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We’re making your financial health our mission every week with our personal finance podcast, MakingCents. Join us as we explore ways to help you stay in control of your wallet and make sense of your money.
[TONE FADING IN] [DING]
EMILY BIGHAM: Welcome back to MakingCents, the podcast brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union. I'm Emily Bigham. Thank you again for tuning in, and remember that you can subscribe to this podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
This week, we're going to be talking about mortgages, specifically VA loans. Service members and veterans often hear about VA loans, but they can be pretty difficult to grasp. And so today, we're going to try to simplify those for you so you can understand and also take advantage of their true value.
So today, we have an expert on VA loans, Kevin Parker. Kevin is the VP of field mortgage here and Navy Federal, which means that he manages the team of loan officers. They're member-facing, they're actually on the ground talking to members and, I guess, get a lot of these hard questions. Welcome, Kevin. Thanks for being here.
KEVIN PARKER: Thanks, good to be here.
EMILY BIGHAM: So I have a little bit of a question to throw you off today, just to start the day. Now that we've been working from home for a little over seven months, how was your morning routine changed?
KEVIN PARKER: Much different. So, I do not have the hour and 50 minute commute that I used to have. So that time, I found that I was spending a lot more time laying in bed.
I also have two little girls, a 9 and 12-year-old. So they're in school. So I'm finding myself to be a breakfast chef, and--
EMILY BIGHAM: Nice.
KEVIN PARKER: --trying to get them ready for school as well too. So it's definite changed a bit, but, you know, we've all been able to basically manage through and still add value. Whether it's being a part time father or a professional or working in my pajamas at home.
EMILY BIGHAM: Nice. Well, next time I'll have to have you bring me breakfast.
KEVIN PARKER: Ah, sounds good.
EMILY BIGHAM: [LAUGHS]
KEVIN PARKER: Sounds good.
EMILY BIGHAM: So VA loans. I hear a lot about VA loans. In fact, my mother-- shout out to Patty Bigham-- she texted me the other day and she was asking me questions about VA loans. And I was like, first of all, mom, that's not my area of expertise. I'm going to kick you over to the experts in Kevin's department. But, you know, it led me to realize just how complicated they can be. Because my parents have had a few mortgages in their lifetime, and to still be asking questions about VA loans and their benefits just made me realize how confusing they are. So why do you think that there's this perception?
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah, it's a great question. And I think that's a great topic because we're always out there trying to dispel the myth of VA loans and them being confusing or harder and the perception. The reason the perception is out there is because the purpose of a VA loan is to help members get into a property that's viable, a property that's going to hold value. But also, a product that's going to be beneficial to their specific needs.
And by specific needs, I mean more times than not, a lot of our military members maybe can take advantage of not putting down as much money as what a typical non-service member. And by that, we mean, there are a lot more low down payment options when getting a VA loan. So that right there is an instant benefit, meaning more cash. That's cash that you can use towards buying furniture or fixing up the property, things of that sort.
But the overarching point of VA loan is, that loan is there to protect service members and make sure that they're getting into a financial product that can be beneficial to them, specifically.
EMILY BIGHAM: So when you talk about less of a down payment, you know, there are a lot of mortgages out there that don't require a down payment or a large payment. And so if you had to boil it down to the best benefit of a VA loan, what would that be?
KEVIN PARKER: The interest rate.
EMILY BIGHAM: The interest rate. OK.
KEVIN PARKER: Right.
EMILY BIGHAM: Even in a low rate environment like we're in today?
KEVIN PARKER: Even at the low rate. So I should say, lower interest rate.
EMILY BIGHAM: OK.
KEVIN PARKER: Lower than typically your conventional loan, which in layman's terms means, less money, meaning your monthly mortgage payment is going to be a little bit lower than it typically would for other products. So that's a huge benefit.
Two, right behind it, as I just mentioned, the low down payment, meaning that's a lot less cash that you have to put down. And let's kind of touch on that for a moment, just in terms of just the cash aspect of it. When we provide loans to consumers, the more equity you have in the home, the less risk it is for the institution.
EMILY BIGHAM: The more equity.
KEVIN PARKER: Right. And by that I mean, let's say the home was worth $100,000. And you do a loan for $80,000. So the difference of $80 to the $100, that's the equity in the home, meaning cash, liquid in the home. Worst case scenario, that extra $20,000 is there as a cushion in case the lender has to get their money back. So that's the whole thing about why is it such a big deal putting down cash versus not? And for a VA loan, the VA comes in and helps us, basically securitize our loans. Which means that, if anything goes wrong, the VA is going to be there to back up that loan. That's really the benefit of where the Veterans Administration comes into place.
EMILY BIGHAM: And so that's why the lender is able to give a lower interest rate?
KEVIN PARKER: Correct.
EMILY BIGHAM: Got it. OK.
KEVIN PARKER: Because the VA is backing half that loan for us.
EMILY BIGHAM: So is it more difficult to get a VA loan then because you're going through the lender and then also the VA?
KEVIN PARKER: So ironically, it's not. So you would think so. That's a great question. But that's where the benefit of the Veterans Administration comes into place-- that, not only will we secure half that loan for you, but they're also going to give you a better interest rate. So you're kind of get a double benefit of being able to not put down as much money, keep more cash, and have a lower interest rate, keep even more cash.
EMILY BIGHAM: Sounds good to me.
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah.
EMILY BIGHAM: So then, I guess my question goes back to, then why is there such a perception that they're so difficult to understand? Is that where the eligibility question comes in or what's that perception?
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah, eligibility. And then also, one of the main purpose for the VA loan, once again, is to make sure that we are lending a house that's viable. And by viable, I mean, it's structurally sound, it's not a lemon, you're going to keep that property for a long term.
And so by that specifically, the VA has very specific requirements when they do appraisals, when they do home inspections. And so that's why you're going to get maybe some of the more-- what seemingly can be restrictions around VA loan is because sometimes the VA might require some additional inspections. Or not inspections, but some additional improvements done to the home based off the home inspection. That's where the perception comes from that it may be a little bit harder. But the key--
EMILY BIGHAM: Just because the--
KEVIN PARKER: --thing is--
EMILY BIGHAM: I'm sorry to interrupt.
KEVIN PARKER: No, no. No, no. Not at all. I'll say, but the key thing is working with the lender that's very familiar with the type of appraisals, type of home inspections. Because for us, like Navy Federal, we're specialists when it comes to VA. So we're very used to working with our members and working with the appraisers if anything needs to be done on a property. But more times than not, it's a common appraisal like any other conventional product.
EMILY BIGHAM: So how many times can you take advantage of the VA loan?
KEVIN PARKER: Great question. So the VA allows some flexibility in terms of what you call VA eligibility and we also call subsequent use, meaning you can use it multiple times. But it's really based upon your specific situation.
