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My Story: A Soldier Comes Full Circle

Retired U.S. Army officer Justino Sosa of Chicago has a new career teaching personal finance at a community college like the one that put him on the road to success.

©Kevin J. Miyazaki 2011

So your new job brings you back to your roots? Yes. I went to Olive–Harvey Junior College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago, before enlisting in the U.S. Army in January 1973.

What did you do in the army? I started as a combat medic in Germany. Eventually, I ran humanitarian and medical operations in remote areas of Latin America. I retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2001.

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Why get into teaching after your military career?I wanted to give back to society and be a mentor. I taught Junior ROTC for a time, but sometimes teaching high school kids is like herding cats.

How did you qualify for teaching at the college level? I had a bachelor’s degree in history from Loyola University Chicago, but I needed a graduate degree. I completed an MBA in 2009 and also a course in teaching from the City Colleges of Chicago last year. Earlier this year I became an adjunct instructor in the department of business at Harold Washington College.

What are your students like?They’re an interesting mix from various countries and cultures. Many come from disadvantaged family backgrounds.

And how do they take to personal finance? A handful of them are eager, but some are intimidated by the markets and the daily bombardment of financial news. I tell them not to get frustrated, and that once they master the basics of stocks, bonds and other investments, finance isn’t so daunting. Also, I tell them that while they may have trouble scraping together bus fare right now, once they have a little savings the things they learn about finance will be important.

What’s their motivation for learning?Some want to start a business; some want to make money. I tell them that understanding finance will help them whether they manage their own investments or use an adviser.

Is your teaching salary important income for you?Because of my military benefits, I don’t need to work. Given the state of pensions, I may be a member of the last generation to say that.

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