Here are 3 documents of interest to MC officers:
There are some exciting and interesting initiatives underway to modernize the Navy’s personnel system. There have been many articles on this in Navy Times. Here is one article recently released by the Military Officers Association of America.
In addition, here are some slides that describe this initiative:
The changes that physicians should be aware of, some already finalized and others representing potential changes, are:
- Pay and bonus changes that would reward individual talent rather than treat everyone the same.
- A removal of promotion zones. No longer would records be stamped as below-zone, in-zone, or above-zone during promotion boards. This would switch to a system that rewards talent and milestones rather than longevity. It would allow those that progress faster to promote faster and no longer have to “wait their turn” as well as remove the stigma that some feel is associated with being above-zone.
- Expansion of opportunities to diversify your career. Examples include an expansion of the career intermission program and fellowships providing officers with the opportunity to spend some time in civilian industry so that they can bring best practices back to the Navy.
- An information technology (IT) investment in a new, more transparent personnel management system. Ideas I have heard mentioned include eliminating all of the various computer systems that exist and consolidating them into one so that you don’t have to update your record in 20 different ways. An assignments system has also been mentioned that would allow officers to see all the billets available and apply for the ones that they want, giving commands the ability to pick which officers they want.
- Improved co-location policy. I have no details on this one, and right now I feel the detailers do a pretty good job co-locating dual active duty couples, but others may disagree.
- Changes to the physical fitness assessment/body composition assessment (PFA/BCA), which were detailed in this NAVADMIN. This includes expanded fitness center hours.
- Changes to the maternity leave policy, detailed in this NAVADMIN, and expanded child development center hours.
Keep in mind that while some of these changes have been released already, like the PFA/BCA and maternity leave policies, the rest are works in progress. I think it is interesting, though, to see that the DoD and Navy leadership are interesting in modernizing our personnel system and management. As a detailer who writes orders on a DOS-based system, I can assure you that modernization is sorely needed.
Now that the FY16 O5 promotion board results have been released and I’ve had a chance to review a number of officer records, here are my O5 promotion board takeaways. If you’d like to review the statistics, click here:
Promotion Board Takeaways
If these things happen to you, you are very likely never going to promote to O5:
- Any PFA/BCA failures.
- Legal issues, such as a DUI or any other legal trouble.
- Failure to become board certified.
There are other things that could happen to you that make it difficult but not impossible to promote. They include:
- Coming into zone while in GME. There were people who promoted while in GME, but those lucky few broke out in large competitive groups before or during GME. Those who have non-observed (NOB) fitreps before the board, such as those in full-time outservice training, tend not to promote.
- Spending too much time in the fleet as a GMO, flight surgeon, or UMO. This is mostly because it causes you to come into zone while you are still in GME, and is worsened if your residency is long.
- Never getting a competitive early promote (EP) fitrep. Many officers who fail to select for O5 have never had a competitive EP fitrep as an O4. This can be because they are stationed places without competitive groups and get 1/1 fitreps, or it can be because they were in a competitive group and did not break out and get an EP.
- Receiving potentially adverse fitreps. This most commonly happens when you are at an operational command and your reporting senior is not someone who is used to ranking medical corps officers, although it could happen for other reasons (like your reporting senior felt you deserved this type of fitrep). The most common thing would be if there is a competitive group of 2 officers but both are given must promote (MP) fitreps instead of 1 getting an EP and the other the MP. When both get an MP, it reflects poorly on both officers unless the reason for this is CLEARLY explained in the fitrep narrative, which it often is not. The other thing that happens is that a reporting senior gives you a 1/1 MP instead of a 1/1 EP. If you are ever getting a 1/1 fitrep, make sure you get an EP. You should consider getting a 1/1 MP an adverse fitrep. If there is no way around this, often because the reporting senior has a policy that they don’t give newly promoted officers an EP, make sure that this policy is clear in the fitrep narrative.
