Real Money, Real Experts

Supporting our Military Families During COVID

January 04, 2021 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 17
Real Money, Real Experts
Supporting our Military Families During COVID
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Real Money, Real Experts co-hosts Rebecca Wiggins and Dr. Mary Bell Carlson talk with AFC® Meredith Lozar. Meredith has an extensive career working for Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, and DOD Spouse Education and Career Opportunities. Currently, Meredith is the Director of Military Spouse Programs for Hiring our Heroes, and she is also the president for the AFCPE board of directors.

The three discuss the financial impacts the Coronavirus has had on military spouses including a higher unemployment rate, historically lower savings, and childcare challenges. They look at what can be done to help with these issues and how the AFC® designation lends itself to being part of the solution. 

Show Notes:
00:52 Intro Meredith Lozar
01:40 COVID's impact on military families
04:03 The AFC® as part of the solution
05:47 The effect of childcare on military spouse employment
08:05 how employment affects  self-esteem/financial readiness
09:12 US Chamber Foundation Study results
10:23 Financially preparing for an emergency 
16:35 Importance of volunteerism
18:46 Financial Resources for military families
20:14 Meredith’s Role as President
23:01 Your Two Cents

 

Show Note Links:

Hiring our Heroes: https://www.hiringourheroes.org/
Military Spouse Road Map:
https://www.milspouseroadmap.org/
Military Spouse Road Map Research:
https://www.milspouseroadmap.org/research/#read-report
Getting the AFC® designation:
https://www.afcpe.org/certification/accredited-financial-counselor/
FINRA Foundation Military Spouse Fellowship:
https://www.afcpe.org/career-and-resource-center/finra-foundation-military-spouse-fellowship/
AFCPE Membership:
https://www.afcpe.org/membership/

Find a financial AFC professional for help:
Find an AFC professional:
https://www.afcpe.org/find-an-afcpe-certified-professional/
Military One Source Financial & Legal Help:
https://www.militaryonesource.mil/financial-legal

Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins , executive director of the association for financial counseling and planning education or AFCPE. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson . I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor or AFC® and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that personal finance professionals care about helping clients, building community and your professional growth.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And this is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today!

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show we're talking with Meredith Lozier. Meredith is a leader in the field of military family support services. She has an extensive career working for Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, and DOD Spouse Education and Career Opportunities. Currently, Meredith is the Director of Military Spouse Programs for Hiring our Heroes, which is an initiative of the United States chamber of commerce foundation. She also has her AFC® designation and earned that through the FINRA foundation, military spouse fellowship program. And also she is currently the president elect for the AFCPE board of directors. I'm really excited to have you on the podcast today. Meredith thanks so much for joining us.

Meredith Lozier:

Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be here with you both

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Meredith I'm excited to hear your perspective as a military spouse in a military family. I know that military families often face unique challenges given that the fact that they're moving a lot, they've got deployments, PCS moves, and we're all right now kind of living in these unique times with the current pandemic. Can you tell us more about how military families are facing financial readiness, especially in the wake of COVID?

Meredith Lozier:

That's a great question. And as you say, I think it's something that we're all weathering right now, as far as how we're responding to the pandemic. And what we've seen for military families is we saw a 24% military spouse unemployment rate when we were going into the pandemic. So already military families were at a disadvantage as far as building a strong financial foundation. And as a result of the pandemic early research results are showing us that we probably are facing a 32% unemployment rate for military spouses. And that means we're on even shakier ground as far as what we can do financially today and also planning for our financial future. So as we look at military family is we're looking at a group of people who have dedicated their lives to selfless service , to protect our country. And yet they face challenges that think many of us don't don't consider. And some of those are financial. When we went into COVID-19 military families on average had $500 or less to put toward an emergency situation. So that could have been something like a tire blow out , or maybe even emergency travel needed to go home to care for a loved one. And now that we have COVID-19 because of the increased chance that a military spouse is unemployed, we expect that we're going to see what we have socked away in that emergency fund, really decrease . And that's a tough spot to be when you only had a $500 to begin with, and now you probably have even less. So we really are seeing a tightening of that financial belt as a result of COVID-19

Rebecca Wiggins:

And Meredith, tell us a little bit more about how military spouse unemployment affects financial readiness overall for the military family. And also just how you see the AFC® in particular as a potential solution to helping make an impact in that arena.