For example, some will want to get a VA loan for the purpose of an investment property or for a second home. Some would want to get a VA loan-- most want to get it for the purpose of a primary property. And so it really depends upon that person's unique needs, which is why they make you go through the Veterans Administration to actually find out what your eligibility is. And we help our members with that process early, before they even apply.
EMILY BIGHAM: So even if you're eligible for a VA loan, is there ever a right or a wrong time?
KEVIN PARKER: No, I wouldn't say they're the wrong time, because the VA is such a good product. I mean, we really believe in it and think it's a very, very beneficial product. So I wouldn't say there's a wrong time. More times than not, more veterans are going to use it for primary purpose. So that's your overwhelming, I would say, the purpose of getting a VA loan, for primary resident.
EMILY BIGHAM: What are some of the other options that you guys recommend if they're not going to take advantage of the VA loan?
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah, so--
Now fortunately, we're lucky. From the standpoint of, we are a portfolio lender, which means that we keep some of the loans that we issue on our books, meaning we don't sell them to Fannie Mae. And what I mean sell them, Fannie Mae buys loans to help securitize loans. Well, for Navy Federal, we keep some of our loans on books, which means that we have a bit more flexibility, which means that we can create products very specific for unique needs.
For example, we have a program called Military Choice. It's almost very close to what a VA loan is. The only difference is you're not using your VA eligibility. So if we have a member who does not want to use their eligibility for whatever reason, well, we have a different option of our Military Choice program in which the rates-- almost just as good, it's not quite the same. But it's almost just as good as a VA loan.
EMILY BIGHAM: So to me, that kind of makes sense. You know, you want to have options, especially because military members are moving quite often. And sometimes they don't know if they're going to relocate or if they're going to go overseas. Does going overseas or being here in the United States, does that change anything about the VA loans or eligibility?
KEVIN PARKER: No, because it's based off what the property is. So we lend in all 50 states. So regardless of where the member is, the reasons for their mortgage could change. But as long as it's in the 50 states, it doesn't matter where they are.
EMILY BIGHAM: And can you refinance a VA loan?
KEVIN PARKER: Absolutely. So that's was a great question. So there's a pro product called Interest Rate Reduction Loan, and that's a special program. Because every time you do financing, it cost money. All right? There is an appraisal fee, you have to do title, you have to do title work. And all those are different fees of cost associate with the loan. Well, with the Interest Rate Reduction Loan, those costs are reduced because you're not going to have to do an appraisal, in essence, we're saving money on the expense to do your loan. And it's a much faster process. And so we actually have a dedicated channel just to handle our Interest Rate Reduction Loan for our members.
EMILY BIGHAM: So I'm going to switch gears a little bit and kind of talk about what's going on right now. We're in a recession, but the environment's very different from that 2008 housing bubble recession. Have you seen any change in consumer, I guess, member behavior when it comes to home buying?
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah. So ironically, not as much as you would think. So right around March when COVID really hit, we did see a touch of a decline in terms of homes listed for sale. If you think about it, people didn't necessarily want to sell their-- list their home because they didn't want people maybe walking through and doing inspections. And on the other side as well, people buy homes-- they're a bit hesitant of going out there and shopping for new homes, et cetera.
But after March, we started to see home purchases kind of trend back up to normal levels. If you look today, even the same purchase trend is about the same that historically has been. So we haven't seen a huge shift in behavior. Our production from a Navy Federal perspective, still gonna be on target pre-COVID that what we thought. So no, I mean, honestly you haven't seen a big change.
EMILY BIGHAM: So I assume probably with the low interest rates, you guys are getting a lot of refinancing applications.
KEVIN PARKER: Absolutely.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah.
Well, that's good.
KEVIN PARKER: A huge number.
EMILY BIGHAM: That's smart, right? That's what you want members and consumers to do.
KEVIN PARKER: Absolutely.
EMILY BIGHAM: Is take advantage, when they can, of what's happening. And so tell me about your first home.
KEVIN PARKER: Great question. So my first home was actually right out of college. So I went to Hampton University down in Virginia in the Tidewater areas. So as you can imagine, it's a lot of military members in that particular area. And at 23 years old, a buddy of mine, we wanted to buy an investment property.
And ironically, the person buying that property was a veteran. And they actually did a VA loan on their side. So I got to experience a VA loan as a seller, in which talking about the appraisal and talking about the inspection on the seller perspective. And so that was my very first opportunity of basically buying a home as an investor and then selling it to a VA member.
EMILY BIGHAM: So, you know, from a seller perspective, I assume that's a lot different from being a buyer. What are maybe some, like, old tips that you can-- or I guess things to know about being a seller on the VA side that members should be aware of.
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah. I think that's a great question. I think one of them is understanding, maybe, what some of the red flags might be for the property type or the type of property or just inspections in general, improvement just in general. More times than not, if the home is viable, once again, structurally sound you're gonna be able to sell it regardless of what type of loan that you do.
But there is some in regards to painting and plumbing that, I think, maybe if you're selling it to a VA buyer, it might be helpful to know. But in more times than not, that's going to be on the realtor. The realtors, that's what they there for. We work very closely with our realtors. A lot of voters are very experienced and they're familiar with VA loans.
But one thing we do recommend for our members, our buyers in general is, you want to work with professionals who are familiar with that specialty. And by that I mean, I use the analogy of, when I want a steak, I'm going to go to a steakhouse.
Same thing for if I want seafood, I'm going to go to the restaurant that specializes in seafood.
EMILY BIGHAM: [LAUGHS]
KEVIN PARKER: Certain lenders specialize in VA loans versus others. I think we take a lot of pride, Navy Federal, working very closely with our military members and their families that we are a VA specialists. More than half the loans that we originate are VA loan. So we're very experienced and we're very comfortable in helping our buyers, helping our members. But also, working with realtors, and working with title companies, working with appraisers and working with homes inspectors.
EMILY BIGHAM: There's a lot that goes into the mix.
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah. It's its own ecosystem. And so that's something that we're very comfortable and confident in working through that process for our members.
EMILY BIGHAM: And your loan officers are across the country, right? I mean, I assume everywhere there's Navy Federal branch, that you probably have loan officers. And does that get a little bit complicated, especially in this current environment, do you see the different markets kind of acting differently or do you feel like across the board things are shifting and trending in the same direction?
KEVIN PARKER: That's a great question. Yes, we do see things typically trend differently, different parts of the country. Whether it's the inclement weather, whether it's the market, whether it's the market prices in that area.
For example, in our San Diego market, we tend to see home values--
EMILY BIGHAM: Patty Bigham, are you listening?
