The Truth About Careers for Military Spouses by Emma

Hi everyone! Today I’m excited to introduce you to Emma from Smile as it Happens blog. She is a Career and Life Coach in the making and I’m sure she will make a great one! Below are some truths about Military Spouses making careers. If you have any advice for fellow MILSOs don’t forget to comment! – Lauren

As a military spouse, you more than likely have to shoulder more than your fair share of responsibility. You function as both mother and father to your kids when your spouse is away on deployment. You handle frequent moves with incredible grace and stamina. It seems unfair that your position as a military spouse also presents challenges with holding down a stable job. Although there are resources to help you find and maintain employment, you’ve probably heard a number of myths that serve only to discourage you. Let’s take a look at some of those myths and learn the truth about the opportunities available.

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It is possible to have it all!

Myth #1: There are no organizations to help you, as a military spouse, establish and maintain a viable career.

Truth: The National Military Spouse Network exists solely to assist military spouses with career searches and development. This organization provides military spouses with assistance in both personal and professional development, focusing on portable career skills and offering an active community of military spouses and professionals.

 *Funding through MYCAA can get you back on track with schooling too! -Lauren

Myth #2: Most employers don’t care about job seekers.

Truth: In today’s competitive job market, it pays for companies to attract the best talent possible to fill open positions. In order to do this, many employers have simplified the application process. Through the use of mobile recruiting platforms, like JIBE, these companies allow applicants to upload resumes and other documents directly from tablets, smart phones and other devices. Additionally, many companies offer work-from-home options and other perks to qualified applicants.

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Check out sites like edX and Udacity for free information and education!

Myth #3: Although you’d like to go back to school to make yourself more viable in today’s job market, you simply can’t afford it, even with a military stipend.

Truth: There are several places online where you can get free information and education. At Udacity, you can take classes in college algebra, statistics or web development, among other things. A site called edX provides a variety of classes taught by professors at some of the country’s top schools.

Myth #4: Because you’ve had several jobs throughout your career, companies will not want to hire you.

Truth: In years past, many individuals held the same job for the majority of their working life. Today, this rarely happens. Often, workers move from company to company in order to get ahead or gain new, marketable skills. Employers understand this and seldom penalize applicants for it. They will look for consistency by checking to see that you have stayed at least a year at a previous place of employment.

Emma is a mid 20-something year old with a passion for life, love, fitness, and helping others. She loves to be active and get involved in as many sport and community activities as possible. Emma is currently studying to become a Career & Life Coach, and loves to network with people from around the world! Check out Emma’s blog at http://smileasithappens.blogspot.com/!

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Becoming Deployment Champs – June Series

Champions.

After this this month’s series, you’ll be exactly that – deployment champs. So without further ado, I’m excited to introduce the June Series at The Real Sweetheart: Becoming Deployment Champs!

Not only are we doing a new series, but we also have two guest bloggers this month – Kaitlin Haugen and Marjorie Santiago! Both are significant others of soldiers and have dealt with deployments and are here to share their wisdom to fellow newbie wives! I’m thrilled to have them on board!

*Little Photo Bios Below!*

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 So stay tuned every week! The bloggers here will be throwing deployment wisdom out to you left and right. You’ll be a champ before you know it! Be prepared to kick deployments in their butt! HOOAH! (okay, okay – I know the hooah was dorky, but I had too… 😉 )

Lauren

Becoming Deployment Champs! Posts:

The Basics to a PCS!

The Basics.

Knowing the basic information to anything is key to later mastering it. And it works the same way when it comes to having a truly successful PCS! So let’s start off *A Month of PCS* with some general questions! Ready. Set. GO!

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PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station. An even easier way to think of a PCS is simply a Duty Station change.

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As soon as your spouse receives their official PCS orders to your new duty station, don’t start packing yet! There is still a lot to get organized at the beginning stages and packing will confuse you in the long run!

Some things you can do after receiving official orders include:

  • jblmwivesFind your Spouse’s Duty Station Page on Facebook. For instance, Fort Lewis has a Fort Lewis Military Wives Facebook Page. This gave me a great start in figuring out the areas to look at moving to and the areas to stay away from!
  • If you live on or off post, make sure to give the housing office or landlord notification of your move. *Official orders have the date in which your active duty spouse has to report – you will want to use that date as a rule of thumb when deciding when to move out*
  • Be Proactive. Start looking at the different routes you can use when driving to your new duty station. If you have children, consider making a couple of stops at landmarks to make the drive easier!

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moving boxPCSs costs vary. If you’re moving from Florida to Washington, it obviously will cost more than Nevada to Washington. Something to keep in mind is whether you will do a Full DITY (Do-It-Yourself) Move, Partial DITY Move or let the military move you. *I’ll go over these different options during Week 3!

