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

Program encourages banking for Veterans

The Veterans Benefits Banking Program (VBBP) is giving Veterans and their families access to greater financial independence, resiliency, and literacy.

VBBP is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the Association of Military Banks of America (AMBA). The idea for the program came after a VA analysis revealed a high rate of Veterans were “unbanked,” says Joe Gurney, Senior Advisor of Fiscal Stewardship for the Office of the Under Secretary for Benefits.

“We were seeing an uptick in fraud because hundreds of thousands of Veterans were unbanked, so the Under Secretary actually had me look into this. By unbanked we mean Veterans receiving their VA benefits on a prepaid card or by check. I spent some time doing an analysis about demographics, where they were, who they were, and it turned out there were over 200,000 Veterans who were unbanked,” Gurney said.

Dr. Paul Lawrence, VA Under Secretary for Benefits, charged Gurney with determining courses of action to address the issue. Through his research, he found AMBA — an association of banks operating on military installations. The organizations committed to a joint effort of working with those financial institutions that already “have experience dealing with the unique financial challenges of military members and their families,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Steven Lepper, President and CEO of AMBA, said.

A white paper identified key areas affecting today’s Veterans, such as not being able to get a bank account and incurring high fees when cashing checks or using prepaid cards. The VBBP then created a number of common requirements for participating banks and credit unions to join the program, including:

  • Willing to provide free checking accounts and free access to ATM networks to Veterans who deposit their monthly VA benefits in their account, and
  • Helping any Veteran become qualified to open a banking account.

Another pillar of the program is a goal of simplifying banking choices by helping eligible Veterans select the right bank and services for themselves and their families. The VBBP website also includes links to resources on topics like fraud protection, identity theft, financial education, and a checklist for opening a bank account.

Lepper adds the VBBP is a work in progress and there are already talks for ways to improve the program.

“Veterans have as many needs as there are Veterans. It’s hard to generalize with anyone, whether they’re military or Veterans. We’re always on the lookout to help make Veterans’ management of their financial resources much more effective and safe,” Lepper, who served 35 years in the Air Force, said.

Gurney says the VBA also looks at trends in the unbanked on a constant basis to identify lessons learned and drive future program enhancements.

“AMBA has setup a constant feedback loop to try to give our Veterans the best experience that we can. For example, we discovered that Veterans want financial education. They want information — especially during COVID – that helps them deal with money, particularly borrowing money. As a result of that feedback, we added financial education to the VBBP website and plan to expand it as we continue improving the program,” Gurney said.

Lepper explains that by giving Veterans access to banking options, it also creates a motivation to save.

“The one benefit you don’t think about immediately when you think about opening a bank account versus receiving your benefits on a prepaid card or by paper check is the ability to save money. If you cash a check or withdraw all the money on your prepaid card; you walk around all month with money in your pocket. With checks and prepaid cards, there’s no motivation to save and no mechanism to save, whereas with a bank account, you do have that ability to save money in a safe and cost-effective way.

“What we’re hoping, as a collateral effect of opening up a bank account or credit union account, is that our Veterans will be able to save money and not live month-to-month on their VA benefits,” Lepper said.

Other features of utilizing a bank or credit union account:

  • Get access to reasonable loan amounts with advantageous interest rates, and
  • Credit repair.

Thirty four financial institutions are now part of the VBBP. In addition to ensuring Veterans and their families receive benefits safely and reliably, the participating banks and credit unions offer another advantage: accessibility.

A key component of the program is to meet Veterans where they are, whether that be in a large metropolitan area, rural town, or online. By working with financial institutions that have diverse geographical and digital footprints, Veterans can receive streamlined access to information and communication that caters to their needs. Another goal was to create a robust program that is easy to navigate. The VBBP website https://veteransbenefitsbanking.org/ contains a directory that lists participating banks and credit unions, along with direct links to more specific information on products and services.

Since the inception of the program at the end of 2019, VBBP has grown to roughly 1,000 website visitors per week, revealing a growing interest in both financial education and banking options. Now that awareness is growing, Gurney recommends Veterans take that next step of setting up an account so that they no longer have to put themselves at risk by relying on external entities like check cashing companies.

