify and say “every year he was actually HERE to celebrate.”

15. Some shootin’

Well, we got married Valentine’s day. We celebrate by hanging out and we go to dinner either the day before or the day after (since payday is always afterwards)because it’s always less crowded. This year is our 20th and we both took the day off. We’re having a range and lunch date. Since it’s a work day, lunch isn’t as crowded and definitely cheaper.

So what are you doing for Valentine’s Day?

And if the Marine is reading this, bacon roses are totally appropriate.

Articles

Military spouse helps pass legislation to benefit military retirees in Arkansas

When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.


Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Brittany Boccher was invited to attend the signing of legislation into state law on Feb. 7, 2017. The law exempts military retiree pay from state taxes. (Photo courtesy of Brittany Boccher.)

The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.

That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.

“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.

Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”

Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.

Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.

“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”

Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.

Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.

As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.

On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”

For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.

Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.

Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”

MIGHTY CULTURE

What to do with your TSP after the military

Leaving the military means making a lot of decisions — big decisions — often in a short period of time. One important decision, thankfully, doesn’t have a time limit: What should you do with the balance in your Thrift Savings Plan account?

Several myths and rumors surround the answer to that question, with plenty of salesmen wanting you to believe that you should move your money out of the TSP. Five clear options exist for service members and their TSP account assets after transitioning from the military. Even though there’s no single answer for everyone, three choices are more optimal for most people, and two choices are less right for most people.


The usually-better options include:

  1. Leave the money in your TSP account.
  2. Roll your TSP account balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement.
  3. Roll your TSP account balance into your new employer’s 401(k) plan.

The rarely-better options include:

  1. Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum.
  2. Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity.

Leave the balance in your TSP account

Once you have a TSP account, you can leave your money in there until you have to take required minimum distributions. There is no requirement to move it anywhere, at any time. In fact, most military-savvy financial planners recommend that you leave your retirement funds in TSP.

“As an entering argument, we don’t advocate doing anything different with your TSP,” says Sean Gillespie of Redeployment Wealth Strategies. “Just because you can’t contribute to it any more doesn’t mean you have to move it. And with low cost being one of the leading predictors of maximizing your returns, it’s darned difficult to do better than you will with TSP.”

Pros: Leaving your money in the TSP is by far the easiest option, and it’s a good option for many situations. The TSP has very, very low fees. You can move the money elsewhere later. TSP understands tax-free contributions from a Combat Zone Tax Exclusion. You can roll new money from other qualified plans into your TSP account to take advantage of the low costs.

Cons: TSP offers limited distribution options, though they are scheduled to expand this fall. You have limited investment options in TSP. You can’t roll from Traditional TSP to Roth TSP, so if you are trying to move your Traditional money into Roth accounts, it will have to be out of TSP. You can’t take multiple partial withdrawals out of your TSP account.

Roll your TSP balance into an Individual Retirement Arrangement

Pros: You have total control of how you invest your money, and unlimited investment options. You can still roll the money into a 401 (k) in the future. You can convert money that is currently in a Traditional account into a Roth account, but it will be a taxable event. And it’s really nice to put everything in one place!

Cons: IRAs don’t have any loan options, and will probably have higher fees.

4 simple ways to start saving money

Roll your TSP balance into your new employer’s 401 (k) plan

Pros: Moving your TSP balance will streamline your accounts, and that balance will be available for borrowing with a 401 (k) loan. (But don’t do it!)

Cons: Most 401 (k) plans have higher costs than TSP. You’ll still be limited to the investment options in the new plan. There may be a waiting period to participate in your new employer’s 401 (k). Not all 401 (k) plans have a Roth option.

Forrest Baumhover, a certified financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, suggests caution when moving your TSP to a 401(k).

“When you leave military service, don’t be quick to jump out of TSP. It has better and lower-cost investment options than 401 (k) plans.”

Withdraw your TSP account balance in a lump sum

Pros: Cash in hand.

Cons: Withdrawing money from your TSP account may be subject to withdrawal penalties (10%) and taxes (probably in the 20% range). More importantly, you’ll lose all future earnings on that money, and you can’t replace that money into a tax-advantaged account because they have yearly contribution limits.

