A Disciplined Approach to Saving

I just recently retired after 30 years of service with the Marine Corps. I truly enjoyed my time serving the Corps and I flourished in the disciplined environment. I also took a disciplined approach to saving. Here are some of the tactics I used-they are very low to moderate risk.

U.S. Savings Bonds 

I started a bond allotment in September 1981 and kept it in effect throughout my entire career and have also continued it into retirement. I have yet to cash any of these bonds. Since they stop drawing interest after 30 years I will begin cashing a bond every month for the next 30 years. I have about $40,000 in Savings Bonds but they are worth much more. Buying bonds was a painless way to save. They are not the highest rate of return around but they are secure.

Thrift Savings Plan

I only wish TSP was available earlier in my career. In fact,I am such a strong believer in TSP that I think everyone should have to participate. Mandatory minimal enrollment would be automatic unless service members opt out.

When TSP became available for members of the military in 2000, the maximum contribution amount of base pay allowed was 5%. I immediately signed myself up for 5% deduction as it became available. At that time, I went with the safe approach and invested in the "G Government Securities Investment Fund" which is the safest among all funds available under the TSP. Investing is a marathon, not a short race.

I increased my contribution by 1% every December to coincide with the January pay raise which never decreased my actual pay. I utilized this strategy every year and by the time I retired in 2009 - 14% of my basic pay was going in TSP. I was very disciplined with my savings approach. While deployed,I also would designate that 100% of hazard pay and deployed benefits go to TSP. All of that compensation is above regular pay - in essence a windfall, so why not save it? It will also remain tax free among the TSP contributions.

Although I left the service with only 50K in my TSP, if I could have participated over my 30 years of service, it would be worth a fortune.

Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)

A Dividend Reinvestment Plan allows individuals to purchase shares of common stock directly from the company through its plan. Many large companies offer this service which allows an investor to bypass the need to go through a stock broker when buying shares. The plans allow you to buy shares, re-invest dividends in additional shares, or sell shares out of your account. There are hundreds of companies available that offer this service.

This too is an excellent way to build a rounded portfolio of investments. It is fairly simple to open an account and typically can be done with a modest initial investment of $250 to $500. Compare the companies and their costs associated with the plans to determine what is best suited for you.

I began to invest in a stock about 14 years ago and was able to invest $100.00 monthly. To date, that stock provides a dividend of about $360 per quarter ($120 per month average). I just re-invest the dividend in additional shares now but in the future, this could be another income stream.

When to Start?

Any of these investments are easy to start. The key to these investments is to stick with them and try to leave the funds invested. That is where the discipline comes in. If you start when you are younger it will become habit and the fruits will be greater. It is never too late to start either. The potential is there. It is upon you to decide that you want to impact your future.

James Apriesnig
Retired Marine MGySgt
Student at Cameron University


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