In the course of working with service members and veterans, I have had dozens, maybe hundreds, of conversations with military spouses, and they face some very unique and challenging problems.
I have touched on how the military can become the whole of a service-member’s identity in other places, but this can also happen to the military spouse.
There are really two sides to this coin. On the one hand, some military spouses identify so strongly with the service-member and the military that they limit any sense of their own identity to that connection. On the other hand, in terms of employment, other military spouses purposefully avoid mentioning that they are a military spouse when they’re trying to network because they’re afraid that revealing it will prevent them from getting a job.
In both cases, the role of the military in the identity of the military spouse is both disproportionately large and limiting.
It is a known fact that military spouses face real issues when trying to establish themselves professionally.
There are even military spouse employment laws in place to try and rectify this situation, but it is not enough.
To put it bluntly, no matter how educated, highly-qualified, and employable they may be, marrying a military man and being attached to the military life can really kind of screw up traditional career prospects for a military spouse.
The root of the problem is quite simply: lack of control.
Their lives unfold at the whim of the military industrial complex, which dictates where they’re going to live and for how long. Many companies don’t want to hire someone that they know isn’t going to be around for very long, and to be fair, their point of view is understandable.
For one thing, simply going through the process of hiring someone is expensive.
Training people is expensive. Retention is always a huge issue for employers. Given a choice between a candidate who might stay with the company long-term and one who will definitely NOT (through no fault of their own), it’s easy to see why the military spouse can have so much trouble finding any position, let alone one they really want and care about.
But even if they do get a good job, they likely face another frustration: their upward mobility can be limited.
If they’re working for a company with a brick and mortar presence, they may not be able to stay in the area, and thus in the job long enough to move up the ladder, meaning that rather than advancing in their careers, they can stagnate for decades in an endless series of lateral moves.
It’s stupid that military spouses have to hide this aspect of their lives when they are looking for work.
Military spouses have as much capability and level of commitment as anybody else. They are educated, motivated, talented, and ultimately frustrated, because their talents are going to waste. And what can happen is that over time, they accept and take on this lack of control, too, as part of their identity.
Once they have internalized this lack of control as part of who they are, there is a real risk that they will just stop trying. It becomes easy to make and believe statements like, “Well, if we’re going to PCS within a year, there’s no point in bothering to try to get a job.” Or, “We only have a few years left, I’ll just wait until we get out.”
The problem has become an excuse to not solve the problem.
Meanwhile, far too many military families are living paycheck to paycheck and many unhappy military wives wish they could do something about their lack of career prospects, while still supporting their active duty spouse. They’re stressed. They don’t feel like they have any control over their day-to-day lives, let alone what direction their lives are taking.
There’s a sense of inevitability and hopelessness.
And yet, there is nothing inevitable or hopeless about this situation — if you know where to look for the solution.
Many people don’t realize just how dramatically the world has changed even in the past ten years, and military spouses really need to know this, because the world is changing in ways that empower them.
It’s changing in ways that mean they aren’t in a bad position when it comes to earning a living at all; they’re in the PERFECT position.
The Internet brought us a massive shift in economic opportunity.
On the one hand, it ushered in something called the “gig economy,” which means working on short-term contract jobs from home. According to a 2018 article in Forbes magazine, 36% of the people in the U.S. work in the gig economy and that number is growing.
In talking to military spouses and looking at the military spouse statistics on employment, very few of them are aware of this opportunity, which is a crime, because they are in the perfect position to be freelancers, virtual assistants, etc.
But even more importantly, the Internet, along with the impact of social media, has put the power to start a business within everyone’s reach.
Today, it is possible for anybody to determine how they can add value to the world and then create their own personal brand around that and MAKE SERIOUS MONEY. People do it every day.
Two critical questions, then, for a military spouse are:
I know these are deep questions. Identifying where you are and where the end goal is will help you with the plan forward.
Here at US VetWealth we are all about personal power and following your passion.
We are also about leaving behind old-fashioned, unproductive systems that no longer adequately service a modern world. We want to help the 1% who serve become part of the 1% who influence how our country evolves, and we include you, the military spouse, among that 1% because of the personal and family sacrifices that you make for the benefit of our country every day.
That’s why we want to make sure that you know that you have options.
There are six simple steps to exploring those options and the first four only need to happen in your head.
The thing military spouses should know if that If you want to have financial freedom and control over your professional life, self-employment is the path. Self-employment is a way to use your skills to provide extra income and ultimately financial freedom for your family. Decide that you’re going to make it happen, and figure out a way. If you have to work for other people for another five years to make it happen, then do that, but with the intention that you are doing it in order to build something else. If you want to escape your current limitations, you have to have the intention to not work for somebody else.
An institution is an organization that has been founded for a particular purpose. That word purpose is very important. The very reason that an institution exists is to further its own purpose. What about your purpose? What about your personal purpose and passion? That doesn’t enter the equation. How could it? Allowing you the freedom to pursue your own purpose gets in the way of the military achieving its purpose. If you want to pursue your own personal purpose and passion, you have to do that on your own time. That means self-employment.
Building upon #2 above, the military IS making assumptions about you with regards to your role in achieving its purpose. In particular, they are making an outdated and short-sighted assumption that your sole function is to stay home and take care of kids. They even have a special word for you and the kids: dependent. The word dependent literally means “a person who relies on another, especially a family member, for financial support.” You’ve probably used the word dependent hundreds of times, but have you ever really stopped and let it sink in what that means? The military doesn’t expect you to be able to make money. They don’t expect you to be able to steer your own life. If that doesn’t sit well with you, if you want more for yourself than that, if you want to BE more than a dependent for the rest of your life, if you want to have a purpose and an identity of your own, then you may be ready to start thinking about your own wealth and liberty strategy. You can take control of your future by participating in the economy in a way that is not limited by where you are located or by how long you expect to be in any one place. That means self-employment.
