In our third episode of sheepdog financial podcast we have one of the nation’s leading experts in career transition for veterans and public service professionals. Matthew J. Louis is a graduate of West Point and retired Lieutenant Colonel, having spent more than 25 years in uniform and 20 years in the corporate world. Today he leads global strategy and transformation projects at Deloitte, the largest professional services firm in the world, and continues to serve several veteran collaboratives around the country. Matt is the author of Mission Transition, a practical guide for veterans in transition and their employers. He coaches individuals on their transition efforts and advises employers on hiring programs designed to successfully assimilate these valuable talent pools.
Contact him at his website www.matthewjlouis.com
Intro: 00:09 Welcome to Sheepdog Financial. You will get answers to your financial questions. Learn to plan for your financial future and have the type of life that people dream of brought to you by Trisuli Financial Advising, a fiduciary financial advisor practice focused on military members and their finances. Your host of Sheepdog Financial is Scott Vance.
Scott Vance: 00:34 Hello. Today on Sheepdog Finance, we have Matt Louis. Matt’s retired from the Army and works in the corporate role for Deloitte.
Scott Vance: 00:41 Enjoys mentoring and helping other veterans as they transition from service to civilian life and has written a book on the topic mission transition, which will be released in September. Be sure to listen as Matt speaks to why transition from military service to civilian employment is hard. Usually a lot harder than expected for most veterans and be sure to pay close attention as he details the procedures outlined in this book to ease the financial aspect of that transition. Lastly, I was encouraged by Matt’s efforts to support and develop veterans co-operatives. Essentially as he terms it an in processing organization to help veterans connect with the appropriate veteran service organization. He has a co-chair of the Cincinnati My VA Community Veterans Engagement Board, serves on the Board of the Tri-State Veterans Community Alliance in Cincinnati and seeks to continue to serve his fellow veterans. Matthew J. Louis is a graduate of West Point, retired lieutenant colonel, and spent more than 25 years in uniform and 20 years in the corporate world. Today, he leads global strategy and transformation projects at Deloitte, the largest professional services firm in the world and he continues to serve several veteran collaboratives around the country. Matt is the author of Mission Transition, a practical guide for veterans and transitions and their employers. He coaches individuals on their transition efforts and advises, employers on hiring programs designed to successfully assimilate these valuable talent pools. Welcome to the show, Matt.
Matt Louis: 02:07 Hey, thanks Scott. I really appreciate you having me looking forward to our discussion today on Sheepdog Finance and talking about the book perhaps my transition and some of the financial aspects in transition that could be of use to your listeners.
Scott Vance: 02:22 Awesome. Yeah, I totally look forward to it, and I bet you have a bunch of good information to give out to our listeners. Tell us how you got here to be in the Army and also your corporate work.
Matt Louis: 02:32 Yeah, it’s been a, a long and winding road. You’ve kind of highlighted the overview. I spent five years on active duty. I used graduate school as my transition vehicle way back in 1996. I went to Indiana and got my MBA there two years full time and started in various positions around the corporate world initially at Procter and Gamble. Spent a few years there and jumped over to General Electric initially their aircraft engines division.
Matt Louis: 03:03 And subsequent to that there what they were called medical systems at the time. Today it’s called GE Health Care. It’s been a number of years there until I joined Deloitte about 15 plus years ago. So it’s a 20 plus years in the corporate world and counting learned something new every day. Along the way I started what I’ll call my side hustle. It’s titled Louis Advisors LLC. It oversees today, the purpose it serves, is all of my publishing related efforts. You mentioned my book that’s out there called Mission Transition. It will be published on the 24th of September this year and is available pretty much all of your standard retail sites out there. Your, Amazon’s, Goodreads. I have author pages on both of those, 800-CEO-read and several others. So check that out. It’s intended to be, as you said, a practical guide for veterans and their families that are in transition as well as those that would aspire to employ them. So that’s, that’s what that does. And looking forward to talk more about that.
Scott Vance: 04:17 Yeah. So good. So you’ve got a new book coming out in September, a Mission Transition like you’d said. Was that the right date, September?
Matt Louis: 04:25 September the 24th you guys.
Scott Vance: 04:28 Yeah. So talk just a little bit about this book. So you know, why you wrote it, who your target audience is. I think probably from the title we could get that, and what you hope the reader to get from it.
Matt Louis: 04:41 So why I wrote this, you know, again, flipping all the way back to 1996 when I left the service and I’m not alone every veteran of my generation that left around that time dealt with what I had to deal with in that the support that we realized in transitioning wasn’t much. I was an Army guy and an old tanker and at that point in time they had a course called Army Career Alumni Program. It was in its infancy. It was administered within literally within the last week of your time on active duty. And as you may recall, you’re busy running around doing hundreds of other things trying to get out the door. It truly became a check the block exercise, there was no differentiation by rank. And the, the four or five days it took to implement, it was quickly forgot and essentially little, none of it was implemented.
Matt Louis: 05:43 Well in light of that, I had to kind of make up my own way forward. And the good thing for me, I had two years in graduate school kind of deep program, so I called it. During that time frame I came across a book called What Color is Your Parachute, which is a perennial bestseller on job change. And I use that as the basis for my own personal process and knowing the frustration that I dealt with, I subsequently reached back to other veterans that were transitioning to kind of help them cross the transform into the real world. And this process evolved over time and my exposure to other approaches in the veteran community grew and grew over the years. Suffice it to say over the years as I was helping people with just on a one on one basis, there were two consistent points of feedback that I’d get.
