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MIGHTY MONEY

6 ways veterans and service members can get their taxes done for free

It’s time for taxes! Whether you are a single service member living in the barracks, a retired four star spending your days fishing in Hawaii, or a veteran with a family working your way through college, taxes have to be done.


I used to have this elementary school teacher, Mrs. West.

I remember Mrs. West standing in front of our class and telling us with extreme seriousness that only two things in America were guaranteed: eventual death and taxes.

4 simple ways to start saving money
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Holden Smith, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate paralegal, assists Senior Airman Terrence Eaton, logistics readiness squadron vehicle maintenance journeymen, in filling out a form at the Langley Air Force Base, Va., tax center Feb. 5, 2013. Joint Base Langley-Eustis tax centers are set to open Feb. 2 for the 2015 income tax season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White/ Released)

I remember that half of my class got super interested in science in hopes of figuring out how to one day live forever, and the rest of us just kind of groaned and decided that our parents were going to do our taxes forever if the other kids figured out that whole science thing.

And so far those damn science kids still haven’t come through for us, and we still have to pay taxes.

Adulting is hard AF, amiright?

Don’t have a heart attack yet, because there is hope — not for science, they still haven’t come through — but for taxes.

There are a lot of ways and places to get your taxes done for free or almost free, and this is really great because math and I got a divorce in my freshmen year of college and we haven’t spoken since.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Army Spc. Coltin Jenkins, tax preparer, works with customers of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Consolidated Tax center in Building 205 on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base March 17, 2015. (Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall PAO photo by Rachel Larue)

1. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

VITA, is sponsored by the IRS. Most larger military installations have a VITA office on base during tax season. VITA isn’t military specific, but they generally help tax payers who make less than $54,000. Check out VITA, what you need to take with you on a visit, and where their offices are.

2. Military OneSource

This outfit prepares and files taxes for free for active duty service members, National Guard and Reserve, and their spouses; retirees who were honorably discharged and are within 180 days past their discharge date, eligible survivors of active duty, National Guard and Reserve deceased service members, and family members who are in charge of the affairs of eligible service members are also eligible.

3. IRS Free File

Get this, the IRS lets you do your own taxes. For free. Sweet deal? Or worst nightmare. You decide. Either way, the IRS will allow you to download software to do your taxes for free if you make below $64,000, and they’ll give you a free form if you make above $64,000. I guess the folks sitting right on $64,000 are just SOL.

4. TurboTax

Uber popular TurboTax has a sweet deal right now. You can download their 1040EZ or 1040A for free, and the rest of their products are fairly well discounted. E1 – E5 can get the Deluxe Edition from TurboTax for free (normally $54.99), and E6 and above get a discount on all products. The best thing about TurboTax is if for any reason the IRS comes back and says “You done effed up,” TurboTax will pay you for the IRS penalties.

5. TaxSlayer.com

This service has a great military discount. Currently, its website advertises 50 percent off classic or premium editions. They have free email and phone support, and boast about being 100 percent accurate. They do not, however, guarantee no penalties from the IRS if there is a mistake.

6. H&R Block

These guys have a cool thing for filing online for anywhere from free to $38.49. The program is called H&R Block More Zero (because “Taxes are Lame” and “You Think These Taxes are About You” was apparently taken). H&R Block does offer peace of mind. For a fee. And it really is called “Peace of Mind.”

Here’s how it works: You get your taxes done. You pay an additional fee, and they promise that if you’re audited, they’ll send one of their lawyers to court with you and pay up to $6,000 in fees if they lose. If you don’t pay the extra… no peace of mind for you.

Also, they don’t offer any kind of discount for military.

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.

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There’s no business like the arms business — here’s how defense giants are doing

Nobody spends money on arms like the US of A.


Starting with a base of $534 billion in discretionary funding, coupled with another $51 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations funding (aka the “war budget”), the Pentagon’s spending power comes to a grand total of $585 billion.

Defense industry giants, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon posted second-quarter earnings on Wednesday (Lockheed Martin earnings released last week).

