America Saves week is coming!

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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).

27 February-March 4th is the annual Military Saves Week.  (It’s part of the 11th annual nation-wide America Saves week, which started in some regions as early as 2001.)

Logo of the military version of America Saves Week |

“What are you saving for?”

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.

WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

  1. Doug: Mt. Lebanon HS class of 1975. Upper St Clair most heated rival. Good to know a member of Steeler nation keeping the Honolulu chapter black and gold strong.


  2. Thanks for the update Doug, I’m interested to see how the America Saves Week plays out. I’m interested to see if the Exchange near me uses it to run a “sale.” Taking advantage of the sale to buy something you don’t need is the antithesis of a savings week.

    When’s your next book due out? I’d be happy to give it a run through.

    • Thanks, John, that would be a bit tone-deaf of the exchanges…

      I don’t have a deadline on the book, and I keep getting distracted by shiny objects, I mean, more research. The biggest challenge is breaking the outline into smaller chunks for shorter eBooks. I’ll start putting out draft chapters in a few more months.

      I appreciate your offer, and I’ll add your name to the beta-reader list!

      Anyone else want to help with the next book? Your contribution gives you a vote on which military-friendly charities receive the royalties! Comment here or send me an e-mail.

  3. I joined the Navy much later in life than most, age 27. I had about $1500 to my name in 1985, but six months after joining I opened up a Vanguard Wellington Account with $500 and added consistently every month since then, adjusting the contributions of course over time. 32 years later, long retired from active duty I still maintain a very simple and consistent investing strategy. My only real regret is that I did not start this sooner, like at age 17.

    Today at 60 I am still active in the workforce in private practice. But I work because I choose to, not because I have to. Financial Independence how ever that is defined is in essence freedom of choice and options. Some choose to surf and never have to shovel snow, and if that’s what freedom means to them, God bless them. But that freedom of choice is not free or cheap. It requires discipline, sacrifice, and personal choices at various points in one’s life and career. An old Senior Chief on my first ship, USS Concord, AFS-5 told me the best financial advice I ever got. “how hard you “need” to work after the Navy is dictated by how hard you “choose” to work in the Navy”. Invest well my friends.

  4. Thanks for the shout out, Doug. I would love to tell all, but it ain’t gonna happen while I remain gainfully employed.

    If any of you are considering jumping up on your own soapbox by blogging, Doug is a goldmine of information on how to do this. I rather doubt my blog will ever be as frequently updated on such a rigorous schedule (submarine watch schedule residue, I suspect), but I have learned a ton by talking to Doug about all of this and reading his blog. And of course he has made me aware enough of the Wounded Warrior Project and the appalling lack of care of these fine men and women that I have started including them in my donations.

    • Thanks!

      I’ll have to put up another blogging post in a week or two. I’ve come across some great resources, and after that it’s a matter of making the time to put it all together…

    Comment? Question? What's on your mind?