In the realm of military service, be it as active duty personnel, a dedicated member of the Guard or Reserve, or a respected veteran, the significance of financial planning cannot be overstated. It stands as a pivotal aspect encompassing what professionals within the esteemed Department of Defense reverently term “financial readiness.”
With the ever-evolving nature of military service, marked by its unique circumstances and demands, individuals involved in the defense realm must recognize the paramount importance of proactively managing their financial affairs. Financial planning serves as an indispensable compass, guiding individuals toward achieving their long-term financial objectives while ensuring stability in the face of adversity. It embraces a holistic approach, taking into account the distinctive considerations and benefits available to military personnel, and enables them to effectively balance current and future financial obligations, aspirations, and contingencies.
Your military pay, benefits, and retirement options are all areas to work on from the day you get your first Leave and Earnings Statement.
What does financial planning mean? Everything from managing your day-to-day expenses, monthly bills, and saving plans to retirement planning and investments. You’ll want to address multiple areas of your life at the same time to prepare for the future.
How to Manage Your Finances as a Military Member or Veteran
Serving in the military can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be financially challenging. There are a number of financial resources available to help military members and veterans manage their finances and achieve their financial goals.
Here are some of the best financial resources for military members and veterans:
- Financial assistance programs: There are a number of financial assistance programs available to military members and veterans. These programs can provide financial assistance for a variety of needs, such as housing, food, healthcare, education, and employment.
- Financial planning resources: There are a number of financial planning resources available to military members and veterans. These resources can help military members and veterans create a budget, save for retirement, invest their money, and protect their assets.
- Credit counseling: If military members or veterans are struggling with debt, they may want to consider credit counseling. Credit counseling can help military members and veterans get out of debt, improve their credit score, and build a budget.
- Legal assistance: If military members or veterans need legal assistance, they may want to contact the VA. The VA can provide legal assistance for a variety of issues, such as family law, bankruptcy, consumer law, and disability law.
If you are a military member or veteran, I encourage you to take advantage of the financial resources that are available to you.
Forget Traditional Savings Plans – Here’s How You Can Create Real Wealth with Your Military Pension
Did you know that veterans can invest in a multiplex property using VA home loan benefits as long as one unit is their primary residence?
Prepare to be amazed by a little-known secret that holds tremendous potential for veterans seeking to explore real estate investment opportunities. Picture this: veterans have the extraordinary ability to utilize their VA home loan benefits to venture into the realm of multi-plex property ownership, as long as they occupy one unit as their primary residence. Yes, you heard it right! This ingenious strategy opens up a world of possibilities, where renters residing in the remaining units become contributors to the mortgage payments, alleviating the financial burden in a truly remarkable way.
Imagine the possibilities that lie before you. Armed with the wisdom of utilizing your VA home loan benefits and harnessing the power of projected rental income, you have the potential to transform yourself from a single homeowner into a savvy real estate investor. As you delve into this captivating world, you’ll witness firsthand how renters occupying those additional units willingly contribute to your mortgage, propelling your financial goals forward in a captivating dance of symbiotic benefit.
VA Loan Benefits
The VA home loan is one of the most popular military benefits aside from the GI Bill. VA loans can be used to purchase owner-occupied primary residences up to four units large, with no down payment required in typical cases, no penalty for early payoff of the VA loan, and no VA-required private mortgage insurance.
Thanks to that no-money-down option, VA loans make a lot of sense for military families, but there are some misconceptions about the program you should be aware of. One of those is the nature of VA loans in general:
- VA loans are real estate loans ONLY.
- VA loans cannot be used for any other purpose than to buy, build, renovate, or refinance single-family properties. With the exception of owner occupied multifamily.
- You cannot use a VA loan to pay for college, you cannot use a VA loan to buy or start a business, and VA mortgage loans cannot be used to buy properties you don’t intend to live in full-time.
- VA loans cannot be used for houseboats or RVs. They cannot be used to buy things that cannot be legally classified and taxed as real estate.
Some want to know if they can apply for a VA mortgage with a loan higher than the home’s price and any approved add-ons to the loan.
They hope to take the extra cash at closing, but this is not permitted under VA home loan rules. For purchase loans, the only VA loan money back to the borrower at closing time is a refund for something paid for upfront but later financed into the loan amount.
