Military Retirement Overseas with Stephanie from Poppin’ Smoke | Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 88

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Stephanie Montague joins Spencer Reese and Jamie on the podcast to talk about retiring overseas on a military pension. We talk TriCare, Space-A travel, visas, accidental financial independence, sabbaticals, geoarbitrage, banking overseas, and much more.

Stephanie runs Poppinsmoke.com and a US military veterans overseas retiree Facebook group.

In 2015 her husband retired from the Army, she quit my corporate job, and they set off for a one-year adventure to break from their routine and explore the world on their own terms. Since then, she's circled the globe and spent 2.5 years living in Japan. Now she lives on the coast of Spain.

If you have a question you would like us to answer on the podcast, please reach out on instagram.com/militarymoneymanual or email podcast@militarymoneymanual.com.

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode #88 Links

Outline of Episode:

  • Space A
  • Military pension overseas
  • Logistics of banking, credit cards, and converting your pension to daily expenses in Euro
  • Using Tricare overseas 
  • GI Bill overseas
  • Resources

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode #88 Transcript

[00:01:56] Spencer: Welcome back to another episode of the military money manual podcast. I'm Spencer, founder of Military Money Manual.com joined by my co host Jamie. Today on the podcast, we're talking with Stephanie from poppinsmoke.com. Stephanie is the founder and president of Poppin’ Smoke, a website dedicated to helping members of the military community take advantage of their travel related DOD benefits.

She has been traveling, living abroad with her husband since they retired from the army in 2015. During that time, they lived in Japan for two and a half years, and they've now lived in Rota, Spain since December, 2020. Through her website, Stephanie shares everything she and her husband learned about space aid travel using military benefits.

Also, with her Facebook group, U.S. Military Retirees and Veterans Living Overseas, Stephanie facilitates a large and growing community of veterans who are interested in living in a foreign country after their military career.

[00:02:51] Jamie: Okay, Stephanie, thanks for being here with us today. We're very excited to have you talk about space A travel, living overseas, healthcare overseas, where to choose to live after retirement and all the excitement that comes with exploring options that are more than just going back to your exact same job the next day as a GS employee.

So thanks for being here with us.

[00:03:10] Stephanie: Thanks for having me. I've been looking forward to our conversation.

[00:03:13] Jamie: The first thing I want to ask about is experience with Space A travel. A lot of times when we talk Space A, we get into weeds real quickly on categories and sign up timing and how to email the passenger terminals and all those things.

Why should people explore Space A travel and start looking for adventure maybe after the military or maybe while they're in the military or as families when they're living overseas?

[00:03:36] Stephanie: I think Space A can be a really great way to save money if you know how and when to use it. So admittedly when you're active duty you sometimes have shorter periods of leave and things like that. So a lot of active duty folks think I'm going to do that when I'm retired and I can't do it now. But we meet tons of active duty families on individual traveler flying space A. They say you just have to understand when is the right time to use it, which is typically when you have a longer period of leave or preferably outside of PCS season, during the winter months or the spring, fall. And just knowing that you need to have some flexibility in your schedule. 

But as a retiree, I think you hit the nail on the head. It is a big adventure. That's a lot of it. We always enjoy it for that. But again, we've saved, I think, probably $20,000 at least.

That's just my estimate over the years, Flying Space A. If you know how to use it, you can save quite a bit of money.

[00:04:34] Spencer: Stephanie, what are your top three tips if someone is a newcomer to Space A and they've been on your website, poppinsmoke.com, they've read the FAQ and they've signed up for your newsletter, but what would be the top three things that you would recommend?

to someone who's, let's say they're on active duty and they're going to go take their first Space A flight.

[00:04:56] Stephanie: First thing I would say is do your research. And I can't emphasize that enough because you really need to fully understand how it works before you try to use it. So if you have a general idea that these flights are available and you just say you're going to go to the terminal and wing it, chances are good you're not going to have a positive experience.

But when I say do your research, you want to understand your eligibility, like where you can fly. What bases have flights to where you want to go? What bases have flights back? What should you wear and pack? What documentation do you need? What are some of the immigration procedures if you're going overseas at the destination?

