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A Guide on How to Save Money in the Military

Military life can be stressful and finding ways to cut costs can be challenging but not impossible. There are many opportunities for soldiers to learn how to save money in the military.

For many Americans, the military is a way to make a good living and escape a situation that is less than ideal. The military is a way to give back to the country and help others, and it’s a way to make your own life better by providing for your family.

Why You Must Plan

There are numerous benefits of saving money, whether you’re military personnel or a civilian. But saving for retirement is one of the most effective strategies for long-term financial security. You must understand how to save money in the military to maximize your retirement benefits.

The most crucial distinction between those who can maintain their financial stability and others who are sinking may be the existence of an emergency savings account.

Many people borrow excessive amounts of money at exorbitant interest rates for various reasons, including the lack of an emergency savings fund. Your emergency fund assures you that you can handle different kinds of monetary problems while enabling you to pay for urgent needs.

Management Tips For Saving Money In The Military

If you are in the military, you know how tough it can be to save money. Your basic pay barely covers your living expenses. The military provides many benefits, but there are a few things you can do to save more money without sacrificing your standard of living.

Cut Spending

Understanding where your money is going is the first step toward lowering costs. It will undoubtedly help you to track expenditures for 30 or 60 days.

Writing down each expense as you incur it is the traditional way to keep track of your spending. It may be a bit tedious, but it’s worth it. Examine everything you purchased and decide what was truly necessary and what was merely a want.

Printing out a bank statement and marking different spending categories with highlighters is one approach to make things more transparent. Alternatively, you may list them with headings for “needs” and “wants.”

Some banking organizations even feature a pie chart or graph that shows where your money went on your debit card account, broken down by category.

Budgeting

Whether you’re attempting to get out of debt or save money for retirement, budgeting will help you reach your goals.

Think of budgeting as just deliberate spending of your money. You won’t feel bad about spending money once you have made a budget for it.

Making a budget involves these three main steps:

  • Knowing your gross income
  • Establishing monthly expenses, such as the mortgage or rent, utilities, debt insurance, and other things.
  • Identify your needs, such as those for food, transportation, and medical care.

You can spend whatever you have leftover with your discretion. Establish an amount that you can use to pay off any credit card debt and an amount to save for an emergency fund.

Additionally, numerous online budget tools, apps, and other resources can help you create a reasonable budget.

Debt Avoidance

It may not seem concerning, but having a lot of debt can harm your military career. The two major debt problems in military careers are preparedness and security clearances. And high debt can affect your preparedness.

Debt isn’t always bad. It can help you develop good money habits, build your credit, and accomplish your goals if you take it on for suitable investments.

Regardless, there are some circumstances in which you should avoid debt. For instance, credit scores can go down, and interest rates can soar if you have excessive credit card debt that you can’t pay off each month.

You can avoid lousy debt by:

  • Choosing a spending plan
  • Choosing a savings routine and sticking to it
  • Only borrowing what you need
  • Paying off your entire credit card bill every month

Utilize financial instruments that increase your credit score, provide you rewards, and help you avoid debt. You’ll have made the first and most crucial step toward long-term debt independence if you follow your budget and pay your credit card amounts in full each month.

Wise Credit Card Usage

Recognize the risks of using a credit card before committing. To comprehend how they apply and your obligations, carefully read the terms and conditions of the legal contract.

Additionally, aim for a total payment of your outstanding balance by the monthly due date. When you have a balance on your credit card, everything costs more than the original price since interest gets charged. The cost increases the longer you carry a balance.

Don’t use your credit card to get a cash advance. Cash advances made with a credit card do not have a grace period like ordinary purchases. Credit card companies apply interest from when the advance gets accepted until the day you pay it off in full.

Remember, you are spending more than you can afford and incurring more debt if you cannot make total payments on your monthly balance.

Open a Savings Account

Bank Cards

You can anticipate that a sizable portion of your earnings, as a young military person, will remain for discretionary spending. Being a junior implies that you will spend most of the time training and sleeping in the barracks.