Here’s a look at how they did…

Boeing

4 simple ways to start saving money
Boeing KC-46 Tanker program first test aircraft (EMD1) flies with an aerial refueling boom installed on its fifth flight. | Boeing

Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker, reported a smaller-than-expected second Q2 loss on Wednesday. The company’s first quarterly net loss in nearly seven years amounted to $234 million.

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program for the US Air Force is delayed from August 2017 until January 2018 due to test flight problems. Modifications to the aircraft are expected to cost Boeing an additional $393 million (after taxes).

What’s more, Boeing could end production of its most iconic aircraft.

“If we are unable to obtain sufficient orders and/or market, production and other risks cannot be mitigated, we could record additional losses that may be material, and it is reasonably possible that we could decide to end production of the 747,” Boeing said in its filing on Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Boeing won a US Air Force contract worth $25.8 million to start work on the next fleet of Air Force One aircraft.

The aging Air Force One and it’s twin decoy will be replaced with two Boeing  747-8 and are expected to be operational in 2020.

Up to Wednesday’s close of $135.96, the company’s shares had fallen about 6% since the start of the year.

Highlights from Boeing’s quarterly earnings report:

•Operating cash flow of $1.2 billion (with 28.6 million shares repurchased for $3.5 billion)

•Cash flow of $3.2 billion, (down 2% from 2015)

•Core earnings per share loss of $0.44

•Revenue rose 1% to $24.8 billion (from earlier estimate of $24.5 billion)

• Demand still high with more than 5,700 commercial plane orders still in the works

Reuters contributed to this report.

General Dynamics

4 simple ways to start saving money
The littoral combat ship USS Independence operates off the Hawaiian Islands during exercise RIMPAC 2014. | General Dynamics

General Dynamics began their earnings conference call on Wednesday highlighting their “very good second quarter.”

The Falls Church, Virginia-based company announced $7.6 billion in Q2 revenue and achieved $758 million in net earnings.

General Dynamics recognized their aerospace unit (with a revenue of $2.13 billion) and maritime division.

At the end of June 2016, the defense giants’ National Steel and Shipbuilding division won a $640 million Pentagon contract to construct a T-AO 205 Class Fleet Replenishment Oiler. The contract could be worth up to $3.16 billion if the Pentagon decides to buy an additional five ships.

In March, the US Navy announced that General Dynamics will be the prime contractor for development of 12 new submarines.

Shares rose less than 1% to $145.09 in the afternoon and since the beginning of this year, the company’s stock has climbed 5.2%.

Highlights from General Dynamics’ quarterly earnings report:

•Revenue fell to $7.67 billion (down by $217 million from the Q2 2015)

•Raised 2016’s full-year earnings forecast to $9.70 per share (from $9.20, analysts’ expect $9.52)

•Profit margins could be as high as 13.8% (up from January 2016 estimate of 13.3%)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Lockheed Martin

4 simple ways to start saving money
Behold, the F-35. | Lockheed Martin

While the F-35 Lightning II continues its turbulent march to combat readiness, the jet’s manufacturer posted better than expected quarterly revenue earnings last week.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s top weapons supplier, also lifted its 2016 revenue and profit forecasts for a second time — despite significant snags in developing America’s most expensive arms program.

Considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, Lockheed Martin’s stock also posted  a record high of $261.37 in early trading on July 19. What’s more, the world’s largest defense contractor’s shares were already up approximately 18% this year.

“(The) consensus expectations are finally positive for the F-35 and for improvement in the defense budget, which has led to a higher valuation,” Bernstein analyst Douglas Harned wrote in a note, according to Reuters.

The now nearly $400 billion F-35 weapons program was developed in 2001 to replace the US military’s F-15, F-16, and F-18 aircraft.

Read more about the F-35 »

According to Lockheed Martin, sales in its aeronautics business, the company’s largest, rose 6% in the past three months due to delivery of 14 F-35s.

The company has said it plans to deliver 53 F-35 jets in 2016, up from 45 a year earlier.

