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Young & Stupid, please help!
Old 08-14-2009, 02:26 AM   #1
Confused about dryer sheets
 
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Young & Stupid, please help!

I'm turning 23 years old in October. I'm married and have 2 kids. Luckily I have just completed my 2nd year in the Air Force, so I have a steady paycheck. My problem is I have not been very smart with my money these past few years. I love baseball, and I am a memorabilia COLLECTOR, which means I buy expensive memorabilia and then they sit around and collect dust! Finally after being sick and tired of living from paycheck-to-paycheck while my memorabilia keeps rolling in, I've decided I'm done with it. No more buying stuff that just sits around. I've sold a handful of my items and raised a decent amount of money. I will continue to sell the items that I've realized I dont really want.

So thats step 1 in my turn around, which is to identify my problem and to quit. Now I need to figure out the right things to do with my money. I don't have an IRA, no CD's, no house, nothing major like many people on this forum have, but ever since i've enlisted I've had a TSP...so at least I've got that. I just recently opened a Savings account that is seperate from the account my paycheck goes into. I started an allotment for a few hundred bucks each paycheck to go directly in the savings. My goal is be as frugal as I can for a while and save up any extra money I can. Aside from the TSP and savings account, I would like to look into getting a CD someday in the near future. My incomming cashflow isn't really that much right now to do all 3 at once (TSP, savings and CD) so the CD will have to either wait until I get promoted or deployed...OR I can stop money going into my savings and put that towards a CD.

Can I get some advice on if I am on the right track or not? Would anyone do anything different?

My ultimate goal is to be able to retire from the AF at 40. The pension will be nice to have. I dont want to RETIRE persay, but I would like to have enough money at that age to buy a home and some do some things that id enjoy. When I turn 40, I want to have at least $400,000 that I'd be ready to use. Where should I start?
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Old 08-14-2009, 06:07 AM   #2
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Make your money as difficult as possible to get. I'm not normally a fan of savings bonds, but you can sign up to have the money taken straight out of your paycheck and you never really see the money. It is much easier to forget its there and you never really see it. When the DW was doing our bills she asked one of private banker investment advisor's at the bank she worked for some advice. He suggested keeping money is several different accounts. Each account looks like there is a relatively low balance, but when you add it up it is a decent sum of money. IIRC we had four accounts each with less than 10k in it. It didn't feel like we had any money but when it was added up it was a decent amount for a military member.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:08 AM   #3
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You're already ahead of the game by even thinking about it at the age of 23. At that age I was still single, didn't give a thought to retirement, and behaved accordingly. (Perhaps the responsibilities of two kids puts things in a different light.) Others here are better than me at what types of investments to make but as long as you're saving more than you're spending you'll come out ahead.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:13 AM   #4
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The TSP is a great start, as is the diversion of paycheck money straight to the savings account. The next step is to keep gradually bumping up the amount of your paycheck that goes into the TSP and savings account. You get so little extra interest for tying money up in a CD that you should just focus on building savings fr now.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:22 AM   #5
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First, welcome to the board, and thank you for your service.

Second, going 'ruh-roh, gotta save' at 23 is really smart! ( I have a serious book collecting habit, and I realized a while ago that quality was what made me happy, not quantity.)

Make a good budget - not a 'gnaw on dry crackers' budget, but one with some fun in it. Make sure it includes car repairs and other non-emergency large stuff.

Extra $$ - build an emergency account. You are in the AF, so you have steady work , but you still want about 6 months net saved up. Stuff happens.

That 'make it difficult' trick can work. Get the savings $$ out of your check BEFORE you get paid. Years ago, I got my bank to give me an ATM card WITHOUT my 2nd savings account on it. I used direct deposit into the account, and if I wanted the money, I had to go into a branch.

I don't know if that would work these days, but if not, you could also find a second bank with a reasonable no-fee minimum on their savings accounts, and keep the emergency account there. Then, cut up the ATM card. You want the money, you or spouse has to go to the bank.

After you have the budget working, and the emergency fund, see if you can do extra in TSP. Search for threads on that - Nords and others have posted lots of good information.

EDIT: read W2R's post - she is right about pay off debt!!