“We really want to urge Veterans during this time, especially with COVID, to consider direct deposit and setting up a bank account so they can have an easier, faster, and safer way to bank,” he said.

Once Veterans have a bank account, they can sign up for direct deposit by either updating their profile on va.gov (and providing their bank account and check routing numbers) OR by calling 1-800-827-1000.

As the partnership moves into its second year, the organizations plan to expand need-based resources that meet Veterans where they are in their financial life cycle.

Any Veteran or beneficiary who receives federal monetary benefits and who wishes to receive their benefit payments electronically can participate in the VBBP. A full list of participating banks and credits unions can be found at https://veteransbenefitsbanking.org/.

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

MIGHTY MONEY

Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

Earlier this month, the Army’s top general in charge of supplying units with troops blamed a lack of readiness on limited time for training, adding that lack of funding isn’t the biggest challenge.


Head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert Abrams said the lack of training stems from lawmakers making policy that commits the service to engagements around the world without an eye toward keeping the force healthy and trained up.

4 simple ways to start saving money
U.S. Soldiers of Rider Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade record information while conducting a brief during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 11, 2016. The exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

Abrams explained that soldiers were expected to deploy more and have less time home because of downsizing.

“Our goal has always been … one month gone, two months back,” Abrams said, adding that the Army is currently experiencing a ratio of “deploy-to-dwell” that trends closer to one month gone, one month back.

“Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remains at a very high level while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force,” Abrams told an audience at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Our number one constraint for training is time available.”

Recent budget cuts have forced the Army to reduce its total active duty soldiers to 450,000 while still meeting its obligations worldwide. As a result, the operational tempo for soldiers is higher and more demanding — ultimately requiring soldiers to train more, for longer periods of time, in addition to more and longer deployments, Army officials say.

“The impact of non-standard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined arms maneuver,” Abrams said.

Because soldiers are experiencing a minimal deploy-to-dwell time, there isn’t enough time for soldiers to maintain the training the Army requires.

“We struggle today to maintain and meet Department of the Army standards in our critical combat fleets,” Abrams explained before highlighting unmet requirements within the Army’s aviation and ground fleets. He was quick to explain that in aviation in particular, the problems do not lie with the aviators. The problem stems, instead, with plans to restructure the way the Army finances those fleets, impacting training requirements, upkeep on aircraft, and overall readiness of aviators.

While Abrams was very careful not to blame funding shortfalls for the readiness issues facing the Army, he did not hesitate to blame the readiness of the National Guard in particular on lack of money.

“We’ve dug ourselves this hole because of funding,” Abrams said.

Despite the tough times, Abrams said the Army has made tremendous strides in the last year in terms of readiness and overall capabilities.

“Last year at this exact forum, one of underlying themes was that as an army in terms of our joint war-fighting capabilities, we were pretty rusty,” he said. “I’m happy to report today that we have made progress in our ability.”

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.

MIGHTY MONEY

These are the successful habits of 600 millionaires

Investing can be intimidating.

But those who do it right tend to share similar characteristics, according to Sarah Stanley Fallaw, the director of research for the Affluent Market Institute. She coauthored “The Next Millionaire Next Door: Enduring Strategies for Building Wealth,” for which she surveyed more than 600 millionaires in America.

During her research, she found that five components mark successful investors, including those who are rich: a personality for risk, a high-risk preference, confidence in investing, composure, and knowledge regarding investments and investing.


But millionaire investors do one thing differently: They make more effort with the final component.

“They spend time building knowledge and expertise in managing investments,” Stanley Fallaw wrote.

Millionaire investors spend more time planning for future investments

According to her, millionaire investors spend an average of 10.5 hours a month studying and planning for future investments. That’s nearly two hours more than under-accumulators of wealth — defined as those with a net worth less than one-half of their expected net worth based on age and earnings — who spend 8.7 hours a month doing so.

4 simple ways to start saving money

(Photo by Adeolu Eletu)

In her study, 55% of millionaires said they believe their investing success is because of their own efforts in studying and becoming educated, rather than advice provided by professionals.

