In this webinar, learn how establishing a financial plan and reserve fund can lead to more savings, improved purchasing power and increased financial security for U.S. military personnel. Plus, learn tips to help protect yourself and your loved ones from common scams and identity theft.
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Proud to support those who serve
Now I'll turn it over to today's presenters. Take it away, Walt.
Hi. Good morning. Good afternoon, everyone. And Courtney, thank you so much for this opportunity. It's always great to see both Jeff and Maurice. Gentlemen, I just want to express my thank you and gratitude for your service. Thank you both.
My name's Walt Carey, retired Air Force Master Sergeant. I joined U.S Bank in October of last year, and my current role is customer goals coach, where I work directly with clients in helping them through that difficult dichotomy, if you will, of marrying the human component in the aspect of their goals with the financial and logic side.
Prior to joining the bank last October, I was working for a private firm here in Las Vegas in the B2B space as a business coach and consultant. Lastly, I retired from the Air Force in 2014 after 20 years of service. And with that said, I'll turn things over to Jeff.
Hi, everybody. My name is Jeff Logan. But before I tell you more about me, let me say happy birthday, Marine Corps. Thank you for all you do, even coming from a Navy guy. We would be lost without you guys. And for all those that have served or are serving, thank you. As we celebrate this Veterans Day, we not only celebrate you at this time of year, but all year long. Thank you for all you do.
I was a service warfare officer in the Navy. I got out of my active duty service as a lieutenant, and now I have the opportunity to be the Senior Vice President of Customer Employee Experience at U.S Bank and really have the privilege of leading our Proud to Serve BRG, which is a resource group of over 5,000 people that work in U.S Banks that were either serving in the military or in the reserves today, veterans, or military supporters. I could not be more proud to talk to you guys today.
Well, good morning, everyone, and afternoon. This is Maurice Wilson, retired Navy. And I want to also echo just my heartfelt congratulations to our Marines. I was a former Navy Hospital Corpsman FMF, Fleet Marine Force, and so I spent eight of my 26 years serving with the Marines. And you just could not be with a finer group of individuals. So semper fi. Happy birthday, US Marine Corps.
I retired in 1998. I started a nonprofit called the National Veterans Transition Services, a.k.a. REBOOT, which is designed to help transitioning service members successfully pivot from military service to civilian life by going through a three week reverse boot camp we call the REBOOT Workshop. It's been up and running for over 10 years now. Very successful. Our goal is to see every veteran, transitioning service member, Guard reserve, spouse successfully transition and live a very prosperous, happy, and well life. And so I'm really proud to be here looking forward to the presentation. Back over to you, Walt. Well, actually--
Absolutely. Oh, yes. Go ahead.
Go ahead, Chief.
All right. You can feel the energy and the excitement of being here. I just want to kick it off by sharing with you a poll, and I want you to just kind of think about this. Let's get started and look at some of the challenges that veterans are facing as they transition from military life to civilian life.
And just four questions. What do you think is the greatest challenge for individuals, especially facing financial challenges? And so that seems to be one of those big key issues out of five major issues we see with veterans trying to transition from the military lifestyle to the civilian life. And so I'll pass the ball back over to Walt, and then we'll come back later on and see what your answers are.
Awesome, Chief. Thank you so much, sir. Whether your military career lasts one tour or 20 years, your financial health will always be important. Establishing a solid financial plan and reserve fund can lead to more savings, improved purchasing power, and increased financial security, helping you deal with the challenges that military life and life in general might throw your way. Today, we'll help you create that financial strategy that will serve you and your family while you serve our country.
We're going to talk about a few things by starting off with reviewing your current financial situation; develop a spending plan; establish a reserve fund; get to know the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act; legal readiness for service members; plan for financing further education; additional military resources; and last but not least, answer your common questions that you may have. Chief?
There you go. Let's go back over to that poll. And so hopefully you've all answered correctly. Well, that number is 40% of us feel that that's a big challenge for us transitioning.
And this was part of a study that was produced by the Veterans Administration back in 2013, where they polled over 8,500 transitioning service members to find out just what are some of your greatest challenges. And what we also noted is that when an individual transitions out, a lot of us have a big challenge not only with finances, but roughly about 80% really don't know what they want to do post military services, and ultimately ends up in a higher unemployment rate. So there are some challenges that we want to tackle. A big part of that is making sure you have a good economic engine and that you have a good savings plan. Walt, back over to you.
Chief, that's an interesting point you bring up. What I found is you don't know what you don't know. And I can also echo I wish I had Jeff to my left and you to my right. What would you say, Jeff?
Yeah. I want to say that 40% is surprising, but as we've all gone through this process, it was probably one of the most unnerving financial times in my life, where you're moving from defined income, if you will-- you know it's coming, you know what your job is, all those kinds of things-- to the big great unknown. And I do think having been on this side now for a while the good news is there's a lot that we can do to help in that transition and really help our military and veteran customers and partners really get financial savviness to help with their lives.
Couldn't agree more. Absolutely. Your first step in making sure your finances are in order is to review your whole financial situation. Of course, you're sitting back and thinking, what does that actually mean? Well, this includes what money you have, of course, what obligations you have, who has access to what, and where information is kept.
It helps to start by creating a list of all financial questions and issues you might have, things I wish I knew when I was wearing combat boots. I viewed money differently. And I know I shared this with you gentlemen candidly, but I'll be fully transparent with everybody on the call today. And looking back at my active duty time, for me personally, Jeff and Maurice, I lived paycheck to paycheck. I didn't have a grasp or understanding of how money could help me achieve my goals, and my viewpoint on money was totally different than it is to this day.