Meredith Lozier:

Yeah, I mean, what a great, great opportunity the AFC® presents. And I think what we see for military families is really what we see for, for all families today. And that's that we expect to be able to have dual income. Long ago we said we could live on just one income. And now we're really at the point where two incomes is what we need to be able to achieve our dreams and our goals for our families and military families aren't often afforded that opportunity. And as a result, they're not able to save as much. They're not able to, you know , really realize a lot of the goals that they have financially. And we see their retirement plan suffer, which is a really, really tough spot to be in. And as we look at the AFC®, one of the biggest challenges for military spouses with regard to employment is portability. And the AFC gives us that opportunity to take something across state lines across national borders mean in our time as a military family, we've lived both overseas and in the United States PCsing or permanent change of station as we call it 10 times in 15 years of marriage, that is just an astronomical amount. And my AFC® has followed me throughout six of those moves just in the last several years since I earned the designation in 2012. And not many of us can see that for the licenses and certificates we pursue. So it's really unique and wonderful.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Yeah. And along with that, I think something to consider, not just having a portable career, but also funding, good childcare so that you can have a career. Can you talk to us more about how childcare impacts military spouse employment? Yeah,

Meredith Lozier:

I mean, I think this year we have seen the childcare pinch worldwide really it's something that we have tracked at the United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation had looked into how it's impacted what we're calling kind of a mass Exodus of females from the workforce because you see these, these amazing career women departing their jobs or going down to part-time positions to be able to support their family needs right now. And military spouses are no exception to that, but they also face additional challenges at the same time, because so oftentimes we are single parenting. We are mom and dad, and we're trying to hold down a career while we do that. And so not having childcare really exponentially impacts the military spouse, but, you know, I think the AFC® can play a really interesting role in helping that spouse succeed, because what it does is not only does it present portability, it also presents flexibility because it gives you that opportunity to be an entrepreneur and hang your shingle out there as a financial counselor, which then gives you flexibility to kind of make your own hours, which is just such a gem for our population.

Rebecca Wiggins:

And one quick thing that I'm sort of thinking, as you're talking about that is even just the benefit of understanding and getting your own financial house in order, right? Like the career opportunities are essential as we're talking about this portability, but just being able to get that type of training, to be able to then relate to people within the military community and learn on your own about your own personal finances, especially during a time that can be really stressful.

Meredith Lozier:

Yes. Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. And so oftentimes the military spouse is managing the finances for the household because when your spouse leaves to go to a foreign country for a while , or be forward in the field for a while , they can't be checking, you know, the USA or Navy fed app or Wells Fargo or whatever it is that you have because they may not even have that connectivity. So the spouse is really holding down the fort financially as well. And that AFC® gives them just that incredible knowledge to run a budget and, you know, plan for the future, which is truly tremendous

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So help us understand how employment affects both self-esteem and financial readiness for a military family,

Meredith Lozier:

Two really big nuggets for us. And, you know, there was a huge gap in research as far as how military spouse employment affected things like mental health and wellbeing . And what we knew going into 2020 was that for veterans employment directly affects their self-esteem, their self-confidence. And when we saw them in scenarios where they went long periods of time without employment, or even what we would call underemployed. So an employed , maybe beneath your skill set or , uh , beneath the pay amount that you had previously been paid for a position, we saw that it really impacted their ability to succeed professionally. And so we wondered, okay, what does that mean for military spouses? I mean, here is this population who right now is at three times the national average for unemployment. And what is that doing to us as, as humans and how is that impacting our self esteem ? So I'm super excited to say that at this point, we just wrapped up at the United States chamber foundation, the first study that looks at the impact of employment on mental health and wellbeing for spouses specifically in early results. So these are kind of hot off the press because we won't release this in full until 2021 are telling us that it has a major impact on our self-confidence and on our self-esteem. And that employment is really a vital piece of us having our own identity. And I think you hear that and you think to yourself, well, that's kind of a no brainer . I really have a lot of my identity invested in what I'm doing for my career, but for spouses who move 10 times more frequently than their civilian counterparts, maintaining employment is just this huge obstacle. So that, that impact over time on their self-esteem and self-confidence, and their identity has just been really negative and continual. Um, so really excited to kind of dive into that more in the coming here and see how we can come together to support spouses in employment and hopes that it'll give them a better outcome.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Absolutely. And I think that you've really talked a lot about how military spouses can have a portable career, how they can get the resources they need, if this is something they want to pursue. So let's broaden it out and talk even more broadly about military spouses in general of the need for them to be prepaired for something unthinkable happening. If the service member comes back with a disability or doesn't return home at all, how that impacts the family and maybe some good resources that others could reach out to, to have a connection and make sure that they have what they need during that time.

