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I've been working for Uncle Sam for the past 8 years, and given my continued ability to serve and get promoted, will be able to take a pension, likely as a lieutenant colonel, in another 12 years.

During a recent training deployment to Africa, I was nugging away at Excel. I'm an utter Excel fanatic, and love doing "what if" on there. This time, I wasn't just "what if-ing" for some questions like what happens if the market's ROR is 8% instead of 10% and such micro issues, but asking the big one - what if I stop working at 43?

With my taxable accounts, Roth, and my TSP (government's 401(k) plan) I think I can do it! I'll receive half my base pay as a pension and augment with these vehicles.

I think I can do this because I've removed myself from many of the trappings of material things. I have a paid-for car that I think will last for a long, long time - it's a modest Acura, and they rate at the very top of Consumer reports' list of lowest long term maintenance vehicles.

Also, I am in a modest house that barely cost me more than 2x my annual income, and I'm fully satisfied with it. I don't have any desire to "upgrade" to something with a fatter mortgage, though then again one day I may get married and have a brood and things change. However, I could actually have no car and retire quite comfortably where I am. Within a 5 minute walk is a grocery store, a drug store, a photography store (my sole indulgence and big hobby), and a great cafe that I love.

I've considered working past this hypothetical retirement. I'm a pretty decent photographer, and have shot two weddings for friends and family to great success - comments from the newlyweds were my photos turned out better than the pros, especially for the informals. I've considered becoming a CFP as I enjoy talking finance with others and helping them meet their goals. I do this often at work with my young soldiers, and have gotten many of them enrolled in the TSP instead of chasing new wheels/party lifestyle/etc with their small paychecks.

Someone was asking me recently why I would be so frugal. I think it's all about choices. If I want to or am able to continue to serve past 20 years, I can. Having the option to not need to do so would be fantastic. I would hate to be the tired looking Walmart greeter - obligation is something I don't abide by, when it comes to having to work to keep food on the table.

My significant FIRE inspiration was my folks. They were teachers, and never earned very much, but through renting real estate and doing a lot of the work on weekends and living a reasonable lifestyle that wasn't filled with lavish expensive toys and such, they were able to retire at 53. They live on a golf course on a gated community that my sister and I have dubbed "the kingdom," and have not a care in the world.

A common question they ask me when I call is "what day is it?"

Wouldn't that be nice...

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No. of Recommendations: 4
I think working for Uncle Sam, or one of his cousins in the small town government, is a great way to FIRE. I am ex-Navy myself. I served 9 1/2 years on active duty and I knew the pros and the cons of staying in 11 1/2 years more. For me, the family came first so I became a civilian.

The military lifestyles is great for a single person and many married couples do just fine with it as well. However, I don't think I want to get into the merits of who stays and who doesn't in this post.

Back to the Uncle Sam way to FIRE. In any of the branches of the military, a high school graduate with only his name and clean record behind him/her, can join up and get free training. I'll use myself as an example. I had a HS diploma, and even though I had been in trouble, it was nothing major. I scored high on the ASVAB test so I was able to get into an advanced electronics program. Basically, this program gave me E-4 after a year of school, but I had to give them 6 years to get in the program.

While on active duty, I started going to college. I eventually received my BS degree utilizing tuition assistance to pay for 75% of the tuitioin.

Now, an E-1 is not making a lot of money, they are still getting a place to sleep and food to eat. If someone has their housing and food provided, that means basically all of their paycheck can go towards savings if they want.

Now, if someone is a college graduate and they can get in an Officer program, the money is much better. No matter is someone starts off as an E-1 or an O-1, the advancement possibilities are great. Combine the regular payraises with the fact that housing is provided as well as food. Bases also provide such things as a free gym, reduced costs movie theaters, bowling alleys etc. Let's not forget about the free health care as well.

Now, if there is any young person reading this, with all of the "perks" to military life there are also some downsides. You have to be willing to deploy to any place in the world at a time when most civilians are trying to leave that place. You get the same paycheck no matter if you work a 30 hour week or a 80 hour week.

I could go on and on about pros and cons of military life, but I won't.

A person can also work for Uncle Sam via many other jobs, some with the Federal government and others with local governments. All will provide a hopefully decent, although small, paycheck. All or most should provide retirement pensions as well. Some are better than others. Government jobs alone won't make you rich, but they will provide enough that a Fool can become rich.

Some careers such as fire and police may have better retirement plans. My BIL is a police officer in a big city and he has a 20 year retirement plan that will give him more than a lot of retired military will get. I have a 25 year retirement plan with my job, but there's also a 20 year early retirement option that I'm planning on taking. This pension doesn't pay as much as many other agencies pensioins do, but it'll be enough for me to survive.

The other nice thing about the military is that if you get out and get another government job, a lot of times you can "buy" back some military years to increase your pension.

Also, you can do as I'm doing. Serve your time, be it 2,3, 4 years or more and then get out and go in the Reserves. If a person gets a total of 20 years between active duty and the Reserves, they are still eligible for a pension when they turn 60, plus some other benifits along the way.

In a future post I plan on talking about using the military to pay for college. Someone else can start a thread on this, or I will at a later time.
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