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Old 05-02-2012, 07:10 AM   #21
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What's the interest rate on your vehicle? Depending on that answer, I'd either put the money towards retirement, or if the rate is high, just pay the truck off.
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Old 05-02-2012, 07:39 AM   #22
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I was much the same at your age. I had re-enlisted during Viet Nam and at 9 years of service I was already an E-7 (1979) but as I had only recently been promoted to E-7 (last promoted, first eliminated) I was in an over-strength MOS (post Viet Nam was a very bad time in the Army) and faced mandatory reclassification to drill sergeant or recruiter. As I was facing my second re-enlistment within 90 days (back then once you re-enlisted you were considered "career"), I decided to ETS instead and attended ROTC as a dual membership in the Calif National Guard. That was a bold move and cost me my 1st marriage. I was commissioned into aviation after the 2 years of ROTC BUT I had to finish a Master's degree to fulfill my 2 year ROTC obligation which was in Microbiology. I opted to stay in the Guard instead of return to active duty BUT in 1984 there was a critical shortage of microbiologists so was recalled to active duty and promoted to 1st LT and given 18 months time in grade. So much for being a pilot and I was already SF qualified in my second enlistment so ended up starting another career in the Medical Services Corps. Eventually, I was sent to long term civilian training (LTCT) to get a PhD which I got at Cornell University (3 nice years of duty) and ended up retiring as a Major at 28 years of active duty. Despite perfect OERs, Command time, SF qualified, Aviator qualified, and 4 combat deployment there is unfortunately, and in particular within the MSC, a glass ceiling for prior enlisted. I had the opposite problem trying to retire and it took me 2 more years to actually get permission to retire. On the other hand I retired with a far better retirement than I would have as enlisted (and there was no way in sight for any higher promotions in those very dry years until Reagan) and a skill set which I turned to my advantage by becoming a GS-15 after retirement into my very same job. I did several things right in my early enlisted years. In 1973 Nixon gave us a huge raise (woo hoo I was actually earning $250 a month instead of $135!) but, I invested $25 a month of my new raise into an investment account and forgot about it as it was on an allotment. That grew until I cashed it out in 1999 to pay for a house. Also, in my officer life I remarried another officer and we purchased a house at every assignment. At one point we had 9 houses all earning income from renters. One other piece of advice, take every opportunity to get education! I had completed 3 years of college during my enlisted years and a ton of correspondence courses. The Army paid for all of that. I used my GI Bill to get a Commercial/Instrument Pilots license intending to become a professional pilot but economic woes in the industry during the early 80's made it impossible to get a job. I later got a second Master's degree while in Germany and then did the Command and General Staff College followed by my PhD at Cornell. None of that cost me a dime. I paid for the BS and 1st Master's degree myself. You can't get too much education! I also learned programming and network administration (multiple automation officers jobs as ancillary duties) but all of that is marketable. What I do regret was not going to Medical School. I was selected but had to resign my RA commission and take a reserve commission as a 2LT. If I flunked out it meant going back to E-5. That seemed like too high a risk for me at the time but in hindsight I regret wimping out on it and going for the PhD instead which kept me at my current rank and no risk at all. Some other relatively simple rules that I learned later in life and what enabled us to completely retire early. Don't owe anyone anything. Pay cash for everything! You can use credit cards but pay them off monthly. No mortgages either. If you do that you will be free of all obligations and the money will begin accumulating quickly.
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:02 PM   #23
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Pay close attention to what borshelrh wrote. Life in the post Viet Nam army was not much fun. Money was tight and training was monotonous and oftentimes just plain silly. Promotions were tight and good people got axed. You may face a very similar situation in the army of the next 10 to 15 years. Think outside the "I am a senior NCO and senior NCOs are the best people on earth" box (BTW, senior NCOs actually are the best people on earth) and get more education and be ready and willing to make big changes in your career and life. Get the right education and make the right career choices and LBYM and you can achieve financial independence and retire early, perhaps VERY early.
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Old 05-02-2012, 04:57 PM   #24
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Not toot my own horn but I'm in the one and only growing career field in the Army, and we're only going to get bigger. 4 man teams will replace 100 man companies in my line of work, promotions are just about guaranteed and I'll have my TS in the next year. Point taken on college and my bachelors is next on the agenda...