Transfer your TSP account balance to a qualified annuity

Pros: Predictable, guaranteed income stream for life.

Cons: It is a permanent decision. There may be high fees involved. You may not get anywhere near the full value of your contribution. If it isn’t indexed for inflation, the purchasing power of your monthly benefit will decrease each year.

This is a relatively short overview and can’t possibly cover every possible situation. As with everything, there are exceptions and nuances for many different scenarios. If you are considering moving your TSP to another investment, you may find value in consulting a financial advisor to figure out which choice is right for you and your specific situation.

Lacey Langford, AFC ®, The Military Money Expert ®, suggests several reasons why you might want to consider using a fee-only financial planner vs. the advisor offered through a bank, insurance company or investment company.

“Fee-only allows you to have a clear picture of what you’re paying for and how the advisor is being compensated for the advice and recommendations they’re giving you,” Langford added.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

3 things I wish I knew about military transition

4 simple ways to start saving money
Staff Sgt. John Carlin walks off the flightline with his family May 13, 2001, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Sergeant Carlin is assigned to the 61st Airlift Squadron. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis


Before my husband retired from the Air Force, a co-worker asked if I was ready for his retirement. She, an ex MilSpouse, insisted that the transition to the civilian world was going to be hard.

I disagreed.

I told myself I had never fully immersed myself into the military way of life. After every PCS, I found a job in the civilian world and made friends outside the military gates. I did not feel the change was going to be that drastic or difficult.

Two years after my husband’s retirement I now know how right she was. These are the things I wish I knew then.

3 Things I Wish I Knew About Military Transition

1. Consider where you plan to live after retirement. When planning for retirement, I recommend that your family consider living near a military installation. You really don’t realize how important all the perks of living near a base are until you leave the military.

We all have heard of the safety net — this invisible shield that protects all military families from stressors, financial hardships, and provides support during deployments and emergencies. I never fully took advantage of this safety net, but I came to appreciate it when my husband retired.

We retired an hour from the nearest base and suddenly I missed the camaraderie that comes with living near one. I missed running to the commissary and knowing it wouldn’t break the bank. I missed the safety of living on a military base. I knew my family was surrounded by some of the bravest in the world.

Also, it is harder to participate in transition services and career counseling. I no longer live in a community that encourages military spouses during transition, especially in the job hunt. I had thought I would not miss all of these safety net services because I had sometimes opted out of them. I know now retiring close to a base would have made things so much easier.

2. Take time out for vacations and alone time. The stress involved in the transition from the military to civilian world actually surprised me. Not only is the camaraderie gone, but also the adventure that comes with being a military spouse.

Whenever things were too stressful, there was always some new place to travel to and explore. There was always the anticipation of the next assignment. MilSpouses, for the most part, are independent. Being in charge of everything while the military person is deployed cultivates independence. We don’t need help, right?

But do not hesitate to ask for assistance or even a few minutes of alone time. A week after the moving truck dropped 200 boxes off at my house, my sister had heart surgery and came to live with us. l should have asked for help then, from family or neighbors to open boxes or just watch the kids when I took a few minutes for myself.

Throw your independence to the side. If you need help with anything, during the transition, ask for it. You will be able to better deal with the difficulties that always come with the move. Take a break, or take a vacation. I have discovered that you and your spouse need to find out who you are without the military. The kinks in your relationship that were put aside due to deployments or a PCS, will now have to be dealt with.

Take time and breathe.

3. It is important to get involved in your community. The military community made it easy. During deployments, moving, and emergencies, someone was always there to assist. Sometimes it was just the person next door who was going through the same thing. Sometimes it was the squadron commander or base chaplain. Information on support groups, activities and financial assistance was always readily available. As a spouse it wasn’t hard to stay informed about events and activities.

It is important that you form these same kinds of bonds in your civilian community. It will be harder. No one will have your name on a list and ask you to the next squadron picnic.

I suggest you become involved in military charities or organizations. Find a church that all members of your family are comfortable with. Volunteer. Use social media to connect to the local community.

While you may be tired and stressed, make even the smallest of efforts to engage in your new community. It will make things so much easier during the adjustment. Create your own safety net.

