Author Topic: Military Retirement Advice  (Read 1148 times)

Turtlemcshell

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Military Retirement Advice
« on: February 14, 2019, 02:12:26 AM »
Mustachians,

Hello all, just wanting to get some advice here from the professionals of the FI world. A little about myself, I am currently an active duty military member (25 years old, E-5) stationed overseas in Europe with my wife (also 25) with no kids. I currently have 7 years in and am on the fence about staying in or getting out. I have been taking it one enlistment at a time and really trying to feel things out as I go along. I recently arrived at my current duty station, so I will be here until my 10-year mark. Of course, this is where most of us make the decision to commit or move on to the civilian world. After much pondering and calculating, I may have come up with a scenario where my wife and I (as well as future children) can retire from the military at the 20-year mark being financially independent while probably working part-time jobs in a low cost of living area, doing something we actually want so we can really focus on family and the rest of our lives.

Good news is my wife and I currently have zero debt! My wife finished her degree back in 2017, and we smashed those loans like a hurricane. Paid off around $30,000 in 2 years. We have no credit card debt; not even a car payment (we paid cash for the one we have). The bad news is that last year I was convinced I would separate, so I opted into the BRS. Maybe not the smartest move, but I can’t go back on it now. I am currently putting my 5% into the Traditional TSP to get the 5% match. I was only putting in 1% before so my current retirement savings are pretty low. We are currently saving 50% of our income. Like I said before, I want to focus on funding my military retirement (ages 38 – 60) and actual retirement (60 – the bitter end). Below are our financial details, assessed pension amount, and questions.

Yearly Income (after taxes; MFJ):
His: $36,000
Hers: $20,400

Cash:
Ally Bank Savings (2.2% interest)
$31,000 (House Fund)
$15,000 (Emergency Fund)
$1,000 (Car Fund; plan to add money to this so we can buy a used car outright in cash when we get back to the states)

Investments:
TSP Traditional (BRS): $3,800
C fund: 80%
I fund: 10%
S fund: 10%
His Roth IRA: $3,000 (Just funded with Vanguard, haven’t bought a fund yet; Suggestions?!)
Her Roth IRA: $3,000 (Just funded with Vanguard, haven’t bought a fund yet; Suggestions?!)

Debt:
None!

Assessed Pension at 20 years: (after taxes)
$20,000-$22,000 a year in today’s dollars. Increases yearly with inflation. (Calculated as retiring as an E-7; hopefully higher!)

Questions:
1)   TSP: I am currently only putting 5% to get the 5% match (altogether around 300/month currently). I think I want to use this money in actual retirement (59 ½) when I can withdraw with no penalties. Should I keep adding my 5% or increase my contributions? Would it be better to do the Traditional or Roth? The matching funds only go toward the traditional, so theoretically I can split my allocation if I want. I also am aware of a Roth conversion ladder, so I have been considering that as well.

2)   Roth IRAs: I plan to max these out (wife has no retirement plan through her employer). Any ideas on fund selections? I want to maximize growth, so I am considering high dividend growth funds through Vanguard. I plan to use this as an “emergency gap fund” if needed in military retirement to actual retirement but am open to using this in military retirement by withdrawing contributions. I would love to watch this grow into actual retirement.

3)   Cash: As you can see, I have plenty of emergency funds. The big question here is the house fund. If I stay in, I won’t need this housing fund since the military will take care of housing. I am thinking of doing two things with this: investing it in real estate (least likely) or throwing it into a taxable account with Vanguard index funds (more likely) and add what would be my house fund as my “primary gap fund”. I also think I could do both at once in this scenario where I could “house hack” and utilize my VA or FHA loan and buy a duplex at my next duty station, rent out the other half and live rent free, and then throw the extra money into the taxable account and watch grow. Just another option I am thinking about, but I would love to hear feedback on this. Doing rough calculations, I could easily hit $250,000 and withdraw 4% to supplement pension income.

4)   Asset Allocation: Open to any suggestions here. I am newer to investing, so I would love to see multiple views on this. Should I view my military retirement funds as separate from my actual retirement funds? Should I lump them together? Help!