Highlights from Lockheed Martin’s quarterly earnings report:

• Net sales rose to $12.91 billion (from $11.64 billion in Q2 2015)

•Net income rose to $1.02 billion (or $3.32 per share), which is up from $929 million (or $2.94 per share) in Q2 2015

•Generated $1.5 billion in cash from operations

•Raised 2016’s profit forecast to $12.15–$12.45 per share (from $11.50-$11.80)

•Raised 2016’s full-year sales of $50.0 billion-$51.5 billion (from earlier estimate of $49.6 billion-$51.1 billion)

Reuters contributed to this report.

Northrop Grumman

4 simple ways to start saving money
Northrop Grumman/EADS Euro Hawk rollout on October 8, 2009 at Palmdale, CA, USA. | Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman’s earnings report showed sales reaching $6 billion with the company’s aerospace unit seeing a 4% increase in sales due to higher demand for drones and manned aircraft.

“Autonomous Systems sales rose due to higher volume on the Global Hawk and Triton programs, partially offset by lower volume due to the ramp down on the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance program,” the company said in a statement.

“Manned Aircraft sales rose due to higher restricted volume and higher F-35 deliveries, partially offset by fewer F/A-18 deliveries and lower volume on the B-2 program.”

It should be noted that Lockheed Martin, is the prime contractor for the F-35 Lightning II, however, Northrop Grumman develops the fifth-generation fighter jets’ center fuselage, radar and avionics suite.

Northrop is also a subcontractor to Boeing on the F/A-18 Hornet.

Highlights from Northrop Grumman’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 2% to $6 billion (compared to $5.9 billion in Q2 of 2015)

•Earning per share increase by 4% to $2.85

•Earning per share guidance increase to $10.75 to $11.00

•Cash from operations of $604 million

Raytheon

4 simple ways to start saving money
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

Raytheon, the world’s largest missile manufacturer, announced $6 billion in net sales for Q2 2016, which is up 3% compared to $5.8 billion in the second quarter 2015.

Earnings per share was $2.38 compared to $1.65, this time last year.

“We begin the second half of 2016 with continued confidence in our growth outlook, and we have increased our guidance for earnings and cash flow as a result of our strong year-to-date performance,” CEO and Chairman Thomas A. Kennedy said in a statement.

Highlights from Raytheon’s quarterly earnings report:

•Sales increase by 3% to $6 billion (compared to $5.8 billion in Q2 2015)

•Increase in operating cash flow to $746 million (compared to $376 million in Q2 2015)

•Backlog and funded backlog at the end of the Q2 2016 was $35.3 billion and $26.1 billion, respectively.

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Republicans urge POTUS for a defense budget increase

Members of Congress are urging President Trump to begin rebuilding the U.S. military, starting with a 2018 defense budget of at least $640 billion, most of which would go to buying more aircraft, ships, and other hardware.


That ambitious number would be about $50 billion above the spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which enacted the process called sequestration to enforce the limits.

But House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry and Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain are ready to lead fights to eliminate the BCA caps so they can pay for the hardware, the additional personnel and the maintenance needed to restore a defense they say has been badly weakened by six years of reduced spending.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Thornberry and McCain’s plan calls for $640 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2018, a $54 billion increase.

At a media briefing Feb. 6, 2017, to preview the upcoming congressional session, Thornberry (R-Texas) first urged Congress to pass an appropriations bill to cover the six remaining months of the 2017 fiscal year “as soon as possible.”

The federal government currently is being funded under a continuing resolution that runs until April 28 and limits most spending to the prior year levels.

“There’s no reason in the world to wait until April,” Thornberry said.

The HASC chairman then urged Trump to send the supplemental funding bill he has promised to increase defense spending this year. “The sooner the better,” he said.

When asked what the supplemental should cover, Thornberry said it should start with “the things that were in the House-passed NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) that were not in the final bill. I think they should be at the top of the list.”

The NDAA cut $18 billion that the House wanted to add, which would have gone mainly to increased weapons.

4 simple ways to start saving money
The U.S. Air Force F/A-18F has an estimated flyaway cost of $98.3 million. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin

The deleted add-ons included 14 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, another Littoral Combat Ship, and an extra LPD-17 amphibious warship for the Navy, plus 11 more F-35s split among the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. It also would have bought the Army additional AH-64 attack helicopters and UH-60 utility choppers.