Matt Louis: 06:42 One was a just gratitude, a message of thanks, thanks for doing this, and typically it resulted in some level of success for the individual. The other piece of feedback was, have you ever thought of writing a book? We’ve got to find a way to scale this thing to which I always kind of scoffed because I never considered myself a writer. Well, fast forward a few more years and now I have academy classmates who are leaving the service 28, 25 plus years on. You have literally dedicated their lives, their families lives to the service of the country. And while the support provided them has improved in the form of Transition GPS and the Soldier for Life Tap Program and it’s associated courses. The net impact in terms of helping them make their way to the real world hasn’t improved that much at all. And so that I think lit the fire seeing my brothers and sisters in arms, what they’re going through today in spite of what DOD, VA, DOL has attempted to do to finally put pen to paper, codify my view and approach to the process that has proven successful over the years and try to fill that gap.
Matt Louis: 07:57 And I tried to do it from three different angles and I’m jumping ahead a bit but in my way of thinking, transition is a bit of a three legged stool in terms of major stakeholder groups. The first obviously veterans and their families. And that’s where Mission Transition is focused. The intent is to help them find their optimal landing spot following their time and service and to help employers that would aspire to hire these veterans to better understand how to recruit, hire, train and retain this valuable talent pool. And so there’s a second book that I have in draft that’s focused on employers in light of the civil military gap. I’ll talk more about that in a bit. There’s lots that needs to be done there in terms of educating employers on what is available to them in the form of veterans and what they bring to the party.
Matt Louis: 08:54 And the third stool on that veteran transition stakeholder group is the government that created them in the first place. And while I have no vision that I will move the needle on the government side to change or improve what they’re doing. What I can do and what I am doing is advocating for something that can close what I view the gap and the warm hand off between the military and communities all around the country. And it’s my belief that organizations called veteran collaboratives can help us fill this gap and we can talk more about these collabers and what they are and what they do. But there’s a lot of activity in form of legislation weaving its way through Congress right now that your listeners can help support and help us collectively close this gap in a warm handoff.
Scott Vance: 09:44 Yeah. So veterans collaboratives, that sounds interesting. What is that like sounds kind of like a group of veterans get together to help people transition or veterans transition to a civilian job? Is that kind of the correct understanding of it or is there something different to it?
Matt Louis: 09:59 Yeah, so let’s go there. So what a collaborative is, these are nonprofit organizations that exist, in round figures, a dozen to 15 cities around the country. What they do, let’s use greater Cincinnati where I’m from as an example. The local veteran collaborative here is called Tri-State Veterans Community Alliance. I happened to sit on their board and their business form is essentially to bring together all of the veterans services organizations in this area and provide their services to the transitioning veteran when and where they’re best needed. So for example again Cincinnati as the case study, if you will, there are no fewer than 2,500, if you can imagine, 501(c)(3)s, which is a nonprofit, veteran service organizations that have the word veteran in their vision or mission statement in the 16 County area surrounding Greater Cincinnati. That’s a lot. If I’m a veteran, you know, matriculating to Greater Cincinnati, now I’m not gonna respond to 2,500 knocks on my door, nor am I going to go knock on 2,500 doors for services that I might need. What TVCA is, we call it. What they do is act as your single belly button, your single point of contact. They would, much as you in processed and out processed bases or posts in the military, they act as you’re in processing center to your local community. So someone leaving the service and wanting to settle here in Greater Cincinnati would in process into the Tri-State Veterans Community Alliance. Folks at TVCA would do an inventory in you, do an in processing checklist, understand what your particular needs are.
Matt Louis: 11:53 It could be anything from housing to employment to financing, to healthcare to you name it. Then the good folks at TVCA will reach back to that representative list of 2,500 veteran services organizations and pull forth the services that you need and provide them to you as the transitioning manner at a point time place that are optimal to help you get up to speed most effectively and efficiently in the local community. So that’s the function they serve in my view, in my experience. It acts as an optimal business model, if I can use that term. And so we’re looking to one, prove the concept. Once it’s proven, which should be easy enough to do, scale that business model such that we have a nationwide network of veteran collaboratives that can fill this gap between the military and communities across the country.
Scott Vance: 12:51 That sounds actually very awesome. Put it simply. I know when I transitioned, I retired so it was kind of easier and I kind of knew what I wanted to do, just accounting and working in tax. But going through that process, I saw a lot of those different groups that were there to try and help you. Like you said, the 2,500 groups within, I think you said, six counties around you there, it was similar here in North Carolina. I retired near Raleigh, North Carolina. It was just like you said. So what I’m understanding, if this makes sense, are you familiar at all with the United Way? This might put it into a much broader understanding of the United Way, how its kind of the same idea, how they take in people, they say, “Hey, you need housing? Here go to these people and these people give you clothes or something like that. Just on the veteran focused side of it.
Matt Louis: 13:46 Sure, absolutely. In fact, United Way is one of our partner organizations.
