Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Keeping up with the Joneses

So I try and keep my posts on managing finances down to a minimum.  I tend to really get in detailed conversations about managing money.  I left the Army with a good sum of money.  I was never given anything.  I saved and invested my money wisely.  I still had a nice car but it was sensible ( and paid for!), nice clothes, went out with friends and enjoyed myself.  However, I did one simple thing most active duty military members don't do.  I made a budget and stuck to it.  I didn't try and keep up with the Joneses. 

This post is really geared toward newer Soldiers (or insert whatever branch you are).  However it applies to everyone.  The senior leaders in debt are in debt because...you guessed it..they didn't manage their finances early in their career and a snowball effect took place.  You newer Soldiers have money for once in your life.  You have freedom.  Also, most of your friends in your unit who are new just like you are running out to blow all their money.  DO NOT make this mistake.  You will be under the illusion that this is happiness.  It is not.  It's instant gratification, and it goes away (especially when you realize you're in debt and that car is about to be repossessed).  This will not bring you happiness.  You'll also realize in the end no one is really paying attention to what you buy or really cares.

I can't tell you how much I cringe at work when I'm working with a Soldier who's set to get out of the Military in less than 6 months and they are in debt with numerous loans.  Blowing all your money every pay check may make you happy for that weekend, but Monday when you're broke and it's a week from pay day you'll realize how empty a lifestyle that is.  You were happy for a moment, but you're not content.  Your life is chaotic, dis organized and you don't like it.  Then to escape that feeling, you indulge in expensive purchases again and the cycle repeats.  Don't even start down this path, it's a terrible habit to break.  You'll start to feel like spending all your money is the best option because at least it makes you happy temporarily, and why not since you're already in debt right?  You can't get stuck in this trap.

Start keeping track of goals you want.  I know it sounds cliche, making long term goals and short term goals.  Set goals you can measure though.  Just like a person who says " ok every day this week I'll go to the gym".  They physically can see the difference, feel it, and have actual proof they went because they took the time to drive there and make it happen.  Make goals week to week.  I'll work "x" amount on this class instead of going out, I'll save 50 percent of my check this week.  When you start seeing your progress and notice it's working that'll make you content.  Content AND happy.  So then when you finally do reward yourself and go out you can be truly happy knowing that next Monday you're account will still be stacked and you'll still be right back on track with your plans.  Don't try and keep up with what others around you are buying or doing, chances are they won't remember what you did or didn't do anyway.  Those people also will be the ones to get out with no prospects or re enlist because they have no other options.

I won't write every specific on what to do...it'll take pages and pages so I'll go through 3 simple rules to start with.  Number one, make a budget.  Here's some truth for you though, most people give up on budgets because they can't calculate it and think it's not effective because it's too frustrating to get an exact number.  A budget takes 3 months to be perfected.  That's right, 3 months.  You'll forget this expense or that expense and have re calculate it.  Most people get frustrated with this fact and quit.  Don't do that.  Make one, give it three months and adjust it.  Rule number 2, when you get promoted figure up what the bi monthly increase is and save that amount from the first payday.  That still lets you enjoy half of the extra money and you'll be making a better choice saving the other half.  Oh and promotion doesn't mean go buy a new car.  Rule number 3,  Save $86 every pay check on top of any future promotion amount or excess left over.  That amount saved bi monthly will get you saving over $1000 every 6 months.  If you have nothing else additional left over at the end of the month but you're doing the $86 twice a month that'll still be $2000 a year.  That's it for now.

Bonus:  Not to pitch my own company but if you are a USAA member and have any products or insurance with them at all give them a call and ask to speak to a financial advisor.  They do this as a benefit to members and a licensed financial advisor can talk with you and help you set up a working budget.  All you have to give up is a few minutes of time.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sacrificing for the unknown