“Their literacy in financial matters means that they are more tolerant of taking investment-related risks,” Stanley Fallaw wrote. “Future outlook and financial knowledge typically relate to taking greater financial risk, so the time they spend in managing and researching investments helps in decision-making.”

Financial literacy is related to financial “success” outcomes more so than cognitive ability, according to Stanley Fallaw. Having the knowledge required to make appropriate financial decisions — along with a long-term and future-oriented outlook, as well as a calm manner — allows millionaires to make better financial decisions, she said.

Millionaires also favor index funds

Millionaire investors also have something in common when it comes to investing strategies: They act simply, according to John, who runs the personal-finance blog ESI Money and retired early at the age of 52 with a million net worth. He interviewed 100 millionaires over the past few years and found that many of them use the same investing strategy: investing in low-cost index funds.

“The high returns and low costs of stock index funds (I personally prefer Vanguard as do many millionaires) are the foundation that many a millionaire’s wealth is built upon,” he wrote in a blog post.

4 simple ways to start saving money

(Helloquence photo)

“Index funds are the most straightforward, cheapest, and most likely way to see strong long-term returns,” the former hedge-fund manager Chelsea Brennan, who managed a id=”listicle-2633716796″.3 billion portfolio, previously wrote in a post for Business Insider. “Index mutual funds offer instant diversification and guarantee returns equal to the market — because they are the market.”

Even the billionaire investor Warren Buffett has championed low-cost investing, often recommending Vanguard’s SP 500 index fund for the average investor, Business Insider reported. He previously called index funds “the most sensible equity investment.”

Personal Finance Insider offers tools and calculators to help you make smart decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to buy or sell stocks or other financial products. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of the recommendations listed in the calculator, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners.

Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

Small nonprofits that make a big difference: The Military Health Project

4 simple ways to start saving money
Jacob Angel speaks to guests at the Veterans Day Reception in San Francisco on Nov 11, 2016.


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.

Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.

“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”

The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.

“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”

In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.

Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.

Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.

“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.

The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.

“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.

The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.

The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.

“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”

MIGHTY MONEY

4 insanely expensive versions of childhood games

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

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

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



4 simple ways to start saving money
The Connect Four you probably recognize is collapsible and made of plastic.
(Amazon photo)

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


4 simple ways to start saving money
Designer Edie Parker made a $1,495 version of Connect Four.u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

4 simple ways to start saving money
This fancy Tic Tac Toe board can be yours for just $2,495.
(Moda Operandi photo)

4 simple ways to start saving money
Who doesn’t need a bedazzled $1,295 card box?
(Moda Operandi photo)

4 simple ways to start saving money
u200b
(Moda Operandi photo)

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

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

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

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

Articles

A brief history of the Thrift Savings Plan, and why you need it

4 simple ways to start saving money
Airmen 1st Class Diego Rojas-Rodriguez, far left, and Rolando Rodriquez, center left, speak to members of the 341st Comptroller Squadron mobile finance team at Malmstrom Air Force Base.


Where did the thrift savings plan come from and why do you need it?

In the beginning there was work; and then people died. Back in the day, American civilians simply worked until they couldn’t work anymore, and then they either relied on family to care for them, or they passed away. In the mid 1800s, a couple of companies took a look at the military’s retirement system and decided to give it a try.

The Thrift Savings Plan as we know it came into effect long after the civilian version of retirement due to the Federal Employees’ Retirement System Act of 1986. The TSP is the public sector’s version of the 401(k) that was established under the Revenue Act of 1978.

But the TSP was not the military’s first pension plan. According to Pension Research Council, pensions for the military predate the Constitution, but the U.S. Navy and Army struggled to manage pension funds — so much in fact that the new government had to bail them out at least three separate times.

Despite early issues with managing pension funds, the Army and the Navy continued to offer them as a means to attract and retain men in the services.

Eventually corporate America got on board and started to adopt its own retirement system modeled after the public pension system offered by the American military.