I know we said this earlier, but you don't know what you don't know. And Jeff, what are your thoughts on that?
Yeah. When I look at my own finances over history, I could not encourage this step more. It is the core foundation. You have to know what you're spending. I think when I really started to dig into what me and my family were spending, it was eye opening, and really helped illuminate why we weren't able to achieve some of the financial goals that we had in mind.
As you do this, think about your spend in totality. So in today's world, things like subscriptions. You might think you're only spending $9 a month on Netflix, but you're also maybe spending $20 a month on Xbox accounts and iTunes and Amazon Music.
And don't forget things like auto registration. It's a one time a year payment oftentimes. You have to divide by 12 to see how much you're spending every month. So make sure you really sit down and do your own homework on your own spending. I think it's super critical to getting into a better financial place and achieving your goals.
What do you think, Maurice?
We have these individuals for roughly three weeks, and so we cover a lot of topics. And one of the things that we start discussing is, so what are your fears? What's really top of mind? What are you most concerned about?
And because a lot of us live on base and we have a little bit of a cushion, we have the base, the post exchange, and all those other buffers in our lives, we seem to do OK there. However, when we mix civilian life, it's a big struggle to really begin to make ends meet, picking up the slack on finances that we didn't know existed. And so it's a big shift going from being in the military to being a civilian and then trying to really support yourself. So we see that that becomes a huge stressor for some.
And here's another interesting point that we noted even with individuals living on base, how close so many are to the poverty line. And so it doesn't take much to [INAUDIBLE] finding this very, very critical. Back over to you, Walt.
That's a great point, Maurice. And using my personal story vividly and transparently, I can attest to one key impact of living paycheck to paycheck. And for me, it was that I didn't have a spending plan.
Your financial situation is likely to improve if you take charge of it. A good way to do that is to create that step-by-step spending plan. It's almost like the tech data we all are accustomed to and we followed, and those guardrails with step-by-step structure, but with money coming in and money going out and things of that nature. A spending plan basically shows you what your income and expenses are every month, helps you prioritize your needs, and helps you decide whether you can set aside money for a reserve fund, e.g. planning for that rainy day.
Establishing that reserve fund for emergencies will help you take control of your financial situation. A spending plan will also help you reduce anxiety of not knowing whether you have enough money to pay your bills on time. And again, I can honestly say that wearing that uniform, or when I did, that was one of the elephants in the room that I often turned my back to. I didn't have a reserve fund for any emergency expenses that could arise or come up.
It also gives you a sense of control of your money. When you have a plan, like I said earlier, it gives you an understanding of money coming in and money going out. You can test and measure. You know your posture, and if you will financially, from an economic standpoint.
Lastly, it also helps you build assets to improve the quality of life for you and your family. If you're single right now, those men and women on the call who are planning to grow a family, the financial component is very key to that, as well as the human component I mentioned earlier. Maurice?
So one of the things that we noticed is the challenge of really sticking to the plan and not necessarily deviating from it. In the military, they go out of their way to ensure that you're stable. You have all kinds of support. Those things are in place to enable you to focus on the mission, because that's the order of the day. But sometimes we just don't stick to the plan, or because we have other concerns or other fears of things in our mind we start spending just to feel good versus really sticking to the plan. And so one of the things that we just stress in the workshop is define a plan, stick to it, discipline yourself, and just let the math do its work. Jeff, any thoughts on that?
Yeah, Maurice, I think you're right on about sticking to a plan. And I'd say, I guess, a couple of things in regards to that. The first is build a plan that's right for you. If you're really detailed person, get into the details. Manage it to the nth degree. But if you're not a really detailed person, make sure you just bucket it in a way that allows you to stick to it, and then you can manage those larger buckets of spend.
The second thing I would say is the importance of a spending plan is not just for people starting out. I think a spending plan is super important regardless of where you are in your career or your economic situation. Having a plan to really guide the way you spend your money allows you to spend on the things that you want to, assuming that you know where you're spending your money and that you're following the plan you've outlined.
Jeff, that's a great point, man. And what really stuck out at me is what you said in the beginning was don't make it any difficult or more difficult than it needs to be. If you're a very detailed person, very analytical and things of that nature, create that plan so you can be successful. If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum and you're not very detail oriented, just get started. Get something. Create that bucket that enables you and empowers you to that success and that vision you have of having that financial stability, if you will, and creating that roadmap. So thanks for sharing that. That definitely stuck out for me.
Would you agree that the four basic steps to preparing and executing that spending plan are probably number one, determine your monthly income and expenses at first. Secondly, keep track of your daily spending. Ask your bank for transaction ledgers to help with the process, or use online banking in these current times. Number three, write down what you earn and what you spend each month. And lastly, find ways to decrease your spending. I remember that old NCO telling me what gets tracked gets measured.
So keep that ledger and not throw pots against the wall hoping it sticks. You're more accurate, you're more precise in that plan, ultimately shifting the mindset, again, from being reactive to proactive. What did you say, Jeff?
Yeah, I was just laughing. I remember my master chief would say to me as a young ensign-- you get what you inspect, not what you expect. And I think a lot of it is the same. When you develop a spending plan, you've got to, as you make it, make sure you're monitoring it.
Now there are a lot of tools out there to help you with that, whether it be your bank ledgers, your online banking accounts. Your banker can provide all that information for you. Make sure you're looking at your credit cards and your other savings statements to just really track how you are spending against it. A lot of those things today you can just download, put it in a Excel spreadsheet, or you can do it manually if you want. But there are a ton of tools out there for all of your basic financial products to really help you with it, and I encourage you to check them out.