Earlier today a friend of mine was texting me about his progress.  He has about 3 years left on his current enlistment so he has plenty of time to prepare.  He asked me though, how can he stay motivated when he doesn't know exactly where he will end up if he gets out?  Then, he asked me do I know where he will be.  Here's the thing.  I don't know exactly where he'll end up or what career he will find.
Here's what I do know though.  If you put in the effort now you will end up in a better position than you are now.  You have to sacrifice for the unknown.  Work now without knowing exactly what will come of it.  There aren't guarantees in any of this.  I can't look at your plan or resume and say " that's great, you'll be making six figures the day you leave the military".  No one ever knows what reward they will get.  College graduates don't know what job they will get.  Pro athletes don't know when they will win or lose.  I can't predict it exactly.  Do I know if you'll make six figures within 5 years of leaving the military? No.  You know what I do know though?  You will be better off, with a better job, and more opportunities than the guys who didn't prepare at all.
You have to sacrifice for the unknown.  You can put all the effort in.  Wake up earlier to work on a college course you're taking while you're in the military, work on a resume and update it regularly, and apply for jobs a year prior to ETS  (yes a year, having a written guaranteed letter of employment from USAA months before I was set to get out gave me so much peace of mind).  This doesn't guarantee anything.  You have to do it though.  You have to give yourself the best possible chance you can.  Do you think a UFC fighter does all that work knowing he or she is promised to win?  No.  They will have a much better chance of winning than if they had just sat on the couch though.  Don't worry about the exact results.  Do the work and let the process happen, the results will come.
If you say you want a good life after the military you better prove it and work for it.  You have to do the work and it starts with planning.  If you don't start planning ahead you're planning to fail.  Don't complain now.  You can complain later, when you have that stacked bank account, college courses completed , a letter of employment.  Then you can look back and say " wow it took a lot of work to get this, some of those days suck".  Don't stop when you're tired, stop when you're done.  A lot of things in life you can't control.  One thing you can though is working on yourself, making yourself better.  You can't control a lot but you can control effort and out working everyone else.
To close this out.  Sacrificing for the unknown will pay off in some way.  I'm at a job now that I absolutely love.  The company I work for treats me amazing and I make way more than I thought I would.  I never thought I'd be working for who I am when I was up at night reading, doing homework and taking college courses.  I didn't have a piece of paper saying " do this and you will work here and live in Colorado Springs".  That's what happened though.  Everyday when I get up, see the view of Pikes Peak, have my favorite coffee from Pikes Perk Coffee House and drive to work, all these little things make up for the time I put in.  Every part of my life and my job I love came from sacrificing for what was unknown.  It paid off.  It will pay off for you too.  I been tied up helping some people who messaged me finish up resumes and setting up LinkedIn profiles for them so more posts will be out later this week.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why?

Earlier today at work someone asked me why I do this.  I knew the answer and told them I'd just explain it in my next post.  I had this blog originally on another site and never thought of even exposing it to my own friends and family on social media.  I only linked it after helping build resumes for 3 friends and getting 2 of them interviews (one of which was at USAA).  This is a passion for me.  I deal with this all day at work sometimes and then still want to come home and write about it.  I don't want tons of followers or praise for this.  I just want my voice to reach the right people.

My views in one day after linking this to social media hit 1327 for one day (some coming from Poland, Japan, Canada, and Germany which I loved seeing).  I had 13 people privately message me for advice and for help.  No one yet has left a comment, and that's understandable.  Some of the ones reaching out to me for help are still  scared of what will happen after the Military, some even asked me to not tell mutual friends that they reached out to me.  That's perfectly fine with me.  As long as they're asking for the help and taking action.  Some are still early in their career and may even be "lifers" in the Military but want to still have that safety net built for when they retire.

I got home tonight and one person asked could they just talk on the phone for a few minutes just to get some direction and talk about the concerns they have leading up to their last day in the Army in roughly 8 months.  That's what I want you all to do.  Yeah I'm tired from my day but if I don't offer to help this person I feel like my day would be incomplete.  I have to do this.  If I get to only help one person or have one person take action and start being proactive about planning for their future then it's all worth it to me.  If you read 100 percent of what I write, only like 50 percent of it, but retain and use just 10 percent of the material and remember that 10 percent forever then to me the time spent doing this is worth it.  I have roughly 10 posts already drafted for the next 2 weeks, outlining what you can do now day to day, how to fit college into your schedule working active duty, what qualities to look for in a future career after the military and what will matter to civilian employers the most.  Keep reading because I promise a lot of good content is about to be put out.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Master of the Mundane


So the title “Master of the mundane” sounds fancy right?  I actually heard it repeated a lot from a weight lifter I knew.  She always said it’s not raw talent or one bit of passion in one day or at one time that gives people success.  It’s the ones who become “ The master of mundane”.  This girl would have alarms set to tell her when to go to sleep.  She would wake up every morning to do yoga and mobility work, plan her meals ahead for the week, things that most people…won’t do.  Using that as an example it’s extremely easy for anyone to go hard in the gym for an hour, but how many people are going to do the little repeated monotonous tasks to really succeed?

