24 Jan The Complete Guide to Investments and Financial Planning for Veterans
It is not uncommon for predatory lenders and unscrupulous salespeople to target veterans and pull them into bad investments, overload them with unnecessary debt, and ruin their credit. Whether you are leaving the military or seeking a financial advisor, financial planning is essential to protecting your finances.
Below you’ll find the complete guide to investments and financial planning for veterans.
Investments and Financial Planning for Veterans: The Basics
According to the most recent U.S. Census, there are more than 18 million veterans. The VA serves more than nine million. Serving your country can be difficult for you and your family. The VA offers some fantastic assistance programs. However, benefits and household allowances do not provide financial planning. For understanding the procedure of financial planning, veterans can benefit from several facts and information.
Two Types of Financial Advisors
- They earn money from your investments and planning.
- Their fee is a flat rate or a percentage of your assets. They make no money from your decisions.
Your service, current financial situation, and goals will be subject to detailed questions, such as
- What year and where did you serve?
- What did you do for a living?
- For how long did you work there?
- Have you been injured?
- What position did you hold?
- Are you eligible for VA benefits?
- What VA benefits are available to you?
- The following questions will be interspersed with others, including:
- Do you plan to save for retirement or your child’s college education?
- When should you retire?
- Is it better to sell or buy a retirement home?
- Are you comfortable with risk?
- Are you planning to work in retirement?
- Veteran’s Planning Needs Are Different
The answer to “Have you served your country?” will lead to many other questions that will help you plan. Each situation is unique, so every plan must be tailored. Veterans require special methods to manage their VA benefits, insurance needs, debt management, and retirement income.
What Is Investing?
An investor allocates resources, usually money, in the hope of generating revenue or profit. It is possible to invest in ventures, such as starting a business, or assets, such as purchasing real estate to resell at a higher price in the future.
How Do Investments Work?
1. Eliminate high-interest debt – Write off your credit card debt first because only a few investments pay 15, 20, or 25% interest. Credit cards and retailer cards may charge interest.
2. Make a plan and set goals – Saving and investing over a long period can provide financial security. By utilizing your VA benefits, you may achieve long-term financial security.
3. Invest and save early – Investing and saving early can have enormous long-term benefits. For example, to save $500,000 by age 65, you would need to save $200 per month if you invested in a mutual fund averaging 7% per year. Saving $1,600 a month at the age of 50 will accumulate $500,000 by 65.
4. Participate in employer-sponsored plans – 401(k)s and 403(b)s are employer-sponsored retirement plans. Your employer may also contribute to the deductions from your pay. Furthermore, these plans offer tax advantages now (traditional) or in the future (Roth).
Why Should Veterans Invest?
An early start is beneficial to everything. A well-planned retirement yields greater benefits—both for civilians and military personnel. Save while you are young.
One must start investing immediately for the following reasons:
1. Building up Cash Isn’t Enough
Investing in more volatile ventures often yields better returns. Investors have time to recover when something goes wrong in a riskier market. Late-starting investors tend to be more cautious.
2. Your Money Can Multiply in the Long Run
Spending discipline can be developed by focusing on your budget and cutting expenses when necessary. Saving money leads to making money. Unfortunately, spending habits and impulsive purchases make this impossible. Investing early pays off when you have more capital to work with, and restraint is required.
3. The Power of Compound Interest
Investing your earnings regularly will increase your return on investment. For example, Madison contributes $2,000 a year to her company’s 401(k), growing by 10 percent each year. If she retires at 65, her investment would be worth $556,197.
Cooper, age 34, invests $2,000 in his 401(k) every year for 30 years. Cooper, who invested three times as much as Madison, will have $328,988 at 65. Madison, who invested early and earned compound interest, has $225,000 more to spend in retirement than Cooper.
Does the VA Offer Financial Planning?
The VA does not offer financial planning. However, MilitaryOneSource, a Department of Defense organization, offers free financial counseling to active-duty and retired military members and their families.
What Type of Investor Are You?
Decide what you’re willing to risk and what your investment goals are. Are you interested in actively managing your investments?
