You Don’t Need a College Degree to Make Good Money – Really!

You’ve heard it time and again: “You need a college education if you want to make good money.”

But that isn’t always the case.

According to Monster.com, the average salary for an accountant with a college degree is $50,000. But, according to that same website, a licensed electrician also gets an average starting wage of $50,000. Of course, members of those professions can get wildly lower or higher salaries depending on location. If they get certifications or join a union the amounts can be much more, but you get the idea.

In fact, Walmart is paying truck drivers up to $100,000 annually.

So, what do you do after you get out of the military and look to enter the job market? The prevailing opinion has long been that a college degree is the best path to long-term financial success. But not always.

Colleges have changed over the years. They used to be bastions of higher learning where you went to get an education, and a good job would follow. Now, colleges advertise themselves as nothing more than paths to a good job. Why not use the skills you learned in the military as your path to a good job?

Thankfully, there are several ways you can build on the skills you gained in the service to guarantee civilian success.

Credit for Skills Learned in the Military

The United Services Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP) gives active-duty Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy members the opportunity to improve their job skills and complete their civilian apprenticeship requirements at no cost while still in the service.

When you complete the course, you get a Certificate of Completion issued by the U.S. Department of Labor, which you can use when applying for jobs.

The GI Bill

Everybody knows you can use your GI Bill benefits for college. Did you know you can also use them for Vocational & Technical Training, Apprenticeship & On-the-Job Training and Licensing & Certification Testing and reimbursement?

If you want to be anything from a computer network technician to a union steamfitter or an emergency medical technician (EMT), you can actually use your GI Bill to get the training needed to move right into one of those jobs.

In fact, if you use the apprenticeship program with the GI Bill, you will get a salary and GI Bill payments at the same time!

Credentialing

Credentials are basically a certification that you possess a specific skill set, or are considered qualified to do a certain job.

For example, a welder can show his welding certifications to an employer to document that he has specific skills and knowledge, such as high pressure or underwater welding skills. A mechanic may be certified as an expert with diesel engines.

All branches of the service offer credentialing services online. These programs allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of a specific skill or trade and get a certificate from professional organizations or government agencies that you can use to convince a prospective employer you have the skills necessary to handle any job.

These credentialing services are free and can be done while you are on active duty. If you are a veteran, you can print out a copy of your basic credential information using your Joint Services Transcript.

Other Programs

There are many more programs available for job seekers that can be used either while on active duty or after you leave. For example, many states offer a skills test waiver for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) if you have a military CDL; others offer free professional certifications and skills training. Check your local state for details.

How You Can Save Money – Military Edition

Saving money in the military is not difficult, but the key is to start saving early. Saving money and getting out of debt to stay out of debt are the two keys to becoming financially stable. It’s easy to start saving in the military, and the advice below will explain how.

Start a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), which can be started through Navy Federal or USAA

These may sound intimidating, but they are simply savings accounts that allow your money to grow over time at a higher percent than a normal savings account. The main difference between these and a normal savings account is that the money you deposit into a TSP or IRA cannot be withdrawn until retirement age (usually 59 ½ years of age) without penalty.

You determine the amount that will be contributed whether it be per military paycheck or monthly, which will allow the money to accrue over time. Before you start either, speak to a financial counselor to determine what option would be best for you. The TSP is only available for current service members, but can remain upon discharge and continue with you as a veteran. An IRA can be separate from the military. If you did not start a TSP as a service member, you can start an IRA as a veteran through your employer or bank.

Set-up recurring transfers into your savings account

The easiest way to start saving money is to set up automatic transfers to a savings account. It does not need to start big, any little bit will add up fast. To get started, set up a recurring payment of $5 each time you get paid. Monitor your savings account and see that soon you will have $20 saved, then $100, then $500, and so on.

Scheduling recurring transfers can easily be set up through the bank’s mobile app or online, and you control the transfers. Changing the amount or the frequency can be done at any time, and it can even be cancelled as easily as it was set up. If you prefer to speak to a representative, don’t hesitate to call your bank’s customer service.

Once you are feeling confident, start putting away more money. The more money you put away, the more money you will save.

Set a savings goal

You may find that you need more motivation to deliberately put money into your savings account. Admittedly, it can be hard to control instant gratification. If this is the case, choose something pricey you would like to purchase or perhaps a travel destination you would like to visit. For instance, you want a motorcycle. A used motorcycle can cost approximately $3,000-$4,000, though it can certainly cost more. A new motorcycle might cost $12,000, or more so start saving for that motorcycle!

Choosing to save for a goal rather than using a credit card for instant gratification will automatically save money because savings accounts pay interest, while purchasing with credit will cost interest. It will also save you the stress of having to pay off a debt that you may find out later that you couldn’t afford when you thought you could.


Everyday tips for saving money

Bring coffee, bring lunch. Daily coffee for $2.00 doesn’t seem like much that morning, and neither does a $3.00 energy drink that afternoon after a nice $10.00 lunch. That’s $15.00 spent just on Monday. If this is your habit everyday, that’s $75.00 just on food and drinks for your typical work week. That’s $300.00 you could have put in savings that month, not to mention what a year’s worth of $4 coffee would look like.

