Military Saves Week

I apologize for the radio silence on my end over the past week. I have been in an end of winter/ a few more weeks left of my husband’s TDY funk. I have a difficult time writing when I’m in one of these mind sets. So anyway, I apologize and I cannot wait for spring (and my husband to be home)! On to what you came to read…

Military Saves Week

If you are a military member or a military family member, are you aware that next week is Military Saves Week? February 23rd-28th, mark it on your calendar! If you are NOT a military family, you are NOT off the hook it also happens to be America Saves Week, check out the link for further details!

What is Military Saves Week?

Military Saves is an off-shoot of the non-profit America Saves. This non-profit teams up with the Department of Defense to increase financial literacy and to encourage military members and families to set financial goals and save money year-round.

Military Saves Week, is a dedicated week in February that many military installations participate in to encourage military personnel to take a pledge to save and attend financial literacy classes. Last year, 419 military installations participated in Military Saves Week, so chances are your installation is participating!

How do I Participate in Military Saves Week?

The best way to participate is to attend a financial class offered during Military Saves Week. At these classes, you will be able to make a pledge to save, receive a free credit check (if you want it) and learn some valuable financial information.

How do you find out if your installation is participating? Visit your local Family Readiness Center/Group’s social media page or track down their monthly newsletter to find out what classes they are offering this year! Or just give the friendly people at the Family Readiness Center/Group a call and they will be more than happy to chat with you about the available classes.

If you see a class that interests you, call to reserve your seat! There are some installations that offer free lunch or treats as an extra incentive to attend.

If your installation does NOT participate in Military Saves Week. Bummer! However, you still can participate. Visit the Military Saves website and take the Pledge to Save. When you take the pledge you can opt-in to a monthly or quarterly newsletter full of articles with financial tips and information. The website is also full of financial resources and information. Take a look around.

If you are struggling financially or could use some personal financial guidance make an appointment with the financial advisor/counselor on your installation, it’s FREE! Also, contact your local Family Readiness Center/Group and encourage them to participate in Military Saves 2016!

Possible Topics of Financial Classes

  • Managing Debt/Debt Pay-Off
  • Retirement Planning
  • TSP Investing
  • Establishing/Maintaining Credit
  • Home Buying (My thoughts: Should a Military Family Buy a Home?)
  • Budgeting
  • Tax Preparation
  • Dealing with Financial Crisis
  • Emergency Fund
  • Marriage & Finances

*Classes are offered through out the week and hopefully at convenient times. Often during lunch or early evenings after work.

Benefits of Military Saves Week

  • Military Personnel take a pledge to increase their financial security
  • Free Credit Checks
  • Free Financial Classes on a Variety of Topics
  • If your installation does not regularly have a financial counselor on staff, on occasion one is brought in during this week for one-on-one appointments.

 

Will You be taking the Pledge to Save and Participate in Military Save Week?

 

 

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Military Family Life. Retirement Planning

Can YOU Retire For “Good” on a Military Pension?

Military Family Life. Retirement Planning

 

Several bloggers I follow have the goal of “early retirement.” The more I read their blogs, the more I began to wonder if someone serving in our military could retire for “good” after his or her 20+ year career.

I began to run numbers, because that is one thing I do frequently. However, I soon realized there were too many variables.

Is the military member going to have this retirement goal at 18 years of age when he or she joins the military? Is $1000/month retirement investing even possible for someone who makes less than $3000/month?

What is this person’s definition of “retirement?” Will they have passive income from real estate or another investment? Will they still want to work part-time or seasonally?

How much will his or her retirement pension provide monthly? There is a BIG difference in possible pensions ($1700-$4200) after 20 years of service.

There were too many questions. The simple answer to these questions: ANYTHING is POSSIBLE given enough ambition, determination, and motivation. ANYTHING!

To give my question more defining points to determine the possibility. I questioned whether my husband and I could both “retire” when my husband retires from the military at the age of 40 years. Ten years from now.

Financial Background

We have just over $100,000 combined in our retirement accounts. We would only have 10 years to set up our finances before “retiring.” Our only debt is our mortgaged home, which should be paid off in the next 2-3 years.

Investment Assumptions

Continue investing the same amount as we do now into our retirement accounts. In 10 years we should have approximately $400,000. We would then stop contributing, because we have “retired.” We would not withdraw from these accounts until 60 years of age. At this time, these accounts should be worth $1.8 million.

The kicker to this situation, even if we wanted to, we would not be able to touch these accounts for the first 20 years of “retirement” because of the hefty fees and taxes of withdrawing before the age of 59 ½ years old.

Therefore, we need another investment option that we can live off for those 20 years. I am going to keep things simple and assume we invest an extra $1000/month into mutual funds (not in retirement accounts). After 10 years, we should have approximately $180,000 and this would provide an extra $800-$1000/month (in today’s dollars) for retirement between the ages of 40 and 60 years.

