Reader Case Study: Military Family Prepares for Civilian Life
Kate and her husband Will lived the military life for the last decade. Will, who is currently an Army Officer, begins his transition to civilian life this summer. The couple–along with their cat Oliver–live in the Seattle metro area, where Kate works in higher education. With this huge change on the horizon, they’d like our help determining where they should move, what types of jobs Will should pursue, if they should buy a house and whether or not Kate should leave her current position. Their families live in Texas, but jobs for Will seem scarce there. Let’s help them think this through as the Frugalwoods team!
What’s a Reader Case Study?
Case Studies address financial and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods send to me requesting advice. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, dear reader) read through their situation and provide advice, encouragement, insight, and feedback in the comments section.
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The Goal Of Reader Case Studies
Reader Case Studies are intended to highlight a diverse range of financial situations, ages, ethnicities, geography, goals, careers, incomes, family composition and more!
The Case Study series began in 2016 and, to date, there’ve been 57 Case Studies. I’ve featured folks with annual incomes ranging from $17,160 to $200k+ and net worths ranging from -$317,596 to $2.9M+.
I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured gay, straight and trans people. I’ve featured men, women and non-binary folks. I’ve had cat people and dog people. I’ve featured folks from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, and France.
I’ve featured people with PhDs and people with high school diplomas. I’ve featured people in their early 20’s and people in their late 60’s. I’ve featured folks who live on farms and folks who live in New York City.
The goal is diversity and only YOU can help me achieve that by emailing me your story! If you haven’t seen your circumstances reflected in a Case Study, I encourage you to apply to be a Case Study participant by emailing email@example.com.
Reader Case Study Guidelines
I probably don’t need to say the following because you folks are the kindest, most polite commenters on the internet, but please note that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone where we endeavor to help one another, not condemn. There’s no room for rudeness here–the goal is to create a supportive environment where we all acknowledge that we’re human, we’re flawed, but we choose to be here together, workshopping our money and our lives with positive, proactive suggestions and ideas.
A disclaimer that I am not a trained financial professional and I encourage people not to make serious financial decisions based solely on what one person on the internet advises. I encourage everyone to do their own research to determine the best course of action for their finances. I am not a financial advisor and I am not your financial advisor.
With that I’ll let Kate, today’s Case Study subject, take it from here!
Kate & Will’s Story
Hello, Frugalwoods! My name is Kate and my husband is Will. I’m 31 and he’s 32. We live in the Seattle metro area where Will serves as an Army Officer and I work in higher education. We don’t have human children yet, but we do have a fur-baby kitten named Oliver who is 5 months old. He is curious, full of energy, a little mischievous, and brings so much joy into our lives.
We’ve been married almost 4 years and have lived in three states together. I like to think we make a great team. We are both planners, rather studious, and get a lot of personal satisfaction from our careers. At the same time, we try not to take ourselves too seriously and are both a bit quirky.
Will is an eternal optimist and always expects the best. I am more of a realist/plan for the worst, so his positivity is a good balance! We love to explore new places, eat good food, and tour wineries. We also enjoy walking the trails in our neighborhood and hiking the national parks in Washington.
Education is very important to us. We are very fortunate that the military paid for Will’s Bachelor’s degree and about half of his Master’s degree; we covered the rest out of pocket. My Bachelor’s degree was funded primarily through need and merit-based scholarships. I graduated with $15,000 in debt that I was able to pay off within 6 years. For my Master’s, I was able to work as a graduate assistant in exchange for free tuition and a small monthly stipend. Given the current student loan crisis in our country, we are very thankful to be in this position. I may want to pursue a Ph.D. in the future, but I would only do so if it was fully funded. It’s also a goal that I go back and forth on every week since it’s such a huge commitment.
Will has an undergrad degree in IT from West Point and a graduate degree from UW in Cybersecurity and Leadership. As he explores his post-military options, he is most interested in working at a tech company such as Microsoft and Amazon. However, he’s definitely open to smaller tech companies too. He also has a variety of IT certifications and is PMP certified. He sounds very “techy” but is actually much more skilled as a manager. As an Officer in the Army, he gained a lot of experience in operations and managing people vs. being the one on the keyboard doing programming.
I currently work in higher education and would like to stay in this field. I’m most interested in university career services, academic advising, and working with veterans. I don’t want to work in university recruitment, but otherwise I’m fairly open. I’m also open to working for the state in an agency that provides support to individuals trying to find jobs.
The Money Journey
Will and I have always been debt adverse and lived below our means but have just recently begun leaning into frugality. Once I began reading Frugalwoods, I immediately started tracking every dollar and eliminating unnecessary expenses. We were able to save $200/month from recurring charges alone (negotiated a lower rate for internet, cut HBO Go, etc.).
We’ve discussed finances throughout our marriage, but Will primarily handled the bills up until now. Money has always stressed me out. I’m proud of myself for working to change my mindset toward money and being a more active participant in our finances.
While we have made good decisions overall with our money (I think), we do have our vices. I love clothes, shoes, and beauty products. Will likes to splurge on golfing, craft beer, and “treats” – candy, energy drinks, etc. We also both love to eat out at nice restaurants on the weekends (take-out during the pandemic). This is entertainment for us and something we really enjoy. As long as it fits comfortably within our budget, it’s not something we want to eliminate entirely to save money.
Will grew up in an upper middle-class family and learned about investing from a young age. He started his Roth IRA at 18. I grew up in a blue-collar family and my mom handled the finances. I’m thankful she was a saver and always made sure we had everything we needed (and more); however, I don’t think I even heard the term “investing” until after college. For this reason, and the belief that I needed to pay off my student loans first, I didn’t start investing until my late 20s. Thanks to Will’s early investing, we are still on track to retire comfortably at our target age of 60 in spite of my later start. At this time, we don’t aspire to retire any earlier than that. We do aspire to be more thoughtful consumers and to build wealth for a rainy day (or in case we want/need to retire earlier than 60).
The Big Change on the Horizon
We are approaching a major life change this summer! After 10 years of military service, my husband will be transitioning to life as a civilian. This is very exciting, but also a little scary especially in the midst of a pandemic. Despite deployments and frequent moves, the military has afforded us a comfortable lifestyle. Will is well paid, has ample vacation days, his income receives tax breaks, and perhaps the biggest perk of all – entirely free healthcare for both of us!
We agonized over this decision for at least a year before feeling at peace with what to do. Ultimately, we found middle ground as he will continue to serve as an Army Reservist. He will serve one weekend each month, two weeks each summer, and as needed for missions. If he serves 10 years as a Reservist (for a total of 20), he will receive a pension starting at age 59.5. We will also be eligible for low-cost healthcare during the time he is serving as a Reservist.
When you leave the military, you have an official “end date” that is determined months in advance (in Will’s case, a year out). This is a challenge to the traditional notion of waiting to leave your current job until you have a new one lined up. It’s also hard to know what salary he will end up with as a civilian.
Will gets his last full-time military paycheck in July 2021, but he can begin working as early as May 2021 due to saved vacation time. Given that, it’s now crunch time for deciding what to do next! We have always been told where and when to move by the Army. This is the first time in a long time that we get to make that choice entirely on our own, which is actually a bit stressful because we want to make the right decision!
Where To Move As Civilians?
We’ve narrowed down our top choices down to Seattle, Denver, Dallas, and Austin (Will grew up in Texas and I lived there in the past). These locations meet the following criteria:
- A variety of job opportunities/growth potential for Will
- Multiple university options for me
- All are somewhat progressive (Dallas being the least so)
- All are closer to family/friends, excluding Seattle
- All have good public schools
- All have year-round sunshine, excluding Seattle
From this list, I think it’s obvious Seattle is the least desirable! However, it’s still a good option because I love my job here and higher education is a bit of a mess right now. I worry there won’t be many job prospects for me until the pandemic calms down. There are also a lot of job opportunities for Will in the Seattle area.
We know we don’t want to stay in Seattle for the long term, but this could be an option for a couple years or until my work contract is up. However, then Will would have to search for a new job if he couldn’t transfer or telework. Also, the Army will pay for full-service movers to our next location but there is a time limit, so we could end up having to move ourselves if we stay here for a year or more. This is more of a minor issue, but it would be stressful/pricey moving ourselves. I’m not sure if the plan to stay in this area is just kicking our problems down the road?
We are fairly open to the other three cities, but Denver is the only one where neither of us has ever lived or spent an extended period of time. It feels like a bit of a gamble, especially since I’ve never lived anywhere that snows frequently. Will has a few solid job prospects in this area and based on our research, I could see us really liking it there. It’s also a short flight from family.
The two cities in Texas are both within driving distance of our families and quite a few close friends. The main issue is finding a job for Will because so far, there aren’t any solid leads (although this could change in the coming months). Finding a job for him is our top priority since my career field pays much less and I could potentially be pregnant during our move/not able to get a job right away (not how we planned it, but more on that below…).
To Buy or Not to Buy?
The next big dilemma is whether or not to buy a house. Housing prices in all of our desired locations are on the high end. If we stay in Washington state, we will not buy a house since we’d be planning to leave within a few years anyway.
If we move to Texas, we would like to buy since that’s where we want to end up long-term. Texas also offers property tax exemption for disabled veterans ranging from $5-12K/year. Will sustained injuries on active duty that make him eligible, but we won’t know the exact amount until this summer. Real estate in the Dallas or Austin suburbs is a lot more reasonable when you remove/decrease the property tax payment. This is not related to housing, but Texas veterans can also take advantage of free college for themselves or their children at a state school. Texas also has no state income tax (neither does Washington).
We’re not sure what to do if we move to Denver. The housing costs in the suburbs are pretty high, but from my calculations, the monthly amount would be considerably less than renting. The goal would be to stay in Denver around ~3-5 years (or longer if we love it).
If we do buy a house, the next question is how much to put down. As a veteran, Will is eligible for a VA Home Loan. This allows us to buy a house with 0% down with no PMI. However, there are some other fees involved unless you put down 10%. We originally planned to put 20% down, but we’re now wondering if the 10% makes more sense since we could then divert the remaining money to our non-retirement investment account, which we just started last year. I think this could be a bigger return on our investment vs. putting 20% down on a house.
In addition to moving and potentially buying a house, we hope to have a baby in the near future. This is a major reason why we’d like to be closer to family or a tighter-knit community. I plan to continue working outside the home, so we’ll also need to plan for childcare costs plus saving for college and other baby-related expenses. So far, this journey has had a lot more bumps than anticipated. I had some health issues that derailed our plans for about a year, and we’ve now been trying for six months with no luck. I hate to be negative this early, but I’ve already started thinking about what we’ll do if we aren’t able to get pregnant naturally. It makes me wonder if we should hold onto some of our savings in case we need it for treatments or adoption expenses.
We are fortunate to live near our jobs and to spend a lot of time together. We’ve traveled internationally three times and visited cities/states all over the U.S. We hope this will be a bigger part of our life when Will has a more flexible schedule and the pandemic ends.
We love going on evening walks and playing board games or watching TV together in the evenings after dinner. Our lives are very simple right now, but we’ve learned to embrace the calm since we know so many things could change this summer.
Another pro of our current lifestyle is that I love my job! I started my career in corporate America and quickly realized it wasn’t for me. I really feel like I’ve found my niche working with non-traditional students in higher education.