One other thing I just remembered. If you do this, it's so easy to think about this as an individual, but make sure you're thinking about, if you have a family or you're caring for others or managing other people's finances, make sure you're looking holistically at the big picture, because you might be missing things that are really important to your spend tracking.
Now that's a great point. You definitely have to take that holistic view of things and not just focus centrically on yourself.
That's a great point you bring up there, Jeff. I know we talked earlier about the logic aspect and the left and right brain and things like that. But with my role as a goals coach, I help clients that I sit down with marry that logical aspect of the right brain to the left brain, which is that human component. One example of the human component its habit stacking.
For those that aren't familiar with it, habit stacking is a great way to form habits that you're likely to forget or lose track of . Find a habit that you do at the same frequency and stack a new habit on top of it. We naturally form habits together, like having cookies with milk or stopping by a favorite coffee shop every time you're in a certain neighborhood. I know I'm a victim of that for sure.
I know someone who uses the changing of the seasons as a cue for all those things that you're supposed to do every three months. For example, the first official day of spring, summer, fall, or winter, she's changing furnace filters, putting the baking soda in the fridge, popping a new filter in the Brita pitcher, and switching out electrical toothbrush heads and things of that nature.
If you have a quarterly rhythm like this, add check your credit or update your spending plan to the lineup. And if you don't and you're mentally calculating the age of your Brita filter right now, give habit stacking a chance. For example, you're entitled to a free credit report every year. Do you remember the last time you got one, Jeff or Maurice? I'll start with Maurice.
Yeah. When I was in the military, I really used a lot of support to help me evaluate my finances. And actually, it seemed like they were more concerned about finances than I was, which was a good thing. And what it did, it began to make me aware of the things that I needed to do and to begin to look at setting aside a nest egg so that I could make that successful transition from getting out and then managing day to day, and then those emergency costs would come up.
And because spending in the military is different, there are obviously so many ways that by saving that you can kind of trim the fat. By shopping at the exchange or living on base, there's obviously the cost of living adjustment that really comes in to cushion things-- again, assuming that one is living that disciplined life. But once you pivot from the military to civilian life, you lose a lot of those benefits, and so you're going to have to make some changes and pivot to just a different lifestyle.
And so I appreciated a lot of the things that the military did to help prepare me to develop really good habits. And that's really what it's all about, is really preparing yourself and coming up with just good spending practices and habits. Jeff, what do you say? What say you?
I check my credit score all the time. I think the last time-- I do. I go to free credit score at least once a year and use other forms to do that as well. Many credit cards provide free credit monitoring access.
But I can't stress the importance of checking your credit on a regular basis. That is how lenders build trust in you as a consumer. And the higher your score is, the more willing people are to give you better rates for cars and homes, consumer loans and credit cards, and all those kinds of things.
And we'll talk a little bit more about fraud later in the presentation, but it's also really important to check your credit score and your credit report to protect yourself. So highly encourage you guys to go out there and check it. It's free. It's a great habit to get into.
And Jeff, staying in the vein of habit stacking, you can do this every year on your birthday and get that three-part credit report.
Do it every year on the Marine Corps birthday.
There you go. There you go.
Like habit stacking, temptation bundling is about sticking habits together. But this one is extra clever, because you're pairing a should do with something you want to do. It's the scientific reason why TVs are in front of treadmills, and it's popular. You might make a killer playlist on Spotify or whatever sound platform that you use or music platform that you use and only allow yourself to listen to it while you're working on your budget or spending plan. If your brain can handle the multitasking aspect, you can watch your favorite guilty pleasure TV show while paying your bills.
And I know we joke around, guys, but comparing PT standards, Air Force and Navy, I could afford to eat Oreos when I worked on my budget, and now it's become a habit. I don't even need the Oreos anymore or even stress about the 50 sit-up requirement for the old man under a minute.
That's hilarious. But you got to move to push-ups. That's the problem.
I know. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. But for me, being in the Air Force, it was a small amount. It was like 40 push-ups or something like that.
Another fun way to use temptation bundling is to tie a responsible behavior, like setting aside money for savings, with a splurge purchase. I'll be fully transparent with everybody on the call. My favorite temptation is collecting rare sneakers, and I've been doing this as a kid. And my temptation bundle is that if I can justify a significant amount for a limited edition pair, I can afford to put the same amount in my retirement savings plan at the same time.
What about you, Jeff and Maurice? Chief, I'll start with you. Sir, do you have any examples of something like that, where it's aligned with temptation bundling?
Whew! Yeah. You just touched on a really good topic there. We actually teach this a lot in the REBOOT Workshop, combating or battling the have-tos versus the want-tos. And that's that internal struggle that goes on, resisting spending money on new toys or things that are nice things to have but not necessarily something that you need. And so these are some habits that need to change.
And I remember when I was in Okinawa and I was battling that have-to versus want-to, which is save some money or spend some money. But again, when I was in Okinawa, one of the big things was buying stereo gear. This was back in the '80s. And so I had a choice, which is either spend the money that I wanted to save or give something up.
And so I gave up something, where the little expenditure of spending extra money on food over there. In fact, I actually cut a corner, because I had access to a lot of the MREs. Instead of buying groceries and things like that, I would just eat MREs and save the money. And the money that I saved, I actually used that--
That's dedication right there, Chief.
