About Military Money Manual and Spencer Reese

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Hey, I'm Spencer Reese. I separated from the US Air Force in 2022 after nearly 12 years of active duty service. I help military servicemembers and their families through my:

Book, Podcast, Course, and Website

All my media channels are dedicated to enriching military families. I help them achieve financial independence as fast as possible.

When I joined the Air Force in 2010, there were no guides or books on how to achieve financial independence in the military. I conducted thousands of hours of research, writing, blogging, and asking questions. I wrote the book I wish someone had handed to me on my first day in the military.

That book became The Military Money Manual.

The Military Money Manual hardcover book

How Military Money Manual Started

In 2011 I graduated US Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training or UPT and earned my wings. I had a bit of free time on my hands after graduating.

I became obsessed with personal finance, investing, and optimizing my life and money. I read every book the small base library had on these subjects. I read as many personal finance and financial independence websites as I could.

I decided to make early financial independence my main financial goal. I set my goal of investing for financial independence by age 40. It was easy convincing my wife of this goal since she has always been a saver.

I began tracking my net worth every month starting in April 2012, when my wife and I were worth -$3714. We saved, invested, and reached financial independence by age 34.

Throughout my military career I invested between 30-50% of my after tax military pay. Usually around 40%. You can see my current asset allocation and personal investing principles.

I wrote The Military Money Manual about my journey to financial independence and how you can achieve FI in the military in about a decade. The book is a letter to my younger self explaining everything 20 year old me would need to know to become financial independent in the next 10-15 years. The book was published in 2021 in audiobook, ebook, and hardcover and is available on Amazon, Audible, my site, libraries, and many other places around the web.

Today, my wife and I enjoy spending time outdoors with my family and friends. You can usually find us travelling to new places with old friends, eating at new restaurants, hiking, or trying to find the world's best gelato. We are lucky to have jobs that allow us to travel and have a good amount of free time.

Military Money Manual in the Media

Military Money Manual is featured on a number of popular websites. I am frequently quoted as an expert on military financial issues, investing, personal finance, credit cards, travel hacking, and military credit cards benefits, especially the SCRA and MLA laws and how these Acts apply to fee waived credit cards.

Yahoo! Finance | ABC News | The Military Guide | Dough Roller | Credit.com | Military Saves | Mint.com | Zillow Blog | Military.com Paycheck Chronicles | Financial Samurai | Get Rich Slowly | Million Mile Secrets | Lifehacker | Madfientist |
Reserve & National Guard Magazine | Military Families Magazine

Market Watch

as-seen-on

If you'd like an article from me, a quote, to inquiry about advertising on my site, or to contact me, visit the contact page.

The Military Money Manual Value Proposition

  1. An author with 11 years military experience. I deployed 4 times, PCS’d 6 times, spent 1,000+ days TDY or overseas, and I received the same paycheck as you on the 1st and 15th.
  2. First hand experience – I achieved financial independence in less than 12 years. I found no shortcuts to financial independence. FI can be reached by anyone with time, a positive savings rate, and positive investment returns. I paid off $120,000 in USAA cadet, student, and auto loans. I max out my TSP and Vanguard IRAs every year.
  3. I spend 5+ hours researching and writing each article I post. Everything is original and written or edited by me, no ghost writers. If I have a guest post, I label it as such.
  4. Trustworthy: I only recommend products I use myself. I clearly outline my affiliate linking and advertising policy. This is unlike many sites on the web that include affiliate links without informing you of the potential conflict of interest. I have over 30 credit cards and have travel hacked my way around the world for years.

About My Site – Military Money Manual

I started this site for three primary reasons:

  1. Share what I learn about personal finance for military servicemembers
  2. Help fellow military personnel grow wealthier
  3. Earn additional income online (see my advertising disclosure)

For a profit motivated worker, working for government can be difficult as there are no bonuses, no salary negotiations, and promotions are based mostly on seniority. In 2012 I was in a long unaccompanied training course. Living in the dorms on base, there wasn't much I could do to boost my income.

I started this blog in April 2012 to pass the time, write about what I was doing with my money, and to make some extra income. From April 2012 – February 2023, over 2.5 million visitors have visited this site. Our podcast has reached over 80,000 downloads and my free military travel hacking email course celebrated 10,000 graduates in 2023.

Before I discovered the idea of financial independence, I had no definitive goal with my money. I knew that my investments could eventually support my lifestyle, but I didn't know my number. $1 million? $2 million? It seemed so arbitrary.

After discovering how simple (but not easy) financial independence can be, I needed to share it with my military community.

The ultimate reason to save and invest is to achieve financial independence, so that you can live life as you choose.

Military personal finance can be quite different from civilians. There's the constant moving across the country or the world (PCS). There's deployments and temporary assignments (TDYs). There are entitlements, basic pay, incentive pay, tax benefits, BAH, and everything else that makes the military financial community different from the civilian sector.

That's why a site like this one, specific to military personal finance issues, is needed.

Thanks for reading,

Spencer
February 2023

23 thoughts on “About Military Money Manual and Spencer Reese”

  1. Hi Spencer! We are currently stationed in HI and are looking to take advantage of some of the great AMEX hotel cards. Currently I myself have AMEX Platinum, AMEX Blue Cash, and Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’ve had the AMEX cards for 3 years. I was declined for the welcome bonus offer for both the Hilton Aspire and Marriott Brilliant card. Any idea how to get out of this AMEX “jail”? I haven’t opened or closed any credit cards. I am sitting on about 370,000 reward points (I know the depreciate.. I need to use them) on my Platinum so I’m wondering if this is part of it.

