When joining the military every service member takes an oath of enlistment. Every four years or so throughout your career this oath must be renewed. Whether we serve 4 years or 30 this oath of enlistment remains the foundation for our duty to this nation.
Unfortunately, there are service members who spend these years honorably serving their nation and fail to take care of their own future. I know many other Marines and service members that have squandered their time/money in this way. I myself, am guilty of making all of these mistakes.
Let's talk about the three most common mistakes service members makes in their first enlistment!
Hobbies kill savings accounts more than almost any other expense for service members. I bought 3 guns, a Harley, and 3 cars under my first oath of enlistment! All but one of those vehicles is gone now, and not one of these items is currently with me in Hawaii.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is okay to drive a reliable car instead of a sports car! It is okay to rent guns at the range, rather than buy them. and it is okay to buy a used vehicle rather than a new one! I wish I had begun to think this way years ago!
Nothing is inherently wrong with owning nice things. The problem is that most of us do it by taking on bad debt instead of saving to purchase in cash. I talked about paying yourself first in an earlier post and that applies here. When you purchase toys it takes money out of your pocket that should be used to invest in your future!
A service member living in the barracks can legitimately survive without a vehicle. Saving this money for a couple of years could supercharge your wealth exponentially. If I had saved this money I could have purchased a house in cash after my first enlistment!
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Not Educating Yourself
I only had three college classes done at the end of my first four-year enlistment. I am finally back on track to finish my associate's degree this year (after ten years in the military).
Luckily for me, college isn't the only way to educate yourself! I haven't completed a degree, but I've been doing a lot of personal development and on the job training as a real estate investor. This self-education has proven valuable enough to mitigate the need for formal education.
It is vital that you learn something new every month, week, or day (depending on how vast the subject is). This is critical because if you stop taking on new challenges to learn you will become stagnant. The lack of constant personal development will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will cease to grow as a person.
When you take that initial oath of enlistment you receive a lot of benefits related to education. We earn Tuition Assistance, the G.I. bill, access to vocational schools, and on the job training. Even your job training, and advanced schools can earn valuable certifications if you take advantage of these great programs.
I recommend that you spend at least one hour a day learning something new, or working towards a new certification to better yourself!
Partying To Hard
The military has a reputation for partying a little too hard when given the chance. This quote about the Marine Corps sums up the public view pretty well: “The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps! (Eleanor Roosevelt)”
Social events, networking, and “going out with the boys” are all fun events that can help build your network. The problem is that many service members approach social events with a “go for broke” mentality.
Approach social events to have fun, meet new people and relax. Don't go out with the intention of getting drunk, because this will cost you money and inevitably you will make a fool of yourself. Also, hangovers make for very unproductive mornings and that compounds the negative effect of a night on the town!
I have found an excellent strategy is to volunteer as the Designated Driver when your friends are wanting to grab drinks. This has three distinct benefits: You get to have fun with the guys/gals, You will save money, and your friends will appreciate it!
I recommend that you find a social group of investors/entrepreneurs to get involved in. This will fill your network with people that add value to your life, and having a solid network is life changing! What better way to party than socializing with successful people that can help you grow as an individual?
These three common pitfalls within your first oath of enlistment are easy to avoid! Replace each issue with a goal-oriented solution and you will save money, have fun, and set yourself up for success!
Don't let your first enlistment end without achieving financial security. As a result of a little frugality, you can transition smoothly out of the military, or begin investing, without worry!
Tell us how you've avoided these pitfalls!