KEVIN PARKER: [LAUGHS] There you go. We tend to see home value is a lot higher in that market versus other parts of the country, whether it's southern Texas or parts of the Carolina's in which the bang that you can get for your buck is actually phenomenal. And so, the trends are a lot different for us, because we also have to go by state laws and all of our loan officers have National Mortgage Listing Registration, meaning they have to be certified to be able to talk mortgages to members. And that's something that we do manage and we take very seriously in making sure that our loan officers are very skilled at really helping our members.
And the great thing about offering mortgages, every mortgage is not for every person. And for us, it's about teaching our members and educating our members. This is a personal finance product. And for us, that's about financial literacy. It's about making sure our members understand because we know at Navy Federal, this is a relationship. And we want them to come back in five years or 15 years and we want to be able to help them for whatever need that they have. And so we take a lot of pride in making sure our loan officers are very comfortable in understanding each member is very specific need.
EMILY BIGHAM: Yeah, and so, if a member moves from market to market, do they stay with the same loan officer or is it typically, you know, you want to talk to the expert in the area?
KEVIN PARKER: So they can. So we actually to give them a choice. We try to let our members interact with us. However they want. So if they want to do it digitally, we have what we call a Home Squad System in which they can apply online. If they want to call on the telephone, if they want to walk into a branch. We want to let them interact how they want interact. And if they want to stay with a loan officer from a different part of country, they can.
A lot of times they might want to work with a loan officer or see a loan officer in person in that market. And we can do it as well too.
EMILY BIGHAM: I'm sure that's shifted a lot too, just given current situation. [LAUGHS]
KEVIN PARKER: Very true. Very true.
EMILY BIGHAM: I don't even want to get into that because I don't even-- that's just a lot.
KEVIN PARKER: Well, the good thing about loan officers too, our loan officers, they'll FaceTime.
EMILY BIGHAM: Oh.
KEVIN PARKER: They'll text members. However members want to interact.
EMILY BIGHAM: Digital?
KEVIN PARKER: Digital, yeah. So we try to make it easy, because we realize we have our loan officers who are part-time teachers and part-time cooks, just as we are. So we try to make sure that we give them the flexibility, and they're able to work with our members, based on what their needs are.
EMILY BIGHAM: That's great. So I have a question back on eligibility. You know, military spouses, would they be in the mix for being eligible? Or how would that happen? Do they have to be on a mortgage with their spouse who is active duty or a veteran? Or can you get into a little bit about eligibility?
KEVIN PARKER: Yeah, so there's two ways to answer that. One, the eligibility is based off the military member, not the spouse, so the military member does need to be on the loan. And certain states require that the spouse is actually on the application. For example, California is a state that if you apply, even in your own name, that military spouse has to be on a loan.
And so it's really state-specific, so that's why it goes back to-- we like having loan officers in different parts of the country, who understand those state-specific requirements, and we can help our members walk through whatever their needs are in their specific state.
EMILY BIGHAM: All right, so we're about to wrap it up here. And I think we've given-- I mean, you've given me, at least, a lot of great information. Do you have any last tips or tricks you'd like to give the audience about VA loans?
KEVIN PARKER: Sure. One, your mom better call us.
Two, once again, go onto our website, whether it's our website, or you have other websites like the VA. You have the CFPB website. There's a lot of information out there to just help people consume and understand.
We realize that buying a home, refinancing a home, is a really, really big, probably one of the most, important transactions, and so for us, we try to be teachers. And there are a lot of calculators on our website, a lot of great tools that members can take advantage of to make sure that they learn as much as possible about the VA loan.
So when they do find their home, we're going to try to make it as frictionless as possible, so that they can enjoy the concept of, what school are their kids going to go to, and the new furniture.
EMILY BIGHAM: There's so many other things to worry about, too, when you're in the military and you're moving from state to state. I mean, I grew up as a Navy brat and even moving overseas, you have to send half of everything you own six months before you get there. The anxiety I felt as an 8-year-old. I can't imagine how would parents feel.
So I think you cleared up a lot of the perceptions, and, to me, I think action relieves anxiety, so I would say just call. Whatever lender you're working with, just call and talk to them about your options. And a VA loan sounds like a great benefit that everyone should be taking advantage of.
So thank you, Kevin, again, for being on today's podcast. And, for the listeners, please feel free to call if you have any questions, and, of course, subscribe to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And thanks again for tuning into Making Cents.
NAVY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION REPRESENTATIVE: Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. This podcast is intended to provide general information, and shouldn't be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial professional for specific information on how certain laws may apply to your individual financial situation.
References to, or participation with, the military community does not constitute organizational endorsement. Navy Federal is an equal housing lender.
Navy Federal Credit Union. Our members are the mission.
Episode 3: Understanding the Value of VA Loans
VA loans are a great perk for servicemembers to take advantage of when buying or refinancing homes. In this episode, Navy Federal's Vice President of Field Mortgage, Kevin Parker, makes it clear what to expect when getting a VA loan, including understanding funding fees and navigating eligibility confirmation.
- a discussion of VA loans, funding fees and obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility
- tips on what you should be doing to make the most of a VA loan
GUEST: Kevin Parker is Navy Federal's Vice President of Field Mortgage. A long-time mortgage professional, he has helped Navy Federal members become homeowners for the last 7 years.
[MUSIC PLAYING] BRANDI GOMEZ: Hi. Welcome to our podcast, MakingCents, brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union. I'm one of your hosts, Brandi Gomez, and I'll be taking your questions to the experts to help you make "cents" of your money-- pun intended.
Hi. I am Brandi Gomez, your MakingCents podcast host. It's May, which is dedicated to celebrating and observing Military Appreciation Month. And though Navy Federal Credit Union's mission is to serve our members, each and every day by providing the products and guidance they need to thrive along their financial journeys this month is even more special to us because we get to show our gratitude and really salute to our military service members and their families.
So whether you're listening as a service member, deployed on the front lines, serving in the reserves and at the ready for any moment to be called, or a family member like myself holding down the fort at home, your service matters, you matter, and we are so incredibly grateful for everything that you do.
My guest today is no stranger to service. James Johnson, a retired Major General with 30 years of military service in the United States Air Force and now the CEO of Operation Gratitude, is someone I've truly had the honor of getting to know over the past several months. And I am just so grateful that he can be with us here today. So thank you for your service, James, and welcome to the show
JAMES JOHNSON: Well, thank you, Brandi, very much. I would tell you that it's my privilege to know you. I've just been really impressed with how you lead in this space and how you represent Navy Federal Credit Union, so thanks for the invitation to join you today.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Thank you. Well, before we dive in, I do want everyone to get to know who you are, so I'd love for you to share more about yourself and really what brought you to Operation Gratitude.
JAMES JOHNSON: Sure. So as you said, I served in the military. My dad served for about 20 years in the army, and so I was used to the culture of the service. as you highlighted families are so important to the service of the military members. And so our family traveled around all over the world.