Scott Vance: 13:50 Wow. That’s, that’s actually astounding to me that there’s somebody that’s actually out there doing that and putting that together. And I think it’s very worthwhile.
Matt Louis: 13:59 Oh yeah, and there’s a handful out there. I profile any number of them in the book. I actually wrote a paper you’ll find on my website which is Matthew J Louis.com, Louis as in St Louis. Under “media” you’ll find some papers there and there’s a paper on veteran collaboratives and how to work your way through the convening process and eventually scaling that on a nationwide basis. So have at that, and I look forward to working with individuals looking to do that, to scale that business model across the country.
Scott Vance: 14:33 Yeah. Wow. Yeah. So that’s good. I’ve never heard of that. That’s the first time I’ve heard of it. It makes total sense when you explained it. So going through the transition, whether that’s, you know, going through retirement or you know, picking up the following on civilian job or government job I should say too as well. What kind of financial steps should veterans be prepared for?
New Speaker: 14:53 Well, I think this is one of the shortfalls of the current transition support that’s received. And I referenced several exercises in my book and that are live and available for free right now on my website, under the resources tab. Let me just walk you through the exercises for which I advocate, and the one that I’ve retained in the book. I had to cut them for the simple matter of word count. Harper Collins had a 70,000 word count limit and I was approaching 100,000 words. So your listeners out there, you’ve got between 25,000 to 30,000 words of free content under my resources tab on the website. Anyway, within there you’ll find three financial exercises that I expect that you’ll, you’ll go through in concert with the book. In my view, it’s a necessary part of your transition to make sure one, you’re set up for success, two, that you have a productive negotiation with whoever your eventual employer is, assuming that you go down the employment path.
Matt Louis: 16:07 So let me just kind of rattle these off here. The first exercise it all has to do with beginning with the end in mind and in this case, determine what your required retirement savings are. And in here you’ll find retirement worksheets that enable you to input any number of assumptions that go into that, what’s your life expectancy, what’s your retirement age, what kind of withdrawal rate you’re going to make investment fees, tax rates, marital status, from what your residency is and so on and so forth. Given your background and you’re very familiar with the assumptions that would go into what this would result in. Upon inputting all of these assumptions, it will spit out for you how much savings you’re going to need for your retirement as you see that taking place. Just running a couple of different scenarios, in the book and now on the website, I did it for both someone that has retired from the military and has a pension and someone that has not retired short of 20 years. As you would expect, those numbers are quite different. And then I provide a list of suggestions about how to further optimize or take advantage of the funds, that you’ll need going into retirement. For example, you could delay your retirement until a later date. For those that left active duty prior to 20 years, you could stay in the service longer to maximize or you could spend time in the reserves as a guard. For those that do have a pension, you could stay in longer to maximize the pension percentage. Try to optimize you and your spouse’s income prior to retirement so you can optimize social security. You could look at the state that you’re gonna retire to because some states have more favorable tax treatment for military incomes or military retirement incomes.
Matt Louis: 18:04 You know, maximize your employer sponsored 401k, 403b or better yet the Roth versions of both of those. If applicable, if your employer offers a 457 plan, optimizing that as well. You know, rolling over your thrift savings plan into a Roth IRA. Make an annual contributions to a Roth IRA. Minimizing your annual expenses before and after retirement, which gets to the budget, which is the fourth one I’ll get to. And minimizing any fees that a brokerage firm would assess against your expense. So that’s determine your requirement savings. Once you know what your required retirement savings are, it takes you to the second exercise, determine your annual salary. Again a worksheet here, a calculator, which again is fed by any number of assumptions, how many years you’ve spent in the service, what’s your current age, what’s your retirement age, and it builds upon the prior exercise, savings you plan on having available when leaving the service, annual investment fees and so on and so forth. A whole host of assumptions. Once again through the worksheet, it’ll identify what your must have annual salary is to realize your retirement savings goals. It’ll provide a number of thoughts to consider,uwhether you’re earlier on,uyou know, prior to getting out of the service or if you have a pension. Interestingly, comparing paystubs, both for the, I call them the JM Pay, the junior military professionals and the CMP, career military professionals. Obviously pension has a big impact there. It also may help explain to those retirees out there why some employers feel justified in low balling them in terms of an annual salary because they know that they’re also sitting on an annual pension from the military.
Scott Vance: 20:06 Yeah.
New Speaker: 20:06 Don’t fall for that. In any way, this exercise helps you get there and identify what you need going into retirement. Then the third exercise I’ll touch on is comparing military and civilian benefits. And this all feeds into the full negotiation you’re eventually gonna have with your employer. Many times, coming out of the military you tend to not think of all of the benefits that you have and you get. When you leave the military, these take the form of an entire compensation package that is the full value that the civilian employer is gonna look at you as eating, if you will. In the military you’re used to kind of thinking of salary and maybe some other allowances. You tend to not think of a host of other benefits that you have, whether it’s health care or education retirement relocation, et Cetera, et cetera.
