After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
In the summer of 2015, I attended Squadron Officer School (SOS) at Maxwell AFB, AL. SOS is a five week course on leadership, management, team building, and officer development for Air Force captains.
I was on an OCONUS TDY when I was informed I would attend the course…in a week. Apparently someone had dropped out last minute. When I returned from my TDY, I had about 3 days to put my uniform together, pack, prepare, book my tickets, and depart for the course.
Since I had not worn my AF service dress uniform in 3 years, my ribbon rack was woefully out of date.
I needed to update my rack quickly or I’d look like a goober with only 2 ribbons! I turned to EZRackBuilder.com to quickly build and ship my rack, overnight. Yes, the shipping was ridiculous, but I was leaving in two days so I needed my rack built and shipped yesterday.
Ordering Ribbons from EZ Rack Builder
The online ordering process could not have been easier. Start by selecting your branch. Then, select what type of rack you want.
You can build thin ribbons, which are my personal favorite and look much better than standard ribbons. You can also build medal racks to display on your mess dress.
After selecting the type of rack you would like, select the size, backing (pin or magnetic), and alignment. There are helpful tips to keep you within regulations throughout the ordering process.
When you get to the screen where you select your ribbons, just make it look like your rack on your virtual MPF page. You can also search for ribbons by their name, which is extremely useful. You can quickly customize each ribbon and add any oak leaf clusters or other accouterments as necessary. It could not be easier to select the ribbons and the system automatically selects the order of precedence for you.
The pricing is very transparent when you add the rack you built to your cart. Thin ribbons start at about $12 and should run less than $30 depending on how many and what type of ribbons you have earned. As a five year captain with about 11 ribbons my total out the door cost was $42 with the overnight shipping.
EZ Rack Builder saved my bacon with their fast ribbon rack construction and shipping, letting me worry about more important things.
USAMM, or USA Military Medals, is the parent company of the EZ Rack Builder service. They are based in Oregon and have over 200,000+ Facebook likes, so you know they are pretty popular with the military crowd. USAMM is veteran owned and they employ many veterans as well. All of the products they sell are sourced by manufacturers certified by the US government and the Institute of Heraldry. No knock-off products available here!
Their customer service was awesome when I contacted them about my order. I originally had selected 2 day shipping but wanted to upgrade to the overnight. They handled my request quickly, answering the phone after just a few rings. They got my order out the door that same day, even though I ordered after lunch, and FedEx dropped off the package the next morning. It definitely helped reduce the stress of going to SOS with almost no warning.
If your looking to upgrade your ribbon rack, add a few ribbons, or get your mess dress tricked out for the next military ball, I highly recommend USAMM and EZ Rack Builder.
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.