And the #MilKidMessages Winner Is….

A few days ago, we announced the winners of our #MilKidMessages contest, which was a great way for military kids everywhere to share their advice with other fellow military kids. And let me tell you, there was some awesome advice!

The winner of four Southwest Airline tickets is……Julia! She is five years old, and had some cheerful advice for other military kids! To see the 2nd place, and Honorable Mention winners, visit our Facebook page!

If your child entered our #MilKidMessages contest, we’d like to say THANK YOU! And while the Month of the Military Child is recognized every April, we know that your military kids are special ALL year round!

Feel free to send us videos and pictures of your military kids every month of the year, and for more info on military kids, check out our website!

shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

 

 

Saving Money on a Military Income: It CAN be Done!

piggy-bankWhen it comes to saving money in a military household, most of us wonder where all this “extra money” is supposed to come from…especially for families in the enlisted ranks. When I was a new military spouse, my husband and I lived paycheck to paycheck. There just didn’t seem to be any other way to do it. How could we save money if there was barely any money at the end of the month?

Like myself, I think many military families may have trouble figuring out where to start, and how to make life something other than ‘paycheck to paycheck.’ And what if an emergency happens? Just charge it to a credit card, right?

Then I learned otherwise.

On a quest to get serious about our financial well-being, my husband and I paid off over $17,000 of debt in just 14 months. All by learning how to save. We followed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. The trick we used was simple: don’t spend money.

WAIT. Hear me out!

We simply cut back on things that didn’t seem necessary: eating out every day for lunch, buying new clothes just because they’re on sale, or swinging by Starbucks on cold mornings. Oh, and using our debit cards.

Yep. We started using cash for everything.

With certain techniques, we learned to spend less, and save more.

Save Money for the Fun Things
Instead of impulse shopping with money you don’t have (i.e., credit cards), save your money for big purchases. This will give you time to shop around for the best deals, and may even give you time to think about whether what you’re buying is really necessary.

And there’s something to be said about paying for things in cash. Try it sometime and see how it makes you feel. Yes. Feel those feelings. Spending a crisp $50 bill feels a bit different than swiping your debit card. And TWO crisp $50 bills? That hurts! Ok, it doesn’t literally hurt, but you get it.

But Don’t Forget About the Future
Experts like Scott Halliwell, Certified Financial Planner™, with USAA says, “You need to save money for your future.

And he’s not just referring to retirement. Most military families don’t think long term about financial readiness. A Thrift Savings Plan won’t cover everything.

Scott explains, “No matter your age, there is one thing nearly everyone can count on: Your income probably isn’t always going to cover 100% of your wants and needs all the time. As a result, you need to save money today so it’s available down the road.”

My husband and I took this tip very seriously. When we started our financial readiness journey, getting a solid ‘emergency fund’ in place was the top priority. Each pay period, when we had extra money, we put it into our savings account until we hit $1000. It’s grown exponentially since those first days.

We also have a mutual understanding that Emergency Fund money is for just that: emergencies.

Saving money, in any fashion, is one of the smartest things you can do for your military family, in my opinion. What if BAH goes down? How will you cover your off-post rent? If TRICARE requires military families to pay more out of pocket, how will you buy yourself a pair of glasses? With money saved for the future, little ‘emergencies’ seem to be just an inconvenience, instead.

We live in a world where happiness seems to be associated with “things.” Remember: life isn’t about keeping up with the Staff Sergeant next door, and with a savings plan in place, you won’t have to!

Do you have any financial success stories or tips? Share them with us!


shannonPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager

Last Chance to Apply for the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship!

African-American-female-sitting-at-a-deskThere are blog posts a plenty emphasizing the important role that a portable career can have in the life of a military spouse; there are stacks of arguments as to why education is valuable, and there are broken bats scattered along the way from everyone trying to hammer these points home.

If you haven’t yet heard it…get out from under that rock! PCS season is sneaking up, and military spouses will schedule the movers, pull the kids out of school, say good-bye to friends, oh and, yes, quit their jobs…again. I know this first hand; moving boxes are currently consuming my living room, and my pre-move to-do list grows.

Industries with mobile careers are few and far between, but by tapping into the right job markets (teaching, healthcare and fitness to name a few), savvy military spouses are finding more success in landing jobs that are portable.

I want to shine some light on the financial industry – specifically financial counseling.

According to the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE), financial counseling and planning education “is the integrative, multidisciplinary field of social science that studies personal finance and helps families from all walks of life make effective financial decisions and improve financial capability.” Among other efforts, AFCPE supports researchers, educators and counselors with the goal of building, advancing, and ensuring the integrity of the Personal Finance profession.

