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The money side of military life

  • Posted by Sharon McNary
  • on February 20, 2009 1:30 PM

debt of service logo.JPGThis weekend, Marketplace Money airs “Debt of Service: Personal Finance in the Military,” an hour-long special program.

Several months ago, we asked military families and veterans in the Public Insight Network to tell us about the money challenges of life in the armed forces. To some, military life meant a better education and a path to the middle class. Others found it hard to crack the civilian job market after they left the service.

The relocations and spouse job changes are hard on military families, although some used the frequent moves to climb the property ladder. Some recalled how predatory lenders target service members.

These insights were part of the show planning idea mix.

Other reports have aired this week on Marketplace and Marketplace Morning Report. Jeff Tyler looked at veterans fighting to get disability benefits. Nancy Marshall Genzer looked at military steps to shield service members from predatory lenders. Amy Scott looked at the difficulties veterans face returning to civilian work in a time of rising unemployment.

You can listen to the podcast, and then share your own experiences directly with our newsroom. Tell us your personal finance experiences in the military or explain your role in today’s war economy. Or use the comments button to share your insights with others.

Discussion: 3 Comments

  • Posted by Bill Freeman on February 20, 2009 6:41 PM

    I entered the Army in 1994, at the ripe young age of 30. I was unemployed for a while and thought the military would offer me a job with a reliable pay check and an honorable career, which it did, but there were some finanical hardships also. When I moved to my first duty station Leavenworth KS, it was difficult for my wife to a job at a wage close to wage she made in California. While the cost of living was lower it wasn’t that much lower than in Southern Califoria. She did eventually find a descent position but is was far away from the house and required a long commute. At the time the help for finding employment for military spouses left a lot to be desired; minimum wage, part time or both.

    After serving for four years, we moved back home and I joined the National Guard, hoping to that maybe I could have some part time employment, possible retirement, and serve my community. I served another 4 years and life was ok, the demands of the job and civilian employment were manageable. Until I left my civilian job 2002. I was qualified for jobs get an interview but never called back. I believe it was because of my National Guard commitment. This is colaborated with stories told my other people in my National Guard unit.

    So after serving in Iraq with 2 more years of aactive duty I decided it was best for my employment opportunities to leave the National Guard. I would have liked to stay in but I always felt there was conflicts with my time between my military duties and civilian responsiblities. The National Guard and Reserves need to work through these conflicts or maybe realize for some positions part-time isn’t good enough.

    I’m currently working on my Masters in Math and working part-time as an instructor aat California State University of San Marcos

  • Posted by G Peterson on February 21, 2009 4:43 PM

    It is difficult for me to read stories about service members struggling financially. Personally, I can’t imagine trying to have a career or raise a family while in the military - it is impossible to balance the demands. Almost universally the heart-breaking stories I read about personal military failures involve situations where non-military life was intruding on military service.

    I think the military can offer a lot to someone who gets in, has a great experience, and then uses it as a springboard for success in the civilian world. I was enlisted in the Army from 1982-1984 and took full advantage of their education benefits to pay almost completely for an undergraduate education after my discharge. I have since gone on to get an MBA and have a successful professional career.

    The benefits are definitely there - but you have to have a plan, and have to actively reach out to take advantage of them. Those people who leverage the military can get a leg up on their civilian peers. But you need to leave the military behind in order to have the proper focus, and to avoid the conflicts of time and interest that will harm both military and civilian life.

  • Posted by Sharon McNary on February 23, 2009 7:52 AM

    Thanks for sharing your stories. I’m not just an analyst for the Public Insight Network I’m also a source. Here’s my own story from my days in the National Guard.

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