However, that doesn’t mean saving your money becomes easy. But having a savings account and sticking to a strict savings routine can help you manage your personal finance.

If you’re without a savings account, Navy Federal Credit Union and USAA offer some of the best banking options for military personnel.

Explore Military Discounts

Some numerous stores and establishments offer military discounts across the United States. Whether it’s in banking and insurance, retail, housing, home, travel, or legal services, among others, there are several different options to explore. Veterans and active military members can benefit from these discounts and save much money.

Base Shopping

Military life has several advantages, including reduced prices at base stores. The on-base grocery store is called the commissary, and the on-base department store is called the exchange. These on-base stores also have peculiarities and regulations, like most things in military life. 

Like most on-base facilities, the commissary is available to a select group of people. You need a Valid ID card to purchase at any of the stores on base. Adults without an ID must occasionally sign in as guests and show their identification when asked by staff at the entry. Every time you make a trip, you’ll have to scan it at the register.

The commissary accepts active duty, dependent and retirees, and Guard and Reserve military identification cards of all types. If you have your military ID, that’s all you need.

Additionally, both commissary and regular manufacturer coupons are acceptable in the commissary. However, unlike most grocery stores, they do not permit simultaneous use of both coupons.

GI Bill

Benefits from the GI Bill assist you in financing training courses, graduate school, and college. Since 1944, the GI Bill has provided money to eligible veterans and their families. This money is for paying all or some of the costs associated with attending school or receiving training. 

The GI Bill has numerous programs. These programs can assist you or your beneficiaries cover the cost of approved training, including job training and college tuition. Find the GI Bill program that best suits your needs.

Your GI Bill Statement of Benefits will indicate how much of your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits you have already utilized and how much is still available for use toward your training or education. These benefits may help to defray all or a portion of the cost of training or education. 

Life Insurance coverage

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a life insurance program called Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI). This program provides low-cost life insurance to every military member. In the military, you are automatically insured under SGLI for a total of $400K unless you reject it.

You can always change the amount you get from the SGLI coverage or change your beneficiary by using SOES (SGLI Online Enrollment System), which is available on the DMDC website.

Additionally, Traumatic Injury Protection is part of your life insurance. This insurance covers losses resulting from severe injuries and assists military personnel with financial support so their loved ones can support them while recovering. Depending on the injury, this coverage might be between $25K and $100K.

Your SGLI will stay valid for 120 days after you leave the service. If you like, you can switch from SGLI to VGLI (Veterans Group Life Insurance) when you leave.

Retirement Savings

Many military members underestimate the value of savings because they anticipate leaving the military and receiving a lifetime pension after 20 years. Yet, less than 18% of service members remain long enough to qualify for military retirement compensation.

This fact makes it more crucial to take advantage of the unique savings options available to military members alone.

It’s essential to save money on your own, regardless of your selected retirement plan.

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a great place to start. The TSP is a 401(K) plan but with meager fees. Regardless of how much you have to invest, the TSP offers significant tax benefits, and a new rule gives you the choice of utilizing the tax reductions right away or accruing future tax-free income.

There are many other retirement savings options for military personnel. You should examine different options and pick the one that works best for you.

VA Home Loan

Most veterans and active military members know they qualify for a VA home loan to buy a primary residence. But, many active and retired service members don’t know they can acquire this loan for multifamily properties.

When purchasing a multifamily property, military personnel have a significant advantage. If you take out a mortgage loan backed by the VA, they won’t need to make a down payment.

However, there are different conditions to qualify for a VA loan for a multifamily home. Here’s a list of those conditions:

  • You must certify the home as your primary residence.
  • Owner-occupied, multi family homes with up to four living units are eligible for VA home loans.
  • A commercial loan is necessary for properties with five units or more.
  • Within 60 days of the loan’s closing, the VA demands that you move in and use the house as your principal residence.

Additionally, the VA has special cash-reserve requirements. To qualify for a VA multifamily loan, you must have enough cash to cover at least six months’ mortgage payments, insurance, and taxes.

You may also qualify using expected rental income from the multifamily property. But there are conditions for this as well.

