May is Military Appreciation Month and a vital part to the success and support of active military members are their partners, spouses, and family back home. Military spouses play an incredibly important role in the military community and one of those individuals is Lauren C., a Senior Associate Private Client Advisor at Schwab, who supported her husband and family while he was in the Navy. Lauren details what it was like to meet her husband, their time apart while he was away, and some common misconceptions about what it means to be a military spouse.
Tell us about your background. Where did you meet your husband?
Lauren: I am originally from Pendleton, Indiana, which is northeast of Indianapolis and I met my husband there as well. We met at a golf course because we were both avid golfers. We met there and then he moved away and was in South Carolina for a little bit. We got married and we moved to Saratoga Springs, New York and we were up there for about two years. Then after that, he was on sea duty in Norfolk, Virginia. Then actually, just last June, we moved back to Pendleton, which is where my family is and we bought a house in the same neighborhood that my parents are. As with a lot of the military, he moved more than I did because I didn't move until we got married, but I think he did four moves in eight years.
How long did your husband serve in the military and what was his role?
Lauren: His contract was up in December. We have three kids under four years old and the military life and moving and all of that was not necessarily conducive to kids, especially since you really want to be around and be there with them before they could know that he was gone, you know? So he did his eight years in the military and was a “Navy Nuke” as they call him. He was a nuclear engineer on submarines on the U.S.S. Washington. There are not very many of them as there is about two years of schooling and training before they even get to do their job.
How long was your husband active duty for and what was that experience like for you?
Lauren: We met three weeks before he went to boot camp, so I did not know that he was going to boot camp until the week before. I was with him the whole time that he was in the Navy and the hard part about our journey and the submarine is that there is very little communication. It’s very sporadic and you can only email each other, so we had to number them because they would all come in different order. We didn't know when that was going to happen, so it was kind of hard to disseminate information to each other.
I had to take on a lot of responsibilities. All the bills were in my name, I had to pay everything, make sure the house was together, and because he had no access to internet, that part was challenging. Then we threw kids into the mix in 2018 and he'd already been in the Navy for around three years at that point and he got his sea duty shortly after, which is when he actually started going out on his submarine, which is called a fast attack sub. That’s one of the ones that go out and they stay out – they don't really port.
Thankfully, we had a good community around us. When we were needing childcare, we had people that would take care of us even if we didn't have family around. We did have a very helpful older lady who was our first nanny and that taught me a lot because I was there without my mom and without my spouse. All of that was tough. Thankfully, during this time, we only went through one deployment, which was not horrible, but definitely not something that I would want to experience again. I think just taking on all of the responsibility, making sure that everything was taken care of, that everything was paid, while just knowing he had to have a lot of trust in me that I was going to take care of all that stuff for him.
Are there any stereotypes of military spouses or common misconceptions about what the experience of a military spouse is like?
Lauren: I think that one misconception is people marry someone in the military because they know their health care is taken care of including their paycheck, which is guarenteed and that you basically just have kids and kind of hang out. I saw that a lot, but there's also a lot of people who have their own careers.
I think a lot of the misconceptions come with the guys who are much younger who join the military at 18. My husband was 23 when he joined, so he kind of knew a little bit more about what he wanted to do and that he wanted to get school paid for and that was his “why” while other guys go in just because they know things like money, health care, and all that good stuff are guaranteed.
Those are the common misconceptions that I know of. I always had a career in finance since my major was finance in college with a minor in economics. I was always interested in that and was always looking to further my career, even though I kind of had to start over at every place that we went.
How do military spouses fit into the broader military community? Why is their role so important?
Lauren: I know of a single guy that was a part of my husband's sub and he actually lost his house while they were on deployment because nobody was watching anything for him. His house ended up getting foreclosed because he thought he set up automatic payments and he did not, so that kind of spiraled from there because his deployment was for seven months and it was a lot of time for them not to be able to get in contact with him.
So just in that role and in regards to their mental health, being able to provide support to them and take care of things at home like raising their kids, being with their families, those kinds of things. I think if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't know what I would do without another person at home or without a spouse or at least a boyfriend or girlfriend. I think it’s really important with their mental health to just continue to remind them of what they're doing and why and understand that. It's important and they're protecting everybody like they signed up for and just remind them, it's not for nothing.
Transitioning to your background, what attracted you to work at Schwab and what do you in your current role?
Lauren: I graduated in 2015 and from there worked for a company on a trading desk, got my Series 7 and 66, and kind of got introduced into the brokerage world. I wouldn't say fell in love with it, but was very, very interested and wanted to continue growing. Unfortunately, we had to move. So at that point, I kind of transitioned more into life insurance sales and I did well there, but it wasn't an extreme passion. I did that for a little bit and then moved on to another company.
I worked for BB&T’s investment side. I was basically a Client Service Associate for three years and I worked with two financial advisors, just helping them with paperwork, trading, whatever was needed from them, and their clients. Then, what really brought us back to Pendleton and to family, was that our youngest son, who is eight months old, has a congenital heart defect, so he needed to be around a children’s hospital in the area and I found out about his diagnosis on May 5. Whatever that next Monday was, a Schwab recruiter reached out to me and said that there was a position available and at the time, we were kind of transitioning, trying to get home from Virginia and move all of our hospital care and maternity care up to Indianapolis.
Everything just kind of aligned – it was just very, very strange and they were very receptive and worked well with me because obviously I was going to have a baby soon and they were totally fine with me starting later and wished me good luck with everything I had going on. I secured my position I believe mid May last year and that was like a weight off of our shoulders as we were dealing with moving our son and everything else that went along with it. It was just like divine intervention.
What advice would you give to other military spouses?
Lauren: Be open to new opportunities because a lot of things that are not in your control are going to be thrown at you and they'll be thrown at you very quickly. You’ll have to make lots of decisions in a very short amount of time and you'll have no option. Keep your resumes updated. Stay in contact with other people that you've worked with because you never know who's going to know somebody that can help you and just continue to learn and grow in your career, if that's what's important to you.