So I think I'll put the extra loot towards paying off my truck and small bit more in my TSP.

I have often had the same dream of building real estate wealth by buying a house at each stop along the way, problem is I may not move from Bragg again because of my job, if that happens then I will just buy a bigger house here when we pay it off and rent this one.

Lots of good info, thanks guys. In the process of refinancing the truck from a 3.99 to 1.99...
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:11 PM   #25
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promotions are just about guaranteed
That’s a dangerous thought process; especially in today’s military. We are out of Iraq and we are drawing down heavily in Afghanistan. When I enlisted, my rating was the “hot” career path; guys making E8 and E9 in 16 years, huge reenlistment bonuses, etc… By the time I went up for E7, we were at a paltry 10% advancement rate; keep in mind, this was 2005 in the middle of two wars and today their reenlistment bonus is 0. I just witnessed a round of cuts where guys with 22+ years were being told to go home.
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:23 PM   #26
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Every eligible e6 from the course before mine was promoted to e7... We are in the process of standing up a second brigade, so in the next 3 years active duty civil affairs will completely double... Not only are we growing, it's at a staggering pace. Washington has realized that it is more fiscally responsible to deploy a highly trained 4 man team than a company of 100 average soldiers. It's cheaper to deploy, cheaper to train, and cheaper to maintain...

My bonus jumped $10,000 two weeks before I re enlisted, only if I could have been deployed for the tax free benefits!!!
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Old 05-02-2012, 08:43 PM   #27
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Sell the truck, put the $90 in TSP. It's pre-tax and your home mortgage gets you tax deductions. Your truck earns no tax breaks, costs money to operate and maintain and depreciates faster than the $90/mo will pay down the principal.

But, that's only my opinion because you asked for thoughts. In the end, you have to be comfortable with your decisions, so what others think might not be right/comfortable for you. But pls think about it, at least.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:46 AM   #28
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SRyan makes some excellent points. I was a Captain for 11 years without a passover for promotion. I didn't even get permission to go to the advanced course until my 9th commissioned year. After Nam from '75 on we had severe drawdowns. They did it whimsically and with broad strokes. Entire officer classes were eliminated while in schools. Then this happened again after Gulf War I. My brother-in-law was a Pershing Missle Battalion commander and his entire unit was eliminated and he was reclassified as a FIST. After the Gulf War where he earned a Silver Star he was forced out as well. Mind you these were the days that were really tough. Counting on Uncle to keep looking after you would be a mistake. I was SF and a rotary wing pilot with 6 combat deployments (some in wars you never heard about) and still didn't make it past Major. A lot of it is timing. The guy that replaced me is an LTC in 5 years (direct commission as a CPT). One thing my first drill sergeant told me is that life ain't fair as he was beating me for some non-existent infraction someone else did. History will repeat itself and there will be another drawdown and it will happen fast and it will be for political reasons. I remember that there was some kind of bidding war going on between aviation and MSC over who gets to recall me to active duty. Aviation had eliminated so many pilots they couldn't do any missions and were recalling ones eliminated and activating from the Guard. I learned about this a lot later when I was visiting PERSCOM (no clue what it is called now) while attending the Tropical Medicine Course at Walter Reed. At some point our elected representatives are going to have to face the fact that we can't sustain wars to this extent as we are already bankrupt. The only thing saving the US is that the Euro is equally devalued. But, the BRICS are coming and are going to create a currency of their own and will crush us economically. It is as predictable as the Sun rising in the morning and we are going to go the way of the British Empire and the Soviet Union and it will be soon. $15 Trillion in debt can't be sustained or for that matter justified. One thing this old fart soldier has learned over the years is that none of these wars were necessary or even beneficial. The People will realize this soon then lookout!
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Old 05-04-2012, 04:57 PM   #29
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I appreciate the personal insight and helpful tips. I promise you guys (I would bet anyone who would like to take me up on it either) my job is as safe as it can be. The drawdown that affected a lot of your stories is real and a threat, for the other 100 some MOS'. we had 100% promotion rate for eligible e6's, the only other MOS that supports that growth is 18 series... As long as I don't make any personal mistakes that affect my career(yet to do so in the previous 9 years) I will be fine....
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Old 05-04-2012, 07:27 PM   #30
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Civil affairs is going to be big as long as Panetta is Sec. of Def. The idea of the military winning the hearts and minds of our enemies fits perfectly with his background. If he loses his job his replacement may think more like me (the mission of the armed forces is to destroy things and kill people) and look at civil affairs as the first place to make cuts.
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:32 PM   #31
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Panetta didn't get to be the secretary of defense by being the only open minded Civil Affairs believer. Whoever follows up behind him will be in the same boat, also along with the CIA director who wrote the book on UW...which is something CA can do, and a conventional general purpose unit would fail at.