  • You can use 75% of the historical, confirmed rental income to qualify for a potential loan if the units have occupants.

When the apartments are empty, it depends on:

  • The private lender’s conditions
  • Your experience with property management
  • State laws that apply to you

Remember that even if you qualify for a VA multifamily loan, you will still need to meet the conditions set by your lender. If you’re interested in buying a multifamily house with a VA loan, select your lender carefully. Not all mortgage companies provide multifamily loans.

A VA multifamily loan provides a unique opportunity to invest money in real estate and make passive income. This income can support your savings and add up to your retirement plan.

How Passive Income Supports Your Overall Savings Plan

Working Plan

Passive income doesn’t require much time and effort to maintain your investment after establishment. Two typical examples include taking part in a limited partnership and owning rental property.

As we said earlier, a VA loan is an excellent opportunity to invest in real estate and make passive income. While this isn’t the only way to make passive income, it is an option that is readily available to every military personnel.

If you took a VA loan to invest in a multifamily home, you could profit significantly from the rental income. These profits will help you pay off your mortgage, finance other debts, and increase your savings.

A foolproof investment strategy can make substantial returns on your investments. Of course, you’ll need a financial advisor, no matter the investment option you choose. There are pitfalls to avoid, and investing without experience or financial advice will be a rookie mistake.

Why You Should Invest In Real Estate

When building wealth through rental real estate, military veterans and active service personnel have significant advantages over the average investor. Some of these benefits include:

  • Better loan conditions
  • Low-cost insurance
  • Decreased maintenance and remodeling expenses
  • Better choices for renting and managing properties

A great example is the VA home loan. The VA loan can be used repeatedly and on numerous residences, although it’s for a primary residence only. However, many people are unaware they can keep the VA loan on the original property while using it again.

Many military members use this opportunity to buy a home at their duty station and then keep it as a rental when they transfer to their next deployment.

For instance, you can still utilize a VA loan to buy the new house you’ll reside in even if you haven’t used up your entire loan limit, which is currently $647,200 in most counties.

As a military service member, real estate investments represent a fantastic opportunity to access cheaper interest rates, reduced credit score requirements, and no mortgage insurance fees.

Reasons to Consider Multifamily Syndication

A multifamily syndication is a form of collective investment. It gives investors a unique opportunity to acquire a property they otherwise couldn’t. To buy a property, the sponsor must raise the necessary finances, conduct due diligence on the property, and evaluate it.

Multifamily syndication depends on finding several investors to help finance a deal. These syndicators split the risks and rewards.

There are numerous benefits of a multifamily syndicate, and we’ll list just a few to give you an idea.

Reduced Risk

Since you pool cash with other investors, you’re investing passively. You won’t be responsible for all the losses if you contribute to syndication. You’re only responsible for losses equal to what you invested.

Occupancy

The more space a home has, the less impact a vacancy will have on your finances. Due to their large size and low vacancy rate, large multifamily properties can still generate a profit even when there are multiple vacant units.

Time

Compared to other real estate investments, multifamily syndication may take less time. The general partners handle loan processing, deal research, and property maintenance. Being a limited partner gives you more time to do other things while making profits from your real estate investment.

Like any other investment, learn everything about the sponsors and the syndication deal. Do your homework before investing with anyone, and ask other (reliable) investors for recommendations.

Make sure you have read the entire agreement. Sift through it, and have your lawyer and financial advisor review it.

Final Words

The military can be one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs. Between the time away from home, traveling, and living costs, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

If you’re a military member, you know the struggle of finding the right balance between saving money and enjoying life. But you don’t need to do it on your own.

There are several ways to invest in real estate, earn passive income and save up for retirement. Pinto Capital Investments can help you find that balance.

Anthony Pinto
Anthony Pinto
Anthony Pinto is the founder and CEO of Pinto Capital Investments (PCI), a real estate investment firm focused on acquiring affordable and workforce multifamily properties and apartment buildings through syndications. Since 2019, PCI has gone full cycle on 2 large apartment complexes (+100 units) with an IRR in excess of 85%.