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SAHM married to mid-career enlisted soldier
Old 04-10-2008, 06:06 PM   #1
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SAHM married to mid-career enlisted soldier

Hi! I am 29, my husband is 26. We have a 3-year-old son, and want one more child. I expect to work when youngest (future) child goes to full-day school.

My husband wants to ER after he retires from the Army. I am a little skeptical, but I want it for him.

Right now he is an E-6 (p), probably won't be promoted until next year.

He can retire between ages 39 and 49.

Right now we are not as well organized as I would like, I am in the process of really improving that, I got some advice from the diehards forum.

Our portfolio is about $50,000, 80% stock, 20% bonds. Right now my husband's TSP contribution is 15%. We save a lot when he is deployed. (Right now he is in a non-deployable unit, and will be for the next 18 months, after that, back to the infantry.)

We also own a rental in my home town. It will be paid off in 2012, and then we can collect about $5,000/year in rent. (My parents help us with this -- they manage 3 rentals.)

It is a nice little house (1,200 sq.ft., solidly built, big yard, good schools), though smaller than my husband would really like. Smaller than I would like with 2 kids. If my husband hadn't re-enlisted, we would have moved there. I expect for us to live there when my husband gets out of the Army, while we figure out -- is it good enough, or will we want to get a mortgage? And if so, where do we want to live?

I have just started looking at this site, but I am curious to see how many enlisted ERs there are, what it took to get there, and how you are doing.

Yours, Lesleyann.
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Old 04-10-2008, 07:52 PM   #2
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Hi there and welcome to the boards.
You may be able to RE when your husband retires, but I think it will be pretty difficult with 2 kids - especially if you won't be able to work for the next 5 years or so. Also - you guys are already ten years in and in the grand scheme of things, haven't saved much. BUT - a paid for rental will go a long ways towards helping, and if you live an unextravagant life - you might be able to do it. Another idea would be for him to work 4 more years and get another 10% in retirement pay (or less or more years, you could play with the numbers). You should start putting your numbers in Firecalc and see how you come out.
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:53 PM   #3
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Welcome! Sounds like you've got a good start. I know there are many former military members on the boards.
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Old 04-10-2008, 08:57 PM   #4
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Hi, Lesleyann, it must be great having your husband in a non-deployable unit now. I'm working toward ER, and I'm sorry to see the vast majority of my fellow sailors are not, so it's exciting to hear of another enlisted family who thinks beyond the next paycheck. Glad to see you on this forum, and I'll be interested to see how it goes for your family.
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Hi again
Old 04-10-2008, 09:39 PM   #5
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Hi again

Hi again!

I also wonder if our savings are on an ER level -- but haven't done the numbers.

I do think he will have more like a 26-year career, it does depend on his promotions, he likes to start sentences with "When I am a Sergeant Major" once in a while, but of course when I see the retirement lists in the paper, there are a lot of E-6s and E-7s. Not so many E-8s and E-9s. (Though making E-7 in his secondary zone, he does have a shot.)

I am just happy that we are not a) broke or b) arguing about money, something not true of our families or how we grew up.

On the other hand, we are not expensive people... our income now is not high, but we have a nice life and still save. It is hard to know just how much more expensive the civilian world will be, since right now we pay 3 bills: husband's cell phone, cable/internet/phone, and renter's/car insurance. My sister has about 15 bills every month and is always broke despite a household income of probably $80,000.

Our savings are due to driving used cars (we were a one-car household until about a year ago) and me living with my parents when my husband is deployed, and our splurge being a $3,000 vacation when my husband came back.

If he is deployed a lot of times, maybe it will be possible. But I would rather have him not be deployed!

Hi Navy guy! We are putting all our long-term money in the TSP and Roth IRAs. We can put as much as $25,000/year into those accounts. I don't think we will have more money than that to save for a while, or until another deployment.

Have you done the numbers?

Yours, Lesleyann
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Old 04-10-2008, 09:47 PM   #6
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USNR E6 here. Welcome to the board! Where are you guys stationed? Feel free to PM me, I do TAP (Transition Assistance Program) classes - these are tailored to separating/retiring members. I can give you an early version! Who the heck WANTS to be deployed?? But you are correct, the $$ is not the worst, but would be better if he were home! What you are working towards is COMPLETELY DOABLE! HANG IN THERE! Feel free to PM with specific questions
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Old 04-11-2008, 06:12 AM   #7
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Retired Army CW4 here but I did have about 8 years as Army Enlisted. Got to E7 in 7 years and did not see much potential for E8 or E9 without changing field. Applied and got W1. Retired at 21+ years of service (at age thirty-eight) a long time ago (79). It seems from reading your postings you guys have a very good chance to ER. The best chance is to "work the numbers" and he has the ability to "stay in longer" to make the numbers work. Your support is the main thing that I can see - those deployments, past and future, are tougher on the "home team" IMHO. IMO one of the worst unknowns most ER's face is medical care - something that can be virtually eliminated for a retired military person. I have heard that the first 20 years of military service is for the respective military service and the last 10 is for the member. I do not know if that is true but it is something to keep in mind as you go through the next 13 years or so. And congratulations on the rapid (secondary zone) promotion - a great accomplishment - and it took a lot of work.
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Old 04-11-2008, 11:58 AM   #8
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Welcome to the board, Lesleyann.

