Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Military Marriage!

sailor-and-wife-selfie-picWhether you’re married or in a relationship, you may as well just change your status on Facebook to “It’s Complicated.” Why? Because just being on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites makes it that way. I had a chance to talk about social media and marriage with Military.com’s Ms. Vicki at yesterday’s Spouse Experience. Ms. Vicki is a therapist for military families and says that every couple who comes to her with marital problems blames social media for at least part of it.

The problems range from a lack of intimacy due to one person’s social media addiction to full-blown affairs that started from online flirtations. How can you make sure you and your husband aren’t the next victims?

“You have to set up some agreements,” says Ms. Vicki. “Don’t call them rules. They’re just agreements about how you choose to handle your social media as a married couple. Have an open and honest talk about what’s ok and what isn’t.”

But what is ok? Is it ok to be friends with your ex on Facebook? Is it ok to post pictures of yourself in your bikini on your latest girls’ weekend? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. What’s ok for one couple spells disaster for another. But there are a few agreements that Ms. Vicki says are non-negotiable.

  1. Thou Shall Not Snoop. Do you know your husband’s passwords? Does he know yours? Snooping in each other’s accounts is no way to confront a problem, but it is a way to create one. “You can’t become a checker. If you become a checker, that’s when you’re in danger. It ruins your self-esteem.”
  2. Thou Shall Not Block Your Spouse. Be “friends” with your spouse on Facebook. Allow them to follow you on Twitter and Instagram. “You’d be surprised how many people block their own husbands,” says Ms. Vicki. “You have to be open and honest. Don’t block parts of your page and give them a reason to want to snoop.”
  3. Thou Shall Not Assume You’re Immune to Social Media Problems. “It’s not just the nasty people or the bad people,” said Ms. Vicki. “It’s everybody.” And in the military community, people seem to be even more invested in social media. With frequent moves and long deployments, people depend on social media to stay connected and spend a lot of time there… which often translates to more opportunities to run into relationship trouble.
  4. Thou Shall Not Forget You’re Sexy. Take the time to nurture your relationship outside of social media. “Don’t ever stop looking at yourself as a sexual being. You’re more than just a mom,” said Ms. Vicki. “And don’t forget that your husband is sexy, too. Be open and honest with one another about your feelings and always stay connected—in the real world, not just the one on your smartphone screen.

Has social media ever gotten in the way of your relationship? How did you overcome that problem? Let us know in the comments!

Besa-PinchottiPosted by Besa Pinchotti, Communications Director

OCONUS Orders: Where Will My Kids Go to School?

Siblings-with-backpacks-on-way-to-schoolOne of the great advantages of military life is the opportunity to live overseas. How many of our civilian friends and neighbors have the chance to pick up and spend two or three years exploring Japan, Germany, or Korea? However, along with the excitement that accompanies overseas Permanent Change of Station (PCS ) orders comes an onslaught of questions. Where will we live? What about the dog? And – most importantly for families with school-age children – where will the kids go to school?

For most families moving overseas, the choice of a school is fairly straightforward. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) operates elementary and secondary schools at installations in countries all over the world, including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Turkey, Bahrain, South Korea, and Japan. For families stationed at these locations, these Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) provide a comprehensive, quality education to children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

However, what about those families heading to a country not served by a DoDDS school? How can they find an appropriate school for their school-age children? For answers to these and many other questions, families heading overseas can turn to the Non-DoD Schools Program (NDSP). The NDSP provides support and funding for the education of authorized command-sponsored dependents of military members and Department of Defense (DoD) civilian employees assigned to overseas areas where no DoDEA school is available.

The NDSP supports families moving overseas in a variety of ways. First, it helps families identify the different options for educating their children in their new location: local public school, private school, virtual education, or homeschooling. Your new command or overseas location should have an NDSP Liaison who can provide you with information on your choices. You can also find contact information for regional instructional specialists at the NDSP website.

