MilPay and AthletePay

Jul 17 2014

Published by under the logistics train

MOAA Spouse’s Facebook page had a link to an article on the Pentagon’s proposal to limit troops’ pay raises to 1%, and Congress’ approval of that limit (to go along with the decrease in housing allowances).

lebronjamesI came across this the same time my Internet news feed told me about LeBron James signing for $22,000,000 a year (guaranteed), as well as seeing an article in the Washington Post on a pawn broker who takes in the rings, trophies, and other mementos of current and former athletes who are down on their luck.

These last two articles seem to show a paradox in our society about who to be concerned with. I give LeBron James credit for going back to his home town, but let’s face it – he gets paid really, really well and also pulls in up to $80,000,000 a year in additional money from his marketing contracts. Yet there were a number of articles on how much he’d get paid and is he going to get what he deserves after taking a pay cut in prior years (only getting $19,000,000 must have meant cutting back on a lot of discretionary spending).

Then, the article on the pawn shop owner talked about the athletes being down on their luck, and the article generated more than a few reader comments sympathizing with these athletes. So, I was inspired to look up the average and minimum salaries for athletes to see how much they must have squandered. Let’s take a look:

Sport Average Salary – Minimum Salary

  • Basketball (NBA) $5.15 million – $474,000
  • Baseball (MLB) $3.31 million – $480,000
  • Hockey (NHL) $2.4 million – $525,000
  • Football (NFL) $1.9 million – $390,000

While I’m sympathetic to anyone down on their luck, looking at these numbers doesn’t make me feel as bad for them as I do for the lower ranks in our troops who have to deal with limited pay raises, smaller housing allowances, multiple moves, possible elimination of the current retirement system, the threat of deployment, and the threat of death on the job (keep this last item in mind next time you hear someone call an athlete a warrior by the way).

Yet, what I find interesting is that the only way I found out about the 1% raise was through a MOAA Spouse Facebook feed and link to a militarytimes.com article. If an article on a pawn shop owner pops up on my Internet news coverage, shouldn’t something like the Pentagon’s proposal to have their troops shoulder the burden to cut costs also be newsworthy (while the Pentagon does things like spend $34,000,000 on an unused base in Afghanistan)?

In any event, it’s good that we have MOAA to keep us informed on military-related issues. And, if you haven’t visited the MOAA Spouse Facebook page, do so and “like” it so you get their posts.

It is a great source for military news, tips, and information. It’s also a good place to post your own opinions and input on various military issues – in other words, a good way to let off steam – and to know someone is listening.

In fact, MOAA Spouse is asking readers at their post on the new pay raises: What will be the tipping point for your family? Go post your tipping point!


Image by Wikimedia Commons user Keith Allison from Kinston, USA.

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World Cup: MilKid Friendly

Jul 02 2014

Published by under roadside adventures

The World Cup is scheduled at a good time -we’re rooting for the national team and in a couple of days it is July 4. And what are great event the World Cup is for military families – 4 of the players on the U.S. team were milkids: born to American military dads and foreign moms.

Okay, we did lose today, but a milkid scored our only goal – and what an effort for a sport where we are still up and comers! As the British newspaper, The Guardian wrote:

“USA deserve immense credit for their contribution. They will be devastated, but can be very proud of themselves. Their energy levels, their desire, their dedication and their refusal to give up were simply astonishing.”

The World Cup has always been a fun time since we discovered the sport and the tournament while stationed in Germany. We’re Americans and we’ve visited or lived in a lot of the countries in the tournament. It’s always fun to peruse our milfriends’ Facebook pages and see who they are rooting for – it’s usually the U.S. first, and then the countries they were stationed in next. Or, they root against the country where they may not have had the best experience with the locals (bonjour?). For us, we’re pulling for Germany after the U.S., and then Belgium and the Netherlands since we had some great visits to those places.

Of course, there are always naysayers at World Cup time – people like the right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter who thinks soccer is decaying our country’s morals. Of course, she roots for American football where the moral standard is: if you’re good or winning, then it is okay that you murder, do drugs, drink and drive, beat up girlfriends, etc. But those players probably only speak English, so that will appease Ann.

