Financial Tips and Career Advice for Military Families

Financial Literacy Month is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of financial education and empowerment. For military families, navigating the complex terrain of personal finances can present unique challenges. From career transitions to future planning, there’s many considerations to address. To shed light on this topic, we sat down with Charlene Wilde, the Senior Vice President and Assistant Secretary of AAFMAA (American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association), to gain insights and financial tips specific to military families. 

Understanding AAFMAA and its Mission 

AAFMAA, established in 1879, is the longest-standing nonprofit financial solutions provider dedicated to supporting military families. Charlene Wilde, who has been with the association since 2015, emphasizes AAFMAA’s commitment to ensuring the financial security and independence of its members. Through a range of services including insurance, financial planning, investments, and survivor assistance, AAFMAA aims to provide comprehensive support to the military community. 

Navigating Career Transitions as a Military Spouse 

Charlene’s personal journey highlights the challenges many military spouses encounter regarding career transitions. As a former Army officer turned stay-at-home mom, Charlene experienced firsthand the identity shift that comes with leaving a career to support a military family. She said, “That was a huge transition! Your whole identity changes, everything about you, and you just feel invisible.” 

Although her struggle with personal and professional identity is common for military spouses, Charlene underscores the importance of embracing change and seizing opportunities for professional growth. “It’s difficult to talk about, but more people should discuss the topic of military spouses who choose to take on a career after a resume gap, because there are so many different tools out there.” 

Key Career Tips for Military Spouses 

One of the most significant challenges for military spouses is addressing resume gaps and career reentry. Like many spouses, Charlene had a 10-year resume gap, where she did everything from selling Pampered Chef to “volunteering the heck out of all the military spouse groups.”  

Charlene encourages spouses to adopt a proactive mindset, leveraging resources such as LinkedIn and mentorship programs like ACP (American Corporate Partners) to bridge skill gaps and explore new career paths. She remembers thinking through, “what accreditations do I need? Do I have a skill gap compared to my peers?” If there are classes or certifications needed for your career field, there are many employer programs and military spouse scholarships that can help pay for them.  

Charlene emphasizes the value of continuous learning and taking advantage of employer-sponsored education benefits to enhance qualifications and marketability. She went back to college to earn an MBA, so for a while Charlene and her son were both taking college classes at the same time, and they used that opportunity to inspire each other.  

Financial Literacy and Planning for the Future 

In honor of Financial Literacy Month, Charlene stresses the importance of proactive financial planning for military families. From understanding retirement options to maximizing benefits like spousal IRAs, she advocates for active involvement in financial decision-making. She says, “Both partners need to be involved in these decisions, even if one isn’t working.”  

Charlene shares personal anecdotes, such as the benefits of starting retirement planning early and the significance of life insurance for military spouses. A spouse can contribute to an IRA even if they aren’t working. The earlier you begin to do that, the more money you will have saved for retirement. Spouses who work but change jobs often need to pay attention to 401K retirement plans, which can usually be rolled over when you leave a job. Charlene advises, “Don’t leave unclaimed money floating around out there if you have earned it!” 

Tools and Resources for Financial Empowerment 

AAFMAA offers a range of tools and resources to support military families in their financial journey. Charlene highlights AAFMAA’s transition timeline checklist, designed to aid service members and their families in preparing for life transitions, including retirement. She recalls, “We did a pre-retirement plan starting 5 years in advance, and that was really beneficial as we went through the process because we knew if we were on track to prepare for his retirement and to reach our financial goals.” 

GoVA offers many resources to empower military families during Financial Literacy Month and throughout the year! On The Edge, our digital membership platform, you’ll find hundreds of courses, calculators, articles and tools on a wide range of financial topics. At GoVA, the mission is to educate service members, Veterans, and spouses, so they can make informed financial choices.  

You can join The Edge for free today, using our military scholarships. 

Financial literacy and career planning are vital components of ensuring the long-term financial well-being of military families. By embracing proactive financial management and leveraging available tools and resources, military families can secure their financial future and thrive in all stages of life. 

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About Our Partnership with TowneBank Mortgage

At GoVA, we’re proud to partner with a lender that delivers peace of mind to those who have served and continue to serve our county. Together, GoVA and TowneBank Mortgage are committed to helping our military service members achieve their dreams of homeownership, as well as providing them with valuable resources along the way. As experienced lenders, TowneBank Mortgage understands the need for a quick and easy mortgage process, especially during life’s transitional moments. Headquartered in Norfolk, just miles from the world’s largest naval base, TowneBank Mortgage has had the honor of helping thousands of military families through their VA loan offerings. Their team is knowledgeable about VA products and the local market, and in-house operations allow them to respond to questions and concerns in a timely manner. Together, we can get you to closing in 30 days or less. Trust TowneBank Mortgage and GoVA loans to get you home.

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