Depending on your child’s grade level and the options available at your new location, the NDSP may be authorized to pay tuition for your child to attend a private school. Allowed tuition amounts vary by location.

It’s important for families to understand that not all the costs associated with attending school in their new location will be covered by NDSP. NDSP is not allowed to pay for uniforms, meals, or personal computers, for example. Families should also be aware that private schools may have a lengthy application process, so it’s important to reach out to NDSP for support and information as soon as possible after receiving orders.

Parents of special needs children may be especially concerned about an overseas move and the ability of the local school system to meet their child’s educational needs. The NDSP can offer guidance about options available in your new location and will work with parents, service providers, and school personnel to make sure your child’s needs can be met.

Moving overseas can be an exciting adventure for your family. Arming yourself with as much information as possible beforehand helps ensure it will be a positive experience for everyone. Bon voyage, travel safe, and be sure to take lots of pictures!

Has your child attend a NDSP school? What advice would you share with military parents?

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Ellen DeGeneres Loves Operation Purple Programs, You Should, Too!

OPC-camp-kidsOur Association is doing something very exciting – we are attempting to reach out to Ellen DeGeneres and The Ellen Show to ask her for help with promotion of our Operation Purple Programs! Crazy, right?! Want to get in on the fun?

Right now, Ellen is asking for military stories from military families, and guess what? We have tons of awesome stories from military kids who have attended our Operation Purple Camps, as well as one-of-a-kind stories from military families who have reconnected at our Family Retreats, and even unique stories from military caregivers at Healing Adventures.

Each month, we will be sending our special purple packages full of these stories, along with information about our Association, to The Ellen Show so they can see our unwavering dedication to military families. More importantly, we want to show Ellen the need for support and promotion in order to continue our Operation Purple Programs.

Here’s where you can join in:

If you have attended an Operation Purple Program, we want your story! Email us at OPC@militaryfamily.org, and we will send your story to Ellen in our special purple packages each month!

And look! Ellen DeGeneres is already showing her support for military families by dancing at our Operation Purple Family Retreat in Jackson, Wyoming!

But what if you haven’t been a part of our Operation Purple Programs? NO PROBLEM! Your chance is here! We are now accepting applications for our 2014 Operation Purple Camp for kids!

If you’d like your child to attend an Operation Purple Camp, now is your time! Does your child have a parent who has recently returned from, preparing for deployment, or is currently deployed? Consider giving your child an awesome opportunity to meet other military kids and spend time having a great summer camp experience. For more information, or to apply, visit our website!

Do you think The Ellen Show will notice us?!

simmonePosted by Simmone Quesnell, Program Manager, Operation Purple Programs, Western Region

Captains and Majors: Here’s Your Pink Slip

soldier-on-ledgeEven though I’ve been tracking the Army drawdown as part of my role here at the Association, it still came as a shock when I realized that my family would be affected. I was at work one day when I read an announcement regarding the Captain/Major Involuntary Separation Boards scheduled for this spring. I emailed my husband to ask if anyone we knew was affected. Thirty seconds later the phone rang. It was my husband. “Karen,” he said, “That’s us. My year group is going before the board.”

We remain a Nation at war.

I think my disconnect stems from the fact that our Army community is still so immersed in the war. One of our friends just returned from his fifth deployment. After spending over 5 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, he’ll be going before the board in April. Another is deploying to Afghanistan this spring. His wife was in tears at his promotion ceremony as guests discussed his impending departure. Just a few weeks ago, my own husband came home and informed me that his group had been hit with several WIAS (Worldwide Individual Augmentation System) taskers, meaning another potential deployment for him.

On some level I understood a drawdown was inevitable, but I guess I never expected to be simultaneously worried about a deployment to Afghanistan and a pink slip because my husband’s service is no longer needed.

