Money

Money.  It makes the world go round.  I want to share my thoughts and things I have learned as an enlisted Soldier.

Surviving on an E1 paycheck was tough in 2006, and its even harder now.  That being said, the paycheck can go a lot further or shorter based on your habits.

One of the biggest purchases an 18-20 something year old will likely make is a vehicle.  Many end up buying a vehicle at their first duty station.  A few things to consider here -

  1. Do you need a car right now?  Often times everything you need is right next door.  Work, the chow hall, gym are all near your living place.  Often times you can get around just fine with a few friends.
  2. Get something practical.  Why is it you see Majors drive beat up cars and privates driving chargers and cameros?  Because they make better decisions thats why.  Find something cheap and within your means.  Just because you can make a $500 car payment doesn’t mean that you can afford it.
  3. If you do decide to buy, try buying from a seller you know or even off Craig’s list.  Dealerships are not there to “hook you up”.  Do your research and have the car inspected but buying from another service-member can be a great opportunity.

Your other necessities will likely include gas, internet, food and a phone.  Stripclubs, tobacco (i know), going out drinking with the boys, the latest merch (my stuff included) are EXTRAS (not necessary).  This is where the majority of people’s money will disappear to, and with your income, you can’t afford it.

Depending on your situation you could have other “necessary” expenses such as child support, sending money to help family, school etc.  This is a basic run down for a single young soldier.

Invest some money.  I currently invest 5% to the TSP, but in all honesty should do 10%. ROTH IRAs are another great place to stash money that will actually pay dividends.  A few hundred a month can easily turn into big money after awhile.  Stocks and crypto I will go ahead and say are another decent place to invest, just be aware the dangers of such a volatile market and diversify your investments.  Leaving money in a savings account is essentially losing money because it isn’t working for you or gaining any interest.

Savings account.  I am nearing 40 now and I still don’t think you need much more than 10-15k in the bank to have a decent emergency fund.  This will allow you to fix your car, buy impromptu necessities etc.

Additional money can be tied up in assets which will either appreciate or not lose value.  Things such as Real estate and firearms are pretty safe bets.  These allow you to buy or sell as needed to access your money, without risk of just disappearing or losing all value.

AVOID HIGH INTEREST LOANS AND CREDIT CARDS LIKE THE PLAGUE.  It can be tempting when times are hard, but it is not worth it and you will not regret it.  You do not need that set of wheels.

Invest in yourself.  Continue to set your future self up for success.  If you are in the military, use your benefits and get a degree either while in or after.  Its a great thing to have in your tool belt.  Learn a marketable skill or trade.  What jobs are paying well and in high demand?  Which markets are growing?    Every title, degree, certification, achievement, and experience you can get on your resume will better prepare you for later.

I know I didn’t cover everything and nothing was super in depth, but hopefully this helps someone.