So we have a quick start guide on our website that just explains in great detail how the whole Space A process works. It's called the Quick Start Guide to Space A Flights. And if you read that entire thing and you follow all the links, You will understand how Space A works, at least generally speaking, and I think it's really important to take the time to do that.

So tip number two, I would say know when to travel. So your best chances of getting seats are during what I would call the operational low season, which is the fall and the winter, excluding the winter holidays. And then most of the spring to some extent, spring break can get a little bit difficult, particularly to and from Hawaii. Spring break isn't so consistent around the world, so it's not like everybody's traveling at exactly the same time. 

Third thing I would say is you always need to have multiple backup plans, and also money set aside in case Space A doesn't work out or in case you're waiting around for a flight longer than you expect.

So that means enough money to pay for several nights in lodging. And then possibly enough money to pay for return flights, for example, if you've flown with your family overseas and you're in Europe and you just, you're running out of leave and you have to get back, then you have to buy commercial tickets, you need to be sure that if you have to do that, it would not break you financially.

[00:06:55] Spencer: Yeah. Have you ever looked at booking refundable tickets? So let's say you've got, you're traveling, it's, The active duty service member, a spouse and two kids and the spouse and the two kids don't have to get back at any particular time. But the active duty service member has leave ending coming up.

So have you ever heard of anyone booking a refundable ticket at the very last minute? If they catch the Space A flight, they're good, but, and then they just get their money back on. If they don't, they know they've got that backup.

[00:07:23] Stephanie: Sure. Yeah. We have not booked refundable tickets that way, but I have known a lot of people that do that.

I think it also depends on how expensive those refundable tickets are and how comfortable you feel that indeed you will get your money back. But yeah there's a lot of different ways to try to hedge your bets. I guess you could say. You can also sometimes book with a carrier that allows you to change your ticket without any penalties. That's more so if people book follow on travel based on a Space A flight, which I actually don't recommend doing unless it is fully refundable or changeable.

[00:08:00] Spencer: Yeah.

[00:08:01] Jamie: So it seems like there's a lot of logistics and things to work out as you get your feet under you on Space A travel. Is there maybe a recommended route for someone to try it for the first time on active duty like an easy one like getting to Germany, Ramstein Air Base, maybe in Germany, would you recommend that?

[00:08:18] Stephanie: I think the overseas flights can always be a little bit tricky, just because if you get stuck, then it's just by definition a lot more expensive. I would choose something a little bit closer, like within the United States, if you're just trying to get your feet wet, so that way if something doesn't work out and you have to buy a commercial fare, then it's not so expensive.

For example, there's a lot of regular flights, at least lately, between Joint Base Lewis McChord and Andrews Air Force Base. And so that would be one where you could try that and hopefully you can get a return flight within a week. If there isn't a flight or you need to do something else, not that big a deal.

But for the most part, with the exception of the Patriot Express, and I can explain what that is, there's not so much regularity in the flights that you know that if you're going to, if you go from A to B, that there's going to be a flight. From B back to A within the time that you want to travel. And when I talk about Patriot Express flights, that's also known as the rotator.

Those are the charter commercial flights that are used to bring active duty families to OCONUS duty stations. For example, the one that goes between Seattle and Japan or Seattle and Korea. Norfolk, and Rota, Italy, and so on.

[00:09:35] Jamie: Those are a little more predictable schedules, usually the rotators?

[00:09:40] Stephanie: Yes, those schedules are released for one calendar month at a time, so you can see what days they fly, but you will not know how many seats might be available until within 72 hours of the flight's departure. So you still have, I think a lot of people have a feeling that the Patriot Express flights are like a sure thing and it still has the same uncertainty as the other space A flights and all the other rules apply.

The only difference is, the schedule further in advance.

[00:10:09] Spencer: Stephanie, do you have an example of a great trip you pulled off either when your husband was on active duty or after he retired?

