In the military, there are a few advantages you’ve got that can allow you to sock away more of your income than the average Joe. They include:
- Government housing or a tax-free housing allowance
- Government provided or subsidized meals (Basic Allowance for Subsistence)
- Free medical and dental care
- On base services (exchanges, commissaries, gyms, auto shops, child care, etc.)
- Uniforms to wear instead of expensive business clothes (although uniforms can certainly be expensive sometimes)
- Military discounts
- Cheaper insurance (USAA, GEICO Military, etc.)
- No income lapse when you change jobs
If you can put these advantages to work, allowing you to save more than the average American, invest appropriately, and combine these savings with just plain staying in the military for 20 years, you can be rich.
How Much Should I Save?
One of the most important moments of my early financial career that had a major impact on my ultimate net worth was the day I decided to reach David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire. In the book (based on my memory of it), it said that your savings rate was a major determining factor of whether or not you became rich. If you wanted to work your whole life and have a comfortable retirement at the age of 65, you needed to save 15% of your income for retirement. It said that if you saved 20-30%, you’d get rich. Period.
What did I do? I saved 20-30%, and it worked.
What If You Saved 20-30 Percent?
I would argue that you should save 20-30% of your total compensation, and not just your basic pay. In other words, include all of your allowances and extra pays (if you have any) in addition to your basic pay. Include literally every dollar that enters your household. Add them all together, and that is your total compensation. Multiply that by your savings rate, and that is how much you should invest every year. Combine this super saving with just plain staying in for 20 years and the value of the pension, and you’re rich.