Completing numbers one, two, and three above are the first steps towards doing that. Step four is to recognize, accept, and commit to an identity that is in control of its own destiny. Yes, you may still have to do things at the whim of the military for awhile longer, but make up your mind that that is not WHO YOU ARE.
The US VetWealth website offers a lot of information around self-employment that we call our Wealth & Liberty Strategy. We understand the military community from the inside. We are veterans, military spouses, and Gold Star Families. We know what military spouses deal with. We know how the benefits work. Take some time to look over our web page. If you like what you see, reach out. If you don’t, there are many other sources of information out there about starting your own business in the modern economy and we encourage you to check out any of them.
Here at US VetWealth, we have been where you’ve been. I separated from the military in 2008. I followed all the standard one-size-fits-all guidance, and I hated it. But I noticed that there was something else going on around me, and I decided that I was going to figure it out. So now I know how to go about starting a business and all that that entails, and that’s how I came to identify LinkedIn as the best way to start forms of self-employment. Now I can help people to establish themselves in business more quickly and more easily, but that doesn’t mean that I can just hand you a ready-made business and say, “Go do it.” If you want to pursue the wealth and liberty strategy, you have to get into it and get your hands dirty. You have to be willing to put in the time to build something sustainable and worthwhile.
You DO have control, and your future is up to you.
You could create a situation where it doesn’t matter where your military spouse PCSs, because you can work from home.
You could have plenty of money to meet your immediate needs and even be able to start saving. Or you could just keep hoping to get lucky and get offered a job somewhere, or just keep waiting until your spouse gets out of the military and it’s finally your turn.
The choice is yours.
I’ll cut right to the chase. Veterans are suffering the consequences of financial planning theories and military benefits programs leftover from the 70s and 80s. They only show us a limited picture of their benefits. This is hurting both our service-members and the American taxpayers.
That’s why we launched US VetWealth, to help service-members, veterans, and their families learn how to navigate and leverage their financial benefits so that they get the most out of a lifetime of service.
At first glance this may not seem like such an overwhelming “problem,” but I assure you, it is. And it’s not surprising—it follows logically from everything else that the military gives us.
We’re all given standard-issue uniforms, bunks, MREs, eye protection, weapons, and the like. We go through boot camp, OCS, and academies designed to burn away our individuality. It is so that we can respond to commands. We are taught to hit the “I believe” button. We are essentially aimed like weapons at objectives decided at pay-grades way above ours.
This is a great strategy for winning wars. It is an awful strategy for winning at life.
As soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, they always treat us as bulk items. But the one-size-fits-all approach to financial planning DOES NOT WORK.
As veterans, we have to remember how to be individuals. It is about time that we learn to use our benefits as such.
When it comes to your military benefits, there are questions that “they” hope you never ask. And if you were to ask these hard questions, it would sound suspiciously like you were questioning an order.
We do not do that.
But these are your benefits, and the taxpayers want you to use them the right way.
It is our responsibility as service-members and veterans to be stewards of these benefits. But when we start being smart about our benefits, this whole rotten bureaucracy would come tumbling down, because it is essentially one bucket of laziness, greed, and a whole lot of “this is how we always do it.”
It goes to that expression about generals being experts at winning yesterday’s wars.
Our benefits system is great at providing benefits for military veterans of WWII who have long since retired. But your pensions are not ration coupons. They are assets we need to leverage.
But when we start being smart about our using benefits, this whole rotten bureaucracy comes tumbling down, because it is essentially one bucket of laziness, greed, and a whole lot of “this is how we always do it.”
One of the repercussions of the benefits problem we are facing today is that it allows room for too much change.
Consider a couple with $500,000 saved up for retirement in a managed retirement account, which earns on average a 6.5% return per year. Some years are good, some are not, but at the end of the day, there’s plenty left over for the next generation.
But what happens to this couple if they are unfortunate enough to have to start drawing on their retirement funds in a bad market?
This is called the sequence of returns risk. Bad luck in the first few years of distribution could cause them to spend their assets down too fast for them to recover when the index recovers. Thus, it is possible for a once-affluent couple to deplete their assets down to destitution in a very short period of time, even though they did “all the right things.”
Are we all hopelessly at the mercy of Lady Luck? What if there was a way to diminish the role luck plays in our ability to attain our goals?
There is, and it starts by making sure we understand the tools at our disposal.
I know because it happened to one of us on the US VetWealth team when he was in the reserves and still serving!
Too many service members and veterans are “choosing” these benefits because everyone else is signing up for them, or because it’s better than nothing.
But “nothing” is not the only alternative. Another alternative is to stop following orders and start educating yourself.
It all starts with reaching out to US VetWealth and asking a simple question: What are my options?
We’re here when you’re ready.
Check out the new technology that makes money management easy. The Betterment Dashboard will help you make the most of your money and our advisors are standing by to help.
When we decided to join the military, we signed up to serve our country. We were aware that some financial pay and benefits would come along with the commitment but never made that our focus. Until… they made it all about the military benefits. In this day and age, it is more difficult for the DOD to compete with universities and corporations, and that has forced them to create attractive retention programs. They turned us into employees focused on retirement.
We have forgotten that our desire to serve is our top priority, not retirement. We want to secure our service.
This problem is compounded by two factors.
The DOD competes with universities and corporations by creating attractive retention programs. Service members have shifted their focus from service to employment. Furthermore, they are taught to focus on retirement planning, rather than how to transition from the military to the civilian workforce. The initial desire to serve our country is lost. Without proper education, service members struggle to find a sense of purpose in post-military life, which also affects their financial decisions.
