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6 Key Financial Steps for Young Veterans

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By Brittany Fisher

Adjusting to life on the outside isn’t always easy. You may have spent the last five to ten years in service having your life planned out. But as a civilian, you are in control, and that also means you’re responsible for your finances. Courtesy of DAV Chapter 8 in Mesa, here are six things you can do as a young veteran to improve your personal economics and live your best life.

Learn to budget.

Budgeting doesn’t come naturally to most people. It is a learned behavior that requires discipline and simple math. You’ll need to examine both your income and expenses in order to create a budget, but it’s the key to financial stability and realizing many of your life goals. With your money situation sorted, you can do things like go back to school, change up your career, have children and buy a home with peace of mind.

Buy a home.

Investing in a home of your own is a common goal in our country, and even with a sound budget in place, you need to do some extra planning to make it happen. Things like fixing hiccups in your financial history, saving for maintenance and repairs, and exploring mortgage options are part of the puzzle.

Do some leg work before you dive in — get your FICO score, learn about current VA loan rates, terms, and closing costs, and gather the documentation needed for preapproval. Lenders will look very critically at your overall financial picture, so get everything up to snuff and understand what you’re getting into before you dive in. It’s not unusual to need to wait a while to sort out circumstances before being able to make this important lifestyle step.

If you can’t afford to buy a home just yet, consider renting a place with just enough room so you can comfortably set aside money for a down payment. Mesa is slightly more expensive than Phoenix, so consider looking for a house or apartment in a cheaper area. Determine how much you can afford, and then filter for price and amenities you actually need when searching for the right place. You may even want to look for a roommate to help with housing costs, which can make it easier for you to build your down payment fund.

Launch a business.

Many young veterans assume they have to start their civilian life with a job. While you will need a source of income, you don’t have to settle for a 9-to-5. You will have the greatest earnings potential by starting your own business. Writing for Mile IQ, Marine Corps veteran Brad Miller suggests that vets may thrive in real estate, logistics, fitness, contracting, and other areas.

When you do establish a small business, prioritize forming your business structure. Look into becoming an LLC, so you can choose your tax structure and have management flexibility should you want to expand later. Each state has different rules and regulations, so do your homework.

Invest wisely.

When you’re in your 20s or 30s, investing means paying careful attention to your long-term goals. At this age, you can get away with some higher-risk stocks and bonds, which also have the highest potential payouts. Set aside a portion of each paycheck to invest in industries where you have a working knowledge and avoid areas where you don’t. If you have a budget and are sticking to it, you can use your discretionary funds to add to your portfolio.

Use your benefits.

As a veteran, you are entitled to numerous financial perks available only to those who have served. Along with military discounts at a wide variety of local and national businesses, this includes access to tax-free websites, VA home loans, and special pricing on everything from wireless plans to new vehicles. Don’t let these valuable discounts go to waste. You may also utilize your education benefits to fund your college career or find an on-the-job training program that can boost your earning potential.

Many vets opt for assistance from the GI Bill when it comes to rounding out their education. For those wanting the affordability and convenience of an online degree, programs like Western Governors University’s online master's degree in information technology costs roughly half of a traditional college’s master’s degree. The beauty of learning online is that you can earn while you learn -- entirely online programs mean you can keep working and earning money while getting your degree. Some online IT programs also allow you to earn top industry certifications at no extra cost, boosting your résumé before you even graduate.

Prioritize your health.

Few people understand the link between poor health and overspending. But there is an undeniable correlation between health and wealth. By prioritizing your health, you will spend less on things like dining out and having to replace pieces of clothing because of excessive weight fluctuations.

Healthy activities, such as gardening, can also help you shave dollars off of your weekly grocery bill, according to National Co-op Grocers, a network of community-owned grocery stores. You’ll also want to invest in health insurance — even a single trip to the emergency room can cost more than a year’s worth of premiums if you become injured or experience a health emergency.

Transitioning into civilian life isn’t always easy. But you can take much of the strain off yourself by prioritizing your financial well-being. From budgeting to rolling up your sleeves and growing your own food, every step you take now will help you take control of your personal wealth for the long haul.

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VALoans Vets
VALoans Vets
Jan 31, 2022

Your credit rating is one of the most prominent factors that will affect your rate when applying for a VA Loan. Individual lenders set their requirements for credit score limits, but most want to see a score above 620. The higher your score, the better rate you will qualify for in most cases, but this is not a hard and fast rule. You may still be eligible if your number is below 620 since lenders consider more than just your credit score when giving you a mortgage rate.

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