I remember my trip home from Saigon to California in 1971. Seems like it took forever to get home, but what a good feeling it was to land on the U.S. shore. It may be somewhat different now that there is Skype and internet, but I am sure some of the same joy and relief remains when that jet stops in friendly territory. The homecoming is sweet, but there are adjustments to be made. The May 7th edition of the Wall Street Journal discusses some of the financial challenges facing service members returning home after combat missions. The first item mentioned was the need to adjust household budgets. When overseas, the soldier is eligible for hazardous duty pay that bumps up their income in a tax favored manner. On return home, not only is the income reduced, but there could be bills to pay that were deferred while out of the country. Another potential problem can occur as a result of celebrating the return home. Troops are eager to enjoy themselves and pamper their families, but it is important not to go overboard. One spouse quoted in the article said that she and her husband do not make any big ticket purchases until the “honeymoon” phase of the return is over. Big decisions should be made when calmer and less emotional.
While serving in combat zones, soldiers can put extra money in their thrift savings plans—up to $50,000. That is the good news. The bad news is that once the money is in the plan, early withdrawals will result in the same penalties as associated with 401(k)’s and IRA’s. If you funded your plan, leave it and let it grow. For those of you who leave the service after returning from deployment, there are additional matters to consider. Many young people have never had another job, and soon find out that there are a lot of important decisions to be made. For example, they may find that the same salary in the civilian world does not go as far because of military subsidies for housing, health care, life insurance and other perks. For help with the transition, there is the Army Career and Alumni Program and the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment Training Services. Finally, our soldiers need to be aware of schemes targeting those returning from deployments. The article lists payday loans, identity theft and investment scams pushed by those purporting to be associated with the military. Thank you for your service and be careful. Not everyone has a respect or love for those who have given so much to perpetuate freedom in this country.
In another WSJ article in the April 30th edition, the need for small business owners to develop an exit strategy is discussed. There is a need to know what the business is worth, as well as what the tax consequences of a sale or transfer of ownership might be. One obstacle to leaving mentioned is the creation of a business that is too dependent on the current owner. Well before the sale, it is important that responsibilities be delegated to insure a smooth transition and to diversify the customer base. Determination of a realistic value for the business is a key factor for planning purposes. In most cases, the business owner may have an inflated idea of what his life’s work is actually worth. Getting a realistic appraisal of the business well in advance of the targeted disposition of the business will allow time to adjust personal budgets to the anticipated proceeds from the sale. There are CPA’s who specialize in business valuations that can be engaged for this work. Another mistake could be rushing to accept the offer of the highest bidder. Some of the things to consider are how the buyer is going to treat employees and financing of the deal. The highest bidder may not be the best fit. One other piece of advice was to be careful about hiring relatives to do the deal. In something that will affect your wellbeing for the rest of your life, make sure that you have the most qualified professionals on your side. There is also a non-financial consideration: letting go is difficult. Consider mapping out your post business lifestyle before the sale. Get a calendar and fill in how you are going to spend the next six to twelve months. Mapping out your future—at least in the short term—may make the transition easier.
This reading from the book of Wisdom seems appropriate to the above discussions: “Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for she will be found sitting at the gate. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought.”
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