Matt Louis: 21:07 The list goes on and on. In this exercise I list out and compare the military benefit you may or may not be taking advantage of and the civilian equivalent. And it’s interesting going through this list where there may be some military benefits, there is no civilian equivalent to things like BAS, BAH and some other allowances, flight pay, combat pay, et cetera. On the flip side, you know, there’s several other civilian benefits that you may we’ll take advantage of, such as flexible work schedules, accelerated vacation accrual, mortgaging fees, closing costs, getting covered, office furniture, office supplies, phone line, et cetera, et cetera. The list goes on and on. The point of the exercise is you need to identify what combination of benefits you are going to need and put a relative value on that and go into negotiation with your employer, with that list and be set to give and or take a little as part of that negotiation. Once you’ve nailed all that down with your employer then it becomes a matter of maintaining your month to month spending. And that’s the fourth piece of this. And this is included in the book and it’s a very simple monthly budget tracker and that your outputs don’t exceed your inputs on a monthly basis.
Scott Vance: 22:34 Yeah. For my listeners, this is a huge issue. I mean when I went through my transition being somewhat familiar with taxes and finances you know, having an interest in it and then eventually working in it, I found that the services at the transition center really glossed over a lot of this. For instance, taxes. They really were almost scared to speak to different state taxes and how that affects. That’s the one that sticks out in my mind. They just kind of said, “hey, we’re not tax experts, we can’t give any advice on that, talk to your tax expert,” when it came to that. Which depending on where you go can have an outsize effect on what you receive. It’s important to understand, to get the best understanding of your finances, that your basic allowance for housing (BAH) or BAS, your basic allows for subsistence, that’s non-taxable, but people look at that in their LES as a payment. You know, they look at the net amount you receive each week. So just realize that when you transition, that’s probably gonna go away, and how do you get a taxable income to equate to that non-taxable chunk of money becomes a big analysis to figure out how you get there.
New Speaker: 23:57 Yeah, precisely. Right. And anytime I’ve done this exercise with people, it’s always eye-opening about how much they actually need to make on the outside to equate to what they were realizing or netting as part of the military.
Scott Vance: 24:13 Yeah. A lot of people don’t realize that for instance, health insurance is the one that I always see with clients that I’m working with. And it just amazes me how much health insurance costs. And then, you know, you compare the being in the military and not really paying anything.
Scott Vance: 24:27 Now there’s people that say that healthcare is not as good or whatever, but just sticking to the figures, it’s just shocking for people that have spent years in military and then come out and all of a sudden have to pay health insurance with deductibles and premiums, and copays.
New Speaker: 24:45 That’s right. I mean another big hitter sometimes is their state taxes depending on, you lived in the military versus where you’re relocating to and civilian world, you may be getting another hit at a state level, whereas you may not have had that before.
Scott Vance: 25:00 Yes, yes. When I went through retirement, I had never paid state taxes in my 23 years in the Army, and when I retired in North Carolina, all of a sudden, my first tax year, I had a big tax bill, and that was something, I knew it was coming, but still I could see how somebody that had no idea it would blow them up out of the water.
Scott Vance: 25:21 So moving on a little bit, you’ve talked a little bit about from the veteran’s side, how about talking a little bit to the employer side as to how all this transition works?
New Speaker: 25:32 Yeah, so let me go back again. Part of the, the reason why I wrote Mission Transition the first book you know, one of the key reasons I believe it’s needed is the civil military gap, as I call it. So let me define a bit why that is, throw some statistics out at you to quantify precisely what the transitioning veterans these days are running into, which is slightly different than when I left active duty, which was 23 years ago. That’s sounds crazy to say. Here’s the upshot. The percentage of people that run the corporate world, and by that, I’ll characterize that as the C-Suite, or let’s make it even bigger, board members of the fortune 1000. The percentage of those that have any military experience whatsoever is decreased by 90% in a single generation, specifically from 1980 to 2006. To the point now, just thinking of the C-suite to CXOs and fortune 1000, people in those positions, about 2.6% of them have any military expense whatsoever. If you expand it to include all board members, it’s still less than 5%. So flip that around, veterans coming out of the service today, and that aspire to have the jobs that the fortune 1000 has, there’s a 95% chance that the person sitting across the desk from them has no idea who they are, what they’ve done, what they can do, or what they have to offer that organization. So again, the challenge that veterans have today is increasingly more difficult as this civil military vide continues to increase and it’s projected that it will continue to increase over the next 20 or 30 years at least. This is driven by simple generational demographics the light of the all volunteer force from the mid seventies, and just that fewer number of people and percentage of the population serving these days.
Matt Louis: 27:58 So anyway, that’s one of the big challenges and why transition even once you’re into the employer side, is difficult. So let’s talk about why else transition is hard, and then I’ll talk about some of the cultural aspects of transition when you do matriculate into these organizations. Just to kinda echo some of the point around civil military divide, I think there’s four key reasons why transitioning veterans are systemically unprepared to enter the workforce and why it seems to take them repeated attempts to find a job within a career field of their preference. Which by the way, veterans, and studies reaffirm this, typically aren’t in a career field of their preference by their six most post-military job. It’s incredibly sustained rate to fail out. And why this is important, you’ll appreciate this with your financial background, those veterans transitioning from the service that are able to land in their preferred career field from the outset, will double their salary, their wealth, their happiness and retention in jobs over the course of their careers, their post-military career.