I began working in this field because I’m passionate about it, but my current job also happens to pay well (for education standards) so I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. In my previous jobs, I made anywhere from about $20K (grad school) to $50K. The only bummer about my job is that it’s a contract that will expire in summer 2022. There is potential for it to be extended, but I have very little chance of retaining it permanently due to various bureaucratic reasons. If/when we move or this position ends, I will likely take a significant pay cut.
Will is currently interning with a start-up company (an amazing perk allowed when you’re within six months of leaving the Army). So far, he really likes the work and the challenge of learning a new industry, which is a good sign for him starting a new job this summer!
…And the Worst?
When I reflect on our lifestyle, the biggest downside is location. There’s a lot to appreciate about Washington (natural beauty, summer, hiking), but the long rainy season and lack of sunshine between October-May really gets me down. We also don’t have much of a community – nearly all the friends we’ve made here have moved on to new duty assignments; this is a common challenge as a military family. The majority of our family and close friends live in the southern/central part of the country. Due to flight schedules and time zone changes, traveling to them takes a full day and is an expensive endeavor. We love our neighborhood as it’s very safe and close to work, however, we don’t like that it’s 8+ miles from anything else. The traffic is also a challenge – if my husband were to take a job in the Seattle area, he would be looking at a 1.5-2 hour commute each way.
Where Kate & Will Want to be in Ten Years:
1) Finances: We would like to own a house and be on track to retire comfortably at 60. We would also like to significantly grow our non-retirement investment account.
2) Lifestyle: We hope to have a child and be in a financial/career position to travel regularly, we also hope to be closer to family (at least within 1-2 states away vs. half a country away).
3) Career: Will would like to be in a managerial position within a company that is family-friendly and allows for good work/life balance. I would like to be working for a university. I hope to have made a decision about whether I want to pursue my Ph.D. The goal is for neither of us to commute farther than ~30 minutes.
Kate & Will’s Finances
|Will’s Net Income||$6,640||Will’s net salary minus taxes, dental insurance, 15% TSP contributions, $500 Roth IRA contribution|
|Kate’s Net Income||$3,655||Kate’s net salary minus taxes and 10% TSP contributions (agency matches 5%), $500 Roth IRA contribution|
|Item||Amount||Notes||Interest/type of securities||Name of bank/brokerage|
|Will’s TSP||$134,446||15% contribution||C, F, G, I, L 2050, S Funds||TSP|
|Will’s Roth IRA||$114,729||Currently maxing this out||Large mix of ETFs||Charles Schwab|
|Savings Account||$101,039||We consider $25K of this to be our emergency fund||Earns .5% interest (higher pre-pandemic)||Marcus by Goldman Sachs|
|Kate’s TSP||$23,707||10% contribution, 5% match||L 2050, C Fund, S Fund||TSP|
|Kate’s Roth IRA||$23,513||Currently maxing this out||Large mix of ETFs||Charles Schwab|
|Taxable Investment Account||$15,797||We started this in 2020||SWPPX, SWTSX, SWAGX, QQQ, FBT||Charles Schwab|
|Checking Account||$5,750||Earns .01%||USAA|
|Vehicle make, model, year||Valued at||Mileage||Paid off?|
|2018 Toyota Highlander||$27,000||41,000||Yes|
|2015 Ford Escape||$9,500||71,000||Yes|
Credit Card Strategy
|Card Name||Rewards Type?||Bank/card company|
|American Express Platinum||Points||The $550 yearly fee is waived for military. We put all expenses on this and pay in full each month. (affiliate link)|
|USAA Visa||Cash back||USAA, only used when AMEX is not accepted.|
|Rent||$1,810||Includes sewage; good price for the area|
|Miscellaneous||$1,583||These are mainly 2020 expenses that have been eliminated entirely: we paid off Will’s car, met with a pricey financial advisor (will not do this again), invested in home gym equipment, some one-time cat expenses (rental deposit, adoption fees), family photos, and naturopathic care that was not covered by insurance.
In 2021, we have spent less than $5,000 each month (total), so we’re trending in the right direction!
|Eating Out/Alcohol||$543||Down to $266 in 2021|
|Groceries||$495||Includes household supplies; it’s important to me to buy organic/non-toxic products.|
|Gifts||$210||For each other, family and lots of friends getting married/having babies.|
|Travel||$207||This is higher in non-pandemic years.|
|Life Insurance||$172||30-years terms, we shopped around, it’s high due to a few health issues, it’s worth it to us (my Dad died young).|
|Auto/Renter’s/Wedding Ring Insurance||$166||USAA|
|Personal Care||$153||Includes shampoo, soap, etc. as well as hair cuts for me, non-toxic make-up and skincare, occasional waxing and manis. Down to $89 in 2021.|
|Clothes/Shoes/Accessories||$145||I love clothes and shoes, but trying to cut back.|
|Cell Phone||$120||This includes Netflix plus payments for our two phones (no interest). We just learned about MVNOs.|
|Alcohol||$96||Mostly Will. Down to $21.87 in 2021 but this includes “dry January.”|
|Housekeeper||$75||1x/month. We could do without but don’t want to lay off our housekeeper during the pandemic.|
|Internet||$74||Just got this down from $111!|
|Entertainment||$63||Will likes to golf. On trips, we include “entertainment” under Travel.|
|Coffee Shops||$58||Well this was eye opening! Down to $9 in 2021.|
|Health||$55||Prescription co-pays, vitamins|
|Cat||$45||Litter, food, vet|
|Peloton App||$43||Will uses this almost every day.|
|Car Maintenance||$36||Oil changes, tags, etc.|
|Gas Station “Treats”||$33||This one is Will too. He loves to pick up energy drinks and candy.|
|WSJ/NYT Subscriptions/Books||$28||Will would like to keep his subscriptions. We use the Libby app when possible.|
|Technology||$27||Amazon Prime, password protector app, VPN, Microsoft Office, etc. Will’s background is IT. This is important to him.|
|Charity||$27||We would like to increase this in 2021|
Kate’s Questions for You:
- Should we stay in Seattle or should we move? If so, where? What about if Will gets a telework job?
- Should we buy a house? If so, how much should we put down?
- Related to the last question, what should we do with our savings, assuming we don’t spend it all on a down payment?
- How do we draw the line on gift giving? I have a hard time with this and often feel obligated in social situations such as office baby showers, or when friends suggest going in on a group gift for someone. We have pulled back on gifting to nieces/nephews, but feel kind of guilty about it. It’s hard because we (and they) know we can “afford it,” but it’s not an area we want to keep spending $200+ a month on. Help with this would be much appreciated!
Mrs. Frugalwoods’ Recommendations
Kudos to Kate and Will for their excellent financial position! They’d done a fabulous job spending and investing wisely over the years. Given that, they’re in a superb position for their upcoming period of transition.
I want to take a moment to thank Will for his service to our country and for the sacrifices he has made so that we can all enjoy our freedom safely. Thank you, Will!
And now, let’s dig into Kate’s questions.
Kate’s Question #1: Should we stay in Seattle or should we move? If so, where? What about if Will gets a telework job?
To answer this question, I’m going to quote Kate to herself. Kate, here are just a few of the things you said about Seattle:
From this list, I think it’s obvious Seattle is the least desirable!
We know we don’t want to stay in Seattle for the long term, but this could be an option for a couple years or until my work contract is up.
I’m not sure if the plan to stay in this area is just kicking our problems down the road?
In addition to moving and potentially buying a house, we hope to have a baby in the near future. This is a major reason why we’d like to be closer to family or a tighter-knit community.
When I reflect on our lifestyle, the biggest downside is location [Seattle]
…the long rainy season and lack of sunshine between October-May really gets me down. We also don’t have much of a community [here in Seattle]
The traffic is also a challenge – if my husband were to take a job in the Seattle area, he would be looking at a 1.5-2 hour commute each way.
As I understand it, the only upsides to staying in Seattle are Kate’s current job, the fact that they wouldn’t have to go through the hassles/decision-making of a move and the potential for Will to find a job. These are not insignificant factors, but I question if they’re reason enough to stay. As I read through Kate and Will’s story, it felt like a flashing red light kept popping up in the margins announcing, “They want to leave Seattle! They want to leave Seattle!”
What stands out to me the most is Kate’s reiteration that Seattle is not where they want to end up long-term.
Yes, they could stay until Kate’s contract ends in 2022, but as she pointed out, if she gets pregnant soon, she’d then be on maternity leave for part of that time anyway. Additionally, moving will only become more challenging once they do have a child. I’ve moved without a baby and I’ve moved with a baby… it is VASTLY easier to do it sans bebe.
If you can swing it, I’m all for moving pre-children. Plus, the fact that the army will pay for movers in not insignificant in terms of cost and hassle. Furthermore, Kate’s notation that they’d like to be close to family when they have children moves the needle in favor of moving now.
I envision two scenarios here:
- Rip off the band-aid and move to where they ultimately want end up: in Texas, close to both of their families. Potentially endure some job uncertainty with this plan.
- Stay in Seattle and go through this whole ordeal of deciding where and when to move in several years with a potential baby in tow.
Remote Work for Kate?
We’re in the accidental golden age of remote work for white-collar workers (thank you, pandemic) and assuming Kate is already working from home, could she continue working from home in, say for example, Texas? Is there an imperative for her to return to in-person work post-pandemic? Since her job seems to be the only real benefit to staying in Seattle, I strongly encourage her to begin exploring the options for remaining remote, at least until her contract ends in 2022. If she’s able to continue remotely, she can use that time to job search for a higher ed position in their new Texas city.
I think the priority right now should be for Will to start an aggressive job search. Once he has a feel for what’s available, and in what locations, I think the “where do we move” question will feel less overwhelming.
Will’s job is more precarious at this stage since he’s essentially changing careers and entering the workforce anew, in a new capacity.
I hope that Frugalwoods readers who’ve made the transition from military to civilian life will weigh in with their advice on how best to navigate the next few years.
As I understand it, the most important thing Will can do in the next few years is establish himself in a civilian career. I say this because his first civilian job will likely set the tone for what he’ll do for the rest of his life.
Given that, I might be inclined to suggest they consider sacrificing other goals in order to establish Will in his career in the location where he can get the best job. Once Will has established and proven himself, more location-independent opportunities may present themselves.
Another thought: if he has a high security clearance, he might think seriously about working with a defense contractor and renewing that clearance as needed.
On the other hand, a major question here is how hard-charging Will wants to be in his career. He has already worked tremendously hard serving his country and making unimaginable sacrifices for the rest of us. Given that, it may very well be that he is ready to slow down. Will may be happiest with a job that allows him to work from home, that doesn’t require business travel and that lets him enjoy a wonderful work/life balance. He may be ready to clock out at 5pm every day and not have to worry about work after 5:01pm. There’s a lot of wisdom and beauty in knowing that about yourself and in finding a job that’ll suit where you’re at in your life.
My answer to the “where do we move” question is multi-fold:
- It seems pretty obvious they want to leave Seattle
- It also seems pretty obvious that Texas is where they’d like to end up long-term
- Much of this depends on Will’s interest in climbing a corporate ladder:
- If he wants to advance rapidly in a career, they should prioritize Will finding the best job possible and consider location later.
