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Active duty 19 years, big decision ahead
Old 07-16-2018, 02:09 PM   #1
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Active duty 19 years, big decision ahead

Hello all. I am at a crossroad with a pretty big decision to make that seems impossible to make my mind up. I am active duty military, Marine Corps, have 19 years in. I am trying to decide to retire at 20 or stay in and do some more years. Each year is a 2.5% increase in pension which caps out at 75% base pay at 30 years. I am supposed to decide this week. Been dealing with going back and forth for the past year.

I have saved and invested since I was 23, wish I would have started sooner. I would have more in savings/investments but got divorced in 2010. I am 37 years old, I have no debt, a college degree and $220k in TSP/Roth IRA with six months of living expenses in a savings account. I continue to save my money like clockwork. I am remarried and she works, has the same outlook as mine. We will not be having children. I have two kids from my previous marriage. I have a background in Supply Chain logistics and have a lot of skills that will transfer to the civilian sector. She is almost done with her accounting degree and has a great job here.

I have always lived below my means, bought used cars, paid them off, not an extravagant lifestyle but I enjoy my life all the same. My ultimate goal is to retire early. I grew up poor, on welfare and didn’t have too many options growing up but feel I have done well for myself.

I feel like my heart is saying it’s time to leave the service but my mind, when I do the numbers say to stick it out. I have been fortunate to have made it to where I am rank wise, not an Officer but an E8 and will most likely pick up E9 which will be a nice pay rise. I bring home about $70k after taxes a year, I am not taxed any state. I do my job well, people look up to me and I like mentoring Marines while getting the mission done. I have learned in my life that when I go through tough times, I always look back with fondness that I grew as a person. I don’t want to get out and then at the 24, 26 or 30 year mark and think, “man, I wish I would have stayed in” or vice versa “I wish I would of retired earlier”. Mentally, the job wears me out. There is a lot of stress and the political correctness if taking its toll. Politically, I have changed since I was 18 as well. The political correctness, lazy individuals and bureaucratic red tape annoys me but I am sure that happens everywhere to some extent.

If I do stay in, I will have orders this December which would be nice. The command climate is not that great were I am at and I feel like I am ready for a change of scenary.

One of the biggest concerns I have, is my children. They are both pre-teens and if I stay in I would be missing out on their lives (They live with the ex). I feel I have been missing out already but I feel like I would be turning my back on them because I have a chance to move closer to them if I retired. There is no drama with my ex and my wife loves the children as her own. I pay a reasonable amount for child support and I would like to continue supporting them as they grow older and decide to go to school and whatnot. If I still can, I am looking at transferring my GI Bill to them. That’s an option if I stay in.

I know this is a decision I will ultimately have to make. Just looking for some wisdom. Is there anyone here that stuck it out past 20 years and was it worth it? Any regrets? I am still young, and worked so hard to get where I am. I am physically able to handle the PT test etc. but I am getting slower and things are hurting more as I get older

COA 1: Stay in and continue to serve for as long as possible past 20, save and invest as usual. Increase in pay, promotion to E9. Potentially retire for good at 48 with $900k net worth with approximately $70k a year in pension (includes $1k a month for disability).

COA 2: Retire at 20, move closer to the kids. Go back to school to work on masters on the GI Bill with an allowance of $1500 a month on top of retirement and disability (Roughly $4500 a month). Get a job in logistics, work until 50, and retire for good.

COA 3: Retire at 20 and join the civilian workforce until 50.

Thanks for any advice.
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Old 07-16-2018, 02:24 PM   #2
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This is a tough question and one I cannot answer as everybody is different...


One of the things that I would use to make a decision is how much can I make in the private sector... IOW, you are in the $70K range (maybe that is take home) and if you continue to work you will get more pension plus that salary... but if you can make say $100K then the increase in pension might not be worth it (that is a math question I am not doing for you)... but $1750 (est) per year for the rest of your life is worth something...


BTW, how is the pension calculated? Is it the last 3 years? 5 years? If so then moving up a grade and getting higher salary moves your pension for life... that might be worth much more than a higher salary...


And you do mention the kids... how often are you able to see them if you move close to them? Will it be every other weekend or more... I have seen some divorced dads of girls on my daughters soccer team and they do not see their kids that often... the other spouse follows the court orders... also, they are in the mid teens and just do not want to be around parents that much, even absent parents...
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Old 07-16-2018, 02:37 PM   #3
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I remember it well. I faced a very similar dilemma. I honestly enjoyed most of my Air Force career, especially the people I worked with, but I found myself in a job at the Pentagon that just loaded so much stress on me that I decided to quit at 21 years. Like you, I would certainly have made another rank but that would have meant staying around a lot longer and I didn't see myself doing it.

