Sales Platoon: S1:E2 | Veteran Benefits and Transition Hacks with Eric Horton

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Eric Horton, a veteran who transitioned from the military to civilian life, highlights the challenges veterans face post-service, such as redefining identity and navigating civilian workplaces. Eric’s mission to empower fellow veterans is also explored, emphasizing the importance of support networks and community in the transition process.

Eric and John discuss the identity crisis experienced by veterans transitioning from MMA, the lack of emphasis on transition preparation within the military’s mission and budget, competing agendas in transition support, and the importance of mentorship. Eric and John also introduce the Gap Calculator, a tool designed to help veterans assess their financial gaps after retirement and make informed employment decisions.

Eric and John discuss the importance of holistic decision-making in transition, emphasizing the need for veterans to consider factors such as financial needs, family dynamics, and personal goals before committing to post-military careers. Eric shares top transition hacks for veterans, focusing on underutilized state benefits like property tax exemptions and parking privileges. He announces his upcoming book, which aims to compile state-specific veteran benefits nationwide.

Highlights:

{06:00} Barracks to the Boardroom

{12:00} Challenges in Transition Support

{23:00} Mentorship/ Find your tribe

{29:20} The Gap Calculator

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Eric Horton Bio:

As a former administrator and director in the Department of Labor for Business Solutions in Tennessee, I worked with teams across the state to serve incoming and present businesses, source talent from the transitioning military, and establish the first apprenticeship program in Tennessee. I have multiple certifications and honors in PMP, Lean Six Sigma, supply chain, and leadership, and I am always looking for opportunities to learn and grow. My passion is to help veterans and businesses thrive in a competitive and dynamic environment.

With over 15 years of experience in workforce development, veteran services, logistics, and innovation, I help organizations and individuals create employment initiatives that foster economic prosperity and growth.

Links:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericchorton

https://www.salesplatoon.org

 

Sponsored Links:

https://therootbrands.com/product/zero-in

https://newulife.com/hk/en 

https://trufinco.com

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John

Welcome to the sales Platoon podcast, where strategy meets storytelling, and we’re at the crossroads of the battlefield and the business front. I’m your host, John Renken. I’m bringing you all the tactics, truths, and triumphs from the trenches of sales and business. 

In today’s episode, we’re with the transition hacker, who will share some amazing stuff. He’s a veteran whose aim never falters. He’s been through many different stuff, and it’s the stories we’re looking for. 

Eric, it’s so great to have you with me today. How are you doing, buddy?

Eric

Pretty good, John. Thanks for having me, too, man.

John

Good man. So, I know your story. We hang out a lot. You’re here local in Clarksville, TN. But for the people listening today who don’t know, you haven’t run across you and your prolific LinkedIn profile. Tell us a little bit about yourself when you join the army. And how did you come to be here?

Eric

Yeah. Well, so I joined the army on February 1st, 1990. Poor little kid growing up, and college was not an option. I had three dreams growing up. One was to go to Disney World. One was to go to Paris, and then one was to go to Greece, and all was because, hey, we couldn’t afford, you know, Disneyland. But Paris and Greece. Because I was so entrenched in books, it was just a pathway out of the project. 

So the military provided all that and listed at 17. You know my father, he said since I turned 17, he goes, boy, this house isn’t big enough for two grown men. When you turn 18, you better figure it out. 

So the rest was history, and, as you know, I retired after 26 years, seven months, and 29 days. During that whole period in my career, everybody always asked why I stayed so long. And I said it was like a paid vacation—whenever we use PCs somewhere. You know, living in Europe for eight years, I got to see Paris, you know, over 20 times and not like the back of my hand, you know, going to Greece, all those different things were a part of, you know, enlisting and service. 

And so, for me, that wasn’t my life. It was something that I was thankful to have been a part of. 

And all of the places all over the world. Whether deployments or friends and things like that, it just became a big part of my life and identity. Ways when we PCs to Fort Campbell and, you know, 2014, 2016 ended up being medically retired after 26 years. 

And so, my wife said, hey, I think this is a good place to retire at Campbell because of the proximity to Nashville medical care at Vanderbilt. You know, all these different things, good schools where we lived. 

So, all these different things kind of determined us to stay in the Clarksville and the Fort Campbell area just because of the presented opportunities. That’s how I ended up, you know, here at Fort Campbell.

John

Now what? What did you do while you were in? You were a logistician, right?

Eric

I was well the first six years of my career; I was in the infantry. So yeah, for my first six years, my first enlistment was for eight years. It was.

John

Oh really? I did not know that. So that was when you had a job.

Eric

That’s when I had a job. Absolutely, but right around 1995, my platoon Sergeant, I will never forget this. He put his arm around me, saying it was because we moved JRTC from Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, to Fort Polk. Louis.

John

Oh, OK.

Eric

And so he put his arm around me, and he goes, you see those guys running the gate right there. And he said that will be you if you stay 20 years; you need a career. Todd Corbin. And he’s like, you need to have a career that will be transferable after you leave service. 