- On the other hand, if Will would rather live in his desired location near family and be content with whatever job he’s able to find in that location, they should prioritize location.
- Of course, both of these things might be possible, but I’m noting that there can be an inherent tension between living in your #1 location and having your #1 career/job.
- There is no right or wrong answer here.
- Kate’s job seems a lot more mobile since there are universities everywhere and state governments everywhere. I love that she loves her current job, but the fact that it ends in a year anyway makes it slightly less of a factor in my mind.
Kate’s Question #2: Should we buy a house? If so, how much should we put down?
My answer is as unsatisfying as nachos without cheese: it totally depends.
Buying a house depends on:
- Where they move
- How long they think they’ll stay in that location
If they remain in Seattle, but know they’ll be leaving within five years or so, it probably does not make sense to buy. Conversely, if they move to Texas and know that’s where they’ll be staying forever, it probably does make sense to buy.
Buying a house is pretty contingent upon how long you intend to remain somewhere and the prevailing rental/purchase prices for the area.
Unfortunately for Kate and Will, the real estate market is bananas right now. Bananas with a capital B. I can’t say I’d encourage anyone to buy a house right now, unless they have money to burn. It may be that the market is Texas is untouched by this pandemic-house-buying-craze, but it’s certainly not a good time to buy in most parts of the country. Given that, and given how soon they might move, renting is likely to be the best course of action in the near term.
Plus, I always make the argument for renting in a location before buying. Renting gives you the opportunity to determine if the neighborhood is right for you, if the job is right, if you want to be closer/farther from your family/friends, what the public schools are like, etc. Diving into a new location and buying can be risky because if it turns out you don’t like the neighborhood, you’re kinda stuck until you can sell without losing a ton of money. It’s a lot less expensive and way easier to terminate a lease and leave a rental than it is to sell a home.
To the “how much should we put down” question, I say: as little as possible. Let me expand.
Since Kate and Will qualify for the awesome VA home loan program, they should take advantage of it and put down the smallest amount that’ll make financial sense. If they can put down 0% and avoid PMI and fees, they should go for it. If they can put down 10% and avoid PMI and even more fees, they should do that. I see no reason for them to put down a cent more than that loan program requires. Reason being? There’s a lot of other stuff they can do with their money that’ll deliver a better return than a down payment.
Kate’s Question #3: What should we do with our savings, assuming we don’t spend it all on a down payment?
A grand question indeed! Let’s take a step back and do an overview of Kate and Will’s financial picture.
1) Cash Savings: $106,789
Kate and Will are in great shape on this front. This amount more than covers an emergency fund, which is always priority #1 for your savings. An emergency fund is held in easily-accessible cash, such as in a checking or savings account, and it’s enough money to fully cover all of your expenses for three to six months. Since Kate and Will spend $6,636 per month, their emergency fund should be in the range of $19,908 (three months worth) to $39,816 (six months worth). Based on that math, they’ve overshot by $66,973.
Side note: In order to know how much money you need in your emergency fund, you must know how much you spend every month. One way to accomplish this is to track your expenses with a free expense tracking service. I use and recommend Personal Capital because it’s free and easy to use (affiliate link).
However, unlike my advice to our last Case Study participants, I think Kate and Will should probably keep all of this money liquid because they’re at a transition point. And the best thing to have a junctures of uncertainty is cold, hard cash. Normally, I’d say this is too much cash money (again, see the most recent Case Study for a full explanation on this), but since Kate and Will might move, might buy a house, might have a baby, might both be unemployed for a brief period, all within the next few months, having this cash on hand might be a lifesaver.
This amount of money will enable them to smoothly transition into their new civilian life. Will doesn’t have to get a job ASAP, Kate doesn’t have to get a new job ASAP, they don’t have to buy a house ASAP, they have options. Their frugality over the years has given them the best gifts of all: options and time.
Once Kate and Will decide where/when to move, once they both have new jobs, once they’re settled, they can turn their attention to this cash since yes, it is too much to have on hand if you’re not going through a major transition. The most obvious places for this money to go are their taxable investments and their retirement accounts.
2) Retirement Savings: $296,395
Between their TSPs (Thrift Savings Plans) and Roth IRAs, Kate and Will have a combined $296k in retirement investments. I commend them for taking advantage of both their employers’ retirement plans as well as opening Roth IRAs. One question of clarification is if Kate’s plan is actually a TSP (which is typically for federal employees and the military) or if it is a 403b (which is a much more common retirement offering from a university).
Kate and Will are about 30 years away from retirement, so they’re in great shape. They’re correct that starting to invest for retirement early is the best way to grow your investments over the decades (here’s an explanation of the math of compounding interest).
To give them some context of where they stand, we’ll use Fidelity (somewhat oversimplified) retirement rule of thumb:
Aim to save at least 1x your salary by 30, 3x by 40, 6x by 50, 8x by 60, and 10x by 67
Since Kate’s 31 and Will’s 32, we’ll go with 1x their salary, which would be $123,540 (this is their net, not gross income, which means their savings are likely closer in line with their combined gross income). Based on this metric, they are doing fantastically well!
3) Taxable Investments: $15,797
A quick moment to define terms: “taxable investments” are investments in the stock market that are not retirement vehicles (such as 401ks or IRAs). Broadly speaking, taxable investments are stocks. So when we talk about “investing in the stock market outside of retirement,” we’re talking about taxable investments.
They are called taxable investments because you pay taxes on the gains you make when you cash them out. These are called long-term capital gains taxes and they apply as long as you are invested for longer than one year; you pay more in taxes if you liquidate sooner than a year. Conversely, retirement investments are referred to as “tax advantaged” because they have a different taxation structure.
Starting a brokerage account of taxable investments is something I recommend once a person has satisfied all of the following:
- They are debt-free (other than a low-interest rate mortgage)
- They have a robust emergency fund
- Their retirement accounts are fully funded and on track for their projected retirement age
Kate and Will have satisfied these three criteria, so they were spot on with their decision to start investing!
It’s important to note that the money you invest in taxable investments is money you don’t anticipate needing anytime soon. Ideally, and in order to see the best return on this money, you need to leave it invested in the market for decades. Given that, Kate and Will have very wisely kept $100k in cash because they’re about to move and/or buy a house and/or have a baby and Will is about to change jobs. All of those uncertainties indicate that they should keep their asset allocation (fancy way of saying “where your money is”) just as it is. I think it’s great they started this brokerage account and I think they can invest more into it once they’re settled in their new location, once Will has a job, once Kate knows what’s happening with her job, and once they’ve bought their home.
This was a long answer to Kate’s question, but anytime you’re considering what to do with “extra” money, it’s imperative you analyze all of your assets. Bottom line: don’t do anything with your cash until everything settles out. Then, feel free to invest more in your taxable investment account, provided you continue to be debt-free, fully fund your retirement accounts, and have a fully funded emergency fund. Taxable investments fall firmly into the ‘nice to have’ category and are the way to build wealth, but they shouldn’t come at the detriments of the basics. More on investing here.
Kate’s Question #4: How do we draw the line on gift giving? I have a hard time with this and often feel obligated in social situations such as office baby showers, or when friends suggest going in on a group gift for someone. We have pulled back on gifting to nieces/nephews, but feel kind of guilty about it. It’s hard because we (and they) know we can “afford it,” but it’s not an area we want to keep spending $200+ a month on. Help with this would be much appreciated!
This is a great question and one that comes up quite regularly in the Frugalwoods community. I agree with Kate that $210 every month feels like a lot, and in fact, it’s $2,520 per year. I also understand the desire to be generous and to demonstrate your care through giving. I suggest Kate and Will break out their spending into the two categories they mentioned: 1) Colleagues and friends; 2) nieces and nephews. Additionally, just because you can “afford” something doesn’t mean you’re required to do it.
Nieces and Nephews:
Some of my nieces and nephews are now teenagers and so they prefer cash or gift cards, which works for me! This is an easy way for me to keep to a budget, ensure fairness among the kids, and give them something they actually want. I allocate a specific dollar amount for their cash or card and everyone is happy.
For little kids, as you all know, I am a huge fan of buying used. My girls receive all second-hand gifts for Christmas and birthdays and they are thrilled. If Kate and Will’s siblings are up for it, second-hand gifts are vastly cheaper, a great way to reduce the environmental impact of buying new, and you can find really cool stuff at garage sales! My sister gives used or hand-me-down gifts to my kids and they are IN HEAVEN. Any toy is a good toy when you are three and five years old.
If giving used gifts isn’t going to fly in Will and Kate’s families, I highly recommend my patented method of “buying toys, books, puzzles, clothes WITH TAGS ON” at yard sales. You’d be amazed at how much tags-on stuff I find! These items go into my box for us to gift to other kids at their birthday parties, for baby showers, etc. My own children do not receive the tags-on items. Pro-tip: second-hand books in particular often look brand new!
A few posts to get you started on the buying used journey:
- How to Thrift Like a Rockstar: Plan Ahead, Buy Ahead and Focus on Depreciation
- How To Find Anything and Everything Used: A Compendium Of Frugal Treasure Hunting
- Dryer Parts And Other December 2020 Expenses
In terms of colleagues and friends, I think there are three options:
- Choose not to give gifts
- Give homemade gifts
- Set a strict budget
Here are a few posts on how to give gifts on a budget:
- Reader Suggestions Of A Frugal Holiday Gift Guide (aka Staying on Budget the Non-Grinchy Way)
- Reader Suggestions: Holiday Gifts That’ll Spread The Love But Not Break The Bank
- Reader Suggestions Of Frugal, Fun, Inexpensive, and Festive Holiday Gifts
- How To Give Frugal Gifts With Joy And Generosity
A Note on Expenses
I want to highlight that, at present, Kate and Will are essentially spending Will’s salary every month and saving Kate’s. Since Will is about to be unemployed, they may need to recalibrate their spending until his new job kicks in. Fortunately, they have a lot of discretionary expenses that could be paused until Will settles into a new job. I encourage them to consider this so that they don’t have to dip into their savings to cover their monthly expenses.
- If he hasn’t already, Will should start an aggressive job search. Determine if the priority is for Will to find the best job possible or if the priority is to move to their ideal location now.
- Kate should start a conversation with her employer about the possibility of taking her job fully remote.
- Be honest with themselves about where they’d like to end up. It seems pretty clear they don’t want to stay in Seattle and that anywhere else would be a weigh staton on their eventual journey to Texas. Moving to Texas now might not be a possibility, but it certainly seems like that’s their end goal.
- Research home buying within the context of #1-3, with all the caveats I outlined above.
- Keep their excess cash liquid until their new jobs and new location are ironed out.
- Consider reducing their expenses until Will finds a new job so that they don’t need to raid their savings in order to pay their bills.
- Analyze the gifts they’re giving and make a plan for how to reduce this amount to something they’re comfortable with.
- Enjoy this exciting journey they’re about to go on and feel confident that they’ve put themselves in a superb financial position!
Ok Frugalwoods nation, what advice would you give to Kate? She and I will both reply to comments, so please feel free to ask any clarifying questions!
Would you like your own case study to appear here on Frugalwoods? Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) your brief story and we’ll talk.
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Move to Texas! Moving after you have kids is so much more expensive and difficult.
Try giving others experiences versus money or toys. As a parent toy gifts are not needed! Try a trip to a park, zoo, gift card for a movie pass.