The private pension system was designed to reward line workers (those who worked in factories or on production lines) for years of service to one company. This worked both to the advantage of the individual as many skills were not transferable outside of a specific industry, and to employers because it guaranteed most of their employees would be loyal to them.

There were two problems with the way the pension system was set up: companies had to figure out how much money every year to set aside based on the number of employees they had, and many companies mismanaged that money just as the military had a century prior.

Thus, the 401(k) Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, was born by an act of Congress in 1978. With this system, employers agreed to set a predetermined amount of money aside, and employees agreed to manage it themselves.

As a result of the remodeling of the private pension system, our modern day public pension (the Thrift Savings Plan) was designed nearly a decade after the private pension plan.

So why do you need a TSP? Regular military retirement pay was never intended to fully provide for normal retirement.

The TSP was designed to supplement retirement pay, and while it is optional for military members, it makes money sense to set aside funds throughout your career to supplement the retirement pay that was never intended to fully financially support you.

In short, the TSP makes sense, and you should have one.

For more information on the TSP, you can check out the Thrift Savings Plan website.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Organizations offer financial support for families impacted by COVID-19

Military support organizations have distributed thousands of dollars in financial assistance to service members and their families impacted by COVID-19, with services available for living expenses, emergencies, education and more. The application process, eligibility requirements and availability of funds vary by organization. Below is a breakdown of information provided by officials from each organization:


4 simple ways to start saving money

AIR FORCE AID SOCIETY

The Air Force Aid Society has distributed ,414 in assistance for financial needs attributed to COVID-19.

Services available: Emergency assistance through no-interest loans and grants; need-based educational grants, merit-based scholarships; and on-base community programs.

How to apply: Our central point for seeking assistance is the local base Airman Family Readiness Center. They have all been declared mission-essential by local commanders. All of them can and do take applications online and any contact is minimized. For members not near a base, we have reciprocal with our fellow relief societies. They will render assistance and we will reimburse them (see the list below). This mutual support extends to our partners at the American Red Cross, particularly for those not near any military installation. Airmen can call the dedicated American Red Cross Military Service line and be assisted.

For airmen not near a base, the Air Force Aid Society has reciprocal agreements that allow you to receive assistance through these other agencies:

  • Army Emergency Relief (located at Army installations, worldwide)
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (located at Coast Guard installations, worldwide)
  • Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (located at Navy installations, worldwide)
  • American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces: call 877-272-7337

Visit https://afas.org to learn more about the Air Force Aid Society.

4 simple ways to start saving money

ARMY EMERGENCY RELIEF

Army Emergency Relief has supported 128 soldiers with 2,000 disbursed in grants and zero-interest loans related to COVID-19, as of the beginning of May, according to AER officials.

Services available: Active-duty soldiers and their families are eligible for the full range of 30+ AER benefit categories if they were impacted by the DOD travel ban or PCS stop movement order. They can apply online here.

Additionally, in March, AER extended travel ban/stop movement benefits to non-Title 10 reserve and National Guard soldiers who had been impacted. More recently, AER also turned on new benefits for Title 10 and Title 32 soldiers who have been activated for any length of time by the president or their state’s governor to help with the COVID-19 response. The new Title 10/Title 32 benefits are active whenever the activation begins and for 30 days past the end of their activation. Any soldiers who are Title 10/Title 32 can apply for help with basic living expenses and/or personal transportation costs.

How to apply: Recognizing that face-to-face meetings to apply for assistance may be limited or not advisable, AER has arranged a new process to allow for soldiers to electronically submit requests for assistance. Soldiers can go to the AER website to determine the easiest way to get benefits. Soldiers who cannot get in touch with a local AER office for whatever reason can also submit a request 1) by contacting one of the other military aid societies and/or 2) through the American Red Cross by calling 1-877-272-7337 and selecting option 1 for financial assistance.

Visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/covid19/ to learn more about Army Emergency Relief.

4 simple ways to start saving money

NAVY-MARINE CORPS RELIEF SOCIETY

Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society provided COVID-19-related relief to 502 clients with over 3,000 in interest-free loans and grants, as of this month.

