Every day, approximately 1,300 soldiers and their families leave military life for the civilian world.
That means there are thousands of veterans out there with an array of skills that might help them excel as investors, who may not even realize it.
Think about it this way: The military trains you to identify the desired objective, implement a plan to achieve it, and launch a mission to enact that plan.
Investing is similar–your objective is to build a portfolio that earns a good return for the goal that you’ve set at the specific time in the future. To achieve it, it starts with planning and then following through.
If you’ve mastered the skills below, you’re already ahead of the pack.
Many successful investors are disciplined. And luckily for soldiers, discipline is at the very core of military training.
Practicing healthy financial habits, including investing money on a regular basis, is more of a marathon than a sprint.
Applying the rigid discipline of soldiering to your finances is a great way to reframe how you think about money. Knowing when to hold, sell, and how to ride out market waves requires a systematic, disciplined approach.
Do the grunt work.
Investing starts with a planning and research phase that not everyone will find sexy. Luckily, if you’ve spent time in the armed forces, you’re used to tedious grunt work. That’s what researching and planning can sometimes feel like, especially compared to the thrill of simply hitting the “buy” button for a security.
But putting together an investing plan–poring over a fund prospectus, for example–can be far less thrilling. Don’t shrug it off, though. You’ll want to make sure you’re putting your money to work in a way that makes sense for you, at a risk level that you’re comfortable with, and that will hopefully provide a return.
Plan the mission.
Another skill many soldiers pick up during their enlistment is to think critically and strategically. And it’s a strength that’ll go a long way in handling your finances.
Sure, you may spend a good amount of time simply following orders, but you’ll also learn to outline missions and identify objectives. That’s easily applicable to financial planning and investing, which also requires patience, planning, and follow-through.
Set up comms.
If you’ve spent time in the military, you’ve likely had to become a good communicator. Coordination and communicating in a legible, straightforward way is a necessary skill.
You’ll need those skills to able to discuss your goals with your partner or financial advisor. Everyone’s wants, needs, and time horizons are different and there are no one-size fits all plan to get there.
By being able to clearly communicate how you need to change your budget in order to put aside money for your future goals, you can avoid a lot of future problems.
Call for support.
Soldiers know when to call for backup–something that new investors, in over their heads, may not feel comfortable doing.
“Every service has a support agency. In the Navy, it was called the Fleet and Family Support Center, and they had professionals on staff who service members could talk to about finance,” Eric Jorgensen, director of financial planning at Maryland-based Turning Point Financial, tells Stash.
Jorgensen, a 20-year Navy veteran, adds that many service members can be reluctant, however, to use the resources provided to them. “In my experience, it was an underutilized service,” he says “This could have been due to lack of awareness, shame, or ‘no time’.”
There’s no shame in speaking up if you’re unclear about how your money is being handled or if you’re seeing strange fees. Smart investors ask questions.
Make a decision.
Managing your portfolio isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always fun. When the markets are in disarray and you’re trying to decide what to do, it’s important to be disciplined about your decisions. You’d never let your emotions affect your decision-making while in the field. It’s the same with your investments. If you’ve committed to a long-term, buy-and-hold strategy, then you’ll have to stand strong when markets dip.
And that’s what they teach you in in the military, to keep cool under pressure. You may not give it much thought, but decision-making skills are incredibly valuable, in life and when it comes to investing.