“Helping military members and their families achieve financial independence and a successful retirement”
Retired at age 41 after 20 years with the U.S. Navy’s submarine force, today Doug Nordman is an enthusiastic surfer, an omnivorous reader, a martial arts student, and a veteran of many chaotic home-improvement projects.
With his retired Navy Reserve spouse, they raised their daughter in Hawaii. Life is really good and busier than ever as he and his family continue to discover the joys of financial independence and early retirement.
Read more about reaching your own financial independence on The-Military-Guide.com or share with thousands of other early retirees at Early-Retirement.org. All of Doug’s writing revenue is donated to military charities, and your advice and stories can help write the next edition!
Doug is the author of:
In Doug’s words:
I’ve been tinkering with retirement planners since the 1980s. (Back then you filled out a workbook, or maybe you ordered a floppy disk from a magazine ad.) Like the rest of the military, I’d assumed that I’d need to find a “real” job after I retired from active duty. But by the 1990s, the Web offered robust and detailed retirement planners. After a few years of research I realized that our growing portfolio income (plus my pension) would nearly replace my active-duty pay. We wouldn’t be rich but we’d be financially independent.
As my retirement date approached I started working through the “career skill assessments” and “interest surveys”, but they weren’t encouraging: middle management and nuclear engineering. Good to know, but I’d already endured nearly 20 years of that. When I griped about it with my father he said “Do you need to work? You’ll get a pension and you’ve saved some money, right?” It was a blinding epiphany: suddenly my career search was over and my REAL retirement planning began.
My spouse and I had always tracked our spending and tried to follow a budget. We’d always saved most of our pay raises (and invested them) and we’d tried to live a low-key frugal life. We were raising a family and didn’t really have time to get swept up in consumerism. We made the usual financial mistakes but we managed to keep saving. In 2000 we had already rebalanced our investments and we weren’t losing too badly. By 2001, the year before my retirement, we knew we could make it. When the stock markets plunged even more after 9/11, we re-ran those numbers through the retirement planners and decided we still had enough. If things got worse then I could always look for one of those middle-management jobs.
By 2004 we weren’t worrying very much about the markets anymore. I knew that I didn’t need to work again, but life just seemed too easy and there had to be a catch. Eventually I found my way to the Early-Retirement.org discussion board. I introduced myself and asked “What am I missing?” The answer: “Not a thing. Enjoy yourself!”
As the months went by, I realized that very few military servicemembers reached financial independence during their time in uniform. Most of us immediately found a bridge career and worked into our 60s or even longer. The perpetual challenges for early retirees are decades of inflation and affordable health insurance. Yet military retirees have a pension with a COLA and cheap healthcare, so why were they still working?
The answers are straightforward, but it’s a highly individual decision with a number of factors. Many of us are still working because we didn’t realize that we could retire! I learned that the military offers plenty of opportunities for financial independence, but most people didn’t discover this until it was almost too late. A few years of planning, budgeting, saving, and investing could make all the difference between leaving the military for a civilian career… or retiring to enjoy life. Either decision can be a good one, but it’s even better to have a choice!
Eventually the other veterans at Early-Retirement.org said “Nords, you should write a book”. My decades of retirement planning have been distilled into these two guides, which are the product of the contributions of over 50 veterans and over five years of writing. Between them you’ll be able to use our centuries of financial and retirement experience to find your own path. It’s achievable even without a military pension, and we’ll show you how!
Here’s the link at Impact Publications:
Supplemental information to Doug’s bio:
Raised in Murrysville, PA (near Pittsburgh) but lived all over the world courtesy of the U.S. Navy.
U.S. Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD) Class of ’82 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.
I spent the next two years at nuclear power school and submarine basic training.
USS JAMES MONROE (SSBN 622 BLUE) ’84-86: Lived and trained in Charleston, SC with patrols from the ballistic-missile submarine homeport in Holy Loch, Scotland. Deterrent patrols at the height of the Cold War. Marge and I married at the end of this tour.
Naval Postgraduate School (Monterey, CA) ’89 with master’s degrees in weapons engineering and computer science. This was followed by five months of submarine department-head school.
USS NEW YORK CITY (SSN 696) ’90-92 (Weapons Officer) in Pearl Harbor, HI. Extensive deployments to the Western and Northern Pacific. Extensive surveillance and intelligence-gathering patrols despite the “end” of the Cold War. Carol was born just after I finished this tour.
I finished my 20 years at staffs & training commands in San Diego, CA and Pearl Harbor to retire in 2002.
Since retiring I’ve enjoyed parenting, surfing, taekwondo, home improvement, writing, and reading. I started posting to the Early-Retirement.org forum in 2004 and began learning about other military retirees. When I realized that a military pension (with its annual cost-of-living-adjustment) and cheap healthcare make our financial independence easier than most, I started researching why there were so few military veterans who saved for financial independence. Over 50 servicemembers, families, and veterans contributed their stories, and five years later we had a book.
My spouse Marge transferred from active duty to the Navy Reserve in 2001 and retired in 2008. Our daughter Carol graduated from Rice University on a Navy ROTC scholarship with a degree in civil engineering. She briefly wondered why anyone would want to be a second-generation submariner, and she ended up on a guided-missile destroyer. She attended the Navy’s nuclear power training program in 2016 and spent the rest of her military service obligation aboard an aircraft carrier. She’s now in the Navy Reserves.
Carol and I are publishing a book about raising your money-smart family for next-generation financial independence. Keep an eye on the blog for more details.
Questions? Problem? Suggestion? Send me a note!