Look at daycare costs- you will definitely need to factor that in and Seattle is extremely high.
As someone who lives far away from family and has kids-MOVE TO TEXAS BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!
You and Mrs. Frugalwoods bring up a good point about the challenge of moving with kids – we hadn’t really thought about that until now!
While I don’t disagree with Krista, I would just add that as a parent of 2 small children, getting some new toys for Christmas has been a lifesaver. My kids (4 and 1) needed some new toys to stimulate and challenge their development and since my husband & I are juggling both kids at home most days and still working full time from home, it has been great that they received some new toys for Christmas. I would just say that, as a different perspective, to ask the parents what the kids really need. I love experiences and all, but they are not appropriate for our family during the pandemic. Just a different perspective.
Just chiming in on a data point for Seattle, although I think you’ve already crossed this off the list. We live here and have been in public schools for 9 years. It is an extremely dysfunctional district. There were no plans to re-open school buildings until the governor ordered it. Seattle means well but the Seattle process coupled with the vast range of student needs means nothing gets done and leaders deflect with ideological reaches like reducing carbon emissions and eliminating racism (those are both noble but can we at least do the one job of the school district first, offering school???). I’d recommend you research schools as this is a huge factor in quality of life for you and your future children!
This is very good to know! I wouldn’t say Seattle is completely off the list (Will actually has a few upcoming interviews with companies in this area), but we would definitely like to leave before our future child starts school.
While I am not able to help with the transition from military life to civilian i recommend an area nearby Austin. Friends of mine bought a house at Pflugerville. They did a lot of research because they do not live in this area, so it was a rational decision about the opportunities, jobs and possible renters. It is easy to commute to Austin, it is small town , but vivid, good schools, shopping, restaurants. If you need the big city it is easy to reach, but not necessary for your daily life. And the weather is warm…
Thanks, Wendy! We will definitely look into Pflugerville!
I think it’s clear Texas is the place for you. Take it from a Vancouverite: if you crave sunshine don’t stay in the PNW! Can you take pandemic-safe road trip / fact finding mission in the next month or two and check out real estate, job-markets, social vibes of a few key communities? Might make a final decision easier?
After 3+ years here, I am definitely craving sunshine! A road trip is a great idea – Will and I have both spent a lot of time in Texas, but not from the perspective of potentially moving there.
I see that Will plans to stay in the reserves. Have you researched how often his role may be deployed? From a “been there” military wife, I caution the line of one weekend a month two weeks a year brush. My family’s experience quickly turned in a year long deployment with very short notice, little support from the military and the new experience of stop loss. Granted, this was a decade ago, but I urge you to talk to current reservist to see what the situation is like.
Good point, A C! We have heard experiences in the Reserves greatly vary based on position type, so hopefully he’ll be able to find something more stable.
Yes, it varies greatly depending on type. As an officer, he will probably have better roles and a little bit more say. Our experience was a ~36 hr notice of deployment, 48 hr pass when our daughter was born & no pay for 3 mths due to DFAS issues. I have heard that it’s gotten much better. However, keep in mind that reservists and national guard tends to spend a lot more time deployed and do not have as many resources for reintegration/built in support as full time military. There are no plans to change this anytime soon and the national guard and reserve are both considered key forces rather than a backup reserve.
If you want to stay in the PNW, consider moving to eastern Oregon or Washington. The cost of living is a bit lower and there is a lot of sun.
I would highly recommend he stay in the reserves. Have him look at IMA billets. These positions tend to be in higher HQ units, like COCOMs. They also tend to be more flexible with when and how often you drill…its not a one weekend an month, two weeks during the summer kind of gig…unless you want it to be…something to look into. He’s half way to a retirement.
I agree with AC. My husband is a current army reservist and it is so much more than a weekend a month and 2 weeks over the summer. It’s been our experience that it is very difficult to hold down a civilian job in addition to an Army reserve career because it requires so much time. We’ve been fortunate that he is able to do it full time as a company commander, but he doesn’t get paid full time. It’s a good gig as long as you realize the time commitment.
Agree with all of this. Don’t count on the reserves being something that he will stay with until retirement. My husband was active for 8 and a reservist for 4. He had hoped to do at least 10 in the reserves to qualify for the retirement, but in the end couldn’t deal with the “bull****” that came with the reserves. Even as a higher ranking NCO the pay was a joke and the weekend commitments were such a hassle that it was not even worth his time. It was also a hard adjustment going from active duty where everything was taken seriously to a unit that had no way of really enforcing rules and conduct. Obviously this could vary unit to unit, but either way it was still not what he was looking for. Bottom line, don’t count on reserves working out. If it goes great, but it might not.
TEXAS! I personally would never go back (I lived there for 20 years), but it sounds right for you. I now live and have 3 homes in Western WA so I’m here for the long haul, but it’s very depressing/heartbreaking to watch the degradation happening in this area. I won’t get too into it, but let’s say I’m now a faithful listener to the Dori Monson show… like a poster upthread mentioned the school situation is out of control (at least PARENT control). Even with the governor’s mandate on reopening schools there are districts, including mine, where teachers unions continue to “bargain”. First it wasn’t safe enough… data said it was AND we got them vaccines (by we, I mean a 2k member parent group)… then it wasn’t equitable enough… so we had the IEP and BIPOC families chime in…. then they said they don’t know how… so we pointed out the other 46 states that have been doing this, in some cases since September… and the latest, at the school board meeting, was that it’s sexist. That’s where all the working moms who’ve been juggling kids at home nearly lost it 😉 It’s a wreck here. Go to Texas. You can still find common sense and pragmatism there. I love the climate here, but the people of Texas are warm and welcoming.
I can’t even imagine how difficult it’s been for parents during the pandemic. I hope the vaccine rollout will get things back to normal for everyone very soon!
That sounds crazy difficult, and I feel for the parents wanting their schools open! As a teacher, I’ve been real disappointed in how unaccommodating some of the unions have been.
Amazon has a growing presence in Austin and there are other tech jobs aplenty. Amazon also has some specific programs for veterans, so might make sense to chat with a recruiter to see what his options are.
Will has a call with an Amazon recruiter this week 🙂 fingers crossed!
Agree, and note that while Austin is expensive, there are very affordable nearby towns to consider–Lakeway, Dripping Springs, Georgetown, Wimberley, etc. And if you can work from home part of all of the week, you save commuting time and expense.
I vote for moving now. There are many tech companies in the Austin area.
Not sure about Washington, but here in Massachusetts the state unemployment office will give free help with your resume, interview workshops &c. That could be a resource for both of you.
Consider creating a job profile on LinkedIn or Indeed. That’s how I got my current job!
Good luck! I spent 3 months in Tacoma during the winter & I totally hear you about the awful weather. God bless
Great advice, thank you!
All I have to say is move to College Station, Texas. I’m a former Army wife. Centrally located to the cities you want to visit ( Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas). Has a small airport, transportation to above cities, health care, Blinn College and Texas A&M, a large tech community, a cyber security industry and we are at the forefront of other major research. We are researching COVID vaccines and treatments and even manufacturing them here as fast as we can. TAMU has a well-known ROTC program and our population is amazingly diverse. Y’all are so young I just think you are on the right track and your future is so bright you just need strong sunglasses! ( literally and figuratively if you move to Central Texas!)
Thanks, Stacy! We will look into College Station. It’s easy to get caught up in Dallas/Austin but I know there are a lot of other thriving cities in Texas!
I heard you say “progressive” when you mentioned things your new city must have. I’m not sure if you mean politically, religiously, or another meaning to progressive. Think cautiously about small town TX life, it’s not always progressive in either of these ways.
I vote Denver! VA is here. Higher ed abounds. Snow is here, but almost always sunny the day after a snowstorm and it melts away. Lots of frugal outdoors activities, and a pretty quick flight or day long drive to TX.
Also, you guys are doing so great with retirement and other savings. It’s very impressive at your ages. Congratulations on your hard work and discipline.
I think you yourself have alluded to the things you know you need to cut some. Coffee, energy drinks, and snacks can all be bought much cheaper from a grocery or bulk buy store. And can be grabbed when heading out of the house. Our trick for reducing restaurants/takeout in the past is to allocate a budget to getting it specific days/weekends so we look forward to it and enjoy it. We severely limited impulse eating out. Cut our eating out bill in half and made us think about trends in our habits, but didn’t deprive us of all joy.
As much as I don’t love Texas, it does sound right for your family given your desire to have a kid and your interest in being near family. I also know from friends and family living in both Seattle and Dallas metros that kid costs and housing costs are far more reasonable in Dallas than Seattle. Do you have an option to take your job remote for 2021 and keep it through a move to Texas? That would substantially help with your job search, giving you time to find something new as higher ed creeps back towards their past habits/decides on future paths of action.
A final comment is that tech start up life can be brutal, fast paced = toxic/high stress environment. I won’t say that is entirely removed when you go to big tech, but my family and friends in software at Microsoft and Amazon report better quality of life and work/life balance, fwiw.
Wishing you luck in your decisions!
Unfortunately, my department does not allow fully remote work. The only exception was a few months at the start of the pandemic, we are mostly back in person now. A co-worker was in a similar position a month or two ago and her request was denied. That would have been the ideal scenario!
Don’t worry about location. Go for the job that makes Will, or you, happiest. The one you’ll be excited to go to very morning. Will will be working for the next 30 years. My husband and I found ourselves in a place both of us had dismissed out of hand. One we ‘looked down’ on. We stayed there for the rest of our lives, it turned out to be a great place to raise our children and we found friends and opportunities to get actively engaged in our community. Location is secondary to personal happiness and fulfillment.
I work in higher ed an now is a really awful time to be looking for a career in this industry. Most universities have instituted hiring freezes, pay cuts, and/or layoffs due to the pandemic. I wholeheartedly agree with Mrs. FW’s suggestion to try to stay remote for the rest of the contract, if possible. It’s going to be tough to break into a career at another University right now.
This is one of my biggest fears with relocating! I may have to prepare myself for a period of unemployment since remote work isn’t an option with my current employer.
My advice is- move to Texas but don’t buy right now. For sure real estate is going to be in flux for the next few years, but it’s unlikely to be any crazier than it is now. If they can rent for a few years, they’ll be less likely to buy at the top of the market, and will have a chance to see where they really want to be in terms of neighborhood/school district, and how big of a house they really want/need.
I second this advice to rent first and get to know the area before buying. We live near Austin and the housing market in this area is very much a sellers market right now. A realtor told me that houses are selling quickly and for over the asking prices. Several companies from California have relocated to the Austin area and, having sold their homes there, people moving here are able to pay cash and have lots of money left over. There is no way to know how long this will last, but it can’t last forever. Not trying to discourage you because there are lots of wonderful reasons to live near Austin, but want you to know how it is here.
And on a side note, our children are named Will and Kate!
Thank you, Christina and Carol! You (and Mrs. Frugalwoods) have really given us a lot to think about when it comes to buying. It’s disappointing because we’ve saved for a long time and set ourselves up well to buy, but it just doesn’t seem like the right time.
P.S. I love your kids’ names, Carol 🙂
I still encourage you to investigate moving here, just plan on renting for awhile before you buy, both to wait for prices to calm down and to figure out which area near Austin will be best for your family. I also encourage y’all to move before having children instead of after. As others have said, moving with children is much more challenging than moving as a couple. Good luck with what ever you decide to do!
