07 September 2012

Look at Lit: The Military Guide to Financial Independence & Retirement

This rendition of Look at Literature focuses on a book written by Doug Nordman entitled The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement . The author* is a self-described semi-retired submariner out of the US Navy after serving 24 years helping protect our nation. This means he has first-hand knowledge about going through the retirement process. He includes much of his personal experiences throughout, along with those of other military retirees. At the same time, it also isn't an autobiography with a little financial information thrown in. He is very familiar with the intricacies of TRICARE, going to the Reserves vs. staying active duty, and many other topics that wouldn't even cross the realm of the average civilian's train of thought.

A problem (if you will) of many books, especially concerning financials, can be their relevance to the present. What was often a shrewd financial move yesterday can be a catastrophic error today. With a publication date of May 2011, this book is barely a year old. Therefore, while the information isn't the very latest in the field, it is very much more current than even that which is found in Early Retirement Extreme (ERE), which isn't that old either. As far as practical life advice goes, Doug is far more lenient (and dare I say realistic to the average person) in his book than Jacob is in ERE.

One dramatic difference between MGFinR and ERE is the lack of the whole drive to rush things as fast as possible. With a full military retirement not even possible until 20 years of service, the focus of this book is primarily on maximizing your time in the military to get your money earning passive income and to position you to best be able to qualify for as many benefits as possible once you reach that stage. Despite the bad rap that the Veteran's Administration sometimes gets, quite a bit of it may just be to lack of information on the part of those looking to get their benefits and Doug aims to share that information with his book.

It's evident that he definitely did his homework for this book, especially once one reaches the appendices. In fact, if you read nothing else in the book, just cracking the appendix section open and focusing on the information contained therein would occupy anyone for weeks on end. He has included calculations of how much one could save under various (reasonable) scenarios, he has links to DoD and VA information, he has links to his blog, links to other retirement forums and calculators, links to investment advice and calculators, and many more useful things all neatly arranged by topic. Of course, by reading the book, you do get the benefit of all that stuff being condensed and laid out clearly.

In summary, I found it to be an excellent read. I would especially recommend it to anyone in the service or who is thinking of going into the service right now or somewhere in the future. It also would make an excellent gift for a friend or family member who falls in the aforementioned categories and I'd also consider it required reading for anyone in the immediate family of anyone in the service. The information it contains is relevant from the newest E-1 to the most senior O-9. Anyone entering straight out of high school could realize (and thus avoid) that they can do more than just be a grunt for a few tours of duty then come home only to get shafted by schools that are taking their GI Bill money but not giving them viable degrees or training.

I actually bought this book to share with one of my neighbors who is in the Marines, but figured I'd read it first before passing it on just to make sure it was not just a gimmicky pamphlet. Those of you who don't happen to be my neighbor would do well to find other (legal) ways of acquiring it. I got my copy from Amazon, but even the author recommends that you should check your library first before buying it (he donates all proceeds to military charities).

*Note about the author: He spoke at FinCon12 in Denver, CO.

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