So I got out and got a civilian job that I did for another 12 years and mostly enjoyed that.

Of course, my experience doesn't tell you anything about yours, but if you asked my advice I would have to just say go with your gut. If I were in your shoes, your Option 2 sounds good, but you're the only one who can judge if it really feels right.

Best of luck -- it's a BIG decision.
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Old 07-16-2018, 02:39 PM   #4
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Delighted to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your service to our country.


It sounds like you are holding some good cards, but I suggest you consider a few questions before you place your bet:
  1. Would your present wife have to leave her j*b if you retired and moved closer to your 2 kids? How might that affect the household finances?
  2. Do you have a specific civilian job you would pick up if you retired from the USMC? The employment picture is good right now, but you should consider where you want to be, who you would be w*rking for, etc. Don't simply bet on the come that a suitable j*b will land in your lap.
  3. Do you have a very, very good handle on what your expenses would be in retirement? Keep in mind that some retirees see their expenses go UP, not down.
  4. Any idea where would you be sent if you got new orders in December? Would that make it easier or harder to see your kids?
  5. What if you get shipped to a billet that ends up being very unpleasant? If you have to either retire or re-enlist, those last few years in a bad place could feel like twenty.
That's all I can think of on short notice. Good luck!
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Old 07-16-2018, 02:58 PM   #5
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Welcome to the board. You have done a tremendous job of building that TSP account--there are many retiring O-5s >without< child support payments that wish they had that amount, and probably wish they had your discipline. Your dedication to your kids and your role in their life is very commendable.



I also had a situation similar to yours: just promoted in the USAF, I had 21 years AD, and it was time to move. My daughter was going through some issues (well, we all were, but she was the focus), and if we'd moved it would have been trouble. So I retired. It did cost us a chunk of change in decreased monthly retired pay, and was not a decision grounded in good financial sense. But it was the right decision.


I can't pick a COA from your list, but I'd offer these thoughts as you make your choice.


1) You probably love the Corps, and you are obviously very good at what you do. The USAF had spent a lot of money on me, had trusted me with people and assets, and I had good bosses who wanted me to go places. I did feel like I'd let them and the whole team down when I decided to retire. Maybe that was hubris masquerading as loyalty, I don't know. But I'm sure the service did just fine without me--some lucky duck got any later schools, jobs, or promotions I would have gotten and I'm sure they made contributions at least as good as any I would have made. There were plenty of good candidates. But nobody else could have been there for my wife and daughter.



2) Can you fulfill the obligation you feel toward your children, your ex and your wife if you take that next assignment and the new stripe? Sure, it won't be as good as being closer, but is there a way to "be there" to a degree that will leave you feeling that you did things as well as they needed to be done?


Thanks very much for your service. I am especially in awe of anyone who could hack a career in supply or logistics--that would have killed me!
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Old 07-16-2018, 03:18 PM   #6
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I know this is a decision I will ultimately have to make. Just looking for some wisdom. Is there anyone here that stuck it out past 20 years and was it worth it? Any regrets?

I was torn in the same way you are. I was at 21 years, had been selected for the next higher grade and was hoping to stick it out for one more year in that location to get my youngest through high school. Alas - it was not to be; the Navy had some place they wanted me to go (in a very good job, BTW.) After much hand-wringing, I took the transfer/promotion. It was hard on my daughter, although she has long since gotten over it and has even published a novel, the seeds of which came from the location to which we transferred. I also did 5 more years after that assignment in a job/area which we enjoyed a lot. Financially, my pension is quite a bit bigger than it would have been (almost 29 years vs 21). This allowed me to have a shorter civilian second "career" than I would have had to work to get to real retirement age (58). So, in my case, it was generally worth it but it wasn't all a bed of roses. Now that it's all in the past, I'm very
glad to have the higher pension, a result of about 8 more years and one more pay grade.
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Do the math...then listen to your heart
Old 07-16-2018, 03:19 PM   #7
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Do the math...then listen to your heart

OP-

Welcome! You’ll find lots of good advice here, informed folks, kindred spirits, and several of us who have served in the military.

My advice is this:

You almost certainly do not yet have enough $$$/income to retire (quick estimate => [$1,750/mo + $220k*.03/12]=$2,300/mo

So, it seems to me that your decision is “Where do I want to work for the next X years?” So, do the math on those choices to see if there’s a big difference. Then, informed with that info, listen to your heart.