One of my biggest concerns is how we are going to continue to meet the challenges of Army life with this additional level of uncertainty. This is not the sort of job you can do with one foot out the door. My husband’s Army career, including 3 deployments and 5 PCS moves, has required 100% commitment not only from him, but from our entire family. It is hard for me to imagine tackling similar challenges in the future while also preparing for the possibility of being shown the door.

After adjusting to the shock, I did what I always do when I’m anxious. I kicked into high research gear. I compiled all the information that we’ve received and briefed our volunteers at Fort Leavenworth, a post with a high population of majors attending Command and General Staff College (CGSC.)

Here is what we know:

  • Almost 19,000 Army Captains and Majors will be screened for separation and early retirement boards this spring. The boards could select up to 20% (3,800) of the considered population for involuntary separation.
  • Officers subject to these boards are Army Competitive Category Captains in year groups 2006, 2007, and 2008 and Majors in year groups 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.
  • The Officer Separation Board (OSB) will screen officers with fewer than 18 years of active federal service (AFS). The Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board (E-SERB) will screen officers with 18 or more years AFS.
  • Officers selected for separation by the E-SERB will be allowed to serve their 20 years, earning them full retirement benefits.
  • Those selected for separation by the OSB are eligible for involuntary separation pay, provided they have at least 6 years AFS.
  • Selected officers with at least 15 years AFS on the date of their separation are also eligible to request consideration for early retirement under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA). It will be the officer’s choice to select separation pay or TERA. Please note TERA is discretionary, not an entitlement.
  • The boards convene in April/May of 2014.
  • Decisions are expected to be released in August 2014.
  • There will be no “re-look” or “standby” boards, and a very limited appeals process.
  • Actual separation will occur no earlier than the 1st day of the 9th month following release of the boards’ results (e.g., if the results are released in August 2014, separation will occur in May 2015)
  • Officers in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) will be considered by the boards. If selected, the separation date will be determined on a case by case basis.
  • Officers with non-statutory Active Duty Service Obligations (ADSOs) incurred for military schooling, PCS, etc. will be considered by the board. If selected for separation, the non-statutory ADSO will be waived.
  • Officers with statutory ADSOs (e.g., Tuition Assistance, Advanced Civil Schooling, Critical Skills Retention Bonus) will be considered by the board. If selected for separation, the ADSO will be waived and the officer will not be required to repay any unearned portion of the pay or benefit received. As a condition of receiving separation pay, officers who have a statutory ADSO waived must serve in the Ready Reserve for three years.
  • Selection for separation will have no impact on GI Bill benefits for the officer’s own use. In addition, members who transferred benefits to dependents prior to selection will retain their transfer and not face recoupment if they agree to serve until the mandatory separation date.

Captains and Majors in the affected year groups are encouraged to have their photos updated and to scrub their board files. They should receive guidance from their chain of command in terms of reviewing their official record and preparing it for the board.

Is your family concerned about involuntary separation and drawdowns? Please share your questions and concerns.

karen-rPosted by Karen Ruedisueli, Government Relations Deputy Director

A New Chapter and A New Career: Life After the Military

FINRA-fellowship-1As a military spouse and parent, I know the frustration of thinking about my own goals and wondering “When will my time come?” For me, the small steps I took during those active duty years, combined with opportunities like the FINRA Military Spouse Fellowship for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation, have guaranteed an amazing new chapter in military retirement!

Life changes quickly as a military family; our lives are packed into boxes every few years as we change time zones and weather zones. Like death and taxes, change is about the only constant.

Constant change frustrated me! I wanted to buy a house and put down roots, find a great job and become an asset to the company, go back to school, and plan my life in detail 3, 5, or 10 years down the road.

Money management was frustrating, too. Housing and cost-of-living-allowances were always changing, military housing was available here and there, and I was always losing my accounting job, and ultimately losing the extra income. Going back to earn a master’s degree was a well-coordinated effort of location and my spouse’s duty assignments.

Many times, it was hard to see beyond the day-to-day challenges of supportive spouse and parent.