The deleted funds also would have allowed the services to hire even more troops than the 16,000 Army soldiers and the 3,000 additional Marines allowed by the final bill.

Funding the current fiscal year would clear the way for Congress to work on a fiscal 2018 budget, which should include an even bigger increase in defense spending, Thornberry said.

Asked what amount he wanted, Thornberry said, “Our view is about a $640 billion base budget to meet the increased end strength, the increased number of ships, to turn the readiness around, and deal with a lot of those problems.”

McCain (R-Arizona) used that same number in his opening statement at a Jan. 24 hearing of his committee.

“We have to invest in the modern capabilities necessary for the new realities of deterring conflict,” he said.

“We also have to regain capacity for our military. It does not have enough ships, aircraft, vehicles, munitions, equipment, and personnel to perform its current missions at acceptable levels of risk.”

“It will not be cheap,” McCain added. “In my estimate, our military requires a base defense budget for fiscal year 2018, excluding current war costs, of $640 billion.”

Both of the chairmen insisted the BCA caps must be removed, but only for defense, not for the domestic programs that also are limited.

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4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.


*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.

1. Be the best bartender you can be!

While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.

The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.

2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch

With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.

There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.

Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.

Southeast Technical Institute offers an associate’s degree in horticulture and it is a VA-approved school.

3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio

The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes. Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.

This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.

Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.

4. Dive for buried treasure.

Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.

The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”

The kicker? Some commercial divers like underwater welders can reportedly make upwards of $300,000 a year. Suit up. And make sure you aren’t barefoot.

The institute is a VA approved school.

For more information on exactly what the GI Bill will cover, check out the VA’s website.

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.

MIGHTY MONEY

6 things you should know about the GI Bill

1. Be strategic about your degree

Choose a degree that leads to a career and a school that can help build a career network. I know it looks tempting to get the BAH, and take random classes. Don’t take that temptation. If you have to, go to a community college for two years to get a taste for school, and then choose a direction.


Read More: GI Bill gets huge boost with this new law

2. Research schools

Choose a school that lets you go to school year-round. If you can take 6 classes per semester, do it. If four is better for your school-life balance, do that. Remember, it may be more economical to take more classes. If your school charges the same for 12 credits as 18, take 18 credits. It might be hard, but you will be pushing through more effectively. Again though, you want to succeed, so only take a course load that helps you succeed.

4 simple ways to start saving money
Life hack: bend your young, naïve classmates to your war-hardened will.

3. Plan it out

Plan your classes down to the day. Look at the schedule for each semester. The GI Bill is prorated down to the day. If you have even one-day left, you will qualify for the entire semester including BAH. By planning this, you’ll be able to get more from your GI Bill. Also, the BAH is lower for an online program, but if the degree gives you something of benefit, it might be worth it to take a lower BAH rate. Focus on the long-term plan.

4. Choose a school based on the professors and the network they offer you

This is not GI Bill specific, but your professors and fellow-students will be your network in the future. Look at alumni. Look at the research by your professors. Look at who works for the school in a consulting or a part-time capacity. These relationships are super important towards shaping your future. Utilize them.

Read More: 4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

5. Don’t be afraid to change direction and re-plan everything

I did this in my first semester of undergrad. I had a plan that wasn’t smart. My professors pushed me toward a degree that would get me to my goals. That being said, my last semester of Graduate School, I changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my life. It happens. I am creating my own peacebuilding business instead of going to work for the UN. I have all the skills for this from my two degrees, and it fits my interests better.

4 simple ways to start saving money
You’re never too old to mess with the bell curve.

6. Be active in planning, preparing, and choosing all aspects of your degree path

This is part of planning your schedule, but it’s also about taking classes that will help you in your career. Don’t take a math class that you don’t need. Don’t take gym just to take it. Take classes that teach you things that you will use. If you do this, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from the GI-Bill.

This is how I’ve used the GI-Bill with purpose, and how I think you can do the same.

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Using your VA loan as an investment

We sometimes get asked by our loan candidates about if they can use their VA loan as an investment. While the answer to this question depends on what you consider an investment, I can share how I used my VA loan as an investment.