For the past several years, the National Military Family Association, AFCPE, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation have joined together to provide the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship Program. This program is available to qualified applicants looking to pursue careers as accredited financial counselors (AFC). Organizations that hire financial counselors include: bankruptcy courts, banks, savings and loan associations, college financial aid offices, Uniformed Services family/community service agencies, employee benefits counseling firms, insurance companies, consumer finance companies and many more.

AFCPE offers a self-paced study that meets the following objectives:

  • Train a corps of military spouses to provide financial counseling and education within the military community
  • Help military spouses achieve career goals and aspirations and enhance job-related marketability
  • Develop personal financial management skills of military families.

The fellowship gives military spouses (like you!) the opportunity to become an AFC at no cost, and on their own schedule from where ever in the world the military sends them.

If you are already in the finance field, and looking to advance your career, or you want to be a part of an industry that has jobs across state lines, consider this fellowship!

Applications for the FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship program are being accpeted until April 18, 2014 – so apply now!

alliePosted by Allie Jones, Program Manager, Spouse Education + Professional Support

 

Raising Military Kids: How Do I Know If I’m Getting It Right?

The-author's-pretty-normal-kidsI chuckle at the saying, “Behind every successful kid is a mother who thinks she is doing everything wrong.” My inner voice is thrilled someone else knows how I feel! Raising kids is a challenge. I know. I have two willful boys who challenge me every day. Raising kids in the military is an even bigger challenge.

Things are just different. As each of my boys reach different milestones and try new things, I’m always wondering, is this normal? Swapping stories with my nonmilitary friends, while often entertaining, doesn’t normally reassure me. Our kids don’t have the same experiences.

That’s why I really like what we’re doing with the MyMilitaryLife app. It’s the What to Expect When Raising Military Kids.

When your spouse is deployed, do you wonder if your child’s meltdown is because of the deployment, or the Xbox? In the app, you are connected with sites that help explain the emotions our kids are feeling. Did you move over the summer and want to plug your kids into some recreational activities? That’s in the app, too. What about getting them engaged in their new school? That’s a big one for me. Fortunately, information about changing schools is in the app!

Additionally, the comments and rating system allows other military spouses to share their experiences with the recommended programs, and help point me in the right direction. For example, an Air Force spouse posted this about Tutor.com, “Tutor.com is EXCELLENT! !! This is definitely a go-to if you, the parent, can’t help your child with school. Best of all, it’s free!!”

My military family is retired now, and the changes are fewer and farther between. These days, I watch my brother’s family cope with the challenges of military parenting as he advances in his Army career. So, I downloaded the app to his phone and said. “Trust me, it’s in there.”

Download the MyMilitaryLife app today and tell us what you think!

michellePosted by Michelle Joyner, Mobile Initiatives Director

Military Spouses: Improving Your Resume by Going Back to School

chalkboardAs a military spouse, there are some questions that I grow tired of answering all the time:

What does your spouse do?

Where are you guys hoping to move to after here?

When are you going to have kids?

For me, it’s “where do you see yourself in the next five years?” While job interview questions are sometimes difficult, as a military spouse, explaining where you’ll be in five years can be an especially challenging to answer.

Oftentimes, the moving and array of jobs on our resumes may appear as if we simply cannot hold down a job – especially when you consider the variety of different positions and descriptions that may be listed. This may indicate to a potential employer that you lack vision, or direction, in your career goals.

Usually, I want to respond, “Five years?! I don’t know where I will be living in two years, so who knows where I will be in five!”

There are certain states with notoriously difficult job markets, so if we were to live in one of those states, I probably wouldn’t be working. However, if we are fortunate enough to live where there are ample employment opportunities, I will probably feel grateful to have found a job before our next scheduled move, and my hope is to find a job that will align with my past experience and education.

Military spouses oftentimes aren’t able to experience stability, simply because of the nature of this lifestyle. It makes it difficult to use any networks or connections we make to our advantage. We are often times underemployed, if we are employed at all.

What can we really do about this?

My own journey, like so many military spouses, led me to go back to school. While I know continuing my education doesn’t guarantee me a job, I do know it will make me more marketable to future employers.

But just because you figure out the next step, doesn’t mean everything else will come as easily. I spent months bouncing ideas around with a friend about which area of study would be right for me. I also spent a lot of time weighing the cost of going back to school versus the benefits I’d have once I was finished.

I finally decided on a blended program that provided half the classes online and half the classes on a campus. I decided to pursue a field of study with a curriculum broad enough to be used in a few different areas in the workforce, but would also reflect my level of dedication and ability to earn an advanced degree.

Who knows if it will pay off for me? That remains to be seen. But I do know that education is the one part of my resume that I can control. Returning to school to earn a Master’s degree while working, and being a mother of two boys, is a challenging task, but I believe it will ultimately prove to be a worthwhile endeavor.

If you decide school might be the right option for you, our Association has all the resources for you to answer all your questions – from “Where do I start?” to “Which degree should I get next?!”