Matt Louis: 29:12 So incredibly important. Anyway, I’ll highlight four reasons why veterans are systemically unprepared. First, it involves that lack of appreciating a civil military divide. They don’t appreciate that Americans don’t understand military life. You know, I think we’re down to less than one half of 1% has served on active duty in any time post 9/11. Second, has to do with lack of understanding what you’re leaving behind. When you leave the military, there’s a huge loss that you incur as an individual. You leave behind your rank, you leave behind your words, the instant recognition that came with that the authority that came with that, you know, you can no longer bark orders, and expect that those would be carried out. You know, the uniform code of military justice doesn’t apply anymore. You lose camaraderie of peers, the challenges of service, combat or otherwise, you lose the certainty that a chain of command poses for the hierarchy in the organization.
Matt Louis: 30:11 In fact, that’s replaced, and many times it’s [inaudible] by competition. The sense of community, built in network that comes with everyone kind of living in the same area, visiting the same resources on the base or posts that you were at, whether that was the Px, the commissary, the movie theater, et Cetera. You know, there are no longer references, processes, manuals, SOPs for every aspect of your role. The training and common standards that come with military tend to be gone. Even more tangibly to the a point you made earlier. You lose the tax free nature of allowances or combat pay. So you know, the loss is significant. You’ve probably heard about the five stages of grief you go through. We’re going to go through this five stages of grief coming out of the military cause you’re losing so much and it’s all done simultaneously.
Matt Louis: 31:03 The third reason is around, you know, the existing support efforts and you know, I’m not here to throw water in the face of SFL tap, but the reality is the way it’s structured right now is not optimal in terms of supporting success following transition. I mentioned, what color is your parachute before, you know, and they quote in there job hunts that start with focusing on who you are and who you want to be first before you focus on your skills and how they translate in the market and putting together a resume. If you focus on who before what you’re going to result in success, 84% of the time. If you start with what before who you’re only going to be successful 28%. You’ve gone through SFL tap, as you know, it focuses on the what initially. And so, you know, I’m no genius, but if I’m going to Vegas, I’m gonna roll with the 84% versus 28, and that’s the way my book is structured.
New Speaker: 32:00 Lastly, I’ll point to, you know, military organizations, they’re mission focused and they tend to not allow sufficient time for you to prepare for transition. Now this has improved somewhat, at least there’s a lot of good talk out there in terms of letting people attend SFL tap up to a year or more prior to ETS, which is all good. It’s good directional, but I know that culture wise commanders in those units you know, they are pressed to do the mission first and what tends to happen, our individuals will forsake their personal planning and their personal success for the sake of the unit. So you know, the opportunities for individuals to accrue industry recognized certifications or licenses or take additional education those tend to fall by the wayside. And so those are key things that, you know, continue to make transition especially difficult.
Matt Louis: 33:06 So from there, let me segue into the cultural aspects or cultural dimensions. You know, we talked about loss, but this is another whammy that folks realize when they leave the service and they enter employers. It’s a whole new world. It’s a whole new way of thinking. In a word, it’s a whole different culture. Now the culture of the organization you’re going to join is gonna vary. Every different organization has a different culture, much as every military unit you ever belonged to had a different way of doing things, different way of thinking, different personality. It’s the same in the civilian world. But in the book I spend a good portion of the last two chapters focused on culture and all these various cultural dimensions that you’re going to have to understand and adjust to all simultaneously. There’s about two dozen of them.
Matt Louis: 33:59 I generalize them, a compare contrast between the military and either larger, more corporate civilian organizations or smaller, more entrepreneurial civilian organizations. Among again, probably close to two dozen different dimensions. You know, a key one is purpose, and I think this is one that individuals perennially struggle with. How does my personal purpose change? How do I reconcile what I did in the military, mission first saluting the flag all kinds of patriotic, with what is the purpose or my purpose in the new organization, be it larger, smaller, more corporate, more entrepreneurial. Which tends to be more focused on money, on the bottom line. That’s why organizations exist.
Scott Vance: 34:46 Sure.
New Speaker: 34:47 Um you know, leadership basis, in military, you’re operating as a team. Larger organizations, you tend to be more individually focused where a smaller entrepreneurial organizations are more team based and I could continue to go down the list here.
Matt Louis: 35:02 You know, dimension such as organizational structure, you’re going to be going from a hierarchy to chances are some sort of a matrix environment. In the military you had a formal power basis. Corporate organizations are gonna tend to be more personal power basis. The onboarding process is different. The way training is administered is different, the way compensation benefits are assessed is different, recognitions and reward is different. I go down the line again, there’s two dozen different aspects of culture, all of which are going to tend to be somewhat different, if not very different than the way in which you experienced in the military and all of which you’ll need to process and think through to come to terms with your own personal purpose and mission, if you will, in this new world and in this new organization.
Scott Vance: 35:57 Yeah. The shift is for me at least was mind blowing. I retired and I knew what I wanted to do and, but I’ll never forget. I went to my first conference with financial planners right after I retired and you know, the conference had started at eight o’clock and there were people still walking in, and shuffling in at 10 after and just blew my mind that these people were doing this compared to, you know, in the Army you had a briefing at eight o’clock, you were there 15 minutes earlier or you were late type of thing.
New Speaker: 36:29 That’s right.
Scott Vance: 36:29 Um and that was when I first realized some of the things I’d be going through earlier on in my transition.