[00:10:18] Stephanie: Yeah, I have an example from last month. We were in Chicago after we'd been traveling quite a bit in the last couple of months, but we finished up our travels and we were in Chicago to visit my family. Chicago does not have any bases nearby with active space A activity, so we had to choose where we were going to fly.

We were looking at bases on the East Coast because we needed to get back to our home in Rota, Spain. And based on the schedules and the seat releases we'd seen, we decided to aim for the D. C. area. So we flew commercial from Chicago to D.C. And I'll tell you, those tickets were about $230 bucks that we bought two days in advance after we'd already seen the 72 hour flight schedule out of Andrews.

We arrived Wednesday morning. We went straight to the terminal. We marked ourselves present for the flight, which had a 1700 roll call time. Made that flight. So no hotel needed or anything like that. Next morning we were in Germany. So sometimes it can go pretty smoothly.

[00:11:22] Jamie: Wow.

[00:11:23] Spencer: And then from Germany, did you drive or train?

How did you continue on to Spain?

[00:11:28] Stephanie: This time we flew. So we actually decided to hang out in Germany for a little bit. We went to Luxembourg and Belgium, and then we flew commercial from Frankfurt to Jerez, which is the airport closest to Rota, and there is a direct flight. So we waited to see if there were any, there could have been a Space A flight from Ramstein into Rota.

And if there had been, we would have tried for that one. That's not a very common route, at least that releases Space A seats. So we knew we were going to be flying commercial. But again, those tickets, which I also purchased two days in advance, were about $200 each.

[00:12:03] Jamie: Not bad. So it's worth the trouble when you get a great deal and you're able to get home and explore.

But a little bit of last minute and a little bit of flexibility or a lot of bit of flexibility, probably on how you're going to get there. 

Okay, so I want to transition a little bit to talk about living on your military pension overseas. Can you share a little bit of the story of how you guys went from retirement to traveling for a year to now living overseas full time?

And how that works, because that seems probably foreign, no pun intended, to people who just see people retire and stay in their same job most commonly.

[00:12:36] Stephanie: Yeah. So as we were looking towards my husband's retirement, I came up with the idea of taking a gap year. I was interested in traveling and I was at a good point in my job to take a break.

We were renting our house, we didn't have any debt, and it wasn't going to get too much, there wasn't going to be a better opportunity necessarily, the only sticking point was what we would do after that year when we got back because we planned to come back to the U.S.

And I should say to you that it was my idea to travel. My husband was less enthused about it initially just because his father was on active duty, served 30 years. My husband served 30 years. So he's already done quite a bit of travel, but he was willing to do it because it was my dream. 

Yeah, we decided to take that one year gap year and I should mention too, there's a benefit that not everybody knows about. The military will store your household goods for up to a year free of charge and you need to get approval from your branch of service, but that's a pretty good benefit to help you just give you a little breathing room to decide what you want to do.

Even if you're not planning to move overseas and live overseas, they will store it in non temporary storage near your last duty station. And then you can, in our case, we just traveled the world, our stuff was stored, we didn't need to worry about it. And then, actually, you can extend, you can request to extend that storage for up to six years.

And again, you were, you need to receive approval every year, and It's not guaranteed that you're going to get approval to do this, but we actually stored our household goods for almost five years before we finally received them, realized we didn't want any of it and sold it all. But I just want to mention that because I think that's an important benefit that you need to know about in advance if you want to take advantage of it.

So off we went for our, what was going to be our year of travel. And one of the most eye opening things was that when we went to Western Europe and we were just in France, Germany, Spain, and we started to get to know, we had some conversations like with Airbnb hosts and other people we had met about personal finance and how much money people make. And we were interested to learn that people like a new French friend who was a mid-career professional who was doing pretty well by all measures made less than my husband was making with his military retirement. And when we started looking into it, we realized how much lower salaries are in many countries around the world.

And I'm talking Western Europe, developed countries and things like that. And so that kind of got the wheels turning as to what the possibilities were. So we went on and we continued to travel. We also went to Japan where my husband has some family members there that he hadn't gotten to know he's half Japanese, but they don't speak English.