Anyway, the World Cup is a great time for milfams to remember their times abroad and to appreciate their lives at home. Along these lines, there was a great essay by the spouse of a retiring Army officer in the Army Times: “Thank you, U.S. Army – from a grateful spouse.”

It is a positive article from someone who took advantage of the benefits of a military life and is the better for it. For her, the benefits were living in foreign places and experiencing foreign cultures. So in the spirit of the many countries coming together for the World Cup, this is a good article to read. Ann Coulter may not appreciate it, but military families will be in the know.

Happy 4th of July!

768px-United_States_Men's_National_Team_vs_Belgium_2013
Image via Flickr user United States Men’s National Team. Author: Erik Drost.

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U.S. Medical Systems Cup: Military vs. Private Sector

Jun 26 2014

Published by under lessons learned

50to64testsWhen my dad moved to Colorado Springs to be near us, he wisely decided to sell his car and not drive (he’s 93). Thus, I became the chauffeur. As such, I take him to all of his medical appointments. This week, we both had appointments – mine in the U.S. military medical system and his in the U.S. private sector system.

So, in the spirit of the World Cup, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a World Cup of medical systems.

My dad and I both had appointments with our primary care providers and had referrals for an x-ray. I went to the clinic at the Air Force Academy and experienced a model of efficiency: called in before my appointment time; had a pleasant visit with my provider; and she typed in the referral and a prescription. I walked back into the clinic and over to x-ray – signed in, and was called in for my x-ray within 5 minutes. Finally, walked over to an already-waiting prescription.

My provider called me the next day with the x-ray results (mild arthritis in the left knee – I am now officially old). Oh, and no forms to complete.

Now for my dad’s experience: arrived at his doctor’s office and had the usual 15 – 20 minute wait past his appointment time (which is the norm for his various doctors). The doctor was pleasant as always (and told my dad he would live to 100!) and wrote out both a prescription and a referral for an x-ray.

Later that day my dad called in the prescription to his drugstore and called to make the x-ray appointment.

The next day, I drove to pick him up and we went to the pharmacy.

A week later I drove him to the imaging firm for his x-ray appointment. There we had 4 pages of forms to complete (with an assortment of repeated questions on each page – why is this so common with forms?). Then, we only had a 10 minute wait and he was off to be x-rayed.

It has been 2 days and we are awaiting word of the results.

So then for the results: the providers were both pleasant and very competent. However, in the military medical system, I was able to stay in one location for all of my needs, and technology was effectively used for the benefit of the patient.

Therefore, based on the wasted time in the private sector resulting from waiting, driving, and filling out repetitive forms, as well as their inefficient use of technology, the win goes to the military medical over the private sector!

On to the next round!

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Another MilFam Hits the RV Road

Jun 16 2014

Published by under roadside adventures

Talk about a small world. Not that many retiring military families go on an extended (year or longer) RV trip upon retirement (though more should). And, not that many kids are in my daughter’s high school class (75, there are only 300 total at the small Catholic high school my oldest two kids attend in Colorado Springs).

Well, who’d a thunk (I think that’s a Bugs Bunny quote) that the two would come together in our world? The Trechter family, whose oldest boy Joe is a classmate of my daughter, retired from the Air Force a week ago (well Joe the father did the actual retiring) and they just started this week on a year-long RV trip across the U.S. and Canada.

I’d like to say we had some influence in this trip, like a couple of others we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, but the Trechters have been planning this for a while. They’ll be on the road for a year before returning to their house here in Colorado Springs (and back to St. Mary’s high school for Joe the Younger).

We met them in their rolling house right before their start – they’ve got a great set up, and an adventurous plan. You can visit their newly created website here to read more about the journey: www.handsandfeettour.com. The website is in its early stages since they only just retired, got their house rented, and started the trip. But they’ll be posting more info and hopefully some shots of their 5th wheel – especially how they are accommodating a family of 8 in 41 feet of space! They are a great family, so I think you’ll enjoy their blog as they get into their travels.

I hope their story, and our prior adventures, might inspire more retiring milfams to take this journey. It is a great way to see the country and all of the great things the U.S. has to offer – from national parks and monuments, to whoopee pies in Maine, to the world’s largest ball of yarn in Kansas (that’s a short list). It takes a bit of planning, but it is doable.

