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How To Turn Your Next PCS Into A 20% Raise

How to Choose Your Next Duty Station

Choosing your next duty station or even creating a list of potential new homes is possibly the most stressful part of being a military member. For me, on the officer side, I know that I will move every 3-4 years like clockwork and thats at a junior CGO level. This rate will likely increase towards the end of my career.

So how do you know where you should move or PCS to? My argument here will be that your next duty station could hold the key to upping your Effective Income by over $15,000 per year. This is due to the difference in locality pay also known as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).


Why is BAH so Important?

Every zip code has an associated value for your BAH. Its important to remember that you dont use the zip code your house will be in but instead use the zip code that your office will be at and in some cases where the nearest base is. BAH is such a beautiful thing because not only is it huge in some areas, its also tax free.

This is part of the reason military members have such low effective tax rates. Currently 40% of my income is non-taxable because I live in a high BAH city. So instead of paying taxes on my true $91,200 salary, I only pay taxes on $55,000.

The tax difference comes out to be $7k vs $16k owed to the IRS. Another way to look at this is that for every $1 of BAH, you are getting the same worth as about $1.25 of normal income, depending on your tax bracket of course.


Ok, So How Do I Pick My Next Base?

First, I would narrow my list down to areas that are even potential spots for yourself. For some career fields you may be able to go just about anywhere and for others you may only have a handful of bases to choose from. Once you have a list, you can go check all the BAH rates over at militaryrates.com. You will probably begin to notice some wide ranging figures.

For instance an 0-3 would receive $1083 per month without dependents if you were stationed at Malmstrom AFB in Montana. The same 0-3 stationed at Hanscom AFB in Massachusetts would receive $3063 per month. Your first thought might be that theyre so different because Hanscom is near Boston which is vastly more expensive than Montana.

This is potentially true in some situations but certainly not mine. To make this simpler I want to introduce a term I call Effective Income. Effective Income, is the amount of money I receive each month once you take away any location based costs. This allows you to compare apples to apples.


Camp Mustache 4 Encore (And A Free Book!)


[Nords note: My spouse and I are still on Mainland slow travel, and well head back to Oahu in mid-July. Maybe well see you at a military Space A passenger terminal!]


We spent another Memorial Day weekend at the Rainbow Lodge in the bustling megalopolis of North Bend, WA. (Snarkasm! Its a lovely little town.) This was my second Camp Mustache, and they just keep getting better. Unlike last years chilly rainy mosh pit, this years Seattle-area weather was sunny, cloudless, and warm.

Image of Doug Nordman at Camp Mustache 4 talking about &quot;How I Wish I'd Invested Back Then&quot; to other attendees | The-Military-Guide.com

The usual aloha shirt!

Camp Mustaches are nonprofit events which are crowdsourced by readers of the Mr. Money Mustache blog and the members of its forum. Instead of a formal licensed franchise with rules and brands and other guidelines, its an extended meetup of like-minded people with food &amp; lodging. Its limited to 50 attendees and this year it sold out via a lottery. Its nearly unstructured free time: we spent the weekend with a few breakout sessions on specific topics, but most of it was random person

USAAs Military Retirement Comparison Tool And The Blended Retirement System


Are you ready to make your choice about the militarys Blended Retirement System?

Are you a leader who has to advise younger officers and enlisted how to decide between High Three and the BRS?

Are you a veteran like me whos asked the question several times a week by their family (and their readers)?

USAA can help with that.

The Department of Defense is feverishly hustlingbuilding a calculator that will analyze which retirement system is better for servicemember careers and finances. The calculator was supposed to be launched back in January 2017 but its run into delays. (The contractors are fixing the last few bugs.) A few of us bloggers with DoDs BRS roundtable are helping with the beta testing, and its expected to go live at the end of March.

Meanwhile USAAs Military Retirement Comparison Tool is ready now. Its available to anyone through both their website and the USAA app. You dont have to login, and you dont even have to be a USAA member to use the website version.

Hey, Nords, any chance youll do a summary post about your FIRE history? Im really interested to hear how your net worth and income have gone up.


Life is good: my spouse and I recently pulled off an epic seven-week slow travel Mainland trip on military flights. (Ill post more about Space A travel another time.) Now that were caught up on household chores, Im ready to catch up on financial topics.

Im surprised to realize that we now have 15 years of experience at being military retirees. (Where did the time go?!?) We spend most of our year at home (or at the beach) enjoying our Hawaii lifestyle. When were off the island, we prefer to spend weeks at a location with more time for strolling, thinking, discussing, and (in my case) writing. No worries: on this trip our entire Nords ohana got in lots of surfing too.