And so after a year, we didn't know what we wanted to do. We didn't know where we were going to live in the United States or what we would do next. And we still weren't ready to come back. And so he said that he wanted to study Japanese. So that he could speak to his relatives. So we said, okay, we're going to move to Japan for what was supposed to be six months.

And to make a long story short, we decided we really liked Japan and because of his heritage, we were able to get residency and we just kept extending and we ended up living there for two and a half years. 

[00:16:21] Spencer: Having the Japanese heritage there obviously helps. Were there any other expats there, Western expats that also managed to work visas, residency visas for that long?

[00:16:34] Stephanie: It's funny, that's such a frequent conversation among expats is, what's, what kind of visa do you have and how did you renew it and so on. But Japan has fewer options than some other countries. So you have to have heritage, you have a Japanese spouse, or have a job.

There's a lot of people that I know of who are retired military that work on base, either as a civilian or as a contractor or something like that. But Japan doesn't have a retiree visa like some other countries do. So we were actually very fortunate because even the people who had spouse visas sometimes found it was tricky getting them renewed.

And we expected that we would get a one year visa and they gave us three right off the bat.

[00:17:23] Spencer: So it sounds like a phrase that you used before in our communication was accidental FI. Accidentally financially independent. And that realization kind of came from when you were talking to other people in the community.

And you realize that, hey, our military pension can actually go pretty far because it's in U. S. dollars, it's inflation protected, and we know that it's coming on, what is it, the 20th? 15th of every month? With that realization, had you guys also saved along the way to military retirement? And was that intentional to achieve FI or did you just save because you thought you had to save and then when you realized, oh, we don't have to go back to work, it was just like a cherry on top.

[00:18:05] Stephanie: Yeah, I would, we had never really heard of the concept of FI. At the time, my husband and I were both pretty financially conservative even before we met, which of course made the marriage easier in that respect. But so it was good because we didn't, I actually got, I married my husband four years before he retired.

And so it's not like there would have been a ton of time to rein in the finances and things like that. But we did not, neither of us had any debt. We'd had some student loans that we paid off long before we got married. And we just, we felt like we were saving for something. I should mention, I have two step sons, but they were older and one was actually in the air force.

So I had his own GI bill and the other one had use of my husband's GI bill. So a lot of that stuff was already covered. And when we made the decision to travel we felt like we were saving for something and we just weren't sure exactly what it was. So yes, we had been saving and investing and so on.

And then when we realized how low the cost of living could be almost anywhere outside the United States, that was when it was like a light bulb moment. Like maybe my husband doesn't have to go back and have a second career and I can start my own business.

[00:21:00] Jamie: So what about some of the logistics of banking and credit cards and converting your pension to daily expenses in Euro? Is that as complex as it seems to someone who's not been through it?

[00:21:14] Stephanie: It's actually not at all because my husband's, even though DFAS and VA will deposit your money into foreign banks, we have ours just deposited into our U.S. bank and we use the ATM and both Japan and Spain are kind of cash nations, I guess you could say, but if we need to, we also use Wyze, the banking app, if we need to pay somebody in euros or another currency, but all of that stuff has just been fairly simple.

We figured it out on the fly, but we just do everything online. 

[00:21:50] Jamie: Stephanie, and then the other big question I had was about health care. So obviously one of the big benefits of a military retirement is the TRICARE that comes with it. And I think you're one of the few voices that really talks, that I've ever seen, that talks about the ability to use that benefit overseas somehow.

How does that work?

[00:22:07] Stephanie: So basically anybody who is enrolled in a TRICARE program is covered overseas. And covered doesn't necessarily mean that The provider is going to file the claim on your behalf. It just means that you have coverage. So when you're seeking medical care overseas, unless it's at a military facility, more than likely you will have to pay for the care out of pocket and then submit a claim to TRICARE.

And then no matter which program you're enrolled in, you actually submit it through TRICARE overseas. They have an online portal that's actually quite easy. I know it probably sounds a little scary to say you just pay for the medical care yourself, and that's just because the care is so expensive in the United States.