My husband’s pension should be approximately $2000/month (in today’s dollars). Add in the $800-$1000/month from our investments. After taxes, we would have approximately $2400/month (in today’s dollars) of “retirement income.”

Is $2400/month enough?

Yes. Our basic needs would be covered. We would have to live slightly more frugally than we do now.

  • Housing Expenses (taxes, insurance, repairs, utilities): $700
  • Food: $300
  • Car Expenses (fuel, insurance, repairs): $350
  • Medical/Dental: $300
  • Entertainment: $100
  • Vacation: $350
  • Donations/Gifts: $300

Do we want this lifestyle? No. We want a “comfortable” retirement with hobbies and vacations. Not a retirement ruled by “penny pinching.”

Fortunately we do not have the desire for “early retirement.”

If We Did Want Early Retirement

We could sell our home, and move to an area where the cost of living is much lower. We could buy a home for half what our current home is worth. Adding this $80,000 to our nest egg, plus the lower costs of daily living would change our retirement dramatically. There would be a good chance for a “comfortable” retirement.

I know some retired military families opt to live overseas in countries with extremely low costs of living. Places where the dollar has a high value over the local currency. In these countries, a couple can easily live off $2000/month.

Although these are feasible options for some people, neither is an option for us.

Can Anyone Have an Early Retirement?

Yes. Anyone who has the determination to work hard, sacrifice, and have extreme self-discipline to save and live frugally has the possibility of early retirement. The more flexible you are with your definition of “retirement” the easier it will be to make this dream come true.

 

Do you desire early retirement? How are you making this dream or goal of yours a reality?

 

 

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10 Biggest Financial Mistakes. Military Edition

 

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Military families have many unique differences in our finances compared to our civilian neighbors and friends but we are also struggling with some of the same financial mistakes. If there is one thing that all of man kind has in common, it would be the ability to make mistakes.

Of this compiled list of the Biggest Financial Mistakes, my husband and I were making 8 of the 10 mistakes before we decided to turn our finances around. Today, nearly 3 years after “Our Financial Story” began, we still struggle with #10, but we have made amazing progress. Acknowledge your mistakes, and move in the direction of financial security.

Are You Making Some of these Biggest Financial Mistakes?

 

  1. No Emergency Fund

    In my experience, it is even more important for military families to have an emergency fund, than civilians. We often move every 2-3 years and if one of these moves happens to be an overseas move you will need $5000-$10,000 to have a successful PCS without the accumulation of debt.

    Also, with the current downsizing of military personnel there are not “guaranteed paychecks” although you or your spouse hope to continue serving our country there are multiple reasons this dream may be cut short. More military families are single income homes than civilian families, meaning if the military member for some reason stopped receiving his/her paycheck this family could possibly have no income. The “government shutdown” was less than a year ago, do you remember all of those government employees who were without pay for several weeks???

    How to Fix: Pay yourself first and get on a written plan, AKA Budget. Even if you can only save $50/month at first, something is better than nothing. Sell some things around the house you no longer use. The goal is to have 3-6 months of expenses saved in an emergency fund. This money is ONLY for true emergencies!

  2. Buying New Cars

    A new car depreciates nearly 20% the moment it is driven off the lot and will depreciate 40-60% in the first 5 years of ownership. Plus paying 3-6% (much higher if you have poor credit) interest on the loan.

    I see many young military members driving around $30,000+ new cars and the more popular (and expensive) pick-up trucks. After 5 years, this $30,000 vehicle is now worth $12,000 and you have paid $2300-$4800 in interest. Can someone with an income of $25,000-$30,000/year “afford” to throw away $14,000-$17,000???

    This would be like throwing out a $100 bill every week of those 5 years. Suppose you are a family with two vehicles and a higher income. But don’t the numbers just double? So is it really any better?

    In 2013, the average car payment was $471/month. What would $471/month become if it was invested between the ages of 16 years and 65 years with 8% investment returns? How does $3,386,000 sound??? Your car payment is STEALING your retirement.

    How to Fix: If you are “car poor” meaning your car payments are using too much of your income, for you to get ahead financially. You need to consider selling the car. A good rule of thumb is your transportation expenses (fuel, maintenance/repair, payments) should be around 10% of your income. Meaning a $600/month payment for two cars doesn’t make sense if your take home pay is $6000/month. Purchase reliable, used cars for CASH!

  3. Purchasing a Home

    Often purchasing a home for an active duty military family is a poor financial decision. Financial experts recommend only buying a home if you plan on living in the home for a minimum of 3-5 years. The reason being, this gives the home value a chance to appreciate to cover the closing costs associated with selling a home. Unfortunately, military families rarely live in the same location for more than 3-5 years. Homes near military installations also appreciate much slower than homes in other areas, because there is always a surplus of homes on the market in these areas. It is not rare to see a home being sold for LESS than what it was purchased for a few years prior, near a military installation.