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Old 08-14-2009, 09:23 AM   #6
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First, be sure to save up an "emergency fund" since you never know what might happen in life even though your job is secure.

Then, after the emergency fund is taken care of, pay off any high interest debt that you may have, such as credit card debt.

Beyond that, I have to say that as a federal employee myself, I am a BIG fan of the TSP. I would suggest pouring the maximum amount that you can into the TSP.

What if you have (or eventually have) more excess money than you are allowed to invest in the TSP? In my case I bought and paid off a house, and then after that invested in taxable accounts at Vanguard. But since you are air force, you will probably be moving around a lot so a house may not be a good idea. Maybe a Vanguard account would be a good idea if you have extra money that you can't contribute to the TSP.
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Old 08-14-2009, 09:51 AM   #7
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Young and smart, I would say.
Welcome to the forum and TY for your service.

I didn't get on the ball and start investing until I was 30, the year I went into my govt c*reer. I will heartily second W2R's endorsement of the TSP. Max it out! If you want to "set it and forget it", look at the L funds.
I did payroll deduction for US savings bonds, then turned to mutual funds at age 37. Wish I'd done mutual funds sooner, but I cranked those up while still w*rking. Be very mindful of the expense ratios.
If you haven't already, get your household budget documented in a spreadsheet. It will take a little bit of time to button down what is coming in and what is being spent. Awareness of your exact spending will go a long ways toward helping you save.
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Old 08-14-2009, 06:58 PM   #8
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Look up Dave Ramsey and follow his baby steps.
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Old 08-14-2009, 07:57 PM   #9
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Sorry, but I'm old and stupid...

LBYM - live below your means.

Build a few months emergency fund, and continue funding your TSP. Choose low-cost funds that cover the broad market.

Avoid debt, but when necessary, pay it down as fast as possible.

Put this all on autopilot, then go enjoy being twenty-three.
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Old 08-15-2009, 02:13 AM   #10
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Hey, welcome!

Others have given sound advice. I agree with W2R --
1. Save a small emergency fund (say, $1000) in an easily-accessible account (for car repairs, medical bills, etc.).
2. Pay off non-mortgage debt (if you have any) using the Dave Ramsey debt snowball method. I don't love everything Dave recommends, but I love this.
3. Save --- I, too, need to have money transferred out of reach in order to keep saving it. We use a linked account at an online bank (we use ING Direct; you might want to shop around) and set up automatic monthly transfers from checking. For example, DH got paid yesterday. Today, ING Direct automatically transfers a set amount from our checking account at Chase to a designated account at ING. Done. It's as if the money was never in our checking account to begin with. I can transfer it back out of ING by going online, and I can change the transfer amount (or cancel the transfers) at any time. But I love the fix-it-and-forget-it aspect of this system.

You can do the same thing with your TSP, or with a brokerage account somewhere like Fidelity or Vanguard.

Have fun and enjoy your kiddos!
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:44 AM   #11
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Welcome to the board, Steve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by murfsteve25 View Post
Can I get some advice on if I am on the right track or not? Would anyone do anything different?
The "good" news (for you, anyway) is that you're far ahead of your age group!

If you're not already doing it then, as others have suggested, start tracking your spending. Use a logbook or a spreadsheet or even financial software, but keep it easy and convenient. At the end of the day you want to have written or entered every penny you've spent. Once you've tracked your spending for a few months then you'll be ready to build your budget and tweak it. The goal is not to live on bread & water but rather to determine what spending brings you value and to design a budget that helps you get there.

Try to keep your spending within the level of your current paycheck for as long as possible. Next pay table or longevity pay raise or next promotion, try to bank as much of the "new" money as you can. If it'll help morale then spend 10-20%/month of that raise for entertainment or some other lifestyle enhancement, but the more you save then the faster it'll compound and the sooner you'll reach your goals.

You'll be guaranteed a paycheck for a few more years, and you have low-priced healthcare, so you could keep your emergency fund a little lower-- perhaps 1-2 months' pay or $3000, whichever terms seem easier to deal with. Big enough for a nasty car repair or a round-trip plane ticket home or a veterinary bill. Keep at least $1000 in a savings account. When you get beyond that $1000 then you could put the second & third thousand in Pentagon Federal Credit Union CDs of 2-3 years maturity, hoping to earn more interest without having a crisis that forces you to redeem the CD early.