Career service members and their families have sacrificed years of their lives in service to our country. They deserve the valuable pension offered when they retire. What if we told you the reality is… this is NOT HAPPENING. At least not how we have all been led to believe.
The recent implementation of the new “Blended Retirement System” was masterfully rolled out with a fanfare of confusion and cliches. The underlying truth that the government never told our veterans is that they ran out of money, so they can’t afford to take care of the future veterans.
On the surface, this should sound like a major concern. From a tax payer perspective, it certainly does continue to prove the inefficiencies of the current system. From a veteran's perspective, they want to know that they will receive the benefits that they served for.
We now have an opportunity to give our veterans the responsibility that they have been seeking. But now, it’s up to us to educate ourselves and our fellow service members on the true value of their pension.
Career service members and their families have sacrificed years of their lives in service to our country. With US VetWealth, we show you how you can attain the valuable pension you deserve for retirement.
You are a part of a forgotten generation of Veterans entering retirement after years of military and federal service, and no one is helping you manage your life savings during the time you are transitioning out of the military and after.
You have been largely ignored by the financial industry because your “investable assets” have been locked up inside of the Government Thrift Savings Plan or Company 401Ks and other qualified retirement plans.
But now as veterans are retiring en masse, so are those same financial professionals who ignored you before. And the new generation of advisers aren’t taught to help these veterans because they’ve been told veteran’s don’t have money to invest and won’t pay their fees.
How is that being a “fiduciary?”
Ouridea is The USVW TSP/401k (Retirement Rescue) Private Pension Plan, a unique solution developed with the modern professional veteran in mind. Veterans in or nearing their retirement have earned the right to finally have a trusted guide and resource to maximize retirement dollars that are currently in storage. Without the high fees, shaky performance, and risk of principle loss associated with other investment advisers.
Are you or your spouse “career” military? Are you planning on doing that 20 years so that you can bank that nice military pension—especially before the fancy new blended retirement system completely takes over?
Then it’s time you had a wake-up call about what it is you are creating for yourself!
By the time most military retire and get their pension, they’re so exhausted from a career of military service that they don’t have the awareness to understand the true value of this benefit.
That’s actually the problem: the military pension is touted as a benefit, yet another incentive the military throws at you to get you to stay. So why not use it properly and to your TRUE advantage? Why not add some serious INTENTION to this benefit?
You see, a military pension isn’t just a nice little side income that you get monthly until you die. It’s an ASSET that you’ve earned in service to our great nation: an asset that both you and your family has sacrificed for. In fact, it’s a tremendous asset with significant value.
For the average retiring officer (let’s say an O5),this military pension amount is valued at well over a million dollars!!! Did you know that?
I bet you didn’t think of it that way. And right there, my friends, is the opportunity cost—the cost of not thinking intentionally about the opportunity you’ve created for yourself. You are at risk of being okay with a mere side income to supplement your new job.
If you’re reading this and thinking, ”Yeah, That’s how I was thinking of my pension," then you need to keep reading because what I have to tell you is extremely important. And yet most military get little more than a few PowerPoint briefings about how this works. Maybe they mention it to their spouse. Then they go on their merry way to the inevitable job fair.
Sounds like lack of preparation to me.
Discovering how your pension can work for you isn’t hard. In fact, we developed a proprietary system to not only help you understand your true value, but to significantly enhance how you can use this powerful asset to continue your life’s mission.
After speaking with thousands of veterans and active duty, here are the issues we’ve discovered that most military face.
They say, “Well, if I do another three years, I’ll get a little more pension.” What they mean is, “I have no idea what I want to do next. Transition seems hard.” They never truly understand their military pension or the proper context for how it should be used. Without this context, they don’t value it properly. If they don’t value it, they don’t truly own it. And without ownership, they inherently won’t care about it.
The problem becomes compounded when military members accept whatever a senior officer, personal assistant, or PowerPoint brief says as gospel. While these things are well-intended to help them properly prepare for their military retirement, they are nothing more than one-size-fits-all descriptions of the government programs. They don’t offer any information about what these government programs can really do for you.
And that’s important, because this isn’t about the military anymore. It’s about YOU! What comes next for you?
Once you leave the military, all the comforts are gone. You can’t turn to the guy next to you who has a similar career MOS, the same time in service, the same rank, etc. and compare. That structure no longer exists. It’s up to you to know what you are doing. YOU must take responsibility for your future. No amount of trips to the GS employee (who just transitioned himself, no offense) at the separation and military retirement office is going to answer the questions you should have but didn’t know to have asked.
There is one major problem that everybody ignores, yet I think that this is the greatest cost over any individual’s lifetime and the greatest risk to the American people and the American way of life: taxes. I encourage you to understand the true history of the tax code in America, where it comes from, why it’s there, and how it’s hurting the American people. It’s not about taxing the rich versus taxing the poor — that’s just political fear-mongering in the media. The reality is that taxes are taking from one person against their will and giving it to another. Personally, I’d rather make that choice myself and call it charity. But by constitutional law, the government can now come at you with guns and take your money from you just because they think somebody else should have it. It’s wrong and it’s immoral. Unfortunately, we have to deal with it for the time being.
What the majority is unaware of, though, is that all the increases in healthcare have caused two problems. The first is that the older, aging population — the non-working, non-producing population — is living longer. They’re not dying when the government thought they were going to die when they implemented these plans like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The reason the corporate pension system doesn’t work anymore is that companies couldn’t afford it. People weren’t dying, and they had to keep paying them. They ran out of money and then went bankrupt. The government had to pick up that bill. So they invented the 401(k) system, because they’re thinking, “Aha! If we get people to not pay taxes now, we’ll get them to save for 20-30 years. When they have much more money, then there’s all our tax revenue later on.” Don’t you see what they did there? Some kind of “retirement planning,” it’s not a benefit to put money into a retirement account. It’s a place to leave it until the government gets our taxes later. That’s why it’s called tax-deferred.