    Purchasing too much of a home can also be a financial mistake. In order to set your self up financially, you should be  debt free and have a 10-20% down payment. You should get a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. If your mortgage payment +insurance + property taxes is more than 25% of your take home pay. You have too much house, and you will be “house poor.” This will make achieving other financial goals difficult.

    How to Fix: If you have already purchased a home, chances are the damage (if any) has already been done. If you cannot “afford” the home you are currently living in or renting from across the country (or world), you need to consider selling it. Yes, you may take a $10,000+ loss but between continual maintenance and repairs you may lose this and perhaps more by holding onto the property hoping the property value will increase.

  4. No Retirement Funds

    Neglecting to save even a minimal amount for retirement, could end up costing you millions of dollars and possibly a comfortable retirement. Just $200/month invested into a Roth IRA or TSP/401K (assuming 8% investment returns) between ages 18 years and 65 years, ends up being $1.1 MILLION! If you wait until you are 38, you would have to invest $800/month to catch up by the age of 65 years.

    The “8th Amazing Wonder”… compound interest! The sooner you start investing, the more time compound interest will work in your favor. Start investing for retirement, NOW!

    How to Fix: Start investing something. Even if you can only pull together an extra $20 or $50 each paycheck, set up an automatic deposit into your retirement accounts. When you receive a pay increase, continue living on your current income and send your raise to your retirement accounts. Continue trying to increase your retirement investments until your contribution is 15% of your gross income.

  5. No Spending Plan

    Living paycheck to paycheck is often the result of not having a plan. Nearly half of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Some of these families are living under the poverty level, but many of these families have an income of 6-figures. If you do not tell your money where to go, you will be wondering where it all went.

    Every month, before the month begins sit down and write down your expected income and expenses. Every dollar needs to be placed in a category. There is no room for “extra” or “deficits,” you work out the budget until every dollar is spent on paper. Income – Expenses (Giving, Saving, Spending) = ZERO.

    How to Fix: Sit down NOW with your spouse and write out your income, expenses, and debt. Devise a plan that will work. This plan is the blue print to how you are going to become financially secure. HERE is a link to Dave Ramsey’s FREE budgeting worksheets. Check out this post “The Dreaded B Word… Budget” for further tips and tricks to establish a budget in your household.

  6. Too Much Debt

    Often times, families desperately want to make a difference in the finances and are busting their rears. They are doing everything in their power to tackle debt or establish an emergency fund and the wheels are just turning with no traction. Some families simply have too much debt and can’t seem to make much headway.

    A general rule of thumb is if you have a debt to income ratio higher than 30%, you have “too much” debt. For example if your take home pay is $3000/month and your total debt payments are more than $900/month , you simply have too much debt.

    How to Fix: First step is to immediately stop borrowing. Take those credit cards out of your wallet and no more new debt. Tackle your smallest debt with a vengeance. Have a yard sale, sell a few things on craigslist, get a couple of side hustle jobs (babysit, walk dogs, etc.) to get your first few hundred dollars to pay off your smallest debt. By paying this smallest debt off, it should free up $20-$50 in monthly payments and this can be put towards paying off the next debt. Snowball your debt!

  7. Eating Your Paycheck

    Quite literally sometimes. Do you eat out at restaurants often, don’t brown bag your lunch? You may be guilty of eating your paycheck. Have you ever totaled your monthly expenses for restaurants?

    We were guilty of this! We went out to dinner 2-3 times a week and out to lunch 1-2 times a week. Assuming each lunch was ~$7 and our average bill for dinner was ~$40.  We were spending $370-$600 at restaurants in a month! This does not even include groceries. Yikes! I know this is quite “average” and there are many families who eat at restaurants more.

    How to Fix: Slowly change your habits. If you eat out at lunch 3 days a week, set a goal of only twice a week. If you eat dinner out 4 times a week, set a goal of three times a week. Once the new habit is comfortable, lower your goal by another meal. My husband and I now eat at restaurants 2-3 times a month. Yes, we went from 3-5 times a week, to 2-3 times a month. This transition did take over two years and you don’t need to be as extreme as us. But remember, each meal at home is going to save you a considerable amount of money, so consider it a win!

  8. Not Working Together

    Typically in a marriage there is one person who is the “finance person” who pays all the bills and is responsible for keeping an eye on all the accounts. I’m here to tell you there is a much better option!

    Both spouses need to have an active role in establishing financial goals, setting a budget, paying bills/buying household items, etc. This is especially important in a military family because of the frequent separations secondary to deployment, TDY, training, etc. Each spouse needs to have ownership and responsibility of holding up their end of the agreement to the financial “game plan.”