Amy is the spouse of a recently retired service member who spent 23 years in the Air Force. She currently works as a full-time mom, freelance writer, and part-time baker. During the active duty years, she worked as a preschool teacher, librarian, bookseller and SEO specialist. She currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys traveling and volunteering in her new community.

MIGHTY MONEY

This is the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits transfer exception for your dependents

The Department of Defense (DoD) has granted a temporary exception to policy to allow select service members to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits to dependents until July 12, 2019.

NAVADMIN 020/19, released Jan. 24, 2019, announces that for a limited time, sailors with at least 10 years of service who are unable to serve four additional years, due to statute or standard policy, may transfer their education benefits to dependents if they agree to serve the maximum time authorized. For example, enlisted sailors within four years of high year tenure or officers within four years of their statutory limit of service are eligible.


The policy exception is retroactive to July 12, 2018, and ends July 11, 2019, after which sailors will need to commit to the full four years of service to transfer their benefits.

4 simple ways to start saving money

Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Billy Ho)

Sailors with at least 10 years of service whose transfer of education benefits applications were rejected due to the policy changes announced in NAVADMIN 170/18, and who are still serving on active duty or in the selected reserve (SELRES), must reapply for transfer of education benefits by following guidance in NAVADMIN 236/18, including completion of the new statement of understanding at https://myeducation.netc.navy.mil/webta/home.html#nbb.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

Humor

24 people to marry with better benefits than a US service member

Recently, the military healthcare system Tricare posted a photo on its Facebook page that had its fans in a frenzy.


People got pissed; they complained; they shared the post with harsh words; some even used “caps lock” in their comments. It was terrible.

What was so offensive about the post, you ask? If you hadn’t already seen it, it was a wedding photo with the comment “You had me at #TRICARE.” See below.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Tricare recently posted what was supposed to be a humorous post to its Facebook page. Instead, it got a lot of backlash!

As someone who works online almost exclusively, I had to laugh at the post. In fact, I laughed a lot. I could understand why some people were upset (hello, pushing a negative stereotype on female military spouses), but mostly I couldn’t understand how the marketing department at Tricare saw the post and said “Oh hey, THIS post is an EXCELLENT idea!”

My first reaction when I saw it, honestly, was “I wonder how long whomever approved this post will have a job?” I post all kinds of crazy things on my own personal Facebook page, but I’ve been called into more than one come-to-Jesus meeting with a boss over a poorly planned social media post.

When that’s your job, you have to be aware of your audience.

And who is the audience for most of Tricare’s social media pages? Probably spouses who want to keep up with changes in Tricare benefits. So it’s no small wonder that a whole bunch of them were butthurt.

So I did what any responsible journalist in my position would do: I shared the flub on my personal Facebook page and asked for hilarious feedback. My friends did not disappoint.

The idea? If we were to marry someone for his benefits, couldn’t we have chosen someone with better perks?

The military benefits are great, don’t get me wrong. But what about if you married:

1. A mob boss

All the Italian food your heart desires and the destruction of your mortal enemies. (this is obviously my first choice)

2. Prince Harry

Crowns and gowns, you’d never have to work! (wait. maybe this is my first choice)

3. United State Senator or Representative

The best health care your tax dollars can buy. Plus no one’s allowed to hurt your feelings. (gag me now)

4. A doctor

All you can eat hospital food! (food? queue the fat dependa jokes, because I AM IN)

5. A dog breeder

Picks of the litter! (meh, I’m not really a puppy person. Don’t shoot me, I prefer a full-grown rescue)

6. Donald Trump

If you ever go bald or are in desperate need of a tanning bed, you’re already in the right place! (If you can stomach this, its an option for those of you under 25!)

7. Any president

Free food, vacations all over the world; top private schools for kids; secret service body guards; couple cabins in the woods; free airfare!! (Woah woah woah…. someone sign my husband up!)

8. A Masseuse

Happy massages for days. (Okay I’m really torn between this one and Prince Harry. Can we choose two?)

9. Bill Gates

When one door closes the windows are always open!! (I’m a Mac girl, so…)

10. A handyman

All the crap around the house might actually get done! (Except my daddy raised me to be able to DO all the crap around the house, so this isn’t an issue here.)

