We are beginning a new monthly series today and I am so excited to finally share with you the very first edition of “Military Life & Money: Financial Success Stories.”
This year, I wanted to bring more focus on community and inspiration to Budget Loving Military Wife. I could not think of a better way to do this, than to introduce to you, military personnel and their families who are doing AMAZING with their finances!
Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Michael and Jennifer and their two adorable children. Michael and Jennifer are in their 20’s and have been married for six years. They currently live in the United Kingdom, where Michael serves in the U.S. military. Without further anticipation, here is Jennifer to tell you their story.
I have always had a very strong work ethic and my own method of saving. My first job was when I was 16 years old, working in fast food. I typically worked 25 hours per week and brought home around $150 each week. I always stashed away half of it into my savings account.
At 18, I began college. I received four scholarships and did not need to use my own money to pay for school. At this time, I was still working in fast food, but was now a full-time employee and student.
Money has always been a huge source of security for me. Growing up my father talked about money 99% of the time so I grew up with a high awareness that money was “important.” Paying off a house in 15 years and paying cash for cars was “normal” in my house.
Marriage and Family Life
I married my husband when I was 19 years old. At this point, I had saved up $7000 and had no debt. However, my husband had a car loan of about $8000.
My husband deployed that same year and we paid the car off during his deployment. The following year, I left work to focus more on my marriage and school. I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Accounting from a state university.
Before moving to the United Kingdom, I worked for a few years and had our first child. Now we are living overseas, where I am a stay at home mom, and we have added another child to our family.
Staying home has been a big adjustment. I went from working full-time while living in the states to moving to a foreign country and entertaining kids all day.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time with my kids. However, I do miss working and it stresses me out that I am not financially contributing to our net worth. I really enjoy working and saving for our financial goals.
Managing Finances Together
When my husband and I married, we immediately combined our finances and worked as a team. Although, I had to kind of “drag” him in my direction as he was pretty reluctant to saving.
I remember when we hit $20,000 in savings, he asked me “when are we going to have enough?” I looked at him and said “it will never be enough.” “What more do you want/need? We eat out, we buy things, what do you feel you are missing out on?” He had no response. LOL. After that, he has pretty much been in the same boat, when it comes to saving for our future.
Today, we continue to work as a team. However, we have discovered that working within our financial strengths works best. My husband does a lot of the research that goes into picking our investments. He has been pretty good (or lucky) at it so far.
I mostly manage the finances, but I always discuss things with my husband. I really enjoy working with numbers and creating budgets and seeing how much we can save. My husband just likes to see the results.
Budget Struggles We Conquered
Our biggest budget struggle was getting rid of bad habits like eating out all the time and buying groceries we never ate. It was just wasteful. We had to learn how to plan meals and buy groceries around the meals we planned. We had to stop buying just whatever we thought looked good at the store.
Another struggle was being shy about investing our money into anything other than a savings account. We just started some CDs, mutual funds, and stocks last year. We were so nervous about losing our savings!
In actuality, we were losing more money by not investing it into something. We are still shy investors, but we are getting our feet wet. This process has been difficult for us because we do not want to lose anything. But without risk, there is no reward.
Our Financial Success Story
Our income has ranged between $40,000 and $80,000 each year. We are 26 and 29 years old, we have no debt, and have a net worth of $138,000. Of that, $110,000 is liquid and the rest is in retirement accounts.
Reason for Financial Success
We pay ourselves first. This has been the biggest factor in our personal financial success.
My motivation for financially security is having the ability to make our own choices in life. Frequently, income guides people into certain career choices. However, I want us to do whatever makes us happy, even if that is working at Walmart.
I hope our children learn from our example. I hope they see that it does not matter how much money you make. What matters is how well you manage your money.
Our Financial Goals
This year our goals are to increase our savings to $33,000 for retirement, $76,000 in our future house fund, and $15,000 in our investment accounts.
Our long-term goals include purchasing a ($150,000-$200,000) house with CASH! We also want to max out our retirement contributions each year, send our kids to college without student loans, and work because we want to, not because we have to. We would also like to own a business some day.
Finances as a Military Family
Our military lifestyle impacts our finances greatly. I left my full-time job for this last PCS move, which has cut our income significantly. This overseas PCS was very costly. Expenses included everything from vehicle light conversions, tv license, emissions tax and 220v appliances. All were not reimbursed. We also sold one of our American cars and bought a U.K. car.
We had about $6000 worth of moving expenses on a credit card and we had to pay it off before we received reimbursement. All of these expenses occurred suddenly and the military does not always do a good job with providing good expense estimates. Having extra savings made this PCS less stressful, especially since it took time to get reimbursed (3 months!).
Although rare, another financial stress my family deals with because we are a military family, are government shutdowns. When our pay was threatened, there was a lot of stress placed on us even though we had months worth of an emergency fund established.
Another financial obstacle that impacts military families is spouse employment. While not impossible, it is more difficult to find a job when you are a military spouse. A lot of employers will not even consider you because you will most likely be in the same place for only a couple of years before you move again. I do not volunteer this information in interviews for this reason.
Biggest Financial Obstacle for Military Families
Moving is such a huge obstacle for military families. You can not prevent it, but you need to always be prepared for it. Having money set aside for moving really helps out. While most of the moving expenses are reimbursed. Reimbursements take a long time. You typically end up paying these big bills out-of-pocket and eventually, (maybe months later) you are finally reimbursed. If military families are not prepared for it, they could find themselves into a financial mess.
Advice to Families Who are Struggling
1) Create a Plan & Budget
2) Pay Yourself First!
3) Cut Back on Things You do Not Need (Cable, Eating Out, Shopping)
4) Get Rid of Debt (Sell a car if you do not really need it)
5) Do not Accrue New Debt.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing your family’s financial success story with us today! Your family is truly an inspiration and I wish you the very best in your financial journey and reaching those amazing goals! Be sure to follow Jennifer and her family’s financial journey at Paying Yourself First.
Wow! Can you believe how amazing this military family is at achieving financial success? In their 20’s, with a modest income, but they have a net worth of $138,000 and their goal is to pay CASH for a house! How truly inspiring!
P.S. Are you a military member or a military family who would like to share your financial success story to help inspire us at Budget Loving Military Wife? I would LOVE to hear from you! Please email me at BudgetLovingMilitaryWife(@)gmail(dot)com. I cannot wait to hear from you!
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