Author Topic: Enough?  (Read 9813 times)

EricL

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Enough?
« on: March 25, 2014, 12:43:59 PM »
Hello,

I was brought to MMM by ERE, which is a little "Extreme" for me but starts to make a lot of sense right now.  Anyways, I am a 46 year old about to retire single Army officer.  I will retire with a pension of about $3,100 after taxes this year.  Not a lot, but certainly not chicken feed either.  During my life it seems I made every financial mistake possible - got a not very profitable degree, credit card debt, college loan debt, spent WAY too much money on stupid junk, didn't start saving for retirement until I was in my late 30's, the works.  Fortunately, I've been poor most of my life so when I started earning big bucks I chucked half my base pay at the debts until I killed them all. :D  Then I realized although I was still living high on the hog without half my base pay, I diverted it into various investments - Thrift Savings Plan, IRA, Vanguard Index Fund, and stocks.  The only exception was when I was deployed when I invested ALL my pay.  So right now my anticipated 'stache will amount to ~$640-675K (depending on the stock markets) when I retire.  I only have two real liabilities:

1. I want to move home to Santa Barbara, California.  As a veteran I feel entitled to live in my hometown but it is fiendishly expensive and always has been.  According to the web the cost of living index is 151 (I'm not sure what that means but apparently the US overall is 100).  Another site is more specific: it costs 81% more money to live in SB than the US average.   Aside from this, the place is almost designed for a Mustachian.  If you live downtown you hardly need a bike, let alone a car.  Almost everything you'll ever need is within a six block radius and the public transportation is top notch.  But if you do bike there are plenty of destinations.  I will definitely get rid of my car.  But it ends there.  Rents even for a cheap apartment are going to run about 50% of my pension (as opposed to 20-40%) in most places. 

2. I don't want to ever work for a hierarchical organization again.  I'm not sure I even want to work again but the first sentence puts me out of the running for 95% of the jobs I'm qualified for.  But even if I wanted too, Santa Barbara has the most useless job market ever.  Unless you're a lawyer, doctor, student willing to McJob their way through the local colleges, it's really hard to find a job and harder still to get a good one.  I do have access to a year of free education which I will cash in on one way or another so prospects aren't too bad.   

So my questions are:
Should I just give up on #1?  Or is it possible to maintain a Mustachian lifestyle there?
If I do give up on #1, where should I go?  Preferably someplace where housing costs aren't offset by gas prices.
What is a recommendation for using my education benefits for getting a non hierarchical job?

Thank you all in advance for your assistance or perspectives.  I wish I'd found MMM or ERE ten years ago. 

phred

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2014, 12:49:20 PM »
Can you partner with experienced real estate investors to buy an apartment house in Santa Barbara?

Eric

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2014, 12:58:06 PM »
We're missing part of the equation here.  You state that rent in SB would eat up 50% of your pension.  How much of your expenses would the other 50% cover? 
If you use a 4% withdrawal rate, your investments should safely get you about $25K/yr or $2100/mo.  Plus I'm assuming the pension is $3100/mo and not per year.  So that's $5200/mo or a whopping $62,400 per year.  Can you live on that?  That certainly seems like a ridiculous amount of money to me, but then I haven't seen your expenses.

Is that the correct assumption?  That your pension is $37K per year?  Most of us could retire on that alone (yes, even in SB) and you have another $650K on top of that.  I'm not even sure why getting another job would be part of your thought process.  I'd spend more time thinking about learning how to surf.

Villanelle

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2014, 01:00:14 PM »
Is that year Post 9/11 GI Bill?  If so remember that you'll also get the housing allowance for the time you are in school.

It sounds like you don't need a job that is going to bring in a ton of money.  What about culinary school and then becoming a small scale caterer, along with doing things like cooking once a week in someone house and making freezer meals? 

Or becoming a certified personal trainer?  Also, things like dog training have certificate programs available, which may be covered by your GI Bill.    There are plenty of things you could explore that would bring in some income but allow you to largely set your own hours and work for yourself. 