11. Cesar Milan (the dog whisperer)

Maybe he can make the kids behave! (Wait, I have to choose between behaving kids and Prince Harry? Adulting is hard.)

12. A plastic surgeon

Think this speaks for itself. (Meh, not really my cup of tea)

13. A Starbucks barista

I think this also speaks for itself. (Okay, so do you think Harry could make coffee AND be a mob boss AND be a masseuse? Someone with connections find this out for me?)

14. An airline Pilot

Get to travel for free or for little out-of-pocket when there are seats available. (I’m married to a pilot. I see how he drives, I DO NOT want to fly with him.)

15. A personal trainer and chef

Never have to cook again and always fit into your skinny jeans! (I already fit into my skinny jeans. I just buy them bigger now.)

16. A hotel manager

Free room and board with complimentary continental breakfast! (I do enjoy food…)

17. A mechanic

(Free oil changes?)

18. Matt Damon

He’s my fantasy celebrity boyfriend and I’m waiting for his proposal. (Obviously this wasn’t my suggestion. If it’s not obvious, I super like Prince Harry. Just saying.)

19. A farmer

Cheap help from laborers, tractors and back hoes to dig as many holes as I need to bury the bodies. Then, when the old man ain’t worth it anymore I just take him out to pasture on the back 40! (So maybe not husband material, but maybe as a side piece while I’m married to the mob boss? Questions need to be asked here.)

20. A coffee importer

I would always have the best coffee. Ooh or someone who owns a bookstore too! Unlimited coffee and books for life it can’t get any better than that. (Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Prince Harry has a library? Asking for a friend.)

21. The owner of a winery

(Also need to find out how Harry feels about wine)

22. A civilian so you never have to sleep alone

…Or worry. (I know, too serious)

23. A Costco employee

I used to work at Aetna. Let me tell you — those folks get great insurance. Or they used to. Free glasses once a year for all members of the family. (It IS time for me to get new glasses.)

24. The heir to a million dollar business with really nice in laws

No wait.. better! Heir to an awesome chocolate company. (Note to self, find out how Prince Harry feels about wine and chocolate and masseuse school and libraries and…)

I just realized that Prince Harry is in the military as well, so maybe I just really appreciate a man in uniform and the benefits aren’t really even the icing on the cake.

MIGHTY MONEY

Why these female veterans will never struggle for work again

Female post-9/11 veterans are the fastest growing demographic within the veteran population, but they’re also the greatest risk of experiencing homelessness after their service ends. Just like their male counterparts, they experience all the financial trappings that come with leaving the military. As of this writing, the national unemployment rate stands at 3.9 percent and is falling. But for female post-9/11 vets, unemployment is a solid 5.5 percent.

That’s why the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University decided to change all of that — by showing women veterans how to start their own businesses and never have to look for a job again.


Female vets are a valuable, knowledgeable part of the workforce. More than half of transitioning women have a college education and are twice as likely as men to have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math career fields. Despite this, many women have difficulty transitioning to civilian life and navigating their benefits, taking up to three months longer than male counterparts to find a job once they leave the service.

With this in mind, Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families launched its premiere entrepreneurship training conference, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), with the help of the U.S. Small Business Association. It helps female veterans and military spouses find their passions and teaches them the skills they need to turn passion into a profitable business venture in just three phases.

4 simple ways to start saving money

65 percent of these women will start businesses after the V-WISE conference and 93 percent of those will still be in business five years later.

(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)

Phase I of the V-WISE program is a 15-day online learning experience designed to teach participants the “language of business,” how to understand opportunity recognition as it relates to growing a sustainable venture, and present actionable strategies related to new venture creation.

The conference phase of the V-WISE experience is a three-day training offered to cohorts of 200 women at locations across the country. Participants must complete Phase I before attending Phase II.

The conference includes more than 20 distinct modules of training (representing over 40 hours of coursework) designed for both new business owners and to support the needs of existing ventures. Topics addressed include business concepts, financing, guerrilla marketing, human resources, legal challenges, profit models, and more.

Phase III, V-WISE Biz Support, provides program graduates with technical assistance to start and grow their business. Graduates will have access to incorporation services, financing services, mentorship, and opportunities for further education and skill-building with the IVMF and its partners, often at a reduced or waived cost. These services are available through a password-protected website.