So early on in my career, like I, you know, hated the infantry. I was cold. But I didn’t even weigh 110 lbs. When I was in the military, I was always the youngest kid. Kid, you know, 5 foot five, you know, 108 lbs soaking wet, you know, just doesn’t make for a very good foot soldier because of the, you know, all the gear we carried. And it just wasn’t where my passion was at. It was just the way to get a $2000 enlistment bonus.

John

Oh wow. It is so interesting that you had a leader who told you that. I never had that experience when I was in, and one of the things that I’ve been telling everybody is, you know, because we’re both in the Army, I don’t know if the Air Force and the Navy do it. But when we were in the infantry, everything was about time on target and backward planning from the end of the mission. To you know what? Everything you had to do to lead up to it. And we did that for everything from ruck March to PT to everything except for our transition out.

They never… I don’t care if you only serve two or 20 years. Nobody’s saying. Hey, what’s the plan when? You get out.

Eric

Right. Yeah, I mean that that set me on a different destiny for sure. You know, that was a little nugget of. Wisdom. And I was like, I am. We had a supply guy at Fort Polk. It was hot as all get out, but the supply guy we had had a pressed uniform, and he had a high-back Humvee, the head air conditioning in it, so he came out. We were at, I was going back to the AHA to pick up ammo, and he came out, cracked the back of the Humvee, and you could see the steam from the air conditioner. 

And he came out perfectly pressed uniform. And he’s like Jesus Christ, that’s. I was old, and that’s the MOS I want right there. Like this guy is, you know? That was what set me on the path to becoming a logistician. And I don’t even remember for the life of me. I just remember what he looked like. I don’t remember his name, but that was why I became a logistics supplier.

John

Right.

Eric

And I was to prepare for transition afterward, all because of Todd Corbin. 

John

So you get out in 2016. Did you do anything with, you know, logistics or supply when you got out because I met you shortly after you got out? Now, you weren’t doing.

Eric

Yeah. So that’s a good question. And that is kind of where the journey of transition hacker starts. So Fort Campbell was the first class and cohort to hire our heroes. And so I knew I was going to get out. But I also knew about logistics and supply chains.

John

Oh, OK.

Eric

Tennessee is a Mecca for logistics, so everybody has a distribution center in Tennessee. Amazon has its center of excellence here. I mean, you name a distribution center, and they’re here in Tennessee because of the proximity to it. It can reach 78% of the United States population within a one-day drive. 

So it’s geographically blessed to have proximity to customers, making it cost-effective. For me, getting out, I was like, man, you can’t throw a stick at it and not hit a distribution center. There, and so doing the very first hiring our heroes. Everybody that participated was HCA 1, Dale, Macy’s, Amazon, and there was one Lowe’s. And those are all distribution centers. And so you didn’t have the option to work for a distribution center. 

And so when I did the hiring, our heroes, in their interviews, I ended up having, believe it or not, 13 job offers before class, even before I graduated from the class, and before I retired. 

So, getting the job wasn’t hard for me. It was, you know, who wouldn’t want to hire a 26-year Army veteran? With 20 years of logistics experience, I have a basis and master supply chain master supply chain and the certifications to accompany it. Lean 6 Sigma, Black belt Greenbelt. 

So, I had all the equipment that a civilian supply chain manager or logistics manager would have. As well as the experience. So, for me, it wasn’t hard to get the job. But that’s where everything kind of went bad because what we understand logistics to being a civilian sector is not what we think it is, and that’s where I quickly understood that managing 1500 civilians of different age demographics was not the same as managing 1500 soldiers.

John

No. It’s like herding cats.

Eric

Well, it is a little bit more of a challenge than that, not just hurt, you know, the herding cats aspect. But in my facility, I had a grandfather, a son, and a grandson, all in the same building. So, how do you manage 65, 45, and 18-year-olds? And it was. It was a huge part of, and they were, you know, they promote through attrition. 

So, it started to be where I wasn’t even relatable to understand. How do I have to tell grown people to go to work when they’re older than me, and they don’t, you know, have the same work ethic and work quality or committed to commission? And then that’s also where it massively unraveled that, you know, it was a six-day work week. Nobody will pay you six figures and not own you for six figures for the most part. 

And so, it just kind of started to slowly unravel where, you know, I was even waking up at 4:00 in the morning. My wife was telling me, you know. You know, you know, she would. She would say it in a way that I was taking it wrong. 

And so, she would say just quit. We don’t need this. But the way she said it, I interpreted it as she doesn’t. I am. I’ve never quit anything in the military. I don’t care how cold, how hot, how. Hired, you know, we were we. I just. It was never an option. Right. Like doing the 12-mile Rd. March for aerosol at school. Like quitting is not an option. I was, you know, you see people dragging stuff, you know, get across. So, for me, it was like, wow. My spouse feels like she doesn’t have faith in my abilities.

And so, I just started to unravel quickly. And that’s where I was like, OK, getting the job isn’t transitioning. It’s usually what happens after you get the job. You know the transition is starting to take place, right? Like, who is your tribe around you? 