The second problem is that this same old age group is causing Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare costs to go up, so Social Security costs go up. These things are unfunded liabilities; there isn’t a big pot of money in the government that’s funding these things. No, they’re bringing that money in from the taxpayers. So if the older population is living longer, then we’re having to fund these benefits real-time with current tax dollars from the younger, working population. But we’re not having as many babies anymore as we used to, so the older, aging population is getting bigger and the younger, working population is getting smaller. This is a major demographic problem, and nobody’s addressing it, we’re just kicking the can down the road. So if all your money is in accounts that are taxable at some point, the government is eventually going to have to raise taxes. There was a time in history when the tax bracket was at 90%.
As a veteran myself, I have no problem giving and being charitable to others, but I’m not going to do it at the force of Uncle Sam. Veterans didn’t sign up to serve the government, we signed up to serve our country. If veterans know there’s a better way to be a steward of their money, then they can choose how they create wealth and abundance, probably create more jobs, and be able to give more to charity versus paying taxes to a government that is going to inefficiently filter it off to pay for programs and rising health care health costs and social security benefits that are poorly managed.
Our current situation cannot last, and veterans shouldn’t be the ones passing it on to future generations. We can change this, but it’s up to us because we’re the only ones that understand true teamwork, and community, and can communicate and continue to lead. Remember, we were also paid by taxpayers to serve. Therefore, veterans have a unique opportunity to be better stewards of those tax dollars and not just get stuck in the same trap.
There are many limitations to traditional financial products if veterans want more than a standard retirement and the inevitable last-minute planning for their transition out of the military. And they can’t just leave money in the bank or under the mattress because of inflation. That money will lose value because the cost of goods goes up. We all know that a house costs a lot more money than it did 10 to 20 years ago — that’s inflation. Cars cost more, gas costs more, food costs more, everything costs more. If veterans are not growing their assets, they risk literally running out of money because they can’t afford things anymore. That’s not creating wealth. That’s having a poverty mindset. And veterans deserve more than to live paycheck to paycheck.
Unfortunately, the financial industry makes so much damn money, they don’t bother to innovate. Financial advisers continue to churn clients through the old products and solutions, managing money and talking about accumulating assets. “I can beat your stock returns.” Or as a tip on retirement saving, “use retirement saving vehicles first.” Sure, there’s nothing wrong with putting some money in retirement savings vehicles, but if that’s the only place you’re putting money, then you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. If I haven’t made myself clear yet, veterans deserve more than the standard retirement. It’s time to diversify.
Fortunately, there are other options for military service-people. Just like Tesla and Netflix are changing the way we’re driving cars and watching movies, the financial industry has created new vehicles in which Americans can invest money.
Call us at US VetWealth today to find out how.
Veterans are suffering the side effects of financial planning theories and military benefits programs left over from the 70s and 80s. We are receiving all of our career and financial influence from the two slowest-moving and most corrupt industries that exist: the greedy knuckleheads on Wall Street and K Street. These theories are old and misguided. They are bad for veterans, and they are bad for America.
Let me tell you why.
Veterans have been led blindly into a financial quagmire of lost potential and opportunity. In our careers and in our financial lives, we are fighting the old fight using old tactics, tools, and strategies. You deserve to be led on a counter-offensive using modern technologies and tactics. There is no better time than now to maximize our full strength as veterans serving together, once again, to preserve liberty.
Sadly, blood has already been spilled on our home soil as mediocre leadership, disingenuous politicians, and the general ambivalence and “what are you going to do for me” attitude of many Americans have slowly created a new domestic enemy: pure mediocrity. It’s the same enemy that the Romans ignored, but we are smarter. We have something they don’t: a crazy, messy experiment called liberty. And if we want to keep that liberty, then America needs its veterans to be successful, to join the wealthy, and to become the new leaders.
Theyears before the Internet age were peaceful. The economy was booming. But in the past several decades, we have not been good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Our economy has been propped up by massive debt. Our current political leadership on both sides are telling us to keep spending money and go into even more debt?! And now we’re going to leave our economic problems for the millennials to solve??!!
This is WRONG.
We are living in different times than we were even 20 years ago. We have entered a completely new phase of the industrial revolution. This is the Internet age. We are living in a connected global economy in which anything is possible. Veterans are entering it 20 years behind the power curve, but there is opportunity in their position. Our global internet economy is changing fast, but veterans are fast learners. And the millennials are BEGGING for our leadership, so let's lead them!
As leaders, we need to know the actual rules of the game we are playing. The rules from the 70s and the 80s cannot help us. They don’t apply anymore. There are no finite solutions to today’s economic problems. Getting veterans a “job” is yesterday’s finite solution to yesterday’s problem. It misses the point and only pretends to be an answer. Those who council transitioning veterans to transition in the same way that their fathers and their grandfathers did are playing the wrong game, and they’re telling veterans to play the wrong game.
Life is finite, sure; but the possibilities of how to live a life are infinite. Life truly is a journey, IF you are playing the right game.
In the old game, we threw our resumes out there, and competed against others for the same job. In this new game, in our new modern and interconnected global economy, we compete every day against ourselves, not others. In order to play this new game, we have to ask ourselves not how to win the game, but how to get better at playing it than we were yesterday. And in order to play this new game, we need those modern technologies and tactics that I mentioned.