Most of you think planning ahead is this big huge scary thing so you shy away from it.  You keep that “it’ll all work out attitude” then complain when you’re working a lame job (or two) while you’re in school on the G. I Bill.  Oh and for those who say “ I’m just going to go to school” good luck living off roughly 1500 a month from the housing stipend.  Planning doesn’t have to be a sprint.  Most of you if you never read this were going to get all fired up…go spend a whole day writing a resume or reading up on job postings, then quit.  You need to become a “Master of the mundane” in regards to preparation for if you get out of the Military.  Even if you aren't sure if you are going to get out I can promise you that chipping away at some small tasks to build a safety net and back up plan will only benefit you. 

Someone might spend all day doing a resume but most people couldn’t spend the first 15 minutes upon waking up and the last 15 minutes before going to bed looking for a job, reading about some new interest that could lead to a career choice or even knocking out homework for an online class.  However, that’s exactly what you need to do.  It’s consistency and time management.  I don't care what you do in life, those two factors are the biggest keys to success.  Look at in numbers, compare someone spending only 8 hours one time trying to write a resume and find a job (like they want you to do in most cookie cutter military transition programs)..compared to a person who spent 15 minutes twice a day for the last 6 months or longer working on their plan B.  Who put more time in?  Exactly.  That’s where it starts.  I don’t even want you to start with 15 minutes twice daily if you’re just starting to figure things out and have plenty of time.  Start with ten minutes.  Ten minutes a day, that’s it.  Don’t tell me you don’t have time.  You probably spend an hour a day just surfing social media, don’t worry I got tips to trim that down too in some later posts.  Start today, with just ten minutes.  To keep yourself accountable, I want you to keep a log whether it’s on paper of even an app like Evernote.   Write down the number 10 on a page everyday and then I guarantee by the time you have a few pages of those 10s you’ll have a much clearer vision of where you’re heading. 

The time spent doesn't have to be on the same thing day to day.  One day work on your resume, one day read up on a potential career you're interested in, the next day search for a career online.  You have to do 10 minutes a day though.  If you're doing just 10 minutes a day from now on I promise you'll be in a better position than you are now.  Take the first 10 minutes today and download a program off Amazon called Resume Maker Professional.  It'll automatically adjust to the correct format and upload perfectly to any site.  Trying to adjust a word document to every employers website is annoying (and will eat up those 10 minutes).  It's worth the 30 dollars.  I still use it when I update my resume every 3 months.  Also there are two books that will help tremendously too.  I used both of them personally.  One just to make sure I didn't need to tweak my resume called Knock'Em Dead Resumes.  The other book is called How to Win Friends and Influence People and it's the best book ever written on professional communication.  That's less than 100 dollars invested that will help you get a career.  The intro and the second post were just my brief reasons for starting this, but this is where you have to start working too.  Invest the time and start now.  I've already had a lot of people personally message me because they're not comfortable asking for advice on Facebook or on blogger so anyone else who wants to speak one on one don't hesitate.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Introduction



So I started a blog, it feels kind of odd.  However, people around me have asked for my advice on this lately.  Also my current job goes hand in hand with my passion to make sure Military members are making smart decisions financially and aren't ending up miserable once they're civilians again.  First off, this is meant to be encouraging and hopefully prompt most of you to begin preparing yourself for that “Plan B” after the Military.  This is not intended to bash the Military or discourage anyone from reenlistment, most of what I will write applies to preparing for retirement also.  However, the Military is the least helpful source for true help to transition successfully to civilian life.  Hopefully the stories and strategies I put in these posts will help you make better decisions, use your time more wisely and ultimately leave you in a much better position for when you are finally at that crossroads.  As I said above, this isn’t meant to discourage you from re enlisting.  I just want to make sure when you are at that crossroad, whatever decision you make is because you want to and not because you have no choice. 