- Having a declining fitrep. Mostly this happens when you go from getting an EP to an MP on your fitrep under the same reporting senior. If it is because you changed competitive groups, like you went from being a resident to a staff physician, that is understandable and not a negative. If you didn’t change competitive groups, though, make sure the reason you declined is explained.
- Making it obvious to the promotion board that you didn’t update your record. The most obvious ways a promotion board will know you didn’t update your record is if you don’t have a photo in your current rank, your officer summary record (OSR) is missing degrees that you obviously have (like your MD or DO), or if many of the sections of your OSR are either completely blank or required updating by the board recorders. Remember that although promotion board recorders will correct your record for you, anything they do and any corrections they make are annotated to the board. While a few corrections are OK, you don’t want a blank record that the recorders had to fill in. It demonstrates that you didn’t update your record.
So who actually promotes to O5? In general, the officer who promotes to O5 is:
- Board certified.
- Finished GME early enough that they had time to break out with a competitive EP fitrep as a staff physician.
- Has a demonstrated history of excellence as an officer. In other words, whenever they are in a competitive group, they successfully break out and get an EP fitrep. Being average is just not good enough anymore.
- They have no PFA failures, legal problems, declining fitreps, or potentially adverse fitreps.
- They have updated their record, and if they previously failed to select they reviewed their record with their detailer and actively worked to improve it.
Here is the latest of my financial planning articles from one of our specialty society newsletters:
Here is the text as well:
The previous installment of “Dollars & Sense” reviewed the principles of investing for retirement, and this article discusses an easy way for physicians to plan for retirement. It isn’t necessarily the best way and certainly isn’t the only way, but it is a plan that will likely lead to a very successful and potentially even early retirement.
Step 1 – Calculate How Much You Need to Save for Retirement
Total up your household’s gross (pre-tax) income for the year. Include all sources of income, literally all the money you make from anywhere. Multiply that number by 20%. That is how much you need to save annually for retirement. While the traditional recommendation is that you save 10-15% of your income for retirement, saving 20% (or more if you can) will ensure you save enough and have the option of an earlier retirement or the freedom to cut back on your workload at some point.
As an example, let’s pretend your household makes $300,000 annually before taxes. Multiple that by 20% and you’ll see that you need to save $60,000/year for retirement.
Step 2 – First Fill All Your Tax-Advantaged Retirement Accounts
You likely have many different retirement accounts available, so here is the order in which you should invest. Start with the first action and move down the list.
1. Contribute to any employer-provided retirement account up to the maximum that your employer will match. This is free money you can’t afford to leave on the table.
2. Maximally fund any tax-deferred retirement accounts you have, like your 401k or 403b. If you are self-employed you may have other options like a SEP-IRA or individual 401k.
3. Fund an IRA for both you and your spouse/partner, if applicable. If your income renders you ineligible to contribute to a Roth IRA but you still wish to do so, use the “backdoor” Roth IRA approach.(https://personal.vanguard.com/us/insights/video/2505-Exc2)
4. Put any remaining retirement funds into a taxable mutual fund.
You may have other options, such as funding a Health Savings Account as a “stealth IRA.” Some believe in using life insurance as an investment, but I don’t recommend that. In general, after you’ve maxed out the contributions to all of your tax-advantaged accounts, you’ll have to put the rest in a regular, taxable investment account.
For some of the options above you’ll have to decide whether to pursue a Roth option (pay taxes now) or use the traditional tax-deferred approach (pay taxes when you withdraw the money in retirement). That decision will depend on your individual financial situation, current and anticipated future tax brackets, and what options your employer offers. There are many on-line calculators to help you decide this.
Using our $60,000 example from above, you would contribute $18,000 to your 403b, and then fund $5500 toward an IRA for both you and your spouse, leaving $31,000 to put into a taxable investment account. If your employer contributes to your retirement, you could also count that amount toward your $60,000 total contribution.