Unfortunately throughout the years, both veterans and civilians have only been presented with a small and skewed picture of the financial products that are available for themselves and their families. These squandered military benefits have manifest into a tremendous opportunity cost: the lost potential of veterans who have been steered to seek a job for a paycheck rather than to seek a calling in which they can continue to serve our nation. Veterans aren’t in the game for the paycheck, but they have been told to believe they are. This is a waste of America’s greatest resource: her Sons and Daughters. Veterans simply are not shared the WHOLE TRUTH and are not being FULLY INFORMED of the WHOLE list of military benefits available to them when it comes to protecting their loved ones and properly building financial security. It is time to make a change.
If you don’t want to go into today’s battle with yesterday’s weapons and gear, then we need to talk.
Institutions Create Soft Language
Ever heard of the swear jar? It’s a tool that’s meant to help break the habit of using “bad” words: whenever you say one, you have to put some designated amount of money in the jar. It works on the theory that no one wants to throw away money for no good reason; and yet, if you are a veteran who is following the standard routine of saving for the vague goal of “retirement” then that is exactly what you are doing. Sure, your money may be “safe” in a retirement fund, but if you can’t touch it until you are 65, then what you are throwing away is not money as money but money as opportunity.
That’s why today I want to propose that we add two new words to the list of “bad” words we need to stop using: military-transition and retirement.
The language that we use is so important. Language is not just about how people communicate; language goes on in your head. Language describes the reality around us. Language creates thoughts, and thoughts are your reality. So what kind of reality are we creating with words like military transition and retirement?
The word military is synonymous with combat, warmongering, fighting. It’s an abrasive term, it’s very limiting. Why would we attempt to use a word to describe ourselves individually that really describes the entire population of people?
When a person is leaving the military, we’re talking about just one person — an individual veteran. What does that individual veteran want? Who is that individual veteran? Transitions suck — transition is about change, and for many, change is synonymous with uncertainty. Fear comes up. The words we are using — military transition — are literally creating fear and uncertainty. Look how people talk about this transition process. You can see it all over LinkedIn. It just seems so damn scary, going to job fairs and watching military guys put on a business suit, another uniform, and this one they don’t know how to wear properly. They look very uncomfortable. They’re walking around with resumes that look exactly like the resume of the guy next to them, hoping that they’re gonna get a job with one of these companies as a data analyst or project manager. It’s scary because of the tremendous amount of uncertainty. Transition is bad language. It offers zero motivation or guidance for self-discovery and self-leadership.
You Define How It Ends
Retirement is just as bad. Retirement is an end. Veterans should never end, they should continue serving. A veteran serves. We don’t retire. We don’t give up. We don’t want to live on a lake and kick our heels back and say, “Let’s just ride off into the sunset.” What for? That’s boring. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. If we’re not careful, we’re going to lose the liberty that our forefathers gave us. Retirement is not life. Retirement is not liberty, and retirement is not pursuit. Veterans need to continue to grow. The most successful people in the world don’t stop. Why would we stop?
I’m passionate about leadership, both from a personal level and having come out of the military. I thought I was doing all the right things: getting a good job, making a good paycheck, creating my own hours. Yet even I realized I wasn’t actually helping people, I wasn’t serving, and there was no true calling in what I was doing. I was literally just justifying some sort of existence with a paycheck, and the prospect of not having to live that way anymore was my reason to save for retirement.
You may think that I am going to propose alternatives for these words, something along the lines of choosing to employ cutesy, kid-friendly language when you really want to let loose with a string of expletives... but I’m not going to do that at all. In proposing that we change our language, I am proposing that we change our lives.
I don’t just want us to change the words we use in the conversation, I want to change the conversation itself.
I think that it’s time, as servicemen and women and as veterans, that we stop talking about transition and retirement and start talking about leadership and service. There’s no better time than now for such a large group of honorable and service-oriented people to stand up and lead again for the rest of their lives. But in order to do that, we need to get educated about our finances. We need to start thinking of money not just as something we need to keep our heads above water from month to month, or as a nest egg for later, but as a tool of empowerment, an instrument of liberty.
At US VetLife, we provide a network of like-minded businesses and non-profits to help post-military families live a civilian life of intention. If you want to stop talking about transition and retirement and start talking about leadership and service, then contact us to talk about the unique opportunities you may have available to you that will give you the financial freedom to transition to a new mission when you leave the military.
When I was an adviser at a financial planning firm, I had gone through all the standard trainings and licensing. I wasn’t a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), but it’s not that hard to learn the standard retirement planning philosophy and basically follow the rules, regulations and compliance of how everybody is "supposed" to save their money if they’re doing all the correct things from a fixed income perspective. I didn’t know any better, and I served my clients in that capacity. I’m not saying that what I was telling them was wrong. It’s just an antiquated methodology, given the current times.
My wake-up call came when working with a young woman that I always considered my best client and one of my good friends. She was a former Air Force officer, really nice, a super-jolly-go-lucky type of personality who was working over in Germany as a Project Manager for one of the DOD contractors overseas. Those jobs tend to suck the life out of people. I had many friends that were just miserable with the hours they were putting in and the stress that was on them. Government contracting is high stress, because if you lose the contract, the company doesn’t get any money. People are constantly getting laid off. It’s hard to find good workers to come overseas on a whim.
But she was obviously very productive and didn’t really have much risk of getting laid off. She and many others like her justified doing this work because, guess what? Government contracting pays pretty well. In fact, they’re making the equivalent of 150,000 dollars a year, and the majority of it was tax-free due to the overseas foreign income exclusion tax. Of course, you’re getting extra housing allowances. As a single, 38-year-old former Air Force officer, she was living a high upper-middle-class lifestyle. She was frugal; she wasn’t cheap by any means, she just didn’t need her money. She lived in a small place and saved quite a bit of money on housing. She liked to go on weekend trips and really enjoy life. Any moment she could get away from work, she would travel. Her Facebook photos showed it. It was amazing to watch her. Eventually, she started to fall in love with going down to Africa to work with nonprofits and charitable organizations in Kenya and Ethiopia.
