Brigadier General Michael Meese (U.S. Army, Retired), Ph.D., FLMI, is the Chief Operating Officer of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), a 136 year-old non-profit that assists the American Armed Forces community with insurance, financial planning, survivor assistance, and other benefits.
In 2013, after 32 years in the Army, he retired from his position as the Professor and Head of the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. There he taught economics and national security courses and led the 70 military and civilian faculty members in the Department, the Combating Terrorism Center, and the Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis, who teach political science, economics, and terrorism-related courses. His military service includes five major deployments to combat zones, totaling over 31 months as a senior policy advisor for Commanding Generals in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He has written extensively on national security and economics including the books American National Security and the Armed Forces Guide to Personal Financial Planning. He is a graduate of the National War College, U.S. Military Academy, and holds a Ph.D., MPA and an M.A. from Princeton University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is on the Board of Directors of the Economics of National Security Association.
RetirementSavvy: It is likely that most readers are not familiar with AAFMAA. Can you please provide some background on the company?
Michael Meese: AAFMAA is the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association. It has been providing financial solutions for the military since 1879.
AAFMAA was created at the request of the military after much of the Seventh Calvary was killed at “Custer’s Last Stand” at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Back then, when a death occurred on the frontier, survivors literally conducted a “passing of the hat” to raise money to support widows “back East.” In the case of the 7th Cavalry, the old system collapsed: there was no hat to pass – and no one to pass it to! So AAFMAA was created “to aid the families of the deceased members in a prompt, simple and substantial manner.”
RS: What services are provided by AAFMAA?
MM: AAFMAA provides life insurance, financial planning, wealth management, survivor assistance, and other financial solutions to help the military community at all stages of their lives.
One of the most important services the life insurance protection, which covers service members anywhere in the world, with no restrictions based on war, deployment, military aviation, or other limitations that many other policies have.
RetirementSavvy: How are those services distinguished from those of other providers of financial services?
MM: As a non-profit that focuses exclusively on the military, AAFMAA provides superlative personal financial services that are particularly affordable. For example, AAFMAA’s $400,000 level term insurance coverage designed for service members 18 to 50, is only $18.15 per month, which is 34% less than the $28 per month that the government charges for comparable insurance. This insurance is even better because it remains with the service member after he or she leaves the military and it includes Survivor Assistance Services.
Survivor Assistance Services are another distinguishing characteristic. We have a team of experts that help all surviving family members get everything that they deserve from the Veterans Administration, Social Security, the military, and other organizations. Then we continue to work with families for the rest of their lives to ensure that they get all of their benefits and work thought the sometimes complicated paperwork. Widows continuously tell us that they are thankful that with just one call to AAFMAA, they were able to breathe easy and take care of themselves and their family at the most challenging time in their lives.
RetirementSavvy: Are there any eligibility requirements for AAFMAA services?
MM: A person must be a current or former member of the military or their immediate family member. Unlike other organizations, by law, we cannot pass membership on from generation to generation. You must actually have served for you or your family to have access to AAFMAA’s affordable financial solutions. Learn more at www.aafmaa.com.
RetirementSavvy: What is your favorite finance related quote?
“If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.”
– John Maynard Keynes