I don’t have great tips, but I want to reinforce Mrs. FW’s ideas.
It sounds like Texas, or perhaps a state nearby, is calling. It doesn’t seem to make sense to stay in Seattle when it’s obvious Will and Kate don’t want to be that far from family and don’t care for the weather. Are there any options to work as a civilian for the military in Texas? Or as mentioned, work for a defense contractor? My daughter works for a defense contractor, is well-paid and really likes her job. She even gets military discounts, such as at hotels, for being a military contractor.
Have you checked on things like college tuition savings plans in Texas and surrounding states? We put both of our kids through college without debt by signing up with Florida’s pre-paid tuition plan when they were toddlers.
Remote work seems like a good option for perhaps both of them. I would definitely check that out.
In the current housing market, I would agree with Mrs. FW to rent, first. A friend of mine put her nice but ordinary house on the market last week and it sold in one day. It’s crazy right now.
I definitely would hang on to that cash, as you aren’t sure of your income for a while.
I think they have done a fabulous job with their finances and planning, and I thank Will for his service, as well as Kate for being a dedicated military wife, which isn’t easy, either. Good luck to you!
Will has thought about working for a defense contractor or in a Civilian position, but his hope is to give the corporate/tech world a try first. He sees it as a new challenge. We haven’t given a ton of thought to college savings, but we do have Will’s GI Bill to gift a future child or free tuition via the Hazlewood Act in Texas – good to know about the state savings plans in case we want to supplement or end up having more than one child!
Hello Kate and Will! A quick note about possible future fertility treatments: some states require insurance to cover fertility treatments. (For example, I underwent fertility treatments in MA, where they are covered by insurance, provided they are necessitated by infertility.) This ultimately saved our family tens of thousands of dollars. I had a friend who was about to move to KY and decided to do her second round of IVF before moving because it was covered here in MA, but not in KY. It may be irrelevant in your moving decision if all three states you’re considering do or do not have a similar requirement, or it may be outweighed by other factors, but I wanted to mention it as you noted it in your write-up. I wish you well on your pregnancy journey!
I was also coming here to say that some states mandate that health insurance companies cover fertility treatments. However, it appears that Washington and Colorado currently do not mandate fertility coverage. Texas does but the law only requires coverage after 5 years of infertility.
Thank you, Luisa and Jacqueline! Up until now I have been most concerned with which states offer paid maternity leave, it’s good to know some states mandate fertility treatments as well. I hope both options will become more common across the U.S. in the future.
I think moving now, as late spring,early summer could be smart. Texas offers the most for you guys, from taxes deductions to family. Also Texas is booming with start up, people are moving from California to Texas and Austin is a major growth center. It is also easier to manage to find a job , when you are employed, also right now you have a reasonably high salary for your field. This gives you good negotiating position. Make a choice for a place, and look actively for a job online in that area. Now most interviews are online anyway. If nothing comes out, pick you second on the list and repeat. When it come to house buying, a 10% down payment and 15 years term take advantage of the veterans benefits and of low interest rates.
These are all really good points. So far, Will has been the only one searching for jobs, but I think I need to start looking too. It would be easier to move out of state if at least one of us had a job lined up. We will also have to talk about the option of doing a 15 year mortgage!
And don’t forget Texas has NO state income tax. I’d vote for Austin or nearby environs, but do keep in mind that Austin traffic is simply terrible. The infrastructure cannot keep up with the booming population, but, that said, Austin is a wonderful place to live, eat, enjoy, and bring up children. Home to University of Texas, one of the finest educational institutions in the country, your future child(ren) can attend UT for instate tuition, which is thousands less than private or out of state costs. I live in Houston, and one of the great things about our climate is that our environment is green and sunny twelve months a year. Be prepared for high electric bills in the summer months. Air conditioning is a necessity, not a luxury. So come on down and be welcomed to Texas!
The traffic issue in Austin does make me nervous. We have very easy commutes currently. I’m hoping all the pros you pointed out would outweigh that con!
Leaving the military can often be a hard transition, but it sounds like Will is set up very well for it. Since you seem very clear that you want to end up in Texas, start looking at jobs there ASAP, with the understanding that it could be there will likely be a gap between when will leaves the military and when he has a job and you guys move. Like Mrs FW said, military contractors could be a VERY good place to start, as well as companies with substantial military sales (like bell helicopter, hq in Fort Worth), and oil & gas. Basically industries where a military background and cybersecurity work will be seen as a big asset rather than an unusual path to the company’s work. Austin also has been expanding its IT businesses – it could be worth meeting with the local government/business associations there and other cities you are looking at to learn more about what opportunities to look at and maybe get put in touch with companies. You guys are doing great – I wish I had been set up so well in my early 30s!
Thank you, Anne!
As a proud Navy brat, well done in so many fronts. I saw so often my parents connections spread all around the country and world. I would echo the recommendation to move to Texas. Don’t underestimate the importance of supportive environment for military and retired military. I’m no Texan, but my understanding is Austin has a vibrant tech industry. Will’s training and experience, I believe, would be in demand. I’ll throw out consulting jobs as a thought. PWC for instance has a group focused on Will’s area. While a seemingly great work environment, stressand travel would be a major component. In closing, higher ed opportunities are plentiful and small towns around Texas cities provide for a great and more affordable lifestyle if telecommuting is an option. To both of you, thanks for your service on our behalf.
Thanks, Paul! I didn’t mention this in the case study, but I’m a military brat too (my dad was in the Army).
I lived in Denver for a few years and feel it’s a much better place to visit than live. Perhaps you could plan a trip there during your transition, before Will starts a new job and you possibly change yours.
I think it’s incredibly smart you’re planning for possible fertility expenses now. SO many people struggle with this.
Go to Texas! It’s so clear from your post that that is where you want to be, and this seems like a great time to take the leap.
I might be in the minority here, but I don’t think $200 a month on gifts is outrageous, given your income. You said you wanted to give more to charity, so what’s wrong with giving to people you love?
Agree about Denver and the gifts. Although I don’t think it’s necessary to go wild on gifts, why shut out the people who are most important?
Leslie and Rachel, I appreciate your input on gifts. I think I was comparing myself too much to other case studies when I wrote that question. Comparison sure is the thief of joy, isn’t it? I do think we could be more thrifty about gifting, but your comments have made me feel less guilty about spending money on our friends and family.
I agree with your approach to gifts, Kate. It’s important to be generous and thoughtful, and sometimes that is only accomplished by not buying thrift or yard sale as gift options.
1. Austin, TX. Great IT opportunities and great higher education opportunities. Best option out there for you guys.
2. Use your VA Loan eligibility and buy your house with zero down payment.
3. Continue to save and invest. You’re doing great.
4. Consider deferring gift-giving until your new life gets established. People who care about you will understand.
Thank you, Dr. Mark!
I’m going to encourage you to go straight to Texas, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I think Mrs. Frugalwoods put it perfectly – you keep saying that Seattle isn’t where you want to be long term – so why on earth would you stay? Especially when you’ve identified Texas as a good place for you long term. Will needs to step on the gas with his job search and focus on cities in Texas (Austin will likely be a good fit, given his career), and the Texas higher educational system is very, very good, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities for jobs as well. Telework is beside the point – if his job goes to telework, then you might as well be where you already want to live, and if the job is actually located inside Texas, then he has the flexibility to go into the office if that’s ever needed or desired. (Also, while I think telework has become more acceptable, I wouldn’t be shocked to see a backlash against it – both from companies who want to make sure that people are working during designated hours and also from people who want more separation between their work and personal life).
Good luck with your future plans!
Re-reading the case study myself, it does seem like Texas is the obvious choice. Seems like you all picked up on that too. Thanks, CJR!
Just want to chime in and support the request to go fully remote in your own job if you decide to move! Given it’s a contract position, it might be hard for them to fill it if you leave before the contract is up and not sure about your institution, but my institution is still under a pretty strict hiring freeze, so odds are even higher they are stuck between you working remotely or the job not getting done at all!
I am also reading intently about the decision to not move while pregnant – this is on the horizon for me too – potentially twice with a kid under 1 – and I’m thinking I either didn’t plan this very well or will need to shell out for movers… haha
I don’t think remote work will be an option unfortunately, but you all have convinced me that I should at least ask. Good luck on your potential move, I feel for you!
Have you considered Colorado Springs as an option? I lived there for a year and really enjoyed it. In fact, if it weren’t for the pandemic and needing to be closer to family, we would probably still be living there.
It has a ton of outdoor stuff/stuff in general to do, plus a big military population (both active and retired). The cost of living, especially housing, is a little bit better than Denver metro too. Plus, you’re only about an hour or so from the south side of Denver, depending on where you live in the Springs.
For me, the downsides of living in Colorado Springs is that it’s not exactly a super progressive place (although there are pockets of progressive people) and that it can be difficult to find certain types of medical care there. For example, I have a thyroid condition and must see an endocrinologist twice a year. There were so few providers in CS that I had to go to Denver. Not a huge deal but something to think about.
My family went on a trip to Colorado Springs about 10 years ago and I really liked it. We’ll have to see what the job opportunities look like there!
Mrs. Frugalwoods makes sound suggestions regarding moving. You should go for it now before growing your family. As for having a baby, I hope your journey is easy and painless. That’s not always the case and those with armed forces provided insurance are extremely lucky in that many fertility services are covered. You may wish to confirm the amount and type of fertility coverage available to you as part of your long range planning. Fertility treatments are super expensive and it can take months or years of treatment to have a baby. If this is a priority then plan accordingly. Good luck!
Thank you, Melaine. Based on what I’ve read, Tricare doesn’t pay for fertility treatments but I will be sure to do more research if it comes to that point. I appreciate the well wishes!
A few quick thoughts:
My dad is a disabled vet, and having his health care (and nursing home care, if needed) is a huge relief, given his health issues. But my impression is that the quality of VA hospitals and their administrations can be patchy, so you might want to look into the reputation of the hospitals at the locations you mentioned, if this is an area of concern.
You are right that your husband’s current experience with a start up is worthwhile, and he is in a field where start ups are plentiful. Just know most start ups fail. My husband’s worked for a couple.. Experience in a failed start up hasn’t seemed to count against him, though- employers are curious about companies that took risks and appreciate the ability to innovate. So don’t feel like he needs to work for a big name, especially if it limits your location. Good luck!
Cara, good point that we hadn’t thought about. I have heard very mixed reviews about VA healthcare.
If Texas I’m just concerned about freshwater. I think, from what I’ve read, that water will become an issue. Maybe one of the suggestions above has a good river going thru it. We just moved cross country and planned it out; it still cost more than we thought. The help with moving could be significant. Otherwise I suggest start weeding out stuff now. and right before you move get rid of all the old stuff. I really feel like it would have been cheaper to buy stuff than to move so much of it. And I would give a good hard look at all the optional parts of your budget and cut them back by 5%. In a few months another 5%. It might not be as painful as you think. As a new homeowner of a looks nice but neglected house I am trying to adjust my savings as quick as possible to do all the things we want to do. My recommendation is to address your budget now especially since, from your comments, pay cuts are in your future.
