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Veteran Discounts – Saving Money is Never a Bad Thing

January 8, 2011

I am trying to compile an extensive list of discounts available to active duty military and veterans.  After all, healthy finances are about squeezing every bit of value out of a dollar.  If you know of any discounts, please send me the information at

Thank you for your support

Practical Thinking for the New Mortgage Rate Environment

January 8, 2011

This is extract from an article that I wrote for a Chicago real estate blog.  The article is worth a read if you are currently looking to buy.

If you have not been considering a real estate transaction recently, this may come as news to you, but the price for mortgages is on the rise. The question, however, most often posed by borrowers in these volatile times is whether the salad days of the sub-4.5% mortgage rates are well behind us.

Read entire article

GI Bill Changes Coming in August

January 8, 2011

I found a posting on LinkedIn by Colin Masterson about imminent changes to the GI Bill due in August.  The article in the Army Times does a fantastic job of netting out the changes. 

Pluses and minuses

A Senate package of improvements to the Post-9/11 GI Bill would pay for increases and expansions of some benefits by curtailing others. What would change:


• Active-duty service members and their spouses using transferred benefits would be eligible, beginning Aug. 1, 2011, for the $1,000 book allowance; student veterans already receive this allowance.

• Living stipends would be available to people taking distance learning classes without the current requirement that they must take at least one classroom course to qualify. However, the payment would be half of the national average living stipend.

• Living stipends would be available to anyone taking enough credits to be considered a half-time student. Current law limits stipends to those attending more than half time.

• Nontraditional education would be covered through certificate and nondegree programs, apprenticeships and on-the-job training, and correspondence training.

• A tuition and fee reimbursement cap for private colleges and universities, some graduate courses and for students paying out-of-state tuition would be simplified. Instead of being based on the highest rates for public schools in each state, a single nationwide cap would be set at $17,500, effective Aug. 1, 2011. This is the national average for in-state tuition and fees. That amount is more than the current cap in all but a few states.

• GI Bill benefits could be used multiple times for licensure and certification tests and national college exams, starting Aug. 1, 2011. But students who use this benefit more than once would lose one month of their 36 months of benefits for every $1,667 spent on exam fees.

• For National Guard and reserve members, the bill would expand the types of service that count toward earning benefits, to include mobilization under Title 32 and service in the Active Guard and Reserve program. This would apply to service since Aug. 1, 2009.

• Coast Guard entry-level training and skill training would count toward earning benefits, effective on the date the bill becomes law.


• Living stipends for people attending school less than full time but more than half-time would be prorated, effective Aug. 1, 2011. Under current rules, full stipends are paid to those attending college on a more than half-time basis.

• Active-duty members who now may receive full tuition and fees for attending private school would have payments capped at $17,500 a year, beginning in the fall 2011 term. They could be eligible for Yellow Ribbon Program benefits, like other student veterans, to cover tuition and fees that exceed the cap.

• Service members released from active duty because of pre-existing medical conditions, hardships or physical or mental conditions that are not service-connected would have to have an honorable discharge to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Currently, the type of discharge does not restrict eligibility.

• Rules preventing duplication of benefits would expand so that family members could use transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits from only one service member at a time, and anyone using the Post-9/11 GI Bill could not concurrently use survivors education benefits or National Call-to-Service education benefits.

• Payment of benefits during intervals between school terms would be allowed only during emergencies, such as when schools are temporarily closed by presidential order.

Source Army Times – Read the full article

Jobs Data Happy Tune for Economy, but Funeral Dirge for Low Mortgage Rates

January 7, 2011

Reprinted from my weekly update on The Chicago 77

The word of the week is jobs. For months, we have heard economists near and far assure us that as go jobs so goes the economy. After all, to buy goods and pay their mortgages, consumers need a steady and predictable source of income, i.e. a job. Now after painful year of anemic employment, it appears that we may finally seeing a sustained turn around in the jobs sector.

Read entire article

Update to article:

Well, this time we ate the bear.  The government jobs report, which came in mixed, is generally accepted as a disappointment.  While overall unemployment did drop, the number of jobs created did missed expectations.  The end result is a reprieve for those squarely on the fence on what to do and those in the process of buying a property who have not locked a final rate.  I want to stress that this should not by any means lull anyone into a false sense of security.  Think of it as a shuttle launch that has been delayed due to technical issues.  Like the shuttle, the rate rocket will, at some point launch, but not today.

What is the best way to save money for college tuition?

January 6, 2011


I recently received a question from a serviceman who is looking to begin the process on saving for his newborn son’s college education.

I am considering how to best save for my newborn son’s college.

One option I am considering is to just continue investing in our Roth IRAs (RIRAs) to the limit the law allows. My understanding is that RIRA monies are generally for retirement, but can be used to send your kid to college without penalty.

In contrast, my understanding is that 529s are expensive and restrictive (within state, and only applicable at ‘State U)’. If baby boy gets accepted to Oxford or something, many of the 529 advantages are lost. Further having his college money in our RIRA’s conceals it from the financial aid Nazis – meaning he can still get financial aid, despite the fact we’ve actually saved a lot of money to send him to college (in our RIRAs).

Here are 2 articles I read about it:

We would continue fueling my wife’s 401K up to the match point, and my military TSP as much as possible. But initiating a separate investment vehicle for son’s college would require we divert funds from our retirement investments. We are not in a position to fully fund my military TSP, so we don’t have extra disposable income laying around.

Anyone else pondering similar issues? Is my understanding of any of these issues flawed?

If anyone could comment on this subject, I think it would be of great assistance to everybody.

Welcome to Vet Money Matters

January 5, 2011

In the almost 10 years that I have been in the financial services industry, I have time and again come across a definite need for sound financial advice for veterans, active duty military and their families.  As a result of this, I would like to formally announce the launch of  This site will be a source for all things financial to assist those in uniform and those who served in making the right decisions when it comes to their finances.

Thank you very much for your service,

Doug Katz