I know several enlisted retirees, but military retirees of any rank aren't that common. Part of it is a lack of planning but I think the majority of the issue is that the transition process assumes that the veteran is looking for a job. You're already doing the planning and this board goes a long way toward dealing with the career-seeking peer pressure.

Your biggest advantages are a COLA pension and cheap healthcare. If you have a LBYM mentality then it's even easier.

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Originally Posted by Lesleyann View Post
I also wonder if our savings are on an ER level -- but haven't done the numbers.
Have you done the numbers?
It sounds like you're already tracking your expenses, and if you have a retirement area in mind then you can use their numbers for utility bills, home insurance, & property taxes. If the area is your hometown then you'll have a good feel for a retirement budget.

After that it's running FIRECalc. The pension you put into FIRECalc should be adjusted for inflation, and remember to add Social Security. You can also fiddle around with retirement ranks/pensions to see the effect of a few more years' service or a drawdown that kills promotion rates. This calculator happens to be Navy but it's the same DoD formula:

https://staynavytools.bol.navy.mil/RetCalc/Default.aspx

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lesleyann View Post
I do think he will have more like a 26-year career, it does depend on his promotions, he likes to start sentences with "When I am a Sergeant Major" once in a while, but of course when I see the retirement lists in the paper, there are a lot of E-6s and E-7s. Not so many E-8s and E-9s.
He (and you) will definitely know when it's time to go. OTOH it's extremely difficult to deal with a "just five more years and I can retire" situation. It's probably better to retire when the fun stops and fill in the budget cracks with part-time work than to risk one's health (and family harmony) by clenching jaw muscles and gutting through it. Bob Clyatt has a lot of insight into "semi-early retirement" in "Work Less, Live More".

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We are putting all our long-term money in the TSP and Roth IRAs. We can put as much as $25,000/year into those accounts. I don't think we will have more money than that to save for a while, or until another deployment.
Sounds like you're maxing out the TSP and both Roths. The TSP has the nation's lowest expense ratios (better than Vanguard) and is a great way to keep it compounding.
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Old 04-11-2008, 12:41 PM   #9
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Hey Lesleyann,

Welcome to the board. Prior Army E-5, now Air Force Lt Col select with a couple of years to go. Complete retirement may be hard, but rest assured having Uncle Sam's p-nut butter money arriving monthly will certainly help and make the possibility of just having to work part time an option. Plus as Nords mentioned having medical coverage makes is even better.

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Welcome to the board, Lesleyann.

He (and you) will definitely know when it's time to go. OTOH it's extremely difficult to deal with a "just five more years and I can retire" situation. It's probably better to retire when the fun stops and fill in the budget cracks with part-time work than to risk one's health (and family harmony) by clenching jaw muscles and gutting through it. Bob Clyatt has a lot of insight into "semi-early retirement" in "Work Less, Live More".
Good point. In the last few months I have gone through the "just a little longer" syndrome. My mind changes every time the wind blows. It would be nice to retire 3 yrs time in grade when I pin on 0-5, but I am afraid it will come with a cost from the assignment team that I may not be willing to pay. I want to control my own destiny you know.

So I am laying in the foundation to be able to walk at the first opportunity. One thing I am doing is restructuring cash flow requirements and making sure I understand revenue streams that I could tap if required. I am also exploring possible second career options that will give me the flexibility I desire if I choose to go that way.

But I must admit this is an exciting time. I haven't been this excited about my future/future assignments in the last 3 or 4 yrs. The possibilities are endless. Things that I had never thought of are beginning to develop. I have gotten some great advice from the ones that have retired from AD before me here on the board and all the guys I work with. But I think the most important piece of advice I have gotten so far is to take my time and don't jump into things.

Best of luck to your family. I look forward to hearing how you folks are progressing. Plan your work and work your plan

Tomcat98
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Old 04-11-2008, 01:34 PM   #10
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I don't know too much about the later parts of my husband's career.

Right now -- he has a difficult job, but it helped him get promoted. He could have tried to be range cadre, which, hey, looks nice from where we stand. But I guess it is a "career killer" for him.

