Army spouses remedy unemployment problem with small enterprise

Supporting a family while your spouse is active duty in the military isn’t easy. Since military families typically relocate every two to three years, spouses find themselves constantly on the move, which makes it difficult to hold a steady job and pursue a career.

“You never know what’s going to happen, you didn’t know when you’re going to have to move or where you’re going to have to go,” said Flossie Hall, a mother of four whose husband, Michael, is a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy.

“You get beaten down psychologically and emotionally, because you don’t get to chase your career goals, you don’t get to really plug in,” she added. “You really lose your sense of identity.”

Military spouses often face greater unemployment than their civilian counterparts. In 2019, they had a 26% wage gap and 22% unemployment rate. This year, unemployment is expected to be as high as 35%.

Flossie Hall, a mother of four whose husband, Michael, is a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE), to help military spouse entrepreneurs launch and grow businesses.

Kelli Taylor | Purple Tree Photography

That’s why Hall and many others have turned to entrepreneurship. Out of the more than 12 million military spouses in the U.S., 48% are self-employed, business owners, or aspire to be, according to the Military Spouse Chamber of Commerce.

“You don’t have to go through traditional employment and quit your job every two to three years,” Hall said. “You can start your own business and dictate your own pay and dictate your own career path.”

She co-founded the Association of Military Spouse Entrepreneurs (AMSE), which connects military spouse entrepreneurs with the tools and resources to become successful in launching and growing their businesses.

“When I started AMSE … there was lots of great resources for veterans, and veteran entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs, but nothing specifically for military spouse entrepreneurs,” she said.

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Navy veteran Melissa Green, a mother of four and the wife of Landis Green, a retired Gunners Mate in the U.S. Navy, is one of the nearly 2,000 entrepreneurs Hall has helped.

“It was pretty difficult to start a business, at least for me, because I didn’t know that there were ways to start a business while my husband was in the military,” she said.

However, with AMSE’s support, she launched her own coffee company, Southern, Sweet & Sassy, out of 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 U.S. Navy, launched her own coffee company out of her home this year.

Melissa Green

Certified financial planner Tara Falcone also pursued entrepreneurship after beginning her career on Wall Street. With her husband, John Falcone, frequently re-stationed as an officer in the U.S. Navy, she found more flexibility in entrepreneurship. She started the financial technology company, ReisUP, and said she would advise other military spouses struggling with the military lifestyle also consider starting up their own businesses.

“I’ve never felt more purpose driven, and more excited about what the future holds,” she said.

Here are Falcone’s top tips for military spouses interested in starting their own businesses:

 1. Create a legal entity

Form an S corporation, single member LLC, or a C corporation to make sure you are able to deduct specific expenses you have for your business. That can offset any income you’re bringing in.

 2. Use an accountant

If you’re running your own business and you’re generating income, you will most likely have to pay estimated quarterly taxes on the projected income of your business or the projected profit of your business for the year. To make sure you are doing everything properly, Falcone suggests working with an accountant.

 3. Create and maintain an emergency fund

“Entrepreneurship can be very up and down,” Falcone said. “Depending on your industry and what’s going on in the market … it’s not always a very kind of steady, expected, easy path.”

She advises ensuring you have a rainy day fund for both your business and your family. That way if you hit a bump in the road and have low revenue, you’re still able to continue operating.

 4. Contribute to retirement

Even if your spouse in the military is contributing to his or her retirement plan, you should still be contributing to retirement on your behalf as well, Falcone said.

You can do that by funding an IRA, either a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA. Even if you haven’t earned income in that year, your spouse can contribute to a spousal IRA on your behalf and contribute up to the annual maximum. You can also create SIMPLE IRAs, SEP IRAs, or solo 401(k)s depending on the structure of your business. That will offer additional tax benefits depending on your financial situation, according to Falcone.

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