3 Ways Veterans Can Empower Their Financial Future
By Jeff Rose
“Dad, were you scared?”
I've heard that question at least a dozen times over the years on Veterans Day from each of my boys regarding my deployment to Iraq in 2005.
My answer has been the same each time. “Of course I was.”
My deployment was one of the scariest times of my life. Even so, it's an experience I'm grateful for and I wouldn't trade the memories for anything.
I'm proud that I can say I'm a veteran and I served my country with other men and women that all share in the common belief that freedom is worth fighting for.
You always hear of all the great attributes you gain by enlisting. I used to think it was a cliché, but having served in the Army National Guard for nine years including a 17-month deployment to Iraq, I can confidently say that the military delivered as described. The discipline I gained has helped me push through difficult times in the years after my service in my business and personal life.
I attribute much of my success to having cultivated a strong sense of discipline. I did not always understand how to manage my money; I would get a paycheck and spend it even though I had debt and other expenses that I needed to take care of. It took quite a bit of discipline to educate myself and change my habits to make smart financial decisions. This experience inspired me to help others, especially veterans, with their finances.
What are three ways that Veterans can empower their financial future?
1. Don't become complacent to your finances.
The notion of avoiding complacency was something I heard a lot while we were deployed in Iraq. I’ve found that the principle rings true regarding your finances, especially with military men and women.
Being an active service member means you are always on the go, often running drills, exercises, or being deployed. Because of this demanding schedule that lasts for extended periods of time, it's easy to lose track of your budget and your credit score. In the past, I’ve recommended that people protect their financial future by finding a “battle buddy” – a friend, spouse, parent, or trustworthy person who can help keep tabs while you’re away. Today, there are a number of free, easy-to-use digital tools, like CreditWise® from Capital One®, that can serve this same purpose – helping you keep tabs on your credit score, so that you can feel supported and confident.
2. Keep expanding your skills.
Successful soldiers are motivated, disciplined and determined. Luckily, these character traits and skills will transfer over from the battlefield into the corporate field, giving veterans an essential work ethic needed to be successful in today’s job market.
Having cultivated a strong sense of drive, veterans should use this innate motivation to keep growing. I recommend that veterans become life-long learners to continually expand their skill-set by taking online courses, engaging in skills-based volunteerism, or finding ways to increase their experience in different areas.
3. Invest for the now and later.
It’s also important to think about long-term goals and invest for the future. A couple of ways to do this is by taking advantage of the TSP Thrift Savings Plan or the Roth IRA.
Having served has also given me an appreciation for the countless other women and men who have sacrificed so much without any need for acknowledgement. Through the years I have enjoyed working with fellow veterans whether that be directly through my financial planning practice, through my blog GoodFinancialCents®, or my book, Soldier of Finance.