So it largely depends on what interests you. 

phred

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2014, 01:01:53 PM »
What was your area of expertise in the Army?

matchewed

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2014, 01:03:10 PM »
In regards to #1, you'll just have to put some numbers behind it. Build some scenarios, run a "fantasy budget" and see if it works. Focus on keeping the big three down; transportation, housing, and food. That will help you determine if $3.1k is enough to work with (the answer is probably :)).

Hmm, education. I'd take the offer and go to school for a year. This will buy you time to adjust back into civilian life while you search for that next step. If you don't like working in a hierarchy it limits your options but entrepreneurship or real estate is always a possibility.

EricL

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2014, 01:24:52 PM »
Thank you all for your quick responses.    In reply:
Phred: I don't know anyone experienced with real estate in Santa Barbara to invest in an apartment.  But I can tell you if I did, I'd be a very junior (but very enthusiastic) investor.  The real estate is hard on the heels of San Francisco as the most expensive in the state (and ~ #3 after NYC).  My MOS was 13A - Artillery - but most of my work was with PowerPoint.  :(

Eric: As for expenses after rent, I think I can survive.  But I would like to do more than survive.  I could take 4% out of my investments for about forever.  But I'd like my investments to continue to grow to about a million before I tap them on a regular basis.  Yes it is a generous pension and perhaps my post is due more to misplaced anxiety than real risk.  But if I lived in a cheaper state I could definitely live on my pension and still save.

Villanelle: The Post 9/11 GI Bill is exactly what I'll use.  I'm only entitled to one year of it but it will pay the rent that year along with tuition and most books.  I just have to find an interest I can apply and leverage it.  Thanks for the suggestions, BTW.

matchewed: I'm definitely interested in entrepreneurship.  I'm going to take a VA class on it prior to leaving.   Real estate is not something I'm that interested in - real estate agents in Santa Barbara are very hungary.  Yet I will look into it.

gobius

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2014, 01:27:13 PM »
If rent takes 50% of your pension and you don't need to drive, as long as you don't blow the rest on food or booze, I think you would be fine.  You don't have to pay for medical care if I'm not mistaken since you're a vet.  $400/week after rent on basically whatever you want, without even touching your nest egg, sounds like more than any mustachian would need.

If you don't want a hierarchical job perhaps some kind of trade would work.  People still need their plumbing fixed or electricity run.  Once you get into it a bit and become good at it you can do side jobs; my brother (who lives in the Midwest and is a plumber) had to turn down side jobs all the time and for awhile was solely doing them rather than working for someone else; he got tired of it and went to work for someone else instead.  Granted, this may require having your own truck/van since you'll require tools, but side jobs would easily pay for that.

If you get a free year of school, I'd even just pick something you have a lot of interest in and perhaps don't have access to learning it online.  You don't seem to need the money.

gobius

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2014, 01:33:03 PM »
FYI, you definitely could live somewhere in the Midwest for $3,100/mo if it came down to it.  I had that as a take-home coming out of college and was saving 70% of it while driving all the time to work and paying health insurance.  Where I live you can get nice houses with a 30-year mortgage of $550/mo.  Obviously it's not Santa Barbara (which looks nice from what I see on "Psych" :)), but if worse came to worst, that's a back-up plan.

kkbmustang

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2014, 01:53:44 PM »
If you have experience with writing powerpoint presentations and reasonably well spoken (as it looks from your OP), you should think about freelance writing. Writers with limited experience can earn $50/hour. You get to be your own boss. But, you also have to dig up your own clients, but it's not that hard if you're persistent and driven. Check out www.makealivingwriting.com or www.wellfedwriter.com. I have a spine disability and cannot work in a traditional sense (full time or sitting for extended periods of time), but I earn a pretty decent part time income writing. Lying in bed. Or on my cushy sofa. It's not bad.

JPinDC

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2014, 02:01:27 PM »
What are your interests? How much do you want to make and how many hours per week do you want to work?

