Brian “ALF” O’Neill, Fighter Pilot & CFP® on Survivor Benefit Program | Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 89

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Spencer Reese from and Jamie from the Military Money Manual Podcast sit down with Brian O'Neill from Winged Wealth Management and Financial Planning.

Brian is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, fiduciary, and fee only financial planner focusing on the military community and especially pilots. He runs the private Facebook group, Fighter Pilot Finance to help military pilots gain air superiority over their financial life.

If you want to reach out to Jamie or Spencer for a military financial question, DM or email

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode #89 Links

Outline of Episode:

  • About Brian O’Neill
  • Overview of Survivor Benefit Program
  • Who benefits from the program?
  • Timeframe to set up plan
  • Helpful resources
  • Open season
  • Brian’s experiencing deciding to opt in to the SBP
  • Additional information to know about SBP
  • Brian’s unfortunate experience with real estate

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode #89 Transcript

[00:00:00] Brian: It's not free. You got to pay for it out of your retired pay, and I can go into more details later, but that's the major contours of it is that it's a way to make sure that you're surviving, primarily spouse, but maybe kids are going to have some level of continuous income after you pass away.

[00:02:04] Spencer: Hello, podcast listeners. Welcome to another episode of the Military Money Manual podcast. I'm Spencer Reese, founder of, joined by my co host Jamie. 

Today on the podcast, we have Brian O'Neill from Winged Wealth joining us. Brian is a certified financial planner, and today we're talking about the Survivor Benefit Program, a benefit that military retirees can use to ensure that their surviving spouses have continuous income after they die 

A little bit about Brian. Brian was 23 years active duty, flew F-16s and F-35s in the operational test and also went to weapons school. He's from Kansas City and he's married with two daughters living outside of Eglin Air Force Base. He's always been interested in money, but had a come to Jesus moment with personal finance during the Great Recession.

When he made the brilliant move of selling his $360,000 house for $140,000. Ouch. After that, he decided to become a certified financial planner, CFP, to help military veteran families get fiduciary advice on their terms. 

Brian, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

[00:03:19] Brian: Yeah, appreciate it. Thanks for the opportunity to be here.

[00:03:22] Spencer: We wanted to bring in the podcast today to talk specifically about the Survivor Benefit Plan. Or you might hear it called the survivor benefit program. Do you mind giving us a brief overview of what that is? And I know i've heard of it before as a former military service member but not exactly clear on what all is involved in that

[00:03:42] Brian: Yeah, the big picture is that when you die if you were receiving military retired pay that goes away unless you have a survivor benefit plan in which case some amount of your retired pay Will continue for your surviving spouse and potentially children if they're young.

And so the idea is that it's not free. You got to pay for it out of your retired pay, and I can go into more details later. But the major contours of it is that it's a way to make sure that you're surviving primarily spouse, but maybe kids are going to have some level of continuous income after you pass away.

[00:04:19] Jamie: It seems a, an important decision to make for your family. Are most people just getting through the transition assistance program, the TAP class, and they'll be like, Hey, make sure you decide whether you want SPP or not. And that's the extent of the education the average person gets before retirement.

[00:04:34] Brian: Yeah I do think that the education on it is lacking. The TAP class is not a uniform experience no matter where you go. And a lot of folks are, heads down or head elsewhere during the TAP experience. And if you don't have a really compelling person. Tell them the story about the survivor benefit plan.

You might not choose to take it. The other really big reason why a lot of folks don't take it and why I didn't initially is that it's expensive. Depending on how much you choose, it is up to six and a half percent of your retired pay. It's a several hundred dollar a month expense and a lot of people will look at that and be like it's like an insurance policy and, if you've found the difference between, say, term life insurance and all other kinds of life insurance, then, several hundred dollars a month for life insurance sounds expensive.

And so that's the equation that a lot of people make. And it leads them down this path of thinking hey, I probably can find a cheaper way to do this. So if they're thinking about it at all, there's a good chance they're thinking, man, that's expensive. How can I do this cheaper?

[00:05:39] Jamie: Is SBP like a regular life insurance policy where you can choose a $50,000 amount of coverage or $100,000 or is it a set percentage of your retirement pay?

[00:05:50] Brian: Yeah, it's the latter. So the maximum you could choose is up to 55% of your retirement pay. And then you can step down from there. The thing is that given that it's, when you think about like 55% of retired pay for most people is going to feel like at most 25% of active duty pay to opt for anything less than that is maybe not going to have the kind of impact that you might want to have for your surviving spouse.

