The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is the military’s retirement account. Learning how to maximize its utility should be high on your financial priority list. I’m going to create a guide that will show you how to crush the TSP. Here’s Step 1 in that guide…
Step 1 to Crush the TSP – Prepare
Before you can crush the TSP, you have to do a little preparation. You don’t need to be Warren Buffet, but you need to understand the basics of investing and the TSP. Luckily, there are many ways to learn the basics. Here are a few:
- Read a book – Go to your library, search for a used book with AddAll (one of my favorite tools), or buy one new on Amazon. The easiest and quickest read to increase your basic investing knowledge is The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor. Read this book. THAT’S AN ORDER! (unless you outrank me)
- Read an online introduction to investing – The one that I’d recommend is the Bogleheads Wiki. Here’s a link to their getting started page and their investing start-up kit. What’s the best part? All of this is free.
- Watch videos – The Bogleheads have a video series, which is also free.
- Read blog posts – My favorite TSP-specific blog posts are found at The White Coat Investor. You can read What You Need To Know About The TSP, The G Fund – A Free Lunch, or The Military’s New Blended Retirement System. I wrote the last one.
- Read the TSP website – The TSP website has a wealth of information.
Now you’ve got some homework. Once you’ve done as much of this as you can, move on to the 2nd step (coming soon).
Here are this week’s articles:
BUMED is pleased to announce a call for applicants for the Internal Medicine Specialty Leader position. Interested candidates should submit a Letter of Intent, CV, Bio, OSR/PSR, last 3 FITREPs, and Command Letter of Endorsement to CDR Melissa Austin (e-mail address in the global) NLT 15 Sep 2019.
(You can find all of my FITREP education here, including the FITREP Prep document.)
When I was a Detailer, I would review a lot of records for people who failed to promote. Over and over again I would see FITREPs that reflected poorly on the officer. A lot of the time they didn’t realize it was even an issue, and sometimes they did it to themselves. Here are the top 5 FITREP mistakes you want to make sure you don’t make:
- Getting anything other than an early promote (EP) when you are getting a 1/1 FITREP, also known as an “air bubble.”
If you are the only officer in your competitive category (meaning that you aren’t competing against anyone on that FITREP), make sure you get an EP. Just like a single air bubble, you should “rise to the top” and get an EP. If you don’t get the air bubble and get a promotable (P) or must promote (MP), it reflects poorly on you unless it is CLEARLY EXPLAINED in the narrative why you are getting a P or MP. Here you can see an officer who got a 1/1 MP in his/her last FITREP and how it would be noted at a promotion board:
For example, if your reporting senior doesn’t give newly promoted officers an EP, your narrative should say something like, “Newly promoted officers do not receive EP rankings.” Sometimes this happens because your reporting senior is an officer from another service and he/she doesn’t understand the “Navy rules” for FITREPs. Sometimes it happens because either you or your reporting senior wants to give you a P or MP so you can “show progression” and get an EP. If you want to show progression, do it on the overall marks, not the final promotion recommendation. For example, give yourself a 4.0 EP, then a 4.17 EP, and finally a 4.33 EP. DO NOT give yourself a P or MP if you are getting a 1/1 FITREP.
- Both officers in a competitive group of 2 getting a MP FITREP.
If you are in a competitive group of 2, your reporting senior should give 1 of you an EP and the other a MP. If he/she gives you both a MP, it reflects poorly on both of you. Most often this will happen at an operational command and/or when there are 2 officers who are competing but are in the same promotion year group. Make sure your reporting senior doesn’t take the easy road and give you both a MP. One of you should get the EP, and the other can get a MP with a strong narrative explaining why.
- Declining from an EP to an MP without changing competitive groups (or “moving to the left”).
Most often I would see this when a resident who was in a large competitive group was given an EP FITREP. Then when they graduate from residency, their competitive group shrinks and they don’t get an EP but are left with an MP. Here’s what it looks like on when projected at the promotion board:
If I was you, I’d fight this like a dog. If they can’t keep you at an EP and you didn’t do anything wrong to deserve this, make sure the reason for your drop from an EP to a MP is clearly explained in the FITREP narrative.
If this happens to you because you are changing competitive groups, like when you get promoted or move from residency/fellowship to a staff physician at the same institution, it is not a black mark in any way and is expected.
- Not getting a 5.0 in Leadership.
If you are writing your own FITREP, you can’t give yourself a 5.0 in every category, but of all the categories Leadership is probably the most important one. Make sure you give yourself a 5.0 in Leadership because that is what the promotion board is looking to promote, future leaders. Having less than a 5.0 can send a bad message to the board.
Sometimes you have no control over this, and sometimes you may deserve less than a 5.0 in Leadership, but do your best to get a 5.0 there if at all possible.
- Giving yourself an overall trait average less than your reporting senior’s average.
Every reporting senior has an overall trait average for each rank that includes all of the FITREPs that they’ve done for that rank. You want to try and find out what it is.
While a reporting senior can look up their average on BOL, you can’t. You can, though, see it on your Performance Summary Record if you’ve received a FITREP from them at your current rank. Although it changes every time they do more FITREPs, their average the last time they did a round of FITREPs can be found on your PSR and is highlighted below by the red arrow with blue text (this reporting senior had ranked 6 LCDRs and had an average of 3.50 at that time) on one of the slides from my FITREP video podcast:
If you have never received a FITREP from your reporting senior at your current rank, maybe your one of your friends has. The other way to find out their average is to ask your chain-of-command. Someone, usually the command’s FITREP coordinator, will know their average for your rank.
It is probably obvious that once you find out their average, you’d like to make sure you are above it. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to be above it because you are getting a P and/or you deserve to be below it, but make sure you don’t rank yourself below it if given the chance to write your own FITREP.
In summary, those are the top 5 FITREP mistakes I often see. If you are interested in learning more, grab a copy of your FITREP and watch this video podcast. In 45 minutes you’ll know everything you need to know to write effective FITREPs.
Last Saturday, RDML James Hancock assumed the position of Medical Corps Chief from RDML Paul Pearigen. For those of you who would like to learn about RDML Hancock’s background, here is his military bio:
Thanks to RDML Pearigen for his years of leadership in the position.
Anyone with anything to do with the United States Marine Corps should read the new Commandant’s planning guidance:
I’m a LCDR MC officer. I’m new at my command and was passed over during my in-zone promotion board for CDR. My command is considering a NOB fitrep vs. a Promotable (P) fitrep. Do you have a recommendation on which fitrep will be more helpful for my promotion board?
In my experience, most physicians seem to prefer the NOB. We’ll see what the poll above says, though.
Personally, I don’t think it really matters very much. At the promotion board, both are easily explained and a getting a P as the new officer is expected, so it wouldn’t be a negative.
I would say that if you get a P you have already started the march to an MP and then (hopefully) an EP. If you take the NOB, then your next fitrep could be seen as your “new guy/gal P.”
This last point is why I’d prefer the P if it was me, but I don’t feel that strongly about it.