You could be a handyman for hire, walk/care for pets, etc. to make a little extra income doing something you might enjoy. Is there a big tourism industry you could feed into? I second the idea of trade school if you think that would be of interest, and would also suggest using the school time for skills you'd be able to use for a remote work position (ie: software, graphic design, etc.).

It seems like you'll be fine financially with your pension and savings, so I think you should do it!

nicknageli

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2014, 02:09:08 PM »
Where I live you can get nice houses with a 30-year mortgage of $550/mo.  Obviously it's not Santa Barbara (which looks nice from what I see on "Psych" :)), but if worse came to worst, that's a back-up plan.

I think "Psych" is filmed in Canada somewhere actually.  They do have some authentic aerial shots of Santa Barbara in the show though.

EricL

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2014, 02:22:04 PM »
gobius and JPinDC: Thanks!  The general responses are heartening.  I am looking at trades though there doesn't seem to be any training locally.  I don't have too many extravegant expenses.  I have considered moving elsewhere as most places are cheaper.  I've even considered Detriot if I ever want to have that "being deployed" vibe.

Psych is filmed in Canada.  And the one location shot they used in Santa Barbara other than stock aerial photos they photoshopped the courthouse to have a 30 story clock tower. 

kkbmustang:  Thanks for the suggestion.  I never want to work with PowerPoint again but I am a decent writer.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2014, 02:43:08 PM »
You make Santa Barbara sound like a wealth killer. And unfortunately, feeling like you deserve to live there doesn't make it the right choice!

Think of it this way: If you move somewhere where housing costs only 25% of your pension, you could potentially save 25% (or more, given other cost of living in California) over what you save in Santa Barbara. That's not to say you can NEVER move to Santa Barbara - but maybe postpone it until you're financially ready to begin withdrawing from your stache.

In the meantime, if you live somewhere cheaper and with better job prospects, you'll only get to that point quicker. The "where" depends on what you're interested in. I can really only recommend where to go with an Accounting degree. ;)


Thegoblinchief

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2014, 03:01:09 PM »
That pension would be $6K annually more than what I will need in ER, and that's if we hit retirement with kids still in the house. My budget includes luxuries like $5K annual for travel, etc.

I'd focus on learning how to live well cheaply. Even if rent sucks half of your $3100/mo, that's $1500/mo to burn. That's a lot for a single guy. My monthly spend in consumables (food, groceries, shopping, gas etc) is less than $1,000 and typically closer to $700. For a family of 5. We'd live like kings on $1500!

nicknageli

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #15 on: March 25, 2014, 03:07:33 PM »
My monthly spend in consumables (food, groceries, shopping, gas etc) is less than $1,000 and typically closer to $700. For a family of 5. We'd live like kings on $1500!

Impressive!

EricL

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2014, 03:41:54 PM »
Cpa Cat: You may be right.  Santa Barbara does tend to drive away its middle class.  But often they come back because it's so nice.  But if I move somewhere else it has to be someplace where I can walk or bike around to most places.  Most places in California don't fit that bill and the ones that do are similar in cost to Santa Barbara. 

Thegoblinchief: I salute you!  My savings muscles aren't nearly that well developed.  Much of my resistance to shopping temptation revolves around already modest appetites, not lessons learned.  I wish I'd found ERE and MMM ten years ago.  If I'd chucked 75% of my pay into investments I'd be much better off. 

dragoncar

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #17 on: March 25, 2014, 04:12:19 PM »
Love SB, and not seeing the problem here.  $3k/mo pension, plus stache of $650k (i.e., $2k/mo at 4% SWR), plus SS in ~20 years = $5k/mo = $60k/year.  I think you can live in SB on that (not in ultra-luxury, but you can do it).  Am I missing something?

StarryC

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2014, 05:17:47 PM »
This might be unrealistic, but it seems like you might be able to find an apartment manager type position.  Either reduced rent or actual cash in exchange for showing apartments in the complex, letting people in when they are locked out, etc?  Your background shows you are trustworthy and reliable, and your commitment to the area might make you a better choice than a college kid.  It might include some labor, either basic repairs, grounds keeping, or interior cleaning. Because there are colleges, there are probably apartments that need on site managers. This is especially true if travel is not a big part of your lifestyle now.