So most people would probably be best served by doing the 55% level for their spouse. We should talk about the child coverage here as well, but that's the major contours of what folks ought to do versus what they might do.

[00:06:32] Spencer: Okay. Yeah. So let's take it there for the child coverage. Is it up to a certain age?

Is it only your kids going to be step kids? How does that whole thing work?

[00:06:42] Brian: Yeah, they've got to be dependents and it's essentially up to age 18 plus if they're in college, then they'll get the coverage and they will split it. So let's say hypothetically that the amount of the payment was going to be $3,000.

And you've got two kids. They're each going to get $1,500. They're not going to each get $3,000. And that assumes that there's no spouse because the spouse would get it first. So the kid coverage is a goalie play that if the surviving spouse also died that the kids get something until they're grown and flown as adults.

One of the things though that is really important is families with special needs kids. So a few years back, the law changed to allow you to designate a special needs trust as the beneficiary of your survivor benefit plan payment for a special needs kid. And that's a really big one because you can imagine that if you've got a child who has some sort of condition where they're never going to be fully independent, then they've got this situation where they have to create a balance between how much income slash wealth the parents tried to create for them and being at a threshold where they won't qualify for government benefits. And so they might not get as much quality of life as the parents were hoping for.

One of the things parents can do is A, select survivor benefit plan with perhaps even child only coverage and then B, have the special needs trust be the beneficiary. And so you can imagine like that's a, there's a lot of in the weeds details. You're bringing in some sort of outside special needs attorney to set that kind of thing up.

That's not something you can do on the fly in the last couple of months as you're high five and out the door. It really does require a lot of lead planning, especially for those special needs  situations.

[00:08:23] Jamie: So when you talk about age 18, does that mean they get benefits up until age 18 or out of college?

Or that's when you have to make the decision if you have a child that's or dependent that's still under 18, then they're eligible to be enrolled as a beneficiary.

[00:08:37] Brian: So you'd make the decision when you retire and if your kids are young and you pass away and your surviving spouse passes away or you designate child only coverage, they would then start to get benefits till age 18 or 22 if they're in school.

One of the key things about the survivor benefit plan is you lose all control. After you retire with some minor carve outs for if you get married, but you can you were never married before things like that. And then of course, there's this whole open season thing, which is a rarity. But in general, it's pretty much you're locked in with golden handcuffs one way or the other at the end of your terminal leave.

[00:09:17] Spencer: So that's the timeframe there at the end of your terminal leave, you have to have elected whether to be in the Survivor Benefit Program or not. 

Are there any resources that you point people to or calculators or like how do you even be, it sounds like a pretty complicated problem and hopefully as the service member, you're never really, I don't know if this is something you want to have to deal with because you survived your spouse or if you don't want to have to deal with this because your spouse is surviving you.

[00:09:49] Brian: So there's a ton of great resources out there. Fortunately, as you guys know, there's a, there's a. a pretty vibrant crowd of military personal finance bloggers, all of whom have probably written something. So if you just googled “survivor benefit plan military” you'd find lots of good stuff.

The DFAS website is probably the go to for understanding what the benefits are. That's really where it's best articulated. And of course, you're going to get vectored to a lot of that stuff from the TAP class. They're going to tell you about it and tell you where you can learn on the air force side, the airman family and ready to center is going to have a counselor.

You actually have to go in and if you want to opt out, your spouse has to consent. And so your spouse has to sign away the benefit because the default actually, if you do nothing and you somehow slipped through the cracks, the default is supposed to be that you actually are in the program at the full amount as opposed to not getting it all and a lot of that is just really protecting a spouse that the military member might not have been tuning in for.

[00:10:55] Jamie: So you initially made the decision to opt out of it. Can you share a little bit about why you made that decision the first time and then maybe we can talk about the change of heart after?

[00:11:05] Brian: yeah, totally.

So another good resource on this topic. There's a book. I think it's titled Military in Transition’s Guide to the Survivor Benefit Plan by Forrest Baumhover and you can find it on Amazon for a few pesos. And Forrest did a really good job of building out some scenarios for who might want to take it and why you might want to potentially skip it and really does a good job and it's a short read.