Investors can be divided into three types:
- Pre-investor – Pre-investors are those who have not yet invested. They typically have little financial awareness. Therefore, there are few savings or investments. The personnel department would not have set up the retirement plan without them. In the pre-investor world, consumption is more important than saving and investing.
- Passive Investment Strategy – As we gain responsibility and grow, passive investing becomes more critical. It is a popular method of building wealth. Educational institutions, financial services, and websites all recommend passive investing.
- Active Investor – The active investor builds on the passive investor. They take their wealth to the next level by managing it like a business. Active investors not only benefit from market-based passive returns, but they also benefit from value-added return streams. This is a double return. It does not matter how the market performs; active investors will make money. Active investing reduces risk and increases returns. They spend a lot of energy acquiring and saving money, but much less time making it work for them.
Brokers are licensed intermediaries between buyers and sellers. Various businesses rely on broker services, such as real estate, insurance, and investments.
Investment brokers, often known as stockbrokers, link investors and stock exchanges or marketplaces where equities are traded.
Robo-advisors are online investment management platforms that employ mathematical algorithms to provide financial advice with little or no human involvement. They use algorithms to manage and distribute customer funds efficiently.
Because portfolio management is driven by software rather than a human, financial advisor, it typically offers investors lower fees.
Investing Through Your Employer
The benefits of each retirement plan may differ, but if your employer matches your contributions to a 401(k), and you don’t contribute the maximum amount. You’re losing out on “free money” that could go toward retirement. If you are unable to contribute the maximum amount, at the very least, invest some funds.
Even if your firm does not match contributions, enrolling in the retirement plan and contributing is a smart idea. Compound interest accrues as you save over time when you contribute early.
Use of a Financial Advisor
Financial advisors provide an informed and unbiased perspective on your money, taking a comprehensive look at your circumstances and making recommendations for improvements.
To decide whether you should engage a financial advisor, answer the following questions:
- How well do you understand investments?
- Do you enjoy learning about financial topics and examining assets?
- Would you be comfortable handling financial instruments?
- Do you have the time to regularly monitor, review, and change the investments in your portfolio?
If you responded “yes” to the above questions, you might not require the services of a financial counselor or planner.
How Much Money Do I Need to Start Investing?
It may appear that starting an investment portfolio requires a large sum of money, but the good news is that you don’t.
ETFs cost less than $100 to invest in, but mutual funds often require a $1,000 minimum investment. Stocks can cost anywhere from a few dollars to many thousand dollars per share.
Mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can be good long-term investments since they invest in various companies, spreading risk and exposing you to a broader choice of asset allocation options.
Even if it’s a modest amount, the first step in investing might be the most difficult. So once you’ve started, let your momentum carry you forward. Set up automated recurring contributions to your savings and investment accounts to simplify your life.
Minimums to Open an Account
Changing mutual fund options at your brokerage firm can also significantly impact your financial situation: Maybe one of your funds closes, and you have to decide what to do with the money. Aside from keeping up with popular financial products, you will also need to stay apprised of new products being introduced.
Life Events That Require Financial Planning
Financial advice is often sought in response to particular events. These events usually involve windfalls or significant losses, or an important event in a person’s life. The reasons why people seek important financial advice are summarised below:
- As I near retirement, I want to make sure I’m on the right track.
- My parents just gave me some money, and I would like some advice on investing it.
- I recently got married, and we need help managing our finances as a couple.
- Recently, I was divorced or widowed and needed help moving forward financially as a single person.
- We need to manage our parents’ financial affairs as they grow older.
- Investments and financial planning aren’t my things, so I want professional help to ensure my financial future isn’t ruined.
- I am interested in financial planning and investing but as a second opinion.
When Should Veterans Consider a Financial Planner?
While there might be sufficient information available in journals and books, it is not the most trustworthy. So do you need a financial planner?
Right now, how much free time do you have? Ask yourself whether mom and dad are getting older and if they/we need help managing their overall finances. Moreover, consider the following:
- Do I need professional assistance with investing and financial planning to ensure that I don’t mess up my future?
- Investing and financial planning are my favorite activities, but I want a second opinion to see if I can do them better.
- A long-term financial plan should include considerations for retirement, paying off your mortgage, and a direct source for financial planning. This is another excellent reason to consult a financial advisor.
