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Military’s Emphasis On Readiness Also Applies To Saving For Higher Education

November 11 is Veterans Day. You notice that Veterans is spelled without an apostrophe because the day does not belong to Veterans but rather is a day for honoring all Veterans. Nineteen million or less than 1% of the United States’ population are Veterans. Two million men and women currently are actively serving in U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard, and Reserve.

Unlike other national holidays, regardless of the day of the week, our country always marks Veterans Day on the 11th of each November. This is significant. It does not detract from the meaning of other national holidays, but it speaks volumes of the meaning of this day and our nation’s regard for our Veterans. The occasion was originally observed as Armistice Day marking the end of the First World War, and Congress changed it to Veterans Day in 1954. Every 11th day of November calls for all Americans to unite and pay honor and respect for the men and women who wore the uniforms of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard in service to our great nation. We all should be grateful for their service.

A fundamental tenet of military service is readiness. Throughout a person’s tour of duty, their training and purpose is focused on being prepared for a wide spectrum of possible contingencies. At its core, The U.S. Army has the principle that soldiers must be prepared to win the war before the battle begins. The model used for their preparation is Be-Know-Do. Army leaders must be able to act decisively and effectively in the face of challenging situations, rapid change, and ambiguity. The characteristic of readiness, while different in civilian life, is nonetheless applicable. To position ourselves for success in our careers, in providing for our families or even retirement we would do well to learn, plan, start, and manage as we address these life undertakings.

This includes our educational objectives. I was an Army Captain in 1992 and 1993 when our daughters were born. My wife and I had the expectation that our daughters would pursue higher education opportunities when they graduated from high school. We had no idea where we would be living when that time came or what those opportunities would look like, only that there would be associated costs. So, we began saving by investing, putting aside $50 a month for each of our daughters. We remained disciplined over the years, never raiding these funds for other expenses. When a pay raise or promotion came along or we experienced “found” resources, we increased our contributions. Our daughters graduated from college in 2014 and 2017 respectively. Coupled with my GI Bill benefits and our savings, both graduated and went into their careers free of the burden of debt.

Doing an After-Action Review (AAR) of our savings plan, we could have done better. First, while investing was wise, we paid taxes on gains, dividends, and withdrawals to pay for school. If we had saved with a 529 plan, we would have had advantages like tax-free earnings and tax-free withdrawals for qualified expenses to work our savings more efficiently for us.

The GI Bill served as a scholarship, which was good. However, like most scholarships, it did not cover all the educations expenses, which included tuition and fees, room and board, books, computers, and other related expenses. When we began our education savings, we had no idea whether scholarships or grants would come into play. These resources were supporting fires (I was a Field Artillery Officer) for our savings and enhanced the effectiveness our savings. The enemy here is student loan debt, and we would do well to endeavor that our children and grandchildren emerge from their educational experience victorious over this economically crippling foe.

Every member of the Armed Forces when entering their respective branch of service is subject to initial entry training. Whether you went to basic training, boot camp, ROTC, or attended a service academy, it’s only when you complete one of these rights of passage that you truly understand how it feels. It is the same with completing an education program whether it is a trade school, technical school, or college education debt free or with little debt.

So, as we mark Veterans Day 2021, let us be grateful for the service of our fellow citizens and take a page out of their books and plan today for educational contingencies.

Tim Gorrell is the executive director of Ohio Tuition Trust Authority. Previously, he served as the director of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services. Colonel Gorrell, who retired from the U.S. Army after serving 31 years, is a highly awarded and decorated military leader. For 30 years, Ohio Tuition Trust Authority has sponsored and administered Ohio’s 529 College Savings Program, CollegeAdvantage. Ohio’s 529 Plan oversees more than 670,000 accounts and over $15.93 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, 2021. Visit CollegeAdvantage.com or call 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) for more information.

Posted on November 11, 2021

Timothy C. Gorrell

Tim Gorrell

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