New Speaker: 36:38 Yep. That’s exactly right. That’s a good story. We talked about stories. You care if I throw out a few stories that I’ve had through my transfer?
Scott Vance: 36:48 Yeah.
New Speaker: 36:49 So one of these, and I’ll demonstrate how it can relate to some of your listeners who are currently leaving the service. When I left the service, I mentioned I used graduate school as my transition, well in between the first and second years in graduate school, you’re offered the opportunity to do an internship now and so on. That was my first foray into the civilian world as an employee. I’ll spare the name of the organization. Suffice to say at the time it was a division of General Motors, it’s no longer a division of General Motors. But this organization happened to make the transmissions that went into my tanks, I’d mentioned I was an armor officer in the Army. So this organization made the transmissions in the tanks. Not only was it my first foray into the civilian world, it was my first foray into any sort of unionized environment. And General Motors like any of the big three, as you probably know, is fairly heavily unionized. So here I was less than a year out of the service, still very rough around the edges had not considered all of the cultural dimensions that I just referenced, had not gone through all of the exercises for which I advocate in the book and show up in front of a bunch of unionized workers who over time had negotiated rules that made very little sense to me.
Matt Louis: 38:21 You know, here comes the fresh out of the service, you know, snot nose person who still thinks he has some authority to make things happen, and low and behold, you know, there were workers asleep on the assembly line, but I couldn’t wake them up because of union rules and I was just beside myself. And no matter what I said, it didn’t change anything. And, and taking it up the chain to the supervisors, you know, I just, I couldn’t budge and this was just completely foreign territory to me. And as you might expect after a summer of this a couple things happened. One, I came to realize it was a good lesson in how the rest of the world worked the real world and how they weren’t going to change, and I was going to need to do some adjustments in order to succeed in this new world.
Matt Louis: 39:17 That was one outcome. The other outcome was, well, we’ve seen enough of this guy, we’re not going to offer him a job after a second year. So that was the other outcome, but you know, I chalked up my lessons learned and applied that to my next foray in the real world. Another very simple story I’ll tell you about my transition, you know, has to do with finances. We talked about budget. You know, I’d gone just as all of your listeners will leaving the service from having a regular paycheck to suddenly having none. You know, thank goodness I was married, and am still married, to the same good woman. At the time, she was in her residency following medical school. She at least had a trickle of income coming in that was able to keep us afloat. But you know that budget exercise, and because we had so little cash flow, was critical to making sure that we stayed on track and you know, weren’t bouncing checks and other things.
Matt Louis: 40:27 Just one simple story, I’ll tell you a way in which we did that. Every Sunday after church services, we would stop at a bakery on the way back home after church and this little bakery would always have day old donuts, and refer to them as DODs, which were half or less than half price of a regular donuts. So even on that simple a thing is, you know, ways that we would try to cut costs, you know, still maintain some sort of a lifestyle, but did everything we could to stay within the limits of our income. So I encourage all your listeners to do the same and to make sure one, you have a budget and two, that you’re executing against it appropriately.
Scott Vance: 41:15 Yeah, the military paycheck, I’ve often said that I can live off of any amount if I know I’m going to get it every two weeks. Not having that when I first transitioned, although mine was easier again cause I retired so I kind of went from one paycheck to another. To a lesser degree not having that paycheck every two weeks exactly, whether I was at work or not or sick or on vacation, caused a little bit of angst. Then just thinking about my friends that had never been in the military and they talked about how they couldn’t take a vacation for a week at a time or you know, a certain week because then their next paycheck is cut in half because they were not at work. That to me would be very hard to deal with if I did not have my retirement and went from a straight military job to a civilian job where my pay would be dependent on me being at work those two weeks or whatever the time period is.
Matt Louis: 42:17 Yep, it’s critical. All the more reason to start early and planning your transition and having a beat on what you’re going to go into before [inaudible].
Scott Vance: 42:26 Yeah. So, you talked a little bit about SFL tap, right? Cause that’s what they call it now, Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program. And yet I found it to be a good attempt to help but in its practice wasn’t. It didn’t really help me in my transition. So a lot depended on me. In fact, in my last year before I retired, I was over in the US embassy in Nepal and I kind of worked it out that I could stay there until just before my actual retirement date, and I did SFL tap by the Internet. Since I was so focused on it, I knew what I wanted to do. So I was studying for the CFP exam, I was taking some online CPA courses. Maybe I’m kind of the outlier, but I found SFL tap to be more of an impediment cause I couldn’t just say to them you know, I’m good.
Scott Vance: 43:27 I still had to check that block that said, hey he went through the class on how to write a, you know, those basic things that I probably didn’t really need to, just extra time taken away from me when I knew what I was doing and what I wanted to, you know, the road I had in place.
Matt Louis: 43:43 That’s great. You are an outlier and you had a leg up over most of your peers who are not in that point in their transition.
Scott Vance: 43:53 Yeah, I was really lucky. I mean I knew I was heading out. I knew I had friends at branch that allowed me to go work an assignment. That isn’t really good for, you know, career wise at that time I should have been an XO, but I knew I was going out and kind of wanted to get there. But yeah. So all that to say it’s probably important to plan ahead, like you said, and work with your, you know, military assignments officer or branch manager to get you to a job that can help you get that transition the way you want it to go.