How to Find a Financial Planner
Finding a skilled financial planner can assist you in avoiding unnecessary charges and concentrating on your objectives. Financial advisors aren’t just for the wealthy; everyone who wants to get their finances in order and create long-term goals should consult with one.
To discover the proper financial advisor for your needs, follow these steps.
- Step 1. Determine what part of your economic life needs help.
- Step 2. Get a better understanding of the types of financial advisors.
- Step 3. Establish what type of financial advisory services you want.
- Step 4. Determine what you are willing to pay your financial advisor.
- Step 5. Research the best financial advisors.
How Much Should You Save vs. Invest?
Although the terms “saving” and “investing” are sometimes used interchangeably, we should engage in both to secure our financial future.
It is wise to have a safety net of savings no matter your financial situation. As soon as you have accumulated enough savings to invest, you should begin reallocating some of them to invest when you have enough cash to do so. Your goal is to maximize the amount of money you may earn, whether to increase your wealth or prepare for long-term goals such as retirement.
Before investing, run through a “mental checklist” to ensure your finances are stable.
- Question 1: Do I have enough money set aside for emergencies?
- Question 2: Am I committed to keeping the funds in place for at least 2 to 5 years?
- Question 3: Will I be able to withstand market fluctuations?
You might not be ready to start investing your money if you responded “no” to any of the three questions above. Rather, concentrate on putting money aside. Saving is the first step toward investing since you won’t be ready to accept the risk of placing your money in the market if you don’t save first.
Save enough money to cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Once you have at least $500 in emergency savings, you can think about investing. Investing more is an option once you pay off debt, have an emergency fund, and don’t anticipate needing much money in the coming years.
Basic Types of Investing for Veterans
- Savings and investment opportunities are plentiful for service members, including some not available to civilians.
- The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is similar to a 401(k) plan and offers automatic payroll deductions and matching contributions.
- The traditional IRA and Roth IRA offers a wide range of investment options and excellent ways to supplement a TSP.
- Investments include the Savings Deposit Program, 529 college savings plans, and real estate.
Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
You can invest in an IRA. IRAs can be a great way to secure your retirement by supplementing your TSP. It has been found that one can still have savings even if they max out their TSP contributions.
Traditional IRAs (pre-tax) and Roth IRAs (after-tax) are available. Because there are so many investment options with IRAs, they tend to offer more flexibility than TSPs. TSPs, however, have much lower contribution limits. Contributions to IRAs in 2021 are limited to $6,000 ($7,000 if you are 50 or older).
Savings Deposit Program
The Savings Deposit Program (SDP) of the Department of Defense guarantees a 10% annual return to deployed military personnel.
Those who qualify must receive hostile fire pay and be deployed every month for three consecutive months. Unless you withdraw your money earlier, you continue to earn 10% interest after redeploying your home.
Depending on local conditions, real estate may be a safe investment. In addition, real estate can provide a good return on investment, depending on local market conditions.
Long-term real estate appreciation is still low, with a 25-year average of roughly 3.8%. Real estate also entails additional costs that other safe investments do not, such as property taxes and maintenance fees, which can be expensive upfront.
Cash or Cash Equivalents
The media heavily covers stocks and bonds, but the cash equivalent of an investor’s portfolio is often overlooked. Money market mutual funds and various short-term bond funds are cash equivalents.
Any portfolio should include cash as a sector. What changes based on market conditions is how much allocation to make to the cash sector.
Money Market Mutual Funds
Unlike low-yielding bank money market accounts, money market mutual funds invest only in highly liquid cash and cash equivalents with solid credit ratings – typically government and commercial debt. With escalating interest rates, money market funds’ interest payments will also increase.
Investing in bonds has a steady cash flow, making it a good choice for income investors. Bond portfolios can provide regular returns with less volatility than equities. Such as high-yield bonds or emerging market bonds can provide investors with income, although they are significantly riskier.
Bonds can be bought directly from a government issuer or through a broker. The most famous example is the individual bond.
Investors can lock in a specific rate for a specified period by purchasing bonds. Bond mutual funds and exchange-traded funds provide stability, but fixed-income ETFs fluctuate over time.
Bonds are generally issued in $1,000 increments, so you will need to fund your brokerage account with at least that amount. It has been seen that Treasury bonds in America have a value of $1000.
