How This Marine Went from Bankruptcy to Financial Guru


When Matt Sapaula went to the emergency room after cutting his hand on a coffee pot in 2004, he did not expect to find out that members of his National Guard unit, including his commanding officer, had been shot down in Iraq.

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Three of the soldiers that he trained were killed in action and his CO, Captain Tammy Duckworth, was fighting for her life (after his career in the Marines, Sapaula joined the Army National Guard and was a crew chief on Blackhawk helicopters).

In the E.R. that night Sapaula realized he had been spared from what may have been a fatal deployment and he vowed to truly make something of his business. He has transformed himself from a bankrupt young Marine into a successful business owner. He is a financial coach, blogger, and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping others achieve financial freedom.

Financial Illiteracy Rampant in the Armed Forces

Sapaula’s experience in the Marine Corps actually inspired his initial pursuit of financial literacy. When he was faced with tough financial and legal challenges, he leaned on Marines in his unit for advice. Unfortunately, he later realized that the other Marines knew just as little about finances as he did.

“I filed for bankruptcy because I asked a corporal in the Marine Corps,” Sapaula said. The corporal suggested that Sapaula talk with Legal and declare bankruptcy to eliminate his debt. “I didn’t realize it would ruin my credit score,” he said.

3 Keys to Financial Freedom

1. Get some help:

If you’ve served, you know that completing a successful mission relies on teamwork. Don’t go it alone, get financial advice and help.. Every installation has counselors available to help with budgeting and financial basics.

2. Create a budget and stick to it:

Any plan of attack starts with solid recon. When it comes to your finances, tracking your expenses for two months is a great place to start. You'll know what you spend and where you can find new ways to save.

3. Save it:

The military pay system can be tricky, so understand how it works. Pay increases for cost of living (COLA), time in service, promotions and tax-free combat pay are opportunities to boost your savings. The military also offers a tax-advantaged way to save for retirement, called the Thrift Savings Plan.

Sapaula is currently the Executive Vice President of PHP Agency, Inc. and is focusing on coaching entrepreneurs. Connect with Sapaula directly on his blog: Sapaula is dedicated to helping and hiring veterans. More information about career opportunities at PHP Agency, Inc. can be found at:


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