By Eric Dehm
We’ve all heard horror stories about people who leave the military and fall on hard times financially. So, it might surprise you to hear that– according to at least one financial expert– military experience can be extremely valuable in the world of finance and investment.
West Point graduate and former Army infantry officer Joe Sroka is the founder of NovaPoint Capital, an investment management firm based in Atlanta. With over 20 years in the business, he told ConnectingVets.com he sees some very clear links between veterans and successful investors.
“One is certainly discipline, discipline not only in sticking with your business plan you’d stick with your operational plan and seeing it through difficult times,” Sroka said. “Every day is not a great day in this business, so you need that discipline to see things through.”
Along with that discipline, Sroka said both vets and top investors have sharp intuition– a vital skill in his business.
“What we really are in the military is we are risk managers,” Sroka said. “The most important thing in the military is to make sure all of your soldiers are alive and healthy. Similarly, when you’re managing money or managing a business, the most important thing is to do no harm, to not do something catastrophic that will put you out of business.”
While veterans have some inherent advantages in the investment world, they also face some obstacles as well: most critically, a lack of financial education.
Sroka explained that while he received a great education at West Point, there was little to no focus on managing finances. When he got out, his idea of investing was essentially buying savings bonds– a safe, but slow and low-profit, enterprise. He eventually went back to school for business and earned an MBA from University of Chicago.
He encouraged his fellow vets to pursue an education, even if it isn’t a full-time program culminating in an MBA like he went through– and even if you think you’re too old to start investing.
“Certainly, time is on the side of younger people,” Sroka said. “As money grows over time, you’re much better off having money invested for 30 years than for 5 years before your retirement, but it is never too late.”
Currently, NovaCapital provides discounted services to veterans looking to start investing or expand their portfolios.
Looking for a job in finance? Sroka said he hopes to be hiring more veterans to join his team in the near future because, while veterans often make good investors, they tend to be amazing employees.