    I only put a few hundred a month on my platinum now but will try putting more on it. Won’t be hard to do with childcare cost! $$$

    A little extra background: I am a spouse and my husband is an O3. I am a full time NAF4 employee.

    Thank you for all you do for our community!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words!

      The 370,000 Amex points do not effect your “jail” status. I know people with 1,000,000+, some in jail, some are not. It’s frustrating while you’re in Amex jail. Here’s my advice for getting out of Amex jail. My best advice is while you’re in Amex jail to work on your Chase cards instead. Hyatt and IHG have great hotel credit cards.

      Reply
  2. Spencer,

    Thanks for the information. I am an ANG Title 32 – 502 (f) AGR, so I believe that SCRA and MLA both apply to my situation. I am on continuous AGR orders (renewing every 6 years). I am currently an O-4 and have a wife and two kids. We live modest lives, but do enjoy to travel and see new things with the kids. I don’t have the luxury of going TDY as much as I’d like (family obligations) and my wife does not work, so we do not have financial independence by any means. I am already 40 years old also, so I missed the boat on that. I got in late to the military at age 30, so I am a little behind the curve. With that said, just looking for your recommendations not so much for financial independence, but to maximize benefits from these credit cards. I already have the Hilton Aspire and Marriot Bonvoy Brilliant card from awhile back. Can my wife apply for these cards as well even if she is not military? Thanks again for the info.

    Reply
    • You can double check the MLA database here: https://mla.dmdc.osd.mil/ to ensure that you are eligible for MLA. Also check for your spouse and if she is in the database and eligible for MLA benefits as a military spouse then she can apply as well and get the fees waived. Let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  3. Hi Spencer,

    What is your suggestion for those in the military that don’t plan on being in much beyond their 5 year commitment with regards to AMEX charge cards (Plat, Gold, and Green) with no means of downgrading to a no-fee card? Would you still get several platinum cards and cancel a few once out of the military? If so, is cancelling a few cards at the same time not a great idea? Or try to stay away from getting multiple platinum cards?

    Reply
    • I highly recommending getting as many cards as you possibly can during your 5 year commitment! You can either close the accounts if you’re not getting value from them or keep them open. Here’s what I recommend doing when you leave the military with your credit cards: https://militarymoneymanual.com/credit-cards-retire-separate-leave-military/

      Amex apparently doesn’t check very often but Chase does, so you may get lucky and get to keep the cards open with annual fee waivers. Cancelling a few cards all at the same time should not effect your credit all that much. I would definitely recommend getting as many Platinum cards as you can while you are active duty.

      Reply
  4. Hi Spencer,
    This is Yvette from a Norwegian small financial website. Congratulation on making such a great website especially tailored to the military. Think that also non military people can learn a lot from you. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  5. Spencer,

    Any insight on the AvIP and how to minimize tax burden? Also, do you know if we (BRS babies) can take both BRS Continuation Pay and AvIP?

    Reply
    • I believe the answer to second question is yes, you can take Aviation Incentive Program bonus and the BRS Continuation Pay bonus. Let do some more research and I will write up a post about it. Ideally you’d want to be deployed when you take the bonus to minimize taxes.

      Reply
    • Hey Strap…High Yield Savings Accounts (HYSA) are great if you need to hang on to cash for a year or 2…otherwise get that money invested in an asset that going to pay you more than 2% annually. I’ve used Ally, CIT, Personal Capital, Betterment, and others. As long as they are FDIC insured, I just search for many of the review articles out there that list the best interest rates on cash accounts. But typically I don’t like to hold on to cash for more than 1 year as the returns are so low. I like to get my cash invested ASAP.

      That being said, I am saving up for a Tesla so I will be looking for a HYSA to keep the cash in until I’m ready to buy that.

      Reply
  6. Spencer, I appreciate your posts, and often link to your articles on my blog: militaryintransition.com. I wish you the best of luck as you go through your Air Force career, and please feel free to touch base with me if there’s anything I can ever help you with. -Forrest

    Reply
  7. I’ve got no doubt you can achieve financial independence by 40 given you’ve started this site and are focused. I didn’t start my site until I was 31. If i started at 25, dang….. maybe I would have been done even earlier!

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sam! I’ve been digging your recent posts about betting big in the stock market. It’s exciting to see the opportunities you get to take advantage of when you’re financially independent and don’t have to work for the “man.” I’ll be there one day!

      Reply
  8. Hi Spencer, it is Kate from The Paycheck Chronicles. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve put my personal site live at katehorrell.com. It will probably contain some similar info as The Paycheck Chronicles, but no payday posts and more personal and/or controversial subject matter.

    Hope all is well there!

    Reply
  9. Spencer, your style , content and message are right on target. I worked as a CPA at major accounting firms for 25 years, and now I am a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. Your USAA is the best firm, we are a close second with NY Life and Mass Mutual. Congratulations on your clarity and mission definition.

    Regards, Bob

    Reply
  10. Hey Spencer,

    Thanks for taking the time to blog, love your work.

    Do you have any advice on trading between USD and the wonderful currency of New Zealand, the New Zealand Dollar? Would appreciate it as I am looking to purchase goods over an extended period of time.

    Cheers

    Reply

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