As others have said, only you can make that decision. But, I will say that the tone of your post leads me to believe you want to retire @ 20 and have more control over your life, involvement in your kids life, and flexibility to accommodate your wife’s career.

Best of luck & please keep us updated on your decision & progress.

ETA: If you’ve not already studied this web resource, you should take some time to do so. It’s the work of Doug Nordman (“Nords” around here), and a great source of info for folks in your situation.

https://the-military-guide.com/contact-me/
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Old 07-16-2018, 08:50 PM   #8
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Do you have a feel for where your next assignment will be? If it brings you closer to your kids, it will serve to meet your goal of increasing your involvement in their lives...On the other hand, if the assignment takes you further away, then taking it is less desirable.

Also taking another assignment gives you the advantage of feeling out the job market at your new location for both you and your spouse while one of you kept getting a pay check.

I retired a year ago after 30 yrs in the Army. I stayed after 20 because I was competitive for promotion to O6. I am glad I stuck it out for the promotion and the great jobs I got. Not all good, I spent a year in Iraq while my kids were young, I have 4, and it put a huge load on my DW who was also AD in the Army. With deployments slowing down, this may not be as large a possibility. Also spent a year as an XO in the Pentagon that was almost as bad as the deployment, but the other assignments were wonderful. 8 out of 10 ain't bad.

The decision to stick around worked well for me financially as we banked a lot of our income as you will with two earners piling on the savings. We didn't have a strategic pause of a couple years for me to get out and earn a master's as you would have to do if you choose that option.

I don't know what the value of a masters may be, but it sure is nice funding our kids that are in college, have two in school now, with the 9/11 GI Bill. The 36 months can stretch to 48 if you ask VA nicely. If you accept another assignment, you could save the GI Bill for the kids and do night school on tuition assistance.

This is a tough decision to make but if you take the assignment, you can still drop your papers a year from now, assuming the pcs rules are the same in the USMC and go from there.

Best of luck to you
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Old 07-16-2018, 09:08 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Huston55 View Post
OP-

As others have said, only you can make that decision. But, I will say that the tone of your post leads me to believe you want to retire @ 20 and have more control over your life, involvement in your kids life, and flexibility to accommodate your wife’s career.

Best of luck & please keep us updated on your decision & progress.

ETA: If you’ve not already studied this web resource, you should take some time to do so. It’s the work of Doug Nordman (“Nords” around here), and a great source of info for folks in your situation.

https://the-military-guide.com/contact-me/
Doesn't @nords say if you want to eject that you can go to the Guard? And that is a nice way to end your career. That might allow you to be close to your kids but still rack up service time

I was not military so only follow from afar
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Old 07-16-2018, 11:23 PM   #10
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Doesn't @nords say if you want to eject that you can go to the Guard? And that is a nice way to end your career. That might allow you to be close to your kids but still rack up service time

I was not military so only follow from afar
No real advantage in Reserves/Guard once you’ve got your 20. But, nice thought though.
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Old 07-17-2018, 02:41 AM   #11
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I left the Air Force because my job required I do a short tour (12 months) every three years, unaccompanied. (I was an instructor to foreign nationals; Iranian, Chinese, African) And they had way too much money in my training to allow me to do anything else. That was no way to be married, let alone raise kids. I got out and did another 5 years in the Air National Guard.

You didn't mention your branch of service's transfer requirements, so maybe you aren't subject to remote tours and such.
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Old 07-17-2018, 02:55 AM   #12
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you've been given good advice. I don't have any. I've rung my hands out making the same decision. one door opens, one door closes....
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:42 AM   #13
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You mentioned transferring your GI Bill - if you plan to, do it soon. The DoD announced a couple days ago that they won’t allow people with over 16 years of service to do so starting next year. https://www.military.com/daily-news/...ty-window.html
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:58 AM   #14
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If you like your current position (more positives than negatives) consider keeping it. You will know when (to quote other ER posters) your BS bucket gets full and overflowing-it is then time to leave. Meanwhile, you are stacking pension credits.

Good luck and thanks for your service.
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Old 07-17-2018, 05:36 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Huston55 View Post
OP-

Welcome! You’ll find lots of good advice here, informed folks, kindred spirits, and several of us who have served in the military.

My advice is this:

You almost certainly do not yet have enough $$$/income to retire (quick estimate => [$1,750/mo + $220k*.03/12]=$2,300/mo

So, it seems to me that your decision is “Where do I want to work for the next X years?” So, do the math on those choices to see if there’s a big difference. Then, informed with that info, listen to your heart.