It's 50 pages long. And one of the theses of that book would be that, hey, look, if you've already got a pretty good nest egg cook and you were pushing the throttles up on TSP and you've been maxing out IRAs, maybe even have some money in a taxable account, you're good at living inside your beans. So if you're retiring with a chunky six or seven figure net worth already.

And you're healthy enough to qualify for a solid amount of inexpensive term life insurance, then, let's say in my case, if the SPP payment was going to be about 500 bucks a month shoot, if I could spend 150 a month for term life insurance, then I've got 350 a month that I can now invest in whatever way makes the most sense.

And it's pretty easy to come up with a calculator that says, yes, do that. You are going to come out ahead mathematically. And that's really, that's what I did. And my wife and I had lots and lots of conversations about it. But at the end of the day, she deferred to me. She goes you're the one who gets this math stuff.

And if you say the math works, then yeah, I think we could enjoy an extra $350 a month. So let's do that. So that was what led me to the point of okay, I guess we'll skip this. And to be honest at that time I did not know that there was such a thing as an open season. So I really did expect this to be truly a one way door.

[00:12:47] Jamie: How often do these open seasons come around because it's a limited window and not expected. So it sounds like maybe you got a little bit of a rare situation to have the opportunity to change.

[00:12:56] Brian: Yeah. Historically, I believe this is the third one since the first time it was allowed and they've averaged once per decade.

Okay. And there's no compulsion for Congress to do it. And in all of the kind of bated breaths anticipation of end of year legislation that was going on at the end of 2022, I didn't hear a single person talk about, Oh, hey, get ready. There might be an open season. No one seemed to see it coming.

And then it was like this little Easter egg that popped up. So I certainly wouldn't want to tell anyone, Hey, yeah, just gamble on this because there might be another open season within the next 10 years. Oh, by the way, like you do have to pay back all the premiums you missed. So if you're paying back 10 years of premiums. I'm fortunate in that my payback is going to be basically three years of premiums, which is still a chunky number, but yeah, but affordable. 

The open season thing is really cool, but also the clock is ticking. I'm not sure when this podcast will air, but, given how fast government stuff goes, there's going to be lag time from the time that you put in your application to the time that you receive a quote back to the time that they actually implemented, I'm actually still waiting for them to finish my implementation because there's been a couple electronic snafus. So I would really caution anyone who's even thinking about it to at least hit the button to get their quote so that they could start the timeline.

Yeah, because if you wait till December, stand by disappointment.

[00:14:24] Jamie: So this window ends January 1 of 2024 is what I'm seeing online. So don't wait until December 31st to hit the button. This episode should be out August of 23 so we should have a couple months if anyone is in the situation where they have the option to switch over.

[00:14:40] Brian: Yeah, good. Yeah, if there's, if there is a doubt, then there is no doubt just apply for it because there, there's no commitment for just asking for a quote to get. You don't lock anything in. Yeah. It's also worth noting if you're in SBP and you want out you also can get out during this period.

And so there's a lot of people who that's a good fit for, they've become self insured, their spouse passed away and they're older. No one really relies on them for income, that kind of thing.

[00:15:10] Jamie: No refund. Check on that opt out. 

[00:15:12] Brian: No refund check. Yeah, does not happen. Doesn't work that way.

[00:15:17] Spencer: Brian. This is paid out of your military pension, so it's federally taxable income.

[00:15:24] Brian: Yeah, great point. So the premium, when you pay that six and a half percent, that is tax free. It's pre-tax, but that's a bummer because you know you're skipping tax on a couple hundred bucks a month and then when your spouse gets the benefit it is taxable. So it's a drag. 

[00:15:42] Spencer: A tax drag, if you will.

When you sit down with clients and you're thinking about this problem, is it mostly an emotional, psychological problem of, Hey, if I pass away, I want my spouse to have reliable monthly income, or is it mostly a math problem of, Hey, look, you can buy the term insurance. You can invest the difference and you'll be hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead and your spouse can draw down that money and you can show them like look, you'll be far better off not taking the SBP but I know for myself, there's a huge difference between assets that are saved and invested and just another stream of income.

[00:16:27] Brian: Yeah.

And this is really the crux of it. So one of the challenges, and I think one of the reasons why people turn it down is that, when you're in that cone of confusion, as you transition out of the air, as a military, you're in like a financial defensive crouch because you may think, Hey, it's probably going to be fine.

I'm going to have this retirement check plus my next employer's check. And I know I'm going to make more money, there's some concern that you're leaving the nest and. Yeah. Will it all really turn out okay? And so most people try to throw overboard anything that looks like an excess expense.