If you have debt then start paying that off as soon as you get the emergency fund in place. If you're in a hurry to get rid of debt then you could possibly get started after you save your first $1000.

You mention collectibles which might be worth some cash, so if you don't already have personal property insurance then you might want to put it in place for at least the collectibles and perhaps for furniture/electronics/uniforms as well. Armed Forces Insurance (AFI.com) or perhaps USAA.

Next step is to ramp up your savings. The easiest way to do that is to keep raising your TSP contributions until you've maxed them. Put them into a stock fund ("C", "S", "I") or the target retirement "L" fund. Don't get into the "F" or "G" funds just yet. (http://www.tsp.gov/forms/comparison.pdf) Don't get hung up on which to invest in; you'll learn the details later so for now choose the one you like the best. The TSP is one of the world's cheapest index mutual funds and the money is tax-deferred, so don't invest in other assets until you've fully exploited this one.

Once you've maxed the TSP then start putting money into a Roth IRA account. You're not there yet so you'll have time to learn about what assets to invest in before you actually do the paperwork to start one. While you're getting ready to start a Roth IRA you can do some reading.

While you're tracking and budgeting and saving and maxing your TSP, read two books first: "The Armed Forces Guide To Personal Financial Planning" and "The Bogleheads Guide to Investing". You may be able to find them at the base or public library, so try that before you buy. Once you've read those you'll have the foundation for more reading, but that's the place to start.

Quote:
Originally Posted by murfsteve25 View Post
My ultimate goal is to be able to retire from the AF at 40. The pension will be nice to have. I dont want to RETIRE persay, but I would like to have enough money at that age to buy a home and some do some things that id enjoy. When I turn 40, I want to have at least $400,000 that I'd be ready to use. Where should I start?
First, stay in the AF if you and your family are having fun (or not at least eternally miserable) but it's probably better to think in terms of "one enlistment at a time" than "lifer dog". If you're not having fun then it's far better to leave active duty for the Reserves or National Guard than to try to grunt it out for 20. Grunting it out can look pretty good in retrospect but the stress can literally be a killer and if I'd known more about the Reserves/NG at the time then I wouldn't have stuck around on active duty.

Second, get promoted. Study, get training, do whatever paperwork has to be done, but take the steps to get more money in your pocket.

Third, while you're getting promoted, do you want to retire as an E-8 or as an O-5? In the Navy, the selection statistics show that it's easier to make O-5 than E-8. (You may have suspected this about the officers.) The difference between those two ranks is also about twice the money in total salary and nearly that in pension. Think about getting a commission-- another AF enlisted poster here, Keyboard Ninja, has chronicled his experiences and is waiting for his application to be approved. Money is not the only factor to consider about getting a commission and it's certainly not the most important factor, but it's a heck of an incentive.

Fourth, if you don't have a college degree then consider getting one on the AF's tuition assistance. A college degree correlates to lifetime higher earnings in almost every occupation, including the armed forces. Your spouse may want to pursue hers as well, especially if you're eligible to give her some GI Bill benefits, but get those degrees. Find a field that interests you enough to actually finish the degree program in a timely manner-- motivation is perhaps a bit more important now than subject or difficulty. If the degree is related to your technical field as well as to your interests/strengths then that's just bonus.

Check back here once in a while to ask questions and to discuss the books. There are over 70 veterans on this board, serving/discharged/retired and both enlisted/officer from all services. If you're trying to accomplish something then one of us has probably already screwed it up gained quite a bit of experience to share with you and to help you get going.
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Old 08-17-2009, 06:15 PM   #12
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Wow, thanks so much for everyones responses! You all have provided me with a lot of information. Everyone says that I am ahead of the game, but I certainly dont feel like it. Maybe it's because I have a 3 1/2 year old son, an 8 month old daughter, and I've been with my wife since we were 17 (married for 3 years though). I wish that I hadnt been so selfish all these years and just started out the right way. I really have spent a ton of money on my baseball memorabilia. Some of it ill keep, the rest ive started selling already. That helps out with trying to find extra cash.