Sorry if this post got too long and detailed. Whenever I bring up these scenarios to my military friends, (even military “financial specialists”) I get a glazed-over look, and people immediately tune out and say, “I don’t understand money/the stock market enough” or “you’ll still need a job after retirement, so why bother?” I would love to hear from some military retirees to see what you have done (paging Nords!) or what some active duty members plan to do. Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 05:47:00 AM by Turtlemcshell »

nereo

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2019, 08:29:30 AM »
You may want to PM @Nords (aka Doug Nordman).  He's the military retirement guru around here, and knows lots about both the unique investment opportunities available for service members as well as many of the issues they face transferring into the civilian world and/or early retirement.
He wrote the book "Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" - http://www.impactpublications.com/militaryguidetofinancialindependenceandretirement.aspx

Sailor Sam

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2019, 08:43:04 AM »
Welcome, @Turtlemcshell. I don't have time for a longer response, but I wanted to say that you've been mislead about the BRS 5% match.

By law, matching contributions from employers are pre-tax, which does mean the 5% match as to go into a Traditional account. However, you can still put 100% of your contribution into a Roth. So you'd have one Traditional account that the 5% match is dumped into, and you'd have one Roth account where you'd funnel your own contributions.

BicycleB

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2019, 08:47:11 AM »
^What Nereo said! I just came here to say you have a great forum name.

Re a default fund for your Roths and possibly the house fund, one option I like it VASGX, a balanced fund from Vanguard. Balanced means they maintain a fixed or roughly fixed % of stocks vs bonds. This one also maintains a roughly fixed balance between US and international, both for stocks and for bonds. I believe VASGX goes 80% stock vs 20% bonds. I think the ratio of US to international is around 2 to 1. The fee is .14% - not super low, but you get automatic professional rebalancing in return, which may result in raising total return compared to the average return of the constituent benchmarks. An easy set it and forget it option.

Re the house fund, if you're actually going to buy soon, 80% stock is arguably risky. The rebalancing aspect above between 4 categories reduces that somewhat. Since your purchase plans are indefinite, I might take that risk in your shoes but you have to decide for yourself.

Turtlemcshell

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2019, 10:19:08 AM »
Welcome, @Turtlemcshell. I don't have time for a longer response, but I wanted to say that you've been mislead about the BRS 5% match.

By law, matching contributions from employers are pre-tax, which does mean the 5% match as to go into a Traditional account. However, you can still put 100% of your contribution into a Roth. So you'd have one Traditional account that the 5% match is dumped into, and you'd have one Roth account where you'd funnel your own contributions.

Yeah, I understand that. Sorry if it didn't come across in the post. I know that the 5% match has to go to the Traditional TSP, but I can throw rest of the annual limit into the Roth TSP. My real question is whether I should do the Roth, or just keep it in traditional.

Turtlemcshell

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2019, 10:21:12 AM »
You may want to PM @Nords (aka Doug Nordman).  He's the military retirement guru around here, and knows lots about both the unique investment opportunities available for service members as well as many of the issues they face transferring into the civilian world and/or early retirement.
He wrote the book "Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" - http://www.impactpublications.com/militaryguidetofinancialindependenceandretirement.aspx

Thanks for the recommendation, I have read his book and love it. Some of the questions I have (especially the BRS ones) are just more tailored to my personal circumstances.

dandarc

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2019, 10:52:41 AM »
@Nords is of course the expert on military early retirement. Just on a couple of things:

TSP is probably the best 401K-like-retirement-plan there is, at least in terms of investment options. Certainly get the match, and maxing that out would be a good goal too. Be careful if you do max it out to make sure you get all of the match - I think one issue with TSP is that there is no true-up if you max it out early and have to stop contributing mid-year.

This should ease your mind regarding early withdrawals from retirement:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/how-to-withdraw-funds-from-your-ira-and-401k-without-penalty-before-age-59-5/

In terms of asset allocation, I use a 3 fund portfolio - Total Stock Market, Total International Stock Market, and Total Bond Market.  I do that to reduce cost - when I had less money, I was perfectly fine in a fund like Vanguard Life Strategy Growth, which acheives my desired allocation in a single fund, albeit at a bit higher expense ratio than I can do on my own.

Since you're just starting out with investing, you need to read the stock series: https://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/ If you still think you need to be in a dividend growth fund (even Vanguard's offering) after reading that, then read it again.