VA loans typically feature lower interest rates than some of their conventional loan equivalents. They have no penalty for early payoff of the loan, including refinancing. These loans also feature a Streamline Refinance option when conditions are favorable to that type of refi loan (when rates have fallen lower than when you first purchased the home.)
VA Mortgage Loan Rules for Buying Investment Property
Are you looking for a townhome or condo unit you wish to rent out to others as a landlord? If you don’t plan on living in the home yourself (or have immediate family members occupy the home in your absence as directed by VA loan rules) you won’t get your home loan approved.
You or your qualifying family member or co-borrowers must occupy the property as the primary residence as a condition of loan approval and you will be required to sign a legally binding document acknowledging this and agreeing to the terms as a condition of loan approval.
How To Buy An Investment Property With A VA Mortgage
Purchasing a multi-unit property gives you the option of renting out the unused living units in your new home. This is permitted under VA mortgage loan program rules.
What is not permitted? Buying property you intend to turn into an Airbnb, condohotel, frat or sorority house, bed-and-breakfast, etc. Short-term rentals are generally not allowed for government-backed mortgages. You may find that rentals of 30 days or less are specifically prohibited depending on the mortgage loan you seek.
Some borrowers choose to purchase property with a VA mortgage and refinance it with a VA Streamline Refinance loan which normally is required to result in some form of a tangible benefit for the borrower.
Using an FHA Streamline Refinance, you do not have to certify that you will use the home as your primary residence, but rather that you have used the property as your home in the time leading up to the loan application. This is a good strategy to consider if you want to use the house you bought with a VA mortgage as a rental property but without you having to live there.
Tax Breaks for Veterans
There are a variety of tax advantages for veterans offered at the state level. Some of these tax breaks apply to specific classes of veterans such as:
- Those with qualifying wartime service
- Veterans who were prisoners of war
- Veterans who are listed as Missing in Action
- Veterans with VA disability ratings
- Veterans with certain expeditionary medals
Some tax breaks are offered on property taxes, others as tax exemptions on military retirement pay or military disability retirement pay. In most cases, tax breaks for veterans are not automatic and must be applied for.
Some property tax rebates or exemptions may carry over year-to-year, but this depends greatly on the state or local policy. Tax incentives are not standardized across all 50 states; your experience may vary. The first place to start looking for veteran tax relief, veteran tax breaks, or veteran property tax exemptions is your state-level Department of Veterans Affairs or Office of Veterans Affairs.
Protecting Your Money
Sadly, military ties can contribute to financial fraud even by fellow veterans you served beside. Always make sure a professional is licensed and the product registered. This is a lesson that James Gonedes and other veterans learned the hard way.
Protect your investments by watching for these red flags from Investor.gov:
- Unlicensed investment professionals
- Aggressive sellers who provide exaggerated or false credentials
- Offers that sound “too good to be true”
- “Risk-free” investment opportunities
- Promises of great wealth and guaranteed returns
- “Everyone is buying it” pitches
- Pressure to invest right now
- Over-the-top, sensational pitches with fake testimonials
- Unsolicited pitches seeking to obtain your personal information
- Asked to pay for investments by credit card, gift card or wiring money abroad or to a personal account.
The Importance of Early Military Retirement Planning and Saving
There are some important reasons to start retirement planning early; it is easier to start saving when you are younger, compound interest earns more the longer you save, and you never know when you won’t be responsible for just yourself anymore.
The peace of mind you get by planning and saving early will be well worth the time invested. But for military members, there are less-obvious reasons to start planning and saving early. You never know when you won’t have the luxury of having enough time to figure out what you want to do about your retirement fund.
Deployments, TDYs, professional military education, and promotion testing all demand their fair share of time, and if sitting down with a financial professional or even just on your own is one of those “I’ll get to it next week” issues? Some procrastinate a lot longer than you realize.
How to invest your military pension and VA disability is a personal decision? There is no guarantee that you will make money from your investments. But if you educate yourself about investing and create a plan, you should see contributions to your financial security resulting from intelligent money management.
Diversification is an excellent way to protect yourself. Adding investments to your portfolio also means additional fees and expenses. Consider how they will affect your investment returns to find the best way to diversify.
If you feel overwhelmed, re-evaluate your risk tolerance. For example, you may be more comfortable in a more conservative portfolio where a market decline won’t impact your mental health.