Can someone please explain this to me though...if people have been losing money in their TSP, why would I then want to put my money in it? Same goes for IRA's. I know my mom told me she lost a lot in her IRA.

Many have told me about paying off any debt i have. The good news for me is I just came back from a depolyment in May. While I was their I was abe to pay them bastards at Mastercard over 3 grand, and a few grand to Visa. So no debt! Also, over here in Japan cars are dirt cheap, so both of mine are paid off with no problem. We live on-base so no house payment. I am currently in school and using TA, though I still have to pay a few hundred for books. My wife will be starting school again soon. We dont plan on using our GI BILL since we can now transfer it to our kids. They'll appreciate that when their my age. I have thought a lot about if I want to retire as enlisted or officer. Sure the money would be great, but all the added responsibilities. Just not sure what to expect I guess. Deff something to consider though after I took a look at the pay chart.

Thanks for everyones input. I'd deff appreciate anything else anyones has to say. I'll take all the advice I can get.

As for you military guys out there, my email is murfsteve25@yahoo.com if anyone has any success stories they would like to share or has any other advice for me.

Thanks a bunch!
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Old 08-17-2009, 10:19 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murfsteve25 View Post

Can someone please explain this to me though...if people have been losing money in their TSP, why would I then want to put my money in it? Same goes for IRA's. I know my mom told me she lost a lot in her IRA.
OK, I'll take a shot at it.

Yes, the economy goes through good and bad times.

Nords said, about TSP: Put them into a stock fund ("C", "S", "I") or the target retirement "L" fund.

If you do this, you are buying into an 'index fund' - you are buying a little bit of everything.

So, as a young person, with a considerable time before you need retirement money, you WANT to buy when the market is down. You are getting the shares cheap, and they can grow, and some will have dividends that are then reinvested, and grow, and .... the cycle continues until you reach an age to withdraw.

You need to think in terms of decades. Go google a compound interest chart - the upcurve really takes off at around 30 - 35 years.

(The views of older people, much nearer to withdrawing the funds, or actually withdrawing the funds, are obviously different! Us geezers older folks are rightfully a lot more nervous than you need to be about the current unpleasantness. Read about risk, risk tolerance, asset allocation and rebalancing when you get a larger amount saved.)

ta,
mew
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:08 AM   #14
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Here is what works for DH and me:

Pay yourself first: Do not wait till the end of the month to invest what is left. There will be nothing left. Directly withdraw savings at the beginning of the month and live on the leftover.

Track expenses: Write down every cent that is spent in your family in some basic categories. Do not make it too complicated. At the end of each month add up the categories. Then try to undercut the expenses of those categories you have most influence on.
We do not care so much for budgeting. After a quarter or year of tracking expenses you have a good overview what happens in your life and can estimate what you will need at age 40.

Make it a family affair: Share your efforts and goals with DW.

First build up some emergency reserves in some plain and simple way and educate yourself financially. Then start other investments. Do not invest in something that you do not understand.

If you get a raise or money falls from heaven: increase savings in proportion. But also spend some of it to celebrate with the family!

If there is a mortgage, pay it off early. By building equity and avoiding interest payments like hell you have a fool proof investment.

Good luck!
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murfsteve25 View Post
...I really have spent a ton of money on my baseball memorabilia. Some of it ill keep, the rest ive started selling already. That helps out with trying to find extra cash.
Here's a link that may be useful
classifieds - craigslist
As I'm sure you know, Cooperstown NY is the home of the American Baseball Hall of Fame. Several stores there specialize in baseball memorabilia.
WhereToShop
I picked one and found this to help you with pricing (new as a reference)
MLB - Shop by Team

The closest Craigslist link I could find is for the Catskill Region. I saw listings for Oneonta NY, a mere stone's throw from Cooperstown.
Maybe do a short listing of things you are selling and see if you get any nibbles.
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:54 AM   #16
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OK, I'll take a shot at it.

Yes, the economy goes through good and bad times.

Nords said, about TSP: Put them into a stock fund ("C", "S", "I") or the target retirement "L" fund.

If you do this, you are buying into an 'index fund' - you are buying a little bit of everything.