20130604 Joe Lori Joseph Morgan Carlos William Michael Marian in front of trailer-cr2

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Happy “Military Moment” Thursday

Jun 05 2014

I was going to title this column “Throwback Thursday” (an Internet trend whereby people post something on Thursday that recalls something from the past). That was because I read a couple of articles that made me think vet appreciation might be a thing of the past. However, my hope that our vets are actually appreciated by society isn’t something that should be a throwback item – MOAA has provided us with proof that our vets service is still looked highly upon.

Before I get to that though, I wanted to touch on the two things that had me wondering if military appreciation was becoming a throwback item. First, we had Sen. Mark Pryor telling an MSNBC reporter that he though his opponent, Tom Cotton, was displaying a sense of entitlement based on his serving tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan:

“I think that is part of this sense of entitlement that he gives off. It’s almost like, ‘I served my country, let me into the Senate.’ ”

Okay, he never served. And as military families reading this column can understand, there is a certain disconnect between the mil life and civilian life. So then, that makes this next article from Foreign Policy even worse than it seems because the author is a vet!

I’m not going to comment on the points, which are disputable (he writes that vets’ life experience is limited, but I think his mil life experience is limited and he didn’t get to see the full experiences of a life in the military). You can read “10 reasons why you shouldn’t hire a vet” for yourself and decide. (I invite readers to offer their thoughts on this column in the comments below: do you agree or disagree with the 10 points?)

Finally though, here is what makes me know that military appreciation is not a Throwback Thursday item:CanyonRanch

MOAA has posted about a great opportunity for vets who have been deployed at any time since 2001. The phenomenal and beautiful Canyon Ranch spa and resort in Tucson is offering 5 days at their resort to selected vets who meet the criteria. You can read about it on the MOAA Message Center blog.

But hurry, the deadline to apply is October 1.

So there, vets are appreciated for their efforts. Now if we can get Congress to appreciate them in terms of pay and benefits…

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Senior Year of High School Advice for Milkids

May 28 2014

Published by under lessons learned

As readers know, I have a junior in high school who is doing his best to be competitive for college selection and wants to have a number of college options to choose from. I have been helping him by researching what is needed to be competitive. Among other things, I’ve found information on the web, I’ve talked to admissions counselors, I’ve chatted with parents who have been through this (nothing better than having a successful template to follow), and I’ve taken him on a college tour where we asked as many questions as possible.

So, in this continuing series, I’m passing along the information I’ve found so that we in the milfam community can learn from each other and can share tips and knowledge.

So then, I have another topic in our milkid college search odyssey series: Does senior high school year matter?

In a word: yes. Don’t let your kid slack off because he or she has his or her college apps submitted and taken their final SAT. Senior year is important because colleges will look at the class load your milkid has chosen for their final year of high school. Schools want to see that students are taking challenging courses and continuing their academic rigor. And, they like to see that kids are taking courses in math, science, English, or foreign languages.

However, this doesn’t mean a student has to take all AP classes during senior year. Schools want to see a student challenging him or herself. But getting low grades due to a heavy AP class load isn’t what schools want. They’d rather students take a challenge appropriate for the student and keep up their GPA – so instead of doing poorly in a bunch of AP classes for the sake of having multiple AP classes, they’d rather see the student take fewer AP classes and add an honors course or something rigorous.

To finish up, I heard of a student who was admitted to his number 1 college choice in the fall of his senior year. Thinking he was set, he let the rest of his senior year slide. However, when the school checked up on his GPA, they saw the results and pulled his admission.

Tell that story to your milkid when he starts getting senioritis.

SleepingStudent_WEB

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Resume Tips You Can Use

May 21 2014

Published by under the logistics train

cover_letterTechnology now allows researchers to see what readers are actually viewing in a document. This is called eye-tracking and it shows what a reader views in a document and what they concentrate on. These studies are great news for job seekers (including teens, recent grads, and adults) because it shows what interviewers and employers look at, and focus on, in a resume.

Business Insider has an article on a study by The Ladders, and the results provide any job seeker a great tip when writing your resume: use the formatting tools of Word and design the resume with thought!