And I got used to that and as I was graduating from high school and thinking about what next, I thought about service. Joined the Air Force, traveled around the world with my family, my son. While I was still in the service, I was fortunate to watch my son join. He's now in the Air Force serving overseas.
And after I retired, I knew that I wanted to do something related to non-profit work, to continue that sense of that in that spirit of service, that there's this working on something that's much larger than myself or the folks that are working in this space. And it was really because I was working on a nonprofit board that I was fortunate to learn about Operation Gratitude, this opportunity with Operation Gratitude. And so last summer, I joined this wonderful team that's dedicated to honoring the service of our military members.
BRANDI GOMEZ: That's amazing. A lot of the transitioning service members we talked to often hone in on that connection to service, wanting to have that meaningful purpose in their life. So we sure are happy that you found it in Operation Gratitude. And for those that maybe are not as familiar, Navy Federal, we've been working with you guys for the past several years and it's been so special to us, not only our members, but also our team members, to create those meaningful moments.
But some may be not fully familiar with Operation Gratitude, so can you tell us a little bit about the mission and really when did it get started?
JAMES JOHNSON: Sure. So really, our origin story, I believe it starts right after 9/11. And our founder, Carolyn Blashek, was looking for a way to serve, as many of us were looking for what can we do for our country at that crisis, at that moment in time. And she went down to sign up to be a service member. She went down to a local recruiter and said, I'd like to join the military, and they said well, you're in your 40s, kind of outside our demographic, small children at home, and they sent her on her way.
But Carolyn is not easily deterred, so she went and found a place where she could serve which was always her intent, and it was at a military lounge at LAX. And while she was there in 2003 as our country had gone into Iraq, there was a service member who was home for his mother's funeral, and he was in distress because not only was he there for his mother's funeral, but his infant child had passed before that, and his wife had left him.
And so in that moment, he was talking to Carolyn and said, I'm getting ready to go over to the war in Iraq. I don't think I'm coming back, and I don't think anyone cares. And it was really-- that's the seed that was planted with her that we have people that raise their hands to serve, and that they may think that service doesn't matter to others. And she wanted him to know it does matter, and I think Carolyn really represented all Americans, and he represented all service members when she went home and just started thinking, I've got to send some care packages to let them know that I care.
So she started with four-- four care packages in our living room at the dining room table, and shortly after that, friends and family started to help donate items and help to package and assemble these care packages, and soon the care packages were streaming out onto the front porch and into the driveway and people were filling out the five pages of customs forms to get these things. She was standing in long lines in the post office and trying to explain to people why she had all these mammoth boxes.
And she literally started that way, on the shoulders of volunteers. And for the first 10 years, really all volunteers. And that's when they were able to send over a million care packages in that time frame. So that's that first 10 years, and then since then, we've eclipsed that and now having sent over 3.5 million care packages in the last almost 20 years. Next year will be our 20th year.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Absolutely incredible. That's 20 years. That is just such an impact that you have, and to know that it all started based upon her own personal passion for doing this work, I think that's why we've seen you all just grow to where you are today. And you mentioned the care packages-- my husband's been deployed a few times and I have two little ones at home, so I always get them together to get his favorite things, whether it's the sour gummy worms or we color pictures for him.
And you can always just tell when he's received that box because there's such a boost in his morale and the way just you could tell there's a light after he feels like he's a little bit closer to home, so this work does matter. Can you tell us a little bit about what are the impacts of these care packages? It may seem like a simple gesture, but I have to say, personally, I've seen that speak volumes just in our family.
JAMES JOHNSON: Yeah. Yeah, I think it's-- we get a lot of feedback from those service members who have received our care packages because the care package-- there's a lot in that care package. From the very beginning, it's been a very thoughtful approach to what this gift should look like as it arrives for a service member, and so today there are items from corporate America because companies across America want to say we're behind you, we care about what you're doing and thank you for serving in this sort of meaningful way. Products like the coffee products we have in there, or sweet and salty snacks, or hygiene items.
But then there's the other things in these care packages kind of in the soul of this box, the heart and soul hand knit items, whether it's a knit cap or scarf, whether it's a paracord bracelet, like the one I'm wearing today, or it's a handwritten letter. And ultimately, that handwritten letter, we think, is so significant in that care package and we get so much feedback about all the contents of the care package, but I think it's really that handwritten letter from a grateful American that really resonates with our service members, whether it's a child, a three-year-old, or whether it's a former veteran or an elderly person who just wants to say thank you because they have an appreciation for the life we live in our society today that is founded on all those who've served and sacrificed before.
And so when these service members receive these care packages, what we receive back from them, the feedback, is how all those things matter to them, and very often they highlight the letters that really speak to them. Especially if you're going to be in that deployed environment for a while, and you kind of go through the edibles and all of that, and then you have the hand knit item and the letter. It speaks volumes to those recipients. And thank you, by the way, for your husband serving. I recently got a chance to see him on LinkedIn and see just the wonderful things he's doing just to serve.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Definitely. He enjoys every second of it, and I'm with you in that those letters, I think, are the favorite part for him. And our team members, as you know, part of military appreciation month will be taking part in writing letters, and I know every single year it's such a highlight to them just to be able to take that time and really show gratitude to those serving for us.
I'm curious. So what is the farthest you've ever sent a care package?
JAMES JOHNSON: Well, really the furthest we've sent it is into the Middle East. And we do send them East and West, so whether we're sending it over into Asia or into the Middle East, I think it's in my mind, we circle the globe. So there isn't a place-- there is no place we won't send a care package.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Are there any interesting things that you've seen in a care package?
JAMES JOHNSON: Yeah. Two things. Well, there's an interesting thing, and then there's interesting outcomes. So one was that in the early days of Operation Gratitude, one of the volunteers was feverishly putting together the care packages. As we get in there, there's a lot of-- you just get excited and you get going.
And toward the end of the day, she realized, I don't know where my cell phone is. And I think Carolyn was there that day and said to her, maybe you dropped it in a care package-- jokingly-- and so she never found it.
And then one day she received a call months later, and it was from the gentleman who was deployed to the Middle East that received that care package with her cell phone. And of course, the battery was dead, so he waited until he got home, charged the phone saw her number, gave her a call, and returned it, but that's definitely one of the stranger ones that showed up in a care package.
We also do, in the care package now and then, we'll have just kind of surprise things, whether it's funny socks or something like that that might be in a care package. And interestingly enough, some of the care packages will have a Beanie Baby, and what we found was you would think, well, these adults are receiving these Beanie Babies, how's that going?
And it's interesting. I think we see a couple of different reactions. One is that oftentimes they're used as mascots and they're traded between units or service members, but the other one is that in the places where our service members are deployed, oftentimes there's an opportunity to make friends with those people in those communities. And oftentimes it may be a child.
