Question: My son is in high school and is thinking about enlisting in the Army. He has both noble and practical reasons. He is patriotic but also wants to go to a good college, which is something we cannot afford right now.
My question is: What are the financial ramifications? I know what the Army is telling him, but I want to hear about any possible pitfalls from a financial expert who is a little more objective. What can you tell me, and my son, about how the military really works when it comes to money? – Janet in Missouri
Howard Dvorkin replies…
You picked a good time to pose your questions, Janet. July is Military Consumer Month. Before I dive into the specifics of military benefits, let me issue the same warning the federal government is.
For 2019’s Military Consumer Month, the government and many military experts are focusing on one big problem: imposter scams. That’s right, not all the military’s enemies are on the battlefield. I’ll explain in this video, then get back to other financial matters…
Hey, guys. The United States offers many financial perks to our enlisted men and women, and sadly that attracts a lot of scammers. These con artists know our military personnel are targets, and they keep developing sophisticated scams.
One of the biggest problems lately are called “imposter scams.” They’re like a plague on our military personnel. Here’s just one example: You get a call from this number, that’s actually the number of the real Social Security Administration. The person on the other end says you Social Security number is about to be suspended, because maybe you were out of the country on deployment. “You need to verify you Social Security number and all your personal information.”
They tell you that if you don’t get the required information, you could lose all your Social Security benefits and maybe even face paying a huge fine.” Sounds scary, right?
Those scammers have the technology to spoof other phone numbers. That means they can make your caller ID pop with all kinds of legitimate numbers – even when they’re not.
Here’s what you need to know: The Social Security Administration never calls you with threats, neither does the IRS or any other government agency. In fact, no one who’s legitimate – either in the government or in business – will call you with threats and demand that you surrender any of your personal information.
Remember: Name, rank, and serial number. Well, you should give even less information to anyone who calls asking you for any of your personal data. What should you do? Ask for a phone number and an extension to call back. With the prevalence of identity theft scams, every real business and government agency understands this, and should not hesitate to give you that information.
So, go to war against scammers – and never surrender your personal information. Thank you for your service!
What are the benefits of joining the military?
Now let’s talk about making money in the military. You’re smart, Janet, to seek objective information about military benefits. While the Army isn’t lying to you or your son, it’s still wise to consult with those who are serving and have served. Fortunately, there are several places you can go…
- Military OneSource ‒ A Defense Department-funded program that helps with everything ranging from tax services to spouse employment help.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ‒ The CFPB has a solid section for military savings.
- Federal Trade Commission ‒ Likewise, the FTC takes military financial advice seriously.
Even with all these benefits, military personnel often find themselves facing the same problems many Americans do: They fall deeply into debt. Why? Because they’re just as vulnerable to financial crises like accidents, illnesses, divorce, and natural disasters. But even here, there are military perks.
The most powerful weapon that military personnel has against debt is called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, but there’s also something called a Military Debt Consolidation Loan, or MDCL. To learn more about them both, plus other debt-busting weaponry, check out the Debt.com report, Making Debt Consolidation Simple for Service Members and Veterans.