Looking for some all-around advice

Discussion in 'Life After the Academy' started by LookingForIntel, Aug 30, 2010.

  1. LookingForIntel

    LookingForIntel 5-Year Member

    Aug 30, 2010
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    -I'm a 2011 AFROTC grad, AFSC is 14NX (intel)
    -My major is Asian Studies, 3.8GPA (the closest thing to Japanese at my university, for which I was given an express scholarship two years ago)
    -I'm engaged to a Japanese man, we'll be marrying in about two and a half years after he graduates (with a degree in English)
    -I've got a little under $20K saved away, 5.5K in student loans from my first two years of college, and I'm expecting to graduate when all's said and done with about 20K, no debt (I already have a car)

    I originally planned on making a career out of the AF. I'm very interested in intel, and I would have loved loved loved to take a shot at going RAS (Regional Affairs Strategist) 7 years down the road, but I ended up finding the man of my dreams and I'm now more interested in settling down, which would be too difficult if I'm deploying every 6 months. So now I'm looking at getting out after my 4 required years. Our current plan is to take the K1 fiance visa route to get my fiance into the states after he graduates in two and a half years. Another two and a half years after that I'll be up for Capt, which is when I want to exit.

    1. What I'd like advice on is what kind of jobs are available to an intel officer with only 4 years of experience (are there any locations in [or out] of the US that have especially good job opportunities)? I've been studying Japanese for three years and have even studied abroad--my language skills could be considered "able to function on a basic level" right now but I fully expect to be darn near fluent five years from now based on how quickly I've improved in the past and with the amount of studying and practice I do (especially with a Japanese fiance). The fiance also wants to find a decent job here (his English is near fluent and he even has an American accent, but he has no skills aside from being bilingual).

    2. Would it be to my benefit to work on a masters my first year or so in the service, and are there any degrees that would be especially beneficial to someone with experience in intel?

    3. I'm uninformed when it comes to making financial investments. I had a good portion of my money in a CD until recently when it came due, the interest rate was actually lower than what I would get in my savings so I just switched it all out.... I will have no debt when I graduate, but my fiance owes a significant amount for tuition since there are no grants and scholarships are few and far between for schooling in Japan. I believe he told me it's about $15K a year (four years), but he owes his parents for it so the repayment schedule should be flexible and he won't owe interest (assuming he won't be disowned for moving to America and marrying me immediately after college.... but that's another story). Does anyone have any good advice for investing in my situation?

    I realize this is a lot of information here. There aren't many people I can talk to about these things where I live--I'm the first person in my family to go military or even go to college, and when I commission I'll be making more money than either of my parents. It seems like there are a lot of people on this forum with experience, and I've read through a number of threads (including one with a lot of financial advice but I'm not going to pretend I understood it all). This is my last year of ROTC and my classes this year should be entirely dedicated to life on active duty, so hopefully that'll paint a better picture, but it's never too early to start planning for the future and I have a lot of questions now. If anyone has anything to say on anything I posted, it would be much appreciated!
  2. Pima

    Pima 5-Year Member

    Nov 28, 2007
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    I will leave number 1 alone.

    No. 2. You need to understand how tuition assistance works for AD members. You will owe back a commitment time if you take assistance. It runs concurrent with your other commitment, however, time owed is tied to the last assistance you received.

    For example, you take your last TA at 2 yr marker, you will owe 5 yrs. Thus, you can't leave at 4. You can do non-vol to an assignment and leave at the 5 yr marker, but they can then send you anywhere they want at yr 4, AND you have no control over the assignment.

    No.3. Investment is tricky because you are not married, and thus, any capital gains you get would be at a higher rate since you have no dependents. I would suggest you invest in a no load mutual fund because it seems that you will surpass the short term capital gains, but will need it before you can recoup the front load fees.

    Contact several financial investment companies...i.e. Fidelity, Schwab, etc and have a one on one plan devised for you. Nobody can give you true financial advice.

    I would say a great site for you to investigate is www.USAJOBS.gov you might find something you like, and it lists all federal jobs around the world. That being said, you are still 5 yrs out and life will change during those 5 yrs. For example, what if you do so great and love the AF so much that you decide not to leave?

