Military Finance Report: November 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Click Paralysis - Start Your Financial Journey Now

While deployed, I tried to motivate people to reach their financial goals with their deployed entitlements. They left my office with motivation and excitement, but by the time they got to their office, they had lost all motivation. I gave them a lot of options and ideas to think about and, instead of empowering them to start, it created paralysis.  I think most people just want to be told exactly what to do. So against my own philosophy, I created this post with the most vanilla information to jump start your finances.

Disclaimer:  No matter what I write, please do your own research. There are a lot of variables you need to think about, but I know those variables are what causes the paralysis, so each recommendation will be followed up with more research to do if you choose to.  This post also assumes that you have little to no debt.  If you have too much debt, then get rid of it first.

1.  Start an emergency savings account.  Go to CapitalOne 360 and open an account using this link.  Start the account with more than $250, and this referral link, and we both get $20 for opening a new account.  You should put no less than $5K and no more than $10K in it.
  • For more research, go to and look for the best savings account to get the highest yield for your cash.  I know for sure CapitalOne 360 is no longer the type yielding savings account.  You should have 6 months worth of expenses saved up, so the $5K-$10K is just super generic.
2.  Start a ROTH IRA.  Go to or to  You can put $5,500 a year into an IRA ($11K a year if married, regardless of spouses employment).  Once the money is in the account, put all your money in FSKTX (VTSMX for Vanguard).  Once you have over $10K, you'll be automatically enrolled in FSTVX (VTSAX) for Vanguard.  Contribute to FSTVX (VTSAX for Vanguard) every year, reinvest all dividends, and don't sell out until retirement.
  • Both companies offer Total Stock Market mutual funds with different performances and fees.  Also, depending on your age and personal tax situation, you'll need to decide if a ROTH or a Traditional IRA is the right thing for you.  Lastly, you'll need to determine your risk profile to see if a pure stock portfolio is the right risk allocation.  MOST people would benefit from just sticking to the Total Stock Market mutual funds listed above.
3.  Military members, start your TSP.  Go to Mypay (, figure out how much you can afford a month, and then start contributing.  Then go to, sign up, get your PIN [can take 30 days], log in, and put all your money into a Lifecycle fund that matches when you want to retire from work (not the date you plan on retiring from the military).
  • Not many people have money left after starting an emergency fund and maxing out an IRA.  If you do, then that's great, so you'll definitely want to take advantage of the TSP.  You don't want to put 100% of your money into retirement accounts so you can save for short- and medium-term goals.
4.  Civilians, max out your 401(K) matching contributions.  Find out how much your employer matches for your 401(k) and then contribute enough to get the max matching contributions.  It's free money.  Just walk into your HR department and they'll give you instructions.
  • Just like for military members, you'll definitely want to make sure you're not putting 100% of your savings into retirement accounts.
5.  Go to your emergency savings account bank and open up a new bank account for your short- and medium-term goals.  Regularly put money into these accounts.  An example of a short-term goal is a vacation.  Open an account called Vacation.  Decide how much and by when you want to save it and start putting money into the account.

Hopefully I helped take some of that click paralysis away.  Just do exactly what I wrote here and you'll be ahead of 90% of the population in your income bracket.