If your teen is considering entering the military after graduating from high school, you—like many parents in this situation—may be worried and wondering whether this is the best choice. With societal memories of the Vietnam draft only a few decades in the rearview mirror, the prospect of voluntarily joining the military when a nuclear conflict appears to be on the horizon can seem nearly foolhardy. However, a career in the military can offer more than international travel and pride at serving one's country. Read on for some unexpected benefits your teen may be able to realize by joining the U.S. armed forces.
Free or Low-Cost Healthcare
Military members and their families are covered by Tricare, the armed services' insurance provider. While some of the insurance policies that provide expansive benefits also charge high premiums (or have a deductible that can often constitute several months' pay), Tricare is designed to ensure that members of the military and their loved ones don't need to worry about high medical bills or the cost of seeking treatment.
This generous insurance policy can allow your child and his or her future dependents to seek treatment at any VA hospital or affiliated medical provider at any time. If your child suffers a medical emergency when a VA hospital isn't nearby, he or she may also be able to secure preferred in-network rates at other area hospitals.
Your child's coverage through Tricare should continue even after he or she has been honorably discharged from the military and is no longer serving in active duty. This can allow your child to pursue other employment paths, including freelancing, without worrying about how to pay for healthcare coverage in a time of ever-increasing medical costs.
College Benefits for Future Children
While many teens and early twentysomethings join the military as a way to pay for their own college, for others, the benefits stemming from the GI Bill can help put their children or other future dependents through college.
With college costs continuing to rise at a nearly exponential rate, the GI Bill benefit can be a valuable one even if your child has no interest in pursuing higher education for him- or herself. The GI bill can cover tuition, room and board, and other costs related to a college education for any of a military veteran or service member's dependents.
If your child has multiple children of his or her own, GI Bill benefits may be used to help any of these children through college. Your grandchildren may also be able to receive certain military-based scholarships and other financial aid available only to those who have served (and their immediate dependents).
A Paid-For Second Career
While anyone who is considering joining the military straight from high school or just a few years later likely doesn't have retirement on the brain, those who have spent 20 years or more in active service can qualify for a generous pension and retirement healthcare benefits—often before they turn 40.
This pension and healthcare coverage can provide the seed money your child may need to launch a second career, travel the globe, go back to school (apart from the GI Bill), or even start a business. By having a base level of income that can't be eliminated through job loss or disability, retired military members have a level of financial freedom rare for anyone who wasn't born with a trust fund.
If you're still a bit worried about your child's future in the military, this is perfectly natural. However, there are a number of benefits to military service, both personal and financial, that are unlikely to be found in just about any other industry. Keeping these advantages in mind may be enough to calm your nerves whenever you begin feeling a bit uneasy about your child's choice.