We're getting off topic, even if the army were to push CA out the door I would possess a TS, a centcom language, and regional experience... I'm sure I wouldn't have trouble finding a nice job in d.c.
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Old 05-05-2012, 12:46 AM   #32
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Chuckling out loud

Yes, CA is a "better" field than some. I was PSYOPS and that entire field was at one time completely removed into the reserves only to find it was once again necessary and they were short once again for failure to pre-plan. Later after my PhD I became one of the very select few people who are experts at aerosol infections and biothreat detection. For the past 10 years that has been a gravy train but it all abruptly ended last year. Perhaps you are unaware that the contracting of services is a relatively new idea and actually illegal if anyone were to examine the laws with a fine tooth comb. Congress after Viet Nam in response to the severe anger of our citizenry following Viet Nam demanded that the military be reduced and capped with the goal that we could respond if attacked but to not have enough teeth to attack anyone else. Our moral prerogative at that time was to stop the perceived aggression's based on the lies our government told us. That lasted a while until the military industrial complex wormed their way back into the hearts and minds of Congress. Then we had a rush on "little" conflicts which are laughable in hindsight. Grenada, Panama, Honduras, Beirut, Somalia, Columbia, Peru, Angola and others and all slowly built up a kind of dull sense of "normal" for this. Yes, we went to a fully "professional" military at great cost. But when it was limited by a manpower cap there wasn't a great deal more that could be added except bright and shiny toys (remember Star Wars?). Then came the idea of contracting to get around the manpower cap. That began with non-profits and rapidly expanded to the ridiculous levels they are at now. That too will end at some point as a backlash to what transgressions have been being performed by our contracted mercenary forces. It is predictable and IMHO unavoidable. So, maybe there won't be any jobs in the contracting sector once this train gets rolling. I would plan for that eventuality and prepare for it. Perhaps it may not come to pass and perhaps we will have never ending conflicts such as today. If so, then yes, then CA will remain a large issue and be required after action to rebuild the nations we have destroyed by saving them. But, perhaps sanity will once again prevail and all of this will come to en end. If you go debt free and build up capital you can be prepared for that eventuality. Education is money in the bank for the future.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:05 AM   #33
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Informative post. I feel like most of that response was aimed at my last comment of finding a job in d.c.. I suppose I would look into contractor work if it was their but I was mainly talking about the plethora of government agencies, and working for one of them.

I have seen the misuse of contractors first hand. I despise most of them and am a firm supporter in the military supporting itself, the change is slow but it's starting to take place.
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Old 05-05-2012, 09:55 AM   #34
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Supermech -

Congrats on your service thus far, and your stamina/commitment to make it an active duty 20-year career. Sounds like you're well on your way to financial independence on or around age 38. I did seven years active (Navy), and am finishing out my 20 with Reserve duty.