Step 3 – Invest Your Retirement Savings in Low Cost, No Load, Index Mutual Funds
You will have to take a look at the investments offered by your various plans and select from that menu. The principles that should guide you:
1. Favor index funds over actively managed funds. You’re investing for the long term, and over that time frame almost no actively managed funds will beat index funds. In addition, because past performance does not predict future performance, there is no way to predict which funds will beat their indexes.
2. Favor mutual funds with low expense ratios that do not charge a load. The expense ratio should be less than 1.0, preferably less than 0.5, and optimally less than 0.25. If you want to keep this really easy, just invest in Vanguard index funds as all of them meet these criteria.
3. Realize that in order to beat inflation over the long haul, you’ll likely need to invest some of your portfolio in stock index funds. What percentage you invest in stocks will depend on your time horizon, risk tolerance, and individual situation. A number of guidelines from trusted references are below:
- Malkiel & Ellis suggest this as a conservative asset allocation:
|AGE GROUP||PERCENT IN STOCKS||PERCENT IN BONDS|
- They suggest this as a more aggressive asset allocation, which is my personal favorite due to the security offered by my inflation-adjusted military pension:
|AGE GROUP||PERCENT IN STOCKS||PERCENT IN BONDS|
- John Bogle suggests, as a conservative asset allocation rule, that your percentage of assets in bonds should equal your age. In other words, at age 30 you should have 70% in stocks and 30% in bonds. A more aggressive version is to subtract 10 from your age, so at age 30 you’d have 80% in stocks and 20% in bonds.
One very easy way to let someone else make this decision for you is to pick a target date retirement fund as your investment vehicle. Many investment companies offer these. You just pick the approximate year you plan to retire – that year will likely be in the name of the fund (Target Retirement 2035, for example) – and invest in that fund. Your investments will gradually get more conservative as you age without any action on your part. Just make sure that the target date funds you have access to are composed of index funds with low expense ratios. Again, using Vanguard funds makes this a no-brainer. A target date retirement fund composed of actively managed funds with expense ratios greater than 1.0 is a target retirement fund to avoid.
To close out our running example, for your 403b you invest in the target retirement 2040 fund offered by your employer’s investment firm. For both of your IRAs and your taxable account you apply the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principle, open all of them with Vanguard, and select their Target Retirement 2040 funds for all three accounts.
A simple approach like this should set you up well for retirement, and is easy enough that you can use the time you would have spent trying to manage your finances to play a little golf every now and then.
Bogle, John C. The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007.
Malkiel, Burton and Charles Ellis. The Elements of Investing: Easy Lessons for Every Investor. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2013.
As this blog/website grows in popularity (4,100 hits in just over 2 months), I think readers could really benefit from other opinions than my own. With that in mind, I’d like to invite anyone interested to consider guest posting. The topic could be anything related to Medical Corps career planning. If you are interested in guest posting, use the “Contact Me” tab to pitch your idea to me. If the idea sounds promising and you’re open to a little editorial input after you submit a draft, we can get your thoughts posted to the site for others to benefit from.
Here is the FY16 Navy Medicine Professional Development Center course calendar. The most popular course for physicians on this list is the Advanced Medical Department Officer Course (AMDOC), which is great not only because it is a service school and therefore buffs your Officer Summary Record (OSR) for promotion boards, but because it teaches you a ton of useful information. (Disclaimer: I’m teaching at AMDOC this Tuesday.) The Tricare Financial Management Executive Program is another worthwhile course for senior-ish officers. It is a 3 day peek into the world of how Navy Medicine and Tricare are financed and I learned a lot of things when I attended it.
The POC for any questions about these courses is found in Appendix VI of my promotion prep document, updated yesterday and found in the tab at the top of this page and here:
This NAVADMIN extended the deadline to apply for an Officer-in-Charge (OIC) position to 8/31/15:
Here is the original BUMED Note that lists the positions available and gives you all the details: