One reason I started The Military Wallet was to help myself and other military members and veterans navigate the often-times confusing world of benefits and financial topics. No one is going to hold your hand and show you how to balance your check book, invest in your first mutual fund, open a Thrift Savings Plan account, or prepare for retirement. It’s up to each individual or family to get it right. And it’s not always easy.
Jeff Rose is a living example. He started off like many of us – living paycheck to paycheck, and not quite sure how to handle his money the right way. Then he became interested in learning more about money management, investing, and related topics. Today, Jeff is a Certified Financial Planner, blogger at Good Financial Cents, life insurance agent, and now, a published author, as he is in the process of launching his first book, Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future.
Did I mention that Jeff served in the Army National Guard for 9 years and used his GI Bill to help him earn his college degree and financial planning certifications? Jeff leans heavily on his military background to bring you Soldier of Finance. In it, you will learn about how his military training prepared Jeff for a life of financial planning, how he learned to roll with the punches and recover from financial mistakes. He shares his experience with his year-long deployment to Iraq and how it helped shape his desire to create a stable financial footing for his family when he returned.
I’ve read dozens of books on money management and financial planning, but I’ve never read one with the approach Jeff uses. He shares his background and personal anecdotes to distill difficult financial topics into a language every one of us can understand. Even better, Jeff lays out a road map to help you get your own finances in order. This book contains a lot of excellent information and is best treated as a manual for long term financial planning. Using this resource, you can learn how to manage debt, understand your credit report and credit score,identify your financial goals, begin saving for the future, start investing, save for a home, and insure yourself, your family, and your belongings. In short – it’s a manual you can keep on your shelf and use for reference at virtually any stage of your life.
Jeff graciously spent a few moments answering some questions for us. I hope you will take a few minutes to read through this, and learn more about his book on his website, or visit Amazon for more information (also available at Barnes & Noble and other retail stores).
1. Congratulations Jeff on the new book Solider of Finance. I know it’s been a lot of work in the making, and I’m sure you’re excited to finally see it in print form! Can you give us a brief overview about the book, including what inspired you to write it and who the target audience is?
First off, thanks Ryan for allowing me to share my story with your community. Secondly, I would like to thank my fellow service men and woman who have sacrificed for the country that they love.
The inspiration behind the book is simple. I’ve been a financial planner for over 10 years now and along that way, I’ve seen so many men and women who make poor financial decisions. This has to do with investing, budgeting, saving for retirement. You name it. I’ve seen it. This book looks to address those that need help just getting started in getting their financial house in order.
The underlying message behind the book is that we’ve all made poor financial decisions in our past; me included. I struggled with credit card debt and student loans. I dropped out of college and was going nowhere fast. I made the conscious choice that I wanted more out of my life; I took action and made things happen.
I’ve personally seen dozens of cases where people got into really bad credit card debt, had to file bankruptcy, procrastinated, and didn’t save anything for retirement and despite all these shortfalls, they still have been able to get their financial life in order.
This book is for those that want more out of their money and are willing to put forth the effort to get there.
2. The concept of a battle buddy is not a new concept to most people in the military, but many military members don’t apply this concept to other areas of their lives, including their finances. Can you share why having a battle buddy is so important for helping with financial management?
As you alluded to, most people in the military get the battle buddy concept. Having somebody that has your back no matter what and knows everything about you. Every deep, dark secret, and isn’t afraid to speak their mind if they feel that you need it and deserve it. The same thing applies with your financial battle buddy.
For example, in my case, my financial battle buddy is my spouse. She’s the one when we first started dating that called me out when I tried to convince her that I needed to buy a brand new 42 inch flat screen TV. Now keep in mind I wanted to buy this when my income was next to nothing, and I already was racking up credit card debt. Her simply asking me, “Can you really afford that?” was a wake-up call.
Initially, I was miffed that she would ever question this purchase, but after sitting on it for a few days I realized that she was right.
A financial battle buddy isn’t afraid to speak their mind when they know what you need to hear. If your battle buddy knows that you’re struggling with debt, they should be the first one to speak up if you’re getting ready to head to the mall to buy something you don’t need, or go on a trip that you really just can’t afford.
3. Many people are afraid to admit their mistakes to themselves, much less write about them, but you have done just that as you list several financial mistakes that you have made throughout your learning years. Can you share a financial mistake that you made and how you learned from it?
My gosh…where do I even start?
I think the biggest mistake I made early on was my thinking in regards to credit cards “My payment will be a $100 per month. I can totally afford that.”
Because of my flawed logic my credit card debt went from a simple $500 store card to $10,000 of total debt. And this was before I graduated college!
My spending was spiraling out of control and thankfully my wife was there to kick my financial butt again.
Since then I always ask myself “Do you really need that?” before I purchase anything. That’s not just for big purchases. I do that for small purchases like a $15 t-shirt. It might sound silly but small “innocent” purchases it where it all begins.
4. When I first enlisted in the military, I saw how many youngsters made a variety of financial mistakes (I even made a few of my own!). What mistake do you see the most often among younger individuals or young families and what advice do you have for them.
I think the biggest mistake that most young people make is that they don’t save enough for their financial future. Most young individuals nowadays will not have the luxury of fruitful pensions and social security to take care of their retirement income needs. What that means is that it’s all on their shoulders to make it happen.
Because of this, younger individuals need to be saving a good chunk of their income. And I define a good chunk of income as a minimum of 20%, but in reality 25% is where you want to be.
A common misconception a lot of young people that I talk to assume is that they can’t afford to start saving right now because it takes a lot of money to get started. That’s a huge mistake. It doesn’t take a lot to get going, but not getting going at all will have dangerous ramifications later on.
5. In your day job, you’re a financial planner and insurance agent. Many of your clients are more established in their lives and in their finances. What are the biggest financial problems you see when you visit with a new client? What advice do you have for them?
Some of the biggest problems I see are having way too much debt. Many of my clients are approaching retirement and have to watch their monthly spending fairly closely. By having too much debt, i.e., a mortgage, credit cards, car loans, etc., it puts that much more pressure on having enough money to live off in retirement. My advice to anyone who wants to retire with little to no stress is to get rid of the debt. Do what you can to pay off everything before you finally retire.
For the younger generation, don’t get caught up in keeping up with your peers. Know what you can afford. If at all possible, pay cash. Not blowing your paycheck on the latest gadget or fad and putting that money away will reap huge benefits down the road.
6. So far, we have discussed reacting to mistakes, but you can’t win a war by only playing defense. Can you give some examples of how your readers can be proactive with their finances?
First and foremost people need to be in tune with what’s going on with their finances. This can be having a simple budget, having routine financial discussions with your spouse, knowing exactly how much money you’re saving and where it’s going. One of my pet peeves as a financial planner is that I see countless people blindly putting money into their retirement plans but have no idea what their money is actually invested into. Since your 401(k), TSP, 403(b) will eventually be your largest asset that you own, even larger than your home, wouldn’t you want to know where your money’s being invested? I would hope so!
In addition to staying on top of your savings and your investing, it’s also wise to keep in tune with your credit. If your credit report changes constantly, this also affects your credit score. Doing simple routine audits of your credit report (since it’s free) will make you aware if there are any drastic changes that you need to be on top of.
Jeff, thanks so much for spending a few minutes sharing your insight with our readers. For anyone looking for a good financial resource, I recommend checking out Jeff’s new book, Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future.