Matt Louis: 44:28 Yeah, absolutely and as part of that, part of the book, I refer to it as the five minute MBA and attempting to translate what you’ve done and have that mean something to a civilian hiring manager or executive. You have to understand some of the basics of the way businesses operate. And you know, again, I’ll refer you to the book but a very simple income statement and what the parts of that are and essentially you need to translate what you’ve done into a language that indicates how you can move the needle on certain aspects of that income statement. If that doesn’t clearly come across to folks on the other side of the table, you’re potentially dead in the water there. Some other advice I might offer to these military families regarding transition I mentioned starting early, work through the process in the book, especially those financial exercises we’ve been talking about, will have a critical impact.
Matt Louis: 45:33 Another is have an open mind. This is a whole new world, a whole new set of opportunities, and yeah, it’s going to get frustrating, but you know, look at it this way, this is the rest of your life and you’ve got a clean sheet and you can do what you want to do. It’s as one person told me that I interview in the book was called the curse of the blessing. It’s a blessing that you do have a clean slate and you can do whatever you want, but the curse is you have to figure out what that something else. But the fact matter, it is an opportunity. I encourage you to take the positive spin on that. In avoiding frustration, stay engaged with a tribe of your peers. Much as they say it takes a village, in terms of transition, it takes a tribe.
Matt Louis: 46:18 And the more that you can stay connected with others that have gone through it, you know, use guides, much as the one I’m pushing, so much the better. And then, on a very positive note, I would just urge you to use the old Army saying, or slogan, you know, “be all you can be,” but the future is yours for the taking. If nothings ventured, nothing gained. Go out and get it. You know, now is your time to reset, to reboot and go do it. There is a tribe of brothers and sisters out here on the other side of that transition awaiting you and waiting to help you. Please reach out. I’ve never had any fellow veteran turned me down when I’ve asked for help. Please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Scott Vance: 47:07 Yeah and just be all you can be. That is from a long time, not a long time. I guess it is a long time ago. Probably there’s a decent amount of listeners that have never heard that slogan. I mean I can still remember the videos on TV, the commercials with tanks driving around, as a kid.
Matt Louis: 47:26 You know my age.
Scott Vance: 47:27 Yeah, but like you said, finding your tribe of peers, that’s key. I know when I went through I got involved with the American Legion and VFW, veterans of foreign wars, and there’s others out there as well, but like you said, it’s key get a group of friends cause it’s a total shift when all of a sudden you go from being in a unit with your friends and coworkers and fellow NCO soldiers, it’s a shock to come out and be all on your own all of a sudden. That was one of the key things that got me through my transition was those folks in the VFW, American Legion.
Matt Louis: 48:06 So nice dovetail too into the second book that I mentioned before. About two thirds of the way right now, it’s focused on employers and it’s all about hiring veterans.
Matt Louis: 48:18 The premise being, you know, one given this civil military divide and employers not sufficiently taking advantage of veterans, in my view, it’s one of the more underutilized talent pools in the country. So, the point of the book is to educate employers on the proper way to identify, recruit, hire, onboard, train, retain veterans as a talent pool. And a key part of that bridging to your last point is teaching them how to build employee resource groups. In other words, bringing together the veterans within their organization to enable them, though allow them to have kind of their own internal tribe, let them come together and ensure a more effective, efficient transition for those just coming out of the service. So as you make your way to the civilian world, you know, look around at your employer, hopefully they have some sort of a veteran resource group or business resource to which you can join. Those folks are going to help you again.
Scott Vance: 49:30 Yeah, dealing with the employer side, I mean, they look at your job, you know, they probably look at a job like an infantry man or a tanker or artillerymen and they say, well, he was just an infantry men or a tanker and they don’t understand the underlying traits that are inherent to that job. Which could benefit them far more than if they had, say if it was a repair shop that needed a mechanic. Finding maybe an infantryman with those inherent skills underlying would probably benefit them far more than just looking specifically for the mechanic.
Matt Louis: 50:08 Yeah, it’s a great point, and it raises two items. One, is the fact that almost half of veterans are going to transition into a career field different than the career field they had in the military. The second point is, yeah, even if you were infantry or a tank or some other combat arms you bring with you a host of transferable skills and that tends to be more soft skills, but there’s been lots of studies on this. Let me just rattle off a number of skills that the Institute for Veterans for Military Families at Syracuse says justifies the value of a veteran in a competitive business environment. Veterans are, and I’m quoting here, they’re entrepreneurial. They assume high levels of trust. They’re adept at skills transfer across contexts and tasks. They have advanced technical training. They’re comfortable in discontinuous environments. They exhibit high levels of resiliency advanced team building skills, strong organizational commitment, cross cultural experiences and experience in diverse work settings. Now, I don’t know about your employer or civilians you’ve worked in, but for those that I’ve worked for, these are exactly the kinds of things that civilian employers are looking for and it’s precisely what you as a transitioning veteran bring to the party.
Matt Louis: 51:32 You just need to find a way to translate the things that you’ve done and to language just as I stated, that is going to mean something to the hiring manager.