And I can remember back in Afghanistan, there was a story of an individual, a soldier who had provided a Beanie Baby to a small child, and then in the days that came, the child would warn the service member about places that they might not want to go for IEDs or other things, and so that was that's another thing that's in our care package that might be unique.
One of the outcomes I'd highlight is recently interviewed on a radio show where the interviewer had written a letter to a service member, and because of that letter, they're now married, and so there are some really great outcomes.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Oh, my goodness.
Talk about a love story.
JAMES JOHNSON: It's beautiful. It really is.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Absolutely. And, I mean, just the cell phone story itself, I can't imagine losing my phone and then actually getting to hear from the person that I mailed the package to, that is so--
JAMES JOHNSON: Right? It's really great.
BRANDI GOMEZ: So neat. So Operation Gratitude has been around for nearly 20 years now. And I have to think, and I'd love to hear your perspective just from serving yourself that these packages, or just any letter, it makes such a difference. But the way we've been able to support our service members now, even through digital aspects is so advanced from back in the day, so can you tell me why is this important now and what have you seen as far as changes from the way we used to support service members?
JAMES JOHNSON: Yeah. I think what's important is that, very often, because we're our lives are so busy that we might not recognize or realize that we have service members who are deployed every day. We have sailors and Marines underway somewhere in the world, every day. We have soldiers that are boots on the ground somewhere in the world, away from their home for extended periods of time that are deployed, or airmen flying far from their flagpole in places that potentially they could be in harm's way at any time, in a short period of time.
And I think that's just important for us to remember that our country will always need service members, and those service members will always need to know that we appreciate what they do, and what they do matters, as you said earlier. And so I think that's really important.
When I was in a deployed environment, I actually never received a care package from Operation Gratitude. I did receive care packages, and I think we talk about some of the things that we think are important in care packages, but it's also one of the reasons why I joined Operation Gratitude because we still have a lot of work to do. We've done amazing things, I think, miraculous things when you think about what was accomplished by one person, and then on the shoulders of all these volunteers for these many years.
But we actually still have a long way to go. I think for us, as we look at-- we sent about 250,000 care packages last year, but for us with our vision that all who serve will believe the American people care, that means that all means everyone who graduates from basic training or boot camp and they're beginning this journey that's so important, we will send them a care package. We want them to know that we appreciate the fact they raise their hands and they're going to embark on something so important.
If individuals are deploying, we want every one of those individuals deploying to receive a care package to know that we're there with them while they're away. We want every one of them, if they're injured or wounded in the line of duty to get a care package. And if they're separating or retiring, get a care package. Or we send care packages to the veterans who are into their post service period, we want them to know that they're never-- that service will always be appreciated because of what the gift they gave us for freedom that we have today.
But that means not 250,000 care packages. That's actually over a million care packages a year, so our work is still out in front of us and I'm excited because there are so many people like you that are dedicated to spreading the word about the opportunity for volunteers to contribute to care packages getting into the hands of these recipients.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Yes. There definitely is a lot more work to be done, but you all are definitely helping us reach those goals. I know that care packages are not the only thing the Operation Gratitude does, but what are other ways that we can get involved or help? Maybe we can't put together a care package, but what other things can we do to help?
JAMES JOHNSON: This is what I really love about Operation Gratitude, and again, one of the things that attracted me to this organization is there are so many different ways that you can get involved with uplifting the spirits of those who are serving. If you go to operationgratitude.com, you'll find all the ways that you can volunteer, either as an individual or as groups.
We have plenty of volunteers who come to us as a part of a classroom in a school classroom, or it's a church group. It might be a scout troop. It could be employees in a company. So we have, whether it's individuals that come to our website, or groups that come to us that want to participate, what they find is they can do something as simple as a letter. Whether it's writing a letter or even having a child color the letter you wrote. Sometimes we think, well, they won't be able to write. Maybe they could color on something you wrote or color something on their own.
Then there's also the paracord bracelet, which is sort of this multi-functional tool that is this parachute cord that we send and we give you the instructions on how you can actually make this bracelet that it's a wrist multi-functional tool you wear on your wrist that service members-- you can quickly, within seconds, take it apart and actually use a tourniquette or for tying something down.
And then there's also the knit-- we call them handmade with love. And they're knit items, whether it's a hat or a scarf, and so joining us on our Facebook site Gratitude in Action, there are other communities of people who are contributing to those care packages. Because all of those things will go into our care package, which then sends that really special message to folks.
And then there's also the way that people can contribute just to donate resources to ship the care packages. So $25 ships a care package anywhere in the world for us, which is really important. So there are a lot of ways for people to join us on the journey to uplift the spirits of those who serve.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Yeah. I mean time, treasure, talent. It all amounts to supporting an incredible mission. What would you say is something that you need the most right now?
JAMES JOHNSON: Yeah, I think letters are always really important. And then financial resources to ensure that all those care packages-- as we're on this journey to get over a million care packages sent, I think that's really important. As people are watching in the news, we have service members who have recently deployed and we continue to see folks that are going into Europe in a way that's important to us as Americans and that's additive to all those other service members who are already deployed and deploying every day to other places around the world.
So I think it's across the board, there are those opportunities at our website, but letters and then those financial contributions are really important.
BRANDI GOMEZ: It's definitely something that I know our team is really looking forward to. So I alluded to it a little bit earlier, but we're donating-- Navy Federal is donating-- $50,000 to Operation Gratitude, which is-- money's a number, and it's an amazing thing that we're able to do. But I think what we're most excited about from a team member perspective is we actually get to put together care kits, and we're assembling and we're getting to gather again.
And it's just there's so much excitement in the air when that happens, and it makes us feel like it's those meaningful moments that matter for us that I really encourage people to get involved in that way because it does make a difference.
JAMES JOHNSON: Well, I think Navy Federal is such a great example of how companies are showing that what service members do matters. And so, as you kind of opened up, I mean we've had a relationship for going on 10 years now with the employees that are serving in Navy Federal Credit Union, but in the last couple of years in particular, is really taking on taking on a new level of activity between us.
And I just I can't think of a better partner than Navy Federal Credit Union. What your employees do to contribute to those care packages getting in the hands of service members is fantastic. And we know that, for the employees, we talk about what the recipients receive from these care packages. What we've learned over time, too, is there's such an amazing thing that happens for the employees or the individuals that participate with Operation Gratitude.
Both at an individual level, there's this sort of well-being, this feeling of when you express gratitude there's something else that happens chemically in your own body, with the release of chemicals that are really positive. But there's also this aspect of team building that happens where, whenever more than one joined, there's something special that happens when you're in this common purpose that I think it's really exciting when we get together with Navy Federal Credit Union.
BRANDI GOMEZ: That's exactly it. We're very much a mission driven organization, like you are, and for us, what is so amazing about this and why I think it's going to be incredible this year is because you can volunteer from anywhere. So our branch team members from across the world are going to be able to take part in this, and that's just huge for us. Nothing-- there's no limits to what we can do now with volunteerism because of the creative ways you've thought of getting people engaged, so I thank you for that.
