25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

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25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by whiskeytangofinance » Tue Jul 03, 2018 1:14 pm

Hello there, Bogleheads! I am a 25-year-old Marine Corps veteran who cannot thank you enough for all of your help thus far! I first found this forum in 2013 when I was deployed to Afghanistan and it has been one of the main reasons I've felt so financially independent as a young adult. However, confidence in my personal finances has recently dwindled.

I am currently completing my degree after finishing military service. Apart from the psychological discomfort that comes from being an older, "nontraditional" student, I have been feeling less assured with my personal finances since entering college (perhaps this makes me a more traditional student than I realize :wink:).

Since starting school, I have not earned a steady income. The Post-9/11 GI Bill helps pay for my living expenses, but I do not have any other income to grow my wealth--in fact, it is slowly falling. I have stopped putting money towards investments after realizing that doing so dwindled my bank account past a comfortable point. In the past year and a half of being in school, my net worth has dipped slowly and steadily. It's frustrating to see my age go up while my wealth goes down.

My main reason in posting to this forum is to see if anyone has financial advice for someone in my position.

1. Do you recommend I obtain a part-time job if it meant my grades suffered, but my wealth grew?
2. Should I even expect a growth of my wealth while in college?
3. Any sage advice of lessons learned from people in similar positions to mine would be much appreciated.

Some useful information:

Investments: $109,000 (fairly stagnant since starting school)
Cash: $8,000 (fallen from ~$20,000 since starting school)
Debt: $0

If I need to post any other specifics for context, please let me know.

Thank you again for all of your help!

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Jul 03, 2018 8:34 pm


Thank you for your service. You should not feel behind at 25.

Can you get some Work Study in your area of study? Or a campus job with flexible hours?

1. I would focus on school, grades and graduating keeping in mind you have to eat and pay bills etc.
2. No. Graduating with a degree that will land you a good paying career is your job. Wealth will come later. No need to fast forward.
3. Spend time here reading threads. It is an amazing place to soak up information.

Work hard, be yourself, do the right thing. The 10 Boglehead principles can work in other areas. Much is discussed here that is life, not just investing.

Hopefully others will add their thoughts.

Welcome again!
"We are here to provoke thoughtfulness, not agree with you." Unknown Boglehead

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by FreemanB » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:34 pm

When you look at your cash and investments going down, don't consider it a loss. Instead, you are moving from cash to an investment in yourself that will have a huge return in the future. I was in the same boat. I got out of the military at the age of 27 and went back to school full time for two years.(I got out back in the beginning of 2003) During that time, I worked part time(Less than 20 hours a week) and basically maintained my status quo financially.(I had planned ahead of time, so I had no difficulties, but I didn't have any extra money either) It was all well worth it though, since my education combined with my military experience has allowed me to have several lucrative jobs since then. Just keep the big picture in mind and you'll be fine.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by walkerbait » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:46 pm

Some great advice already given. The only thing I will add is that I wouldn’t underestimate your work ethic and time management abilities regarding the part-time job. I don’t recommend working so much that your grades suffer, but what I’ve found through life is that I am actually more productive when I am more time-constrained. Adding a part-time job might actually help you work hard with the time you have, plus it will give you a little extra income.

The money you will make at your part time job might not be all that helpful in the long run, but it’s not going to hurt either.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by evilityb » Tue Jul 03, 2018 9:50 pm

You're not behind. Most 25-year-olds are still paycheck to paycheck. Having $109k in investments with no debt actually puts you in a good position for your age.

1. I think this is an issue of risk tolerance. If it will make you feel better to have a stream of income, then go get a job. It can be in your field, or it can be something more flexible, like the service industry. I don't know what your burn rate is on your savings, so I can't really say how much you need, but I suspect you know how long your money will last you without having income.

2. Whether or not you want to grow your wealth during college is dependent upon your mid- and long-term goals. If you want to retire super early, then yes, you need to grow your wealth. If you want to relax on those efforts and focus on other priorities, then concern yourself more with that. If you can manage to do both at the same time, even better ;)

With your savings and investment habits, and the fact that you have a base of financial knowledge, you will do just fine both in the short run and long run. Just figure out your priorities and your comfort level and go from there.
She/her/hers | Make sure the fortune that you seek is the fortune that you need - Ben Harper

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by BL » Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:17 pm

Be thankful you don't have to load up on student loans. Then your growth would be negative.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by random_walker_77 » Tue Jul 03, 2018 11:23 pm

Thank you for your service.

