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"The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 08:39 AM   #1
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"The best graduation gift ever"

My nephew the Army Ranger has invited me to his West Point graduation on 26 May. He'll jump right into a bunch of Ranger schools and maybe Special Forces training, or else he'll be back in the desert by early 2008. He just wants to take care of his troops and pay forward the help he got from his old sergeants and, other than an appropriate obsession with edged weapons & martial arts, he really has no hobbies or interests.

Women tend to come & go so he'll likely be single for at least a few more years. He has nearly three years of enlisted service so he's been living independently and has a handle on personal property, a car, equipping an apartment, and so forth. For the next few years he doesn't want the burden of owning his own home. Not much left to do there.

Of course if he ends up at Schofield Barracks we'll greet him at the airport with his own longboard, but otherwise I'm stumped for a graduation present. My own college graduation was replete with feuding relatives and military formations so I've told him and his mother that during Graduation Week it's my job to keep the rest of the family entertained (and off their backs). If by some miracle I get a hotel room near USMA then he's welcome to stash his stuff there and crash anytime. But that doesn't count as a "gift".

So far my best idea has been financial advice. Unless things have changed drastically over the last decade, the military academies bank about half a cadet's pay in a short-term bond fund and hand it over with the diploma. He'll probably graduate with $10K-$20K in his bank account and, if he's anything like I was, absolutely no idea what to do with it. He'll be pulling down about $36K/year salary with essentially free housing & food (tax-free allowances) and of course I'll advise him to sink 15K in the TSP stock funds and another $4K in his IRA. Even so, considering his lack of free time and his meager spending habits, he'll probably have about $10K/year left over from his paycheck. With guaranteed employment and near-zero expenses he'll be the DCA investor from hell for a couple years, long enough to lay in a good compounding foundation.

He's a voracious reader and will happily chew through any books I give him, but he's not interested in learning anything more about investing than he needs for his own self-defense. He'll probably be a lifetime buy & hold equity index investor. I think the "Boglehead's Guide" is as much as he'll ever need, which again is good to have but doesn't exactly fill the bill for a graduation gift. I'd get him a free financial plan or consultation but he doesn't really need to be pestered by sales staffs that at this point in his life.

I've asked Fidelity what they can do for family discounts, but again his portfolio's overall expense ratio will probably already be down in the .10-.15 range. I don't know what other fund companies have to offer a grad.

So... any suggestions on what to get for the grad who has everything?
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 10:05 AM   #2
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Off the top of my head, a stereo, an xbox 360 with a bunch of first person shooters and martial arts fighting games, or a really nice sword.
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 12:56 PM   #3
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Purchase his Ring for him?
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 01:52 PM   #4
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Do you have anything that has been passed down or awarded to you that you would know he would treasure?

I think something like that would be great...coupled with the love and admiration of his uncle.
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 02:21 PM   #5
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

How about a pony? That would look good with the sword someone mentioned.
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 02:23 PM   #6
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Off the top of my head, a stereo, an xbox 360 with a bunch of first person shooters and martial arts fighting games, or a really nice sword.
I assume he'd want something portable, like a gaming laptop. What's our gift budget again?
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 04:55 PM   #7
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Under $1000 - A Kimber Custom 1911 in .45ACP
Under $750 - A Kimber Compact Carry 1911 in .45ACP
Under $500 - A Para-Ordinance PXT LDA Hi-Cap in .45ACP
Under $200 - A Browning Highmark .22LR for LOTS of inexpensive practice
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 05:15 PM   #8
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

You are so lucky because you are going to bwe in the mid-Hudson valley in May! The views of the river from West Point are incredible. I grew up DIRECTLY across the river in a tiny town called Cold Spring. I used to hear the 6 am cannon blast every morning. The chain across the river during the rev. war was connected between West Point and Cold Spring. Cold Spring is also a very famous place for its antique stores.

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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 11:14 PM   #9
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Excellent ideas, everyone, thank you!

When he graduated from Airborne I sent him my old lead wings. It was like passing a torch-- when I graduated from Airborne in 1979 a colonel passed his lead wings to his son but told him to be careful with them. The COL's old lead wings had saved his life twice in Vietnam and had a lot of "extra" lead in them.

He's already purchased his academy ring (they buy them during second class year) and I'm pretty sure that he'll be awarded a sword. (His overall class rank is in the low two digits. So far.) I was going to buy his butter bars or his cover but his mother's already staked out that turf, and anyway the service academies are starting to have their commissioning insignia donated by the class that graduated 50 years before the new officers.

I'm not a gamer and apparently he isn't either. He says he had enough first-person shooter experience in Afghanistan and Baghdad. Our kid thinks he's just saying that to scare her away from a military career, but I doubt it.

BOP, I hate to say it, but to him .45 is so last millenium. 9mm is where it's at (if it's not .50 or .60 cal) and I think he has more Ranger-supplied toys than he can keep in practice with. At one point he was shooting over 200 rounds/day for several months while training Costa Rican soldiers.

I like the gaming laptop. (I wonder how deep/long they can be submerged?) $750-$1000? That'll give him something to plug into a network and start e-mailing as soon as the shooting dies down. And even if he's not gaming, I'm sure many of his buddies will be happy to trade for a little hands-on time. I'll have to snoop around and see what they're issued.

My biggest concern is that he'll get all embarrassed on me and try to demur. If that happens I'll quote the Sixteenth Law of the Navy:
"Dost deem that thy vessel needs gilding,
And the dockyard forbears to supply?
Put thy hand in thy pocket and gild her --
There are those who have risen thereby."

... and tell him to use it to take care of his troops when the logistics system doesn't...
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"
Old 02-04-2007, 11:45 PM   #10
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Re: "The best graduation gift ever"

Panasonic Toughbooks may be out of your desired price range, I think they run about $1500-$2000, but they have a good reputation for durability in the field. Or you can get him a nice Pelican case for a less expensive laptop. My personal preference would be a Halliburton case - they last forever.
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