Also, another thing to keep in mind during a PCS Move is that you will be spending money out of pocket at first. It’s inevitable  So plan ahead. Create a savings account to keep $1000 to $1500 in specifically for PCSs. That should cover any food, gasoline and hotel costs during your move.

Don’t worry about losing that money! Once at your new station, your spouse will file paperwork to be reimbursed for any spending. *There are spending limits – so no, that doesn’t mean you get to eat lobster every night during your move!

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No – Do not be worried at all! And don’t always listen to what you read on the Internet. I’ve found that most spouses that go to the Internet to write opinions usually are bitter over something.

So, be and stay positive! Moving can be stressful – you are moving away from family, friends and all of the things you know. Think of this as an adventure, because that’s all life is. Life’s an adventure!

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As Shakira says on The Voice, “This is a Toughie One.” As a new military spouse, you will most likely run into this situation. And pulling from my experiences and experiences of other newbie Army wives, you will want to try and jump into planning the move right away.

This is where you need to slam on your breaks and reconsider all of the info you have.

Most likely your spouse was told simply where he or she will be stationed, meaning they don’t have their official orders in hand – Official orders typically aren’t given to the soldier till the final stage of AIT or OSUT.

Now you may ask why do you need the official orders to get started and it’s quite simple on a couple of different levels:

  1. Nothing is 100% certain until you have it typed out, in hand, on the Official orders. 
  2. If you are applying to On Post housing, most bases will prevent you from applying unless you have your Official Orders sent or faxed to them.
  3. As hard as it is, accept that you can only do so much to plan ahead. Do the research of the area, including traffic times on the routes to the base! Look at some neighboring cities or towns by the base. Ask some fellow wives on the base’s Facebook page for spouses on what apartments are great and affordable. Think about what you can do to make life easier for your soldier when he arrives home after his AIT or OSUT graduation.

Overall, the basics to a PCS come down to being Proactive. As a new military wife, you have to do some research because your sweetheart most likely isn’t right next to you. And remember to stay on board here at The Real Sweetheart for the upcoming weeks of *A Month of PCS*!

Lauren

Other Posts for *A Month of PCS*

Week 2 – On or Off Post?

Week 3 – Who Moves Our Things?

Week 4 – Making the Move!

Week 5 – How to Relax During a PCS!

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Top 5 Military Apps for Newbie Wives!

Phone Apps.

We live in a world of technology, so why not use it to our advantage? While I did see Blair at his Family Weekend Pass and graduation from OSUT, it wasn’t until we PCS-ed up to Fort Lewis that I actually interacted with other soldiers – including the higher ups. I’m not really one to get intimidated, but it’s super easy to get intimidated as a newbie military wife when you are first getting used to everything. It happens to the best of us…

So to make it a little easier on you, the 5 Phone Apps below were and still are my favorite for getting to know ins and outs of this crazy military world we live in!

1. Military Ranks – you can’t go wrong with this app. Whether your spouse is in the Army, Marines, Navy, etc., it has all the ranks broken down for you so you know who is who!

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2. USAA – this bank is meant for the military, and I LOVE it. They are so helpful and have an awesome mobile app for military families and veterans. Their app also has a Spending Plan and Track Money option to keep you on track with your income!

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3. Mil Traveler – you connect to your “home base” and it gives you everything you would need to know. For example, what building the MWR is in, their number and when they are open. Another thing I love about this app is that it gives you options for things nearby base as well. Ex. Looking for a golf course near Fort Lewis? It tells you there is one right off of Exit 116 on I-5!

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4. Military Money – another great option when creating a savings plan, debt reduction plan and more. Super great for our incomes! There is no reason we shouldn’t be saving money with great apps like these!

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5.  US Army – okay, okay. Now this app will only work for those in the Army, but it is awesome. One part I really love is the uniform section where they break down any uniform. It gives you everything your spouse will need to know to have his uniform in tip-top shape!

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Extra!

6. MilFit FREE – so this one isn’t necessarily for you, but I love understanding and seeing what is expected of our soldiers when it comes to fitness. There are several different fitness “books” you can download on this app that are definitely interesting!

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The best part about all of the apps above is that they are FREE. Plus, they are all things that you can explore and learn new information when you are out and about! They have all been super handy for me!

Lauren

Love: A Marine Engagement

Photos.

Photos have a special place in my heart – especially when it’s a military couple. Seriously, you might as well be tugging on my heartstings if you show me one. I get kind of sappy, sentimental and happy all at the same time. I blame it on having a common bond with the couple in the photo. As military spouses, we sign up for the possible months of deployments ahead, the weeks of them being gone out at training and the constant ups and downs of them serving. And even if they are away, if you stop and look at the photos, memories quickly rush back into thought. That’s what I love about photos.

