11.22.2019 By Stephen Ross, America Saves Program Coordinator

How Smart Financial Decisions Can Create Opportunities 

Written by Stephen Ross, America Saves Program Coordinator | November 22, 2019

Of the many stories Military Saves shares, most describe how someone was in dire straits financially and worked their way out of it with the help of Military Saves. This time we want to highlight a different kind of story. This is a story about how responsible financial decisions can build on one another to create opportunities you thought only the super-rich enjoy.

Meet Jen. At 24, Jen was a fresh-faced Second Lieutenant and looking to purchase her first home. The home she chose will prove to be the foundation of her financial success. Unlike her peers, and in spite of their jokes, Jen opted to buy a small home in a working-class neighborhood. “It wasn’t as nice as my coworkers’ houses. But I loved it and improved it and lucked out when I sold it,” Jen explained. But it wasn’t just luck. Jen used the resources available to her as a military member and kept a disciplined budget, “I used my VA loan for the house. And then after gas and groceries had less than $200 a month in spending money to ensure I was living within my paycheck.”

Every time you get a raise, take half and put it into savings (pay down debt, retirement accounts, emergency fund, anything to benefit you financially).  Take the other half and improve your life.  This money is new to you, so it shouldn’t matter that the improvement is only half...you’re not used to it any way.


When her assignment ended, Jen sold the house for a 50 percent profit. The first thing she did was pay off her car loan. Then she used the rest to help her purchase a second home. “At my next assignment, I bought a cute little, new construction home in a great neighborhood! 3 years later, I sold it the first day in the market for a tidy sum.” With that tidy sum, she paid off her student loans. “And that was the last day I ever had a credit card balance. Could have bought a new car or gone on a big trip or something else, but I wanted to set things on a better course. I was 29. Took every penny and made myself financially whole.”

Eleven house purchases later, Jen is still active duty. She and her already retired husband have big goals for when Jen is ready to call it quits. Jen listed some of them for me, “Don’t have to work after military retirement if we don’t want to, travel to see the grandkids whenever we want, and travel for pleasure.” Much of this will be afforded through military retirement, a maxed-out IRA, and a TSP account, so I asked Jen what she and her husband are saving for right now. “Our house on Roatan,” Jen responded. She and her husband have purchased a plot of land on the Caribbean island of Roatan and are currently saving to build a brand new house to retire in! Now that is a savings goal that should inspire us all!

Need help reaching your saving goals? Want to reduce debt and build wealth? Take the Military Saves Pledge and then visit militarysaves.org for tips and inspiration.