Here’s a quick note about an upcoming social-media campaign that’s already ramping up across the nation (and at military bases around the world).
It’s an awareness campaign with your opportunity to figure out what part of your financial life could use a boost. If you’ve seriously been meaning to raise your contribution to the Thrift Savings Plan, or really need to set aside an extra amount to boost your emergency fund, then this is the week to get started. No more delays. There won’t be a better time.
It’s also a great time to consider retirement: not just military retirement but the “What do I want to DO all day?!?” type of retirement. Military Saves week will help you focus on that goal. For those of you who joined the military after 2005, it’s also time to consider whether you’ll save more with the upcoming Blended Retirement System.
If you’re not already obligated to serve until 20 years, then you should consider signing up for a smaller pension along with matching contributions in your Thrift Savings Plan. (Hint: you’ll have to contribute at least 5% to your TSP in order to earn the full DoD match.)
I realize that “smaller pension” and “matching contributions” might not make sense, and DoD will soon release a BRS calculator to help you decide which system is the better deal. (If you’re not sure whether you want to stick around for 20, even in the Reserves or National Guard, then take the BRS. You need 20 years for a military pension, but you can take your matching TSP contributions with you if you separate before 20.) While we’re eagerly awaiting DoD’s calculator (in beta now with a few hundred servicemembers) you can dig into your numbers with MilitaryFIRE’s analysis and free spreadsheet. You can also work with USAA’s easy-to-use questionnaire and financial projection to see which way could earn you more money.
Along that military financial theme (nice segue, eh?) let me bring your attention again to the Bogleheads wiki on military finances. Bogleheads is one of the Internet’s top discussion boards for investing with Vanguard funds, and this part of their wiki grew out of a poster’s thread on military issues with personal finances, investing, and retirement. You don’t have to be a Vanguard investor or even a Boglehead to read the wiki, and they’re always looking for people who are interested in contributing to its content.
I had an abrupt realization while updating this post:
15 years ago this month I started terminal leave on the glide slope toward my military retirement.
There have been a few changes since June 2002 that I wouldn’t have predicted (like a book and a blog, and another book in the works) but this seems to be working out just fine. When I retired we were (barely) financially independent and I was not eager about the prospect of a bridge career. I was looking forward to early retirement, and I decided to take a few months off to enjoy more time with family. (We started with surfing lessons.) So far so good. I’m willing to give it another 30 or 40 years before I jump to any conclusions!
Enjoy the links and think about your saving & investments during Military Saves Week.