So, a couple of weeks ago it was Blair’s and my turn to capture some memories. Getting excited, I started to look around at what adorable military couple photos are out there. And before I knew it, I stumbled upon a photo shoot that a fellow high school classmate of mine had taken. I instantly “oohed” and “aahed” over them. Lauren Going, the photographer of this Marine couple, captured their engagement to a tee. Take a look below to see what the talented Going captured!

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To see more of Lauren’s photos, head over to L’amour Fou Photography’s page! And stay tuned for a sneak peek of some of Blair’s and my photos done by the talented Marjorie at Sugar Lilies Photography –  hopefully to be posted sometime this week! 🙂

Lauren

*Please note the watermarks on Lauren’s photos. Lots of love and time goes into each photo and deserves to be respected. To find out more on photo copyrights, check out Marjorie’s latest blog post , “Copywhat!?“.

Taxes – Army Style

Taxes. 

Seeing as how Blair had staff duty (a 24 hour shift) yesterday, I had prepared a huge To Do list of things to accomplish. I wanted to get a blog post up, deep scrub the bathroom, reorganize our bedroom closet, maybe take Costello for a walk and get our taxes done. Since I’ve had busier days before, I thought I would be able to pound these things out without a doubt. However, as the day quickly came to an end, I found myself hitting my head against our dining room table out of frustration.

TurboTax Military Edition is free for E1-E5's!

TurboTax Military Edition is free for E1-E5’s!

The day had practically gone as planned until I sat down to do our taxes. Now I’m not too sure if this is embarrassing for me to say or not, but this was my first time actually filing taxes. Before I had always been claimed as a dependent or asked my Dad to file my taxes for me (BTW, thanks Dad!). I had not only watched him file taxes before, but also several other family members – and every time it seemed to be just as easy as “1 – 2 – 3”.

I’m not a number kind of person, but I figured that all I was essentially doing was “copy and pasting”. However, I didn’t take into account how much filing as a newly married military couple would confuse me – and it did just that and more. Again, embarrassingly, I felt like I was having a complete mental breakdown all thanks to filing taxes.

To give you a little bit more background info, I was using TurboTax’s Free Military Edition for (ranks) E-1 to E-5. After doing a little research, I found that there were several different places that would do our taxes for free or had a free diy tax filing program. At Fort Lewis, there is the Tax Center or the H&R Block At Home Online tax preparation is available too, but I found that most people find TurboTax’s edition to be better when it came to getting more tax refunds. And, hey, who doesn’t like more money?!

But here are some Important Things to Know Before Filing Your Military Taxes!

1. Know your Home of Record. In our case, it is actually Blair’s Home of Record because he is the active duty enlisted one. Typically, the Home of Record is going to be the state you lived in when you joined the military – a.k.a. state of residency. So despite currently living in Washington, Nevada is his Home of Record.

*If you aren’t sure, check his LES (Leave and Earning’s Statement) through mypay.gov.

2. Understand and decide whether you will use the Military Spouses Residency Relief Act. This relief act allows military spouses to claim their active duty spouse’s state of residency even if you have PCSed to another state. For me it made sense to keep my residency in Nevada – state taxes are considerably lower there!

3. Make sure you are keeping track of what you can write off!  While many of the tax write offs out there for military service members, veterans and their families may not apply to your life, sometimes they do! So always make sure to do your research to see what is out there! Currently there are tax write offs associated with PCSing costs, uniform costs and more.

*So, Army wives, start keeping all of your receipts associated with any personal military spending right now!!! Next year you’ll be able to add up what you spent out of pocket for things like uniforms. Just make sure you don’t include the uniforms they buy using their annual uniform allowance!

4. Take advantage of the free tax programs out there. Even though I had a difficult time doing ours to begin with, as long as you know and understand terms such as Home of Record and Military Spouses Residency Relief Act, you are set. Why pay when something free is available to you, right?

5. Do your research and be prepared. In the end, I wasn’t able to finish our taxes because I hadn’t done this step. While I had all of Blair’s W-2 information (Army makes this super easy to access through mypay), I didn’t have mine… Major Fail. 😦

*Just so you know, your employer actually has till the end of January to send out W-2’s! Also, 2013’s Tax Deadline is Monday, April 15th!

Despite not clicking the send button on our taxes yet, I still found myself having a productive day, even after all of the frustration and stressing. And to calm myself down after this fiasco, I  got a little crafty/organizational and created February’s Draper Family Newsletter. Now it may seem cheesy, but it is oh so helpful for me – and it was the perfect way to end my day filled with taxes!

Lauren

Our January and February Newsletter. I use templates in Apple's Pages program to create these!

Our January and February Newsletter. I use templates in Apple’s Pages program to create these!