By Kent O’Jon – 33 Year U.S. Military Retired
Like many people, I come from humble beginnings with no knowledge of how to accumulate wealth for myself and my family. While I am no expert, I have some knowledge that I would like to share with you (based on my experiences and education).
While some people may see military service as a drastic career move, there are many benefits offered to military veterans. Do you know that the United States government will guarantee a home loan of up to 417,000 for a home for a veteran? Guarantee means that the government will pay off the home loan in the event that a veteran defaults on the loan. Purchasing a home is beneficial in the respect that the homeowner is able to accumulate equity in a home.
Equity means the increase in value of owning a property over years of ownership. Example: The home that my wife Chrystal and I reside in was purchased for 138K. Our home is 3705 square footage with 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a pool, and jacuzzi. Our home was purchased in 2012. Nine years later (2021) our home is now valued at 450k. The value has more than tripled in less than 10 years.. Veterans are also privy to lower interest rates (often less than 3% depending on one’s credit rating.) Home ownership is much more profitable than renting. When you rent, there is no tax deductions for paying interest and no ownership in the domicile being rented.
Military service affords a service member the opportunity to save money. Payday is through direct deposit on the 1st and 15th of every month. The service member does not have to pay rent or utilities because the member has the option of living on base or on ship. Over the course of a four-year contract, the member can save a substantial amount of money. The service offers a 401k plan for members.
Military members (depending on their job or deployment status) are able to take college courses while on active duty and in the Reserves at no charge to the member. While I attended San Diego State University in the early 1980s and did not graduate, I was able to resume my studies while on active duty and earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Park University. I used tuition assistance from the service to pay for my education and I used the Montgomery GI Bill when I left active duty as a reservist. I also used the Post 9/11 bill to pay for my MBA degree in Project Management from Grantham University. Due to the advance in technology service members can attend school online or vocational school after leaving the service (all at the expense of the government.)
From 2007 to 2010 I deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. While deployed, I was able to save 10s of thousands of dollars during this period. When I returned home, I used my money to invest in real estate (Condominiums and Townhomes.) The real estate market was cheap during that time. I purchased several properties in Nashville, Houston, and Phoenix. I paid to have the properties repaired and I rented the properties out and Chrystal and I lived from the proceeds off of the rent. I started an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) O’Jon Property Management and Investments and was able to sustain myself and Chrystal for years. My last deployment was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was deployed for 11 months. I again saved money, purchased a townhome in Michigan began collecting rent from that property. If you go into military service with a plan, you too can benefit and prosper.
I retired in 2017 after 33 years of service (18 active and 15 years in the Reserves.) I served in 3 branches (Marine Corps, Air National Guard, Army), deployed with all 3 branches. I enjoy a retirement stipend for the remainder of my life with full medical and dental benefits. I also pay for an annuity that will revert my pension to my wife if I pass away before she does.
DISCLAIMER- Military service is not for everyone. Military service (depending on your occupation) is often dangerous. The United States is often at war so there is a possibility of death while on active duty. The military is also competitive (rank and promotion wise). Only 17% of service members actually retire. While there are factors to consider, military service is a way to financial independence and generational wealth.