Scott Vance: 51:42 Yeah, that’s the key to get them to understand that, how you quantify that and get that into the resume so they can see it in a way that makes sense to them to get yourself that job for the veteran.
Matt Louis: 51:55 Just for posterity sake, do you mind if I throw in one more story?
Scott Vance: 51:59 Yeah, go ahead.
Matt Louis: 51:59 Here’s one just about me. It may or may not relate to anything, but people always ask me, what did you do in the military? Anyway, this is one that I always pull out. So way back in 1994 I had a scout platoon. We were out doing a JTF six mission. It was a counter drug mission in Sequoia National Forest hunting down marijuana gardens, methamphetamine labs, and you’re really running a close line on posse comitatus, which means that you can’t utilize local government, can’t utilize federal resources as a police force.
Scott Vance: 52:36 Yup.
Matt Louis: 52:36 That’s the upshot on posse comitatus. So the way it worked was we would go out, we find a meth lab, marijuana garden, what have you. We’d surround it. We call up the local Park Rangers, police force, whoever they were, they would come in and be the ones to deal with it and then we would head off to do our next thing. There was a real handoff there. Anyway, I was out doing that mission and I get an alert from my colonel back at home base and he says, Louis, consider yourself on alert. Now remember the timeframe we’re talking about here. This is Somalia. He says, there’s a request, POTUS has a request for armor. This is Bill Clinton, has request for armor, on his desk and if he approves it, you know, we, our unit is going to send a contingent and you’re going to be the one commanding the contingent. Roger Out. You know, there’s only one response to that one. And Lo and behold, well as history shows us, the request for armor was not approved and thus we have today Black Hawk Down.
Scott Vance: 53:42 Yup.
Matt Louis: 53:43 The reason my unit was selected is because we were the only one left in the Army that’s still had standard M-1 tanks that could fire the I’ll call it the beehive round.
Scott Vance: 53:53 Oh yeah.
Matt Louis: 53:54 Yep. Whereas the A-1 could not.
Scott Vance: 53:57 Yeah, cause that’s a sabot round right, that they fire, only?
Matt Louis: 54:02 Sabot is a different kind of [inaudible]. Beehive, as soon as the round exits the tube, it kind of disintegrates into thousands of different, yeah.
Scott Vance: 54:09 Yeah. When I was artillery, we used to shoot, well they called it killer junior. Same thing. Just a bunch of [inaudible] shots that, you know, 20 meters out of the tube, would just blow up and be a shotgun blast.
Matt Louis: 54:24 Yeah, exactly right. It’s precisely what it was.
Scott Vance: 54:28 Yeah. And you know, we talked a little bit about that, was it JTF mission?
Matt Louis: 54:33 Yeah.
Scott Vance: 54:34 Yeah. When I was in Nepal, I was a counter terrorism advisor working with the Nepalese army and their big mission was to go to… So I worked with, they only had one battalion I work with and train. They would go down to the tri, which is their area along India, and their big thing was counter poaching. So catching, you know, Indians poaching elephants, rhinos and tigers. And you know, when I first got there, I was like, wait a minute, you can’t do that, that’s posse comitatus and then I was like, oh wait, but I’m in a foreign country and that’s kind of not the same rules. But in the end it was cool. I got to go down there and see some rhinos and elephants and never did see a tiger, but it was interesting trip.
Matt Louis: 55:21 That’s cool. That’s one continent I haven’t hit.
Scott Vance: 55:25 Yeah, when I switched over to civil affairs. Went through SERE school, all that stuff. They put me in Spanish language school and I was like, oh, I guess I’m probably going to be in South America. And then nope, I got stuck. Not Stuck. I got sent to Asia so I never used my Spanish for anything. But good. So I guess as we wrap up, do you have any final thoughts that you can give to listeners and you know, contact information and whatnot for them to maybe reach out and speak with you?
Matt Louis: 55:59 Yeah. Well first of all, Scott, again, thanks for the opportunity. All the best luck with Sheepdog Finance. I look forward to this going live and listening to this and others that follow. I know it’s going to be a great venue. There’s certainly a need out there for what you’re doing and I’m sure it’s going to help any number of transitioning veterans. So thank you for what you’re doing and thank you for again offering me the opportunity to lend my 2 cents to the discussion. For your listeners, those that have an interest in checking out some of the exercises I talked about and finding out more about the book, check out my website and again, Matthew J Louis.com, Louis as in St Louis. My book, again, the title is Mission Transition. You will find it available in all formats as of September the 24th 2019 and please reach out if you’d like me to be a speaker at an organizational function you might have or any aspect of the topic, I’d be glad to acquiesce.
Scott Vance: 56:59 Good. Well thanks Matt for your time and for your expertise. We’ll make sure in the show notes to link to your website so my listeners can get a hold of you and we look forward to the book Mission Transition coming out in September.
Matt Louis: 57:11 Thanks so much Scott.
Scott Vance: 57:15 Matt gave us some good transition information and continues to work to ease the transition for other veterans. His book, Mission Transition releases in September. If you’d like to contact him, please contact him at Matthew J Louis.com. Thanks for listening to Sheepdog Finance podcast.
Intro: 57:33 Thank you for listening to Sheepdog Financial. Visit us online at Trisuli Financial Advising.com for more military centered financial resources.