Additionally, it has been noted that the minimum bid is $100 and that it is also sold at $100 through Treasury Direct.
For uninformed investors, the stock market can seem mystical. Stock market returns during up years are about 7 percent higher than inflation. Investing requires some risk, and you cannot earn a rate of return above inflation without risk. All of these factors — strange terminology, brokering, an “uneven” playing field, as well as well-publicized abuses — seem to work against investors.
However, if an investor does their homework, has a high tolerance for risk, and is patient, they can earn greater returns in the stock market over time than in most other investment vehicles. However, small investors should not directly invest in individual stocks. Instead, small investors are usually recommended to start with mutual funds, which pool your investment with others.
Futures and Other Derivatives
Let’s say that two people buy or sell a specific quantity of shares of a security (e.g., common stock or an exchange-traded fund) on a particular date in the future (the settlement date or expiration date). You agree to purchase the underlying security in buying a futures contract and are “long” the contract. When you sell a futures contract, you sell the underlying security and are considered “short” the contract. On a regulated U.S. exchange, contract prices are determined by relative buying and selling interest.
Differences Between Security Futures and Stock Options
Security futures and stock options share some characteristics, but they differ significantly. Upon exercise, an option becomes effective. Those who do not sell their options on the secondary market or utilize its worth before expiration shall also lose its premium.
Security futures contracts are agreements to buy or sell securities. Security futures holders can gain or lose many times their margin deposit based on price movements in the underlying security.
Commodities and Precious Metals
Rare earth metals, along with various base and precious metals, offer investors and traders various trading opportunities. Several of the earth’s chemical elements are excellent investments, represented by the periodic table. Ingots are also available for purchase.
Investors can purchase shares of companies such as U.S. Steel, futures options, and various exchange-traded funds in the base metals market.
Many opportunities exist for investors in precious metals, with mining companies, stocks and metals-specific ETFs, options, futures, and even direct metals purchasing.
Since rare earth metals have become increasingly important to technology and the economy, investors have become more interested in shares of rare earth producing companies and related ETFs.
These stocks include Eldorado Gold Corporation (EGO) and Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited (AEM), Canadian gold producers. In addition, the CME Group offers gold futures and options contracts.
Other Alternative Investments
In simple terms, these investments, which are not primary and obvious, are known as Alternative investments. They are those investments existing alongside the usual publicly traded investments.
Alternative investments offer portfolio diversification and a counterbalance to stocks, but they are often illiquid, unregulated, and unclearly priced.
Despite the financial barriers to entry, alternative investments offer unparalleled portfolio diversification. If stocks, bonds, and the rest of the financial markets struggle, exposure to real estate, commodities, and even art can provide a hedge.
Alternative investments are also largely unregulated. Therefore, it is essential to know the risks and the rewards before diving in.
Unlike traditional investments, alternative investments are not regulated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Investing Goals for Veterans
Veteran service protects America’s liberties and freedoms. It does this by giving you access to critical information and resources for further investing.
The SEC helps you protect your financial freedom. If you are a recent veteran, a long-time veteran, or somewhere in between, there are important decisions to be made about saving and investing. SEC’s Investor.gov website can help you through the various stages of saving and investing.
Short-term investments (also known as growth investing) last less than three years. You’ll give up a potential higher return for the security of having the money.
When you make a short-term investment, you’re often doing so because you need the money at a particular time. Savings for a down payment on a house or a wedding, for example, must be available.
Short-Term Investments: Safe but Lower Yield
The safety of short-term investments comes at a price. With a short-term investment, you won’t earn as much as you would with a long-term investment. In addition, short-term investing limits your options. Therefore, you should also avoid Short-term investments such as stocks and stock funds. If you’re willing to invest for the long term, that is a different process entirely.
However, short-term investments have some advantages. You can get your money whenever you need it. Often, they are highly liquid. Moreover, they tend to be lower-risk than long-term investments, so you may only have a limited downside or none at all.