I would like to know just kind of closing out here what are the ways we can get involved, where can we find you? I know I personally follow you all on social media because I try to find those positive organizations to follow in my feed, so give us all the details for how to connect.
JAMES JOHNSON: Well, we follow you, too, just so you know.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Hey.
JAMES JOHNSON: It's exciting to be in this together. But clearly, OperationGratitude.com, our website is one of the places I would direct folks to go to see all the exciting things, not only that you can be a part of, but you can see some of the great work we're doing. And the other one is, any of the other social media opportunities, whether it's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn-- we're on all those social media platforms and we just definitely encourage you to join us on the journey to be a part of saying thank you to all who serve.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Are you all on TikTok?
JAMES JOHNSON: We have done some work with TikTok as well. Yeah. So. I don't know if there's any place we haven't explored, but if we haven't, definitely let us know. We'll go there, too, because it is so important to us to be able to provide opportunities for grateful Americans to express that gratitude, and we'll go wherever we need to go to do that.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Awesome. Well Navy Federal just joined the TikTok game, so you'll have to give us a follow so we can find you guys.
JAMES JOHNSON: We definitely will.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Speaking of social members that are listening to this for Navy Federal, we do have an exciting opportunity for you all, in that we're part of military appreciation month, we're doing a social media contest where you can grab some craft supplies and create a sign that has yours or a loved ones years of military service and include the hashtag mission military thanks, and then take a picture with it. It can be a picture of you with the sign, you and your loved ones with the sign.
But then you'll upload it to NavyFederal.org/MilitaryThanks. And you'll not only be entered to win $1,000, but the winners will get $1,000 donation made to Operation Gratitude in your name. So amazing way for us to give a shout out to those who have served, and hopefully we'll see some really amazing pictures come through our social feeds.
JAMES JOHNSON: It's really fantastic. It's really great.
BRANDI GOMEZ: I cannot wait to see what our members come up with but--
JAMES JOHNSON: Exciting.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Yes. James, well, is there anything else you want to share with us today? I have enjoyed every second of this conversation.
JAMES JOHNSON: Well, that's kind of you, Brandi. I just want to thank you, one, for the invitation to join you and your listeners. I want to thank you and Navy Federal Credit Union for all you've done for this many years to really show that gratitude to those who are serving.
And so to anyone who else who wants to join us on this journey, I'd encourage them again to go to OperationGratitude.com. And we look forward to seeing you and staying a great partner, Brandi. So thanks again for this opportunity.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Thank you so much. Again, thank you to Operation Gratitude, to all of our military service members, veterans, and their families listening to this, and for all of the hard work you do every day to serve on the front lines and support those who are serving our country. It truly-- we wouldn't be able to do what we do without all of you, so I appreciate you and hopefully we will talk very soon.
JAMES JOHNSON: Thank you, Brandi.
BRANDI GOMEZ: Thank you.
NARRATOR: Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. This podcast is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial professional for specific information on how certain laws may apply to your individual financial situation.
References to and participation with the military community does not constitute organizational endorsement. Navy Federal is an equal housing lender. Navy Federal Credit Union. Our members are the mission.
Episode 13: Operation Gratitude on Military Appreciation and Giving Back
It's Military Appreciation Month, and Navy Federal has again partnered with Operation Gratitude to give back to our servicemembers. In this episode, new host Brandi Gomez welcomes her first guest James Johnson, President and CEO of Operation Gratitude, to discuss his military experience as a Major General and U.S. Air Force veteran, his time working with Operation Gratitude and their partnership with Navy Federal. Tune in to hear more about Operation Gratitude's positive impact on our military and to see how you can get involved. Visit navyfederal.org and operationgratitude.com for more information.
[MUSIC PLAYING] EMILY BIGHAM: Hi, and welcome to the podcast MakingCents, brought to you by Navy Federal Credit Union. I'm your host, Emily Bigham. And each week, I'll be taking your questions to the experts, to help you make sense of your money-- pun intended.
Welcome back today on the podcast is Matt Vean, here to talk about best careers for military spouses. Matt is a colleague of mine here at Navy Federal. He leads the Commercial Banking Team in our Business Solutions Division, and is a military spouse himself. Welcome, Matt.
MATT VEAN: Awesome. Thank you for having me.
EMILY BIGHAM: So what is the Best Careers for Military Spouses list?
MATT VEAN: Yeah, definitely. So it is a wonderful list for military spouses like myself who are seeking employment, whether they have just PCS'd or moved, looking for career transition, or simply just doing something different.
EMILY BIGHAM: So why did you choose to come up with this list? What was the momentum or motivation behind preparing this-- publishing it?
MATT VEAN: Yeah, absolutely. So when you think of military spouse and when you think of unemployment right now, we all see that the unemployment rate's fairly low, nationally. We take a look at it. It's a 5%, 6%.
However, the unemployment rate for a military spouse like myself is still very staggering-- north of 30%. And the unemployed is still roughly around the same. And so when you see a military spouse and when you look at the unemployment rate with them compared to the national unemployment rate, it's much different. And so this is a great opportunity for a military spouse to segue, like I said, into a new career, start something different-- whether they lost their job due to move, et cetera.
EMILY BIGHAM: So what's on the list?
MATT VEAN: Definitely. So as a credit union, we've identified major industries, segments that work well for a military spouse. So when you think of it, government and public administration, business support and human resources, health care, social assistance, educational services, financial services-- retail customer service, manufacturing, and defense contracting.
We've notated that these types of industries fit very, very well for a military spouse. Granted, they're very large. However, coupled with your family orientation, moving, what's going on in today's world, these fit best for a military spouse.
EMILY BIGHAM: They are broad, as you said. And looking at the list, there seem to be certain roles within these industries that would be best for the military spouses. Can you talk a little bit about that, and why you decided to pick out these certain roles?
MATT VEAN: Absolutely. So look at the first one. So take a look at government and public administration. So military families, they relocate. And where are they working?
They're working out of Army bases, Naval bases, Air Force stations, et cetera. And what's tied to those bases? Federal buildings, state buildings.
And so that's when you kind of see government and public administration, that there are a lot of job opportunities tied to military location. So that's when you take a look at San Diego. You look at Washington, DC, areas in North Carolina. You also look at places in Texas, and so on.
If you look at the second one-- so take a look at financial services. Financial services is such a broad industry. However, those types of skills in that type of industry is very, very transferable. And so when you look at a military spouse moving and whatnot, it's so easy to parlay your skills and experience into a financial services job, whether it's banking. It could be mortgage, et cetera.
EMILY BIGHAM: Were there any surprises to you?
MATT VEAN: To be honest, not really. Because like what you said before, it's very, very broad. So it's starting from this top funnel approach and then really narrowing it down as to what that person or persons wants to be doing.