Thanks, JackeRose. We are fortunate the military lifestyle has made us fairly minimalist, but I’m sure there are more things we could get rid of before a potential move. We have also been working on the budget and I’m happy to report that we’ve been able to keep expenses under 5K three months in a row!
Hi Kate and Will, my wife sent me this article and we felt like we were reliving our transition out of the Navy. It’s a daunting process, but you’ll do great wherever you end up! There are just so many more options now that you’re in control. I graduated from USNA then did 11 years Active Duty Navy. When I separated in the summer of 2019, my wife and I moved to Austin where I started at a large tech company and also joined the Navy Reserves.
Reserves – great for TRICARE, especially for stability in case you want to take a few months off to travel or do whatever. If Will takes a demanding job and you have young kids, realize that once a month he will be working 12 days straight. Not a huge deal if his normal job is low stress, but if he’s reachable by company phone/laptop all the time and works more than a normal 9-5 it can be extremely exhausting. It is also great to stay connected with the military and I really enjoyed it. Not sure about Army, but for Navy we have a 2-year deployment deferment after leaving Active Duty. However many people get sent for a 1-year deployment right at their 2-year mark in the Reserves for us. Bigger companies can offer benefits while he is deployed (and on his 2 weeks/year) like giving him partial or full pay while on military orders. Lots of good information on USERRA to protect his job and promotion chances online as well.
Tech Companies (my take) – I loved working there and they loved having veterans. High growth and they want someone to take problems on with some structure. Larger companies in Austin also offer daycare benefits (won’t cover the complete cost for the year, but it definitely helps) and commuter benefits (some have shuttles to the offices from all over the city and also offer reimbursement for mass transit). If he is interested in Tech, then Austin is a great place. If you want to move permanently he’ll have room to grow in Austin because of the large presence there from tech. Can climb within the company or bounce around much quicker because there are just more openings available. Certain locations that only have small offices may limit his ability to promote without moving.
Also, many of the larger tech companies have very strong internal veteran networks which is great. I work with several West Pointers, USAFA, and USNA grads which was helpful when looking for someone to help navigate this whole new world.
If he is interested, I highly recommend BreakLine Education (non-profit for helping vets get into Tech). No charge, help with resumes, mock interviews, and networking. I talk to veterans looking to get into tech all the time. This was by far the best help for me in my transition and they are hands-down the best at what they do, the most professional, and nicest group of people around. They also hold events like discussions/interviews with Tech industry and government leaders (SECDEF Mattis, Condoleeza Rice, CEOs, panels with current employees, etc). I am part of their member community and do not receive any type of stipend for endorsing them, but can’t stress how great their community is and that I would have struggled trying to convert my military experience for resumes and interviews.
We lived a few miles from downtown and when the weather was nice, I rode my bike to work through the UT Austin campus and through the capital grounds. If you are looking for higher education or government work I’m sure you have checked through some of these.
We moved 4 times without kids and 3 times with kids. It is a true game-changer. My wife might hop on and comment about this later. Not only is traveling more difficult but also finding a new home is really tough with kids. If the kids aren’t great at sleeping in the car, you have super small windows of time for going to showings. It takes much longer to explore the neighborhoods when you are stopping all the time and have to get back for naps. Also, planning the move while you’re pregnant presents challenges with traveling for you outside of your doctor’s local area as you get further along. Then if you move right after having the baby, you’ll have to plan it around shots and check-ups that are much closer together. We moved from CA to VA with a 2-month-old, VA to TX with a 2-year-old, and from TX to FL with a 3.5-year-old and a 3-month-old. It’s not impossible, just much tougher.
You two really did your homework with the everything! Not sure if you mentioned it, but as long as your husband receives at least a 10% rating from the VA then the VA funding fee for a home loan is waived. I completely agree with Mrs FW about renting for 1 year before buying, Austin has lots of different neighborhoods and also this gives you both time in case he does not have a disability rating immediately upon separation (mine took 4-5 months). Also, get VA appointments finished before starting a new job if able. Once they start working his paperwork, they tell Will he has 2 weeks to get through 4-6 appointments that could be up to 100 miles away. Unfortunately for me, this happened during my 3rd and 4th weeks of a new job. I had to explain to my manager I needed a ton of time off to take care of things related to the military. Just not the exact way I wanted to start off with a new team.
My family (Mom and siblings) lives in the Dallas area and our son has an older cousin who has provided about 90% of his clothes and toys. Total win for us! We thought moving to Austin would mean that family would visit pretty often, however my mom still works full time and same with my siblings and their spouses. What ended up happening in our case was – I spent 1 weekend a month with the Reserves and 1 weekend a month in Dallas. Obviously, every family is different, but since the core of my family was 3 hours away, we were always the ones who ended up traveling. Something to consider as well based on your family dynamics.
I hope this helps! Please reach out for any questions or about any of this. I love talking about it and spend a few hours every month with veterans in the same exact situation. Also, my wife and I have been big FI proponents and followers here for a while, she handles all of our money but we talk through it monthly and love these case studies!
Thanks Mrs. Frugalwood for the great community and the great Case Study!
Jimmy, such a small world! I can’t believe how much we have in common. Will also has family in Dallas, and he is working with BreakLine! Thank you so much for all of your advice. It’s really helpful to hear from someone who has been through the same transition recently – also reassuring since it sounds like things have worked out for you well as a Civilian.
If Will is interested, he might consider submitting his resume to RStudio.com/careers, as we’re always accepting resumes and have an internal IT team in addition to software engineers.
Thank you, Sarah! I will pass this along to him.
Wow, you guys are doing awesome! Best wishes on getting pregnant soon! It sounds like Texas is a good choice since you want to be close to family. That’s a good call – we live halfway across the country from my husband’s family and we spend most of our vacation budget visiting them 1-2x a year as a family of four. And, both Dallas & Austin have lower costs of living than Seattle or Denver which will help you in your retirement goals! I would say go with the city that gets your husband the best job! Since I live in Austin, I will say that if you end up here, the east side is generally less expensive as it is further from the popular lakes and rolling hill country of the west. I believe Pflugerville was mentioned before, and it is a particularly economical choice for the area. You may also want to rent for a bit before buying so that you get to know the area better. We did this and ended up falling in love with a particular trail that we now live behind!
Regarding gifts, set a budget that’s reasonable to you and divide that up among your family to get a per-person amount to shoot for. I second asking parents what they’d like since that’s always helpful. I did this and got “books” as the answer for my nephews, which can be easily bought 2nd hand in perfect condition. My niece prefers money, so it’s a simple check and card for her 🙂 And if you feel compelled to give for coworkers’ baby showers, etc. – you don’t have to give a ton. Even a small contribution adds up to a lot. Maybe you can just re-calibrate to lower what you feel good giving in those instances? Best of luck!
Several of you have mentioned Pflugerville, we’re adding it to the list! We had primarily been looking in the Round Rock area outside of Austin but it looks like Pflugerville would be a better commute into the city.
Thank you for the gifting tips!
You guys are doing great saving so much for retirement at an early age. I think you should have the military pay for your household move to Texas, rent a place, and then find a place to buy with the V.A. loan. Texas is booming – he will find a job soon there and there are lots of military bases he can do his reservist training. I was in the military and used the V.A. loan and I did not really have very many fees – I put a thousand down and the seller paid closing costs. Good luck!
Thank you, Paulin. I’m glad you had a good experience with the VA loan process! We are a little overwhelmed at the thought of home buying (though based on the case study and comments, we will likely be pushing that goal off a bit).
I would suggest looking into Lockheed Martin (located in Ft Worth, which is in the Dallas Metroplex). Although they are a manufacturer, they have IT and management jobs that pay well and they hire a lot of former military. They often hire contract workers who gain full time employment when a salary position opens up. Since you all have a savings cushion, that might be a good option for you. They are also doing a lot of remote work because of Covid. There is also TCU (university) located in Ft Worth. I’m not sure how private universities are faring during the pandemic, but wanted to offer some other Texas cities to look into.
As a military child who grew up taking military insurance for granted, smart move by your husband on staying in the reserves and being eligible for insurance. I know you will be paying out of pocket, but the benefits will be much better. The birth of a child is a HUGE expense and all of my military friends have paid nothing more than a copay, where I have had to pay my full deductible and then some. I’m also not sure if it applies to reserves, but I know active duty members can receive assistance with adoption fees if that ends up being the route you want to take.
Finally, I’d like to add that although the energy drink/snack budget seems unnecessary, I have found that agreeing on a set amount and then not judging my husband for now he spends it has kept him from feeling deprived while we work towards our financial goals. So don’t make him give it up completely- just find a compromise number.
SB, Will thanks you for this comment 🙂 a snack/drink budget sounds like a good compromise
Move to Texas, Austin is booming right now with high paying tech jobs. It will be a vibrant city for a young family too. I would rent in Austin for at least a year and Will should focus is search in companies in Austin or large companies who don’t care where their worker work (Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google etc. would all likely be companies that are ok with remote worker from anywhere in the country). And many many formally silicon valley smaller tech companies have moved to Austin or other Texas cities so bow is a great time to find a job there. To add to this, the big tech companies mentioned above are all federal contractors, as such they have to hire a certain percentage of protected veterans, which Will is, so his service could serve as an advantage on this side too. Moving without a baby is SO MUCH EASIER. And having family help with the baby from day 1 is life changing compared to being on your own, even on maternity leave…. So moving now, on the military ‘s dimes… Makes more sense. I don’t anticipate that finding a job for Will will be difficult at all with his experience and qualifications. And the first job you accept doesn’t have to be where you stay forever. Given the contract situation and the future leave, I wouldn’t think that Kate’s career should be the driving factor, and negociating finishing her contract remotely if Will finds a job In Texas in the next few months may be easier than she thinks, when you say “I am leaving, but I will love to stay and work remotely, but I am leaving”… Employers are more likely to oblige, especially since they know it is temporary. I would not buy now, anywhere including Texas, prices are insane and it is better to rent and who for sure which area they want to be in. Plus until the baby is actually there, they can rent a smaller place like a condo and continue to save as much money as they would if they bought once you account for interest/maintenance etc. Rents have not gone up nearly as much as sale prices so renting seems like the right option. Good luck!
Thank you, Sarah – very helpful!
I have so much to say! I’ll start with this – I highly recommend https://the-military-guide.com – Doug (USNA ’82) retired after his 20 years AD (and did not transition to another career – he fully retired). His wife, Marge (USNA ’83), transitioned to USNR and earned her retirement in the Reserves. Doug’s blog is a wealth of military FIRE and military career transition knowledge.
I also recommend https://themilitarywallet.com – great military $ info. Ryan transitioned (with a gap) from USAF AD to Air Guard, where he currently serves. These two blogs/websites cover nearly everything about military money/transitioning to civilian careers/military financial independence.
Also, I know it wasn’t on your list, but I wonder if you have considered San Antonio? USAA is a military-friendly employer with a cyber department, and UTSA has a top-ranked cybersecurity program – both potential employment opportunities for Will. Also, UTSA might be a good place for Kate to work w non-traditional students.
Finally, I would happy to chat with you about military FIRE and/or transitioning to civilian life. My email is onesickvet [at] gmail dotcom.
