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22 considering military career
Old 07-19-2007, 10:38 PM   #1
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22 considering military career

Hello everyone,

I just graduated with a philosophy degree this spring and one of my big goals in life is to retire early.

One of the best ways to do this, as I see it, is to join the military as an officer (would prefer Coast Guard but hear its practically impossible to get into their officer candidate school, esp. as my GPA is a not so stellar 3.1), probably in the Navy.

I am single and do not plan to marry or have kids (for reasons unrelated to my ER goals). I figure as a single person in the military it should be very easy to save most of my income (is saving all but 1k/month inflation adjusted a very realistic goal as a single military member, assuming government housing is available?)

I have a net worth of around 300k currently (grandparents), 250k in public equities and ~50k in shares of a family limited partnership. Do not gain complete control of this until I'm 40 but parents (who are trustees) will probably let me take control over investment decisions when they realize I'm not going to head for Mexico and blow it all in 6 months. Currently with a wells fargo private banker. Do not know how many basis points he is paid for managing it. Even assuming it's very low, I'm not sure if this is really a better option than spreading it among a few low cost index funds.

Would I be completely miserable as a frugal naval officer for 20 years? I'm just out of college and have not grown used to a high-consumption lifestyle by any means, which is why I'm thinking 1k/month isn't all that bad assuming housing and food is taken care of by the military.
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Old 07-20-2007, 06:12 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by dreamin22 View Post
Would I be completely miserable as a frugal naval officer for 20 years? I'm just out of college and have not grown used to a high-consumption lifestyle by any means, which is why I'm thinking 1k/month isn't all that bad assuming housing and food is taken care of by the military.
They make more than 1k/month. From what I see, it's $2 (2 thousand something) per month when you start out. Let's see, housing's free and you have food and healthcare. I don't think it's bad at all as far as pay goes. Don't forget that the housing allowance can be partially used (and the saved bit set aside).

Do you want to be an officer though? I don't think the frugal will kill you because it a few years it won't be that way.
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Old 07-20-2007, 06:37 PM   #3
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I started off as a Naval Officer, and had 4 years of active duty before I got out. It was an experience for me that I consider invaluable, and one I could not have gotten anywhere else. I would do it all over again. I wanted to stay in for the long haul, but the reason I got out was the pay discrepency for what I do was too large to not leave the military. For most officer's however, I suspect this would not be the case. I was single, but many junior officers with even DS's and kids live quite well on an officer's salary. In fact, I would say if you are frugal, and remain single, you will be able to sock away a lot of money and accumulate years for an early retirement on a military pension, with many benefits, including medical, that you keep for life. Your salary is adjusted for the area you are stationed, and pay varies on special duties/talents/hazard pay you may be entitled to. There's nothing wrong with being single, but don't think that a happy married life and the military are mutually exclusive. The military puts strain on many marriages, but a military officer and spouse can have an incredible marriage as long as they have reasonable expectations of a military lifestyle and remain flexible. Good luck to you.
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Old 07-20-2007, 07:08 PM   #4
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See this site for the Pay Scale for 2007, pending before congress is a 3.5% across the board increase for 2008: Military Pay Charts
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Old 07-20-2007, 07:10 PM   #5
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They make more than 1k/month. From what I see, it's $2 (2 thousand something) per month when you start out. Let's see, housing's free and you have food and healthcare. I don't think it's bad at all as far as pay goes. Don't forget that the housing allowance can be partially used (and the saved bit set aside).

Do you want to be an officer though? I don't think the frugal will kill you because it a few years it won't be that way.
I think he means that living off of $1 k a month isn't that bad when everything else is taken care of.
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Old 07-20-2007, 07:40 PM   #6
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I have been in the Army for over 6 years now(rank O3). The military definitely has its benefits, and I do think you will be able to retire after you get out if you live on a budget (plan your work, work your plan).