I'm with the others -- you're investing in yourself right now. Don't sweat saving, but try to spend wisely. If you can work part-time without adversely impacting your studies, go for it, but your primary "job" right now is to get an education, and do as well as you can in school.

I presume that you're working on your degree to prepare for a career, as opposed to studying for the sake of studying? If so, keep in mind your end goal. Pay is tied most closely to what you end up doing, so if money is an important motivating factor, choose your major very carefully. Similarly, try hard to get a useful internship (to help you "test drive" career fields).

Finally, pray the economy is still good when you graduate (seriously. It's not under your direct control, but getting a career launched is truly terribly difficult if you graduate into a recession).

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by tch_usa » Wed Jul 04, 2018 12:38 am

Thank you for your service.

Are you taking major- or field-relevant internships during your summers? If not, doing so can help you land a job after graduation, figure out if you really want to do what you think you want to do, and provide some income (depending on the field).

Another thing to consider is at least trying to earn enough income to max out a Roth IRA to lessen the sting of not earning more money right now. So taking any job or combination of jobs (summer internship, work-study, etc.) that will give you enough qualifying income to max out a Roth IRA will be a big bonus. And if your investments are currently in a taxable account, even just staying even on total net worth but converting from taxable accounts to Roth IRA can give you a psychological boost of granting an instant "return" of whatever your expected future tax rate on those investments would be. And for an additional psychological boost, remember that many people your age have zero or significantly negative net worth thanks to student loans so you are doing quite well among similar-aged peers.

That said, your primary job is to be a student right now so make sure whatever jobs you take don't hurt you there! However, I personally found teaching and tutoring while in college to be a rewarding and recharging experience for the most part and you might find similar with the right job. I just wish I had known I could have been contributing to a Roth IRA :oops:

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by NJ-Irish » Wed Jul 04, 2018 4:17 am

I’ll repeat what everybody else has said that college is an investment in yourself. Try not to spend too much time on your net worth figures.

Your primary “job” in school is to keep your grades high and prepare for your eventual job field. If you are looking for a part-time job I’d try to find one that will improve your resume at the same time. An internship, TA position, college tutor, even volunteering might work out better than a part time job at a gas station.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by tigermilk » Wed Jul 04, 2018 5:49 am

Just stay relaxed and finish that degree. Depending on the degree you are pursuing, look into a summer job or coop position in the field. FYI, I work at a federal facility, and while I am an engineer, we employ folks with degrees in STEM and non-STEM disciplines. We have had a few older GI bill students roll through as coop students and they have been the most mature "kids" you can imagine. Fortunately we hired one when he graduated this past December, and another graduates in the next year and we hope to get him as well. Point is, veterans can get a leg up when it comes to federal hiring; while it may be a hiring preference, the veterans have backed it up with freaking incredible work attitude, ethics, and leadership.

PM me if you want to talk about your degree, How much time you have left in school, and options as a student that could potentially set you up post-graduation.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by toofache32 » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:25 pm

I have nothing to add other than thank you for your time in Afghanistan and also your time on home soil. I work with a marine who served 2 tours in Afghanistan and more recently a Navy guy who just joined us after spending a year on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. In talking with them, they have experienced challenges and sacrifices most of us will never fully appreciate. Even those that come home alive have still sacrificed. Thank you.

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Re: 25-year-old military vet/undergrad student in search of advice

Post by Redfactor » Wed Jul 04, 2018 10:52 pm

USMC Afghanistan vet here.

I think you're doing great. I am a bit further along in age but you are much further financially than I was when I was 25. Congrats on that front.

One thing I did that might be something to consider: I paid for most of my undergrad through scholarships, grants, and out of pocket. I went to a public school at an in-state rate, so while it was the price of a car, it was not anything insurmountable. By doing this, I was able to retain my post 9/11 and apply it to graduate studies (in my case law school). This approach easily saved me over $100,000 - likely north of 200k when including interest.

You've managed not to blow all your money at deja vu or on a car while in the Corps. I have confidence that even if you're slowly bleeding out money, it's simply because of the stage of life you're in. Relax, enjoy college, don't get anyone pregnant unless you want to.

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