And so that's one more reason why people are allergic to that premium. So they're trying to math optimize both for current cash flow and then, that gets you to the whole, “Hey, life insurance might be cheaper” thing. And then you do some math and say “Shoot, if I die in a couple of years and mama gets a payout of 1.5 or 2 million, she doesn't have to invest it all that aggressively for it to throw off more money than SBP would.” 

And so again, it's really not that hard to have a calculator that will say that. And so then you get to some of the more squishy questions. And I think the important thing to take away from this is something I wrote about in my article. And that is it's very difficult for us as humans to treat our future self as anything other than a stranger. It's the reason why we skip the gym. It's the reason why we have a few extra drinks or we just, we house the whole pizza because that future self, they can sort it out.

They can get a few extra hours in the gym or whatever. They can suck up their vacation budget down the road, so I could do a little bit more now. And that's just our natural tendency. And, as part of the difficulty of deferring gratification and that's fine and good when it's just you, but treating your widowed spouse, their future self as a stranger is an icky, irresponsible thing to do.

And yet that's what we do when we say, “Hey, look, good luck. Here's a one time lump sum. Make sure you invest it wisely and don't get scammed or stolen from or anything like that and have fun with that. And I'm sure you'll be fine.” And that rolls in a couple other really key points. And one of which is that there's a lot of research and certainly my own personal experience working with a lot of widows backs this up.

But there's a lot of research that says, We as people spend very comfortably and stress free from reliable monthly income. And most of us probably remember that from our Air Force days, check a month club shows up, no big deal, spend it. When it's time to start invading the nest egg, like that's stressful for a lot of people.

And it can be very stressful for widows and probably some widowers too. And then, oh, by the way if that, if the surviving spouse is not the one that was always the really financially savvy one, that's a lot of load for them to feel like, shoot, I got one chance to make it right with this big insurance payment.

I guess the best go is don't spend it and wait for tomorrow because I have to spend it then. And so now they're having this sort of degraded quality of life because they're only spending what's reliable, which is probably social security only. And they're living beans and rice when, man, then it might be better if they had both.

A good nest egg and some more reliable income. And so that's where you get into the situation of yeah your spouse now might say they're comfortable investing a multimillion dollar payout and figuring out a way, but your spouse 30 or 40 years from now, might be a different person.

And. And if you look at the seniors around us, most of them are not saying, Oh, yeah, so I'm 80 years old and I rip out the Wall Street Journal every day and I'm trading ETFs and, I'm doing this arbitrage, they're moving some options around and really enjoying all this time I'm spending making sure that my money's optimized like that is not what they're doing.

Yeah, so it's probably not what we're going to be doing either.

[00:20:23] Spencer: Yeah, I look at the example of my father who is transitioning from working to more retired mindset and he's been a saver his entire life. He's worked hard. He's got a nest egg. And now making that transition from saving and watching that number go up and up to starting to spend it is difficult.

It's really psychologically hard, and I think I'll probably be in a very similar place because it's easy when the net worth number goes up every month and you have income coming in. But when you need to turn around and start spending some of that down, even the 4% rule, that's, could be tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A year that you're watching your net worth drop and okay, running all the scenarios, it's going to be fine, but psychologically it's hard to see that number start to go down. And especially in a year where, like last year in 2022, where the market was down 20%. So making that psychological switch from saving to spending is extremely difficult.

And if you provide your loved one with an inflation protected pension that you know is going to be paid out, I think, and especially if it moves the needle, right? Like I think what you were saying where that 55% number is probably the right move because anything less than that. They might not even notice it in their monthly budget.

[00:21:47] Brian: Yeah, I think these days, given inflation, it generally equates to it probably pays about a mortgage payment and maybe some of the food or utilities. And so having that is like security in perpetuity is certainly a good deal. And then, it doesn't happen that often, but there are certainly folks who have unscrupulous relatives or other people in their world that will scam them out of some of their money.

And so if they have a big pile that can be scammed, whereas it's, it is awfully difficult to divert an entire check from the government. And even if someone was finding a way to do that, like you could re-vector that to a new checking account and hubcap the scammer, if you will.

[00:22:28] Jamie: So with all those tactics of deciding and all the tools that are out there, the books you mentioned, what brought you guys to the point where you ended up changing your mind and opting into the SPP during this year's open season?

