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A soldier's guide to getting out of debt

A financial planner tells how his military experience relates to debt management.

By May 21, 2014 12:09PM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site on MSN MoneyThey were the words no soldier in the field wants to hear: "We’re in trouble here."

Military Man © Stockbyte/SuperStockComing from the mouth of an experienced Navy SEAL, while backed into a dead-end alley in the middle of the night in Baghdad Iraq, they were especially ominous. Jeff Rose heard those words when his platoon became turned around during a mission and wound up in a dangerous position.

While nothing bad happened, "this experience impressed on me the importance of knowing where you’re going. I never wanted to feel that way again," he writes in his book, "Soldier of Finance."

Rose served nine years in the Army National Guard, including a 17-month tour in Baghdad. Now a Certified Financial Planner, he often draws on his experiences in the military when helping his clients face difficult financial situations. Here are four things he says being a soldier taught him about getting out of debt.

You need a SIT report

“In the military, it’s all about intelligence -- it was constantly getting information back to us so we could make the best decision at hand,” he says. Soldiers use something called a SPOT Report -- a specific report that has to be filed within 5 minutes of observing enemy activity. It provides essential information that will be analyzed and used to determine the best course of action.

Similarly, if you have debt, Rose recommends completing a “Debt Situation Report” or SIT Report, detailing your every debt you owe. Your report should list:

  • S – Size of debt
  • I – Interest rate
  • T – Type of debt

“It’s a matter of knowing exactly what you are dealing with,” he explains. “Most people are just oblivious with what’s going on with your finances. “

In his book, he recounts a client who was preparing for retirement and claimed she didn’t have much consumer debt, but when she tallied it all, the total was more than $50,000. That’s why you have to write it all down: The numbers don’t lie.

You are your number

In the Army, Rose was known to his superiors primarily by his roster number. “We didn’t have a name,” he laughs. “We had a number.” Similarly, when it comes to your credit, “Your credit score is your roster number and your credit report is your financial identity,” he says. If you apply for a loan, he points out, lenders really don’t care what your name is, but they do care about your credit scores and the information in your credit reports.

Because your credit report and credit scores will significantly influence the interest rates you pay on your debt, knowing what is in your credit report and understanding whether your credit scores are strong will be essential in creating a plan for tackling your debt.  Here’s how to get your free credit reports and also how to get a free credit score -- and to learn whether yours is strong.

In Rose’s case, the first time he checked his credit report he found a major problem.  “My wife and I requested our credit scores and she was kicking my butt. I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ I found an unpaid gym membership (on my reports). We were able to get it off my credit reports and my scores went up almost immediately.”

You may have to crawl to get there

The Military Low Crawl is the way soldiers move from place to place when they are in the field without a lot of cover. It basically involves keeping your head and body as low as possible as you (very) slowly and painfully make your way to your destination. “It’s just miserable,” Rose says.

If you are trying to get out of debt or repair your credit, you may feel like you’re doing the low crawl, he says. “It feels like you are never going to get there,” he says, “But keep your head down, keep going, and eventually you (do).”

You need Battle Buddies, not Blue Falcons

Rose ran into his own problems with debt while in college. The National Guard paid his tuition and fees, and he had his part-time job along with his one-weekend-a-month military service to bring in extra money. But he took several department stores up on their offers for credit cards, and soon maxed out one and carried balances on others.

Then a friend explained how easy it would be to get student loans. Never mind that Rose didn’t need them; he filled out the application and soon had a check for $2,700 to spend on anything he wanted.

"Three semesters on, I suddenly had student loans of more than $10,000," he explains in his book. "By that time, my credit cards were up to $8,000. That’s a lot of debt with virtually nothing to show for it other than a lot of junk that I not only didn’t need, but wasn’t worth $18,000."

With the help of his "Battle Buddy" -- his future wife, he set about tackling his debt.

In the Army, Rose said, everyone was assigned a Battle Buddy and was required to learn everything they could about that person. “Your Battle Buddy was the person you knew you could absolutely lean on and confide in when you needed it most.”

A Blue Falcon, on the other hand, is someone who is not a good Battle Buddy.  “It is important that you be aware of Blue Falcons in your life,” writes Rose. “Choose a Blue Falcon as a Battle Buddy, and you are liable to get screwed.” They may be nice people and even well-intentioned, but they can also easily help distract you from your goals.

When choosing a Battle Buddy, Rose says, “It’s important to have someone who will give you encouragement but what’s most important in having the right type of Battle Buddy. It’s the kind of person who will call you out when you need it. They are not afraid to confront you when you’re making a big mistake.”

More from

May 26, 2014 3:26AM
The beginning of the article says he was a Navy Seal, but the rest of the article talks about how he was in the Army NG. These are two very different branches and being a Navy Seal is very different from just being in the Navy. If he was in the Army NG, the elite force would be an Army Ranger. NOT a Navy Seal.

Further more, this article is sponsored by a credit monitoring company. They did not really give any useful advice. Either the man is lying or the journalist is an idiot.

 As a veteran, it is insulting that his service is being pimped to sell some crappy credit service.