How do you deal with it? Essentially, you’re going through a midlife crisis but also an identity crisis. You know, how’s your spouse handling that? 

And so, all that stuff just kind of came to a head where about 14 months ago, I said, I need to tell people how this is like it wasn’t. It wasn’t as easy of a transition, even though it was seamless. It’s like, I had 138 days of term relief. I took off the uniform, did my retirement ceremony on May 26, and went to work in June. 

So, there was no time for me to unpack. Who? You know, what did I want to do? Did I even understand what the job was? I was just so focused that I had to earn six figures because that’s if I didn’t earn that. Then I’m not earning up to my, you know, I’m not feeling valued like my number. My worth was tied to that my value and worth was tied to. Number, and that was kind of, I said, man, I have to tell people this, and that’s where I started telling the story on LinkedIn. Like, hey, man, like, it’s not hard to get a job. It’s, you know, what often happens. 

After you got the job, did you understand what that commitment was? You know, all these different things start to kind of present themselves. And that’s where I started trying to tell the story.

John

So you know, I spent 20 years as a civilian at Fifth Group, right? So, I got to watch people transition. And it’s so interesting that you bring this up because I watched them get lost as I watched them. They didn’t know who they were outside of being at the Legion. They didn’t have an identity outside of shooting bad guys. And here you are. You have the opposite transition but end up in the same place they did. Why do you think that?

Because I see it all the time, running my skill bridge program now, I also see it. Why do you think that? As the military, whether we’re army or Navy or maybe you kind of served and did the Air Force. Why do they go through that? What about the transition causes them to get lost in the process?

Eric

Well, that’s, and that’s good. It’s a very common problem that I think ultimately it has to do with. In the military, you create a family you choose, and the army or the military in general fosters that, you know, no matter what the political dilemmas usually are, right? The military can put everybody from a socioeconomic demographic background and put us all in the same room, and they’re going to be our brothers and sisters. Right. We will defend them till the day that we die, right? 

And most recently, you even saw with the Navy seals where one fell off, and the other went in. Right. So, that’s their policy in the army: you go anywhere without a battle buddy, right? So, we’ve fostered this attachment to each other. 

And then, when you retire, there isn’t anything to help you unpack what 18 years of an attachment has been created. And then now you’ve taken them away. And you’ve set them off to the side over here in an environment. And I talk about this a lot because only 6.8% of the US population is a veteran. Right. 

So that means literally 93% of the entire US population is not your tribe. And that’s the same as if I took you to South America, where only 6% might speak English. The other 93% will not. And now you’ve taken somebody from 20 years plus and put them in a community without support. With no tribe with no known identity anymore because now you’re living and breathing the way the rest of the 93%.

So, you’re kind of out of a fish out of water. And then you throw on. You know what? What kind of identity crisis is my spouse going through? Right. Are we married? Married. You know, have we seen each other in, you know, the past? How many years have we seen each other? How many years have they been apart? Are they going through a challenge? Am I going through a challenge? You know, is this job what I want? Like, there is no more marriage. Treats. There’s no longer see first Sergeant. See, Sir. Major, talk to you. You know there’s just no more tribe. 

And so, most of the time, that’s when things kind of, you know, kind of go. How, and I think a lot of it has to do with it, it’s just that you’re never going to do the things you did in the military. You’ll never be around the people equally committed to being with you during that. And that’s a very lonely place to be at.

John

Yeah, you know it. It’s not the same, but it’s almost identical, right? Professional athletes go through the same thing. They go through a long career in this season.

Eric

I’ve heard that.

John

Well, now that athletics has been stripped away, who am I? And I don’t have the football team, the baseball team, the MMA gym, or whatever, right, and I went through that when I retired from MMA after, I think I fought for 10-12 years, and it was really like, now what? I don’t know who I am anymore, so seeing that happening inside the veteran community is always interesting. To stump you, I don’t expect you to have an answer, but I will ask it anyway. How do we fix that?

Eric

Right. Right. Well, I don’t think that’s a $1,000,000 question, and I don’t think it’s a good answer, right? The military’s main mission is to get people into and serve. It is not to get them prepared to leave, although I think it should be a facet of it because if you prepare them to leave, they can be the best recruiting tool for you. I don’t think we would have as many challenges, but again, I don’t think it’s a priority for their budget and financial focus to encourage how we successfully get you out of here. And some of that also is, you know, not their place. 

There are 44,000 examples of goodwill from private nonprofits, and their main purpose is to help anyway. And it’s not, you know, it can be like you’re starving, and you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet. There are so many supportive services and nonprofits out there to help. I think that even makes it worse. So that’s the $1,000,000 question: How do you prepare them for it when there are that many available resources? At the same time, it becomes overwhelming for the veterans because they don’t know what’s there for them, right? So, I don’t have a good answer for it, but.

John

But companies ask me this all the time about skill bridge, right? Well, why isn’t everybody doing a skill bridge? And why doesn’t everybody know about it? And I’m like, well, you have a couple of competing agendas, right? 