Multi-Family Homes

The VA loan can be used to purchase up to a 4-unit house so long as it is owner occupied. These homes are also known as multi-family dwellings, and can be referred to as 2, 3, or 4 family houses. These homes are typically separated units with each functioning as a separate apartment.

In 2008 I used my VA loan to purchase a 3-family home in Massachusetts with 2 out of the 3 units rented out at $1,250 per unit for a total of $2,500 per month that I was collecting in rent. I moved into the 3rd unit and my monthly principle & interest, taxes, and insurance payment to the bank was approximately $2,700.

4 simple ways to start saving money

Through this arrangement I was able to own a home and only pay $200 ($2,700-$2,500) a month towards my monthly payment. This gave me the opportunity to have my tenants pay down my mortgage while I lived almost free in my home. Fast forward to 2012 and I now live in another home but still own the 3-family and have it fully rented out and clear over $1000 a month in rental income after accounting for my fixed expenses.

Below are some basics to consider. It is important to note, though, that being a landlord is an entirely different topic and not for everyone. Also, like most investments and being a homeowner, there is risk, so it is important to do your homework.

  1. Identify the area you are interested in buying: If you are interested in generating rental income it is important to look at areas that have low home values with higher rental amounts. The lower the cost of the home the lower your monthly payment amount. The higher the market rents are in the market then the more that your tenants will contribute to your payment and more of your money that you’ll keep.
  2. Start looking at homes: Any realtor can set you up with Multiple Listing Services (MLS) updates based on your criteria that you tell them. Also, a good realtor knows markets that would best suit your criteria and can guide you in were to start looking. You tell them the area that you are interested in looking at, your price range, and types of homes (single family, 2, 3 or 4 family units). Then, you will start getting emails with homes that meet your criteria that if you want can start scheduling a viewing.
  3. Know your costs: The amount that you will be paying monthly is your principle, interest, taxes, and insurance is what you should focus on. You can use VA Loan Captain’s Payment Calculator and input different scenarios to see what your payment would be. There are also other costs such as water/sewer that I typically allocated $100 a month for. Also, there are costs for maintaining any home single or multi-family which you will need to consider and depends on the age and condition of the property.
  4. Know your rents or potential rents: You can ask your realtor what the average rents are in the market that you are looking at. For example if average rents in the market for 1-bedroom apartments are $1000, and the units in the multi-family home that you are looking is average to what is available market, then you can use that to determine what you could charge if the units are vacant; or, what you could charge if there are tenants already in but paying a lower amount.
  5. Other considerations: If you go this path you will be a landlord which is something that is a small part-time job and not for everyone. Having some basic knowledge on appropriately screening applicants and knowing the state law will go a long way. Basic items for screening applicants include doing a credit check and collecting and calling references.

Overall, using a VA loan to purchase a multi-family was a great experience that has now set me up with a solid cash flow positive investment. While this was beneficial, it required a lot of work and learning along the way.

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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 MONEY

Retirement is the beginning of life 2.0

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital.

Doug Nordman is admittedly hooked on surfing. It makes him feel as if he’s flying atop the water. This is an interesting contrast for a guy who spent much of his career beneath it. Nordman is a retired Navy submariner.

The tight confines of a submarine leave little room for personal privacy. The cramped environment also makes it imperative that sailors work together. This is something Nordman took very seriously.

The ocean is a complex and dangerous place. Onboard a submarine, you have very little time in an emergency. If there’s a flood or a fire breaks out, decisions have to be made in seconds.

The Navy showed Nordman that he was part of something bigger than himself. That was tremendously motivating, and today he still carries that sense of community.

After 10 years in the service, Nordman advanced to become the executive officer on a boat. But the promotion came with a surprise. He was listed as XO in excess. Nordman made the cut but wasn’t assigned a vessel. He had no job.

He had trained his entire career for that next assignment and suddenly the deck dropped out from underneath him. He worried about work and leaving the Navy. Would he be able to find a civilian job? Would he like it?

“It was the first time in my career that I actually had to think about what I was going to do next,” he says. He was accustomed to a steady paycheck and didn’t want to give that up.