Traditional vs. Roth is based on "marginal tax rate today" vs. "what I think my marginal tax rate will be when withdrawing". Most of the time here, since we're saving large portions of our income (50% on 56K - great job on that front!), we'd lean towards traditional, but you have to run the numbers for yourself. Once you're in the 0% bracket, then Roth is the obvious choice. Above that, and it is a bit of a guessing game. And you have to run your own numbers - due to various tax credits, marginal tax rates can be shockingly high even at relatively low incomes.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 10:58:08 AM by dandarc »

dandarc

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2019, 10:57:10 AM »
The Investment Order sticky is a good one for most everybody:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/investment-order/msg1333153/#msg1333153

Since you're debt-free, it boils down to:
1) Establish emergency fund to your satisfaction
2) Invest in tax-advantaged accounts until all available space is exhausted (TSP, IRAs, HSA if you can do that . . .)
3) Invest in taxable investments
« Last Edit: February 14, 2019, 11:00:27 AM by dandarc »

Sailor Sam

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2019, 11:17:35 AM »
Welcome, @Turtlemcshell. I don't have time for a longer response, but I wanted to say that you've been mislead about the BRS 5% match.

By law, matching contributions from employers are pre-tax, which does mean the 5% match as to go into a Traditional account. However, you can still put 100% of your contribution into a Roth. So you'd have one Traditional account that the 5% match is dumped into, and you'd have one Roth account where you'd funnel your own contributions.

Yeah, I understand that. Sorry if it didn't come across in the post. I know that the 5% match has to go to the Traditional TSP, but I can throw rest of the annual limit into the Roth TSP. My real question is whether I should do the Roth, or just keep it in traditional.

Okay, cool. You clearly know your stuff, and I applaud you.

Here's my rough calculation for You said you're an E-5 with over 6 YOS, which does indeed equal $36,000 in taxable base pay. I'm assuming your wife's salary is also listed as gross, giving you guys a combined gross income of $56k. The MFJ standard deduction for 2019 is $24,400, which knocks your AGI right back to $36,000. That will leave you with somewhere between 14-17% in federal taxes.

General guidance is that below 15% tax, go Roth as a no-brainer. Above 15% tax, consider Roth based on your own predictions about your life. My back of the envelop math puts you straight in the suck-zone where you just have to choose a path. Happily, the evaluation can be updated each year.   

seattlecyclone

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2019, 12:00:15 PM »
Care to explain where you get the 14-17% number from? For MFJ the 12% bracket goes all the way up to $77,400 taxable income, or $101,800 gross if you take the standard deduction.

12% is solidly in the range where Roth seems like a pretty safe bet. You may however wish to look into the saver's credit. It has a few cliffs built in that could cause you to lose out on more than 12% by choosing Roth over traditional. You may find it beneficial to contribute just enough to traditional to get you under one of the tiers for this credit and then go Roth after that.

Sailor Sam

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2019, 12:03:17 PM »
Care to explain where you get the 14-17% number from? For MFJ the 12% bracket goes all the way up to $77,400 taxable income, or $101,800 gross if you take the standard deduction.

12% is solidly in the range where Roth seems like a pretty safe bet. You may however wish to look into the saver's credit. It has a few cliffs built in that could cause you to lose out on more than 12% by choosing Roth over traditional. You may find it beneficial to contribute just enough to traditional to get you under one of the tiers for this credit and then go Roth after that.

I eyeballed it. Above the 12%, well below hitting the 22%. Plus experience - as AD military I've been paying 15% of my full compensation year on year for over a decade. I freely admit there wasn't much detailed math involved.

robartsd

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2019, 05:09:36 PM »
Care to explain where you get the 14-17% number from? For MFJ the 12% bracket goes all the way up to $77,400 taxable income, or $101,800 gross if you take the standard deduction.