Absolutely. So again, that's just the temptation bundling. Put it over here for one thing so that you can do something else. But you really have to combat that issue of doing things that you like to do versus doing things that you want to do. Walt, what do you think?
Well, I think what I took away from that, Chief, is definitely happy wife, happy life. What would you say, Jeff?
Oh, that's the truth right there. One of the things we do in our family is every time we pay-- We like to go on vacation. And we don't go on vacation a ton, but when we do, we like to go and save up for a nice one. So one of the things we do in our family is every time we make one of our car payments, we put a matching amount in our vacation savings fund. That works really well for us. It also helps limit the temptation to be spending more on things like cars, which is a depreciating asset, and allows us to spend some really good family time together in beautiful places.
So that's one of things that we found works well for us. But everyone's got to figure out the right thing for them. That's I think the important thing.
Yeah. And if I could just kind of dovetail on that, on the happy wife, happy life, well, my wife is the one that spends all the money. And so she would rather go out of her way to save $0.10 versus spend the money. So again, it's just finding ways to cut those corners and trim the fat, which makes a whole lot of sense.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So we'll go ahead and transition into establishing a reserve fund that we talked about earlier. And that is one of the things, again, looking back in all seriousness, what I wish I would have known while I was wearing the uniform. And establishing that reserve fund is obviously important, particularly during times of deployment. Deployments can put additional strains on your budget as new costs may arise. Setting aside an emergency fund, also called a reserve fund, is one of the most important steps you can take to safeguard your financial stability.
To start a reserve fund, begin by saving a little at a time. You'll see how quickly the reserve fund can grow. Take it step by step.
Step number one, start off by reviewing your spending plan to see where you can economize. Number two, transfer excess money from each month's budget to your reserve fund, or set up an automated transfer, like those allotments that I'm sure we all did while we were in the service. I know when I was active duty I had several of these set up. And if I didn't see the money, I wouldn't spend it. And I was accruing automatically. Number three, build that account one day at a time. And lastly but not least, start saving today to reap the rewards for tomorrow. Jeff?
Yeah, I couldn't agree more, Walt, with these four. I really want to emphasize the second one. I think the more that you could just make this part of your routine. And what we've seen really work here is having almost separate accounts that you don't even really look at. And so whether you're setting up a direct deposit or a direct transfer out of your paycheck to the separate account or have automatic transfer setup from your primary account into this secondary account, it's a great way to build a reserve fund without it even seeming like you are.
And for me personally, I have one set up, and I labeled it in my online banking Do Not Touch, and I have it hidden from the main screen. So on a regular basis it just builds up. And it's an awesome feature, and I think a lot of other people are benefiting from that as well.
Yeah, I completely agree. If you don't have it in your checking account, then you can't spend it.
And it just makes sense to push all that excess money over to your savings or some other investments. You've got to start planning for a rainy day, because you just never know. Especially if you're a homeowner, you never know when the water heater or the refrigerator is going to go bust. Inevitably something is going to happen-- your dishwasher or the garbage disposal, whatever the case may be, or even your automobile. So you want to make sure you have reserve funds so you aren't taking money out of your paycheck and spending it. And it's just so important to set something aside for those events. Even for those fun things, you want to set money aside so that you're not pulling money out of your checking account [INAUDIBLE] unnecessarily.
And so it begins with just good planning. And remember, the military they taught you to always be prepared and always have a plan for everything. And so those habits shouldn't just be part of the military ethos. It should become part of your personal lifestyle.
Yeah, that's a great point. The next thing we want to talk about is getting to know the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, also known as the SCRA. Chief, I know this is your area of expertise, so I'll go ahead and cover at a high level standpoint and then definitely turn things over to you.
The SCRA provides legal and financial protections for members of the Armed Services, the Public Health Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. SCRA benefits cover a wide variety of financial areas, including rental agreements, interest rates, certain judicial proceedings, and tax payments. Who and what does SCRA cover? SCRA covers full-time active duty service members for all five branches of the military. The Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reservists called to federal active duty are covered, as National Guardsmen called to national emergency federal orders lasting more than 30 days. Service members who are lawfully absent from duty due to sickness or injury are covered as well.
Here's some common use protections and benefits, first one being interest rate limit. Interest rates on most loans or debt you acured prior to military service are capped at 6% during your service. Second being foreclosure protection. If your mortgage was originated before your military service, you may not be foreclosed upon while in military service and for one year after.
Dovetails, of course, into eviction protection. You and your dependents are protected from eviction. As long as your rent doesn't exceed a certain amount-- this amount changes each year-- a landlord must have a court order to evict you.
Next we'll look at judicial proceedings. You are not required to appear in civil court while serving. This includes proceedings such as divorce and child support as well as foreclosures mentioned earlier.
Lease and contract termination. If you have a cell phone that does not provide coverage in your new area, an auto lease, or residential lease that you need to terminate due to a relocation or deployment of more than 90 days, you can terminate those contracts, believe it or not.
Repossession protection. This is a big one. If you've paid a personal property secured loan, e.g. a car loan, before you began military service, the item itself cannot be repossessed without a court order. You must have paid a deposit or one installment payment prior to service.
Tax relief. Provisions in the SCRA prevent a certain form of double taxation that occurs when you or your spouse work in a state different than your permanent residence. It also allows you to file for deferment of the April tax filing deadline assuming certain conditions are met.
Not that this list of benefits is comprehensive. For more information, including additional details and context for these benefits, you can visit the Department of Justice website at justice.gov/serv icemembers/servi cemembers-civil- relief-act-scra. Maurice?