As others have said, only you can make that decision. But, I will say that the tone of your post leads me to believe you want to retire @ 20 and have more control over your life, involvement in your kids life, and flexibility to accommodate your wife’s career.

Best of luck & please keep us updated on your decision & progress.

ETA: If you’ve not already studied this web resource, you should take some time to do so. It’s the work of Doug Nordman (“Nords” around here), and a great source of info for folks in your situation.

https://the-military-guide.com/contact-me/
I think he has more than $1500/mo. He also has the pension and disability of $3000 (or more?).

Welcome Top! Although I'm sure I'm in trouble if you're a 1st Sgt and I just insulted you! I think your gut is telling you to leave and choice number two sounds like a good idea to me assuming you've done the research that the Masters degree helps you find a better job.

One reason to stay might be to get stationed somewhere you might find better work opportunities, e.g., where there's a large influx of ex military guys going straight into civilian companies. I'm specifically thinking of one friend of mine that went straight from E8 to working for one of the defense contractors the next day. He was pretty much in your situation. Stayed in the same town.

Either way that's a damned decent COLA pension to get when you're still under 40.

Anyway..best of luck. I only stayed 6 years in the Marines ( many years ago) but had a blast. Congratulations on a very successful career.
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:13 AM   #16
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Welcome to the forum!

Tough decision, for sure. Congrats on staying in as long as you have, especially since the USMC has the lowest number of folks that stay around long enough to get the 20 year pension...that is quite the accomplishment!

I left the Air Force a few days shy of 22 years. The reasons were many, but I was tired of dealing with a lot of what you are now complaining of. Also, the assignment I was in happened to be in my hometown and I was attached to another agency, so although I was paid by the AF, I didn't have to play many of the AF reindeer games. I was also in the position where I could fully retire, so it made the decision easier. If I hadn't been able to fully retire, quite frankly I would have stayed in as long as I could (until they dropped orders, then I would have been done) because I did enjoy the j*b and I was able to see how my former AD folks *hated* the civilian side of the house (a lot of them retired from AD and did the civil service side in the same organization). Also, some of them went to work for the large defense contractor we were overseeing, and they didn't seem as happy, either. However, most of them were flying airplanes while AD, so going to *any* desk job after that can be really hard for some folks.

In the end, I am glad I left when I did. I used my GI Bill and went to law school (no kiddos to pass the GIB to) and life has been pretty good post-service. I do miss the fun that came with the j*b and when I see the flight test folks flying around the local pattern, I do get a tinge of jealousy...but that lasts less than 20 seconds, because all the BS that I had to deal with to *get* an airplane airborne comes flooding back into my memory.

Lastly...and someone mentioned already, but looks like the GI Bill has had some significant changes recently, including eliminating the ability to transfer to your kids if you are over 16 years TIS.
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Old 07-17-2018, 06:51 AM   #17
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How would the wife feel if you stayed until you reached E9 then retired completely. Assuming you take on majority of household work would she be ok with you not working while she continues to work? If I reached E9 I would retire and never work again. Not sure why that isn't on your option list. I would at least find a job that is only part time and preferably from home. Good luck.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:15 AM   #18
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Go with your heart, not your mind. I stressed a lot over my decision to retire @ 20. I was up for O6 and fast tracking to Admiral. But I would be staying for mind reasons, not heart reasons. I joined the Navy to fly and I had run out of flying assignments, so I retired. My heart said this phase of my life was complete, time to start a new one.

Worked out great, but hindsight is not relevant. Had it not worked out great, it was still the right decision.

As you said, your skills are transferable and the pay is good. Networking is the most important thing you can do now.
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:18 AM   #19
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You are in the same position my son-in-law will face in another short 5 to 6 years. It is a tough decision. The only thought I can add to what others have said is "to consider that at 37 or 38 you are much more marketable in the private sector than at close to age 50 should you wish to pursue a second career. You have skills and a work ethic that are sorely needed in the private sector. This is a non-miliarty, private sector perspective! Those skills also transfer well for state or federal positions.

There is no doubt in my mind you will have a successful second career should you choose that route. The road is open ended and you are young enough to have an opportunity to choose another path that may lead to a "second" pension.

Thank you for your service! Congratulations on securing your first pension!
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Old 07-17-2018, 12:39 PM   #20
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You mentioned transferring your GI Bill - if you plan to, do it soon. The DoD announced a couple days ago that they won’t allow people with over 16 years of service to do so starting next year. https://www.military.com/daily-news/...ty-window.html
If he hasn't transferred benefits yet, then he incurs a 4 year service obligation when he does. So
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