Ah, to be Young Again!
I joined the Navy at the ripe old age of 20 and had $3600 to my name. Not because I was an awesome saver. Quite the contrary, I had sold all my “stuff” prior to heading off to Guam for my first tour. My father (wisely) introduced me to a financial advisor and we deposited what seemed like a million bucks with them. I had no clue what I was doing, but figured it would be much safer there than in my slippery little hands. Certainly wasn’t thinking about my personal finance situation in preparation for military retirement! Experiencing a military transition back to civilian life wasn’t on the radar at all.
Eventually, the statements sparked my interest (pun intended). Hold on here, I left that little pile of cash alone for a while and it was growing larger with no effort from me? Interesting… The first book I read on the subject was Personal Finance for Dummies. I love the simplicity of Dummies books, and the library of these books I’ve read continues to grow.
Personal Finance & Preparing for Military Retirement- You Win Some, You Lose Some!
I was hooked, and have been a rabid fan of personal finance books, blogs, and podcasts since. Establishing a solid personal finance plan for military retirement has been the single most valuable use of my dead time. Plane rides, reading aboard ships at sea, on hotel balconies, and in lobbies across the globe. Nowadays it’s early mornings, driving to and from work, while mowing the grass. When ever and where ever there is otherwise dead time is a great time to educate yourself. OK, focus dude, back to the topic at hand…
Admittedly, I have done a horrible job with fairly large chunks of my savings over the years. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say and it makes for legit experiences to write about in other posts. However, we fiercely safeguard every dollar contributed to our Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), Education Savings, and Roth IRAs. The best personal finance decision we’ve made has been to use dollar cost averaging over the long haul. The second best decision has been these dollars remaining totally off limits unless utilized for their intended purposes. No slippery little hands allowed here!
My Top 5 Personal Finance Books to Prepare for Military Retirement (or Any Savings Goal Really)
I’ve found a great many fellow service members are just like me. We weren’t educated in personal finance and how it can affect our military retirement. We’re generally unsure where to start. Some would show interest and ask questions when they learned I had self-studied on the subject. Many times I recommended the same book I started with, Personal Finance for Dummies. If they continued to ask questions, I’d point them toward a book I’d read with related information.
The titles here are in the order I would prefer to have read them when I started out. Each will build on the learning from the previous. Obviously they do not cover every possible aspect of Personal Finance. That’s not what I’m trying to get at, and I don’t believe there’s a combination of just five books capable of doing so. They do, however, present a great place to get the base knowledge required to make informed decisions. Then, should you hunger for more, seek out what suits you!
1. Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson
This book provides a solid introduction to personal finance and the basics of investing for the beginner and intermediate alike. Easy to read and no hype, it speaks to points we need to know without going overboard with confusing details. The book is indexed quite well, so you can jump from subject to subject easily. What I love most is how handy they are as a quick reference long after reading cover to cover. I’m a super fan of Dummies books, I just kind of relate to them, you know?
2. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
Most of us with a military background love structure. Dispense with the BS and sugar coating, let’s get after this and WIN! This is a no nonsense approach to get out of consumer debt. Which is an absolutely essential place to start if you want to truly succeed in personal finance. It provides guidance on establishing emergency savings, funding retirement, paying for a home, and saving for the future. Dave does all of this through his Seven Baby Steps, making the process super simple to understand and follow. The book provides the structure, YOU bring the discipline and the desire to WIN!
3. The Simple Path to Wealth: Your Road Map to Financial Independence and a Rich, Free Life by JL Collins
Man, oh man. Where my portfolio would be today had I taken this advice so many years ago! Nothing beats the simple path when the debt has been defeated and it is time to invest. JL Collins explains why he believes the great majority of us should invest solely in index mutual funds. I’ve personally tried many types of investments over the years. The ease of investing his way has proven so much less stressful and way more fruitful for me personally. In other words, KISS- Keep It Simple Shipmate (or Silly, or Stupid- you pick).
4. Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth by Chris Hogan
Pure motivation. Most people believe they could never become a millionaire and unfortunately, they prove themselves right. Hogan explores how America’s focused and methodical savers achieved millionaire status. And guess what, they live in your neighborhood! The message is very similar to The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, which is another great read for later. Hogan’s version is easier to follow, has true life examples, and is based on a much larger study. If you think becoming a millionaire is not possible, I dare you to read this book!
5. Keys to a Successful Retirement: Staying Happy, Active, and Productive in Your Retired Years by Fritz Gilbert
I can only wish this had been available a few years before my military retirement. Fritz man, where were you?! The premise of the book was gleaned from his blog, The Retirement Manifesto. It provides guidance on how to look at the financial side, however, the greatest value is in it’s complete view of retirement. Helping us mentally prepare for retirement with actionable steps is hugely encouraging. His prompting to think about how to remain relevant and enjoy a meaningful retirement before we retire is definitely on point.
Let’s Not Stop Here
I’ve read some very good personal finance books over the years. Others- eh, not so much. Many have helped me shape the goals and objectives used for our own military retirement. As I learn more, we’re using the knowledge to aid in our not too far off civilian retirement.
The subject of personal finance continues to intrigue me. Please share any related books, blogs, or podcasts you’ve enjoyed in the comments below!