3 Hard Rules To Follow With Your Money In the Military

Military Benefits
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kristen Wong

Military service is a calling. It is a patriotic duty. But it is also a job that provides a salary and benefits. Are you prepared to manage the money you will make in 2016?


As a young service member, spouse or veteran, you’ll have a bewildering array of options, choices, and financial decisions to make. Should you rent or buy? Do you need two cars? What’s the right amount to spend on an engagement ring? How much money do you need to be saving? What is a smart investment?

If you make good money decisions, you stack the deck in your favor at this game of life. Make bad money decisions and, well, you get the picture. The decisions you make as a young service member, spouse, or veteran can have life-changing consequences, both good and bad.

To start with a focus on the positive side of personal finance, here are three basic moves you can make today that could create a big difference in your life:

1. Have a (smart) plan for your money. 

Don’t get caught up in the notion of “I’ll have fun now and get responsible later.” Lifestyles and spending habits are hard to change once established and “later” can easily become “never.” Not sure you believe that? Ask your parents or grandparents and see what they think. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with using some of your money for fun, just be sure to strike a balance so that you can have fun later too.

2. Save first.

As part of that smart plan for your money, be sure to save some of it — preferably right off the top before it can get used or allocated to something else. Allotments are great for this. Try to save 10-15% of your gross pay if you can, starting with an emergency fund set aside in a separate savings or money market account.

If you can’t save that much right now, start smaller, then use the regular pay increases built into the military pay system to increase your savings rate over time. And don’t forget about the Thrift Savings Plan. It’s a great, low-cost way to invest for your future.

3. Don’t buy an expensive car (yet).

One of the first major and exciting purchases many of us get to make is buying a set of wheels. Who doesn’t love that new car smell? Unfortunately though, if you go too big when you are too young or financially insecure, this particular purchase decision could be wreaking havoc on your finances long after the excitement and new car smell has faded.

To put yourself on a better path, buy a starter car instead. Get something that doesn’t squeeze your finances or commit you to a long-term loan repayment. While you’re at it, try to keep your all-in transportation costs under 10-15% of your gross pay. Then use the extra money you would have spent on the more expensive car to put yourself in great financial shape. That way, you can buy a more expensive car (and other nice things) later.

Over the next few months, I’ll continue to share key personal finance lessons I’ve garnered from 23 years in the financial services industry, including my current position with The USAA Educational Foundation, which in 2015 alone provided in-person financial education training to 46,000 service members and ROTC cadets.

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday to receive the remains of four Americans killed in a suicide bombing in northern Syria.

Trump, locked in a battle with congressional Democrats that has led to a nearly month-long partial government shutdown, announced his trip via a pre-dawn tweet, saying he was going "to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!"

Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House prior to departure that he planned to meet the families, a duty which he said "might be the toughest thing I have to do as president."

He was greeted by military staff at Dover Air Force Base after a short flight from Joint Base Andrews, but did not speak to reporters before entering his motorcade.

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Trump filed down the plank and saluted while six service members clad in fatigues and white gloves carried an American flag-draped casket carrying Wirtz to a waiting gray van.

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The United States believes the attack that killed the Americans was the work of Islamic State militants.

Trump announced last month that he planned to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has since said it does not need to go quickly as he tries to ensure safety of Kurdish allies in northern Syria who are at risk of attack from neighboring Turkey.

Trump told reporters on Saturday that his Syria policy has made progress but that some work remained in destroying Islamic State targets. He defended his plans for a withdrawal.

"It's moving along very well, but when I took over it was a total mess. But you do have to ask yourself, we're killing ISIS for Russia, for Iran, for Syria, for Iraq, for a lot of other places. At some point you want to bring our people back home," he said.

In addition to Wirtz, those who died during the Wednesday attack in Manbij, Syria, were Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon Kent, 35, identified as being from upstate New York, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

The Pentagon did not identify the fourth person killed, a contractor working for a private company. U.S. media identified her as Ghadir Taher, a 27-year-old employee of defense contractor Valiant Integrated Services.

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