But overseas, it's generally not very expensive at all. I can give you a couple of examples. Like here in Spain, I had an MRI. I think it was about $200. I saw an orthopedic doctor and that was 30 euro. My husband cut his hand in Japan and had stitches and medicine and that was like 150 or so. So it's not really a big deal usually to pay out of pocket and then submit for it later.

We also, because we live in Rota, we can get care on a space aid basis at Rota Naval Hospital, and they actually have a good amount of capacity, but I know that's not the case with all of the overseas military facilities. But that's, I think that's the important piece for people to know is that they are covered wherever they are, as long as they're enrolled in a TRICARE program.

[00:23:40] Jamie: That cost difference is astounding. I think getting the kids teeth cleaned at the dentist costs more than $250 in the States.

[00:23:48] Stephanie: We actually have a great dentist here in Rota. He's a retired Navy dentist who opened his own practice right after retirement.

So the cleaning is about 50 bucks.

[00:23:58] Spencer: Yeah. I was just going to say in New Zealand, annual checkup and cleaning is 130 New Zealand dollars, which is about 70, 80 U.S. dollars. Went to the doctor the other day for a routine checkup and it was $50. And then if you have to go to the hospital, it's all just included as a resident.

So yeah, it's definitely a different healthcare system. And, but you know what, even I found in the States after leaving the TRICARE system, when I separated, I went and had a couple checkups done and stuff. If you get the cash price, not like the insurance price from the provider, usually it's quite reasonable sometimes, right?

Sometimes it's absurd. And if you go anywhere near a hospital or like emergency care yeah, you want to make sure you have some kind of insurance, but for the general day to day stuff, x-rays usually cost around 100, any kind of imaging and that kind of thing. Oh, wow.

I didn't realize that. Yep. I had a expensive, should have been an expensive scan done. It's one of those scans that you only have done every couple of years. And it was, I think $400 was the cash price. So it's again, it's, It's not something you want to be paying every day, but it can make sense in the right circumstances, but yeah, that's great.

I didn't realize how easy it was to submit the claims for TRICARE overseas. So that's great for people to know. Do you have any experience with using the GI bill overseas? Have you run into anybody who's gone to school overseas?

[00:25:32] Stephanie: We haven't, my husband still has two years of his left.

So we're looking at that. But I have several examples of readers who've done it, and there's actually a few different ways you can use the GI Bill while living overseas. The first one would be actually enrolling in a foreign university that will accept the GI Bill. I actually did an interview with a retiree who lives in New Zealand, and that was how he got residence in New Zealand, was a student visa.

I can send you a link to that one to include in the show notes or something, but he explains step by step how to contact like how the process works through VA to make sure that the University would be a match or to be accredited with VA. 

Another possible way someone could use it is if you're enrolled in a US university and study abroad through them.

That's another way to use your GI Bill. And then I also did an interview with a retiree who was using his GI Bill and he was doing online coursework with the U.S. University, which means you actually, you get half of the monthly living stipend, but he and his wife were living in Italy, which had a pretty low cost of living.

So actually that money covered their apartment and their monthly living expenses. So there's a few different ways to do it, to support your life living overseas.

[00:26:58] Spencer: Yeah, I know on the va.gov website, they have a university search tool. And so if the university has been previously approved for GI Bill, you don't have to go through the whole process of getting the school approved.

So for instance, here in New Zealand, I think there's four or five schools that have been previously approved. And so the University of Auckland presently has three GI Bill students, which I found very interesting because I'm not sure, I'm not sure who those people are, but they're out there.

You'll make some friends. That's actually something that I've been considering is going back to school and using the GI Bill overseas. And if the school's already approved, then it makes it a lot easier for them. And you can see how much tuition that the VA will pay. And you can see the monthly housing stipend as well on the va.gov website. So that's super, super useful.

[00:27:53] Stephanie: And unless they've changed it since last year, the housing allowance was the same. If you're overseas, it's the same. It's not like when you're using your GI Bill in the States and it's by zip code. So you can really, if you're in a low cost area, as of last year, the housing allowance was $1,800 a month.

