How to manage money for financial success in the U.S. military

Howdy! I'm Spencer, an active-duty Air Force officer investing for financial independence by age 40. Since 2016, my wife and I have saved half of my active-duty paycheck into our financial independence accounts. I started writing in 2012 about achieving FI in the military on my website Military Money Manual.

Because J.D. has no experience with the military, for Veterans Day he asked me to share the lessons I think every servicemember needs to know about getting rich slowly. These are the concepts I wish someone had explained to me as a newly-commissioned officer in 2010. (These lessons are just as applicable to the enlisted side of the house.)

I've split this article into two sections.

First, I'll cover some basic lessons for beginners: taking care of yourself, emergency funds, military friendly banks, tracking your money, and TSP investing.

Next, I'll cover some advanced topics: investing for financial independence, military deployment, travel, and military credit-card perks.

Let's start with the basics.

Managing money in the U.S. military

Educate Yourself

One of the harshest life lessons you must learn early in your military career is this: "No one is looking out for you except you.”

You must take responsibility to educate yourself about saving, investing, spending, and achieving financial independence. If you have a really good supervisor or commander in the military, they may explain the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to you, but that's probably it.

If you want to achieve financial independence in the military, you need to learn how to do it yourself. There are many resources available to learn about money, including:

I believe it's important to always be learning, to always be asking questions. If you have questions about your military pay, benefits, or personal finance, type them into Google. Ask your supervisor. Ask your buddies (but don't always take their advice haha).

Never be afraid to ask questions. Keep yourself educated about money.

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