Pros and Cons of Short Term Investing
|1.||Short-term investments are flexible and can provide you with quick funds quickly.||Due to their flexibility, they come at a price and can be risky.|
|2.||These are highly liquid investments and can be used easily in emergency times.||One cannot earn a lot by withholding short-term funds since they are highly liquid.|
|3.||These types of investments include stocks and bonds.||Such investments could lead to losses since they depend on a highly fluctuating market scenario.|
Investing is one of the best ways to secure your financial future, and investing over the long term is an excellent way to do so. In 2021, it may have been tempting to chase quick returns after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the economy is still recovering, so it’s more important than ever to focus on long-term investing while sticking to your plan.
Investing in the markets may seem like an easy way to make a quick buck, but long-term investing is where regular investors can build wealth. By investing long-term, you can achieve your financial goals.
Here are the best long-term investments:
- Growth stocks
- Stock funds
- Bond funds
- Dividend stocks
- Target-date funds
- Real estate
- Small-cap stocks
- Robo-advisor portfolio
- IRA CD
Here are some pros and cons of long-term investing:
|1.||It is the most stable form of investment and cannot be broken.||It is not ideal for easy monetary requirements.|
|2.||It is less risky since it cannot be broken easily.||It cannot be helpful in times of emergency because it cannot be broken easily.|
|3.||This is where regular investors can build great amounts of money.||This asset is not liquid at all and cannot be utilized.|
Consider These Factors Before You Start Investing
1. Get an Emergency Fund
One must follow the below advice to help set goals and take steps toward starting an emergency fund:
Analyze your monthly income and expenses: If you’ve read “Track Your Spending”, go back to your worksheet to see what your costs are each month. One can even use the worksheet which tracks their spending to analyze what you spend it on. Include recurring expenses like rent or mortgage, utility bills, and childcare, as well as estimates of other out-of-pocket costs like movie tickets, dinner out, and clothes.
An emergency savings account should be able to cover three to six months of living expenses. You can plan for a lower amount if your income is stable or access home equity.
2. Pay High-Interest Debt
You could receive up to $40,000 for consolidating high-interest credit card debt or overdue long-term loans with VA Financial. The interest rate on your debt is lowered when you combine everything into one payment. Members of the U.S. armed forces may apply if they are active or retired.
Consolidating your debts will not affect your credit score, and it takes only a few minutes to apply. There are no collateral requirements, and you can transfer money to your bank account in a few days. The online application gives you instant access to loan rates and terms – no commitment required. The decision is yours.
3. Take Your Age as a Factor
People who plan for retirement are very interested in learning about investing. Ultimately, how you save and invest in the decades before you leave your nine-to-five job determines how you’ll spend your retirement years. Furthermore, your asset allocation strategy in your 20s and 30s will not work when you’re close to (or in) retirement. Learn how to invest at every age to reach your retirement goals.
4. Understand What Compound Interest Is
When it comes to money management, compound interest is a must-know concept. It can help you make a larger return on your savings and investments, but it can also work against you when you have a loan with interest.
You can think of compound interest as a snowball effect. In the beginning, a snowball is small, but as it accumulates snow, its size grows. It grows more rapidly as it increases.
Traditionally, compound interest is defined as the interest generated on the original principal plus cumulative interest. You’re not only getting interest on your initial deposit, but you’re also earning interest on your interest.
How Veterans Can Build Wealth That Lasts
Even though you make enough money and live well, you may not save enough. Why is this? You have more wants than you can afford. Follow these steps to develop a budget or get your existing budget back on track:
- Track your spending for at least one month. This may be easier if you use a financial software package. Be sure to categorize your expenses.
- Remove the fat. Identify your wants and needs. Shelter, food, and clothing are obvious needs, but other needs are less apparent.
- Adapt to your changing needs. For example, you may find that you have over-or under-budgeted a particular item and need to adjust your budget.
Smart Investing for Veterans on a Small Budget
- Invest in things you understand.
- Assess the level of risk you’re comfortable with and how it changes over time.
- Start with small steps, then trade up to better choices as your investment account grows.
Using a recurring monthly transfer from your checking account to your targeted savings account is the easiest way to automate your savings after you open your account.
For instance, on the 6th of each month, you could transfer $100 from your checking account to your savings account. The best time to make the transfer is right after you receive your paycheck. Your funds will be available right away, and you won’t be tempted to use them.
