Back when I was in the military, there was no financial education provided to us active duty service members. In the years since then, that hasn’t changed. Those who want to learn about financial education are required to seek it out themselves.
If I had known what I know now, I would have made different financial decisions in the military. Service members aren’t given the explicit opportunity to know that they have a chance to set up a real estate portfolio, one that is unavailable to every other American.
This is an important piece that I wish every service member could read. Since learning what I now know, I’ve made it part of my personal mission to educate active duty service members on these benefits.
Here’s the long story short: service members can use their VA loan benefits to purchase properties while they move from base to base. This will allow them to create a small real estate portfolio with cash-flowing properties.
Building a real estate portfolio, for anyone, is a great way to increase cash-flow and turn a consistent profit. But it’s not as easily accessible to most Americans as it is for service members.
The way this works is if you are an officer, you’ll probably move to around 2–3 bases during a ten year period. At each base, you’re given a basic allowance for housing, around $800 per month (depending on your rank). You have the choice to rent or purchase a home. Most service members rent. This is understandable; it’s cheaper, less hassle and if you don’t plan on staying long, it seems to make sense. That’s a short term mentality, not a long term one.
Let’s say you wanted to buy instead. How much house can you actually afford with $800 a month? Where interest rates are right now, you could afford a monthly payment on a roughly $165,000 home, dependent on location. Most military bases have some level of affordable housing around them that can easily be purchased at that price; these home markets are almost made for you to take advantage of these benefits.
One of the best VA loan benefits is the opportunity to put 0% down on any home purchase. What other investor or demographic out there has this ability? Where else can you put 0% down, buy a house and have the government pay your monthly payment while you live there?
This whole time, you can build up equity. On average, you’ll be stationed at that base for about three years before you move on to a new base and therefore, new home. You’d be right to think that you should be renting out that first property you purchased. But what do you do at the next station? Most would assume that you start renting. What a lot of people don’t understand is you can use your VA loan benefits again. You can keep your VA loan on the current property, and use the remainder of your entitlement to buy another primary residence with a new VA loan.
Now we’re talking about going to a new base, putting 0% down again, and the government’s making another home payment for you. And at the same time, you’re renting out your first property and receiving a steady cash-flow from that. There’s a tremendously active rental market surrounding every military base, so you’re not going to have a hard time getting somebody in there to rent. Most likely, it’s going to be someone in the military, which increases your odds of getting paid because they’re getting basic allowance on housing — the same you were offered, and used to purchase a home instead.. All you need is a qualified property management company close to the base… and there are plenty.
You’ll probably have enough time to do this a third time when you next move. So by the time you leave the service, you will have made the most of all your VA entitlements. You’ll have three properties you’ve purchased that you are consistently renting out and generating cash from, and you’re settling down into a home of your own.
A real house, with three investment properties right out of the military without paying a cent of your own money? You can’t sweeten that deal.
This is a fundamental game changer. That’s why it’s so important to me to educate everyone. To accomplish this, we at Paramount Bank have partnered with the USO, specifically their Pathfinder program, to go on bases and provide actual financial education to our men and women in the military. We don’t focus just on real estate, however, but on all the benefits available while on duty and to veterans as they transition into civilian life.
Paramount Bank is proud to help educate. Through this program and through the Veterans Association for Home Ownership (vahome.org), we are actively going around the country and changing lives.
I never took a single class or received even a booklet on how to use my VA benefits while I was in the military. I was left to figure it out on my own. That’s still the case today. Can you imagine a world in which every service member knew what was possible with their benefits? I can, and that’s why I’m working to change our current reality.