What happened next, he now regards as a mistake. Nordman remained in the Navy 10 additional years. He stayed for his full pension.

In hindsight, he realizes how many choices were available to him then. He could have joined the National Guard. Joining the Navy Reserve would have given him more time to spend with his family. And he could have afforded doing this. The Nordmans were big savers.

But they still made many common investment mistakes. They paid high fees and expenses. They moved money around more than necessary. Nordman recalls that they, “spent more money chasing performance than we would have made if we had just stayed invested and let it grow.”

He acknowledges that every one or two percent they paid in fees, delayed their financial independence by 6 months to a year.

If only he just had a little more financial knowledge…if only the Navy had provided financial literacy training.

“If someone had come up to me and said, ‘put down your tools and go to a training session on how to invest in the TSP or how to save for retirement’, I would have had a much better quality of life along the way.”

But Nordman’s life didn’t turn out so bad. When he retired in 2002, he learned to surf. He’s been doing it for nearly 20 years now. His financial independence lets him surf every day.

And he pays his good fortune forward. The sense of community that motivated his naval career leads him to teach service members and military families about financial literacy so that they can make better choices. Nordman is an avid blogger and author of The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement.

Nordman points out that the resources are there and that service members should talk to their command. They should understand what kind of investor they are.

He also says that, “retirement is just the beginning of life 2.0. You have new choices and new ways of designing your life, to enjoy the things you’re passionate about.”

For more information and useful financial tools visit Victory Capital.

Featured photo: Doug Nordman, surfing

This article originally appeared on Victory Capital.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 best industries for military spouses to work in

Would military spouses be happy with any ol’ job, as long as they were out of the house and earning an honest income?

My guess is, generally, no.By and large, military spouses are calling for employment that does much more than pay the bills. They want meaningful, purposeful employment that helps them advance their goals. Numerous studies support this, and the military spouse employment movement is making enormous strides.

So, if you’re a military spouse looking for meaningful employment, where should you start? What are viable career options?


Given your lifestyle, you’re probably looking for something portable, flexible, universally necessary and barrier-free. It just so happens that a number of our country’s growing industries have opportunities that fit the bill.

Let’s take a look at five promising industries that military spouses should consider for employment.

4 simple ways to start saving money

1. Health care

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the health care industry will have the highest growth over the next decade, predicting over 3.4 million additional jobs by 2028. That’s a lot of opportunity!

Nurses, home health care aides, social workers and medical aides are examples of jobs in this field. These jobs generally pay well and are necessary everywhere (check!), making you highly marketable every time you PCS. While the process of transferring licenses or honoring licenses from other states has yet to be completely smoothed out, officials are working to lift those barriers (check-almost!).

One thing to consider is that not all health care-related jobs require a license. For example, home health aides, the fastest-growing subsection of the industry, may not have to be licensed, but certification requirements vary depending on the state.

4 simple ways to start saving money

2. Entrepreneurship

You probably can’t go a day without hearing that a friend has started a home-based business, quit her job to become a freelancer or established his own web-based company. Entrepreneurship isn’t a trend that will soon fade; it’s a legit movement, which many military spouses are joining, excited to take ownership of their own careers.

While entrepreneurship can be risky, it offers you portability and flexibility (check! check!). Depending on the type of business you’re running, you may need to maintain and transfer licenses across state lines, but you’ve probably done your homework and found a niche that’s needed in the market (check!), making any paperwork worth it.

Plus, numerous organizations have established training and support programs, designed to help military spouse entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground in the strongest way possible. As a military spouse entrepreneur, you’ll have a wide community of experts and supporters ready to offer advice and mentorship, as well as cheer you on.

4 simple ways to start saving money

3. Leisure and hospitality

Like health care, BLS predicts favorable opportunity for the leisure and hospitality industry. Over the next 10 years, BLS says that over 1.5 million jobs will be added to this sector.

This industry is growing across America, including right in the backyard of every military spouse. It just so happens that these leisure and hospitality companies were named among the 2020 Military Spouse Friendly Employers: Motel 6/Studio 6, Hilton and La Quinta by Wyndham.