So, the military and the government don’t want to pay unemployment for all these people. However, we can’t let all these people out simultaneously into the skill bridge because then we don’t have a fighting force capable of a two-front war, right, like we have these competing agendas.

Eric

Yeah. Yeah, no. Yeah. That’s a very good point with that, too, and the other part of that, if you went to the macro level, there’s not even a budget to market those. Capabilities, you know?

John

Yeah, so many people don’t even know you, and I have been talking about this and working on this together, the benefits available, the transition benefits available. I still get people who have never heard of Skill Bridge that are active.

Eric

Bill bridge. Right.

John

You know, the Cool program is another good example of that. How many people have I read something about the cool program? Less than 5% of the Fighting Force uses that program.

Eric

Right. Right. Well, and there’s, I mean, yeah, and that goes into the lack of information even while you’re in service, but also, like you said, that if I let him go, then we can’t go to the field because I don’t have enough people to drive, you know, trucks on its way out. Whatever the case would be.

So, your commander, your first. They’re still going to be a little hesitant to release their, you know, workforce. I want to let you do those online credentialing opportunities or skill bridges because it might hurt my operating bandwidth. 

So, you know, and then at the same token that you have companies that are using skill bridge, but when HR leaves, and that body of knowledge leads to them, the companies lose that, you know, awareness and information, like wait, there’s skill bridge. It’s like, yeah, you used to have somebody. And so, you know, you are constantly fighting against information awareness and lack of information awareness.

John

Yeah. So, you had a pretty decent transition process for the military side. You have to take advantage of your full terminal leave. You have to do a skill bridge program. You had some mentorship that kind of sets you up for success to start doing some forward thinking about. What does life look like after I’m done one, and then you end up still kind of wandering a bit, and you know, here you are now, eight years later, not in logistics, known as the transition hacker teaching LinkedIn everywhere? Tell me a little bit about that journey and how that came about.

Eric

That’s a really good point, right? What you were trained to do in the military might not necessarily be what you want to do after you leave the service. Right. And I heard a good saying a while ago that said, you know, a resume just contains everything. I don’t want to do it. 

Again, that was something like, well, yeah, right. It sticks out because it shows where you came from. It doesn’t necessarily show you what you want to do, right? And, you know, my uncle, he retired. You know, 20 years from the Marine Corps, he even said something slightly different, right? If you came into the military at 20 years old, you do your 20 years and retire at 40. But you lived to 80 as statistics of society. 

So. Then, when you leave service, that’s halftime in your game of life, right? You have to come out from halftime swinging for the third quarter and sometimes the third quarter, which means you might have to sit on the bench. You might not want to be playing that role. You know, you could be doing something different, right? Again, everybody’s instance will be a little bit different. You know, I had young kids. My first daughter was born in 2010. And then my second daughter was in 2014, so I still have young kids, even though I did, you know, shy of three decades. 

So, I, you know, retiring was not going to be an option financially for sure, but because also I waited so late to start, you know, with having kids and stuff like that. So, you know, everybody’s situation will be slightly different. But for me, you know, I really understood that what I was trained to do might not necessarily be what I wanted to do, but I still needed a job, right? 

So, I just kind of had to stumble through that process, and, you know, going to become the director of veteran services for the state. To see, you know, working with the Department of Labour for five years also showed me that, you know, the typical rule of thumb for veterans is 2/3 jobs in three to five years, right? That’s till we figure it out. 

We don’t know what we want to do when we grow up, right? And that’s a process. That just takes atonement and fine-tuning along the way, getting some good mentors, and things like that. You’re a veteran and are not at risk of not having a job. They’re at risk of getting the wrong job because no company won’t hire you. After all, you make you throw out your veteran. There’s not a company that’s going to say no, that won’t hire you. 

There’s a lot of misconceptions, you know, but generally, you know, companies are there to fill bodies, but. Seeds sometimes get it wrong because they place the wrong person in the wrong position. It’s not their job to figure your life out for you. It’s up to you to sort of figure it out, and you’ll stumble through that.

John

So, one of the things I do in my skill bridge, I’m going to use this to ask you a question: on day one, when you have to come in to do the LinkedIn portion before you come in, the first thing we’re doing is talking. Well, you’ve been in the military for whatever, two years, 20 years, it doesn’t matter. What is it that is on your heart and your mind that you want to do now? What does life look like for the next cause for many of these people? They’ve got at least 2025 years of good working life left. And some of them I’ve got one in my class, and she’s 25. 

So, she’s got almost 50 years of working life left, right? So. Do you think, in hindsight, had you had a leader in your life that was like, hey, Eric, who are you? Is this who you are, or what do you want to do and start the process of thinking through that? Towards the beginning of your career, instead of the end of the career, I mean, if you had to guess, how do you think? Things would have played out for you then.

Eric

Well, I don’t think it would have played out much differently. What I do think would have.

John

OK.

Eric

That difference was the ability to circle a tribe of people that had already walked the pathway. So, I think that looking back in hindsight, I probably should have talked to more of the older guys that had gotten out already, and I should have, you know, instead of focusing on. I determined that success looked like I was going to get a job. I need a job to pay six figures. 