With that being said, The military is a life style, and it is not for everybody. And if you are 22 with $300,000 already in the bank. I think you can do just about anything for the next 20 years and retire early, if you work hard, and live frugal. PM me if you have any specific question and I will be able to answer them for the Army side. I am sure there are some Navy guys out here for specific questions about the Navy.
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Old 07-20-2007, 07:48 PM   #7
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I think he means that living off of $1 k a month isn't that bad when everything else is taken care of.
I still don't see it. I think the important thing to remember is that a surplus of $1K per month isn't bad. There are many people living in the negative zone (possibly even before necessities). And that's the lowest pay!
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Old 07-20-2007, 10:08 PM   #8
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Yes, in the military (perhaps even more than outside the military) it is quite possible to put a way a lot of money if you are willing to live below your means (LBYM).

You won't always be able to live on base--there are some locations with insufficient billeting, and you'd have to live in a house/apartment off base. In this case, you'll be given an allowance to cover most of the cost of living off post, so it is largely a wash. (In general, those of us with families often found it difficult to rent/buy suitable housing in a safe neighborhood within the amount allotted for this purpose, but if I were single I could easily have found suitable quarters for less than the alloted amount).

As I hope you already appreciate, joining the military and becoming an officer requires a commitment to a lifestyle and to values that many people would find entirely unacceptable. Also, an individual (maybe not you)with $300k in assets at the start of a military career has options that could make it more difficult to accept that second or third back-to-back unappealing assignment.

The ability to retire at 20 years of service is a very nice benefit, but if you find that this is the most significant thing drawing you to a military career, I'd suggest that you gather a lot of information from folks who have gone down this road and very carefully consider your motivation before you take the plunge. Lots of retirees feel plenty worn out by the end of twenty.

I loved my career and would do the same thing again today if I were 22 years old.
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Old 07-20-2007, 10:35 PM   #9
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Hello everyone,

I just graduated with a philosophy degree this spring and one of my big goals in life is to retire early.

One of the best ways to do this, as I see it, is to join the military as an officer (would prefer Coast Guard but hear its practically impossible to get into their officer candidate school, esp. as my GPA is a not so stellar 3.1), probably in the Navy.

I am single and do not plan to marry or have kids (for reasons unrelated to my ER goals). I figure as a single person in the military it should be very easy to save most of my income (is saving all but 1k/month inflation adjusted a very realistic goal as a single military member, assuming government housing is available?)

I have a net worth of around 300k currently (grandparents), 250k in public equities and ~50k in shares of a family limited partnership. Do not gain complete control of this until I'm 40 but parents (who are trustees) will probably let me take control over investment decisions when they realize I'm not going to head for Mexico and blow it all in 6 months. Currently with a wells fargo private banker. Do not know how many basis points he is paid for managing it. Even assuming it's very low, I'm not sure if this is really a better option than spreading it among a few low cost index funds.

Would I be completely miserable as a frugal naval officer for 20 years? I'm just out of college and have not grown used to a high-consumption lifestyle by any means, which is why I'm thinking 1k/month isn't all that bad assuming housing and food is taken care of by the military.
You seem to be joining the military for all the wrong reasons, in fact I wouldn't recommend that you start any career with ER being upmost in mind. Do something you love, live frugally and save regularly.
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Old 07-20-2007, 10:54 PM   #10
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Hello all,

Thank you for the replies.

Quote:
As I hope you already appreciate, joining the military and becoming an officer requires a commitment to a lifestyle and to values that many people would find entirely unacceptable.
I am definitely well aware of this fact and am taking steps to discern whether or not I would be suited to a military lifestyle. One thing that leads me to believe I would be suited are the fact that I went to college with many strict rules that did not bother me all that much (curfew, dresscode, dry campus policy that actually had serious consequences if broken). Another is that I can keep relatively happy without a lot of social activity- I'm a big reader, love movies, cards, and board games.

One thing that disinclines me to it is that I had a strong aversion as a child to obeying orders that I knew (or thought I knew) made no sense. As I grow up I find this has mostly disappeared (I've had some pretty incompetent bosses for summer jobs) as I am able to resign myself to things that are out of my hands.

