A reader asks some very good questions:
“I came across your book and am interested in purchasing it, but I have a few questions.
I’m an E-6. I’m married, with no children, and currently only have a retirement savings account via TSP. Is is realistic to assume that someone in my situation can read your book, apply it, and then live off the retirement?
My spouse and I could retire in another country with cheaper cost of living. Would that help my chances, if the above answer is “no?”
I’m really hoping to retire and start my own business– not because I need to, but because I want to. If your book can give me the information I need to make that a reality, then I will gladly purchase it.”
Where to find the book
Here are some other book suggestions for “try before you buy“.
First, the blog summarizes most of the book in the ~80 posts between September 2010 and March 2011. There are a few diversions, and the posts don’t have the personal stories of the contributors, but you get a good idea of the contents. (You’re going to have to read the book to get the personal stories.) Scroll through the titles and the opening paragraphs to see what catches your eye.
Second, look up the book at your local library system or on WorldCat.org. It’s in several libraries on Oahu, and it’s in at least 30 other libraries on the Mainland. You might be able to borrow it from a library near you before you make a buying decision.
Finally, see if your military base’s family service center offers free copies of the 4″x5″ 64-page pocket guide. Impact Publications sells these at a very low bulk price for military transition programs and VA service centers to offer to their clients. The pocket guide doesn’t have the contributor’s personal stories and the chapter checklists that are in the full-size book, but it’s another great way to try it before you invest any money in it.
Retiring on an enlisted pension
The process of saving for financial independence is fairly straightforward, but the commitment can be difficult. The challenge is to track your spending, figure out what’s important to you, align your spending with your priorities, and make a plan.
It’s realistic, based on the stories I’ve heard from readers and on the process that people are following from the book. However your spending and your savings are important. Save as aggressively as you can in your TSP (and your Roth IRA) and put yourself even further along the path to financial independence. But you don’t have to stop there. Your pay gets a lot better if you finish your college degree and apply for a commission. One course at a time, max out the tuition assistance, and see where it takes you. The worst that will happen is you’ll start your education on the military’s active-duty funding and finish it on your GI Bill.
As you save for retirement, project your pension income against your retirement budget. If it’s not enough then you’ll either need to consider a bridge career, be ready to do some part-time work, or cut back your expenses. I can’t tell you which approach will work best for you, but you’ll know when you’ve crossed the line from “frugal retirement challenge” into “deprivation”. The more you can save on active duty, and the higher your retirement rank, the closer you’ll be to financial independence.
The book includes advice from a Navy Chief nicknamed “Boxkicker” who retired as an E-7 at 20 with only a few thousand in his TSP account. He immediately went back to school on the GI Bill (and its housing stipend) to finish his bachelors’ & masters’ degrees in sports management. His “business” is refereeing community sports leagues and teaching golf. He’s one of at least three other veterans (profiled in the book) who have managed to swing the finances on their pension, with little savings, and with part-time work. It takes a low cost of living and some financial discipline, but it can be done. You’re saving in your TSP, so you have a head start.
You absolutely can live on a U.S. military pension in another country. We know a number of military retirees who are doing just that.
The two best resources for your own overseas planning are Billy & Akaisha Kaderli’s Retire Early Lifestyle website, and Paul & Vicki Terhorst’s Early Retirement website. Both couples have traveled the world on far less money than you’d expect. They’re experts at living local in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Europe. You can also try Gary Pierce’s Frugal Retirement Living website. He and his spouse have lived overseas, but they’ve also enjoyed their retirement in America on a boat and in an RV.
Starting your own business after the military
I don’t specifically talk about starting your own business in the book. When I first retired, my time & energy went into enjoying retirement. Later I began showing other veterans & families how to achieve financial independence… wait, I guess I did start a business.
If you’re interested in writing then you can read about my experiences in the “Books & publishing” section of the blog. I also talk about earning revenue from the blog, and the sidebar has a whole “Personal finances” section of bloggers who are earning tens of thousands of dollars a year from blogging and advertising. It’s not easy– it’s a job and you might be your toughest boss you’ve ever had– but blogging has a lot of advantages over the office environment. Your earnings are also much more correlated to your effort.
Boxkicker put together his own income in the sports industry. I know of several veterans who have gravitated toward their professional skills, especially training others. As a military retiree, your new business would probably be in the service industry– and in a sector with low startup costs. The advantage of being a military retiree is that you have a safe income to fall back on while you’re growing your business. I’d love to hear from more veterans who’ve used their military experience to start their own businesses and achieve financial independence on their terms. They might not even want to retire from that type of bridge career.
Hope this helps you with your book-buying decision. Whether you decide to borrow or buy it, please let me know what could make it better!
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