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"Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 02-27-2004, 05:36 PM   #1
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"Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

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How many people did you come across during your service, who truly retired when they retired from military service? I can't think of ANY. I was constantly asked about post-retirement employment. All were astonished, when I said I was NOT going to work after retirement. I suspect the sample size of true ERs is too small and diverse to do statistically valid studies. Many of us fly low and fast without making large radar signatures.
GDER, that's a darn fine question, and a really scary one too.

At my last duty station (a training command), most of the enlisted retirees thought that their pensions wouldn't be enough. No one demonstrated the financial-management or frugal-living skills to fantasize about escaping from the workplace. The retirees would have the ceremony on Friday and come back on Monday as a contract employee or a civil servant, often collecting a new paycheck while still on terminal leave. Sometimes it'd even be the same department and largely the same job (within govt ethics guidelines, of course). I've been to a couple ship reunions and it's the same story-- everyone working, some shipmates in very successful careers, but no one retired. Sadly, a number of them knew that they'd be surrendering half their pension to their divorced spouses.

As near as I can tell, the vast majority of my (living!) college classmates are still chugging away. I don't know if that's because they're future flag officers & CEOs or if it's because they don't know how to ER. And a significant minority hasn't reported in at all, so as you say maybe ERs don't contribute to alumni magazines & websites. I can name half-a-dozen military associations designed to network & build careers, but I can't even think of ANY groups for ERs (other than boards like this one).

I can only recall two people-- a meteorologist (commissioned from the ranks and retired at 20), and her friend (a Marine Corps warrant officer). She's a professional sculptor and they live off their pensions. Everyone I see on the waves on a weekday morning is sneaking away from their offices.

I don't know when you escaped the asylum, but as recently as two years ago you had to attend your local "Transition Assistance Program" before you could retire. It began as a week-long course during the DESERT STORM drawdown-- including a full day on how to dress for success despite 20 years of coveralls & cammies-- but it had shrunk to two days by the time they snared us. Spouse & I were relentlessly brainwashed on how to qualify for VA hiring preference, how to ferret out civil-service jobs, and how to work with a headhunter.

But the entire course was designed to help us FIND a job, not get rid of one. There were a couple references to post-career depression & losing your "identity", but the only solution was to create a NEW career identity (in your subdued yet fashionable gray suit, no less). My spouse and I were fortunate enough to attend the course together and we realized very quickly that we weren't fitting in. We spent both days hiding in the back row with our eyes on our "work"books.

The course did one good thing for me. I was discussing the whole experience with my father (retired for 10 years at that point), who knew about our military pension and our retirement portfolio. I was frustrated that the career skills inventory & interest surveys kept pointing me toward nuclear engineering jobs. He's a nuke too and he understood. He asked "If you can afford not to, why in the world would you want to get a job?" That stopped me in my tracks, and I started paying more attention to his lifestyle. I haven't looked back but I sure enjoy running into old shipmates.

The interesting thing about leaving military service is that, deep down, you have no clue what a civilian employer seeks. You learn it all from books or by talking with family & other "retirees". Meanwhile the employers are dying to have mature cool-headed managers & technicians with solid work ethics & experience, and they can't believe how you underestimate your value. I never attended a job conference or even wrote a resume', but on the first day after my sixth month (those govt ethics guidelines again) we had three unsolicited queries in one week. (Unfortunately none of them included time off-- with pay-- for high surf.) But if those offers don't inflate your ER ego then I doubt anything else can.

Now I think I'm going to ask some pointed questions of my alumni association & other organizations...
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 03-06-2004, 05:22 AM   #2
 
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

I think you are spot on. It sickens me that more people don't see that if they saved a reasonable amount of their military income they could ER. I'm also amazed at my peers who have left active duty for the Guard or Reserves because they want the opportunity to collect that paycheck until 55 (60?) vice the retirement in the early 40's. I was just chatting the other day with a Lt Col about 18 months out from retirement that sold all $150k of his stock/mutual investments to use as down payment on his $450k house. You think he'll be able to retire anytime before 65? No way.

I usually walk away from conversations like that and rarely tell folks of my investment situation (alternate vision?). Aside from driving a 9 year old car, I don't really feel as if my standard of living is much lower than those that fail to save/invest toward FI/RE. It's all a mindset.