That was a lot.
Yeah, that was a lot-- much better than I could have ever done, let me just say that. Let me say that you pretty much covered everything. And I would just add that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is there for those individuals who through no fault of their own because of a certain set of circumstances got into a financial bind and just cannot get out.
It's also important to note that utilizing this is on a case by case basis, and there are a lot of detailed information that will have to be uncovered before you know you're eligible. So I really encourage folks to really study up and read on that if this is something that you need.
It is not something that an individual can keep using over and over again. And it it's one of those things that you just really [INAUDIBLE]. It's designed to help get you out of trouble and then get you back on track with your finances, and it's there to help catch things from spiraling out of control. And we pretty much know how that can happen, and it can go on and on and on.
This also brings temporary relief to those who need help in getting their finances and life back on track so they can begin to de-stress and then move forward, and also ensure that their finances are steady, because we know that our finances is going to impact our operational readiness. And that's one of the big concerns that the military has, is keeping you stable. And so at the end of the day, the military is going to do all that it can to support the stabilization of families as well as looking at ways to just keep you from falling off axis.
There are great tools that are there to use to help you dig out of a hole. But again, nothing beats having a good saving plan or planning. Jeff, back over to you.
Yeah. From a financial institution perspective, I would just really encourage anybody getting called up on active duty from the Reserves or National Guard or members of the active military about to go on deployment just call your financial institution or go in to see your banker. There are a lot of benefits that come into play when you are going on deployment that this provision also allows you to take advantage of.
Jeff, that's a great point, and that just naturally connects to my next question. If I'm a young airman-- and I'm using the term "airman," obviously, from being in the Air Force-- I could go and reach out to the Airmen Family Readiness Center. Would they give me information in depth that you just covered regarding the SCRA, or would that be something that almost every financial institution, whether that's a credit union or bank, should know and have this? Or what would you suggest?
Well, I do know that every financial institution, every regulated institution, is required to have this. For instance, I know at our financial institution we have dedicated reps to help military members through this process. I have to defer to Maurice on what is available on base. You're much closer to that than I am.
Yeah. Well, a lot of this information is available through certain organizations on bases, Military and Family Members Servicemember Centers, and you're going to get a lot of information and insight in the Welcome Aboard packages. Again, the military really understands that the dissemination of information is important, and they want to make sure that especially young families who are trying to figure it out and moving into homes that they get access to this information, because they're considered some of the most vulnerable. Especially since they just finished boot camp, they got a new family, and they're trying to put things together. And so what the military really does try to do is anticipate these types of challenges and put in place a system of support to help our military really have that good backup plan.
And that's a great point, Chief, and thank you for chiming in on that. And Jeff, thank you as well, my friend.
The next thing we're going to talk about is the legal readiness for service members. As soon as you know you're about to be deployed, it's a good idea-- as a matter of fact, it's a great idea-- to be proactive and contact your landlord, your credit card issuer, your lenders, and other creditors. If you have any questions, reach out to your nearest Armed Forces Legal Assistance Program office for guidance.
Identify and locate your important legal documents as well. Once you know and your family has discussed discuss where these documents are kept, write down their location. Make sure you store any confidential information in a safe. Maurice?
Well, this is sort of an add-on to what I mentioned earlier about financial services, family services, and legal services, and even child care services. There's a whole infrastructure in place to help individuals in the military manage their lives during deployment, during difficulty. I mean, it's essentially the whole nine yards.
And it is wise to have a pre-deployment checklist, where you just don't want to go off and leave your family hanging, so to speak, without some kind of legal recourse or to be able to take any kind of action. You just don't want any kind of legal entanglements whatsoever. And as you can imagine, the kind of stress that it would put on your family would just be unbearable in many cases-- again, especially with some of the younger families. And so it's just a wise practice to do that.
And there are civilian services that are also available, again, on military installations, whether it's Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army. There's just all kinds of people out there to help render legal support. And the big point is just don't be afraid to ask.
Chief, thanks again for sharing. One very important goal of mine was to further my education for sure. Of course my number one priority was to serve and defend my country, but I also wanted to further my education and prepare for that transition, if you will, from the last day of wearing that uniform to wearing a suit and tie, if you will.
Upon return from deployment, you may decide you want to further your education or seek another degree. Scholarships, grants, federal loans should be the first financial aid option and approach you consider, and for good reason. Scholarships and grants do not have to be paid back, and as we all know federal loans may be caught or achieved at a lower interest rate than private loans.
Here are some steps you can take to finance your college education. Number one, apply for the GI Bill benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Secondly, complete a free application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FASFA. Every year, or when circumstances change-- for instance, job, income, family, et cetera-- read your financial aid documents carefully and be aware of all obligations.
Keep looking for new scholarships, grants, and again as I mentioned, opportunities for work study. Communicate frequently with the financial aid office on campus and let them know if you are in financial trouble. Understand student loans are an investment in your future, but they can put you in debt and must be repaid.
Also consider the terms of the loan, most importantly. And last but not least, use student loan money only for school expenses. Right, Chief?
Yeah. I mean, this was really wise advice that I just can't emphasize enough. Let me just give you my narration. Only use the student loan money for school. Don't use it for anything else but, again, you may have some people out there that think that this is free money to put in their pocket that's available to spend. It's that discipline that you want to practice. And so it's important to stay focused and use that money only for what you need.
I remember when I got my student loan and I had to pay it back. It took me several years to do that. I didn't like it, but I did it. It's one of those have-tos versus want-tos. And sometimes when you have those loans outstanding, it's a very uncomfortable position to be in.