Also, Will should absolutely apply for VA disability, and should have started the process already. See https://www.countyofnapa.org/DocumentCenter/View/147/Summary-of-VA-Benefits-for-Guard-and-Reserves-PDF
Crew Dog, thank you for the great links! We’ve only discussed Dallas/Austin thus far, but my sister used to live in San Antonio and really liked it there. We will have to look into job opportunities there.
Will has started his VA claim, but all the help we can get is appreciated. I’ll pass along the info you provided!
Best of luck!
Chiming in to offer a suggestion for gifts for nieces/nephews/family friends because I too love giving gifts and feel like I need to and get carried away. Within the past several years I stick to PJs for Christmas; ask their parent what size and they are usually happy to provide it because they will wear the PJs. Other ideas are subscription to a magazine, Highlights, Ranger Rick, etc. Finally when someone has a baby my go-to is a case of wipes Amazon-primed to their door. It’s a no brainer because they will use them eventually and they don’t go bad. I only used to buy a gift at the baby shower…then I had a baby and without exaggeration every friend or family member bought us a gift after she was born. It was insane and I didn’t know that was a thing?!!!!? Wipes are one size fits all and they will get used.
I love these ideas for gifting. Thank you!
Has Will considered Federal careers? Military gets preference and the double-dip fonancially plus the benes are amazing. There’s a massive need for IT and cyber professionals these days, too.
He is focused on the private sector right now, but it’s definitely an option for the future. I agree, the benefits are amazing especially for veterans!
Consider starting his own consulting firm too. If you get a job with benefits, it will give him more freedom .
I would consider buying only if the price and neighborhood are right, having lived through the insanity of previous housing bubbles, but if you find the right place it doesn’t have to be forever, as long as it’s either rentable for passive income in the future, or will appreciate. (In other words, water view.It ALWAYS goes up)
Another vote for transitioning to a Federal career! While there are headaches ( just like any private sector job) I have had cool career moments where you realize you’re doing things that impact the nation.
From my understanding, VA loans don’t have PMI no matter the down payment. There is a “funding fee” but if he qualifies at all for VA disability then it is waived so VA loans are a great option!
Thank you for sharing, we didn’t know this until reading the comments on this post!
Hello from Kitsap County! I have lived in the PNW for a few years but also lived in Denver. Someone posted earlier that Denver is better for visiting than living in, and I wholeheartedly agree. The housing prices (for good neighborhoods) are just as bad as the Seattle-area, the winter was LONG and COLD, driving in the winter was a beast, there was far less to do in the metro area as compared to Seattle, and we had a much harder time making friends. We moved back to the PNW as soon as we could swing it.
I have moved across the country with a kid four times. Moving is never a picnic but don’t let the fear of moving with a kid limit your choices. It’s not that much harder than a regular move. Never let fear be your guide.
I recently heard some advice: If your answer isn’t “hell yes!” then it’s “no.” If you’re feeling wishy-washy, stay put for the upcoming gorgeous Seattle summer, make the best of the bounty of opportunities around you, and make a decision when you know for certain what you want.
Best of luck!
BREM, I just read your comment aloud to Will. After seeing so many comments about moving to Texas, it was nice to hear a different perspective. The advice you passed along really gives us something to think about!
Hi Kate & Will, incredible job with your education, career paths, and savings! Not to derail the great suggestions above, but you may consider cybersecurity in the aerospace industry. I live in California, and while it may or may not check many of your boxes, I encourage a look at NASA. Good career growth and interesting projects. SB above suggested Lockheed in TX, and NASA and other aerospace industries also have a presence there. Just a thought! Thank you for your service, Will, and may you both find many successes in the upcoming transition this year and for years to come!
Thank you, Tara. We hadn’t thought about opportunities at NASA!
Hey there, posting to recommend Will look at jobs with hospital systems. They are in desperate need of cyber security professionals, pay decently (but nothing like a tech company), many are now fully remote in the IT department so you can apply nation wide and if not, they are everywhere! Often more than one in a given location. Best of luck!
Great advice, Laura. Thank you!
My daughter has been happily employed by Esty for several years and works completely remote from her home in Minnesota. Cast a wide net and don’t hesitate to consider a head hunter. There is a lot of demand for tech professionals.
I love that remote work is becoming more common, there are so many benefits to working from home. I will mention a head hunter to Will!
We relocated years ago to be near family and I remember being surprised that when we updated our address to my parents (where we were planning on living until we found jobs) on our resumes it was much easier to get interviews there. It might be helpful to update a resume address to family nearby and then share that you are planning your move in the interview process. That way they will know you are not looking for a relocation package and that you have ties to the community and aren’t just randomly applying. In the meantime you can keep plugging away with your job still.
That makes a lot of sense, I hadn’t thought about the address issue from an employer’s perspective!
Congratulations on being in such a good position financially. Just another thought about hubby’s employment- if he is having a hard time finding a tech job, has he considered looking at management positions in general? It sounds like his skill set and past experience would match well in that field and may open up even more options for him. Have you thought about taking one or several remote adjunct positions at the community college level? Also, have you given some thought about what type of activities/communities y’all would like to be apart of? I was thinking that may be something that would help narrow down where to move to. Best of luck in everything.
Beth, I agree, I think he would do well in a general management position and it may benefit us to cast a wider net. I don’t think I’m interested in adjunct positions, but I have mentioned that idea to Will as a side gig once he’s established in his new role.
You bring up a good point about activities we’d like to be a part of, we will have to do some thinking on that. I know we’d like to get established with a church and Will has mentioned joining a biking club or doing volunteer work with kids. You’ve given us a new topic to discuss!
I am from neither, but have lived in both Austin and Denver. Austin is so dang cheap by comparison, but of course it depends on where you want to leave. Either city will be expensive close to downtown. That was my jam for a while, but I’ve also lived in the ‘burbs. You can get outside of Austin and find a nice place on land for not much (compared to most cities), but unless you want to live east of Denver (nope!), everything is just expensive. From a community standpoint, I found more of that in Austin as well. People move in from all over to both places, so tons of transplants, but just more friendly in Austin. I’d never consider Dallas, but a friend lives in Fort Worth and really loves it. She’s chill, a professional, and never thought she’d like it when her company moved her there, but she’s found a great place. For me, the heat and humidity in Austin is a nope. Denver weather is wonderful. Big dumpings of snow – like feet at a time – then it’s in the 50s a few days later. With that said, the trails stay wet most of the spring b/c it snows and melts, snows and melts. It’s beautiful in the foothills and mountains and the weather is amazing, in my opinion, but I never felt a big sense of community outside of my neighborhood. Bummer.
If you’re planning to have kids soon and if your husband could actually get deployed, it seems being close to family would be the best bet.
KP, very good points, thank you! Isn’t it funny how weather can make or break a location? So many people love the PNW (it’s a very sought after duty station in the military community), but I just can’t get myself to fall in love with the dreary fall/winter.
We haven’t given much thought to deployments and children, but that is definitely something we need to consider.
Kate and Will,
Austen is a no brainer. It’s becoming a satellite Silicon Valley.
As for buying a home, let me add that your sense of what features are important change dramatically once babies enter the picture, so I would rent before buying.
Given Will’s technical capabilities, his PMP certification, military experience, and proven team leading skills, he’ll have his pick of employers. He’s the purple unicorn: an IT professional with leadership skills.
Purple unicorn! Hahaha I love that.
Your husband picked a fantastic educational path in terms of mobility and job availability! Tell him to get a professional profile up on LinkedIn if he doesn’t have one already. If he doesn’t have anything specific in tech in mind, he should look into Salesforce.com. It’s The cloud platform of choice for companies large and small with way more job openings than people right now across private, government, and consulting sectors. I run a tech consultancy myself and speak from experience on this one. If he has the discipline to self-train and gets certified on the platform (search “Salesforce Admin Certification trailhead,”), he’s pretty much guaranteed to find work fast – and likely remote work if he wants that path. It may take a Year 1 pay cut (I think entry-level is hitting at maybe 55/60k?), but long-term financial prospects are high; quick path to 100/130k and very high limit on senior salary caps. Salesforce aside, if he’s open to remote work and willing to put in some time hunting Indeed and LinkedIn job postings, I’m sure he’ll find something fairly quick.
Regarding location: I’ve either lived in or frequently traveled to each of the places on your list. Austin is my favorite, hands-down, and is also where we live now. I absolutely LOVE the weather here! It gets a little hot in August/September but is SO lovely most of the year! Like, spend all day outside hiking or lounging in hammocks lovely. The people are the friendliest I’ve encountered anywhere! I am an introverted, socially awkward person and never in my life have I found it so easy to fit into a community and get to know all (literally all within blocks) of my neighbors. It feels like people actually want to connect here – I couldn’t be happier to raise my kids in such a place! Diversity is lowish, but Austin is a very welcoming and chill city that, unlike most places, seems to strike the perfect Left/Right balance of semi-normalcy. K-12 schools vary significantly in quality, so be aware if choosing to buy and planning to have kids. NW, NE (Round Rock area), and SW Austin schools all seem super solid. Housing is pricy here, and it’s definitely a seller’s market, so beware, but it’s likely no worse than Seattle and is going nowhere but up thanks to the booming tech industry and big companies like Tesla and Apple moving here. My advice: if you know you’ll stay for two years or more, find a neighborhood you love, and can afford it – strongly consider buying. Housing aside, I have found all other expenses to be generally lower here than on either coast or in other major U.S. cities. Especially food.
For work for you in Austin: There are several great higher education institutions here. You might check out remote working possibilities, too. I have a neighbor who works for enrollment at some university that works from home. She loves it! If you’re administrative, I’m sure your skillset would translate easily into many other career paths as well if you were open to it.
For your husband’s work in Austin: there’s a very active group called Merivis (https://merivis.org) that helps vets land jobs in tech careers – if you do move here, your husband should check it out; they’re very cool people doing very cool things and they seem to have a long-term brother/sisterhood kind of thing going that’s cool to see. Also, Salesforce Saturdays if he ends up getting into SF is a very active networking group here.
For you both: I’ve not heard anyone in Austin complain about difficulties finding work, but that’s likely just my network so take it with a grain of salt. Unemployment is still low, despite crazy times – currently 5.7%.
And all else aside, seriously – liveability here is primo. Austin = good vibes and sunshine. Oh, and live music and delicious food as well. 😉
Austin or not, you know you don’t want to stay in Seattle, so don’t. There is no reason to waste any more time laying roots in a place you don’t love, just to rip them out later to rebuild elsewhere.
All right, that was probably WAY more than you needed; sorry for the novella! Good luck to you both! Wishing you all the best wherever your path may lead. 🙂
About getting pregnant –
I recommend “Taking charge of your fertility” by Toni Weschler for anyone who wants to get pregnant / avoid pregnancy / know her body better. (Get the newer edition)
This method can also help if you have fertility issues, so you can narrow them down and avoid doing things that aren’t going to help.
I haven’t read all the comments so apologies if this duplicates others.
I suggest Will spend 50% of his jobsearch time looking for jobs in Texas specifically, and 50% looking for “best possible job”. Once you have a better idea of the type of job he could get in Texas versus elsewhere, it will be much easier to make the decision on Texas now versus Texas later.
Give some serious thought to how close you want to be to family. I always thought when I was younger that I would like to be at a bit of a distance from my family, but now I’m older I realize how valuable it is to have family close by. My (retired) mam is 15 mins drive from me, and it is such a great back-up to have her that close. If there’s an issue with either of the kids she can collect them from school for example as she’s closer than my DH or I when we’re in work. If the childminder cancels or the kids are too sick for school, she can mind them for the day.