My $.02 -

1) Don't pay off your mortgage early. Depending on your tax bracket, this could be costing you only ~2% in borrowing costs after taxes.
2) Assuming you are in the 25 percent tax bracket, max out your traditional TSP.
3) If/when you get deployed overseas in to a tax-free zone, put all of the tax-free money in to the Roth TSP. Tax-free in, tax-free compounding, tax-free out.
4) If you are in a lower tax bracket (15% or less), you may want to go ahead and put all money in to Roth TSP/individual Roth accts.
5) Pay off the car loan. Depending on your interest rate, it may make sense to try and refi the car loan. In some circumstances, it may even make sense to refi using an HELOC or Home Equity Loan.
6) Get Nords' book. It will help put you in the financial 'cat bird's seat' when you finish your 20.
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Old 05-06-2012, 04:32 AM   #35
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I appreciate the personal insight and helpful tips. I promise you guys (I would bet anyone who would like to take me up on it either) my job is as safe as it can be.
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Originally Posted by Supermech21 View Post
Panetta didn't get to be the secretary of defense by being the only open minded Civil Affairs believer. Whoever follows up behind him will be in the same boat, also along with the CIA director who wrote the book on UW...which is something CA can do, and a conventional general purpose unit would fail at.
Yeah, sure, CA will never be a State Dept mission ever again, and this time SECDEF really means it.

Heh-- I used to share your retention thinking myself, and then the Cold War ended. And a few years from now you'll be reading the same optimistic statements from some other guy who thinks his drawdown is the toughest ever. It's the old phart retiree circle of life.

The point is not to estimate your chances at promotion & retention. The point is to have a "Plan B" already drawn up for when the meteor strike takes out your carefully-crafted plan which assumed you'd be promoted or retained.

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We're getting off topic, even if the army were to push CA out the door I would possess a TS, a centcom language, and regional experience... I'm sure I wouldn't have trouble finding a nice job in d.c.
And, yes, it's worth retaining that TS eligibility. IIRC there's a specific statement that your security manager can have included in your service record, and you can transfer that boilerplate verbatim into your resume. It reads something like "Eligible under DCID... ... for TOP SECRET security clearance... under investigation dated.." What it means to the contractor or govt agency is "Hey, we won't have to do an investigation, and we can put this guy straight to work!!"

It's a lot easier to motivate the security manager to put that statement in your record before your retirement request is approved.

I should add that your desire to keep that pickup truck (instead of selling it and replacing it with a cheaper vehicle) is costing you the ability to max out your TSP. 20 years from now that pickup truck won't have anywhere near the significance to your life that your TSP balance could have assumed. This is not intended as a criticism, just as an observation from the other side of that class of financial decisions.
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Old 05-06-2012, 04:54 AM   #36
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You make some very good points. The TS is a bit of an issue once you retire as you may not have had a "need to have" on your last assignment so it may be inactivated which might require another BI. Then there is the re-validation issues and additional issues as inter-agency requirements which may differ dramatically. I have an active DoD TS plus the Biological Personnel Reliability Program (BPRP) issued through my contracting company that I sub-contract through. I have to bear the costs for the clearance ($25k now) and the BPRP clearance requirements (another $2500 for the medical clearances) so end up building that into my rates. But, you are correct in having it is a lot better than not and many people can't qualify and will not have your experience. Many of my active duty assignments didn't require it but my last few did so at least it was current when I retired. Of course in my case I stayed at the same desk, lab, and duties just changed into a different uniform driving to work as we all (military, civilian, and contractors) wear scrubs at work. Language skills are also in relatively high demand but this comes and goes as well so having multiple languages is a plus and I encourage you to seek out Chinese which I can see will be a future requirement in high demand. I have a very basic level in German, Russian, and Spanish and a poor level in Hungarian which I am working to improve. Interesting to note that I am working towards an International Sailing license and the languages for use in the examination include English and Chinese. Very interesting in that we haven't many Chinese here but clearly they are preparing for it. If I can ever get through Hungarian then I will start on Chinese myself. But, I find the older I get the harder new languages become and if I don't use them they fade rapidly. So, I agree with you that keeping language skills and your clearances active are a huge plus for when you retire.
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Old 05-06-2012, 12:50 PM   #37
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You guys are all right about the truck, but I'm not going to sell it. My wife and choose to buy a larger vehicle to do home projects and more importantly haul my dogs on family trips, we decided to get a truck to meet both of these needs. I understand I could put a lot more in my tsp without it, but it's not going anywhere... Selling it would probably net a huge loss, I plan on keeping it for 10+ years which could equal more savings down the road...

I guess my next move is to finish the refinances and gets nords book...
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:27 PM   #38
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I guess my next move is to finish the refinances and gets nords book...
You might be able to find it at your local library & inter-library loan catalogs.
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