Category Archives: Finances

The Bottom Line on the Value of Your Military Skills

Do You Know Which Are More Valuable in the Private Sector?

2-½ minutes to read

Pilot or aircraft maintainer – who has the more valuable job? Most people say the pilot. After all, the cost to get a military pilot through basic flight training is $1 million. It can cost as much as $9 million to reach operational effectiveness. I’ve based these figures on a 1999 study. The most recent I could find. Since it costs perhaps $200,000 to train a maintainer, most people must be right. Except they're wrong.

The Bottom Line on the Value of Your Military Skills

Cost Doesn't Translate into Value

Early in my real estate career, I learned cost and value don’t connect. A couple had spent $25,000 remodeling their kitchen. But when I appraised their house it added only $15,000 to its value. Oops!

We want to believe that when something costs a lot it has to be more valuable. Think Armani Suits or Jimmy Choo shoes. But the cost to make such goods is a fraction of the selling price. Marketing and snob appeal create a value disconnected from the cost of production.

You see this everywhere today. Media make a compelling case for the death of consumer branding. But of the top 20 consumer brands, 17 increased their value. They have a good reason for working to do so.

A recognized brand can get a premium price for its products and services. Think Apple, Disney, and Samsung. Disney’s brand has translated into the cost to visit Disneyland outstripping inflation by a factor of 40 since the late 1970s.

Pilots carry a similar status. Top Gun became a recruiting godsend for the Navy by making aviators uber-cool. For a century, they’ve been the knights of our society. But there are signs that like the paladins of old, their sunset approaches.

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The rise of unmanned aerial vehicles has changed the game.

When Prestige Doesn’t Create Value

The high cost of training a pilot and operating manned aircraft are the very issues that make their future value uncertain.

You can buy an F-35 for $101 million. It costs $35,000 to operate it for an hour. Contrast this with a UAV. The Predator costs $13 million and $1,500 respectively. At eight times the price and 23 times the flight hour cost, the F-35 is expensive. And that doesn't count the human cost if a pilot crashes or is shot down.

As the percentage of the military’s budget for personnel and training continues to climb, you can bet it will work to reign in these expenses. Eliminating 1,000 pilots, less than 4%, would save the defense budget $9 billion in training costs alone. That amounts to a 1.5% of the DOD’s budget.

While the military has incentives to reduce the number of pilots, what about the civilian side? How much money could Fedex save by converting their small aircraft to UAVs? What about UPS? I use cargo carriers as an example because packages won't get nervous without a human in the cockpit. But airline legacy carriers struggle to survive. In the meantime, newer ones form that offer lower pilot compensation.

Many former military pilots have found their civilian job prospects less rosy than they used to be. The median pay for commercial pilots is $77,200. Salaries for new hires at regional airlines range from $50,000 to $60,000.

Enter the “lowly” maintainer. Does it matter whether he works on a manned or unmanned aircraft? Hardly. They both have to be ready to fly. The aircraft maintainer who stays ahead of the knowledge curve will always be in demand. The median pay for an aircraft mechanic is $81,862. The lowest 10% make $61,624 or less.

Examine the value of your military skills, leadership ability, and accomplishments. Don't fall into the cost versus value trap. Create your Unique Value Proposition based on a clear analysis of how you can best use them to get a job you’ll love.

Are you clear about the value of your skills?

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How Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Shelach – Numbers 13:1-15:41

The military values conformity. Look no further than uniforms, right? Each service branch has its values, hymn, and customs that create a cohesive identity. At times you can feel suffocated by the need to fit in.

How Nonconformity Can Improve Your Job Prospects

America’s Love-Hate Relationship with Conformity

From her earliest days, our Republic has been ambivalent about nonconformists. Despite many colonials being religious dissenters, most colonies had an official church. Only Rhode Island was founded on the principle of religious pluralism.

From such an irresolute beginning, nonconformity has seeped into the American character. Teenagers rebel against their parents. The ubiquity of tattoos speaks to a desire for individuality. Yet, because rebellion by teenagers is commonplace, non-rebellious ones feel forced to conform. Sailors feel pressured to get a tattoo since everyone else in their unit has one.

It’s like the hilarious scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Brian preaches to the people, “You’re all individuals.” To which they parrot in unison, “Yes, we’re all individuals!”

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In the military, the penalty for nonconformity can be harsh. What about in civilian life?

The Two Ways of the Nonconformist

Humans have wrestled with the dilemma of nonconformity for millennia. Thirty-three hundred years ago, Moses faced this issue when sending men to reconnoiter the Holy Land. In Parshas Shelach:

Caleb silenced the people toward Moses…. (Numbers/Bamidbar 13:30)

In the story of the twelve spies, Moses picks a leader from each tribe. They form a group for gathering intelligence on the Land of Israel. When they return, ten of them report to Moses that the Israelites cannot conquer the Land. Only Joshua and Caleb dissent.