[00:22:40] Brian: Yeah, great question. Thanks. So I have a fairly new business owner, retired in 2020. And so I've been at it for a couple years here. And as a solo entrepreneur, as the only employee in my business, the reality is I own a job more than I own a business. And so if I were to pass away, there's not like some big payout that my wife could sell the company for.

So then last fall, I was at a conference. I'm like, it's going to be a while before I'm ready to either take on a partner or grow this business to something that survives me. In the meantime, I wonder how much I'd have to pay for some additional life insurance to be a proxy for selling the business.

So at the later part of 22, I applied for an extra million bucks of term life, and it was still pretty cheap. I did it for 15 years, and that gets me to about 65, and I was like, okay, cool. So now I finished that year, and I've got two and a half million in term, and, things are hunky dory. And then, like I said, first couple days of January, people are parsing the CirCure 2.0 bill, and we realize, oh my gosh, there's this open season thing in here. And I'm like, oh man. If it's there, I have to think about it. So of course, I have fancy financial planning software and I'm jamming away on that. And again I've worked with widows and I've seen that act and I'm like, man, I, my wife is definitely not the one that wants to be sitting there moving pesos around or following the dot.

So I thought, okay yeah. If I apply to get back in, I can guess what the premium will be, and I know what the premium will be going forward. What if I do this again? What if I add even more term life insurance just to put myself at a place that I would say is an unimpeachable amount of life insurance?

Surely there's no way she could outspend this. And then let's compare that. And as I do the math, I'm like, yeah, okay, the three and a half million of term life insurance is not that expensive. It's pretty cheap. And frankly, though, too, so is the SBP premium, like paying to get back in. There's going to be a one time fee that's going to hurt a little bit.

But the monthly premium is, it's closer to budget dust than not, especially now that I'm three years on the other side of retirement. I realized that I'm not going to fall out of the sky. There's plenty of air flowing over the wings. And so as far as given what I do, it would be irresponsible not to try to set my wife up as well as I think some of my clients would like to be set up.

And then she and I were having good conversations about it and she was like, still okay, you do the math. What did the math say? And the thing that really dislodged it was she's been helping me out a little bit in the business and she was, so she sat in on a meeting as I was talking to a prospect and I was explaining my riff on this.

And after that she goes “I hadn't looked at it that way before. I think I actually would feel a little bit better” and I was like, bam, and I applied for it then and that was that like, and so yeah, it was good. Like it got rid of the head trash right there.

[00:25:32] Jamie: But you weren't worried about regret over the last three years.

You weren't losing sleep over the SBP really only because this opportunity presented itself. Is that?

[00:25:40] Brian: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, there was no other future to consider. And then all of a sudden there was an alternate future to consider. So I had to.

[00:25:48] Spencer: So Brian, what I'm hearing you say is you're a different person at different phases of your life.

So the person that you were when you're approaching retirement could be a completely different person from the person that you are now that you have this open window, this open season. 

And so I think for a lot of people out there that it's okay to make a choice with the information that you have at the time when you're approaching retirement and realize 10 or 20 years later, you know what? If I could do that again, I would make a different choice, but it's hard to think about a 70 year old or an 80 year old spouse or an 80 year old version of yourself even, hopefully 40 or 30 years in the future. When you're just presently a someone in their forties or fifties who's about to retire from the military after a long and illustrious career.

So I think you can run all the calculators and you can do all the math and you can think about all the emotions and you can think about your future self and you can think about, okay, do I want this, big lump sum or do I want. The steady paycheck and at the end of the day, you're going to make a decision with the information that you have and you're going to live with it.

And sometimes you get to change your mind when there's a open season, but it's okay. It's, if you're the kind of person who's thinking through these decision points and if you're the kind of person who reaches out to a certified financial planner and has the conversation like, Hey, this is what I'm thinking, let's run the numbers and let's think about the psychological and emotional side of this.

Then whatever decision you come up with, it's going to be the right decision for you at that moment.

[00:27:28] Brian: Yeah, but it is that moment. And therefore you have to face, okay, am I making the the aggressive long run call or the conservative long run call? And then for some folks they're looking at, oh, shoot, I've got this survivor benefit plan.

There's other complications that come in. To this, if you're someone that is on the edge of a divorce, you might get told you have to do survivor benefit plan. You might end up having to fund survivor benefit plan for an ex spouse. There's certainly some nuances there. Two other things I guess I wanted to bring up as well.