That is what success looks like. It had nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with other family diamond dynamics of where my spouse is. It had nothing to do with any of that. I think if I had reached out to more veterans that had already got out or had already been out for, you know, two or three years, whether that could have been, you know, the men’s ministry at Church at Life Point Ministry or something if it would have been more open to seeking their knowledge, it might have been a little bit better. 

Because, yeah, I think we’re so siloed when we get ready to leave services; the number one priority for us is a job. And that’s not the case. And I think if I. I would have, you know, maybe had more mentors out already that would have provided a little bit more of a holistic conversation. I think it would have changed.

John

I’m already seeing that in the skill bridge, where guys and girls are hopping on the first job opportunity that solidifies for them. It’s almost like there’s a panic. You know, like what? Why don’t What if I don’t get a job and then you have the federal government on the other side kind of trying to force feed them into a job fast, so they don’t have to pay unemployment? Right. 

So, you have all these competing agendas taking place. And what I’ve been trying to get my students to see. You don’t have to take the first thing.

Eric

You’re exactly right. Right.

Because you’re going to do your skill bridge, and then you probably got some leave, and then you got moving if your unit didn’t let you move and clear and all that stuff. Right. And I think the people listening must understand that we don’t have to rush to the decision. There are employment opportunities out there. You wear you, and I Talk about this all the time.

Eric

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I remember, you know, Colonel Rob Campbell was my brigade commander. He wrote a book and said something profound to me. He asked why we rush to fail when we leave service or compromise the values we selflessly sacrifice to serve. We’re willing to rush into a job without even thinking. Like, did I need, you know, do I need six figures? Did I, you know, am I compromising my, you know, morality? Integrity and compromising values just for a number stuck out to me, too, right? 

So, it would be best if you took a tactical pause before you rush into a job. I think that would eliminate a lot of the burdens that will not make it go away entirely because you’re going to be at a different season in your life as a human being. For sure, you know, but I think it’s, you know, taking a tactical pause with the right mentors around you to help guide that decision. I think that’s a very good step as well, you know.

John

What? What’s the what’s the name of that book?

Eric

It’s called at ease. It’s by Rob Campbell, and if anybody wants to connect with him on LinkedIn, you know he is phenomenal, which is funny. I would. He was my brigade commander and signed my term. Leave or decline my term relief because I had so much of it then. 

So, we talked through it, and I am taking 138 days of terminal leave, which I think was wrong. I think again that was another decision. Looking back on it, I probably should have taken a 30-day vacation. I was taking, I did my retirement ceremony. It was Memorial Day weekend. We had family and friends down to see as they called me on Friday and asked if I could go to work on Monday, and my wife was. Like, why did you tell them? Yes. Like we’ve got family. You just retired. Like what? 

Again, all these little success clues were like, man, I should have taken time for myself. Oh. And even her. Right. I needed to take some time to reconnect with her as well, you know because we hadn’t seen each other for so long. So.

John

We don’t talk about that. I have friends like you who spent 20/25 years in the military. I’ve got one of my very good buddies, and out of the 20 years he was in, 11 of them, he was deployed in the jabot in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even parts of Africa. 11 out of 20 years he was deployed.

Eric

Yeah, it’s not uncommon.

John

Yeah. And you, you know, you start to look at that, and you look at the family dynamics, if you have young children, they don’t even know you.

Eric

Right.

John

And your spouse has been operating on their own for so long, you know all of that, all that takes years to undo, years to so.

Eric

Yeah, single parents. Right.

John

So, you came up with this calculator during your transition or maybe after.

Tell because you’re a logistician and a geek with numbers, you came up with this calculator tell. Me about that.

Eric

So, I was a very big fan of life hacks, right? Anything that can make you know to maximize my time, right? Efficiently. Whatever can help me do something faster, just to make things happen. When I was starting to unpack, what did I do? Right? What did I do wrong? From service? I said, Man, there’s got to be a lift. Different tips and tricks or hacks that we can apply post service that would help us get the job faster. Help fine-tune the decisions we make along the way, and that gap calculator was one of them. Do you mind if I share the screen now, or is that OK? So, what I did was.

John

No, no, go ahead.

Eric

And it kind of circles back and relates to what you talked about, like what we are so siloed with, thinking about a job when we don’t need to, you know, rush into the job right off the. Bat. And so when it came to the gap calculator, I don’t see if it’s populating yet.

John

I can see your screen, I can see.

Eric

OK, gotcha. So what I did with the gap calculator was I said, you know what, let’s talk. I kind of did two things right. I wanted to show people Peace of Mind, which says you don’t need to rush into and replace the income you’re getting on active duty. 

And so, if you looked at the gap calculator, you know, with your Bah BAS. All these different things are a part of it; I say, well, just it, and I did it for all pay grades, but I just started with this one, right? And I did this because many veterans would get out of Fort Campbell, and they would say, hey, I need to make, you know, I’m an E7 with 20 years. I need to make it. I need to replace this income. I’m getting ready to lose it when I retire, and so I started looking at it like, hey, you know, your chance of living in Clarksville, Montgomery County, and making this or slim to none. 