OTOH -- I feel strongly that -- if he is 15 years in, and burned out, and facing more year-on year-off deployments, I want to be in a financial position where he gets out regardless of pension. At that point -- we will have a paid-off home and no debt. He will have the G.I. Bill (and he got extra college money when he enlisted).

It is kinda nice to hear people speculating drawdowns! I guess I can see that cutting the number of BCTs would mean fewer 1SGs and SGMs, but what else would happen? I have heard of "buyouts" several years ago, but are they optional? I thought they were for people who didn't expect another promotion.

We are not close to maxing out TSP + Roths, but that is what we look to do -- as close as we can get.

We are also pretty deep in car/motorcycle land. A lot of people spend their whole tour dreaming about a car or motorcycle they want, and then buy it. Then back to paycheck-to-paycheck to living. So much stress! We have enough stress without borrowing trouble.

Yours, Lesleyann.
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Old 04-12-2008, 01:46 PM   #11
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Right now -- he has a difficult job, but it helped him get promoted. He could have tried to be range cadre, which, hey, looks nice from where we stand. But I guess it is a "career killer" for him.
For his sake I hope your spouse's career never has anything in common with mine-- but I have a nephew who's served three years enlisted infantry, a four-year incarceration at West Point, and is eagerly awaiting the start of Ranger training.

The Navy also regards training commands as career-killers, but I spent eight years at them as an instructor and easily another five years as a student of one sort or another. Kinda ironic that the majority of my career was spent at such a toxic environment from the assignment officer's perspective, but in retrospect they were the most rewarding.

If your spouse thinks that a training command could be interesting, even "fun", then he should do it. It's not for everybody but instructors can be trained, not just born. However a training command can't guarantee that you'll sleep at home every night, or even in the same time zone.

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OTOH -- I feel strongly that -- if he is 15 years in, and burned out, and facing more year-on year-off deployments, I want to be in a financial position where he gets out regardless of pension. At that point -- we will have a paid-off home and no debt. He will have the G.I. Bill (and he got extra college money when he enlisted).
One of my career regrets is gutting it out to 20. At one staff job I was surrounded by Reservists yet it never occurred to me that I could follow their path-- a combination of too much work to pay attention to my own life, coupled with the lousy reputation of the 1980s Reserve forces.

We didn't make the same mistake twice. Spouse left active duty for the Reserves just a few weeks short of 18 years, a money decision that cost approx $750K. Her improved quality of life has been worth far more than that and her Navy performance (and promotion opportunities) improved dramatically. It may be a lot easier to get promoted in the Reserves/NG than on active duty (especially in the Navy) but it's worth just as much when the pension starts.

If your spouse hasn't read Robert Kaplan's books "Imperial Grunts" or "Hog Pilots" then he'll appreciate Kaplan's high opinion of the NG... and his not-so-high opinion of "Big Army".

So stay in until the fun music stops, and don't hesitate to bail for the Reserves.

Quote:
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It is kinda nice to hear people speculating drawdowns! I guess I can see that cutting the number of BCTs would mean fewer 1SGs and SGMs, but what else would happen? I have heard of "buyouts" several years ago, but are they optional? I thought they were for people who didn't expect another promotion.
I don't see another widespread buyout. The end of the Cold War, followed by the post-DESERT STORM euphoria, led to a lot of cuts (and lawsuits) that went too deep. Just about every personnel cut that's happened over the last decade has, in retrospect, overshot the mark. I think the personnel branches of all the services have learned to focus on retention, not recruiting, and are much more likely to leave people on duty until their enlistment expires or they hit high-year tenure. The reason it's really different this time is due to today's advanced computer networks and database tools that just weren't ready for the 1990s. It's a lot easier for everyone to track billets, bodies, and skill sets-- and to move the pieces around as necessary.
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Old 04-13-2008, 04:11 PM   #12
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One of my career regrets is gutting it out to 20. At one staff job I was surrounded by Reservists yet it never occurred to me that I could follow their path-- a combination of too much work to pay attention to my own life, coupled with the lousy reputation of the 1980s Reserve forces.

We didn't make the same mistake twice. Spouse left active duty for the Reserves just a few weeks short of 18 years, a money decision that cost approx $750K. Her improved quality of life has been worth far more than that and her Navy performance (and promotion opportunities) improved dramatically. It may be a lot easier to get promoted in the Reserves/NG than on active duty (especially in the Navy) but it's worth just as much when the pension starts.
USAF E-3 here

I've got another 24 months until my first 4yr enlistment is up, and I've heard that the reserves/guard is where someone could move up in rank pretty quickly. Even if that is the case how would that help me if I choose to stick the entire 20years and retire? Don't reservist only get paid for their weekend duties? Any help understanding it would be great.
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Old 04-13-2008, 08:19 PM   #13
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Even if that is the case how would that help me if I choose to stick the entire 20years and retire? Don't reservist only get paid for their weekend duties? Any help understanding it would be great.
Nothing terrifies re-enlistment/retention coordinators more than an airman asking about joining the Reserves/NG. So even if you decide to stay on active duty, learning about the Reserves may help you negotiate a better deal on assignments or bonuses.