Now, one thing I haven’t talked about yet was the fact that because of this high income and frugal lifestyle, she had managed to save $750,000 — the majority of it in retirement accounts — by the time she was 38! That is not something you see very often in the military and veteran community.
I have seen Senior officers, Colonels and Generals, coming out of the army broke and in debt, not having saved any money, and scared to death of what comes next. So from her perspective, I’m sure she thought she had a stable lifestyle. But every time we’d get together, she was always confused about how we did the retirement planning. She didn’t want to take risk in the markets. So we had her invest in low risk vehicles, vehicles that offer absolute guarantees, in case the stock market crashed; vehicles that had no cost involved in them, and then some that had other costs. Either way, it was a completely unique and diversified portfolio because she was a very unique person and had unique opportunities around her. Now, I was never in a position as a financial adviser to give any life advice. I was just supposed to manage the money. Again, I was doing it based on the old school methodologies, and what it came down to is I recommended what my mentors told me I should sell her.
Then she got very passionate about these trips to Africa. She started to get more engaged with how her accounts were doing. Two things were happening. The first was that she would start to quiz me and question how we were investing the money. I would remind her that she didn’t need to take risk and I would re-explain what the fees were for. There was probably someone talking in her ear because his TSP was going up higher, which had nothing to do with her. But what are you going to do when you’re sitting in a cubicle and someone’s buying Apple stocks and getting returns, but not understanding the bigger picture? Second, she asked, "What if I used $20,000 and went down to Africa and traveled the world for a year, quit my job. Could I do that?" She was so nervous about the idea of quitting her job and using her money. This is about the time when I started to have problems with financial planning. So I said, "Yes! Take the money, use $50,000 you have enough. You don’t spend it. Use your money. Go enjoy the life you want.”
And then she fired me!
She sent emails to my mentor about me being in over my head. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t in over my head — everybody else was doing financial planning wrong. She had literally created the opportunity to do whatever she wanted, but somehow she had it in her mind based on all the poor information that society gives us that she couldn’t do it. That’s when I knew that if I was going to be a financial advisor, advising people on their budgets and portfolios was a waste of time. Anybody can Google how to do that. Instead I decided that if I’m going to be a “fiduciary” and make sure I’m doing things in the clients’ best interests, her best interest was to use her damn money and go enjoy life and do the things that filled her up.
But unfortunately, I didn’t know how to translate that conversation, so that set me off. I needed to fix this. I decided that if I was going to do what’s in the “client’s best interest,” I was going to teach them how to use their money to create wealth and abundance and opportunity, because there’s no better time than now. Unfortunately, my old friend is probably still working in that job, making big money and miserable. I hope she knows that she inspired me to help tremendous amounts of veterans change their lives and use their opportunity. I hope one day she joins me.
Veterans have been taught to manage their money, but they are afraid of actually using it, which is why I recommend that you ask yourself: Who’s in charge of your life? Is your money a tool that propels you forward into a life of abundance and purpose, or has your money taken on a life of its own and convinced you that its existence as money is more important than anything you might want to do with it?
The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) is the most misunderstood and over-utilized Government financial program we see among career military, as well as among veterans serving as federal employees. This program was designed almost five decades ago, is costly and inflexible, and doesn’t give you the control over your benefits that you have earned. While touted as a government program, you’re paying the SBP cost as a group insurance without being rewarded for your age or health. Our analysis is quick and easy and designed to give you the answers you need. Act now: far too many don’t even learn about this mandatory decision until their retirement briefing and that is far too late!
Every time a veteran leaves military service, changes jobs, or starts a new career, they are usually presented with a benefits package. Typically, a qualified retirement savings plan is one of the primary incentives. These days, many veterans are changing employers every few years and don’t have the proper guidance about what to do with their old retirement plans. Many of their assets remain at the old plan, paying high fees and without investment advice. You may have heard about rollovers, but 401k providers make rollovers difficult to process (they don’t want to lose those fees). We will help you analyze your old accounts and facilitate a rollover or transfer of assets without any cost to you. Learn more about this specialized program for veterans today.
Service members are familiar with the Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) program because they see premium costs coming from their Leave and Earnings Statement each month and know that their beneficiary will receive a death benefit should something happen to them while they are serving. Seems like a good deal, right? The problem is that the death benefit isn’t enough for most families, but they assume it is. The government made it that amount for a reason, didn’t they? In reality, SGLI is underwritten by a private insurance company contracted by the government. This is important to understand because the day you leave the military this programs ends. As a veteran, now you have an opportunity to avoid costly programs like VGLI and FEGLI by outsourcing to a private insurance provider directly instead of going through a government program.
NOTE: SGLI premiums are now only $25/month! Yay! Thanks for the HUGE savings Uncle Sam...
Love it or hate it, whole life insurance has become a staple among many financial planning solutions geared toward the military community for decades. Whole Life is a type of permanent insurance that offers a fixed premium and the ability to earn dividends to grow a cash account inside the policy at a fixed rate. These programs allow you to “bank on yourself,” but they also have high costs, don’t reward you for good health, take years to accumulate, and lack the flexibility that today’s Veterans and their families demand. The good news is that innovations in the insurance industry have created a tremendous opportunity for whole life policy owners to finally take control of these accounts, significantly reduce costs, and greatly increase growth potential, all while maintaining a tax-free status.