12% is solidly in the range where Roth seems like a pretty safe bet. You may however wish to look into the saver's credit. It has a few cliffs built in that could cause you to lose out on more than 12% by choosing Roth over traditional. You may find it beneficial to contribute just enough to traditional to get you under one of the tiers for this credit and then go Roth after that.
I looked at the saver's tax credit cliffs and realized that the first two are surprisingly close together (2019 MFJ AGI limits for the credit: 38500 - 50%, 41500 - 20%, and 64000 - 10%). I've been claiming the lowest credit (10% of $4000 retirement savings) for the past several years; but looked at the limits with the intention of seeing if the 20% credit was feasible, when I saw that the limit for 50% was only $3000 further (that's just $250/mo) I proposed a plan where we go for the full credit every year. Then I did the math and realized that it's impossible to get 50% of $4000 in this non-refundable credit (38500 AGI - 24400 standard deduction = 14100 taxable income -> $1498 federal income tax). So if a married couple can get by only realizing about $3200 monthly AGI (various other taxes paid still contribute to AGI, so net pay would have to be less) they can eliminate their Federal income tax. The average federal income tax rate on the $3000 between the lower limits is about 35% (the marginal rate is 12% on the first $2999 and nearly 70,000% on the last dollar saved).

I have the tax advantaged space available to get there - I just need to get the budget a bit lower. I'm thinking about boosting my emergency fund this year then setting up my retirement contributions to hit the target AGI in 2020.

FatFI2025

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2019, 11:51:08 AM »
As a former military guy myself, my advice is to stay. I had a horrible first assignment and punched ASAP. But then I went back to work doing awesome things as a contractor (I know, bring the hateorade). If I had known that my bad experience was temporary, as I do now, I would have stayed. Since then I've jumped back and forth between DoD/IC and investment banking.

I have these conversations all the time with AD folks (E5 to O6) and they usually have an extreme case of "grass is always greener." Like 99% think that they would be this super-star 1% earner in their alternate civilian reality. This happens because it's an isolated culture and people don't come in mid-career, so there are very few AD folks that had civilian professional careers and then joined up.

But the military is really an amazing deal if you can stomach the BS. A 40% pension at 38 is incredible! Pay is only partially taxed and, as much as MOAA would like to convince people otherwise, it's usually considerably above what an AD member would get doing similar work as a civilian.

13 years is still a looonnggg way to go. There will be terrible bosses and terrible assignments, then some pretty decent ones. If you can keep your eye locked on the long-term prize, and maintain some perspective, 38-year-old you will be happy you did.

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2019, 03:04:09 PM »
I'll offer a slightly different perspective on the issue.  I commissioned in 2001 fully planning to separate after 4 years.  Then I was offered a grad school option, had a few really good assignments with some combat deployments in between and next thing I knew, I was a junior field grade with about 11 years in fully planning to stay until 20 or more.  Little did I know at the time, I had a fairly serious chronic illness that didn't reveal itself until I went in for a routine surgery.  I was med boarded about a year later and fully retired with 75% of my high 3.  Had I separated at any time prior to that (despite having the illness, but not knowing it), I could have gotten VA benefits etc., but would not have gotten the blue card and the associated retirement privileges.  This one event completely changed the trajectory of my life and my family's life. 

Unless you really hate your job, I would seriously consider staying in the service.  And even if you do hate your job, I would look at switching to another.  My first job in the Army was in a branch that was quickly being repurposed for Infantry unit IED route clearance.  I saw the writing on the wall and quickly changed branches, then, years later when better opportunities came up, I functionally designated to another field.  If you really truly detest everything about the military, then consider reserves or just separating altogether.  13 years is a long time to gut it out if your heart's not in it for the right reasons.

Opting in to BRS isn't the end of the world especially if you are undecided about being a lifer.  Just keep maxing the TSP as much as possible and you'll be fine.  If you do decide to stay through retirement, 38 is a very respectable FIRE age and you'll have many options like PT work, using GI bill to go back to school or finding a whole new career.  Nords will eventually chime in I'm sure.  Fortunately for me, I read his book while I was in my first bridge career in 2014.  I reached out to him and he encouraged me to consider PT work, which then happened almost by accident.  It was formative, but not for me long term, so I found another FT opportunity which landed us back in Europe.  The key is that every decision we've made as a family since retirement from the service has been deliberate and optional.  Good luck.





 

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2019, 08:13:52 PM »
Somehow I feel like you're missing some of your income.  Even if it is after tax, are you including dependent OHA, BAS, sea pay, COLA, etc?  These are all part of your income even if they are not taxed. 