Services available: The services we provide are to assist with the financial needs that arise from the current pandemic, whether that is assistance with paying bills, rent etc. We currently offer a COVID-19 Rapid Response for up to 00; no lengthy application and no need for financial counseling. We also have our traditional loan services available for greater needs

How to apply: Processes for applying vary by location, visit www.nmcrs.org/locations to find out more.

Visit https://www.nmcrs.org to learn more about Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

COAST GUARD MUTUAL ASSISTANCE*

Coast Guard Mutual Assistance serves the entire Coast Guard community. To date, it has worked with 438 clients and distributed 2,034.97, according to its website.

Services available: Varying rates of assistance are available to those with lost wages, members in medically-induced quarantine, and travel fee reimbursement. Additional assistance exists for childcare and education assistance, and medical assistance. The full list can be viewed here.

How to apply: Find a local CGMA representative at https://www.cgmahq.org/locations.html.

Visit https://www.cgmahq.org to learn more about Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

*Information obtained from its website

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


Articles

Navy veteran finds new purpose in an unlikely venture: Socks

Retired Navy Lt. Commander Anthony Cosby knows all about chasing purpose. He just never expected to find it in socks. 

Growing up in rural Alabama, Cosby’s first job was working the cotton fields for a family that was enslaved just a few generations before he was born. He did it every summer for five years before enlisting.

“I always say that the hardest day in the Navy was never as hard as one day working in those fields,” he said with a laugh. “I started as a Seaman Enlisted Recruit back in 1990. But I had an urge to do more even coming in at 17 years old.”

4 simple ways to start saving money

For Cosby, joining the Navy was a way to see the world. “It took me to Charleston and eventually to an opportunity to earn my officer’s commission,” he said. 

After leaving the Naval Academy, Cosby was stationed in Texas as a recruiter. It was a unique challenge for the self-described introvert.

“I needed to do something to put me out there and force me to take down any walls I had,” Cosby explained. “Recruiting was an opportunity where I thought I could help change lives because I knew what the Navy had done for that 17-year-old kid from Alabama.”

He became one of the top Navy recruiters in the nation. 

It wasn’t all good for Cosby, though. A swimming accident caused him to break his neck in eight places. Miraculously, he wasn’t paralyzed and survived. “I was laid up in bed for five months to heal up. It was a big time of reflection for me. It was when I knew there was a bigger picture and bigger calling than what I was doing outside of the Navy,” he said.  

Cosby retired from the Navy after 21 years of service in 2012, not long after getting married and having a little girl.

“For us it was like life starting all over again in our 40s. It was really cool,” he said. 

But with the good came some surprising challenges. Cosby said his transition was much harder than he had anticipated or was prepared for. Eventually, he was led into roles mentoring student veterans which he enjoyed, and thrived.

After attending his first VET Edge event and spending five minutes with Matthew Griffin, who founded Combat Flip Flops while deployed to Afghanistan, Cosby was motivated to make a change and do something new. “Entrepreneurship is so rewarding and just really fills your heart. I think that’s why I fell in love with it. It has so much that can be offered,” he shared. 

While maintaining his role at Syracuse University within the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Cosby eventually co-founded STZY. “It doesn’t stand for anything but really means you have elegance with your style and with your fitness,” he said with a smile. The company was focused on one product: socks. 

The reasoning, Cosby said, was to simplify things and go all in on one thing he believed in. With a passion for fitness, socks made sense. The goal was to create a high quality product geared toward athletes. “We came up with STZY and it took about eight months to get it ready to go to market and we launched on March 21, 2021,” he said. 

STZY sold out of the product within months of launching.

The company is now a certified pending B Corporation and remains committed to giving back. Each month the team chooses a new school or student athlete to sponsor. 

When he looks back on his early years and Navy service it’s now hard to fathom how far he’s come. “The family that I worked with in Alabama was a Black family and have owned those cotton fields since 1856,” Cosby explained. 

The original owner had purchased it all from his former slave owner and father. Now five generations strong, it’s his hope to bring everything full circle and use cotton from those Alabama fields for STZY socks. 

