A military spouse turned financial planner on how her struggling peers can take control of money and careers
- There is a high rate of unemployment among military spouses, but remote work is opening new job opportunities.
- Retirement plan options for the military and spouses like low-cost government TSPs and spousal IRAs also need to be considered for long-term savings and to meet wealth generation goals.
Transitioning from a civilian life to military life can be difficult, especially as a spouse. As a military spouse you are more or less tied to your partners schedule and are often not in one place long enough to set down roots let alone find a way to earn money. But former hedge fund analyst and wife to an officer in the U.S. Navy, Tara Falcone says spouses of service members do have options when it comes to creating wealth.
Falcone credits her family's frequent moving as an inspiration to start her own business, ReisUP, as a certified financial planner, "starting my own business gives me the freedom, the freedom of location, of time and of income."
The first piece of advice Falcone has for spouses is try to find a job that will allow you to work remotely. Thanks to technology it is easy to stay connected to colleagues and teams even if you are on the other side of the world.
Starting or continuing a career can seem daunting but Falcone says, "Today, spouses can and are working from home for companies in virtually every industry and at varying levels of their leadership structure."
Common career fields include digital marketing, web design, copywriting, business development, finance, and research.
Control your investment plan
You don't have to have a career to generate wealth for your family. Make sure the you and your service member are contributing enough to your retirement accounts.
These accounts include Thrift Savings Plan which is essentially the government version of a 401(k) plan. The TSP allows federal employees and members of the Armed Forces to save and invest for retirement in tax advantage way.
According to Falcone, the TSP offers two distinct advantages:
1. There are only six primary investment funds to choose from
2. Each fund has a low expense ratio, which allows participants to keep and compound more of their investment returns.
Protect your wealth
Falcone offered some additional financial planning options and tips in a follow-up email to CNBC.
The 403(b), known as the "hip cousin" of the 401(k), is available to employees of certain schools, hospitals and non-profits.
Spousal IRAs are designed to help non-working or stay-at-home spouses contribute to retirement without having to meet the earned income requirement of a traditional IRA. While the Spousal IRA is not reserved solely for military spouses, the high unemployment rate among military spouses — as high as 24% in recent years — makes it popular.
There is no use in building up wealth if you cannot protect it. It is important to make sure that you and service member have adequate life, health, auto, disability and even pet insurance.
It is also wise to have an emergency fund for rainy days. While the amount of money in the fund can vary, most financial experts recommend at least six months of living expenses.
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