Have you decided to go back to school to help improve your resume? Share your story with us!

Amanda headshotPosted by Amanda Anderson, Content Manager, MyMilitaryLife

45 Ways You Can Support Military Families!

Julia-Yeary-at-Rep,-Mark-Pocans-office“How can I help?”

If you are a volunteer, I’m certain you have probably asked yourself this question before! It seems to be one that is woven into the kind-hearted souls of those who strive to give back.

April is National Volunteer Month–a time to reflect upon the good deeds and generosity of a Nation of givers.

Did you know Volunteers are woven into the fabric of the National Military Family Association? Our Association was established 45 years ago by a group of Volunteers wanting to improve the lives of military families. We celebrate and recognize those who have helped pave the way to the Association during Volunteer Appreciation Week, which occurs during the second week of April.

Volunteering can come in all shapes and colors, especially when it comes to helping military families. No good deed is too big or too small. So, in honor of our Association’s 45th anniversary, we’ve made a list of 45 ways you can volunteer to help our service members and their supportive families:

  1. Become part of our Association. Join Today!
  2. Stay current on issues that affect military families.
  3. Send letters of support or sign petitions to Congressional members regarding military matters.
  4. Help fill the void left by deployed service members in the community. Be a youth sports coach or scout leader, etc.
  5. Volunteer with military support organizations like the USO.
  6. Donate monetarily to organizations that support the military and their families.
  7. Spread the word about what’s going on with military families in your state.
  8. Act as an adopted grandparent/aunt/uncle to a military child since they rarely live near their own families.
  9. Send holiday cards to deployed services members.
  10. Mentor a military teen.
  11. Donate to military thrift stores.
  12. Send care packages prepared for service members overseas.
  13. Become a reading buddy for a military child with a deployed parent.
  14. Participate in community ceremonies that honor the military.
  15. Babysit for a military family.
  16. Volunteer at military hospitals.
  17. Donate financially to the education of the children of fallen service members.
  18. Assist or hire a service member who is transitioning out of the military.
  19. Hire a military spouse in your place of business.
  20. Attend important doctor appointments in lieu of the service member so the spouse does not have to be alone.
  21. Donate, time, toys or educational materials to military daycare facilities.
  22. Give a service member your place in line.
  23. House-sit or watch a pet for a service member on temporary duty assignment.
  24. Volunteer to help clean military facilities or grounds.
  25. Tell a uniformed service member how much you appreciate him/ her.
  26. Perform spring cleanup in a service member’s yard; especially if they are deployed.
  27. Shovel snow from the driveway of a service member.
  28. Help military kids make gifts/cards for their parent on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
  29. Cheer loudly and stand tall when the military marches in a community parade.
  30. Put wreathes on graves of the fallen at holidays with Wreaths Across America.
  31. Have a pizza delivered to a military family when their member is deployed and you know they are tired.
  32. Give a military family a gift card to a movie theater.
  33. Offer to help a military spouse with car maintenance when the service member is deployed.
  34. Donate to organizations that support families of wounded service members.
  35. Set up a car pool during deployments to help shuttle busy military kids to activities.
  36. Act as an occasional caregiver for families of a wounded service member so the full time caregiver can take a break.
  37. Surprise a military spouse with a bouquet of flowers and a note that says “Thank you for serving too”!
  38. Let military families that are moving into or out of your community borrow household items or tools.
  39. Pet sit for free.
  40. Drive military families to the airport when they travel to visit their families.
  41. Host a tea/coffee for a group of spouses in your community center/church.
  42. Host a parent’s night out at your church for a military group.
  43. Donate blood.
  44. Follow social networking groups that are associated with military support organizations and repost on your personal pages.
  45. Hang the American flag in front of your home.

Do you have an idea of how you might volunteer to support military families in your community? If so, tell us about it!

Posted by Meredith Moore, Volunteer Services Coordinator, National Capital Region

Our Volunteers Rock!

This week, we’re celebrating Volunteer Appreciation Week, and what a huge impact our Volunteers have had our both our Association, and the military community!

If you’re looking to find a place where you can give your time and make a difference, consider joining our amazing corps of Volunteers!

So, what do our Volunteers do?

  • Provide local military community information to the Association to support our advocacy efforts on behalf of military families
  • Write for the Association
  • Attend local meetings on behalf of the Association
  • Supply content for MyMilitaryLife, our Association App
  • Host Association information tables in local communities
  • Review, rate, and evaluate applications for Association programs such as our Military Spouse Scholarships


Whether or not you’re affiliated with the military, our Association – along with thousands of military families around the world – could use your voice to advocate for them! Interested? Apply now!

Our Volunteers are a critical part of our Association’s mission and we couldn’t do it without them! Our Volunteers Rock!

Shannon-SebastianPosted by Shannon Sebastian, Online Engagement Manager