Time Is An Investment
What does your dream life after the military look like? Maybe for you, it’s a business venture, a career change, a new car, or a dream home. Whether you’re planning to serve eleven more years in the military – or just one – the time you have between now and then is an opportunity to work towards making your dream a reality. It’s an opportunity to work on good budgeting, seeking the right financial advice, preparing for change, and investing in additional skills.
Whether you’re planning to serve eleven more years in the military – or just one – the time you have between now and then is an opportunity to work towards making your dream a reality.
Assess Where You Are
The first step towards making your dream a reality should be to assess where you are right now. Assess your budgeting skills and your savings. If you need help with a budget, many bases have personal finance courses at family centers. Your budget and how much you save is very important to reach your dream.
As you assess your budget (and spending), think about what makes you happy. In their book “What Color Is Your Parachute – Retirement,” Nelson and Bolles describe three approaches to being happy (pleasure, engagement, or meaning). Pleasure can be a Frappuccino or a movie, engagement is being deeply involved in an activity such as an off-duty sport, and meaning is focusing your skills on a purpose larger than you (similar to your service in the military).
Spending money on items that are in the Pleasure category is important but should be done in moderation.
Nelson and Bolles point out that Pleasure is easiest for marketers to target and marketers will try to convince you that buying their product will make you happy. Without a budget, people tend to overspend money on Pleasure items yet may be unhappy. This is usually because there is no money left for Engagement or Meaning. Your dreams should be at the Engagement or Meaning level and your budget should prioritize your dream. An occasional Frappuccino or movie is OK but you should plan for that in your budget appropriately.
Pick An Investment Advisor to Follow
After you assess your budget and savings, you should choose an investment advisor to follow. Do some online searching, listen to some investment podcasts, and consider several advisors. As you consider advisors, avoid anyone who wants to charge a fee for investment advice. Focus on advisors who are independent of financial institutions and look to the articles or blogs on their website.
Chris Hogan is an investment advisor that I follow because his advice is very close to my father’s advice. Hogan is a proponent of planning a monthly budget, saving diligently, yet enjoying life or pleasures in moderation. Hogan recommends saving regardless of how little you make. There is no magic, homerun investment to Hogan’s approach. In fact, Hogan is a more conservative investor yet he and his followers achieve great outcomes.
Hogan recommends saving regardless of how little you make.
Hogan’s biggest connection to my father is the subject of interest. My father taught me it is better to earn interest than to pay interest. Hogan explains the pitfalls of interest and debt in his article, “The Debt Snowball Explained.” Any debt will make a dream more difficult to achieve. If you don’t have debt, budget well and avoid it. If you do have debt, pay it off and get out from under it as quickly as is possible.
Prepare for Change
If you ever planned something in the military, you know what inevitably happens to the plan; it changes. Life after the military will bring a lot of change – and that change will continue for life. For example, you may pick a dream location to buy a house after your time in the military. When you do make the big move, you may find it is not the dream location you thought it was.
As a member of the military or even a military family, you have learned how to adapt to change. If you want to improve your ability to adapt to change, consider the author of Pivot, Jenny Blake. As you may guess, her book and podcasts are rooted in pivoting from a job to a successful business. Still, her methods apply to other dreams outside of business.
One key to Blake’s approach is “piloting.” To Blake, a pilot is a small experiment towards a change you want to make. A pilot allows you to test a small part of that change. Before making “the big move” to a dream location, a pilot would allow you to test the location. A pilot could be a week of leave in your dream location, using an Airbnb room. After the pilot, Blake recommends asking: What worked? What didn’t? What could you do differently? When you answer these questions, you can modify your plan to make it better for you. Overall, Blake’s approach allows one to make smarter, better informed decisions towards a big change.
Think About Your Investment in Skills
In addition to your savings, consider how you are investing your time at work and off-duty. Military skills are valuable but you may require additional skills for your dream. At work, you may want to look for situations that help your unit and improve your skills. Look for problems that continue without a solution in sight. Solving that problem may give you experience toward your dream and help your unit at the same time. Off-duty, there are a lot of volunteer opportunities to help people and invest in your skills. If your dream is about a home but you’ve been a renter your whole career, consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
Military skills are valuable but you may require additional skills for your dream.
Why Not Start Now?
Whatever your dream is for life after the military, you can, and should, start investing right now. Budget and save, seek the right advice, prepare for change, and invest in additional skills. When you have the opportunity to work on your dream, you will appreciate the budgeting discipline, savings, flexibility, and skills that are required to make it happen.