And the system works. The V-WISE program is only six years old and has many of the three-phase programs under its belt but can boast more than 3,000 entrepreneurs — 93 percent of whom are still in business to this day. On Sept. 14, 2018, the Institute for Veterans and Military Families will host its 20th event in San Diego, Calif., where the slate of speakers will include:

  • Remi Adeleke, Transformers actor and former Navy SEAL
  • Angie Bastian, Co-Founder of Boom Chicka Pop Popcorn
  • Larry Broughton, Co-Founder and CEO of BROUGHTONadvisory and Founder and CEO of broughtonHOTELS
  • Neale Godfrey, founder and CEO of Children’s Financial Network
4 simple ways to start saving money

The V-WISE class in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2017.

(Institute for Veterans and Military Families)

The V-WISE conferences are open to all women veterans, active duty female service members, and female partners/spouses of active service members and veterans who share the goal of launching and growing a sustainable business venture. It is just one of a slate of eight national entrepreneurship programs and three resources offered by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families — a slate the IVMF calls, “The Arsenal.”

Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans and their families post-service. Its dedication to veteran-facing programming, research and policy, employment and employer support, and community engagement allows IVMF to provide in-depth analysis of the challenges facing the veteran community.This one-of-a-kind dedication to the military-veteran community creates real, sustainable changes in the lives of military veterans, as showcased by the successful women who have graduated from the V-WISE program.

To learn more about the V-WISE program and learn how you can be in the next cohort, visit the V-WISE website.

MIGHTY MONEY

Finance Friday: How to benefit from historically low mortgage rates

You might be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about the 10 Year treasury at an all-time low and the federal reserve cutting interest rates. Or, far more likely, you’re just not a numbers and data nerd like me with a vested interest in all things finance. Luckily, if you’re a prospect or existing homeowner, one thing is certain, and that’s a win for you in this economic time. Breaking this further down into how it applies to your earned VA Home Loan benefit, there are two subsections that need to be explored: purchase and refinances.


4 simple ways to start saving money

live.staticflickr.com

New home purchases

What these amazing low rates mean for you is more purchasing power. For example, a 0,000 30-year home loan at 4.5% is a whopping 1 MORE every single month than it would be at 3.5% (,000 over the full lifespan of the loan). An alternate way to look at this is that you can purchase a 0,000 at the 3.5% rate for the same monthly cost as a 0,000 loan at 4.5%. That’s an increase in ,000 upfront purchasing power for the SAME MONTHLY COST. If that doesn’t scream raining money to you, I don’t know what can.

Refinances

If you already have a VA home loan and just had some sort of feelings about missing out on this amazing opportunity, the good news is you can still capitalize on this opportunity through a VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan (IRRRL, also known as a streamline refi). Just like anything else, there are myths floating around out there, and you know I’m going to break through them.

You do not have to be currently living in the home you wish to refinance. If you have a home that was once your primary residence, which is the only kind of loan the VA writes, then you qualify for a VA IRRRL (but NOT a cash out refi and NOT switching from conventional to VA when it’s not owner-occupied). It really is that simple. Easy peasy!

If you’re looking at a transition but living in the home right now, you are NOT obligated to extend your plans to live in the home for any certain period of time. Just like any VA loan, there are absolutely no minimum residency requirements.

4 simple ways to start saving money

live.staticflickr.com

A refinance is exponentially easier than a purchase transaction. No appraisal or inspection is required for a streamline refi. You DO need to be able to prove an ability to repay, so employment verification is required. Lower documentation requirements all around make for an easier process, however. Bank statements, pay stubs, proof of homeowners insurance and a current mortgage statement are what you can expect your lender to ask for.

Expectation management is important. Expect a slower closing turn time than your traditional 30-day purchase loans. It is not a sign of incompetence on the lender’s behalf, it is simply a prioritization. When compared to a purchase contract that is tied to multiple parties for timelines to move, the urgency for a refi comes secondary. No one’s earnest money deposit and moving schedule is driving the need, and there is a lot more skin in the game on a purchase deal. Expect to see a 45-day rate lock on your refi and know that it’s nothing personal.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information