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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 03-06-2004, 10:12 AM   #3
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

For my wife and I, our cars reflect our ER values-- not our net worth!

The military lifestyle is suffering from new demographics. The demands/hours of the job practically require a post-WWII household where one spouse worked and the other stayed home with the kids. Back then there were very few two-job marriages but today both spouses not only work yet may have high-paying careers. I remember a "retention meeting" where an admiral was admonishing the young officers not to be fooled by promises that they could leave the Navy for "one of those $100K jobs". One of the admonishees raised his hand and said "No, sir, but my wife has one of those jobs now, we want a family, and I'd like to go back to school. What can the Navy do for us?" (The admiral hadn't been in touch with his OWN kids, let alone his new generation of "employees".) The young officer's answer turned out to be "join the Reserves".

I spent years of active duty bad-mouthing the Guard & Reserves. Then one of my old shipmates, after becoming a Reservist, popped up in my sorely-undermanned staff office and turned things around with a year's worth of Reserve labor from his unit. His guys knew a lot more than I did about running scheduling software and updating computer programs, which "freed" me to go back to the original swamp/alligator task of shoehorning 60 weeks of commitments into an annual schedule.

I know another Reservist who's a Vail ski instructor for 4-6 months of the year. Then he looks up the list of 179-day active-duty jobs, picks a garden spot (Bosnia, Kuwait, Japan, Korea), and salts away his pay while soaking up the local culture. After he confirms his ski-instructor job is still available (especially for a linguist who can teach European, Japanese, Kuwait, & Korean students), he takes a couple months off to "recuperate". He's a single guy with no family and he's never been mobilized against his will, so he has no complaints.

The real eye-opener came when, at 17 years of service, the detailer made my wife an offer that she couldn't refuse. (Only three years away from a guaranteed retirement, yet still three years at the assignment officer's beck & call.) We checked our ER portfolio balance and it was iffy (I might actually have to work). Then we checked into the Reserves and immediately pulled the ripcord. My wife's never been happier, work is plentiful when she wants it, and there's no end of interesting Reserve jobs out there. While some of the Reserves/Guard are just mustering in between "chasing the big civilian bucks", a surprising number of them have been practicing "part-time ER" by hopping from military exercises to various staff projects. They're following a spouse's career, raising families, finishing a higher degree, or just "pursuing other interests" with a guaranteed part-time job.

So if the Reserves aren't helping in your military office, keep looking-- you'll find a treasure out there somewhere.
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 03-08-2004, 04:36 PM   #4
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Okay GDER, your invitation to register convinced me I've lurked long enough (changed username obviously).

Nords, I obviously stated my point poorly. I'm really not against the Guard/Reserves and have many friends that made the switch and am very happy for them. I was actually trying to agree that most military folks do not see their military retirement as a final retirement because they have failed to plan from the beginning. Unless you start early and save at a pretty high rate it is very hard to invest enough over 20ish years to offset the reduction in income (to 50ish percent base pay).

Fortunately, my wife and I will probably be fairly close (thankfully we see eye-to-eye on FI/RE).

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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 08:58 AM   #5
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

I found this thread from a few months ago and I got to thinking about* the six retirement ceremonies I have been to in the last 60 days.* Mostly 0-4s and 0-5s.

In every case but one the individual is looking for a job and not even taking off the terminal leave time to hang out.* Comments at the ceremonies talk about buying that big house now and getting a new car.*

In a way I can undersand their desire to work all the time.* * Moving every 3 years and starting over is what most of them have known.* So its natural to them to get a defense contractor job (because its in their comfort zone).* And the money is good.* Most will increase their household income 30% or more.*

I have been thinking about what I will do when the time comes.* Financially we will be in good shape, but as of today I don't think I will want to quit cold turkey but rather fade out over time.*So maybe a pert time job for a while.

I have been researching the AFs program that lets you go to the reserves once you retire from AD. In the area I am in there are more reserve jobs than people and you can work as much as you want.* And the pay is pretty good.* For example, an 0-4 that drills 2 days picks up $593 net after retirement pay offset for those 2 days.* At age 60 you can go back and have your retirement recalculated to take account for the additional reserve work, take into account any promotions, and additional years of service for increased % or retirement.