One is the program does have a free look for two years. I say free look in that I mentioned that it's a one way door. If you opt in, you actually are locked in for two years. But between your second and third year, you can opt back out. And so that's my default thing to try to encourage folks to do is, Hey, look, yeah, you're going to spend a chunky four, maybe small five figure number over the course of two years.

To have the option to back away between year two and year three. But if you don't opt in like you, you really can't count on ever having a chance to get back in. So I think that's a good one to know is that, yeah, it is an expensive couple years worth of insurance for your future self. But you're also going to get to now have two years of test driving retirement and seeing, okay did we survive financially?

Was this couple hundred bucks that big of a deal? So that's one concept. And I think I know once you go back to that whole future self thing, Dave Ramsey always makes the joke that because our parents didn't talk about sex or money, we didn't think they had either. But the fact that we're here and alive and fed and clothed means they had a little bit of both.

I'm shocked at how few families have financial discussions with their parents or grandparents. And a lot of times it is the older generation that drives that, like people are private about those things. It creates a situation where it's hard to ask hey, grandma, grandpa, or hey, dad, mom what is going to be your income in retirement?

And if they're living high on the hog, they might be willing to tell you or they might just say, Hey, you don't need to worry about it, but it could be that they're concerned and then they're embarrassed about it and they, I've yet to talk to anyone who's I really want to be a burden to my kids.

Everyone's says don't want to be a burden to my kids. And so that thinking is going to lead them to a place of I don't even want to tell my kids that I might become a burden to them because I really don't actually have enough money coming in to take care of my needs.

But in a perfect world if you had good financial transparency in families Then maybe you could have some of those discussions with those older generations to understand what it's like for them so that you could know, all right, there's a decent chance I'm going to end up the same way. I don't think any of us is going to not have similar amounts of both physical atrophy and cognitive decline that current generations do.

And maybe one more way to try to look into how could this play out to help make the decision.

[00:30:24] Jamie: Brian, you mentioned divorce in there, just, I know this is a complicated question, but what would happen if a military retiree who opted into the SBP then files for a divorce, is that you have to do like a lump sum payment or you’re still allowed to carry the benefit?

[00:30:39] Brian: Usually I say usually, it's going to be every divorce is unique, but it's not uncommon for a requirement of the divorce decree to be that, If there was survivor benefit plan at retirement on the spouse, that it stays on that spouse, even though that spouse is now divorced. But that is the type of thing where I haven't looked at this detail in a long time.

I'm fairly certain that can be changed if a court order changes it then DFAS would allow you to switch it to a new spouse. And this program, again, like it's got more details than I think we could probably cover in three podcasts, but some other things are like if a surviving spouse is receiving it and then remarries before, I believe it's age 57, then it goes away. But if the surviving spouse remarries after 57, then said spouse can go ahead and keep it. Weird incentive structure. 

I actually worked with someone who was very specifically holding off on getting married for a couple of years because of that.

Unfortunately, it meant that both she and her would be fiancé were paying tax at the single rates, which they might have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. But another thing about this too is the payments don't last forever. So it's, you pay for 30 years or till you die.

So if you retired at 42, you'd be done with your payments at 72. And then if you live another 13 to 20 years or so, at least that time you've got coverage, but you're not making payments

[00:32:02] Jamie: But the benefit payout lasts for correct the rest of the surviving spouse's life.

[00:32:08] Brian: Yeah. Other good things to know about it.

The child only coverage is super cheap. So if it's like a dual military family and say it's two O-5s or two O-6s retiring or something and the surviving spouse has his or her own pension anyway and they're like, I don't really necessarily need this. In those cases, you ought to at least take the child only coverage because it really is just like that.

Like it's, under $20 a month. I think it's tiny, and so why not? That's pretty much a freebie so that the kids would at least get something until they're grown and flown.

[00:34:19] Jamie: Brian, before we stop recording, I want to close with a couple more things and this one was funny, sad in a way, funny to laugh at you. I'm sorry, but you mentioned that you had a come to Jesus with your personal finance life when you sold a house at a big loss.

Can you share a little bit about that experience and how that changed your perspective with money?

[00:34:37] Brian: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of people spend a lot of time laughing at me. So you're in good company. 

So my second assignment, I was going into Eglin Air Force Base and it was 2003. And so we did a zero down VA loan on a house, bought the house for $190ish or so.