Meredith Lozier:

You know, I think this year we looked a lot at disaster preparedness, right? Because as , as people, as humans, disaster sort of struck and we all sort of looked internally and said, wow, we were not prepared for something like this. And in all honesty, it's really hard to be prepared for something we hadn't seen for a hundred years. And, but I think for military spouses, we're kind of constantly ready for disaster. And you know, that might be a little bit grim, but, but we are, I mean, you know, in our house right now, there are multiple powers of attorney. There are childcare powers of attorney, there are wills. And of course we all talk about, especially in our field, the financial field, the importance of having a will, but many of us don't sit down and have that really important conversation and get those things in line. And for military families , that's something that you're updating on the reg really, because you just have to, because you're , you know, that your service member's life could change in the drop of a hat. And for spouses this year, it was almost like saying to the rest of the population. Welcome, welcome to our world where we operate on a daily basis. We're here for you. We, you can learn a lot from us and we would be happy to show you how to adapt at a moment's notice when your world sort of comes crashing down. And we showed, I think that resilience, but I think as, as far as your question about, you know, where do you look and what do you do? The AFC® gives you that ability to be financially prepared. And it also gives you that ability to , to have continual employment and provide that financial foundation for your family. Because if your world does change at a moment's notice, if your service member comes back and they might not be able to be fit for service moving forward, then you may have to support your family. And this gives you that something to fall back on and also move forward with. And it also teaches you that as a financial counselor, we are talking to our clients about what other resources are out there. It's not a one-stop shop. I typically say that in military family support, it's a team sport. And I think the AFC® is a part of that because there's so much you can do for your clients, but you're also telling them here's another resource and option for you and for military families, there are so many that want to support, you know, American Red Cross USO, national military family association for matters , where you need to get resources and information to help you through a really tough time. And then of course, the organizations like my own, if you're looking for military spouse employment, so there really are so many ready to dive in and help out.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Meredith you have so much personal experience as a military spouse, but also this incredible resume of work in the field. And I'm interested if you could tell us a little bit more just about how you got started and then more about your work at the chamber of commerce and the hiring our heroes initiative in particular,

Meredith Lozier:

You know, my start was a really Rocky one. I'll just be totally honest. And we got married on a Wednesday night in between combat tours in 2005. And I was not quite 25 years old. Um, wow. And my husband had just gotten back from his second tour , um, at OIF. So what we call operation Iraqi freedom and was getting ready to go again. And we knew we wanted to get married, but he had already buried many college friends and we just weren't going to wait, you know? And , um, so we did that. So we did that on a Wednesday night and, and my dad was in the air force and I remember him walking me down the aisle, you know, and him saying to me, are you sure? You know, because we can turn around anytime . And we didn't, you know, we, we walked the rest of that way. And , um, and from then it's just been a whirlwind and I was really successful as a pharmaceutical sales rep, Rebecca, I don't even think, you know that now that that's how I started. Um, and, and I out earned by husband, like a lot of military spouses do, and we, our journey began and I transferred my job. And then we ended up with these orders overseas to Okinawa, Japan, and I lost my job. And I was in a foreign country at the age of 25 and I had no employment and I had taken a huge, a huge loss financially, right. So we talk about kind of, Oh my gosh, disaster strikes. And, and I was, to be honest with you, both sewing a Christmas tree skirt at our kitchen for something to do. And I thought to myself, this cannot, this cannot be my life. I cannot move forward and lose my entire identity in this man who I love and in this life, this Marine Corps life. And so I immediately started looking for jobs and I wasn't getting any hits because as a military spouse, you're up against so much, especially in a foreign country where jobs are really hard to come by. And I actually printed out my resume and I found this position as an assistant director in the education office. And I stuck it into a high heeled shoe that I had in my closet, because I felt like I couldn't get my foot in the door no matter where no matter what I was doing, I couldn't get my foot in the door. So I found out who the hiring manager was, and I'll be darned if I didn't put that high heeled shoe in his door. And I wrote on my resume just trying to get my foot in the door. And I got that job. S o, y ou k now, w ell, i t was my journey, but I think what's kept me going, has been volunteering. To be honest with you. I have always continued my network by getting involved in my community, whether it was my military community or my civilian one. And that has really helped me to keep my name out there and to get e mployment, employment o pportunities as they have come available. And it has been a Rocky road. There are times as a military spouse where financially you take a step back and you start over again because you had to quit a job and you had to start back up. But I think one thing that COVID has really done for us has been to level the playing field as far as remote work is concerned. And this year we have seen companies go to remote work who have in the past, said, Nope, we can't do it. You have got to be in this brick and mortar location. And so if you can't be here, then our opportunities are not available for you and for a military spouse, that is a career killer. So our job now at chamber of commerce foundation and with Hoh is to really amplify that message and keep those barriers to remote work broken down. Because here we have this population of 92% women. So most of us are women who are highly educated and highly skilled, and they are dedicated and they want to work, but they have to move to support their service member. And so remote work for them is like a gift. And it had been this elusive thing, but now it's, it's within our reach. And we have just got to keep beating that drum

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Meredith, you told us a great experience about you being overseas and how you've had to find your own career path. And I know there's many other military spouses that find themselves in a similar position, but maybe who don't want to pursue a financial career path or can't pursue the career path that they were on, but they still need the financial help that an AFC can provide. Where would they go to find help from a financial professional?

Meredith Lozier:

That's such a great question. And I think with all the twists and turns that we see for military spouse employment, there are many different times where you do need to seek professional financial assistance just to rework a simple budget, because maybe your employment has fluctuated and your salary has changed. And so having those touch points can be really, really helpful. So there's a couple of different ways to do that. We talked about how my career journey has taken me both overseas and also within the United States. And there are always family support centers, or they call them army community services centers. They call them , Marine Corps, Community Service Centers. And within those centers, there is a financial educator who can assist you. And most of the time that is going to be an AFC® professional. In addition to that, visiting AFCPE .org can help you to find a certified professional in your area. And right now, military one source also offers some financial counseling that is free for all military families. So I think there's a plethora of places that you can look to get that financial support as you look how at, how you're going to achieve your goals, despite the fluctuations in your employment.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So Meredith I'm really excited that you're going to be taking over the role of board president in 2021. And I'm interested if you would share with us what you're most looking forward to in that role and what you're hoping to accomplish as board president.

Meredith Lozier:

It's truly my honor to step into that role. I'm so humbled by that. And I think it's such a wonderful opportunity to usher in the future, or be a part of that for an organization that has made such a difference in my life. And I have watched make a difference in the lives of so many military spouses, because it truly does represent portability and accessibility, and it represents career doors being opened where you once thought they were just closed and would never be available to you again. And I think as I look at it's a short term, it's, it's just one year. So, you know, I, I want to reach for the moon, but I'll settle for, you know, grabbing a star two and that, and that point of time. But I think it's an opportunity for us to really shine a spotlight on what an AFC® does. One of, I think the biggest disconnects is between certification and then actually understanding what it does for you and where it can take you. So I really want us to be able to share those stories and we've started doing a lot more storytelling. So I think it's about doing more storytelling and I think that will really help with discoverability of what the AFC® can mean as far as your career. So that's one of the biggest things that I am really dedicated to , um, as we look at the year ahead.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah. I love that because I think as you said, I mean, one of the things that can be kind of overwhelming is that there are so many options and it is such a portable, flexible designation that can have really meaningful career opportunities attached, but it almost is so overwhelming at times. And so I'm looking forward to working with you on that and , and helping to create more clear career paths for people so that we can really get the most leverage out of the credential and , and help as many people as possible.