Are you fit?  Santa Barbara does seem like a place where a "boot camp" style military personal trainer might be a profitable business.  Once you have training it would be low overhead (do it in a park!).

If you feel technologically inclined, maybe you could do computer repair/ IT support?  It could be entrepreneurial.  Again, in a college town, there might be quite a need for the guy who can replace a beer soaked keyboard or fix the hinge on a dropped laptop.

Or, maybe teaching?  I'm not sure what "artillery" means day to day, but you could perhaps teach concealed weapons classes, hunters safety classes, entry level computer science courses, or whatever you know at a community college or some other organization.

Seasonal tax preparation?  You could use your year to get training in accounting, and then do taxes either with H &R block or the like.  I know they always seem to hire in January for temporary workers until April 15.  You might have to work full time for those months, and then none at all for the rest of the year.


EricL

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2014, 06:00:28 PM »
dragoncar: So far the consensus is there isn't a problem.  The only luxury I want and seem to already have is Financial Independence. 

StarryC: I have no idea if they need apartment managers in Santa Barbara.  I haven't noticed any listings.  But it sounds like a solid idea.  I am fit and have some weapons skills but Santa Barbara is pacifist to borderline anti military.  When I served in the National Guard there I freaked people out just wandering around in uniform completely unarmed.  I can't imagine any one out there wanting a "boot camp" style physical training.  Ditto concealed weapons classes. 

Thank you all so much for your help. 

dragoncar

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2014, 06:07:22 PM »
dragoncar: So far the consensus is there isn't a problem.  The only luxury I want and seem to already have is Financial Independence. 

StarryC: I have no idea if they need apartment managers in Santa Barbara.  I haven't noticed any listings.  But it sounds like a solid idea.  I am fit and have some weapons skills but Santa Barbara is pacifist to borderline anti military.  When I served in the National Guard there I freaked people out just wandering around in uniform completely unarmed.  I can't imagine any one out there wanting a "boot camp" style physical training.  Ditto concealed weapons classes. 

Thank you all so much for your help.

Hmm... freelance security guard?  You could go by local small shops and offer them protection in exchange for payment.  Might have to break a few windows first, to make sure they see the benefits of your services.

Ellen

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #21 on: March 25, 2014, 06:15:37 PM »
Spouse grew up in SB, so we spent a lot of time there until his parents died (4 and 2 years ago). It is brutally expensive, and the job market is poor, but you're right, in many other ways you can live a frugal existence there because there's so much to do and see that doesn't cost very much.

I think you're thinking about this in the wrong way, though. Why do you need to decide right this minute where you'll be putting down roots for the rest of your life? You have a pension, plus healthy savings. Move to SB and see what it's like as a full-fledged adult. You can afford to go to school, get a PT job of some kind, and then see how you feel. Maybe the high housing costs will grate, or maybe you'll find a good deal and interesting work and decide to stay long-term. 

Villanelle

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2014, 06:15:25 AM »
dragoncar: So far the consensus is there isn't a problem.  The only luxury I want and seem to already have is Financial Independence. 

StarryC: I have no idea if they need apartment managers in Santa Barbara.  I haven't noticed any listings.  But it sounds like a solid idea.  I am fit and have some weapons skills but Santa Barbara is pacifist to borderline anti military.  When I served in the National Guard there I freaked people out just wandering around in uniform completely unarmed.  I can't imagine any one out there wanting a "boot camp" style physical training.  Ditto concealed weapons classes. 

Thank you all so much for your help.

I think boot camp style fitness is actually extremely popular with the upper middle classes right now.  Somehow, it has been divorced entirely from its military connotations.  I suspect it would do quite well in SB, if the market isn't already saturated. 

Would you be willing to have roommates?  You could run the numbers for a 2 bedroom apartment and see if you could get buy cheaper doing that and renting out a room.  I'd think, with the college, that the cheap room rental market would be good, though you'd likely struggle to fill the place in summers and would deal with a lot of turnover.  But if the numbers work and that's a sacrifice you are willing to make, a roommate might be a solid solution. 