Things which attract me to a military career, other than ER, is that it is something I can look back at and be proud of, which probably wouldn't be the case working at a corporation (i.e. the career would in some sense be an end in itself and not completely done for the paycheck). Another is the camaraderie. I've made very good friends in my 4 years of college sharing common experiences with people who share my interests and activities. I expect this will be the case even more so in the military.
Finally, I put a high priority on physical fitness (love to run and make myself life weights ) and would like to make sure I keep these habits up throughout my life (not sure to what degree this is actually forced upon you later in your career, but at least much more so than in civilian life).

If you have any more insights as to what kinds of questions I should be asking myself I would be grateful for them.
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Old 07-21-2007, 05:59 AM   #11
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Welcome to the board, Dreamin...

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I am definitely well aware of this fact and am taking steps to discern whether or not I would be suited to a military lifestyle. One thing that leads me to believe I would be suited are the fact that I went to college with many strict rules that did not bother me all that much (curfew, dresscode, dry campus policy that actually had serious consequences if broken). Another is that I can keep relatively happy without a lot of social activity- I'm a big reader, love movies, cards, and board games.
... and welcome to the submarine force!

I have to confess that I delayed answering your post for a day in case it turned out that you were another E-R.org poster masquerading as a new member. I half expected the moderators to announce that your IP address matched some of our more trollful posters, because your post certainly hit a lot of my buttons. But let me address your questions in the spirit you're asking them.

[BTW my kid is considering her college choices. Could you tell us your alma mater or let me know about it in a PM? Having attended a military academy myself, I’d love to hear about a “dry” campus.]

Seriously, though, what the heck is motivating you to join the military? You don't exactly give the impression of someone tap-dancing to work each morning, enjoying their avocation like Warren Buffett enjoys his. No one should join a military institution to get rich, and that includes for the purposes of ER. If you think flying is cool or you want to live the submarine lifestyle or even if you just want to tackle the challenges then see the recruiter and have a great time. But if you’re joining because you think you’ll be able to save a lot of money (which is correct) then I suggest you find a career that actually interests you. Just about any of them are likely to have a lower fatality/disability rate, too.

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One thing that disinclines me to it is that I had a strong aversion as a child to obeying orders that I knew (or thought I knew) made no sense. As I grow up I find this has mostly disappeared (I've had some pretty incompetent bosses for summer jobs) as I am able to resign myself to things that are out of my hands.
Well, never mind that welcome to the sub force, then. And enlisted people, let alone fellow officers, have a real problem about working for officers who say “Well, it’s out of my hands.”

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Originally Posted by dreamin22 View Post
Things which attract me to a military career, other than ER, is that it is something I can look back at and be proud of, which probably wouldn't be the case working at a corporation (i.e. the career would in some sense be an end in itself and not completely done for the paycheck). Another is the camaraderie. I've made very good friends in my 4 years of college sharing common experiences with people who share my interests and activities. I expect this will be the case even more so in the military.
Finally, I put a high priority on physical fitness (love to run and make myself life weights ) and would like to make sure I keep these habits up throughout my life (not sure to what degree this is actually forced upon you later in your career, but at least much more so than in civilian life).
If you have any more insights as to what kinds of questions I should be asking myself I would be grateful for them.
This may sound like a dumb question to ask someone with a psych degree, but have you completed comprehensive surveys & assessments of your career interests? What occupations are you interested in?

It sounds like you have no particular idea what you’d want to do in the military, or even any knowledge of the lifestyle that could be gained by spending a few hours with the Discover Channel or reading Tom Clancy’s non-fiction descriptions of the military’s various branches.

There are plenty of civilian careers of which you could be justifiably proud. The military typically grants its officers much more authority (& responsibility) at an earlier age but there are some civilian occupations with similar attributes. There are plenty of people with whom you could make very good friends, and they’re not all in the military. There are plenty of veterans who are having a heckuva time maintaining their physical fitness because of the demands of their jobs which leave no time for physical training.