Are you within the 10-year retirement window and concerned about whether or not you’ll have enough money to live on? We know that most veterans are asking themselves this question, especially today, given the state of the markets and government deficits. Many fear their benefits won’t be available to them and find most financial advisers either don’t understand or don’t properly address veterans' issues. They’d rather just sell you a product. That’s why we designed the Veteran Liberty Plan. We will work closely with you to understand your needs, goals, and resources and offer sound advice without forcing you to buy a financial product with high fees. Contact us today for a FREE initial review.
We believe that term insurance is by far the most misunderstood and misused financial product ever invented. Insurance companies love to sell it because 98% of the time the policy will end before being used, that's free premiums to the company they are happy to take. The vast majority of financial education providers and professionals will talk about term insurance like an afterthought and they make it seem like an easy sale for the military community. They do this because they are assuming everyone in the military is the same and that those in the military don’t make enough money to require real advice. These assumptions are wrong, and they won’t take the time that we do to not only understand the realities of the life insurance marketplace, but also to look at your unique situation and not just lump you into a pay-grade. Term Life is for catastrophe, similar to home and auto insurance. Contact one of our experts today to review your policy and ensure you have the best fit today.
I want to talk a little bit about life as a financial advisor in its traditional form. Then I want to talk about life as a modern, licensed financial entrepreneur, where the industry is going, and maybe a little bit about how the difference between the two affects things from the client perspective.
When I was starting off as a young financial advisor working for a small broker/dealer-style firm, they had me get all the licenses and basically said, “Hey, once you get the licenses, you're good to go.” Most of the firm was former military, and many of them were West Point grads, so I assumed things were good to go because I was licensed and had all this experience around me. But things definitely didn’t play out that way. I was working under a Certified Financial Planner and around many successful advisors in the firm, but it still seemed like everybody was just making things up as they went along. And even though these people were very successful, were making a lot of money, and had relatively happy clients, I just didn’t understand what it was all for. It was very confusing; but like any good soldier, I kept following orders.
I also read all the books I could find about building a financial planning practice, because I was really struggling, and nobody was very good at teaching the “business” part of being a financial advisor. They just said, “Go talk to nice people and tell them to invest with you.” Gee, thanks for the tip…
I realize now that this is normal in this industry; firms don't really teach you how to be successful, they just teach you how to bug your friends and family, which is difficult for a lot of new advisors, so there’s a 95% failure rate. In some ways that's good for people like me, because I was motivated by that pressure to go and figure out a way to provide value so that people would seek me out, and I wouldn’t have to bug my friends and family. As it turns out, I ended up creating something bigger that I believe will have a huge impact on the way people look at being a veteran in the next decade.
Most financial advisors who don’t make it in the financial industry just think they weren't good at it. But that's not what's really happening.
A lot of these financial books talk about how to build a client practice and tell you to think about the investment advice you offer to your clients as value. They give you all sorts of gimmicks. Usually it's some sort of calculation and chart and way of reviewing the client’s money. That's supposed to be the big value-add. But really it's just more things that confuse people, because people simply don't understand what their money's for, at least not in a sense that's going to make them truly wealthy. Our education system has led them to believe that everything's about getting a paycheck. You get money, then you buy things. You save a little bit, then you retire. From a traditional financial advisor's perspective, our goal is just to help clients save money a little better. We advise them to stay out of debt and put some money in the stock market so they can beat inflation, which exists for all sorts of nefarious reasons. We encourage them to grow their assets.
The reality is our government needs people to have money available in retirement so they can survive and not need to live off the government dime. They also need them to pay taxes on that money because we are sitting on 22 trillion dollars of debt, and there is no money to pay for future social security and health care. Most retirees don't realize just how much their retirement income is going to be taxed. But, again, most traditional financial advisors don’t have these conversations. It's not their fault―it’s not what they're taught or told to do.
So I always struggled trying to figure out what is the value-add other than just reviewing a client’s finances? Sure there’s value there, but as an individual financial advisor, how do you differentiate yourself? One book I read called Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth by Nick Murray poses the question: How are you earning, which is to say justifying, that 1% (on average) fee that a financial advisor receives on the assets under his or her management? The usual answer is that if we invest a client’s money a certain way we can expect 7-8% growth, and even after paying the financial advisor fee, the client sees an average 6.5% return, “which is about the same as the market performed, Mr. Client. But you got to talk to me about it, so it cost 1%.” Blah blah blah…
Whatever. The financial companies are good at using all sorts of justifications for their fees. They have all their whiz-bang calculators, they have marketing, they create education, they do analysis, etc. But Murray’s point was this:
You put your people in a portfolio that works out the way it works out. The justification for that 1% fee is to prevent your client from making the one big mistake, which is pulling their money out of the market at the wrong time.
Intellectually we know not to make this mistake, but emotionally, the annual DALBAR study shows it happens every time there is a market correction, especially in older people with larger assets who are nearing retirement. When the market starts to go down, they start to pull their money out of the stock market, which makes the market go down even further. According to Murray, the justification for the 1% fee is the fact that you are there for behavioral investment counseling to prevent your client from making that one big mistake.
In the traditional sense of financial planning, if the market crashes, as the good financial advisor, you're supposed to say, “Don't worry, Mr. Client, it always works out.” And at one time, that was generally true, and I could have justified my 1% fee and called it a day. But the demographics are very, very different now. We have more older people, 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, more retirees than we have younger people entering the workforce. And so the next time the market crashes, these retirees are not going to keep their money in the market because they're gonna want to protect it. And the younger people aren't going to have money to put into the market to compensate for the loss of the baby boomer money. So the rebound isn't going to be like it was in 2008―at least that's the general thought.