Get gas on base. Wherever you are stationed, most likely gas is the least expensive on base. If you happen to find a gas station that has an even better rate, go there. It really does add up – the extra $3-$5 you may be paying each time you fill up could be $20 put in your savings account that month. You can also use the free GasBuddy app to see gas prices near you and weed out overpriced stations.

Shop around. Don’t buy a new item as soon as it gets your heart racing. It might be new Under Armour workout gear or electronics, but check multiple places before making that purchase. You can probably find a better deal at another store, or online, making the delay worth the wait. Sometimes just by waiting you may also realize that the item no longer seems so attractive, allowing the wait to save you money.

If you are taking steps toward financial responsibility, using the steps above to build a financial foundation is a great start. For a more thorough explanation of personal finance, visit educational financial centers offered to military and dependents.

25 Money-Saving Tips for Military Families

Want to protect your hard-earned cash? Military discounts go a long way. Always ask retailers, restaurants, airlines, motels and other establishments, “Do you have a military discount?” Meanwhile, here are 25 other money-saving tips. Go ahead, wave your frugal flag.

Save at home

1. Trade time/repair skill with a neighbor. Swap services or trade time (a Saturday, for example) with a neighbor. You may know plumbing and your neighbor may be handy with a hammer. Trading time with a trusted neighbor can extend beyond home repairs to other ways to help — lawn, babysitting, etc.

2. Do-it-yourself repairs and maintenance. Whether it’s painting a room, doing yard work or bathroom repairs, even those with all-thumbs can pull these off. If you’re already a DIY’er you can take on bigger projects. Check out service member deals at home improvement stores.

3. Use coupons. Use coupons or join a coupon exchange for home services that require a pro.

4. Shop garage/yard sales and second-hand stores. You can get great deals on things like furniture, dishes and clothes.

Save on entertainment

5. Host a pot-luck dinner. It’s cheaper, you get a variety of tastes and you don’t have to do all the cooking. It’s also fun and social. Tip: Have everyone bring a specific or assigned dish.

6. Think free outings. Check out the local parks, memorials and art galleries. Take a picnic. Go on a walk, hike or stroll. Have kids? Take them fishing, skipping rocks or to playgrounds.

7. Have a leisurely lunch. Have lunch out and eat dinner in. Think mid-afternoon. Lunch often is cheaper than dinner. Or when you’re out for dinner, split an entrée and each get an appetizer.

8. Seek discounts at amusement parks and museums. Most offer military discounts. Google “military discounts at amusement parks”— you’ll find a bunch, especially at the well-known ones. Same goes for museums. Better yet: Visit the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Digital Library available on Military OneSource to find a range of fitness, recreational and skills development programs, tickets and more — some at reduced rates.

9. Shop online. Sure, you’re already doing it. But you can shop for just about anything online and compare prices. You can also look for online coupons.

Save on clothes and school supplies

10. Look for deals. Shop at your military installation’s commissary and exchange. Shoppers typically save more than 30 percent compared to shopping in town. Or shop at outlet and discount stories. Consignment and thrifts shops are good too. And look for deals online.

11. Stock up on basics during sales. When you find good deals on socks and underwear, buy a few extra pair to lock in the savings.

12. Get the most from your wardrobe. Uniforms also can be worn off duty. Sticking to similar color combinations or buying clothes in neutral colors lets you do more with fewer clothes.

Save with military travel deals

13. Fly for free. Service members and family can fly free or at very low cost when space is available on military flights. Space-available Passenger Transportation, or Space-A Travel, can be tricky at times but can save you lots of money on flights.

14. Visit national parks for free. National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. A free annual pass is available for current U.S. military members and dependents.

15. Go camping. It can be cheaper and more fun than hotels. If camping isn’t your family’s thing, pick kid-friendly hotels that don’t charge extra for children.

16. Travel off-season, with a group or on a tour. It’s cheaper than going on your own or on-season.

17. Use Department of Defense Lodging services. Military families are eligible to use military lodging around the world, ranging from cottages on the beach to world-class resorts or recreational lodging facilities. Destinations include resort towns, big cities, oceanfront getaways, mountain top retreats and overseas locales.

Save on transportation

18. Walk, bike or use public transportation. It’s cheaper and healthier for you and the environment. If you can’t, carpool.

19. Shop for car insurance. If you must drive your own vehicle, compare rates online and consider a higher deductible on collision coverage if your car is older. While you’re at it, keep your car maintained — and DIY, if you can.

20. Buy a used car. A two-year-old car with some mileage can save you thousands versus a new car. Have your mechanic check it out, however.

Save on utilities

21. Do the basics. Turn off the lights when not using them. Unplug computers, appliances, charging cables when not using them. Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver website. Don’t heat or cool rooms you don’t use. Close your fireplace damper when not in use.

22. Insulate your attic or other unfinished spaces. Use storm windows and weatherproof your home to reduce heat or cooling loss.

23. Watch the thermostat. Setting your temperature between 68 and 72 degree may be comfy, but it can kill your wallet. Set the air conditioner at 78 in the summer when home (consider running fans instead). Turn the heat to 64 or so and wear extra layers of clothes.

24. Buy energy-efficient appliances. Look for the Energy Star label.

25. Double check your cell phone and cable bills. Make sure you’re not paying for needless services. Also, bundle your phone, internet and cable, if you can. And watch your data use on mobile devices. That can break tight budgets.