Throughout the spies’ forty-day mission, Joshua disagreed with the group’s conclusions. But Joshua was Moses’s faithful servant. The ten spies were confident the people would consider him biased.

Caleb was another matter. He kept his counsel during the forty-day patrol. Not until the climatic moment did he declare his dissent from the group’s opinion. Unfortunately, he does not sway the Israelites. But he solidifies himself as a man of principle.

Who was right, Joshua and Caleb?

Nonconformity in Civilian Life

After years of conforming in the military, you may feel tempted to adopt Joshua’s consistent, nonconformist posture. Caleb’s plan of going along with the group until principle is on the line seems wishy-washy or weak. But when G-d equates Joshua and Caleb, He makes both of them our models.

So how can we adopt nonconformity all the time while being nonconformist only sometimes?

Don’t make either your exclusive posture. Apply them according to the issue at hand. When deciding on the length of your hair, if you don’t care, take Caleb’s path. Feel free to conform. Don’t think you have to take the rebellious route.

But for your job-hunt, nonconformity works best. Don’t content yourself with hunting the way everybody else does. Always take steps to separate yourself from the pack. Most people rely on job boards. So create relationships to work from the inside. Since PDF resumes are the standard, make a video resume. Conformist job-hunters state their skills. Distinguish yourself by conveying the unique value you bring to the table.

While Caleb earns the Almighty’s commendation, Joshua becomes the leader after Moses dies. G-d recognized his dogged determination to serve the Israelites. Improve your job prospects by following his example.

In what area of your life are you a nonconformist?

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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. Its name comes from the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Have You Absorbed the Most Important Lesson of Military Life?

1-½ minutes to read

Training makes our military second to none. Sometimes equipment doesn’t always measure up. Other times intelligence gaps make completing a mission tough. But rugged conditioning and practice prepare us to overcome all obstacles and prevail. It’s a shame that we don’t take the same approach when getting ready for civilian life.

How to Have the Security of a High-Paying Job

Training Trumps Information

Imagine you’ve just arrived at Fort Benning, MCRD, Great Lakes, or JBSA-Lackland. After checking in, the drill instructors tell you to jump on the Internet. It’s time to learn how to become a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. You’d think they were nuts, right?

Adapting to military life took more than information. There’s a world of difference between reading a manual on firing the M4 Carbine and actually training in its use. Without enough live fire exercises, you’d expect failure in combat.

Civilian life is no different.

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You don’t face life or death when reintegrating to the private sector. But getting the security of a high-paying job takes more than information.

Security Comes from Superior Conditioning

Basic training lasted seven to twelve weeks. Follow on schools lasted from a few weeks to a year. You trained full time. You still weren’t ready for duty. When you got to your unit you received OTJ (on the job) training.

Now learning how to get a high-paying job may not be as complex as becoming a medic or submarine nuke. But one week of transition instruction, while keeping up with regular duties, won’t cut it. You need at least two months of dedicated training to learn the ropes.

Start by assessing where you need to improve. Have you adjusted from a military to a civilian mindset? Do you know how to:

  1. Set a mission and goals?
  2. Build a unique value proposition?
  3. Target employers and create relationships?
  4. Market yourself?
  5. Meet and negotiate?

Until you have these capabilities, a successful job-hunt will prove elusive. Like in basic training, drill to gain proficiency. You’ll make mistakes. So make sure you have a mentor with military and civilian life success. That way he can help you improve. Then you can achieve mastery through on the job… hunt training.

My free guide will help you get started. The military taught you how to prepare for a new challenge. Follow its guidance. Train for the challenges of reintegration and finding a high-paying job.

Which step is giving you the hardest time?

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How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

2-½ minutes to read

Stories of service members needing food stamps abound. I’m not downplaying people with financial struggles. But there seems to be a view that poverty in the military is widespread. This lowers expectations about the salaries veterans should get in the private sector. People think someone using government help to make ends meet should be happy to make $15 per hour. How do you turn this handicap to a benefit when you negotiate salary?

How to Negotiate Salary Using Your Military Pay

Knowing Your ECS - Equivalent Civilian Salary Can Get You Higher Pay in the Private Sector

The Truth About Military Pay

Most people outside the military don’t understand how our pay works. For junior enlisted, often base pay represents only half or two-thirds of their cash compensation. So even if an HR person checks military pay tables, she’s likely to come up with too low a figure.

Let’s take an example. A married E-3 with two years of service has two children. He lives off base or on a base with privatized housing. His compensation for 2017 looks like this:

Base Salary $2,004.30
Basic Subsistence Allowance 368.29
Basic Housing Allowance 1,179.00
TOTAL – MONTHLY $3,551.59
TOTAL – ANNUAL $42,619.08

Now to be sure, that’s below the $56,516 median income for a family of four. Yet, because the allowances aren’t taxable, he’ll pay no income taxes.