Anyways, I am Active Duty O3 in for just over 6 years recently moved from Europe back stateside.  I joined BRS immediately because you never know what will happen in life, and this way if I get out for any reason I'm still taking some of what I've earned, and given my propensity to save I will get by just fine on the 40% if that is the direction I choose to go.  At this point though, I might end up retiring before I hit 20.  I will be at 9 by the end of this tour and if I meet my goals I'll be around 600k, if I kept that going for another 11 years as my pay increased and such I'd probably be a multimillionaire and the 40% would probably be similar to my investment income.  Basically, remember that your pension is not going to be all you have if you keep saving, that 40% won't be your full income.

As for your questions, I don't think it'll make too big of a difference if you go Roth or Traditional, more of a personal preference with your income level.  I would recommend that you invest as much as you can in the TSP, it has extremely low expense ratios and is one of the best avenues to save.  For Vanguard, I would recommend VTSAX or VTIAX, and if you feel like it VBTLX for bonds.  For asset allocation, you can look at the total of all your accounts.  I don't carry too much in bonds in my Vanguard account because I have a couple CDs with Navy Federal Credit Union that pay around 3.25% and I count those as "bonds" or safe money.  Therefore the majority of my money in Vanguard and Fidelity is in stocks mixed between US and international.  The percentages are up to you depending on how much risk you are willing to live with.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2019, 08:48:27 PM »
I would also consider OCS. You're still relatively young and could easily make O-4 by retirement age. Currently base pay for an O-4 with 20 years TIS is $8,073.90. That's compared to just $4,797.60 for an E-7 at 20 years or $5,373.60 for an E-8 at 20 years.

I went to OCS as an E-5 around 9 years of service. I'll be pinning on Captain next month. I didn't really think about retirement until I was in OCS. Once I crunched the numbers I realized I could be looking at almost double the retirement as an officer versus enlisted. An E-9 with 36 years in service makes less than an O-4 with 20 years. With inflation you're probably looking at somewhere in the mid to upper $40,000 per year range if you retired at 20 years as an O-4.

Of course if you don't have a degree started yet it will take a few years. Still, now is the time to get it. Even on the enlisted side it's becoming more of a requirement for senior NCOs to have a degree. E-7 it won't probably make much of a difference, though the promotion points certainly help. E-8 and above by the time you get there a bachelor's degree will probably be almost required.

Turtlemcshell

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2019, 02:57:44 AM »
Thanks to everyone with all the advice. If I decide to stay in, I will most assuradley try and get a commision. Most of my mentors are on the officer side, so it seems to make the most sense to me, especially in the field I am in.

Nords

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #17 on: February 16, 2019, 04:54:52 PM »
Thanks for the tags, Nereo and Dandarc!

I currently have 7 years in and am on the fence about staying in or getting out. I have been taking it one enlistment at a time and really trying to feel things out as I go along. I recently arrived at my current duty station, so I will be here until my 10-year mark. Of course, this is where most of us make the decision to commit or move on to the civilian world. After much pondering and calculating, I may have come up with a scenario where my wife and I (as well as future children) can retire from the military at the 20-year mark being financially independent while probably working part-time jobs in a low cost of living area, doing something we actually want so we can really focus on family and the rest of our lives.
You’re getting good advice, @Turtlemcshell .

As the professional athletes and actors say, “I am not a retention role model.”  You have tremendous human capital both in uniform and outside of the military, and you do not need to suffer 20 years of active duty for a pension... no matter how righteously awesome the pension and benefits may seem to be.
https://militaryguide.com/dont-gut-20-leave-active-duty-reserves-national-guard/

The answer is to take it one obligation at a time.  Stay on active duty as long as you’re feeling challenged & fulfilled.  When the fun stops, there will be no doubt.  At that point you should consider the Reserves or National Guard as well as switching to a different specialty.  The key is to learn all about those options now so that you can stay open to the opportunities (or move faster when you get the unrefusable offer).

Again, don’t sell yourself short to the military inferiority complex.  Tens of thousands of servicemembers leave active duty every year and do just fine.  Listen to the podcast “Beyond The Uniform” by Justin Nassiri and join the Linkedin group Veteran Mentor Network.  You’ll hear all the good stories there, and you’ll get advice on your own transition.