Meredith Lozier:

I agree. And I think a part of that too, as we look ahead as expanding our partnerships, it's something that AFCPE has done so well is establishing partners and cultivating those relationships and keeping those partnerships. But maybe it's about opening some more doors to those who can lend really nicely to what we're trying to accomplish, and maybe even help us to open up some specific career opportunities that people can step into and have that sort of test drive with their AFC®, something like a fellowship or an internship than I know Rebecca, you and I have had just a couple of brief conversations about, because I think that can really help us too with sort of shining a spotlight on, take a walk in these shoes for a little bit. We know you're going to love it. And there's so much opportunity with this career path.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

So Meredith at the end of each interview, we'd like to get our guests two cents or biggest takeaways for our listeners. If you had one piece of advice to offer other financial professionals, what would it be?

Meredith Lozier:

Such a great question! And just one piece I would say , don't give up, you know, there are challenges for any professional trajectory, but the AFC® gives you flexibility to really pave your own way. And so if one path kind of winds in a direction that you weren't anticipating go with it because you have this designation behind you and it will really help you on your journey to success.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Well, we so appreciate you joining us on the show today and giving your insight for military spouses and really many other professionals that are looking to have a space within this military area. Thank you so much.

Meredith Lozier:

Oh, thanks for having me.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Mary. I always enjoy talking with Meredith. She has such an extensive background and is one of those people that I don't know how she's done everything that she's done in her life, given her age. But she's just always, so she articulates herself so well and also has such a passion for this field. And it's been, I've learned quite a bit from her through the years about the military life and about military spouses in general and am really excited to work with her under her leadership as board president next year. One of the things that I really appreciated was, you know, she talked a lot about how she's utilized® the AFC credential to help build her career. And especially through all of the times that she's had to move both across the world, but across the country as well. And she's really leveraged the designation and some really unique and powerful ways to give back and make an impact. The other thing I really appreciated was she talked about the value of the membership and, you know, I think that that's one thing that, that AFCPE really uniquely provides is not only this high level of training and ongoing continuing education, but really the network is the, is the powerful part of AFC PE right? Bringing together all these people from across the field who are really rooted in this passion. And so I just want to remind people about that value because, you know, as we're going into the next year, this is something that I think as we build out, even more member benefits can be something really useful as you are exploring your career development and enhancement. So I just encourage people to, if you haven't already renewed your membership and really get involved in the network , we have, you know, the new message board and some really unique new benefits coming down the pike as well. And, and all of that is to help you expand your business and help you connect with other people and really grow as a professional. So I, I just love talking with Meredith and I'm excited about next year. And as she talked about some of the unique possibilities for building out the internship opportunities and really enhancing our career development piece of what we do,

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Yeah. You can easily listen to Meredith and hear how passionate about the profession she is. And honestly, how well-spoken she is. She makes a wonderful role model and spokesperson for military spouses and military families all over. One of the things that I really liked about her is how she really showed us how she came up through the ranks and kind of found herself in a unique situation overseas and just had to make something of it and saying, this is important to me. And, and she really has been an example in that way, but I was also helping many other , um, military spouses. I think that's one of the things I appreciate the most about AFC PE is that there is so much opportunity for those who want to help military military spouses, as well as so many other professions, but there's a special emphasis in a special collaboration, especially among military spouses, that they are able connect, that they are able to have comradery , even when they're literally a world apart and that they still feel that they have friends and connections and professionals that help them through not only their careers, but the other things they face in life. And that's something I really respect, not just about the community, but about specifically about the AFC, a military spouse community. And I think Meredith is a good example of what that looks like and really how they help each other.

Outro:

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