Only 2 weeks ago I had a miscarriage and had to go into the hospital, while my (soldier) husband was on a 24 hour duty. My mam was able to come to my house in 15 mins and mind the kids while I went to the hospital. Due to pandemic I didn’t have many other options and would probably have had to wait until my DH came home otherwise. Having family nearby when your kids are young is worth a HUGE amount.
Re gifts, i dunno if you have lidl or aldi nearby. Where we live both lidl and aldi have post Christmas sales on toys. Every January I estimate how many kids gifts we will need that year and stock up on everything that’s on sale for less than 10 or 15 euro, and have a big “present box” in the attic for the year. I also divert some toys from my kids birthday / Christmas to the present box.
Talk to your siblings about presents. Honestly my kids get WAAY too much and are spoiled rotten. I keep telling my siblings NOT to give so many presents but they won’t listen. You never know, some or all of your siblings might feel the same.
Thank you so much for sharing your story – and I love your travel pictures (I myself have also been to Cinque Terre and absolutely loved the area – not to mention the food). I hope to add some value as it relates to your potential move and your future child(ren). In regards to the move, if I were to put myself in your shoes, I would likely consider moving to Texas (you’ll have sunshine, likely a lower cost of living, and you’ll be closer to family). However, I would first move to Texas and rent. The great thing with renting is that you have tons of flexibility. See if you actually like the place, the people, the community. If the answer is yes, then you know buying would likely be a logical next step. If the answer is no, then perhaps you may want to move elsewhere. As it relates to remote work, I think the new COVID-19 era has spurred an age of remote working, where it’s likely easier to find work from home opportunities as opposed to pre COVID-19 times. All I can say is don’t be discouraged in your job hunt – or, simply start your own side hustle (but this could take some time before making money).
As it relates to your future child(ren), all I wanted to say is if you hope to have them go to college, make sure to start planning for their education costs as early as possible. A 529 plan could be a good way to start investing for your child’s future.
Good luck on your journey!
> perhaps the biggest perk of all – entirely free healthcare for both of us!
Hello! Fellow military family here! Just want to remind you that your healthcare isn’t free. It’s part of your compensation package. Anything given to you by your employer is part of your compensation package. While other employers may pay more and give less healthcare coverage, the Army gives you full coverage in exchange for less compensation than you’d make in the private sector. Best of luck deciding what’s best for y’all!
Kate, you and Will seem to be in a great place to be making this transition! My partner is also in the military; however you are leaps and bounds ahead of us in your plan to transition to civilian life. You’ve done an awesome job saving and building up a safety net. I don’t have any advice for you, but this has inspired me to take our budgeting a bit more seriously, as my partner is planning on dropping his packet / leaving the Army in 2023. Best of luck on your job searches / house hunting.
+1 on the “Will starts aggressive job-search”. Also +1 on the “all else equal, move then birth”. Also also 🙂 +1 on “rent until ready to set down roots”.
Known-good managers will always be welcome. Mixing in “how to transition from civilian to military”, look up the Manager Tools podcasts and their website community forum. Founders Mark Horstman and Mike Auzanne took their West Point (and later sales and executive) experiences and have used that to build up strong trainings for effective managers. http://www.manager-tools.com
Just wanted to say best of luck. Great, detailed advice here. My advice would be to pick a place (Texas!) and move as close to family as you can and then do the job-hunt. At the moment you have way too many options on the table. Make it easier: location ( Texas), rent (not buy yet – until you both have jobs), reduce your stress and keep trying for a baby ( ie: focus on Will’s work not yours). It took me two years to conceive (in my 40’s) and all was fine both times. The secret for me was relaxing and redoing stress. And maybe Kate you could look at moving into veterans affairs rather than a University environment. I hear they are good employers.
What I was trying to say is you really only need to focus on 3 things: move to Texas (mil pays for relocation), Will’s job hunt, Kate’s baby journey.
Another consideration for the Texas location, Elon Musk is also looking to hire a lot of people in the Brownsville/South Padre Island area for Space X as well as for Tesla in Austin. He sent out a tweet about it 3/30 asking people to please consider moving there!
I see a potential tension regarding both of your job searches. 1. Will needing to find a job that will set him up well for his long-term civilian career. 2. Potential hiring freezes at universities currently due to the pandemic and Kate’s inability to work remotely per prior comments. 3. It appears Kate would be looking for a new job in 2022 even if Will got a job in Seattle.
If Will were to find a good fit for him outside of Seattle (potentially Texas), and Kate is not able to find a university job due to the pandemic, I would consider whether it would be worth it to live apart for a year. I realize this may certainly isn’t ideal and may not feel doable (my husband and I are in medicine and it happens much more commonly-we did long distance for 2 years) but it could be better for your long term career prospects. Since Kate’s contract is up in 2022 and it would give her an additional year to look for a job while still be employed. It always looks more attractive to prospective employers if you are working.
Just food for thought. I think you guys are doing great!
Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but I wanted to make a point about VA loans. We also wanted to use one for the reasons Mrs. Frugalwoods outlined, BUT our realtor basically said good luck getting a bid accepted with one. In short, if you’re buying in a hot market (which a lot of the country is right now) and going up against 15-20+ other bids on every house, and you have one person offering a 0-10% loan and someone else offering 20% down, the seller will pick the person with more money down because the deal is much more likely to close quickly and it’s less of a hassle for the seller. VA loans also have extra inspections and requirements, so you will generally not be able to buy a fixer upper with one (or seller might be required to make repairs that the VA deems necessary, another reason why sellers avoid in a multiple bid scenario). Plus, with the VA funding fee and given you do have the money to put down and presumably get a great interest rate on a conventional loan anyway, conventional may make sense financially regardless.
One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the difference in management from military to private (including governmental) jobs. It may take Will a bit of time to transition so you may want to consider staying in Seattle to get this out of the way before you move to Austin. I am mentioning Austin because a substantial number of large and medium sized tech companies in San Francisco have moved or are in the process of moving to Austin. Austin is expected to be the next San Francisco/Seattle tech hub. Google companies leaving San Francisco for Auston or some such thing and you can easily get the details. This transition issue is real. I have worked with and around it in the past and I would suspect that you don’t want to experiment with this transition in a tech hub where everybody knows everybody in all the companies (this becomes part of your homework and party going, etc.). Anyway, think about it as I am suggesting this only because you don’t want any unintented screwups to follow you around at your final place.
I absolutely agree that wherever you end up that you rent first. You need to suss out the neighborhoods before you buy, check out school districts, crime stats, fairness in pricing ,etc. etc. You can’t do that on a weekend fly in to find someplace to live. If you want to know what it will cost to move, figure you will sell or give away some stuff. Call a couple of movers and get some preliminary numbers. If cost me $5,000 ish to move two states with a pro mover, and my daughter $3,500 from the midwest to the west coast a few years ago. Think of it as a cost of doing business and don’t fret about it. Just get rid of everything you don’t need or want and don’t waste money moving stuff you are only going to give away or replace later. Ask me how I know this!!! Whatever you decide I wish you luck and happiness.
We live in Dallas, and while it’s more conservative than Austin, there are still plenty of progressives here. I work in higher ed, and there are so many community colleges, four year colleges, and universities to choose nearby. I have 3 within a 15 minute drive from my home in the suburbs. We are a progressive transracial family with complex medical needs, and we’ve found everything we need in Richardson, a northern suburb. We are in the telecom corridor, and we have headquarters for State Farm, Raytheon, and many others large businesses here. Don’t overlook Dallas!
The company I work for has a location in Austin and likes to hire veterans. Take a look at this link and maybe this can help. https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/diversity/veterans-military.html
It seems that Will really wants to work for “silicon valley” tech, and I absolutely think he should see if he can line something up there.
If he’s open to alternatives, I’d like to summarize the case for giving serious consideration to the defense industrial base (DIB), aka government contractors. Many of these points have been made, just pulling them all together. (TL:DR, you might find a great next step opportunity as a contractor)
– They are everywhere the federal government is, not just the military. Which may give you the option to transfer within the same company if you decide you want to move. Or at a minimum, gives you a network to other DIB or contractor companies.
– DIB is VERY veteran friendly. Not only do they like hiring vets because vets make great employees, they tend to have employee services and programs specifically to help transitioning vets. (For example, a prior employer sponsored a leadership development workshop for officers leaving the military so that they would be effective corporate leaders in the civilian world.)
– They are Reservist friendly. While federal law provides protection for Reserve duty, the reality is that a lot of companies can’t or won’t be able to deal with a long term deployment. The DIB gets it and have institutional policies, practices and resources to deal with it. (One of my cybersecurity colleagues had a six month deployment and about a year later is currently on a 12 month deployment.)
– The DIB is more than just “Defense.” The top tier DIB companies likely support every Department in the Executive Branch, along with State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial agencies. While civil agencies are nothing like the DOD, they and their contractors are still veteran friendly. They also use the same NIST frameworks and standards Will is already familiar with.
– The DIB is on the frontlines of cyber defense and warfare as well as the bleeding edge of cyber technology innovation.
– Benefits are a huge piece of a civilian’s total compensation package. Do your homework! Most larger companies offer attractive health, dental, education and leave benefits, but due to the competitive nature of the DIB, even small companies do too. You may find better benefits for your specific circumstances, such as length of paternal leave, level of coverage for fertility treatment, child care facilities, commuter benefits, etc.
– If not already, Will should get familiar with supply chain risk management. It is the biggest challenge (both threat and opportunity) across cybersecurity and it’s exploding. https://www.acq.osd.mil/cmmc/
Good luck! Your future is bright and promising!!
Hi Kate, I would encourage you and Will to take a look at Breakline Education— it’s a free program, specifically designed to connect the employers in the tech industry with talented veterans! http://www.breakline.org If you’re interested, I would be happy to facilitate a connection with a friend of mine who works for Breakline.
Great work on preparing so well for the upcoming transition. If Will is interested in remote cyber work, now is the time. He may very well be able to get the Microsoft or Amazon gig, but stay remote. I would suggest looking into banking and credit card companies, lots of cyber jobs there. American Express is known for a great work environment and remote positions. Good luck!
I always like the advice to flip a coin, see if you are happy or disappointed with the answer, then you have your true feeling! (Texas it is!) I would also start trying to get pregnant immediately. It actually is a 10 month process, and if you are covered by insurance when you get pregnant you can pay the ‘tail’ to stay covered to delivery even if you leave, but mainly because it may not be as easy as everyone imagines.
I agree that the real estate market is insane now in desirable markets but should correct when people get back to work in offices etc. but if you can find a distressed property consider it. Buying the worst house in the best neighborhood is always a good play.
You may have already considered this but keep in mind that the Reserves means that if you are working a fulltime job, you go 12 days every month without a day off! Not to mention if you get deployed, so definitely go where you will have support! That’s where those teenage gifts may come in handy- (JK) But as for gift giving I think it’s nuts to give people more stuff, unless you know for a fact it is needed, wanted, and will be treasured. I have started giving things that people love of mine- a desk, a first edition book, a midcentury lamp. Or cook a meal, detail a car, give TIME.