So maybe I will do this for a little while as long as it doesn't get in the way of when the kids are out of school and that impulse Space-A trip I decide to take.* For me I want the flexibility and that is how I define ER.

JDW





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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 09:24 AM   #6
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
So maybe a pert time job for a while.
Hmmm... "pert", defined as "impudently bold; saucy".

JDW, where can I find one of those jobs?

REW

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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 09:32 AM   #7
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

http://gershkuntzman.homestead.com/files/Hot_Sauce.htm
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 09:40 AM   #8
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Not exactly what I had in mind th, but my condiments for the suggestion.

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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 10:12 AM   #9
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Shoot, and I thought I had distilled the essence of this spicy subject...
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 10:47 AM   #10
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

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Originally Posted by REWahoo!


JDW, where can I find one of those jobs?



Man I wish I had time to provide valuable insight to the meaning of the english language * Evidently I can't even find the time to use a spell checker.* That Ga education you know.

I guess depending on the type of unit you get into you could make the case the job might be Dicey, but if you've made if 20+ years without getting in harms way I would think you would pick a reserve job that* keep it this way.*

I too know many Guard and Reserve bums. They take assignments for a while then go off and play til the money runs out. Good folks. They seem not to get caught up in the politics and can tell you indepth how to maximize the system.

JDW

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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 10:50 AM   #11
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Pert job - Program Early Retirement Training job - teaching people how to ER.
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 10:52 AM   #12
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

It's in bad taste to criticize someone's spelling or typing errors...

That's why we do it!! :P
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 11:14 AM   #13
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
I have been researching the AFs program that lets you go to the reserves once you retire from AD.
What an awesome deal. I sure hope there isn't a catch!

If it's as simple as that then you'll do very well. Spouse does her weekend a month & two weeks a year but can skip or reschedule most of that. Once her command has seen her work, offers of contractor or GS employment usually follow.

Judging from what I've seen in my spouse's unit, here's a few interesting questions: Can you be mobilized? How does the AF handle your pension while you're drilling? Does the former stop while the latter is paid? Can you contribute your drilling pay to the TSP? How does drilling affect TRICARE Retired coverage? Are you still required to do the physicals for worldwide mobilization? Do you accumulate drill points that would theoretically raise your pension or raise your pay scale? Do you compete for promotion? What happens if you're injured while drilling-- would that lead into disability or other compensation? How does drilling affect your Survivor's Benefits Plan (if you elect it) or SGLI eligibility?

If you have more than a bachelor's degree (let alone a masters) you might meet eligibility requirements as a substitute teacher or a contract (community college) professor.

No worries once you start working on your own retirement ceremony. The unexpected job offers will come out of the woodwork about three months before retirement and they'll start up again about six months after. The offers are guaranteed to make your head swell. But you may find out that you have no interest. Or rather that you have so many other interests that you no longer have time for work!
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 01:39 PM   #14
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

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Originally Posted by Nords
Judging from what I've seen in my spouse's unit, here's a few interesting questions:* Can you be mobilized?*
I am sure you could be, but I think the key to that is to pick a unit or an IMA slot to where you know what you are getting into.* For example if you joined the 310th Space Wing, activation would be to Schriever AFB Co.* *

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
How does the AF handle your pension while you're drilling?** Does the former stop while the latter is paid?
You give up 1/30th of you penison for every calendar day you work as a reservist.* But depending on the type of slot you get 2 IDT or UDT days of AD pay for every calendar day so the calculation is 2 AD days - one day of retired pay which is ~ 50% of a day of AD pay.* For AT or 30 day orders you give up 1/30 retirement pay and get 1 AD pay, but the kicker is BAH and BAS tax free.