I’m not a counselor, but I came in Army with almost no college credits and no idea what I wanted out of life after the Army.  I left the Army with enough college credits to put me roughly just a year shy of a Bachelors degree, a job with a  much better salary and benefits, no debt, and plenty in my bank account and investments.  I had guaranteed employment months before taking transition leave and had my full plan mapped out almost 15 months before my last day in the Army.  So, all in all I did a few things right.  You don't have to have your degree completed or have six figures in your bank account to get out successfully, but you do need to plan for it and not stick your head in the sand and pray for the best.  Read the posts, take some advice, find some humor in some of the posts and start thinking past this weekend.

For some of you, this will not be something you want to read or hear at first.  That's because reality sometimes is scary, especially when someone else talks about it calmly and clearly to you.  This is real advice.  None of those pyramid schemes or Tai Lopez type hooks.  However, if you follow the advice I give in the upcoming posts I can promise a few things.  You will be in a better position financially in just a few months,  you will have a completed resume, you'll have submitted job applications to at least 10 employers and you will at least have some good ideas for how to figure out what you want to ultimately do after the Military.  Take the time now and use the resources I'll put in future posts.  You have to make the decision to work for this, no one else will.  A five day transition course  isn't enough to help you (although it did provide me a catchy name for this blog), it's just a tool to cover the Military and check the box.  Invest the time now so you're not freaking out when that window of time is closing in.  It isn't profitable for the Military to invest money or time on helping you get out in good shape, so you have to invest the time and effort yourself and it starts now.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

What should my "back up plan" be?

 I’m sitting here this morning drinking coffee when just a few minutes ago a friend stationed in Fort Bragg was voicing her concerns about an upcoming EMT Certification.  I offered some encouragement but then asked something more important.  Why do you want to be an EMT after you’re done with the Army?  She replied that she learned knowledge being in the Army as a medic and that she’d be able to make a steady pay check.  I replied back “ok, I know what advantages and qualifications you have.  I also realize it’d be a good living.  I don’t want to know that though.  I want to know WHY.  WHY do you want to be an EMT?  There should be a reason bigger than that.  There is always a why, and usually another "why" behind that why.  You’re answering what makes you want that career.  Not why.  She was taken back a bit and said she didn’t really know if she wanted to be an EMT.  This wasn’t meant to discourage her.  She’s a very intelligent person, one of the smartest people I met the 5 years I was in.  I wanted to make a point though.  If you don’t have passion for your job, it’ll be that.  A job, not a career.  Half of you didn’t even pick an MOS in the Army you wanted to do ( It’s ok, I didn’t either), and then you make the same mistake when you transition.  I’m not saying you need to figure it out as soon as you’re in the Army.  You do however need to broaden your horizons a bit.  Start reading more, watch something else than Netflix or Hulu.  You could have a passion for something right now that you might not see as a possible career and it very well could be.  It took me reading books…a lot of them, and finally figuring out I wanted to pursue a path in business, finance and entrepreneurship and eventually tie in a passion for helping military members with that (hence why I'm at USAA).  I didn’t discover this until I was about 2 years into my enlistment.  I did however start exposing myself to things outside of the Army and doing self education.

Some of you are going to be concerned about this.  You’re afraid you’ll find what you’re passionate about early in your enlistment and it’ll be the furthest thing from what you currently do.  Life is going suck and go by slow now that you realize you’re in the wrong job, isn’t it? Well, yes kind of.  Hear me out though.  You can still use this to your advantage.  Start doing self-education (reading, watching, learning) what you really want to do in your free time.  For example, say you figure out you want to be a physical therapist one year into a three year contract as a mechanic in the Army.  Great, that gives you two years to learn everything you can about physical therapy through self-education and networking with local ones in your area.  It also gives you time to get your core college credits out of the way using tuition assistance.  Once you’re out you’ll be far more knowledgeable than your peers who are just now learning.  Your interests may change, and that's ok.  Starting by taking college and doing self education to prepare will still build habits in you that are a much better use of your free time.  Start today with just asking yourself what you have an interest in and go from there.