And again, today there are just so many young people out there with tremendous student loan debt that it may just be overwhelming. So my advice is sit down with the campus counselor or someone on the base who can give you good guidance on what to do. There are many ways to pay for your education-- like you said earlier, grants and others, GI Bill. In addition, there are incentives out there in which you could-- And let me just say that a lot of these will vary from state to state, so do your homework. Do your research. Find out what's applicable depending upon where you are.
I've learned over time and have made a lot of observations that you really shouldn't be at a financial hardship as a result of, let's say, your paying for education given the amazing programs and opportunities that are out there and just so much phenomenal advice to avoid these kind of pitfalls. And so word to the wise is always seek counsel and advice before you sign on the dotted line. Know what you're getting yourself into and remember, because once you sign on the dotted line you're going to have to pay the money back. And it doesn't have to be that way. Walt?
Chief, I couldn't have said it better. And before we hand it over to Jeff for the next few slides, what's one thing you wish you would have known back then when you were furthering your education yourself, sir?
Well, they can always appreciate that.
For me, it's starting early. And I just can't emphasize that part enough. Once you decide to do it, at the same time, make sure that you are disciplined, that you have a good balancing act.
And a lot of the things that we talked about earlier, which kind of seemed redundant, but they are always great advice-- If your priorities are in your studies and yourself, then study. You do it upfront. Put your social time off to the side. Focus on your grades as opposed to the excess social time. That will be out there later on when you're ready.
And so pay it forward, get it done upfront, and then reap the benefits later on down the road. You'll be surprised of how time just flies by real quickly and then you're done. [INAUDIBLE] So that's sort of like here's my advice to the next generation.
Awesome. Thanks, Chief, again for sharing.
So Jeff, the next few slides we're going to talk about financial fraud that you had highlighted earlier, and identity theft. I know a lot of us in all seriousness are leaned in on this subject and topic you're about to cover. So Jeff, with that said, I'll turn things over to you.
Yeah. Thanks. There's really nothing worse than following all the advice, all the program as outlined to get your financial situation in place, only to have that stripped away due to financial fraud or identity theft and not put the right measures in place to protect yourself. Because there are a lot of ways to protect yourself, which we'll get into in just a minute.
I'll also say another sad fact is that according to a recent FTC study, military members are almost three times more likely to have financial fraud or identity theft against them. Military members, veterans, we are targets, and unfortunately it plays out that way if we don't take care of ourselves.
You can see the numbers here. 258,000 reports of fraud, 120,000 reports of identity theft over the last five years. That's a ton.
$365 million in total losses. Think about that for a minute. That is a huge, huge impact. And it manifests itself in a number of ways. We'll see that on the next page here what some of the more common ways are that the fraud tends to happen.
So the main one is opening credit cards, new accounts in your name. People steal your Social Security number, your name, whatever information they can get and open up a new credit card. People will use some of the advantages you get and steal your identity as a military member to get a lower tax rate and commit tax fraud.
The military and veteran community have a ton of government benefits available to you guys and to us, and those are often stolen. People will sign up for disability on your behalf and take your money. They will apply for VA loans in your name.
And then there's just a whole bunch of other types of miscellaneous fraud. In fact, just today I got an innocuous note from Members Netflix saying that there wasn't payment on my account. I don't have a Netflix account. My wife does. But someone was looking for me to provide them information to steal my account and credit card information.
And then this one has also happened to me, where you get a lot of missed or inappropriate charges on your credit card. We'll talk about things to do, but one of them is certainly look at your statements on a regular basis.
So what can you do? Those numbers are staggering. It happens a lot. It happens more to military and veteran communities than general population. But fortunately, there's some things that we can all do to protect ourselves and keep ourselves from experiencing identity theft or fraud.
The first that I touched on briefly is just monitor your accounts regularly. Go online banking. Go to your credit card statement. See what's on there. Make sure that you understand what all those charges are and they all make sense. And if you don't see something right or if you do see something that's wrong, contact your bank or your financial institution of your credit card company right away, because there are things in place that can protect you.
Another one is set up account alerts. I have this personally set up on my credit cards, where if there's a charge over a certain dollar amount I get texts instantaneously. In fact, I could be swiping my card and almost less than a second later I'll get a text about the purchase. And it works, and it's right there in front of your face. And they also can give you fraud alert. So if there is a purchase on your card without you there, without swiping it, they can let you know that as well.
Another thing that's really important is people tend to open accounts for balance transfer purposes or move money into accounts that they don't actively use. You can freeze those accounts and block any sort of transactions, any sort of access to those. So if you are in that situation, I highly recommend that you lock or freeze those accounts.
I think the next one goes without saying-- keeping your authentication information secure. We log in to 10, 20, 30 different things a day probably with different passwords and log in information. And it's really important to keep those secure, especially as we talk about your identity and your financial situation. It's not really good to put your name and password on a piece of paper and keep it on a bulletin board at work or any of those kinds of things. I don't think people are really doing that. But it's really important to keep this information secure. If you have it in electronic format, password protect that. It's really important to do this.
We talked about credit reports earlier. Set up credit monitoring and alerts through one of the credit bureaus or all three, or through your financial institution. They provide these services as well. That's really where you're going to see who is trying to open accounts in your name. If people are, you could put a block on that.
You can do a lot with those credit agencies to reverse accounts that are not truly yours. But you have to monitor it. If it just happens and you don't monitor it, you're never going to be able to report it. Those credit agencies are never going to be able to get it fixed.