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Originally Posted by Nords
Can you contribute your drilling pay to the TSP?*
Yes, same rules as AD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
How does drilling affect TRICARE Retired coverage?*
I don't know for sure, but I would think if you were on AT or 30 day orders you would have AD prioroty.* My guess is you will pay your retiree rates. Is there really a big difference in care?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Are you still required to do the physicals for worldwide mobilization?*
I would assume you have to meet the requirements for whatever slot you are in so yes.* One reason I think this would be a good gig is that is would give me incentive to stay in shape.*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Do you accumulate drill points that would theoretically raise your pension or raise your pay scale?* Do you compete for promotion?
Yes, Yes, and Yes.* At age 60 you can ask for a reserve retirement and they recalculate everything and roll in your AD retirement.* So this is when the adjustment is made.* Plus if you have a "good" year your % of retirement also goes up.

*
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
What happens if you're injured while drilling-- would that lead into disability or other compensation?* How does drilling affect your Survivor's Benefits Plan (if you elect it) or SGLI eligibility?
Don't know but will ask, please expand your thoughts?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
If you have more than a bachelor's degree (let alone a masters) you might meet eligibility requirements as a substitute teacher or a contract (community college) professor.
I did a teaching stint at USAFA and did teach at a couple of local colleges. One of the places the dept head was a retired 0-5.* He offered me a job at 32K a year, but I told him wait til I retire.* I also talked to the 2-yr school where I went to last month and they said anytime I am ready they will creat a slot for me at 34K a year.* *But these still seem a little more restrictive than what I think I want for now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
No worries once you start working on your own retirement ceremony.* The unexpected job offers will come out of the woodwork about three months before retirement and they'll start up again about six months after.* The offers are guaranteed to make your head swell.* But you may find out that you have no interest.* Or rather that you have so many other interests that you no longer have time for work!
I have seen this from the folks ahead of me.* I know one guy that has 7 on the table right now.* The pay is awesome, but they are not 9-5 jobs.* *I fully know defense work would be the easiest but I think the hrs required will be more than I am willing.*

From what I can tell there has been about 200 folks take advantage of this program.* *I spoke with one of the AGR guys at my base and he said they can't get enough people to fill the slots becasue people are working full time jobs.* I guess people have to work to keep up with the Jones.

Great questions Nords.* Keep em coming.

JDW
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 02:04 PM   #15
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Sounds like a great deal, keep us informed.

The spouse briefly considered reserve duty instead of staying on active duty but decided it wasn't for him. From our family's point of view going reserve means all the deployments of active duty with none of the benefits (reserve BIL is headed back to Iraq second time in 2.5 years). Most of our friends getting out aren't touching reserve duty with a ten foot pole. Apparently its a big problem as the Marine Corps is now, for the first time ever, offering bonuses to infantry officers (O1-O3) to come into the reserve after finishing their 4 year active duty commitment.
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 02:21 PM   #16
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

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Originally Posted by FlowGirl
Sounds like a great deal, keep us informed.

From our family's point of view going reserve means all the deployments of active duty with none of the benefits (reserve BIL is headed back to Iraq second time in 2.5 years).*
I can definately understand this.* Pick your poison wisely.

From what I see there is always a need for reservist to help augment one of the HQ staffs.* I have GS civilans and contractors that work for me now that do IMA duty with STRATCOM or AFSPACE.* They go in and help with specific projects or deploy to support a specific exercise.* We use them this way also. We are more than happy to pay their TDY pay to say Japan instead of having to pay a contractor since the labor cost doesn't come out of our funding lines.*

JDW
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 05:20 PM   #17
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

I never knew that a military pension was supposed to let you live without a job from age 38 or 40 until you die. I spent 8 years in the army and always assumed that a military pension was a thank you for 20 years of your life. Kind of like the romans used to do.

Who wants to retire at 38 anyway and do nothing for the next 4 decades or longer?
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 05:39 PM   #18
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

I'm guessing SBP & SGLI could raise some thorny issues if a retiree's death occurs while drilling. *USNR is always flailing about the hypothetical drilling Reservist who's killed or seriously injured in a car accident on the way to the Reserve Center.

One third of PACOM staff is Reservists, 24/7/365. *PACOM couldn't run their watchbills without them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
Great questions Nords.* Keep em coming. *JDW
This is astonishing. *Clearly the AF is more desperate than the submarine force, and I'm amazed that there's not a similar Navy program.