I think that for most people, the traditional financial planning approach of preventing the client from making the big mistake is still a good and valuable approach. But in my search to find a better story to tell and a more compelling way for people to think about financial services, I realized that wait, this isn't about money, this is about opportunity! Money is just a tool a person uses to go create the opportunity and influence and lifestyle that they want. I decided that if I was going to be a true financial advisor, if I was going to justify 1% or any sort of compensation, I wanted to be able to explain to my clients that there's this other lifestyle, there are other ways of getting income besides the traditional 9-to-5 job. And there are other ways of thinking about how to save and invest your money without just buying real estate and flipping houses or day-trading stocks.
If you want to financially plan for retirement, and for sending kids to college, and for buying a house; if you want to keep all that on the table but you still want flexibility and control; if your primary goal is not retirement and college and home ownership but to have a different kind of lifestyle post-military, then, ding, ding, ding― that's when I realized that, oh, there's these modern investment and insurance vehicles that are perfectly designed to free up time and to add more protection, while also allowing liquidity of assets, reduced taxes, and benefits, way beyond what you get from traditional savings. With these vehicles you get growth, and you are able to access your money without any sort of risk.
What I am offering as a wealth and liberty guide goes beyond behavioral investment counseling. I’m offering a new way of thinking. I am offering to show you how to replace your scarcity mindset with a wealth mindset. You probably don’t even realize that you have been conditioned to have a scarcity mindset. A scarcity mindset is an expectation of scarcity that pervades and undermines everything that you try to do.
We’ve been led to believe that focusing savings on retirement, and college, and home ownership―that is, focusing only on financing the future at the expense of doing the things we might want to do with our lives in the present―is the right thing to do. Anything else, we are told, is risky. But once you discover that there are new ways you can leverage your benefits and your money that are not scary, and that are actually less risky and less costly, well, then things get very interesting, because inevitably you’re going to ask, “Why hasn’t anyone told me about this before?”
Well, It's not that they're not telling you about it; it's just that because of the high turnover rate in the financial industry, it’s really only the most savvy investors and financial advisers who have been noticing this change. And the majority of advisers that are successful have been in it for so many decades, they're not looking to change. They already make so much damn money, why innovate? Instead, they do what politicians do. They lobby to create standards and regulations that force the masses to shirk self determination in favor of “what’s best for them.”
However, the financial industry is just like any other industry: just like the iPhone, just like Uber. The innovators have been busy, and the early adopters, such as you and me, are now seeing how to create opportunity. I don’t know about you, but this story I’ve told about my early days in the financial industry keeps me motivated. Because as a brand new financial adviser, I certainly felt like I was a laggard. I’m sure the majority of the 95% who cycle out of the industry would say the same.
So luckily, about seven years ago, I started to learn about the innovators. Then I went and met them. I learned from them. I worked with them. Finally, I realized that I’m one of the early adopters in this next phase of what’s to come. This is why I’m motivated to find the other early adopters and to train them on how to best use what the recent innovators have created for us. Then we can all influence the 230,000 service members who transition to civilian life each year. They have an opportunity during their transition to opt out of the status quo and join the early majority who are seeking modern opportunity. Most Americans don’t get that kind of opportunity. Once they graduate from college, they’re in debt! And they quickly become preoccupied with the hustle: start a family, get promoted, raise kids, buy houses, pay bills, sacrifice.
That’s the thing I think is so funny about the fear and scarcity mindset we put around the “military transition process.” They are “training” us on how to get out of the military, and this training doesn’t feel all that different from the training we get on equal opportunity, sexual harassment, or substance abuse. It’s just a box to be checked. Yet, we act surprised and just follow their orders even though we knew this day was coming from the moment we entered the military!
Transition is an opportunity we’ve had on the horizon and been preparing for, either consciously or subconsciously, the entire time we have been in the military.
During your service you had a steady job with good benefits and free housing; you could have stayed out of debt and saved some money for the opportunity that transition provides. The fact is, it’s a life-changing opportunity whether you are prepared for it or not. You have (or had) the ability to choose. But most don’t choose, and they don’t prepare. They just keep following orders.
Some of those orders are the mindsets of financial professionals from the previous decades who influence how most people think about money. They are the laggards… So they keep preaching about saving for retirement. But in modern times, this doesn’t motivate you. So you don’t save intentionally, and when it comes time for your opportunity to change your life when you leave the military, you don’t want to take a “risky” option by using the money that you have managed to save to create the post-military life that you want. The money that you have locked into a retirement account doesn’t feel accessible. So you’re a bit stuck, and you need to take a corporate job to keep paying the bills and saving more for retirement. On and on it goes until you’ve completely given up on finding the liberty for yourself that you fought to defend.
I find this completely unacceptable for myself, and I hope I find more of you who find it unacceptable too.
Yet, there are people still trying to drive taxis and sell DVDs. There will always be a market for the laggards. And that’s fine! That’s how the free market works. But I’m looking forward and have a bigger vision. I don’t want to waste any time trying to convince a laggard they need to catch up, because it won’t happen. It’s completely commonplace that the world undergoes a radical transformation and most people just don’t see it.
The majority of financial advisors are in their mid-sixties and are going to be retiring soon. What happens with all that money from their clients is another story. And we believe that as these older financial advisors retire and the management of those client assets shifts to younger financial advisors, the financial strategy of the next decade is going to be this wealth and liberty strategy that offers more automation, risk protections, tax advantages, and income opportunities. We can take 90% of the current work off the table, then leverage various investment and insurance products to protect how your assets work out and how you can get flexibility with them, versus being stuck in the standard 401k/Roth IRA trap.
The wealth mindset is for the 10% of people who are looking to step out of the grind. This is a strategy for the future, for opportunity, for those leaning more towards an independent lifestyle. If that sounds like you, then we need to talk.
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