Use Savings Apps
The next step is to maintain track of your savings now that you’ve begun the program. There are a plethora of budgeting and investing apps available. Apps such as these can help you identify patterns you were not aware of before.
Perhaps you were spending a lot more money on eating out than you knew before the outbreak or how much your car costs when you account for petrol, insurance, and other expenses.
Hopefully, you should have more revenue than expenses when the program has finished comparing your income and expenses. If not, the tools will provide you with a starting point when deciding where to make changes to your expenditure.
Take Advantage of Retirement Plans
Serving in the military can provide access to various financial perks, including joining the Savings Deposit Program (SDP), tuition subsidies for college, and cheap housing.
Members of the military are also entitled to participate in federal retirement savings plans. Developing a retirement saving and investing strategy can assist service personnel in making the most of their earnings.
Invest Your Tax Refund
Most Americans anticipate receiving their tax refunds with bated breath. You can use your refund to pay off credit cards or other bills, invest it in the stock market, or save it for retirement. Although paying off existing obligations with your tax refund may be the best option, there are other ways to put it to good use.
Take advantage of your tax refund before tapping into your savings or checking account if you have reviewed your options and are ready to take a prudent risk.
How to Manage Your Investment Portfolio
Investing is as much about not participating in deals as participating in them. Make sure it’s clear who votes on investments and ask the right questions. To ensure everyone’s comfort with the decision-making process, make the rules of engagement clear in advance.
Voting rights and veto power should be clear, and one partner should oversee portfolios.
Aristotle coined the axiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” in venture capital. View your portfolio as a capital pool that will deliver aggregate returns over the next five to ten years, not as a collection of companies. Many experts recommend appointing a partner to manage the portfolio as a whole.
What Is Portfolio Management?
Management of a portfolio is the process of choosing and managing investments based on a client’s long-term financial goals and the risk tolerance of a company or institution.
Simply put, someone has given you their hard-earned money, and you must assist them in growing it in the most diverse ways possible.
An active portfolio manager pays close attention to market trends, economic shifts, political shifts, and news relating to the company. This information is used to time the acquisition or selling of investments to profit from market inefficiencies.
Active management investors utilize fund managers or brokers to purchase and sell equities to outperform a specified index.
The goal of passive portfolio management, also known as index fund management, is to replicate the performance of a market index or benchmark. An exchange-traded fund (ETF), a mutual fund, or a unit investment trust can all be used to create a passive approach portfolio.
Terms Veterans Should Know Before Investing
- Stock – When you acquire stock in a corporation, you are essentially buying a small piece of the company’s ownership. The higher the value of your shares, the better the company performs. Your shares can lose value if the firm doesn’t do well.
- Bond – When you buy a bond, you’re lending money to a corporation or the government. You cash in the bond on the maturity date and receive some interest, assuming nothing catastrophic happens, such as a bankruptcy.
- Mutual Fund – A mutual fund is a portfolio that has been pooled together. Investors purchase shares or units in a fund, and a professional portfolio manager invests the funds. A mix of securities is purchased with the pooled fund by these managers. Investors contribute to the pooled fund by purchasing mutual fund shares. Due to their active management, mutual funds have higher costs than investing independently.
- Expense Ratio – An expense ratio (ER), sometimes known as a management expense ratio (MER), is a metric that determines how much of a fund’s assets are utilized for administrative and other operating costs. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and mutual funds both have expense ratios.
- Price-to-Earnings Ratio – A P/E ratio is a valuation statistic that determines a company’s worth about its earnings, usually expressed per share. For instance, if a company’s stock is trading at $100 per share and yields are estimated to be $4 per share, the P/E ratio is 25.
What Are the Safest Investments for Beginners?
Beginners may be eager to dip their toes into the investing waters, especially with the stock market and every other asset class booming.
However, prospective investors should understand their risk tolerance before making any investment. Certain investments are riskier than others, and you don’t want to be caught off guard once you’ve made a decision.
Consider how long you can go without the money you’ll be investing and whether you’re willing to go a few years or longer without it. Here are some great investment options for people who are just getting started.
- High-yield savings account
- 401(k) or another workplace retirement plan
- Mutual funds
- ETFs (Exchange-traded funds)
- Individual stocks