Can you give me an instruction or a reference to educate myself?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowGirl
The spouse briefly considered reserve duty instead of staying on active duty but decided it wasn't for him. *From our family's point of view going reserve means all the deployments of active duty with none of the benefits (reserve BIL is headed back to Iraq second time in 2.5 years). *Most of our friends getting out aren't touching reserve duty with a ten foot pole. *Apparently its a big problem as the Marine Corps is now, for the first time ever, offering bonuses to infantry officers (O1-O3) *to come into the reserve after finishing their 4 year active duty commitment.
I hear ya, Flowgirl, we felt the same way until spouse got the unrefusable offer. *But you guys will probably have no problem getting to retirement if the active-duty side is just as ugly as the Reserve side.

There are more flexible opportunities to set one's own career in the Reserves. *For example if one's actions enervate one's entire warfare community then it's a lot easier to find palatable assignments in the Reserves. *Promotions are also easier to achieve, especially if the active-duty community was small. *I've seen O-3s fail to select two times in a row and immediately pick up O-4 before the end of their first Reserve year. *

Army is also offering a $15K Reserve signing bonus to their separating officers. *I guess it's considered less controversial than stop loss.

Quote:
Originally Posted by al_bundy
I never knew that a military pension was supposed to let you live without a job from age 38 or 40 until you die. I spent 8 years in the army and always assumed that a military pension was a thank you for 20 years of your life. Kind of like the romans used to do.

Who wants to retire at 38 anyway and do nothing for the next 4 decades or longer?
Yo, Al, welcome to the board (BTW loved your show).

I retired at 41 and we're managing just fine on an O-4 pension + savings. A govt pension goes a long way toward solving two of ER's biggest challenges-- inflation (at least the CPI version) and health care.

Personally my plan is six decades or more, but it won't be "nothing". In fact sometimes "nothing" is so busy that (once in a great while) I miss the days when work was so boring that we longed to do some work. If you can't imagine what one does in ER then keep reading the board, especially the threads "What Do You DO All Day?" and Cut-Throat's new answer to that question.
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 05:48 PM   #19
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Quote:
*never knew that a military pension was supposed to let you live without a job from age 38 or 40 until you die. I spent 8 years in the army and always assumed that a military pension was a thank you for 20 years of your life. Kind of like the romans used to do.

Who wants to retire at 38 anyway and do nothing for the next 4 decades or longer?
Well officers can indeed live quite well on the minimum 20 yr pension. Currently an O-4 (Major or Lt Commander, the usual retired grade of an Officer) with 20 yrs is taking in approximately $28,478 per yr. *That's more than a lot of working people make plus you don't have to worry about losing your job. And with that you get the Gov subsidized medical insurance that cannot ever run out or drop you. Market value=5,000-10,000 or unlimited. Only the mega rich can dream of this. Plus you figure with the money they've been making for 20 yrs they should have a stash as big enough to open their own bank, so it's easily supplemented.

To do anywhere near that well as an enlisted you'd have to go past 20. So, yes, one can live on the min retired pay. *I've been doing it for almost 10 yrs and I was enlisted!

Now, as far as Who wants to retire at 38 anyway and do nothing for the next 4 decades or longer? I say: Who wouldn't!! Or at least I know I sure do.
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic
Old 07-03-2005, 05:59 PM   #20
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Re: "Military retirement" may be oxymoronic

Quote:
Originally Posted by razztazz
Now, as far as Who wants to retire at 38 anyway and do nothing for the next 4 decades or longer? I say: Who wouldn't!! Or at least I know I sure do.
No kidding. But in the sixteen-plus months since I started this particular rant thread, I haven't run across a single other military retiree who's done 20 & out-- and stuck with that.

You would also think that those officers would be steenking rich with the combination of gargantuan pay (OK, so I'm exaggerating) and no opportunity to spend it (this time I'm not). What I've seen far more often is the guy who's raised a family in base housing for over two decades and doesn't even own much of a TSP account, let alone an IRA. They drive great SUVs & sports cars but don't know the first thing about buying a house, let alone paying utility bills. They're desperate to get a job to (a) pay for the kid's college tuition and (b) find something to do with the vast wasteland of free time stretching out in front of them.

Tomcat's experience seems to make it common among all the services & specialties...
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