I mean, when you take a look at government and public administration, that's like a 30,000-foot overview. But then you want to get more concrete and be like, OK, what is it exactly what I want to do within federal government? Or it could be in state.
EMILY BIGHAM: So I notice that a lot of these roles are analyst or project manager, or they seem to be roles that you could take on the road. Or they have a lot of flexibility-- they're remote. And I also saw a point in here about how military spouses, even pre-pandemic, had actually a pretty high unemployment rate.
But what was confusing to me was the part about the pre-pandemic and then it getting more difficult during the pandemic, when we're hearing that a lot of companies are sending people home to work from home. There's a lot more of remote work available. Why is it more difficult during the pandemic? And do you see that changing?
MATT VEAN: So it's interesting. I mean, the best thing for a military spouse right now-- and I don't want this to sound negative-- is COVID-- that COVID has really opened up this notion of you don't need to be in the office. And so the whole misconception of a military spouse pre-pandemic is you go in for a job interview and you tell that person or the hiring manager, I'm a military spouse, they immediately think, oh, you're only going to be here for a year or two and then you have to move. And that's not the case.
And so what COVID did not only with Navy Federal Credit Union but any other organization has been, like, no, we can do the same amount of work from home, be more efficient, and be more effective. And so that's the best thing that's ever happened for military spouses, unfortunately, for these past two or three years.
EMILY BIGHAM: Right. No, but that is great. And that's a good point that you bring up. I also saw here that military spouses, 89% of them have a college education, 30% have a four-year degree, and 15% have an advanced degree.
So these spouses are people who have been in the workforce. They know what's up. They understand competitive salaries. I'm surprised that it's difficult for them, but I'm happy that it is probably getting better and that this list can help them.
MATT VEAN: It is. And you know, it's interesting. Depending on where we are in our generations, we're dual-income households today. You don't see a lot of single-income households today. We just can't do it with the way economy is growing and whatnot.
And so this whole idea of the military spouse stays home and the active-duty service member's at work is kind of like null anymore. It's gone. I mean, joking aside, it's so funny. My wife gets asked all the time what I do at home. Is your husband a stay-at-home husband, stay-at-home father, et cetera? So it's a lot different.
One thing that people do run into, that I've run into here in DC is licensing issues. And that's what you just kind of noted is four-year degrees, professional degrees, master's degrees, PhDs, medical doctors, et cetera, there's a lot of military spouses that have those degrees and above. And so one thing that they kind of do run into is this licensing thing, of transferring their licenses from one state to another. And so that is one hurdle that some of them are facing right now.
EMILY BIGHAM: I can see that would be difficult. And also it's very motivating to start a job and really be excited about it and then all of a sudden you have to pick up and move. And it's not up to you. And not only do you have to move yourself but your family, your kids, your homes. And it's a lot of work.
I come from a military family. My dad was in the Navy. My mom was the military spouse who stayed home. They always said that's the toughest job in the Navy, is the military spouse.
And I believe it. And the spouse deploys and the stay-at-home spouse is watching the kids. And she left a career for that path. And I mean, thankfully, we're fine here today.
But to your point, I don't see how families could do that now, not having a dual income. It just seems very, very difficult. So I'm glad that there are these resources.
MATT VEAN: Yeah. It's interesting. When you go back to the skills transferring from one state to another, think of a lot of folks who are licensed case social workers, or therapists, that you could be registered to practice in the state of Texas. But then you move to Virginia, you have to start that process all over again. You could be a medical doctor, and then you have to transfer that as well.
And so it can be tough and cumbersome for people to be having to do this every couple of years, every four years. However, there's been leaps and bounds over the past four, five, six years to help military spouses do this-- have the resources available to accelerate the process, even at a reduced cost.
EMILY BIGHAM: Great. That's wonderful. What would you say is the biggest obstacle?
MATT VEAN: The biggest obstacle is not having your experience and skills transferable.
EMILY BIGHAM: Why?
MATT VEAN: That's number one. Because you have to be able to adapt. That's the key thing. Obviously, military spouses, I pride myself and all military spouses to be adaptable, because you're moving from one state to another. You're resilient, and you're tenacious.
On the flip side, it's like having those skills and experience to be transferable from one state to another. Take Washington, DC. Washington, DC is a mecca for job opportunities. However, you move in through four years and you can go to Dayton, Ohio, or Colorado Springs, or LA, or San Diego. But then you want to ensure that your experience and skills and attributes that you've had in Washington, DC are then transferable to companies alike in those other surrounding states.
EMILY BIGHAM: So tell me a little bit more about your experience as a military spouse. Did you run into some of these challenges?
MATT VEAN: You know, it was interesting. My wife and I got married in 2014. We moved across country in 2014, bought a new house in 2014. So we experienced all of life's challenges really within this six, seven-week period. I was with a company in Denver at the time. And I had a huge challenge. I remember, I had approached my manager in letting her know that I'm moving to DC.
And it was really interesting to see her reaction. She took it as almost like an insult. And I let her know. I'm like, hey, I'm not moving because I want to. I'm moving because we have to. And so it was an interesting process to finally get that going with that company.
And I was able to finally get a transfer. However, it took a long time. It was not an easy process. There were job opportunities out here in DC that I could have applied for, and I did. It took about a three, four, five-month period where they finally offered me a new position out here in DC.
EMILY BIGHAM: With your previous company?
MATT VEAN: With my previous employer. However, what I wanted to do was I'm like, if this is going to be so hard, then I don't know if I want to work for a company like that. And so what I did is I went to LinkedIn, started networking, started meeting people. And that was the cool thing was, I knew DC is a very transferable city. And so people are willing to help people out.
And I was mind blown. I remember, I had emailed 10 people through LinkedIn. And I remember, I used to get eight or nine responses right away, saying, hey, I want to help. Because I have to remember, a lot of people who live here in DC reached out to somebody years ago to help them get a job. And so it's just like that spider effect.
EMILY BIGHAM: Right. Were you able to use any sort of network-- military spouse network? Does that exist? I'm assuming it exists.
MATT VEAN: It does. Back then, I didn't know. And so it's grown leaps and bounds over the past five to eight years of what that network is like. I will tell you the military spouse network today, it's a very tight community. And military spouses look out for military spouses.
EMILY BIGHAM: That's great. That's nice to know. I also read here that some of the things that they're looking for besides flexibility is a meaningful job. And that has to be important to them. I mean, they're connected to the military, which also has meaning. Did that play a part in this list, do you think?
MATT VEAN: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I'll just give you a personal example real quick, is my job with Navy Federal. I was not looking for a job. However, this opportunity came to me. And I never even thought about ever working for a credit union.
But we're a military family. And what better way to help than work for Navy Federal? And it's wonderful. And it's been able to help me make a significant impact and contribution, not only to the members that we serve but to my team and to myself and to my family.