But if you look at it, you say, hey, I’ve got, you know, a gap to be where I was before an active duty in this case. Yeah, you know, and I’ve updated it every single year. When you look at it and say, OK, well, this is what you’ll get in retirement. 

Well, your gap is only $67,000 now. It might make it a little easier for you if you say, hey, can I find a job paying $67,000 to be where I was at? And then I say it’s a little bit better, right? It doesn’t mean you’ll find it that easily because Clarksville is a manufacturing town, and they generally don’t pay wages like that. Because most of the driving force in the workforce is low to no skill, it’s so close to the border of southern Kentucky. And you know, there’s a very healthy population that doesn’t have high school diplomas or college things. 

And so, you know, that kind of determines wages. And then when you look at, you know, hey, I might get a, you know, have a VA identified disability well, you know, if you get a VA disability of 50% like that, that might may mean that your gap is, you know, $50,000, you know, if you have 90%, it might mean 34,000 and so forth.

So, I started looking at that, not as the VA disability portion. But I started saying. Look, you’re going to get a pension. This is just the number you need to focus on now; that might make it a little bit easier for you to say. I don’t have to drive to Nashville for an hour and a half to get there to find, you know, that 70, you know, $1000 salary. 

So, it was a way for me to look at it as if it’s one more visual trick. Or a tip I can do that helps you fine-tune your decision for employment might take a little bit of a burden off of you. And so that was the reason why I started creating. This was because I was just trying to assemble a toolkit of tips and tricks to get you to see that you might not need to drive to Nashville to make six figures. You might be able to find a job that pays that, you know, $67,000 gap in Clarksville, possibly. Right. So that was.

John

Now let me ask you a question about this calculator. 

Have you got a BA? You OK, $25,596? Yeah. When you go to the calculator, does that factor in that that Bah is not taxable, and you need to replace a portion of that?

Eric

Absolute well. So, when you do the math and go to the worksheet on the gap calculator, you already subtract the taxes from your active duty pay because only the base pay is taxable by the IRS. Then you also consider your retired paycheck, which is, you know, what you’re going to get. And then let’s look at taxes on the retirement pension. Not on the Bah, BAS. Yes. And so that was one of the big things that I wanted to shine a spotlight on. You’re not going to get those when you retire; you’re still going to pay taxes on your base pay or your retirement paycheck. But that’s to paint you a better picture. I wanted the visualization to show that this includes everything, and you’re only taxed on this. You’re not taxed on this.

John

Right.

Eric

So again, that calculator is really easy to navigate and will generate for the individual because when you look at it, if you go into the entering in your dates.

John

Huge thanks.

Eric

Then what happens is you know exactly what date you’re going to retire at, and you can back up your 36, you know, months based off of whatever you add here and whatever goes in here because it goes into your high three, right? Once you change your years of service, your rank, you’re, you know, VA calculations, if you have children, things like that. All of this is specific to you as an individual. It isn’t necessarily a blanket, although the chart I created is generally the rule of thumb. I did all ranks with it, but it’s just generally saying, hey, let’s start with, you know, an E7 at 20 years, right? At a bare minimum, you know no matter the rank or the service. Let’s just start somewhere to give you a better visualization. 

Once you start filling out your data, it takes about 10 to 15 minutes for you to put your data into it, and then it spits out your gaps across the board. So, and that was. That was the whole purpose. It was just to simplify your thought process and put a visual that might put your mind at ease, right? Because when I was going through hiring heroes, everybody was. 

I was really uncomfortable and very stressed because they were focused on This is what I’m doing on active duty. I need to find a job to make this, and more times than not, especially when you retire on a military installation, you’re not going to find a job in Clarksville that pays that unless you’re an engineer or you know something doesn’t mean you can’t work up to it. But you won’t find that you’ll have to drive to Nashville.

John

And that’s one of the things in our skill bridge that I often bring up, which is this Bah number. You have to remember that it’s not $25,000. That’s more like $35,000 because that’s non-taxable income.

Eric

Oh, absolutely. And that and that that calculator does all that for you, right? It just takes the taxes specifically; I’ll walk you through the websites to get all this. And then, when you go to LinkedIn, LinkedIn shares the link on the share drive that you can download. I have everything there that is nice and neat for you. You can download it yourself and then tweak it to yourself. And stuff like that. So, it was just one way to share it, you know?

John

So, you know you have this on your LinkedIn, which became a big deal on LinkedIn before you did this gap calculator. How many people did you have on LinkedIn?

Eric

So, I went from around 40 to 50 people on LinkedIn. I think it’s like 33 to 37,000 people following me on LinkedIn. Now it is it. I’ll trim it. I try to keep it right around that mark all the time because, you know, people come in and drop off. There’s just not much value added. 

But yeah, I’ve gotten about over 30,000. I think on Instagram right now, I’m right around 48. 38 or 40,000 followers on Instagram. All of it was just literally just sharing. You know, my journey. What did I do? Right? What did I do wrong? How easy is it to get a job? And then you might not need to take the job that you need. You think you need to chase—that salary, you know. 