EricL

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2014, 07:18:22 AM »
dragoncar: I'm kind of hoping to keep my retirement activities within the limits of the law. 

Ellen: Since it's kind of clear I'm just obsessing, I think what you say has merit.  I'll just go there and see.  Even if I don't have enough money to live there comfortably, I certainly have enough to move someplace I can. 

Villanelle: I've definitely considered getting a larger apartment and renting out a room or two.  Any housing additions are greatly welcome by the constant flow of college students.  The difficulty is that many apartments seem to be priced with this in mind.  But not all. 

jnik

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2014, 08:04:38 AM »
Retiring from the Army and moving home don't have to happen the same time. Why not pick out someplace cheaper and with more employment opportunities, spend a few years there trying out a few side hustles, then when you have one well-polished, move on? Say you do the personal trainer thing...you can start in a cheaper place with "I'm just getting started" rates, and in three years charge "experienced" rates that'll help with the bump in CoL.

Workinghard

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2014, 11:03:09 AM »
Not to go off on a tangent but....I recently found out from a local ALF that Vets get a significant discount.  Here's an article about it.

 http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/few-know-of-benefit-to-help-aging-veterans/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

OP, I realization you're not even close to the age of needing or wanting an ALF!  In our area, the ALF's are cheaper than retirement communities. I've seen some as low as $1200-$1500 a month. A lot of private homes are also becoming mini ALF's.

uspsfanalan

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2014, 11:12:10 AM »
I'll put my 2 in for just doing it. You'll figure it out and you should have more than enough to live on if you are even mildly frugal. Since your goal is to get to 1M before drawing on the account, you might have to work part time somewhere but you can figure that out when you get there. Cheers to you, good luck.

Nords

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Re: Enough?
« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2014, 08:03:12 PM »
Should I just give up on #1?  Or is it possible to maintain a Mustachian lifestyle there?
If you can afford SB then you'd prefer to find out now rather than later.  You'll either figure it out within a year or two, or you'll decide that you're spending outside your range and need to go somewhere else.  You might even decide that you can afford SB but you'd rather live somewhere else, and you certainly want to test out that hypothesis as soon as you can.

It'll probably start at "way too expensive", and then you'll figure out how to bring down the costs.  Maybe it's renting just a room, or maybe you'll end up in a bigger place with roommates.  If you find a crappy structure in a nice location then you'd be able to barter sweat equity labor along with cheap rent.  You might move two or three times over several years until you find the perfect compromise of price, location, and amenities.  Your key to success will be living in the middle of the real estate market so that you're ready to jump on a property before someone else snaps it up.  That can take several months of researching online and driving through neighborhoods to re-familiarize yourself with the area so that your preparation is ready to snap up the next opportunity.

If SB has a sizable college population then you'll find plenty of places where you could live like a poor college student.  If you're expecting to stay for the long term (not just for four years) then you'd be able to negotiate a better rent in exchange for handyman or manager services. 

If you don't want to live in SB then most people choose their location by family or climate.  Or maybe you'll choose to roam around (RV or short-term rentals) until you find a place you like.  This is also a good chance to see the world your way instead of the Army way-- if you've ever enjoyed one of your overseas locations then you could try it again for a few months to see if you want to live there like a local. 

I don't want to ever work for a hierarchical organization again.  I'm not sure I even want to work again but the first sentence puts me out of the running for 95% of the jobs I'm qualified for. 
What is a recommendation for using my education benefits for getting a non hierarchical job?
If you don't want to work for a hierarchy then you might as well BE the hierarchy. 

Hopefully you've already been through the transition seminar and you've had a retirement physical.  If you haven't done a VA disability screening then do so as soon as you can.  One reason is so that (if you indeed are considered disabled) you can reduce your taxable income by receiving VA compensation (in exchange for giving up part of your military pension).  Another reason is to see if you'll qualify as a "disabled veteran" (even if your rating is just "0% disabled") for the purpose of owning a California business (and getting veteran's preference for contracts or other funding).  A final reason is that it might take literally a couple of years for your claim to work its way through the process. 