Exemptions and the standard deduction mean $28,800 of his income wouldn’t be taxable even as a civilian. If the other $18,000 were taxable, he’d have to pay $1,057 in FICA and $1,410 in federal income taxes. To stay even with his military pay, his Equivalent Civilian Salary (ECS) would have to be:

$42,619.08 + 1,057 + 1410 = $45,086.08

If he had to pay state income taxes the amount would be higher. That works out to over $22 per hour based on a 40-hour week. That’s three times the federal minimum wage and double California’s higher rate.

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This doesn’t include family separation allowance and incentive pay.

Use Your Military Pay as a Base to Negotiate Salary

I tried several websites that translate from military to civilian pay. For example, USAA has one available to members. But, it calculated lower figures than what I got. I’m guessing it doesn’t adjust for allowances being non-taxable. So I put together my own that you can access here. If you have any questions let me know.

Once you have your ECS you can see how it compares to salaries for the types of jobs want. For example, let’s say you were a 91B – Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic in the Army. The median salary for a similar position in the private sector, diesel mechanic, is $50,865. Salaries range from $43,776 to $55,844.   This data came from Salary.com.

The above E3 can make a strong case for higher than the minimum salary based on past compensation alone. Depending on his level of skill he may do much better.

If you were an E6, your ECS is almost $62,600. That’s higher than the maximum for a diesel mechanic. Your leadership ability qualifies you as a foreman or supervisor. So knowing your ECS will help you determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP).

You qualify for a private sector salary similar to or higher than your military pay. If you’ve been told otherwise, re-examine your UVP. Get started now!

Were you surprised by your ECS?

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How to Be Creative Matching Your Skills to a Job

3 Trends that Can Lead to Work You’ll Love

3 minutes to read

For corpsmen and information services technicians, similar civilian jobs are obvious. But if you were an 11B (infantry) or 13B (cannon crewmember), what can you do for the private sector? Input your MOS at Vets.gov Military Skills Translator. You get skills such as contingency planning, team coordination, and hands-on training. All good, but what do you do with them?

How to Be Creative Matching Your Skills to a Job

Creative Use of Your Skills in a Current Private Sector Trend Can Give You a Job You’ll Love.

Look Beyond Your First Post-Military Job

Even for a 68W or HM (or a 25B or IT) job prospects may not be clear. You may want to change your line of work.

From navigating your military career, you know some MOSs and ratings have better potential than others. Maybe you got out because your military specialty had no room for advancement. You don’t want to get into the same situation with a civilian job. So how do you avoid a dead-end position?

Predicting the future can be tricky at best. No matter how well you assess trends, unexpected developments can upset your plans. Luck plays a part in selecting one that will pan out. So you’ll do best by choosing a trend that interests you and matches your skills.

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Below are three trends that don’t involve technology. For each one, I suggest a couple of related jobs. Think about what your daily life would be like doing such work. Then look at how your skills might fit. If you haven’t done so yet, read my post on assessing your skills.

Get Creative Matching Your Interest and Skills

I’ve found a lot of veterans like to work with their hands. If that includes you, these trends play into your strengths:

1. Analog. People aren’t throwing away their iPods and Kindles. But, vinyl record sales hit a 25-year high in 2016. Print book sales grew over 3% last year, the third consecutive annual increase. By contrast, e-books sales declined 4% after being flat the year before. With the return of records, people have bought turntables and album storage racks. They need bookcases for their hardcovers and paperbacks.

11Bs and 13Bs maintain rifles and howitzers. As a result, they have a high level of mechanical ability. CBs build stuff. Do you like working with motors and mechanical gadgets or carpentry? You may find a home in the emerging analog world.

2. Disintermediation. Middlemen have been eliminated from many categories of consumer transactions during the last 25 years. Travel agents got wiped out by the Internet. Uber and Airbnb have continued this trend through more sophisticated technology. But other companies are less high-tech. Imperfect Produce has removed food wholesalers and grocery stores from the supply chain. It sources fruits and vegetable from farmers and delivers them to customers’ homes.

Personal chefs cut out restaurants. They plan, cook, and deliver meals to busy professionals who want healthy food tailored to their likes. Are you a 92A, LS, or YN? You may find a home at companies like Imperfect Produce. 92Gs and CSs might like life as a personal chef.

3. Craft and Local. If you like beer, you know about the return of craft. The U.S. has over 4,000 craft breweries. Craft distilleries will soon top 1300. Part of the attraction of craft is it’s local. And booze isn’t the sole home of craft. Over the last decade, Ohio has become home to more than 200 furniture makers. Most building custom-made pieces. Other states, like California with its “Made in CA” program, have joined the trend.

Craft has made big inroads in food production. Made-to-order has captured a growing segment of the clothing business. Was your MOS 91 or 92 or your rating LS, SH, or CS? Consider working in a craft and local.

None of these trends are carved in stone. But they all harken back to a time of greater human contact and authenticity. Embodying such timeless needs, they might be the ideal place for you to spend the rest of your working life. Check them out now.

Where can your job-hunt fit into one of these trends?

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