The article claims resumes get just 6 seconds of review. This seems quick, and I have seen other studies that put it at 30 seconds (this is the research I use with my college students). In either case, resume writers need to know that their resume will be skimmed as opposed to fully read (in most cases). Therefore, you need to use the formatting tools of Word to make sure the reader picks up vital information – and the study’s results back this up.

If you go to the link and scroll down, you’ll see two resumes and the eye-tracking “heat map” results of what was viewed by readers. If you look closely, the one on the right has a more comprehensive review – more heat spots spread throughout the whole document as opposed to the heat spot distribution on the left resume.

Why is that? Look at the formatting beneath the overlay. The left resume has a lot of large blocked bullets and minimal font formatting. The resume on the right has smaller bullets; uses sub-bullets, and has nicely formatted headings (shaded, upper case, and bolded).

What is the lesson then for your resume? Format it!

First, let’s look at bullets. The big block bullets on the left just don’t appeal to a reader and make it harder to skim for relevant info. Therefore, format your bullets into fewer lines (1 to 2 lines) and break the info into sub-bullets that are aligned a little more to the right than your primary bullets. This will make the info in these bullets easier to skim.

Second, per the study, 80% of time was spent on major headings and sub-headings (e.g., name, major headings such as job experience and education, and sub headings such as title/employer, school, major, etc.). The take away from this information? Format the fonts, the headings, and the relevant sub-headings so that these items contrast and stand out from the regular text – this makes it easier for the reader to spot this information.

Go back to the link and compare the two resumes. The plain font formatting on the left makes it harder to pick up information – and mush less desirable to read (which is why the heat spots disappear 3/4s of the way down the page).

Since regular text is a plain font, use some formatting for the other text. Consider bold for the headings and italics for the sub-headings. Or try shaded, bolded, all caps for the headings and bolded caps for the sub-headings. This type of formatting makes this information stand out for the skimming reader, and establishes an organizational hierarchy for your information – your reader can spot the major topic headings and the sub-topics under that heading.

In sum, use the formatting tools Word provides to create a resume that is desirable to read and easy to read – this will set your resume apart from the pack, and make it more likely you get your resume read and get it read comprehensively. If you don’t know the formatting tools in Word, Google your question. There are lots of great sites providing instruction on formatting in Word (or post it below, and I can try to answer you).

One last thing – the space bar is not a formatting tool in Word. Learn to tab and align.

Hope this helps in your job search – whether you’re PCSing or just looking for a change!

MOAA members also have access to resume critiques, as well as video conference or face-to-face interview preparation. Visit http://www.moaa.org/career for more info on these and other resources offered as a benefit of membership.

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Scholarships for Future College-Bound MilKids

May 14 2014

capandgown_webFor those families with high school kids, you probably know all too well that college costs are high, and seem to be going higher. Even at public state colleges, the tuition has gone from approximately $1,600 in 1973 to over $18,000 in 2013 (per collegeboard.org). In the spirit of trying help military families find ways to finance their milkds’ college expenses, I thought I’d share some scholarship resources.

First, fastweb.com is a free search engine where you can create somewhat customized searches. The key word here is “free.” Most high school counselors recommend that parents and students never pay to access scholarship searches.

Second, below are a few military related scholarship sources. The links will provide the application dates as well as any requirements such as minimum GPA, essay prompt, membership requirements, etc.

Some of the links are specific to either Colorado or the Rocky Mountain region. If you live outside of these areas, you can find the link to the national chapter, and then the link to your local chapter in order to see what scholarships the local chapter offers (or the national chapter):

The Military Officers Association of America (full disclosure: MOAA hosts this blog for us) has resources like interest-free loans and grants, and MOAA members have access to a scholarship search engine and long list of financial aid resources. Visit http://www.moaa.org/scholarship for more information on educational assistance via MOAA.

 

I hope these help. If any readers have additional links, please post a reply to this thread and provide that link. By doing this, we can all help each other.

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Tips For the College-Bound MilKid

Apr 30 2014

shutterstock_61067278If you are like me and have a college bound junior in high school, you and your milkid are probably in the process of looking at schools and completing the steps necessary so your milkid has as many college options as possible for a bright future, and, just as important, has as many shots as possible at scholarships and funding so his college options can be paid for.