And because of the run up in prices in that period, we sold it for $360,000 or $370,000. We basically doubled the price of the house on zero down. So I walked away from that with, probably $160,000. And I'm just thinking I'm clearly a financial genius. Look at how much money I just made.

And so then ended. And we walked right out to Las Vegas in 2006. And I really probably should have just put it all on black. I think it would have worked better, but we bought a house for about $360,000. And then, the cascade of all the financial, just apocalypse that occurred back then occurred.

And so we bought in 2006 for $360,000. In 2007, like no houses were moving, but there weren't that many short sales or foreclosures. In 2008 you saw this cascade where houses were losing 10 to 15, maybe $20,000 a month of value as the dominoes of short sales and foreclosures in the same neighborhoods fell.

And then the stimulus bill in 2009 passed and they expanded the HAP program. And so the long story short is when we left that assignment, we sold the house at what the current market rate was, which was $140,000. So I cleverly turned $360,000 into $140,000. I actually lost about $30,000 because of the way that the HAP program worked.

But that was like a glove save at the last minute. So I didn't expect that to work out. So for about a year, I'm looking over the abyss and I'm like shoot, the only way this works is like, no one thought there'd be a fast rebound. And there wasn't in terms of housing values out there.

So I could either. Basically pay someone, a thousand bucks on top of my mortgage to live in that house in perpetuity and in history. It looks like it would have taken the 10 to 12 years I thought. Or I can cash in everything. My family has IRAs, TSP, 529s. And come to the closing table and get away at basically a zero net worth after having, saved and invested for 12 years.

And so that just felt ruinous. I really felt like I had just screwed my family by walking into that trap. The reality is I got a glove save at the end, but I spent so much time starting to go to school on all things personal finance as trying to understand how did I get my family here? How would I avoid this in the future if I do have to rebuild from zero?

And that started a journey. I got really into Dave Ramsey, taught his classes, really enjoyed the opportunity as a commander a couple times to try to help my troops as much as possible, be just very kind of personal finance forward and such. Then eventually decided to become a certified financial planner as the natural course of maybe just making sure that I paid my penance for a pretty bad move.

[00:37:45] Spencer: Like Batman, it's a fantastic origin story.

[00:37:48] Brian: Yeah, so he's a lot cooler. But I do appreciate the nod, yeah. I'll have to come up with something there. I'm financial Batman.

[00:37:59] Jamie: Brian, thank you so much for coming with us today. Before we close, I just want to ask where people can find you. What are you working on right now?

Any other areas you want to point people to learn more about what you're doing in your work?

[00:38:10] Brian: Yeah, so I operate a firm. It's a fee only financial planning firm. I focus on military and veteran families. It's called Winged Wealth Management and Financial Planning. Easier to say than or easier to spell than it is to say for some folks, including myself.

I do like to write. So I put some content out via my website, And then I have a Facebook group called Fighter Pilot Finance, and it's a private group. But if you're interested we'll get you in there. And then I actually generally put a lot of the same content out on LinkedIn and on my firm site.

The fighter pilot finance group is a good place where there's a lot of good Q and A. And it's a nice circle of trust for people that want to ask questions of folks that are on a similar journey. The other one thing I'll put a plug out there for is I'm part of a group called the Military Financial Advisor Association, MFAA.

It's an organization of also fee only fiduciary financial planners that are really trying to get away from some of the insurance and product sales based companies that tend to offer products slash prey on military families. And so MFAA, if someone does need financial advice, has a lot of great advisors in it that have various service models to try to be able to be affordable to service members of different ranks.

And it's just a great organization that does a lot of outreach and community building to make sure that there's good military personal financial expertise out there.

[00:39:33] Jamie: Awesome. Great resource and a lot of great people on that team as well. Thank you so much for coming on today and we look forward to having you on again next time.

I know you have a lot of knowledge and expertise and we'd love to pull back on that more and share that with our listeners.

[00:39:46] Brian: Awesome. Thanks. Appreciate the opportunity guys.

[00:39:48] Spencer: That was another great episode with Brian O'Neill from Winged Wealth. You can check out his website,

Also find him on LinkedIn, Brian O'Neill with Winged Wealth, or he's also got a Facebook group as well. And just say that you heard about him on the podcast and you should be able to get into that private Facebook group. If you enjoyed the podcast, leave us a five star review on Apple or Spotify. And we'll catch you on the next episode of the Military Money Manual podcast.

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