    Live for today, plan for tomorrow.

    Congrats on your impending nuptials.
  3. Bullet

    Bullet 5-Year Member

    Jan 9, 2008
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    Hmmm, light on the replies department. OK, I'll give it a shot...

    First off, before I comment on your specific questions allow me a couple of sentences on the plans you first talk about. I understand your situation and why you currently feel the way you do, but some points to ponder:

    A) You talk about giving up on your dream because you want stability with the man you love, and specifically mention your fear of deploying every six months. The real case is as an AF Intel Officer you would most likely be assigned to support one of the ten Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) rotation cycles. The current rotation for those is a six month deployment, followed by a 18 month "at home station" period. For most AF personnel, this equates to usually one deployment per PCS cycle (a typical 3 year tour). So, your fear that you will be "constantly" gone is probably not the reality. I will caveat that there are some AF specialties gone more than others, but in my experience Intel wasn't one of them. (and BTW, I wouldn't mention your fears to an Army or marine counterparts; their rotation pain is just a tad more than the AF's at this current time. :frown: ) So, "constantly deployed" is probably not a good reason to give up on the dream. I can understand, "I don't want to be separated from my hubby AT ALL" however.

    B) Things change, even priorities (says the man who retired because he finally put his family first). You don't know what your life may be like in 5 years. You could have kids, a great home life, and it all would justify you wanting to "settle down". Or you could be the main bread winner with a stay at home husband / father of your kids, and you may see that leaving that nice and steady income at exactly the 5 year point may not turn out to be in your best interests. And what if you now regret you gave up that dream job but are now having to stay in for money sake in a job you're not happy in? Bottom Line: things change, just don't count on that finish line even before you travel on that road.

    OK, on to your questions:

    1) What is available for a young Intel officer when they get out? Short answer: a ton of opportunities. Want to stay in the Intel field? Well, I would say the opportunities in the DC area are tremendous (tons of Intel agencies in the area). Same with most major metropolitan areas, especially in NY, CO, and CA. They are ALWAYS looking for young ex-military intel officers; trained to lead, experienced in the job required already, security clearance in hand. Yep, you will be a HOT commodity, and can expect to make the same as you were making as a Captain in salary off the bat, but your raises will be more frequent and larger as you stay on the job. In a few years, you'll probably be making 50% more than your contemporaries that stayed in.

    A word of caution: marrying a foreign national raises black flags during your security clearance review. Not a big deal, just requires more investigation of you (and him) on their part and can be a pain that delays the process. A minor nuisance (as long as he doesn't have a history of leading anti-US protests back home :) ).

    But you also have a second language skill, and cultural knowledge to boot! A definite plus in the Intel community, and in any private sector industry / organization that deals with Japan on a regular basis. Tell them you're willing to relocate to Tokyo, and watch the competing job offers(with competing salaries and benefits) fly in! You and hubby are also a "tag team" opportunity for them. Or hubby can get the Japan focused civilian job while you get the Intel job.

    Millions of opportunities out there based on what you described as your attributes. Yeah, I think you have a decent shot in this department.

    2) Masters: couple of issues with trying ot do this right out of the gate. First, you will be spending your first year in Intel Tech school, learning how to be an Intel officer. Then, you will show up at your first duty location after tech school and have to spend months learning how to do that particular job. You most likely won't have time to start a Master's right away, and frankly, your bosses are more concerned with you learning your JOB first. So, maybe wait a little while (perhaps a year after you arrive at your first ops assignment).

    What Masters to get? All depends on what interests you, and what you think will help you both in the military and in life (remember, if you're lucky, the military is only a small portion of your total life). Just about anything will do, but if you want to go into the civilian market for Intel, there are Intel focused masters. But heck, Business Masters are ALWAYS a good option, and very marketable.

    BTW, Pima also nailed it on the TA part (Smart woman. Glad I married her!:biggrin:). You can sign up for it, but remember, nothing is free in life. Use TA, and you entail a service commitment in return that can spoil your plans to get out in 5.

