When Jeff Rose enrolled in college, he didn’t need to take out student loans. As an enlisted U.S. Army National Guardsman, his tuition and fees were covered, and income from an additional part-time job covered his basic essentials.
Unfortunately, he took out student loans anyway. The interest rate was low, he reasoned, so why not? After filling out a simple form, the government sent him a check for $2,700 per semester. After repeating this a few times, Rose amassed $10,000 in unnecessary student loan debt.
He racked up another $8,000 in credit card debt, mostly fueling his shopping habit at The Buckle. (Hey, a guy’s gotta dress sharply, right?) He was $18,000 in the hole, with nothing to show for it.
Then came the laser eye surgery. And the engagement ring. All financed.
Fortunately, this soldier found a Battle Buddy: his wife Mandy. She urged him NOT to buy that flat-screen TV, encouraged him to find cheaper ways to have fun, and generally kept him in check. By the time he deployed to combat in Iraq, the couple was ready to launch Operation Debt Free.
“… many of our phone conversations during my time in Iraq involved discussing the progress towards our (debt-payoff and savings) goals,” Rose says.
He was fighting two battles: one with enemy combatants carrying AK-47’s, and one with easy credit and low monthly payments.
Basic Training For Your Finances
Rose, who is now a certified financial planner, recently published the book Soldier of Finance to teach people how to apply military combat training to their financial lives.
The book is Basic Training for money. Rose teaches his readers how to climb out of debt, build credit, prepare a budget, and start a FRAGO fund (Financial Reserves + Goal Fund – like an emergency fund to the extreme).
“A general cannot coordinate the movements of an army without knowing where the enemy is, how strong he is, and the direction in which he is heading,” Rose says. When the enemy is debt, the battle takes a new direction.
Rose laces the military analogy through every battle on the finance front. He equates searching for landmines with finding errors on your credit report. He compares buying an Army Ranger badge (if you aren’t qualified to wear it) with keeping up with the Joneses. In the Army, your roster number identifies you; in the civilian world, your credit score defines you.
Towards the end of the book, he approaches Advanced Individual Training. He walks his readers through Investing 101 with sections on compounding interest, market volatility, and choosing an advisor. He discusses Roth IRA’s, different types of mortgages, and the importance of giving.
The best parts of the book, in my opinion, are the (sometimes gutwrenching) personal stories he shares, particularly the tales about his family.
Both his parents (separately) declared bankruptcy, Rose reveals. (I’ve been following him online for years, and I never knew that tidbit until I read his book).
His father had a list of credit cards with high balances, each of which carried 20 to 30 percent APR’s. He would take cash advances from one credit card to make the minimum payment on another credit card.
He would ask his son for money – at one point, borrowing as much as $8,000 — and when he realized that he couldn’t pay his son back, he took out a life insurance policy and named his son the beneficiary, so that Rose could receive some type of estate.
Roses’ mother was more fortunate. She sold her Los Angeles home at the peak of the market, downsizing into a Las Vegas retirement home that she purchased in cash.
Unfortunately, her story didn’t end happily ever after. She started flipping houses, leveraged into three investment properties, and was caught holding the bag when the real estate bubble burst.
Anyone who follows Roses’ blog knows that he has no qualms about being up-close-and-personal with his audience. In this book, he kicks that openness up a level.
You’ll learn about his fears, tears, victories and defeats. You’ll discover a whole new world of military slang (which can be quite colorful!) Most importantly, you’ll get a sense of the coordination, offensive and support you’ll need to conquer debt and liberate yourself from paycheck-to-paycheck living.
This Book is for You If: You’re in debt, living on the edge, or stressed about cash.
This Book is NOT for You If: You’re searching for advanced investing lessons. This book is about surviving the battlefield, not becoming the next Commander-in-Chief.
Check out Soldier of Finance by Jeff Rose, a Certified Financial Planner and Iraq War combat veteran.
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