    If you do not have team work in your finances, chances are one spouse is sabotaging the other’s goals/plans, possibly without even being aware of how their actions are effecting the family’s financial security. Working together is going to relieve a lot of stress for both spouses and remember the old saying “two heads is better than one.” I promise you, financial teamwork is going to get you to financial goals much faster than you ever dreamed possible.

    How to Fix: Set up a financial “date night.” Remember “finance person” this is NOT going to be fun for the non-finance person. Get your spouse up to date on your current finances (income, expenses, debt, investments, etc.). Remember just the basics, no details or spreadsheet after spreadsheet. Then talk and dream about your financial goals. Set up your next budget meeting “date.”

  9. Not Planning for Military Separation/Retirement

    Your military separation/retirement is going to be a HUGE transition in your life. Not only for your career and family life, but also for your finances.

    You may be thinking I have only served 5 years or 10 years, I have a lot of time before retirement. However, less than 20% off all military members serve a 20 year career. Meaning there is a high chance that your military career will be cut short, whether voluntarily or not.

    Even among those who do serve 20+ years, I hear time and time again how they have no “game plan.” No emergency fund. No extra training or education. No plan on how to obtain civilian employment.

    How to Fix: Whether you are just starting your military career or nearing 20 years, you need to start planning for the day you leave the military. Set yourself up financially to be able to “survive” 6+ months of employment searching and to be employable in a civilian career field. Read this post, “Military Retirement” for further details.

  10. Not Taking Advantage of FREE/Discounted Services

    There are many FREE services on a military installation to help you with your finances. If you are unaware of these services stop by or make an appointment with your installation’s family readiness center/group to inquire about these services.

    Many families are financially devastated when the “bread winner” of the family unexpectedly passes away. Did you know military members and spouses are automatically enrolled in life insurance policies? Look into your policy and make sure it would be enough for your family if the unthinkable happens. Along those same lines, military members can receive free legal counsel. Make sure you have a Will in place just in case the unthinkable happens.

    Military members and dependent family members can also receive FREE financial counseling, pre-employment services, and transitioning counseling. Please take advantage of these FREE services.

    How to Fix: Educate yourself about the available services. Inquire at your local readiness center/group, ask fellow military members about available services. Read the emails and newsletters that are sent to you that typically have further information. Attend a class or two.

     

There are many things you can do to place yourself and family in a better financial situation. Remember to stay focused by conquering just one or two goals at a time. Prioritize your financial goals and remember one step, one day, one dollar at a time. YOU CAN DO THIS!

 

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What have been some of your financial mistakes? Do you have financial tips for military families?

 

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Do You Believe YOU Can Be A Millionaire?

If you have been reading Budget Loving Military Wife for a while, you know I am a N-E-R-D! I am that weird person who actually enjoys budgeting and calculating a hundred different ways to pay off our debt faster. Yes, I know. Who does that?

So you may think I have always been this crazy person who has loved saving money and living a frugal life, but that is far from the truth. I was like everybody else. I went to college so I could get a “good job” to pay my bills and hopefully have a little fun and then hopefully some day retire before I was 100 years old.

It’s not until my husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, and took Financial Peace University that I realized, we could be millionaires. We could retire BEFORE the age of 100, before 80, probably even before 60 as MILLIONAIRES! Us, you know, those two newlyweds who were $170,000 in DEBT!!! Those two who made good wages but by no means lucrative pay…

Optimized-millionaire

Fast forward to earlier this week I was talking with my youngest sister. She has a new job and was telling me it was her first job with a match to her retirement account. So of course I took the opportunity to encourage her to invest 10-15%, ideally 15% because they are debt free. I tried explaining a few things about different options for retirement savings and then told her I would be happy to help or answer any questions she may have in the future.

Somewhere among this conversation, I stated that I didn’t want to be the only millionaire in the family so her and hubby needed to get to investing. She laughed and thought I had gone completely mad to even think it was a possibility for them to become millionaires.

Many people think that it is impossible. But let me show you how very real my sister and her husband could be millionaires. Of course I don’t know details of their finances and even if I did, I wouldn’t share someone else’s finances on the blog. Only mine are put out there to be laughed at and criticized 😉

I won’t reveal her age either… but you know she’s younger than me. So let’s assume 25 years old. Again, I don’t know their finances so let’s make up some. Let’s say they have $1000 already in retirement accounts and they make the median American income of $54,000.

They are debt free. Will have a paid for home before they retire, which will easily be worth more than $200,000 (considering inflation). They invest 15% ($675) of their income and never get another raise to increase their retirement investments.

At the age of 65 years, assuming 8% investment returns, they will have just shy of $2.2 million!!!

Not another, single raise… just 15%… and only making the median income… and you end up with 2.2 MILLION DOLLARS!!!! Plus, the value of their home and any other assets. So easily, $2.5 Million… I think they could call themselves “Millionaires”… Yes???

 

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