And then as we talked about, review the SCRA. A ton of benefits there, a lot of protections for the military community.
And then lastly, if you do have fraud, the government is really trying to help you as a military member and a veteran and as a citizen, and so report anything to identitytheft.gov. I think you'll really help the broader community in doing that. And I think collectively it's in all of our best interests, whether it be as a financial institution or a fellow former service member or active duty member, we all want to keep each other safe and secure. We want your identities to be your own. And there's a lot out there for organizations like ours to help you. So if you have any questions, talk to a banker, call your financial organization, and they want to help out.
I would just add that if you're in the military, just remember you have a bit of a target on your back. And I hate to say it like that, but it is what it is. There are some unsavory people out there who consider you to be easy prey because of the way the military operates, and so they usually go after the younger service members. So be careful where you shop. Be careful whose store you are in, who you give your credit cards to, because you just really don't know.
And always advise folks to shop on base. In fact, now if you have an ID card you can actually shop on base. It's a lot more secure there. You can't go wrong using, if you're in that particular area, the military exchanges. If you go in town, especially those stores that are in a close proximity to some of the bases, they know who you are and may have you targeted.
So just be careful out there. In many cases, folks are looking to take advantage of you. But again, now because we're moving online you have to be extra cautious for that as well. Hey?
No, that's a great point. Chief, before we dive into Jeff talking about the surprise here and you elaborating a little bit on resources, I was wondering really quick, because I know we've got about 10 minutes, and I want to put some things in, and I know all three of us want to answer a few questions. When you talk about additional resources out there, can you touch upon the main one, the hub if you will, the Military One Resource? Or Military OneSource, excuse me.
Well, that's very powerful. And every day the military is moving a lot of those activities online through some apps which are very, very secure-- a lot of encryption, the whole nine yards. And so I would advise to, if you can, take advantage of that. The VA is coming up with some really good programs they've been [INAUDIBLE], and it's [INAUDIBLE] every single day. As the unscrupulous people move things into position to try to take advantage of you, we have the counter forces out there that are doing the best they can to really protect you.
And so again, we want to make sure that we don't give our information out. We don't hand out passwords or share with anyone. But take advantage of all of the resources that are there to help you.
There are some other resources. In fact, my organization, we have a lot of resources out there to help folks. Obviously with coaching, sometimes you need live coaching. And so we have a great application out there to help you with that. If you're looking for some support out in the community, especially if you're, let's say, in the San Diego area as well as other areas across the country, a lot of local community services are coming up.
There's one here in San Diego called Courage to Call, which can connect you to just an infinite number of support organizations. Here in San Diego we have the San Diego Financial Literacy Center, which is also tapped into that center. During our REBOOT workshops we cover a lot of those topics in terms of the behavioral part, because we know that a big part of that is just our habits that sometimes get in the way.
But if you get into trouble and you have some stumbling blocks-- and again, this is like a one time firing of the bullet, if you will-- there's a great local organization here called Support the Enlisted Project [INAUDIBLE]. It offers emergency funding and financial self-sufficiency trainings to help get you out of hot water.
And then there's also the San Diego 211 Veterans Services here again in this region that can be very, very supportive of getting you in the database and then referring you to a vast network of community providers. And if you're in the military, whether it's Marine Corps Installation West here or Command Navy Installation West, they have the Fleet and Family or the Marine and Family Services Centers that offer just a wide range of personal financial management services that includes referrals, education, and counseling.
Again, we just have a virtual army of resources out there to help you through troubled times. But you don't always have to wait to use these two services. You can approach them even before you get into trouble.
Awesome. That's awesome.
And Jeff, I think I teed things up for you, sir.
Yeah. Here's the good news. So if you are listening to this session with compliments of U.S Bank, you have the opportunity to win $1,000, which is a great way to start off getting back on the right track or achieving your financial goals.
So you can enter to win a $1,000 cash prize at the website complimentsofusbank.com. If you're there, use the event code MILITARY, and that will enter you for that chance to win $1,000. There's also some good news associated with this, that you can send e-cards to your family and friends and invite them to enter to win the cash pool as well. And then we'd love for you guys, if you're interested, to just share your cards on our social media channel, hashtag #ComplimentsofUSBank, and we'll see who the lucky winner of that $1,000 is. I think with that we can get into some Q&A with a few minutes left.
That was great information. We received fantastic questions during the registration process. We'll answer a few of those here today. If you have additional questions, please schedule an appointment with your banker at usbank.com/book.
Our first question comes from John. He asked "When should I start thinking about retirement?" Walt, can you share your experience and give more information about scheduling time to talk about retirement goals with our goals coaches?
Absolutely. And Courtney, by the way, I kind of like that picture right there.
Great question, John. To the latter, you'll see a QR code right there on the slide under the stunning photo of myself downrange in Afghanistan, which will direct you right to the U.S. Bank Goals Coaching landing page. Or you can visit the actual URL at www.usbank/exploremygoals. Again, that's www.usbank/exploremygoals.
To answer the early part about retirement preparation, personally, I took a more casual and less tactical approach to my viewpoint, if you will, on retirement. Back then, I knew once I achieved that milestone of 20 years active duty service and commitment I was then going to get a percentage of my base pay, if you will. To my knowledge, that retirement structure has changed in the last six years since I retired.
Chief, I'll defer to you really quick on that one. Changes since you and I retired. How would that impact the overall planning aspect, if you will, for the service member, and to John's question?