During our travel I wondered whether I should even write this post. A few months back I asked the opinions of a bunch of other personal-finance bloggers who share their finances with their readers. I ruminated over the pros &amp; cons of sharing more personal details. For example, Ive been tracking our income since the 1970s(!) and I could publish frequent updates on Rockstar Finances net worth listalong with hundreds of other bloggers.


Good reasons to share our numbers

I think our track record can inspire people who are striving for their own financial independence. Weve been FI since 1999 and I retired from active duty in 2002. Our first decade of retirement slammed into not one but two of the nastier recessions of the last century. Yet today, our finances have bounced back to new highs and life is better than ever.

For starters, were living proof that the 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate works. It survives bear markets. The research has been validated by peer review and replication, yet the computer simulations have a number of gaps which will always worry people about its failure rates. (Pro tip: Humans are smart enough to use variable spending.) The biggest danger to a FI portfolio is sequence of returns risk: a recession at the beginning of a retirement could wipe out so much of the portfolios value that it cant recover from its first decade of withdrawals. This issue is easily avoided (Hint: Military Saves Week. (Its part of the 11th annual nation-wideAmerica Saves week, whichstarted in some regions as early as 2001.)

Logo of the military version of America Saves Week | The-Military-Guide.com

What are you saving for?

Its an awareness campaign with youropportunity to figure

The Military Blended Retirement System: Dude, Wheres My Calculator?


[Nords note: Im on Mainland travel through mid-July: Seattle, Norfolk, and Ocean City. Ill update this post as DoD rolls out the changes.]

[Ah, good, the DoD BRS calculator has been officially released.]


A reader asks an outstanding question:

Does it make sense to opt in to the militarys new Blended Retirement System in 2018?

One of our NCOs has a pessimistic view of the BRS, especially since theyre over 12 years of service and dont see how the BRS will benefit them. In fact, they dont see how it will benefit any servicemembers. I think the best way to decide whether theres a benefit or not is to actually show them numbers, via the calculator.


Image of three servicemembers. Two of them joined the military before 2018. One of those has more than 12 years of service and is not eligible for the Blended Retirement System. One of them has less than 12 years and has a choice of the old High Three or new Blended Retirement System. The third joins in 2018 and is only eligible for the new BRS system. | The-Military-Guide.com

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Husband of major at JBSA-Randolph is lone male in 2014 military spouse contest

When Chris Pape jumped in his car in January 2011 and began driving around the country, little did he know that his inaugural idea for a website would eventually help change the lives of the people he's most familiar with — male military spouses, and their wives who help defend this country.

Pape and his wife, Maj. Dana Pape, are stationed at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. Chris was selected as one of six active duty military members' spouses — and the only male — competing for the 2014 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year award, presented by Military Spouse magazine.



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Sincerely, Left Behind Male Spouse

Dear Mindy,

I am not sure what to do. I am the very rare and hardly noticed male military spouse. I feel like I don't fit in anywhere. My wife is always being invited to both military member events and spouse events because they mistake her for the actual dependent. I feel like I have lost myself within a world that does not yet accept male spouses. I love my wife and I love the military life, but how do I work on getting people to understand that I go through the exact same problems as female spouses?


Left Behind Male Spouse

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Etter is a part of a small group in the military community -- the male military spouse. According to a 2013 Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense report, males made up 7.3 percent of the Active Duty spouse population.

Male spouses have voiced their concerns about what it is like to be in the minority. 

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Whether you're a former service member or you're new to military life, being the male spouse of a service member can take some getting used to. There are some situations you'll likely face that could put a stress on your marriage. You can help keep your marriage strong by learning about these situations you may face, preparing for them, recognizing when you need help and knowing the resources available to you.

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Former Vice President of the United States Hubert H. Humphrey once said, "Behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law." Could the reverse be true? I believe so!

When we think of the term "military Spouse", many have the habitual tendency to assume we're talking about a woman. These unsung heroines also come in the form of unsung heroes, with either definition of military spouse serving a vital role in unique marital relationships.

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My name is Scott Stanley and I'm a research professor in the psychology department at the University of Denver and I've worked with military families, especially through the Chaplain Corps for about 20 years now and I'm also the principal investigator of a large study that's going on right now following many married couples in the Army to see how things go over time.

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Researchers at George Mason University hope an ongoing study into the effects of post-traumatic stress on soldiers' home lives will yield more ways the Army can address the issue — and not just for one type of family unit.

About 15 spots in the study are open for male spouses or partners of female soldiers in the active Army, the National Guard or the Army Reserve who have exhibited symptoms of PTSD. An official diagnosis of the disorder is not required for a family member to participate, lead researcher Keith Renshaw said.


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