    3) Financial. You say you're un-informed, but I'm going to congratulate you on your savvy so far. Saving up $20K and graduating with no debts (except what future hubby owes) is OUTSTANDING in this day and age. Good for you!

    As to investing? Well, you are already in a good situation, you will soon have a good and steady income as a military officer. (in today's times, a LOR of people would envy your position). Let me give you some advise:

    a - Pay yourself first. The military will automatically take your paycheck and send it anywhere you would like, in any ratio you tell them to. I would set it up that you automatically take at least 10-15% of your GROSS pay (what you make before taxes and deductions) and put that into some savings / retirement plan. DO THIS FIRST. DON'T have all of your net pay deposited into your checking account with your plan to promise to "take some of that each month and invest it somewhere". You'd soon find yourself one month saying "Oh, this bill popped up! I'll just invest more next month", but next month comes around and you don't, and the excuses keep popping up each month after that until you find yourself five years down the road saying 'Yikes, I hardly saved a dime for my retirement!"

    b - Where to Invest? My advise (and I am NOT a financial advisor, so take this for what it is worth from some anonymous guy in the internet!) would be to first maximize a Roth IRA each year for you and your husband (but Idon't know the rules for him since he may not be a US ctizen). Tax free money when you retire. After that is maxed, diversify with mutual funds, 401Ks (if available in your future, post-military job), and College saving plans for those rug-rats when they show up.

    My real advise as to where to invest? Ask a professional if you're not comfortable doing it yourself. But hire the guy who charges a one-time up front fee and doesn't push products where they get a cut on the commission. They my cost more up-front, but they giving you advise that is best for your wallet and not for THEIR wallets.

    c - make a realistic budget. After you paid yourself, for the next three months track EVERY dime you make and EVERY nickel you spend. You'd be surprised where you spent all those nickels! See where you're spending is, and establish priorities like secured debts (mortgage), utilities, groceries, and loan payments. Money gets tight? Well the easiest and best thing to cut are the "thrills" like eating out 4 nights a week and hitting the movies or clubs twice on weekends. PRIORITIZE.

    d- Make the "Triad" a priority. What is the "Triad"? Simple: retirement / college savings, insurance, and regular "emergency" savings. Establish a goal on when you would like to retire and how comfortably (be realistic here, and this is where most financial planners will play on your fears of "you don't want to hit 65 and be sponging off your kids, do you? You'll need $6M in savings at 65 for you to live to 90 comfortably"). The earlier you start retirement saving, the less you need to invest each month (if the world markets finally recover! :eek:)

    For Insurance, well you lucked out again because the military has one of the cheapest and best insurance policies out there: SGLI. Simply have the military automatically take out the premium payments each month (you'll never have to see it or worry about it that way), and since you'll have a dependent, get the max amount of $400K. Too easy. When the family gets bigger and you think you may need more, but Term life insurance.

    For emergency savings, try to save a few bucks each pay period and put it into a savings account until you finally get to 6 months worth of pay. This is the toughest issue, as that may take a while to get to if you only invest $100 a month, and it is so easy to raid when those "emergencies" pop up (and trust me, they WILL! and OFTEN!).

    e - set financial goals. Sounds like you already started (pay off future hubby's debt in XXX years). Stick to them. A good financial goal off the bat for you is to do steps a - d above.

    f - Limit how much you buy "on credit". Don't let your credit cards get to above 10% of your limit. Pay them off monthly, if you can. Better yet, when you PLAN for that big next purchase (like a new TV, or a nice vacation for the family, or the XMAS gifts), save up the money first and pay for it in CASH! Remember this one fact: credit cards are made with TNT, if you don't handle them right, things can go kablooie real fast!

    g - PAY YOURSELF FIRST. Said it again, because it is that important.

    Well gee, you asked for SOME advice. Seems I gave you my quota.

    Good luck with everything you do....

  4. LookingForIntel

    LookingForIntel 5-Year Member

    Aug 30, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Thank you both for the advice--it gives me a lot to work with as far as further research goes. If I have any more questions I'll definitely be back. :)

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