I'm under the impression that CA has an extensive menu of state veteran's benefits, even at a 0% rating, and even if most people in SB don't care for veterans.  You can work through Military.com's list at:
http://www.military.com/benefits/veteran-state-benefits/california-state-veterans-benefits.html
and see what applies to you.  You may even be eligible for CA state benefits leading to a whole new degree or certification, not just your year of the federal GI Bill.

The local college campus will have some sort of veteran's benefits coordinator.  You could start there to figure out how to maximize your federal/state educational benefits, and then to figure out what you want to study.  Maybe you're interested in an executive MBA program (short duration but more intense) or maybe you'll prefer to build on the VA's entrepreneurship program.  Again, since you don't need a steady paycheck, you'd be perfect for a startup-- whether you're employee #6 or a co-founder.  Most entrepreneurs are in their 40s and just have to figure out how to navigate the legal/administrative wickets.

Ideally the college VB coordinator is a military veteran who can help you find both cheap lodging and a study path to an independent career.  If there's no VB coordinator then you may be a one-eyed man in the valley of the blind-- again if you're a long-term resident then the college might be willing to hire you in that capacity to create the program for them. 

Another couple of independent career ideas could be:
-  Housesitter.  Someone's going on vacation (or a protracted assignment) and they want you to be the caretaker, security guard, maintenance/repair guy, and possibly pet feeder.  I suspect that your military experience is an asset.
-  Realtor.  I know it has vicious competition and you're not interested in working in the field, but when you have a license then you have an easier time tapping the databases and scooping up a housing bargain before the general public finds out about it.  If it seems like something you want to do then you don't need a steady paycheck from a real estate company, so you could be totally independent or you could work for commission with a local realtor.  Military spouses do this all the time.
-  Instructor.  One of our local realtors is always seeking a veteran who can give VA home loan seminars.  You'd have to stand up in front of a crowd and click through a PowerPoint presentation... only this time in a different uniform.  Another military retiree with an instructor background was making a great supplemental income by teaching Economics 101 online to people who couldn't make the class schedule in person.  Your local college would be a good place to look for that opportunity, either through them or through another accredited educational institution anywhere in the nation.
Blogger.  Online freelancer & entrepreneur.  Take a look at Pat Flynn's SmartPassiveIncome.com.  If you can watch a video to figure out how to set up a WordPress blog then you can start selling goods or services online.  I know a dozen veterans doing that right now, and they'd all be happy to share their advice.
- Surf instructor, especially stand-up paddleboarding.  You'll want a surfboard rack for your bicycle anyway...

Instead of thinking of yourself as unemployed, you could consider yourself to be on half-pay and needing only half of a job-- especially if housing is part of the compensation package.  That opens up all sorts of opportunities.

As part of this process, you'd want to network the heck out of SB.  It starts with your Linkedin profile, and you may find a number of Linkedin groups oriented on SB.  As a military veteran, you're eligible for a free year of Linkedin's Premium services:
http://the-military-guide.com/2013/08/22/military-veterans-rate-a-free-one-year-linkedin-premium-upgrade/
Other conventional networking methods include Rotary, Lions, or Toastmasters.  You might find a local veteran's group like MOAA or IAVA.  I'm constantly being pestered around here to join one of these organizations so that they can put my skills (and volunteer labor) to good use.  Figure out how to join, show up at one of their meetings, try to look clueless, and let them show you the ropes.  They'll understand if you're allergic to hierarchy and they'll help you figure out ways to work around it.

None of this is easy, but it's all relatively straightforward.  The Army may have given you a "military inferiority complex", but you have a huge inventory of "soft skills" like working with people, public speaking, writing, crisis response, calm under pressure, stamina, sleep deprivation, persistence, and motivation.  You probably also know how to show up on time, sober, and ready to work the mission. 

It seems hard to believe after a military career, but the civilian bar is not so high.  After a year or two in business you'll see opportunity everywhere you look.