Today on the podcast we spoke to Grumpus Maximus, a blogger and active member of the Financial Independence community, who takes a special interest in teaching his followers about pensions and retirement accounts. The thing about today’s episode that was so striking, was that we spent a good portion of it talking about the psychological difficulties of staying at work when you are no longer interested or it is affecting your mental health. Have you ever felt this way? Stuck in a job where everyday feels like a repeat of the day before? Both Wendy and I have had moments in our careers where we’ve felt the urge to break free of a job that weighed on us. Grumpus has felt this way too, but there is added pressure from his job because unfortunately (fortunately?) he is inches away from crossing a Military Pension finish line!
Today we learned so much more about Grumpus’ interesting back story, and we discovered tips that will help us to more deeply assess our retirement planning options.
Who Is Grumpus Maximus
Grumpus is a natural storyteller. He took us back through his life, highlighting the major financial turning points along the way. We were able to fully explore each windfall and/or decision, and gathered some great tips for parents or individuals that find themselves in similar situations today.
Timeline: The Financial History of Grumpus
- Financial “Windfall” at an early age (but at a major cost)
- Entering the military as a Master’s Degree Level Officer
- The Mental Breakdown that changed everything
- The Birth of Grumpus Maximus and The Golden Albatross Blog
The Grumpus Approach to Retirement Accounts
Military members have so much to consider when maneuvering their way through their financial benefits, and much of the time they are not provided with adequate personal finance education. This is something many non military members can also relate to. In both instances we are faced with making potentially life altering money decisions from a place quite close to ignorance.
Grumpus defined the “High Three Pension Benefit” open to military members before a certain date, and he also defined various retirement accounts for us. He talked a little about 403bs, 457s, federal/state and military pensions, defined contribution pension, and other accounts.
Grumpus also discussed the key steps a person needs to take to figure out what accounts they have access to within their jobs, and also, how to value a pension! In order to know whether or not you should walk away from a job or stay is to see exactly what you are walking away from. Figuring out the true value of the pension is part of that decision making process.
The true definition of a pension
- defined benefit pension (paid in perpetuity) declining in the private sector (under 8%), more in the union benefits. Become more powerful when connected with life insurance, health care benefits, cola adjustments.
- Defined contribution pension plans (public schools, etc) – access to a 403b and 457 plan usually the case as well. These come with some perks as well, such as being able to access the money prior to normal retirement dates.
- Thrift savings program – savings vehicle within the military. New development is a potential for a match, but this is a new blended program. The previous plan was the High 3s plan. There are trade offs, including the reduction of the multiplier from 2.5 to 1.5, but there is not a match component. Your contributions are matched by the federal government to a certain percentage. This means that if you don’t make it to 20 years, which represents the majority of military members, you will at least leave the military with the matched contributions! This is a huge change, and will serve as a benefit for most.
- Roth options vs. Traditional options generally affect taxes.
- Health Savings accounts can act like a retirement vehicle the way they are currently written.
The Grumpus Approach to Gutting It Out
Grumpus talked openly about the juxtaposition of mental health vs staying in a career. In fact, he wrote an awesome post about “gutting it out”. After reading the post, I wrote a direct response blog. It was a fun exercise because it showed that there are things within our control that we can do to make the best of the work situations that we find ourselves in.
It is key to note, if you are truly feeling depressed within your current situation, you may need to speak with a mental health professional to tease out whether you are just going through an emotional lull or if you are facing real depression. True depression requires additional support and possibly a change of environment. Please find professional help if you feel that you are in need of professional support.
Let’s talk about Military Benefits. Did you know about the GI Bill? Did you know that you can “give” your Gi Bill proceeds to a dependent or spouse? Did you know that you can split the GI bill between multiple dependents? Did you know that as soon as you decide to pass the GI bill along, you should sign the paperwork?! This is important because once you sign you incur a 4 year commitment starting on that day. Listen to find out the mistake that Grumpus made related to this GI Bill assignment!
Also, check out the Yellow Ribbon Program to figure out which schools will cover educational costs above and beyond the GI Bill Maximums.
There are other benefits too! COLA, or cost of living adjustments are baked into the military pensions. Health care access is extensive and healthcare coverage is one of the biggest FI issues facing those that want to retire early. In America, health care coverage is tightly linked to work. You work, you get coverage. You don’t work and coverage is expensive to obtain.
Knowing the value of your benefits are the very first step to figuring out if you should stay or you should go.
Topic Overview For This Episode
- Grumpus Maximus about pensions and the military
- Where the name Grumpus Maximus comes from
- The Golden Albatross
- Grumpus Maximus’ backstory
- How he discovered the FI movement
- How he wanted to quit the military but would then lose all the benefits
- His relationship with Mrs Grumpus about money
- How to manage finances as a couple the non Grumpus way
- What FI looks like now for Grumpus
- How Grumpus got through the mental breakdown
- His top resources for learning about FI
- How to understand the pension
- How the military retirement system is changing for the younger generation
- Grumpus presented FI to his colleagues in the military
Grumpus on the Final Questions:
- Learn to live within your means, Learn to save money, and the earlier the better! Grow and compound your savings before you potentially hit that “Golden Albatross Moment”
- High Cost of Living Area Hacks – Menu planning is a huge benefit for their family. Mrs. Grumpus is buying meals with a specific intent, thereby saving their family thousands of dollars over time. They also use the big box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club – but you must “do it right” so as to not overspend. Shop from your pantry first, and then meal plan!
- Find Grumpus at www.grumpusmaximus.com , via email at email@example.com or on twitter @maximusgrumpus. Join Grumpus’ facebook group to grump about any topic related to retirement! 🙂
Stay Tuned For Our Next Episode…
Join us in the next episode when we talk to the most fun couple, Amon and Christina Browning of the Youtube Channel Our Rich Journey! This family of four travels to foreign places to work, and they share their experience of traveling with a family. This episode with Amon and Christina was SO GOOD that Wendy is now secretly plotting out ways to convince her hubby to move abroad!
What was one thing you learned by listening to Grumpus? Let us know in the comment section below or continue the discussion in Our Facebook Group!
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