Now, you want real advice on how to get out of debt? 1. Stop using the credit you have. 2. Asses how much you owe. 3. Live off half your income until the debt is paid off. 4. Make money orders at the beginning of each pay check for bills so you don't spend your bill money and need a loan. 5. Pay cash and have a debt free life. You may not have a credit history, but who needs it when you don't use credit. 6. Don't get advice from MSN Commercials 
May 26, 2014 8:39AM
I thought it was saying he was a Navy SEAL at the beginning. So I looked him up. He was not a SEAL. Re-read the article
"Coming from the mouth of an experienced Navy SEAL, while backed into a dead-end alley in the middle of the night in Baghdad Iraq, they were especially ominous. Jeff Rose HEARD THOSE WORDS"
So he was not a SEAL. Still the mini title was "Shed debt like a SEAL" which is a lie 
May 26, 2014 6:14AM
Crap again, maybe Seal Team Six should raid you losers at MSN and toss you as over board.
May 21, 2014 3:23PM

It's been some time since I've read anything that hokey.

May 26, 2014 9:13AM
Another meaningless article that does nothing for the majority.... Hard to get out of debt if there is no income and the great kahuna sitting on the throne in DC is not helping the middle class or the V.A. nor the sick and goes on and on. Only change he has offered has been bad for the American people. The illegals in our country have it better than the citizens.     
May 26, 2014 3:40PM
the article should read. Shed debt like a politician sheds responsibility.
May 26, 2014 3:31PM
May 26, 2014 6:39PM
First of all, no soldier in the field is going to announce they are in trouble. Secondly, let's not confuse the Navy with the Army (although anyone who puts their life on the line for my freedom is a hero no matter what branch of service.) The article should have talked about how horribly we pay our service men and women (and I am not talking about the higher ranks) and how terribly our government seems to bail on them when they are entitled to benefits. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE "ENTITLED" NOT THE WELFARE TRASH MY TAXES PAY FOR.

May 26, 2014 3:49PM
I guess the author of this fairytale never heard of the soldiers sailors relief act   you can't believe any artice written by  it's all BS
May 26, 2014 12:14PM
Gee MSN: How many pounds of crap can you stuff into a 2 pound sack.
May 26, 2014 10:31AM

originally posted as a response:

@ john doe 2

No, the whole world doesn't hate us.  MOST of the world loves what America stood for just a few short years ago.  We have our down times where the world loses respect for us, like the Carter years, etc.  But we have always had a Reagan, a Bush, etc., who followed and restored us to being respected in the world.

I was in Afghanistan in the mid 80's, and Kuwait/Iraq in 90-91.  The common people loved us.  Not so much during the Carter years or the Clinton years, because we got soft and failed to do the right thing several times. Like not finishing Iraq for over a decade. I HATED that we had to go back into Iraq when G. W. Bush was president and finish a war that had been effectively won 12 years before. But with all the damage Clinton allowed in the interim between when I was there and when the next generation finally finished it....... we had no choice.  We FILMED the WMD's being transported to Syria during the build up to round two. And they are being used on Syrian civilians now. Because we didn't finish what Husain started in 1990/91.

If you don't understand, I can't explain it to you. But feel free to try to negotiate with madmen.  There are still enough men like me to go pick up what's left of you and deal with the madman when your way fails.   Like it always has.

Have a wonderful day and remember those who gave up everything as well as those who are crippled from their efforts to protect you and your rights.  But even if you don't understand or appreciate it, know this:  Those of us who take those risks to protect you, would still do it without your approval or thanks.  Because it is the right thing to do.  Hopefully one day you will understand.

May 26, 2014 4:52PM
We pay these guys nothing to sometimes risk their lives for the USA, then U.S. corporations turn around and do half their business with COMMUNIST China.  We have "free" trade with COMMUNIST China.

Vietnam - "stop the spread of communism".  Now they sew our clothes there and produce all types of good for low wages, while US Vets can't find jobs.

Communism - corporations love China, it's the "reality" of global blah blah blah.  They love the $1 per hour they work for, the hell with politics !  And more US Vets can't find jobs.


May 27, 2014 12:48AM
This article is a PERFECT EXAMPLE of why I don't believe a damn thing I read on MSN. Basically the only reason I even stop by here is for a good laugh at the foolish propaganda attempts I see here pertaining to politics. This article was good for a chuckle or 2.
May 26, 2014 8:31PM
I'm sorry, but what does being a Navy Seal have to do with managing debt anyway?

I can see where he's probably lying about Navy Seal to make it sound good, but are we supposed to think that Navy Seals are better at dealing with debt than other people?  Is there some financial training going on during Seal training?

Here's some automotive advice from your doctor.  Here's some tech advice from your librarian.  Here's some gardening advice from your plumber.  Sure, maybe they know something, but the profession/degree/ho​bby/ is irrelevant to the topic.

Maybe self defense like a Navy Seal.  Living off the land from an Army Ranger.  But Financial advice from a Seal?
May 26, 2014 12:36PM
May 27, 2014 12:18AM
MSN REWRITE THIS ARTICLE!! Trying to get viewers and people to read articles by putting Navy SEAL in the title is incorrect and Wrong. An Army National Guardsman cannot be a SEAL, If he's in the ARMY hes not a SEAL. A SEAL is not a soldier, they are SEALs.
May 26, 2014 11:23PM
Did anyone proof read this thing?  Rose is not a SEAL.  The article never says he was a SEAL.  Whoever put the headline on this should be fired for incompetence.  What the article does say is that Rose heard the words "We’re in trouble here." coming from the mouth of an experienced Navy SEAL.

May 26, 2014 9:18PM
The remark "We're in trouble" was said by the SEAL, not Rose (who heard it). The headline was written incorrectly.
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