I served with a couple shipmates who devoted considerable effort to frugally conserving their paychecks to build up their portfolios. One of them drove himself to physical & mental exhaustion by offering to stand shipmates’ duty days for $50/day, which problem we didn’t discover until his accumulated fatigue caused him to make a serious procedural error. Another spent all his time on the boat or in the barracks and was widely considered, even by the nukes, to be the most humorless “human” they had ever known. Both of them had crossed way over the line from frugality to deprivation in pursuit of money. Both of them had sacrificed their current lives (and some of the best liberty ports & diversions known to mankind) in hopes of achieving their future financial dreams.

You need to find a career that’s fun. With your current approach to selecting your avocation, I suspect that you will neither have nor be fun.

But I'd suggest that you take a copy of your college transcript to a local ROTC unit or a recruiter (whichever is easier) and discuss your military choices. (They'll want to know your ability to handle technical occupations as well as your motivation for joining.) From what I'm hearing this week from the submarine force's junior officers there will shortly be plenty of openings in that community, as well as the current bonus pay of at least $25K/year. Which should make you question why they're offering so much money for something that I used to want to do for free...
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Old 07-21-2007, 01:01 PM   #12
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Dreamin22,
Just for the record--we're not a bunch of naysayers determined to pee in your corn flakes. It's impossible to know who you are based on a couple short posts (just as it's impossible for you to know much about the others on the forum.) You could be a great fit for life in the service, and it's very possible that the USN (or which ever branch you join) would be better off for your decision to sign up.

Chances are good you'll learn a lot through a visit to a recruiter (as Nords suggested). Also, while in basic training (of whatever flavor) you'll get exposed to some things that will help you make a good decision. There's a lot of mindless minutia in all good military basic training--it is there in large part to determine if the candidate has good attention to detail and, most importantly, is suited by temperament to put up with some amount of "just do it exactly that way!" which is part of any large organization, but is especially prevalent in the military.

Yes, there are certain things about the contract between the government and the servicemember that make this an ideal basis for early retirement (Nords could write a book about it---in fact, he is). Its just that for nearly all of us, the potential for early retirement made up a minuscule part of our decision to join. Some of us joined primarily out of patriotism. Frankly, I'd guess a larger number were eager to serve, but were drawn primarily by the attractions of a particular military skill set (submariner, pilot, infantry/combat arms, medic, etc), and only later did we figure out some of the broader ramifications of serving.

Was ROTC offered at your college (either on campus or by cross-town agreement), and is there some reason you didn't enroll in it?
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Old 07-21-2007, 02:23 PM   #13
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Dreamin,

Samclem is right, don't let us piss in your cornflakes. You have to make the call yourself. Just make sure you understand the contract you are signing, (how many years you are required to serve? What your job is going to be?). Because after you sign that, you are obligated to serve it out.

The way I see it, the worst thing that can happen is you find out you hate it and get out after you serve your contracted commitment (probably 4 years). Oh and by the way during this time you probably saved a lot of money, learned a lot about yourself and leadership, received more education (military will pay for your masters), and served your country honorably. I think it is a win – win situation, the only downside is Iraq/Afghanistan but depending on your job in the Navy that could be avoided (maybe). Do you want to look back in 20 years and say to yourself I wish I had done that?
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Old 07-21-2007, 02:29 PM   #14
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dreamin22,

Don't laugh, but I think you would be happier working as an analyst for the CIA or as a ranger for the Forest Service. Or maybe as a golf pro. I, too, think you are considering the military for the wrong reasons.

Think about paying for a session with a career counselor. You may learn a lot about yourself.