1)   TSP: I am currently only putting 5% to get the 5% match (altogether around 300/month currently). I think I want to use this money in actual retirement (59 ½) when I can withdraw with no penalties. Should I keep adding my 5% or increase my contributions? Would it be better to do the Traditional or Roth? The matching funds only go toward the traditional, so theoretically I can split my allocation if I want. I also am aware of a Roth conversion ladder, so I have been considering that as well.
As many others have said, Roth TSP is the better answer now.  Not only are you in a low income-tax bracket, but the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits can nearly wipe out your tax bill.

You can do Roth IRA conversions later in life, especially for your traditional TSP filled with DoD BRS agency/matching contributions.  However if you get a military pension then you may be in a higher income-tax bracket (with fewer tax credits).  If you get a bridge career after the military then you’ll certainly be in a higher income-tax bracket.  If you declare FI at age 50 and stop working for all earned income then the Roth IRA conversion might still be in the same income-tax bracket you’re in now.

I'm pretty confident that by the time you're facing age 70, your RMDs will put you in a much higher income-tax bracket.  They'll also tax your Social Security deposits and you'll pay IRMAA on your Medicare premiums.  The easy button (especially in your 20s) is to go full Roth TSP and Roth IRAs.  And Roth 401(k) when applicable to your spouse.

As others have already mentioned, here’s the military list of ways to tap your military retirement accounts (and your IRAs) before age 59.5 with no penalties... and maybe no taxes.
https://militaryguide.com/early-withdrawals-from-your-tsp-and-ira-after-the-military/

2)   Roth IRAs: I plan to max these out (wife has no retirement plan through her employer). Any ideas on fund selections? I want to maximize growth, so I am considering high dividend growth funds through Vanguard. I plan to use this as an “emergency gap fund” if needed in military retirement to actual retirement but am open to using this in military retirement by withdrawing contributions. I would love to watch this grow into actual retirement.
The general answer to fund selection is “Whatever’s your asset allocation, in passive index funds with low expense ratios”.  In other words pick the asset allocation and then go look for the funds.  Build that AA across all of your accounts, not just in each individual account.  You might decide to put all of your TSP accounts in the I fund (because that’s the world’s lowest expense ratio for international funds) and put your Roth IRAs in the total stock market index instead of using the TSP’s C fund.

3)   Cash: As you can see, I have plenty of emergency funds. The big question here is the house fund. If I stay in, I won’t need this housing fund since the military will take care of housing. I am thinking of doing two things with this: investing it in real estate (least likely) or throwing it into a taxable account with Vanguard index funds (more likely) and add what would be my house fund as my “primary gap fund”. I also think I could do both at once in this scenario where I could “house hack” and utilize my VA or FHA loan and buy a duplex at my next duty station, rent out the other half and live rent free, and then throw the extra money into the taxable account and watch grow. Just another option I am thinking about, but I would love to hear feedback on this. Doing rough calculations, I could easily hit $250,000 and withdraw 4% to supplement pension income.
If you don’t see yourself using the cash for at least 10 years then --> stock market.  5-10 years --> bond fund (or perhaps I bonds or a TIPS fund).  Under five years, use CDs or the TSP's G fund.

4)   Asset Allocation: Open to any suggestions here. I am newer to investing, so I would love to see multiple views on this. Should I view my military retirement funds as separate from my actual retirement funds? Should I lump them together? Help!
While you’re on active duty, you have a relatively stable income.  (Compared to civilians and federal govt agencies outside of the DoD.)  That gives you the flexibility to have an asset allocation very high in equities... easily 80% and perhaps up to 100%.  You could pick sectors (equity dividend funds, small-cap value funds, international equity dividend funds) or just default to a total stock market index fund. 

Instead of picking bond funds, go with large-cap equity dividend funds or TIPS funds or I bonds.

It helps to have a logical math-based asset allocation.  Even more importantly, you want an asset allocation which helps you sleep comfortably at night... and which you can easily discuss with your spouse during the next bear market or recession.  No matter how much thought you put into your asset allocation, if you’re not emotionally comfortable then behavioral psychology will derail your logical plan every time.

If you really want to dig into the grass then I recommend the Bogleheads wiki.  Read this link first and then search the wiki for “asset allocation”:
https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Main_Page

Turtlemcshell

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Re: Military Retirement Advice
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2019, 02:45:40 AM »
Thanks @Nords ! I appreciate all your advice and especially your book (which I use as a reference, and should probably re-read).