Each service has their own Reserve rules, and I'm most familiar with Navy, but the system is similar for the AF. If you need to dig into the nitty-gritty there are a couple of AF Reserve experts on the board to help you. I also know a couple people in the NG.

When you leave active duty your Reserve contract (for example, six years) starts your point count with one point for each day of active duty. Each weekend drill ("a weekend a month") or day of active duty ("two weeks a year") is an additional point toward retirement credit. 20 years of active duty would bring you about 7300 points while the minimal Reserve career adds up to about 3000-4000 points. So your typical Reserve retirement would be about half of an active-duty retirement check, and the Reserve checks start coming at age 60 instead of at the date you retire from active duty.

One nice thing about Reserve duty is that if you do your 20 years and retire to await your first age-60 pension check, your seniority accrues to the top of your retirement rank. This means that if you retire as an E-8 with 20 YOS, your retirement seniority will continue to accrue to the top of the E-8 payscale. Your retirement pay will be based on the payscale in effect when you're 60 years old, not the earlier payscales you had on Reserve duty.

A not-so-nice thing about the post-Cold-War Reserve is that you're likely to be mobilized for at least one year out of every six. This can have a chilling effect on a civilian career. There are a number of federally legislated safeguards to protect you but the bottom line is that you're out of sight for a year at least twice a decade.

OTOH you may not care about a civilian career. In Hawaii and other areas of major military commands, Reservists are in high demand. (One-third of PACOM staff is Reservists and they want more more more.) I know several Reservists who left active duty and have been on continuous Reserve active-duty orders for months or even years. In between they take a contractor job or even a civil-service billet, frequently at their active-duty command, and line up their next set of Reserve orders. One buddy is a winter ski instructor at Vail and spends the rest of the year on orders to garden spots like Iraq, Afghanistan, & Europe. The Reserve difference is that he volunteers for those hot-listed orders instead of being volunteered for them by an active-duty assignment officer.

Another friend in the Pennsylvania ANG has more flying orders than he can handle, and he much prefers tanker duty to being in an office. He's been to Hawaii three times in the last 12 months for "crew rest".

The Navy Reserve system ties its promotions to the active-duty ranks, so Reservists are sometimes promoted even if they're not actively drilling. The AF Reserve may be similarly generous about promotions. Do a good job, keep your record clean, and you'll probably earn a promotion with your peers.

The best career-guidance and military-benefits book I've EVER read is Chris Michel's "Your Military Advantage" on the Military.com website. (In addition to being the founder of Military.com, he's also a Navy Reservist.) You can probably find a copy around your command or base.

Deserat, Tomcat98, and SamClem are just a few of the veterans who can correct my mistakes. Post or PM me if you have other questions!
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:23 PM   #14
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Many good NCOs go the warrant officer route. Might be something your husband considers. Pay is better.

Curious about the $25,000 comment. TSP in nondeployed is $15,500 (I think) and Roth is $5000 (I think). Deployed soldiers can place up to $40k+ in TSP, though.

I appreciate what good NCOs do. I never thought the Army paid many of them enough for their responsibilities. Trust me, civilian employers would love to hire a good, responsible/dependable industrious former NCO. He should have no problems finding additional income to supplement his retirement income. Even going the civil service route would be an option with his Army expertise.

You husband sounds like a lucky man with a wife who is fiscally responsible. I've been connected to the Army (I'm currently a career officer) -and see every day how some soldiers live hand to mouth while driving expensive bimmers, having the best electronic components, and not saving a dime.
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Old 04-26-2008, 03:12 PM   #15
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I count the TSP maximum $15,500 plus my Roth plus his Roth to get $25,500 -- the most we could save in retirement plans a year (not deployed).

My husband's training job is great for promotions -- probably really helped him. He is a drill sergeant. However -- for officers at basic training, I think it is a different story.

We just got our tax refund and a re-enlistment bonus -- so for a month or so, we were very concerned with figuring out the right thing to do. But now we are back on auto-pilot. When he gets pinned E-7 we are going to increase our TSP allotment, maybe to 20%, maybe to 17% or 18%.

I am enjoying this forum, sorry I don't have a chance to comment more often.

Yours, Lesleyann.
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