So, as a young person, with a considerable time before you need retirement money, you WANT to buy when the market is down. You are getting the shares cheap, and they can grow, and some will have dividends that are then reinvested, and grow, and .... the cycle continues until you reach an age to withdraw.

You need to think in terms of decades. Go google a compound interest chart - the upcurve really takes off at around 30 - 35 years.

ta,
mew
If I may...a few more links to specific info about TSP
Compare funds here
http://tsp.gov/forms/comparison.pdf
Click on each fund to see the administrative expenses (rock bottom), for example the G Fund
http://tsp.gov/rates/fundsheet-gfund.pdf
Look on the left side in the pink shaded area under Fund Information.
http://tsp.gov/forms/comparison.pdf
If you want to "set it and forget it", check out the L Funds
http://tsp.gov/rates/fundsheet-lfunds.pdf
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Old 08-27-2009, 08:32 PM   #17
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Murf,

First and foremost, thank you so much for your service.

I would agree with some of the other responses that your first priority should be to set up a small emergency fund to cover any unforeseen expenses. While you have steady employment, an emergency fund of 3-6 months pay will really make it easy to sleep at night and is the first step to wealthbuilding. To use a baseball analogy, before you can steal second you have to have a good lead. An emergency fund is that good lead.

After that, I would track your spending, specifically your spending on baseball memorabilia. Give yourself a strict monthly budget and then spend that money guilt-free every month on cool stuff that will bring you joy! It seems like you went off the deep end for a while and your collecting became more of an obsession that resulted in guilt instead of a hobby that brought you pleasure. Whenever you feel guilty about making a purchase for your collection or your items stop bringing you pleasure, that's usually a good clue to step back and reevaluate why you collect memorabilia in the first place.

Finally, resist debt with a passion (especially consumer debt) and never carry a credit-card balance from month to month. Live below your means and you'll provide a wonderful life for your wife and children.
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Old 08-27-2009, 11:00 PM   #18
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Welcome to the forum.


You just need a new hobby-Collect deposit slips with the same fervor as your baseball memorabilia and you'll do just fine...
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Old 08-30-2009, 10:32 PM   #19
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I like the baseball analogy, i'm pretty good at understanding things when their broken down in sports examples lol. Your right, i went way over the deep end and now im REALLY paying for it. although i still get joy from my memorabilia, my collection is too broad. I decided i would be happier if i just collect my favorite player. his items are hard to find so its not like ill be buying things every month like i normally do. An when i do finally find something i like, ill get more joy from it than from the other stuff i buy that i think just looks cool.

ive set up an allotment into a seperate savings account and it's growing pretty good so far. i think im going to set up one more seperate savings account to put a much smaller amount in, that way it will build up over the months and when it comes time for me to make a nice addition to my collection, the money will be there and ill have no guilt.

on the flip side, im bringing in more money for the items im selling than what i originally paid for them! selling my items actually goes against my own personal ethics as a collector, but i guess youve gotta do what cha gotta do.
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Old 09-04-2009, 04:37 PM   #20
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Everyone says that I am ahead of the game, but I certainly dont feel like it. Maybe it's because I have a 3 1/2 year old son, an 8 month old daughter, and I've been with my wife since we were 17 (married for 3 years though). I wish that I hadnt been so selfish all these years and just started out the right way. I really have spent a ton of money on my baseball memorabilia. Some of it ill keep, the rest ive started selling already. That helps out with trying to find extra cash.
Don't beat yourself up. Most people waste money when they are young, on cars, clothes, alcohol, etc. The point is, you still have many years to change your behaviour.

The dollars thrown away on baseball stuff may seem like a lot, but it's likely not a large amount relative to your lifetime earnings. From a financial perspective, your real mistakes are: (1) having two children; (2) not obtaining a university degree; and (3) settling for a low-paying job.

Obviously it is too late to worry about #1. Hopefully the non-financial benefits of your children will outweigh the financial costs. Enough said on that issue.

Nords has provided some good advice about #2 and #3. Listen to him.

Good luck, and welcome to the board.

P.S. Read Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. You will find the "gazingus pin" discussion to be especially apt.
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