Good luck.
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Old 07-21-2007, 04:27 PM   #15
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... the only downside is Iraq/Afghanistan but depending on your job in the Navy that could be avoided (maybe).
And mebbe not. BUPERS has been picking off the shore-duty lieutenants for 9-12 month IAs in both places. That means a two-year shore duty is interrupted by an unaccompanied extra deployment, admittedly with the possible "compensation" of joint experience and JPME. As the O-3s tender their votes with their feet, the submarine force's JO retention is heading into the single digits. But the bonus pay is really really good.

The lieutenants that haven't been getting IA phone calls (or getting out) are grudgingly volunteering for IAs. They're afraid of being the only ones going up to the O-4 selection boards without an IA FITREP. Talk about peer pressure.

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Do you want to look back in 20 years and say to yourself I wish I had done that?[/FONT][/COLOR]
I agree that this is another good reason to join the armed forces. It's the one that sucked me in 29 years ago...
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Old 07-21-2007, 05:36 PM   #16
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A couple of sailors from Whidbey were killed In Iraq last week. Don't know what they were doing, oir how they got there.

Joining the service to get a retirement then getting offed in this stupid war would be ironic in the extreme. Or something anyway.

Ha
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Old 07-22-2007, 08:01 PM   #17
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Old 07-22-2007, 08:09 PM   #18
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Well I think I will comment a tad more.

I had saved for ER since I was very young, started at like 10 or 11 or something.

Joined the military to avoid college (lol isn't that ass backwards), and to save the money to open a business when i got out.

marines was a AMAZING expierance, UNTIL I got my body smashed.

Now I do have a nice disability pension, that being said, I would probably have several more million in the bank, had I not suffered my injuries in the Corps, and let me tell you, once you get hurt, and then change units, to a unit that has no idea your injuries or how bad you were hurt, it starts to get very annoying.

I kinda go back and forth as to whether I wasted 4 years of my life in the military, or if it was the best choice of my young life.

Understand one thing though, especially in something like the Marines. You are a slave, that does what they are told, when they are told, there is no quitting, there is the brig. Are you willing to make other people die for their country? Are you willing to die yourself, or watch your friends die? Always kinda felt like I was a paid mercenary myself.

But anyway, think long and hard about the military. And honestly considering the pay is the same in all services, I would join one of the easier ones like the Air Force myself if I had it to do all over again
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Old 07-23-2007, 06:01 AM   #19
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... I would join one of the easier ones like the Air Force myself if I had it to do all over again
With advance apologies to REWahoo, I would've had tremendous difficulty maintaining the will to live. Gotta find work that's fun & interesting or it'll quickly suck out the life force.

I did my first sea tour on an old ballistic missile submarine, mainly for a duty station near my spouse-to-be, and completed all my qualifications there while hiding with pride. The Cold War gave us all a sense of mission and urgency that made us feel as if we were holding the line and defending freedom. Doing it on a submarine that was over two decades old added a real thrill.

The Berlin Wall fell while I was enroute my newer attack submarine. IMO SSNs were an order of magnitude more challenging and more interesting, let alone more fun. There was no going back to boomer world and I was really glad that I'd served my time when I didn't know that anything better existed.

At my next tour on a shore staff, I noticed that the boomer crews were spending more and more of their time focusing on less and less because there just wasn't enough mission left to keep them busy & fulfilled. The post-deployment briefs of attack submarines were always standing-room only, even if the deployment had been "boring". OTOH we were required to provide a quota of chair-fillers for the boomer briefs, and even then there were plenty of empty seats.

I'm glad that I didn't learn how to surf until after I didn't have to show up for work. I'm also glad that I never got to sample ER before our portfolio grew big enough to afford to do it full time...
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Old 07-23-2007, 10:00 AM   #20
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With advance apologies to REWahoo, I would've had tremendous difficulty maintaining the will to live. Gotta find work that's fun & interesting or it'll quickly suck out the life force.
You mean something like spending months underwater in a metal tube with a bunch of sailors? And isn't that "suck out the life force" comment a quote from Dr. Strangelove?

Why do you think I only lasted 8 years before pulling the plug on my cushy USAF career?
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