4 simple ways to start saving money
Anthony Cosby and Kyle Bridgeforth (Partner at Bridgeforth and Sons)

His advice for the veteran or military spouse thinking about starting a business is simple: do it with passion and then pay it forward, too. 

“Don’t be afraid to go chase something that’s five years away but the work you are putting in now is going to help you obtain that dream or goal. It’s okay. You can’t make Admiral overnight but as an entrepreneur you can become a CEO overnight,” Cosby said. “Always go back and help someone else — that’s how we are going to build thriving entrepreneurship opportunities as veterans and military family members.”

To learn more about STZY, click here.

MIGHTY MONEY

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

4 simple ways to start saving money
National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu announces its expansion of sites within the Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Amaani Lyle)


Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.

The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.

Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.

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Masks, decorated by service members, sit on display as part of the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (National Endowment for the Arts courtesy photo)

The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.

Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.

The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.

Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.

“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”

MIGHTY MONEY

DoD denied benefits to a widow over one mistake

Joseph Parrinello served his country during three wars – World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He met and married Margaret Donnelly while serving in England. They married on December 27, 1957. She followed him to all his assignments and did what many wives did at that time: she took care of the children and managed the household.


In 1972, Joseph retired after 28 years of service. His chief concern in life was making sure Margaret, who was 14 years younger than he and only ever worked in the home, was taken care of if he died. After a lifetime of investments, the Defense Department denied his beloved her survivor benefits because of one wrongly checked box.

 

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After many years together, they divorced in 1991. There was no love lost, Margaret married Joseph at 19 and had just never really known life without Joseph. He still loved her and she was still the mother of his children, so she remained the beneficiary of his Survivor Benefit Plan, even though they were no longer married. During their time apart, Joseph gave his beloved money every month to take care of her, even after the children came of age and left home. It was a surprise to no one when they remarried in 2006. Joseph was 83 and Margaret was 69.

By that time, Joseph had battled cancer and kidney failure. His overall health declined for years, but he never filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs because he only wanted what he was due and felt the VA didn’t owe him anything. So he lived on Social Security and his retirement pay as an E-7 with 28 years in service.

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Throughout his retirement, Joseph paid 15 percent of his income to take care of Margaret. He had an allotment taken out of his retirement to cover her in the event of his death, resulting in several decades of investment. His survivor benefit plan listed her as the sole beneficiary. At 83, he was tired, ill, and not as sharp as he once was. He didn’t change Margaret’s status from “former spouse” back to “current spouse” on the SBP form because he didn’t think he had to. In his mind, his Margaret was both former and current, and was going to be okay.

When he died at age 91 in December 2014, his daughter Lisa, also an Air Force veteran, tried to help her mother claim her survivor benefits. They initially filed in December of 2014 – but the Defense Finance and Accounting Service said they didn’t receive Margaret’s claim, though DFAS was sure to stop Joseph’s retirement pay and take back pay for part of the month of December. So Margaret refiled in January and was told it takes about six weeks to receive benefits.

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Joseph Parrinello

After six weeks, Margaret called DFAS to check the status. The answer was the claim was “still processing”. When her daughter Lisa called in February 2015, the claim was “still processing.” In March 2015, Lisa was told her mother “will get paid by the end of March.” In April, the claim was “still processing” and DFAS asked Margaret to send more documents to support her claim.

Lisa, frustrated, contacted her congressman, Mark Sanford. Sanford’s office was able to get an answer from the Defense Department. On June 1, 2015, Margaret was officially denied her benefits because the form had “former spouse” checked even though she is both the former and current spouse and her name is also on the form stating her as beneficiary. The family was told the form needed to be changed through the Air Force Personnel Center. The change (if approved) can take up to 18 months but the Air Force is “backlogged and must go in order.”

As Margaret waits for the Air Force to check a different box, she’s about to lose the house she shared with Joseph, their car, their treasured possessions, and the last wishes and lifetime work of a 28-year Air Force Master Sergeant, who only wanted the love of his life to be taken care of when he died.

The Defense Department did not tell the Parrinellos where Joseph’s 20-plus years of investments went or where they will go if they’re not given to Margaret.

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.

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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.

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