You might do gym good to, you know, take a, you know, a pay cut and just try to focus on. Close your gap, grow with the company you know, and learn what you want to do right. You might not. You be trained to be a logistician. You might not want to be a logistician, and that’s OK, you know? So, I think it’s starting to take off a bit better for me between all the platforms now.

John

Yeah. And what were you before you did this kind of stuff, the gap calculator?

Eric

What? What do you mean? Like, what did I do? Employment wise or?

John

How many people do you think you had on your LinkedIn before you did the gap calculator?

Eric

Well, before the gap calculator, I think I was probably around 7 to 10,000 followers. The gap calculator has expedited it.

John

One day, we were having coffee, and you told me this thing just blew up on you. You really didn’t think it was going to be all that, and then it really kind of changed everything for you on LinkedIn, right?

Eric

It did because it brought some value that people could feel, right? It wasn’t necessarily like, oh, man, here’s another guy telling me about a veteran challenge and getting an employment like this. This is a different message. This is a message that’s saying, I don’t. I might not necessarily have to chase a salary to define my worth. For my value, I can somewhat take an attack pause. So that kind of was what changed? I mean, it pretty much ramped up pretty quickly, so.

John

Yeah, yeah. So, transition hacker, this kind of goes into what we’re talking about right now with this gap calculator. What are some of the? Top, and I know you have a book coming out. Where will you talk about some of these types of things? What are some of the top hacks that you could share with the crowd to help them transition?

Eric

There are a lot of benefits that a lot of veterans assume. Or you know. Hey, I have to be 100% to get property tax, a tax credit, you know on my you know, you might not need to be 100% you might need depending upon your county; you might only need 50% you might need. They might even prorate it up to 90% for you. You know it’s not just about hunting and fishing licenses. It could be you’re 100% disabled. And it would be best if you had, you know, the parking pass at the BNA airport where you won’t have to pay for parking. Like, there’s so many benefits. 

And that was one of the challenges that we had. Was every, you know, Tennessee, for example. It’s not just about hunting and fishing; you can get 50% off every State Park. They’re lodging within the state of Tennessee, and there’s just not a lot of conversation around a lot of the benefits you may be entitled to that the state happily does to recognize your service. 

A lot of times, it goes back to that lack of communication and marketing. Right. If they tell everybody, the next thing you know is that sometimes a price is associated with that. Whether that’s not paying property tax or vehicle registration, it will cost state budgets at state levels. 

And so often, it’s a competing interest on different benefits you’re entitled to that, not many people discuss. The biggest misconception is it’s not just about, you know, hunting and fishing licenses in your state. There are, you know, a lot of other benefits that you may be entitled to that you just don’t know about.

John

What do you think are the top ones that you found?

Eric

Regarding the property tax exemption, I was under the misconception that you had to be 100% to get a property tax exception or exemption when the reality is that it is. Most counties in Tennessee will prorate it. So, if you’re 90%, take your VA letter down because they might prorate your property taxes off 90%.

John

Right.

Eric

So that was a huge one. The second one was the parking at BNA Airport with the BNA Cares program. Yeah. Yeah, because you might fly out of state for a specialist at Walter Reed and, you know, park at an airport. And it could be $26 a day. But if you’re at Walter Reed for four days, that’s 100 bucks. But if you’re under, the NBA cares; you won’t have to pay for that. So that’s just some of the.

John

Yeah. Once you told me about that, I found that 15 other states do the same.

Eric

Absolutely. That is just some of the stuff we just try to, whatever tips and tricks are beneficial. You know, if you don’t have to pay property tax on your house, then obviously your gap will be your living expenses might not be as big as they were before. They might go down. Starting to unpack, I compared the cost of the surrounding eight Tennessee states. Living, we have the lowest property taxes. If you look at Florida and Texas, which have massive, you know, veteran populations, they pay three times the property taxes that we have in Tennessee. 

Again, if it’s cutting into your, you know, your top number of your, you know cost your residual cost well tenant see kind of. It makes it a bit more marketable because our property taxes are lower, our homeowner’s insurance is lower compared to those other states, so whatever lowers those overhead costs, which rises, you know, kind of makes you get to keep more of your retirement dollars. Then it goes back into. You might not even need to work. You might.

John

Yeah. There are no state taxes here. I mean, that’s an, you know.

Eric

I just need it to pause. Absolutely. We have the lowest electricity in the United States because we have Oakridge, nuclear power plants here, and Tennessee has 97% pure power. We have the most manufacturing facilities in Tennessee because we can deliver pure power without blackouts. 

So, I mean, there’s just so many other things. You know, we budget, and I have a 3000-square-foot house. I budget 22, you know, $2400 a year for electricity. No other state I know of that pays less than $2400 a year for electricity. You know, again, it was just a better quality of life economically for the location where we retired that I didn’t need to rush into a job to pay six figures because I might not need that. So.

John

Yeah. So, let’s put out a disclaimer here real quick about that. If you are listening and you’re from California, this is for veterans, not for you. So don’t come to 10. I see. I’m just kidding.

