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Young Dreamer in Northern VA
Old 09-14-2009, 05:52 PM   #1
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Young Dreamer in Northern VA

Hi board, been a lurker for a few months now but I figured I'd go ahead and introduce myself. I am currently single, 27 and living and working in Northern VA. My full time work life began a couple of months after graduating high school when I joined the USAF and was on active duty for four years. I then went into the Air National Guard and have a total of just over nine years service between the guard and active duty. I plan on doing at least 20 so I'll collect a small pension at 60 (actually a little before 60 due to the changes to the rules for how deployment time counts). I have a good paying job with mega corp which includes a low ER 401k (most of the index funds are around 10 to 15 basis points). My goal is to be retired by 55 and through maxing out my Roth 401k and Roth IRA I feel that is attainable. Currently have about 54k between the Roth IRA, Roth 401k and TSP.

I'm strongly considering employment with the FAA as an air traffic controller, which is the job that I currently do in the Air Guard. This would greatly improve my early retirement outlook as air traffic has a mandatory retirement age of 56 and a good pension (as far as FERS goes). I have to be hired before my 31st birthday so that still gives me a little over 3 years to decide. Financially, the FAA is a better choice since at the higher level facilities I would have a higher income than now as well as an early retirement pension. Of course, my job right now pays well (a little over 80k)and is substantially less stressful than a busy air traffic facility. Could possibly have better health at 55 if I stay where I am

I've been able to learn a great deal about early retirement and personal finance through this site and bogleheads.org, so thanks for all the info.
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Old 09-15-2009, 06:54 AM   #2
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Looks like your off to a great start! I am following a similar track. Active Air Force and then went into Air National Guard and retired after 20yrs total in 2006. While I was in the Guard I also held a fulltime civilian Guard technician postion (WG12) As I approached retirement from Guard I grabbed an FAA job (2001) as a Radar Technician (GS12). So now I have 23 years total federal service. Being a Radar Tech. at a Major Metro Airport was pretty stressful at times but I was able to find another far less stressful position as a GS12 in FAA after a few years (2005) . So now I have to put in another 15 years before I am at my Mn retirement age and then I am outta here at 56.

If you handle stress really well ( I MEAN REALLY WELL) then go for the ATC in FAA and you'll be able to get out earlier due to the early retirement benefit they get. But if you are not able to deal with the stress and the grass is already pretty green where you are then I would recommend staying put.
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Old 09-16-2009, 07:19 PM   #3
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My goal is to be retired by 55 and through maxing out my Roth 401k and Roth IRA I feel that is attainable.
Welcome to the board. It sounds like you're off to a good start with your retirement savings. Do you have a fully funded emergency fund as well? Conventional wisdom seems to vary on just how much one needs (some say 3-6 months, others say 8-12 months), but it's a good idea to have a decent amount of easily accessible cash for unforeseen emergencies.

You also have some good career options available to you. Since you've worked in ATC, you probably have a pretty good idea of whether or not that is a line of work that you'd want to do for 20 + years. A reliable six figure salary and the opportunity to retire as early as 50, though, would definitely make it worth considering (Air Traffic Controllers). Again, welcome.
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Thanks for the Welcome
Old 09-16-2009, 08:31 PM   #4
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Thanks for the Welcome

Thanks militaryman and av8er.

Militaryman, sounds like you did exactly what I am planning on doing. Seems like a pretty good route to take to retirement and let me know how it works out for you from time to time.

av8er. I do have an emergency fund so I'm set there. From the short time I've been involved in ATC I have liked it. I'm almost positive I will end up seeking employment with the FAA since its hard to turn down a job which has a high salary, stability, and an early retirement pension. I do like controlling from the short time I have been a controller so I'd imagine I could handle it for 20+ years.
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Old 09-17-2009, 09:27 PM   #5
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welcome!!!

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Old 09-17-2009, 10:06 PM   #6
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Also a big welcome--and I'm always grateful for people who enjoy jobs such as air traffic controller, which seem so difficult and stressful!
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Old 09-18-2009, 06:43 AM   #7
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Thanks militaryman and av8er.

Militaryman, sounds like you did exactly what I am planning on doing. Seems like a pretty good route to take to retirement and let me know how it works out for you from time to time.

av8er. I do have an emergency fund so I'm set there. From the short time I've been involved in ATC I have liked it. I'm almost positive I will end up seeking employment with the FAA since its hard to turn down a job which has a high salary, stability, and an early retirement pension. I do like controlling from the short time I have been a controller so I'd imagine I could handle it for 20+ years.
Be very careful when you enter the FAA to negotiate a salary that you think is fair. I hear they are low-balling alot of new hires and once you accept the offer the give you then your stuck. Many guys have found that they come on board to discover they are working with folks that have no more qualifications/certifications than they do but those folks are making 20-30K more because they knew to negotiate.
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Old 09-18-2009, 05:03 PM   #8
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Be very careful when you enter the FAA to negotiate a salary that you think is fair. I hear they are low-balling alot of new hires and once you accept the offer the give you then your stuck. Many guys have found that they come on board to discover they are working with folks that have no more qualifications/certifications than they do but those folks are making 20-30K more because they knew to negotiate.
Unfortunately, can't negotiate with the FAA for salary; pay is fixed based on what level facility one is assigned to. I know what you are talking about though, the FAA drastically reduced the payscale for new controllers a few years back and froze pay raises for current controllers. That is one of the major reasons I rejected their job offer a couple years ago in the first place. A new contract has been reached recently and the pay over the next few years is going back up to near what it was under the old payscale. Don't quote me but I think new controllers took a 33% paycut in salary a few years back but over the next three years they get a combined 27% payraise. Anyway, looking at the new payscales by 2012 the pay should be back up to near what it was before the "nontract." I'm just hoping the 20K VRA bonus is still there over the next couple years
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