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Best Places in the Country for Military Retirees

When you’re evaluating the best places for military retirees to live several criteria come to mind including weather, taxes, employment opportunities, crime, education, entertainment. Other, less tangible items like proximity to family and friends, are often more important to the individual retiree.

That said, Wallet Hub recently published their “Best Places” list for 2014. The methodology for the rankings was categorized as Economic Environment, Quality of Life, and Health Care. Different weights were placed on the scores to help emphasize issues that may be of interest to military retirees specifically, such as the number of bases in the state and the number of VA facilities. 

I won’t steal Wallet Hubs thunder by repeating their top ten list, but will point out that it’s probably better to break this information down further and consider regional alternatives. In Nevada, Las Vegas is lumped in the mix with Elko and Carson City, but has a new, state-of-the-art VA Hospital and a recovering economy. It also is the home of Nellis AFB, offering military retirees all the amenities that come along with a world class facility. 

Nevada is a Paradise for Military Retirees

No state income tax, great weather, seasonal changes (if you’re willing to travel just a bit), and so many activities…just a few reasons why Nevada is a paradise for military retirees. While the summer will be tough in Las Vegas for many, there is always respite in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area, and even Las Vegans can escape the heat on Mount Charleston. 

What are your favorite retirement locations?

Consider “International Living”

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been a subscriber to the “International Living Postcards” e-mail blast for quite a while. Nearly everyday I get an e-mail that highlights what life is like in another international destination. The company is also hosting their International Living Conference in Las Vegas in late September. It’s an exciting option for military members since your retirement can go a long way in many of these nations. 

Preparing for a Delay in Military Pay

September 8, 2013 1 comment

You’ve read that the government is quickly reaching its self imposed debt ceiling. This has, in the past, at least threatened a delay in military pay until congress acts. During my 25 year career we’ve seen the threats at least three times, but only once was there a delay in payment. 

Here are a few strategies that you can use to prepare for a delay in your military pay.

  1. Tap into your emergency fund (EF). It’s a wise idea to have 3-6 months of expenses put aside in an accessible account for emergencies. By using the 8% challenge you can sock that away in a single assignment. When the military pay spigot gets turned back on you can refill your EF and then get ready for the next crisis.
  2. Open an account with a credit union. During the last threatened delay in payments the Navy Federal Credit Union announced that it would credit its members accounts for their usual military pay deposit without cost to the members. USAA later followed suit, but it was weeks after the NFCU announcement. That’s real customer service!
  3. Consider a loan through a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine resource, like the Falcon Loan.  The Air Force Aid Society offers Airman a no-interest loan of up to $750 to pay for emergencies and basic living expenses. This is considerably better than a pay-day lender or a high interest cash advance on a credit card.
  4. Borrow from your TSP account. If you’ve contributed to the Thrift Savings Plan, you can borrow 50% of your account balance up to $50,000 for five years at very low interest rates. If you are discharged with a loan balance outstanding, however, you’ll have to pay the entire balance back within 60 days to avoid extra taxes and penalties. 
  5. Talk to your creditors.  In a military town, merchants understand that they get paid when you get paid. Once you’ve exhausted your other options the best plan is to often call your creditors and work out a plan to pay them once you get paid yourself.  If you have loans with military friendly banks, they’ll usually work with you.  If not, then you can at least understand what the consequences are from their point of view.  

Don’t panic during the congressional debate regarding the debt ceiling. Use the discussion, however, to consider what you’d do if you didn’t get a paycheck for a month or two. This may motivate you to extend your emergency fund a few extra months and minimize your new debt acquisition.  If you have more suggestions, e-mail us at or comment.


Should you pay for TSP advice?

The Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP, became available to military members more than a decade ago. It offers us the ability to save money before taxes come out, allowing the money to grow over time and then be taxed as ordinary income when we tap into it.

Most military members are not professional money managers, and you might be confused about the different investment options in the TSP. While there are just a few different options in the TSP it might still be a little overwhelming.

The TSP website offers a lot of general information that can help you make a decision over your investment mix. Too often, unfortunately, military members opt for either the safest possible fund, the “G-Fund” which is the default setting for contributions, or the fund that happens to have the highest rate of return when they sign up for the benefit.

As with picking mutual funds, sometimes the best choice is to get some help to pick the right funds for you. There are a couple of ways to get help. The first way is to go to your service’s support agency. The AIr Force Airmen and Family Readiness Center has personal financial management counselors who can explain the options and answer questions about the differences.

Another great option is You can use this service to get one-on-one counseling for all your financial concerns, including your TSP contribution choices.

A less attractive but very popular choice is asking your friends, family, or your supervisor how to invest your money. Like many gamblers, many of these individuals only recall their investment wins, avoiding or “forgetting” their investment mistakes.

A great choice is to hire a fee-only investment counselor to sit down with you and your spouse to discuss your entire financial situation. It’s really only in this holistic context that your TSP choices can be properly set.  If you can afford a few dollars now, it has the potential of making a big difference in your eventual financial health.

Random “Great Places to Live” Postings

We continue to search for bargains around the world to recommend as great military retirement locations. So when Marketwatch posts an article entitled “5 cities where houses are still cheap” we immediately hit the link. This time we’re again disappointed. #1 on AnnaMaria Androitis’ list is SANTA BARBARA, CA. Inventory is Santa Barbara is non-existent (check out if you want to see for yourself.)

Phoenix is on the list, but prices in that sunny city are spiking.

We remain bullish on Las Vegas where significant inventory remains on the market, where visitor counts for the hospitality industry are climbing, and a lack of state income tax really stretches your retirement dollars.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

MarketWatch lists top 10 global retirement options

We all love lists of retirement locations. Check this one out from Marketwatch if you are interested in international options.

Categories: Uncategorized

Housing Prices Continue to Fall

Cities that were outside the reach of military retirees are now a real bargain. Popular choices such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Tampa are now at bargain basement prices. In addition, mortgage rates have fallen again to the lowest levels of the year.

We recently purchased a short-sale home in Las Vegas. We were interested in this neighborhood in 2005, but the prices were far to high for our projected budget. Five years later the home was available for less than half the price in 2005.

Florida, which does not have a personal income tax, has truly become a bargain. How does a two bedroom, two bathroom condo with an ocean view in Destin for less than $190,000 sound? This one sold in 2004 for $499,900 and is now on the market for $189,900.  Using your VA mortgage, with no money down, your payment would be about $1,600 each month, including taxes, condo fees, and insurance.

If this is still too rich for you, try the greater Phoenix, AZ area. This four bedroom two bathroom home in Tolleson, AZ was built in 2006, selling at that time for about $250,000. You can buy it now for $86,000. Try a payment of $641!

The bottom line, again, is that military retirees have so many more options than they had five years ago, and mortgage rates will lower your monthly payment to the point that you can enjoy greater freedom and more security than you’ve ever been able to achieve. This is a great time to consider an early retirement!