The book was officially published in June 2011, although the Kindle edition was technically ready to go in May.
Do you know what it means when the book approaches its first birthday?
Yep. Time to start writing the next edition.
There’s no particular deadline on when a second edition is published. In fact there’s no particular requirement that the next edition be published in hardcopy at all. We’ll have a better feeling for that in July, when I get the next semi-annual sales report. (And a royalty check!) We’ll hopefully have data on how much it’s selling in the military exchanges, too. Although if the shrinking bookshelves of my local military exchanges are any indication, I’m not sure how much longer AAFES and NEX will be selling hardcopy books. (If you see the book on the shelf in your local military exchange then I’d appreciate the contact report.) Of course you can continue to order the book online, either direct from the publisher or in Amazon’s Kindle format. 4″x5″ 64-page pocket guides are a great way for family support commands to hand out financial advice, and even some active-duty & Reserve commands are ordering copies for their troops. Impact Publications gives generous discounts for bulk orders.
In the meantime I’m collecting more feedback and stories, and figuring out where to add them in the next edition. I also have to figure out what topics to add, and whether they’ll expand an existing chapter or stand alone as their own chapter. There’s no need to turn the book into “just another benefits guide”, but there are plenty of lessons learned from people who are making their transitions. Every one of those stories makes the book more valuable to the next buyer.
A recent reader gave me an extensive report on what he’s learned from his transition between active duty and the Reserves:
I have the experience of seven years of active duty, five years in the drilling Reserves, and four years of inactive Reserves. (I complete correspondence courses for points.) Your summary of transitioning to Reserves and Reserve opportunities is pretty accurate, but the reader can easily get the vibe that you simply write your own ticket for any billet in the Guard/Reserve. This is mostly true up to the O-5 level (at least in the Navy), at which point you must go through an application for a drilling billet (either to a command or a non-command position).
In the Navy, your promotion to O-5 means your happy-go-lucky reserve career is over. Your new billet is very likely far from your home city. (Although you told the selection board your maximum acceptable “commute” distance.) Once I made O-5, the selection process was one of my reasons to shift to the inactive Reserves to finish out my 20 years. There’s plenty of opportunities to get points while you’re inactive, so I’m more than happy with my decision.
I’m familiar with the Navy Reserve process from my shipmates (as well as from my spouse’s experience with the billet selection board). The Association of the U.S. Navy has extensive advice on their website. I’ve learned a little about the Air Force Reserve from contributors who have shared similar experiences about officer promotions.
However I’m still weak on information from the enlisted ranks and from the other services. Please add your comment below or fill out the private “Contact me!” form to make me smart on what you’ve learned about the Army Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Coast Guard Reserve, and the National Guard. I’m particularly interested in how well the Reserve/Guard has worked for you during your first decade, and what financial independence challenges you faced as you approached the 20-year mark– both enlisted and officer.
The reader goes on:
I went through the Transition Assistance Program 12 years ago. One of the items they failed to school me on was disability ratings and the Veterans Administration. I wanted to make sure I was eligible for Reserve duty, so at my resignation physical I told the doctor that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me. Big mistake! I found out years later (while drilling in a Navy Aviation unit, no less) about a “zero percent” disability rating. “0%” means there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you now, but there could be something much later. It makes you eligible for programs like free in-state college tuition for your dependents (in states like California). I also found that some of the fighter pilots drilling in my unit were rated 30% disability on their active-duty discharge physicals. My fear of a disability rating upon discharge was completely unwarranted.
A colleague recently retired from the Navy, and it sounds like TAP has improved their emphasis on this issue. He said he a tinnitus diagnosis (“sometimes my ears ring”) on your discharge physical earns you an automatic zero percent disability rating.
I went through the local Disabled American Veterans chapter to request a VA review of my medical packet (nine years after discharge), but it failed to alter the “nothing wrong” disability rating.
Bottom line: my failure to be thorough on my discharge physical could cost me some $80K in college tuition benefits for my kids.
This made me think back on my own TAP experience, also nearly 12 years ago. I remember extensive discussions on how even a slight disability rating could help veterans earn priority hiring ratings for the civil service. I knew back that I wasn’t looking for a job, so I largely ignored the disability seminars. However shortly before I retired I damaged the ligaments and cartilage in both knees, and a decade later I’m appreciating the impact of deferred accumulated joint depreciation. I’m not concerned about the financial benefits of a disability rating– but I want to make sure that the VA has a record of the issues in case I need knee-replacement surgery in 30 or 40 years.
Finally here’s one that I never saw coming:
If you are a Federal employee participating in the Thrift Savings Plan, you are shut out of contributing to your own traditional IRA. You fall under the IRS’ “active participant in a 401(k)” rules, just as a private-sector employee cannot contribute to an IRA if they’re a “material participant” in their employer’s 401(k) plan.
I need to learn more about this, including the implications affecting the new Roth TSP, but I’d still plan to max out TSP contributions. You still gain a larger tax-deferred advantage from TSP contribution limits, or you have the after-tax flexibility of Roth TSP contributions. The TSP has by far the world’s lowest expense ratios, and it’s a compelling bargain for deferred compounding. A Roth IRA has significant advantages in the flexibility of withdrawing its contributions, as well as never having to take required minimum distributions. However when you leave the military (and the civil service) you can still roll over some amount of the TSP to a conventional IRA and then convert that to a Roth IRA.
If you’re in the Federal civil service, please share your own experience with the TSP/IRA contribution issues. I’d also appreciate any links you have to the tax code or the agency rules.
What other feedback do you have for us? What else would you like to see in the book?
Medical and dental exams
Reserves and National Guard
Should you join the Reserves or National Guard?
Comparing an E-7 active-duty pension to an E-7 Reserve pension
Military experience to civilian careers
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