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.
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Scott R. Tucker is an author, speaker and the founder of US VetLife/US VetWealth, a lifestyle and financial consulting brand that helps service members go from paychecks and government benefits to wealth and liberty. He likes to say, "I Help The 1% Who Serve Our Country Become The 1% Who Influence It." A West Point graduate, serial world traveler, military financial expert, and entrepreneur, Scott brings valuable experience and insight to those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country. He's the Rosie Network's #1 Fan and a passionate supporter of the Veterans Cannabis Project.