Eric

Yeah. 

John

Because there are 80,000 people from California moving to Tennessee every year.

Eric

Yeah, it’s about 108 a day. Yeah, but relocate here. 

John

Yeah, yeah, freaking crazy. So, if they happen to listen to this show, this was not for you. And I mean, Tennessee is a great state for all that. I mean, you know, and I mean, we have a lot more than that, and I mean just on the state tax side.

Eric

It is.

John

Kind of. The cost-of-living side, but then we have mountains, and we have forests, and we have rivers. It’s a beautiful state all the way around, right? Where you get to Texas, Texas is a great state, but it’s pretty much the same geography. I love Tennessee, man, so.

Eric

Right. Right, right. Yeah, it was a game-changer.

John

Yeah. So let’s talk briefly as we wrap up here; let’s whet the appetite. So, you have a book coming out. Tell me about it.

Eric

So, in my role as the director of veteran Services in Tennessee, the first thing I said was holy when I started to see that there were benefits I didn’t know about. And I just got to thinking about it. And that was well, let’s compile all those benefits that Tennessee offers veterans, including the things that we didn’t, you know, talk about, like the parking, you know, or parking on downtown Nashville. Right. Like, you don’t have to pay for parking in any public parking space in the state of. Let’s see.

So, I thought about that, and I said, what if it’s like this in other states as well, you know, what are the benefits truly in every other state and that, you know, went online trying to look, you know, military.com, things like that. And nobody ever really compiled a total list of all their benefits per state. And what I’ve noticed is every state. It is becoming fiercely competitive with attracting military retirees because of that residual impact. Absolutely. 

They’re going to be buying school, you know, buying roads, paying buying houses, paying for, you know, kids to go to school. So, keeping them in the state is of the utmost benefit to the state. And so, but nobody really kind of has compiled that total list. And that’s what I wanted to do differently as it was just trying to gather A50 state. Create a booklet of all the real benefits that every state offers, and then just help share that so we can close that knowledge gap.

John

What? What’s the best way for somebody to connect with you?

Eric

The best way is online on LinkedIn. I’m a transition hacker, one at Instagram transition hack at X, and then Eric C Horton on LinkedIn.

John

On LinkedIn. So, guys, if you’re if you’re listening today and you want that book coming out this year, drop a comment so that we can get the information, too. If you want to connect with Eric and get the gap calculator from him, you can get that on his LinkedIn profile, Eric C Horton. 

And there’s a lot of opportunity out there for us as veterans and retirees, and the truth is that we just don’t know about that, and that’s kind of. You know, one of your and I conversations is how do we get this information out the information. And right now, we’re just talking about state or slash government benefits. That doesn’t include the private corporate benefits companies nationwide give out. Some companies do free interviewing and resume building, and we have many opportunities. And. And if we don’t, as a tribe, spread that information, then we’ll never hear about it.

I just wanted to thank you for your time. I love having you around, coming to my classes, and speaking to my students. And to come on the podcast. And I hope that as we grow this year, more and more people will connect with you to get these benefits and, you see there that Eric’s pretty cheap. He just wants a cup of coffee. So, if you guys are listening, you could go and give him a cup of coffee on his Venmo for the gap calculator; you should probably raise those prices. It would be best to do something like a fruit, fruit, coffee, $8. It’s going to be a minimum of $8.

Eric

I should. Right. Absolutely. I didn’t want to break the bank. I just wanted to, you know, if they feel valued.

John

Yeah, how many hours did it take you to put that together? What did you spend on that?

Eric

Well, so yeah, it has been evolving. So, when I update every year, it takes about four days, right? 

So, I enlisted on one day. You know, senior enlisted on another day and board officers on another one, and then I’ll fine-tune. You know, if it, you know, cause there’s less on warrant officers and officers, it usually takes me a little longer on the listed side of the house. Still, it used to take me about an hour per person to do it because, you know, on that worksheet, I would go back like, hey, when did you make E7? You know where you owe. 6 E 6 over here, so I tried to make it specific to the individual. And then, you know, going to all the websites to plug in these numbers to get it back would take me about an hour per person. 

So, if you think about that, it’s an hour for a cup of coffee. Right. Is, you know, I don’t know any plumbers who will show up to your house for an hour and not charge you $100? Still, you’d be surprised at how many people down I think I’ve had. Over 19,000 people download it, and you know I can. It’s been taking up the past couple of weeks in the last year, but before this year, everybody would download it and not contribute anything.

John

That would be another conversation about veterans and the freebie mentality for another day. Because you and I have talked about this, they’re going from a socialist society to a capitalist society, and they’re about to be. They’re about to get awakened. 

So, they’re going to figure it out quickly.

Eric

Oh yeah, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely.

John

Hey, man. Thanks. Thanks so much for coming on and spending your time with me today. I appreciate it, and guys, connect with him on LinkedIn, get the wage gap calculator, and make sure you send him a cup of coffee. Eric, thanks for coming on today.

Eric

Thanks, brother. Have a good one.

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