These companies offer tailored onboarding practices, career portability and flexibility (check! check!), opportunities for advancement and more – specially for military spouses. Plus, you generally won’t have to worry about transferring a license or going to school for decades to begin working (check, check and more checks!).

4 simple ways to start saving money

4. Professional services and business

As a military spouse, you’re resourceful, adaptable, cool under pressure and organized. These “soft skills” make you an excellent contender for the types of jobs in the professional services and business sector.

This sector, which BLS projects will add 1.66 million jobs by 2028, includes a wide variety of jobs, such as sales managers, human resources managers, executive assistants, advertising, financial managers, operations managers and more. It even includes highly technical jobs like architects and engineers.

You can adapt your mad military spouse skills to suit a number of different career paths, and many of them could lead to remote work (check!). For example, virtual assistants are becoming hugely popular with real estate companies, corporations and high-achieving entrepreneurs. Many companies are outsourcing managerial and research work to remote employees, too.

Think about this industry as your oyster. With so many options to consider, you can zero in on just the right job that suits your ever-changing lifestyle – talk about flexibility! (Check!).

4 simple ways to start saving money

5. Information Technology

Technically, this bad boy falls under the professional services industry, but since it’s such a behemoth, it makes sense to discuss it separately. There’s not a corner of civilization that isn’t wired, making information technology experts absolutely essential to any business or organization (check!).

Despite what you might think, this industry offers a lot of flexibility, too (check!). Although your particular skill set might be defined, the type of company you can apply it to (i.e., your work environment) ranges far and wide.

From schools to ski resorts, national corporations to nonprofit offices, information technology specialists are needed everywhere. Whether you prefer working solo or with a team, in an office or at home, chances are that no matter where you PCS or how often, you’ll be able to take your work in computers with you.

Explore more for you:

Is it time to find just the right job for you? Explore our complete list of Military Spouse Friendly Employers, where you can search companies by industry.

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

Articles

This military spouse grew her own business despite 2 PCS moves

4 simple ways to start saving money
Lakesha Cole was named the 2014 AFI Military Spouse of the Year in a ceremony in Washington, DC in May, 2014


In many ways, Lakesha Cole is the typical military spouse. A mother and wife, Cole has spent the last five years like many other military spouses: focused on a passion while juggling her family responsibilities.

But it’s the way she’s done it that sets her apart. Recently, Cole and her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Deonte Cole, and their children completed a Permanent Change of Station from Okinawa, Japan, to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

And along with their kids and personal effects, the Coles also took their successful business inside the Okinawa Exchange with them.

This was the second time Cole packed up her company, She Swank Too, and hauled it overseas. Two years after debuting their company aboard Camp Pendleton, California, the Cole’s took on a PCS to Okinawa, embarking on a mission to open the first brick and mortar She Swank Too there.

Cole spoke with We Are the Mighty about her experience just trying to get a meeting with the retail manager in Okinawa.

“He was reluctant to do business with me,” she recalled, after waiting for six months to secure a meeting with the manager. He argued that military spouses didn’t believe “the rules apply to them,” citing spouses who formerly ran businesses in the retail space with poor business practices.

Cole says she presented her business plan, complete with financial reports, customer data and testimonials, and samples, to the manager. They agreed to a 30 day trial run of a brick and mortar She Swank Too. Three years later, the store accompanied the Coles on their PCS.

When asked what steps an entrepreneur should take during a PCS, Cole was quick to answer, “Stay active and… communicate with your customers.” Customer interaction is one of the focal points of the company. “We tapped into the hearts and homes of our customers,” Cole said.

The motivation behind the company was simple. “We debuted our first children’s collection … to introduce entrepreneurship to our daughter,” Cole recalled.

Cole’s husband is equally involved in the business. “The least recognized role in a business is … that person’s spouse,” Cole said. Cole’s husband is not only an active participant in the company, but a financial investor as well.

Cole isn’t just a business owner. In addition to She Swank Too, Cole is a military spouse retail coach, the founder, CEO and owner of Milspousepreneur, and an active advocate for military affiliated entrepreneurship in hopes of reversing high milspouse unemployment.

“My focus remains in using this business as a vehicle to give back,” Cole said

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