So you can't start too soon. I often say just start as soon as you get in and start putting it together, because time, it goes by. Whether you are going to do a four-year, eight-year, 12-year, you basically have to just start the planning early. I mean, that sounds pretty basic, if you will, but it's powerful over time, because you just can't calculate that.
Saving just for the retirement just makes a whole lot of sense there. I wish I could have started like maybe six years earlier than I started, but it's important. It's very key. I would say that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I hear you.
Thanks, Walt, and thanks, Maurice. Our next question is, "What are some money tips that will help me transition to civilian life?" Maurice, can you help Tim out with some best practices?
Absolutely. Well, Tim, again, I'll sound like a broken record, but it's always good advice if you hear something redundantly. Obviously, plan early. Especially if you're the military, follow the guidelines in the Managing Your Transition timeline, which basically is a 365-day schedule that says here's a checklist of things that you can do that can prepare you for that transition. I highly recommend that.
Attend as many transition workshops as possible. Obviously there are some that are mandated, which is the Transition Assistance Program, but there are others that are taking place out in the community that you want to participate in, such as the REBOOT Workshop. We can help you with the planning. We can connect you to community resources.
You can never have enough people behind you, supporting you as a team, coaching you. As well as take advantage of the Military Financial Planning Services Center. These folks are top-notch experts. They do a fantastic job.
Also, I want to just say plan for your career. That's one of the issues that we see with a lot of people transitioning. It's not just the cash that you save. It's the money that you bring in so that you can save.
And so one of the things that I'm excited about that we're doing is launching a new-- we call it Artificial Intelligence Job Matching app that really helps transition service members and veterans. Actually, it finds the job for you so you don't have to find the job, and it connects you to them. Because we've done a lot of research, and we've discovered that there's a high turnover with veterans.
And so you heard that word mentioned earlier, "holistic." It's a holistic plan that has multiple tentacles connected to it. And so take advantage of everything all the time. Again, that's my story, and I'm going to by golly stick with it.
Thanks, Maurice. That sounds like a great technology.
Our last question comes from Charlotte. She asks, "I'm a fully disabled veteran with a lifetime VA disability stipend and SSDI in full retirement. I have no college expenses for children either.
How much do I really need for an emergency fund? How do I build a plan to create an emergency fund while paying down debt? How do I prioritize debt, emergency funds, and project funds, like replacing a roof or a boiler while on a fixed income?" Jeff, can you please help answer these questions for Charlotte about emergency funds?
Sure. Yeah. This is a great question, Charlotte, and it is a tough one, really, because everybody's situation is so unique. I think this is why we have great people like Walt and Maurice to really help coach people through what this should look like for each person's individual life.
But let me help shine some light perhaps on a few myths that are out there regarding savings and emergency funds. The first one is the need to save at least three or six months of expenses. While that might work for some people, I think that those numbers are really about how long it takes to get a new job if you perhaps lose a job and the cushion you need to transition from one to the other.
The fact is that 40% of Americans have a hard time paying for a surprise bill of around $400. And so a realistic starting place for a lot of people, a lot of us, is just start. Save $400. And when you get $400, save a little bit more. Maybe move it up to $1,000.
The benefit of doing that versus saying I need six months of expenses saved is that six months is a big number. That's half a year's pay, half a year's expense, and I don't know many people that can just do that. And so I think having that large of a goal can often be disheartening, and that's why we really recommend to start small. Start with what you know is maybe some of the emergency expenses you might face, and then just start to add onto that.
I think the second myth is that you can't start saving until all of your debt is paid off. I know we've all been in the paycheck to paycheck situation, and the thought of trying to save money while I'm trying to get this high-interest credit card bill paid, because I had to use a credit card to pay for the tire that I popped or whatever situation you're in, is really hard. But I think you can start small. That would be my recommendation, is you can start to save just a little bit at a time in order to build up some of that emergency fund.
Think back to our earlier conversation, where you're just putting a little bit of money into a different account that you're not looking at, coming straight out your paycheck. You won't even notice it.
Another technique would be to look at your expenses. Maybe when you look at where all your money is going, you're realizing you're buying Starbucks a few times a month. Well, maybe you can make coffee at home or get some on base or get-- I've had a lot of coffee on the ship. I might not recommend that. But there are lots of things you could do to trim down some of your expenditures, and you could move that into your emergency fund account.
I think the second thing to note-- or third thing, excuse me-- is this notion that you should only use your savings for serious emergencies. While it is good to have money set aside for serious emergencies, I think you should feel comfortable tapping into your emergency fund to handle things as they come up. You don't want to necessarily put yourself into a greater debt position or at risk financially just to keep the dollar amount sacred. You want to be smart with it, but you want to be able to use it for the things that you have actually saved it for. So if you have unplanned medical bills or you need that tire that you popped or you need to fix your car or there's a surprise school bill that came up, it's OK to use the money you have set aside to cover those things. Just stay disciplined on replenishing that rainy day or emergency fund.
So we can talk all day about this. It's highly individualized. But I hope that I was able to maybe bust some of the myths that are out there around emergency funds.
Very helpful. Great advice. Thanks, Jeff. And thanks to all of our presenters today for their time and to you for joining today's presentation.
Please use your phone camera to register for our next webinar, Helpful Tips for Safe Charitable Giving This Holiday Season on Giving Tuesday, December 1. As a reminder, we'll post the recording from today to usbank.com/wellnesswebinars in the next week. Remember to provide us with your feedback in the post-event survey following the session.
This concludes our webinar. Happy Veterans Day, and have a great afternoon, everyone. Thank you.
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