Supporting a family while your spouse is in the military is not easy. Because military families typically move every two to three years, the spouses are constantly on the move, making it difficult to keep a steady job and pursue a career.
“You never know what will happen, you never knew when to move or where to go,” said Flossie Hall, a mother of four whose husband Michael is a US Navy chief petty officer.
“You get down psychologically and emotionally because you can’t chase your career goals, you can’t really hook up,” she added. “You are really losing your sense of identity.”
Military spouses often face higher unemployment rates than their civilian counterparts. In 2019, they had a 26% wage gap and an unemployment rate of 22%. An unemployment rate of up to 35% is expected this year.
Flossie Hall, a mother of four whose husband is Michael the Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, co-founded the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE) to help military spouses start and grow businesses.
Kelli Taylor | Purple tree photography
This is why Hall and many others turned to entrepreneurship. Of the more than 12 million military spouses in the United States, 48% are self-employed, business owners, or seek to become self-employed, according to the Military Chamber of Commerce for Spouses.
“You don’t have to get into traditional employment and quit your job every two to three years,” Hall said. “You can start your own business and choose your own salary and career path.”
She is a co-founder of the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE), which connects military spouse entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to succeed in starting and growing their business.
“When I started AMSE … there were a lot of great resources for veterans and seasoned entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs, but nothing specifically for military spouses,” she said.
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Marine veteran Melissa Green, mother of four and the wife of Landis Green, a retired Gunners Mate in the US Navy, is one of the nearly 2,000 entrepreneurs Hall has helped.
“At least for me, it was quite difficult to start a business because I didn’t know there were ways to start a business while my husband was in the military,” she said.
However, with the support of AMSE, she started her own coffee company Southern, Sweet & Sassy from her home earlier this year.
Navy veteran Melissa Green, a mother of four and the wife of Landis Green, a retired Gunners Mate in the US Navy, started her own coffee company from her home this year.
Certified financial planner Tara Falcone also pursued entrepreneurship after starting her career on Wall Street. With her husband John Falcone, Frequently deployed as an officer in the US Navy, she found more flexibility in entrepreneurship. She founded the financial technology company ReisUP and said she would advise other military spouses struggling with the military lifestyle to also consider starting their own business.
“I’ve never felt so determined and excited about the future,” she said.
Here are Falcone’s top tips for military spouses interested in starting their own business:
1. Create a legal person
Form an S Corporation, Single Member LLC, or C Corporation to ensure you can deduct certain expenses you have for your business. That can offset any revenue you bring in.
2. Use an accountant
If you are running your own business and generating income, you will most likely have to pay estimated quarterly taxes on your company’s projected income or profit for the year. To make sure you’re doing everything right, Falcone recommends working with an accountant.
3. Create and maintain an emergency fund
“Entrepreneurship can be very up and down,” said Falcone. “Depending on your industry and what’s going on in the market … it’s not always a steady, expected, and easy path.”
She advises making sure you have a rainy day fund for both your business and your family. That way, you can keep your business going even if you hit a bump and have low income.
4. Contribute to retirement
Even if your military spouse is contributing to their retirement plan, you should still be contributing to retirement on your behalf, Falcone said.
You can do this by funding an IRA, either a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. Even if you have not earned any income that year, your spouse can contribute to a spouse IRA on your behalf, contributing up to the maximum annual amount. Depending on the structure of your company, you can also create SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs or Solo 401 (k) s. According to Falcone, this offers additional tax advantages depending on the financial situation.
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