For our household’s college bound kid (bright, talented, has high goals, hard working – oops, I got off on a bragging-dad tangent, sorry about that), I’ve put what seems like hours (even without checking Facebook) trying to research this process so my son can have a good chance at the schools he’s set his sights on – and so we can afford them. This included filtering through the plethora of the “how to get into college” info websites (i.e., trying to sort out the money-making “.com” sites vs. the ones that are truly offering advice to others); talking to people who have been on college admission boards; talking to other parents and kids who have successfully negotiated the college application maze; reading the various discussion boards; etc.

I’ve been passing the information I find on to other milfams via the MOAA communication network because the best resources are fellow milfams sharing what they have learned. Hopefully as I pass on the info, others who are in or been through this odyssey can share their experience.

For this entry then, I thought I’d offer some end-of-junior-year tips as our milkids now start to get serious about dedicating their upcoming time to the next step in their education:

  • Take the SAT or ACT (register here or at  www.collegeboard.com). Either test should have been taken at least once, but take these 2, 3, 4 times. The more one takes the test, the better he or she does. And most schools “super score”, so they’ll take the best scores from each section.
  • The most consistent advice I have read and heard is: prep for these tests! Hire a tutor or find a class for your milkid. The kids your son or daughter will be competing against for the selective schools and scholarships are doing this.
  • Along with this, your milkid should take the full practice exams, mostly to see where they are having trouble so they can focus on studying those areas, but also to get used to sitting for hours.
  • Does the college(s) being applied to require SAT subject tests? If so, register for them – these can’t be taken on the same day as the regular SAT. June is a good time to take these tests since classes in these subject areas have just ended. It’s a lot of work, especially if your child is taking AP tests, but it’s part of the “rite of passage” of college applications.
  • Plan to visit some schools. And, if you can, make appointments with department heads to ask about the major and its careers.
  • You might find college fairs around town. We went to one and it was a madhouse. I know a lot of sources recommend these, but I didn’t see much use in them given the crowds and the lack of personal time with the school reps. You can do as well with an interactive tour on the school’s website, or do even better with a personal visit.
  • Your milkid should be focused on academics – finish the year strong grade-wise and sign up for challenging courses for senior year (schools look for strong senior class loads).

The kids should have some downtime, just use good time management to get done what needs to be done to meet the goals of your college search – things like prep for tests, serious study, finish projects needed for college apps (e.g., Eagle Projects, etc.), volunteer work (colleges like this), go on a college tour, etc.

Hope that helps.

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As A MilKid Grows Up

Apr 24 2014

Published by under lessons learned

Recently I came across an old Arabic saying that seems pertinent. The translation of the phrase to English is actually along the lines of:

“When your son grows up, become his brother. (befriend him)”

As talked about in previous columns, I’ve had some time with my son lately as we’ve dived into the college search odyssey. And as I’ve spent time with my son looking at schools and discussing areas of study, careers, etc, I have found this quote fascinating and pertinent.

Don’t get me wrong, he is still a teenage boy so I have to initiate most conversations. But the more and more we chat or joke about things (music, current events, my loss of hearing, etc.) it is as the Arabic adage relates – moving towards the level of friends or brothers. Obviously I still am, and need to be, his dad – and much to his chagrin at times (too many I’m sure).

However, I’m appreciating the insight of the quote’s author, which I take to mean as being: respect your child’s maturity and growth in knowledge, and treat him as a young man. I’m proud to witness his intelligence and insights (which are sometimes too smart for me, but I won’t let him know – I just nod my head in agreement, much the same as when I can’t hear what he’s said).

Eventually he’ll be out of the house into his own life and I’ll always be there as a dad. However, I see the value of the saying, to be there more as a brother. Man, that will relieve a lot of stress!

So, I don’t really have a true topic this week. I happened to come across this old proverb and wanted to share it with my readers (both of them). I will share one last observation though – I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school, and I’m thinking of writing the Arabic author and telling him to change “son” to “child” and adding “or her” at the end.

P.S. To my kids: if you read this, you still need to be in bed at 10 p.m.!

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