EMILY BIGHAM: That's great. We hear that a lot at Navy Federal, just from employee surveys about the meaning of work. And I know it means a lot to me to be able to help the military, coming from a military family and household.
MATT VEAN: We're all connected somehow in the military. We think about-- like, I've never served. However, if we've been in this country for two-plus generations, we've had a family member who has served at one time. And so there is some sort of connection. But what I love is everybody has such a high appreciation and strong appreciation for the military.
So this is the first year we've done a list for military spouses. However, if we go to 2018, we developed the first iteration of "Best Cities After Service for Veterans." In 2019, we developed "Best Careers After Service." And then last year, in 2020, we published "Best Cities After Service 2.0," which helps identify top cities in the US for military members who recently completed active-duty service and families changing priorities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, I do want to let everybody know that if you're interested in more resources, check out our blog. Our blog is awesome. It gives great articles, tips, and topics, for myself, like a military spouse, or for veterans or anybody else, at www.NavyFederal.org/blog.
EMILY BIGHAM: So in talking about tips for job seekers, we've talked about the different industries that are great for military spouses. But what are your tips? You talked about, you went on LinkedIn. You were networking. What are some other ways?
MATT VEAN: Yeah. So I'm going to go back to social media. And I know there's a lot of folks who are kind of wary about social media. One thing is, is through LinkedIn, that's how you get jobs today.
And this is what I tell everybody. And I don't ever say this like a bragging thing or whatnot, but I really have prided myself on my network. And every job that I've ever had has been through my network. I've never gone to a careers website to apply. And that's so important for people to be building that brand.
I've always said, when you go to that Career page on a website, it's almost applying to a black hole almost, because you and hundreds of other applications are being submitted. And you're just kind of keeping your fingers crossed and praying that, hey, a recruiter picks up your resume at that time or day.
And so there's so many other targeted ways. And so LinkedIn is definitely the professional network. I've always said, that's my professional resume. That's how you build your network. That's how you meet people.
And so it's so, so important for anybody-- a military spouse, or anybody else who's looking for that career transition. That's my number-one tip. There's some great courses out there on how to utilize it, how to be more effective on it. It's not necessarily spending hours a day on there. It's just a targeted approach, having a strategy in mind and executing that.
EMILY BIGHAM: I think that sounds wonderful for someone who has a career and has a resume built up. What if you are just entering the workforce, but you're also a military spouse who's PCS'ing.
MATT VEAN: Absolutely. So Navy Federal's partner with Hire Heroes USA, which is a great organization that you can benefit from-- so HireHeroesUSA.Org. They have great starting tips and tricks for somebody like you were just talking about to do that, where maybe LinkedIn could be step number three or four.
But yeah, there's a lot of people who face that challenge. And it can be intimidating. It can be hard. And trust me, it's not easy. Absolutely, it's not.
EMILY BIGHAM: I can understand too, if you're looking for the flex. I mean, there are so many things that you really need to make it work for military spouses. But there are jobs out there. And this list must be really helpful.
And I'm really excited that you guys did this, because I think that it's just another resource and a way for people to start and see, oh, my skills are transferable. Like, just because I didn't work in health care before doesn't mean that I can't transfer my skills over to health care, or a larger organization.
So I think this list is wonderful. And you mentioned-- I guess you and I were talking about it earlier, about how this is a primary focus for the first lady and her Joining Forces initiative, or task force.
MATT VEAN: Yeah, I remember when I first moved to DC, when President Biden back then was Vice-President Biden, Jill Biden's big initiative was military spouse employment. And this was in 2014, '15, and '16. And so it's great to see with her being the first lady now that it's still a number-- I'm not going to say number one, but it's definitely a top two or three initiative from her, is military spouse employment. She has a very strong connection with the US Chamber of Commerce, with Higher Our Heroes, Hiring Our Heroes, et cetera.
EMILY BIGHAM: So where are some of these resources that listeners can go to if they're in this position.
MATT VEAN: Absolutely. So I encourage everybody go to NavyFederal.org/militaryspouse, and they can seek that list there. Also, you can go to Hire Heroes USA, as well, as two wonderful starting points.
EMILY BIGHAM: Great. Well, is there anything else that we missed that you want to mention here about military spouses' best careers?
MATT VEAN: No. I think what I would tell anybody who's a mil spouse today is don't ever be intimidated for trying to do a job in a different industry, like you brought up. Navy Federal Credit Union or most banking in general-- I'll use banking as an example because that's my career-- we don't necessarily like to see that you have banking on your resume. It's about the experience in what you're doing.
Here at Navy Federal, or most banks, we can teach you banking. That's easy. But it's the life experiences, the tenacity, the resiliency that you bring is just tenfold and just priceless.
EMILY BIGHAM: Agreed. As a hiring manager myself, I've had to hire a lot of people inside and outside the company. And it really is about the experience. And are you connected to the mission? And you can teach anyone anything, just like you said.
So I really hope that people are not intimidated to go out there and try new industries, or try new careers as well.
MATT VEAN: No, It's so fun to see people's passion. And like you were saying earlier too is it's not always about the money, as well. Yeah, we want to make good money, and we want to have awesome benefits. That's important.
But the mission. And when you survey people, and when you ask them about that, you'll get a lot of responses of, no. They want to make sure that what they're doing is for the better and that they're helping people and it's rewarding. And money comes with it.
EMILY BIGHAM: Of course. And I think every industry on here probably has some of that in it. So I would encourage people to go check out the "Best Careers for Military Spouses" on Navy Federal's website. You mentioned Hire Heroes, US Chamber of Commerce, and other people getting involved. So lots of resources. And I'm glad that this is getting a lot of attention.
MATT VEAN: It is. It is. It's been a really, really good thing to help, so.
EMILY BIGHAM: Well, thanks again for coming on and taking the time to talk today. I hope you have a great rest of your day.
MATT VEAN: Awesome. Thank you for having me.
EMILY BIGHAM: Of course.
ANNOUNCER: Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. This podcast is intended to provide general information, and shouldn't be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial professional for specific information on how certain laws may apply to your individual financial situation.
References to, and participation with, the military community does not constitute organizational endorsement. Navy Federal is an equal housing lender.
Navy Federal Credit Union. Our members are the mission.
Episode 12: Best Careers for Military Spouses
We partnered with Hire Heroes USA to survey 2,000+ military spouses on what matters most in a career for them. The results? A list of the top 10 industries and career paths that offer flexibility and mobility. In this episode, we’re joined by Matt Vean, Assistant Manager of Commercial Business Lending, to discuss his personal experience as a military spouse in search of a fulfilling career, hiring tips that served him well and his takeaways from this project. Tune in to take a closer look at the military spouse experience and Navy Federal’s resources for military spouses.