Retirement brought promises of stability. We finally bought that great house knowing we don’t have to move again. The nest was empty as children headed off to college. Now was my chapter!

I reflected on my future after being a full-time mom, all-around volunteer, and part-time accountant. I wanted to help people with their financial lives and be part of the solution to our national financial crisis. Plus, I could give back by supporting military families in making the most of their finances and the positive benefits of the military life.

The FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship helped me tremendously in my career shift to personal finance. The experience and connections from my practicum hours (the experience requirement) increased my skills and confidence when working with the military and civilian community. Still today, after earning the Accredited Financial Counselor designation in 2012, incredible opportunities arrive continuously for teaching, writing, networking, and counseling.

I have no doubt that everything associated with my Fellowship contributed to my acceptance to Kansas State University’s competitive PhD program in Personal Financial Planning, in 2013. As part of that program, I have also started the education classes towards the Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) designation. My time has come, and the possibilities after my 2017 graduation are exciting!

Thank you FINRA, National Military Family Association, and the AFCPE for recognizing and honoring my role as a military spouse and financial counselor volunteer –and providing this Fellowship for military spouses.

The 2014 FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship applications period opens March 3-April 18. Visit http://www.militaryspouseafcpe.org/
for more information.

2011-09-04-Cherie-Christian-PFGuest Post by Cherie Stueve, 2011 FINRA Military Spouse Fellow, MBA CPA (Inactive) AFC®, and Proud Coast Guard Spouse

President’s Day Isn’t Just About Shopping Deals

“Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.” -George Washington

Washington-Monument-and-NMFA-logo

Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

military-saves-weekMilitary Saves Week starts February 24 and runs through March 1. In the weeks leading up to and including Military Saves Week, many installations host programs and events that focus on saving. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to attend one of these events. Why? I know many join the military because it provides a steady dependable paycheck, and if a service member stays in for more than 20 years, the retirement pension is guaranteed at a set and predictable rate. However, recent events (cuts to the COLA, a 1% pay raise for 2014, and proposed changes to the commissaries) show how uncertain those guarantees are. We are all one congressional vote away from any change to the benefits packages that were offered when our service member signed up.

It’s simple, really. Like the old saying goes, “The only guarantees in life are death and taxes.” I’ve said before that as military families, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is just as applicable in your financial life as it is anywhere else. So, if you get that retirement pension for military service, great! This does not negate your responsibility to save for your retirement. Make sure you are using the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), use the Savings Deposit Program (SDP) during deployments, and open up a Roth IRA (yes, I said “and,” it’s called diversification). There are a million ways to save your money to ease your long-term financial worries and burdens, and that means a more peaceful and enjoyable retirement. Don’t we all want that, especially after living a military life?

On that note, I will point out that not everyone who joins the service will stay in for 20 years or more. In fact, only 17% who serve end up making it to retirement. So, savings should start as early as possible and as often as possible. Another old saying tells you to pay yourself first. Find 10% of your income to pay (to yourself) in a retirement account. The earlier you start, the more money you will have at retirement because those first dollars grow the most.

One more big point I want to make is for you spouses, yeah, you, the one who is keeping the checkbook balanced, holding down the homefront, or running around like a chicken without a head, savings is also for you! There is no reason why all of the retirement and savings needs to be in the service member’s name or in connection with their employer; get some savings in your name, too. I am not implying that your marriage is on the rocks. I am reminding you that life happens, and facilitating your ability to take command of the ship if you need to, is part of having a secure family. You deserve to have assets, savings, and a nice credit score, too. These are all important factors for long-term financial success, regardless of whether you are inseparable for life.

Military Saves has a great motto this year, “Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.” Their website has tools and resources for you to learn how to save smart and make the most of your financial power. Take some time this month to learn more about how you can build your family’s wealth!

Have you considered savings as a spouse? Share your thoughts!

Brooke-GoldbergPosted by Brooke Goldberg, Government Relations Deputy Director