For most of her adult life, Cynthia Hines served in the U.S. Army. Discharged last February, she’s moving from the military to the civilian world — sort of. “I’ve kept a weekend commitment to the Army National Guard of Illinois,” she says, “and my full-time job is with the Army as a civilian employee.”
Hines, 31, served eight years in the Army, rising to the rank of sergeant or E-5 (recruits are E-1s). “I was a paralegal in the JAG [Judge Advocate General] Corps,” she says. “I’ll still do that type of work for the National Guard, helping guardsmen with their wills and related matters, but that’s not what I want to do as a career.”
Instead, Hines wants to help children. “I discovered that the Army has a drug prevention program,” she says, “so that’s the job I applied for.” She received an offer to work in the Army’s Chicago office, accepted the position, and moved from her parent’s home in Milwaukee.
In Chicago, Hines’ first order of business was to buy a home. “I’d like to live in the city itself,” she says, “so I can take advantage of all that Chicago has to offer. I’m buying a small condo for $84,900.”
Hines’ service in the military provides ongoing benefits such as a housing allowance of $1,005 per month and food stipend of $250 a month. She qualifies for a Department of Veterans Affairs (previously the Veterans Administration) loan that covers the entire purchase price. Indeed, all the related fees and closing costs can be rolled into the loan and paid off over time. “The total carrying cost is estimated at about $540 per month,” she says, “which is 20% of the $2,700 per month I’ll receive from the Army and the National Guard.”
Besides buying and furnishing a home, Hines’ immediate financial goals include eliminating nearly $5,000 in credit card debt. “Most of that debt was incurred buying computers,” she says. “But the APR [annual percentage rate] is nearly 15%, which is extremely expensive, so I’d like to pay it down.”
Looking beyond her immediate objectives, Hines is working on her bachelor’s degree in business communication. She participates in an online course of study sponsored by the University of Maryland and expects to graduate in 2003.
And after that? “My passion is drama,” Hines says. “In Milwaukee, I had been involved in some amateur productions. I’d like to be able to study drama and perhaps work in that field while still making ends meet.”
To help Hines reach such goals and enjoy a smooth transition into civilian life, BLACK ENTERPRISE turned to Pierre Dunagan, a financial planner at The Dunagan Group in Chicago. “I think Cynthia has done very well financially, considering the income she had as enlisted military personnel,” he says. “If anything, she should save less and spend more on things she’ll enjoy.”
BUY THE CONDO
“The VA loan she’s been offered appears to be a very good deal,” Dunagan says. “It’s a conforming loan, which means she’ll pay a market interest rate.” Often,