That's more than the average person in Rota makes per month. That's, that just is, that's a frame of reference, so that's a pretty great deal. If you're in Tokyo, it might not stretch quite as far, but still it's a good amount of money if you're living overseas.

[00:28:28] Spencer: Yeah, the U.S. dollars coming in can definitely go a long way in a lot of countries around the world. 

Stephanie, do you have any exercises or questions that you can use to help people think about what they want to do and where they want to go after they separate from the military. Let's say that, either your kids are grown up and out of the home, or maybe they're about to go off to college.

And for the first time in your life, you might have this location independence, this location freedom where the military isn't telling you where to live. Like you get to go choose where you live. And maybe you've been in the military for 20 or 30 years and you've lived all over the world. And you've experienced some cultures and some other places, but do you have any exercises or questions that you use to help people think through what's next and where to go?

[00:29:23] Stephanie: I would say that if you can swing it financially, and I, a lot of your listeners are probably in a better position, I've been planning this, but more so than others, but use your terminal leave, take that time to take a step back, maybe travel or just don't rush into your next position and immediately think the logical thing to do is go back and this is what I've been doing all this time, so I'm going to do it again just as a civilian and think about also how much money you actually need, because it is true that if you finish, if you retire from the military as a senior leader, you can command a very high salary. But if you are at that point where maybe your kids are already in college or you're in a good financial position, what is most important at that point? Is it to continue making money with the same lifestyle or is it possible that you could live on your retirement and maybe a part time job or something fun that you've always wanted to try?

I always say that I think that TRICARE is one of the most underrated retirement benefits because that gives you the flexibility to do something besides having a second full time job, you can start your own business or live overseas or whatever the case may be. So I would just urge people to stop and really think about whether you actually want to go immediately to a full second career.

If there's something in the interim or not working at all, that would be feasible for you.

[00:31:02] Spencer: So Stephanie, what do you say when someone emails you and says, I'm thinking about living overseas, but I don't even know where to begin. What do you say to that person?

[00:31:12] Stephanie: I think you first have to narrow it down by thinking what's most important to you.

Do you speak any foreign languages? And is there a place that you can move where you can use one of those? If not, you'd probably need to aim for a place where not speaking the local language isn't going to be a problem right away, but I think everyone also has some preferences about weather, geographic location, all those things.

Usually, I don't hear from people as much that are equally open to South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Usually people know they want to live in Europe, for example. But there's a lot of questions to research depending on where you are in life, too. Do you still have kids?

Would you homeschool them? Would you send them to local schools? I think that once you have a few places in mind and hopefully you can narrow it down to just a handful. I highly recommend staying, going there, renting an apartment and staying there for at least several weeks, if not several months. The longer that you can do it, the better.

It seems like a long investment of time and money, but it's really worth it because the places that you love when on vacation, like living there is a completely different story. And even living somewhere six months is different from living there having spent one month there and we did that, for example, when we were trying to decide if we wanted to move to Rota, we came here in the winter, which is not the weather was fine.

It's not the best time of year here, but we spent about three months there. It's also kind of the slow time. It's not, there's not as much going on. And we wanted to ask ourselves do we want to go through this process of applying for a visa to live here? And we concluded that we did, but there was actually another place we checked out in Portugal.

And when we first got there, we thought, wow, we found it. This is where we want to live. And we kept extending our Airbnb, but by the end of about six weeks, we realized it wasn't the right fit. And so you definitely don't want to have uprooted yourself and all of your belongings from the U.S. to move somewhere and then figure that out two months later. 

[00:33:25] Jamie: I think that's, it's such a great tip in general, just anytime you have a big transition to rent for a little bit, the number of friends and stories of people move when they get out or retire, they move, they start a job, they don't like the house, they don't like the job, they don't like the city, they uproot again.

And part of the reason a lot of people get out is because they're tired of moving and they want to settle down forever. Renting temporarily is just a really good idea I think in a lot of situations, especially if you're doing something as drastic as moving overseas.

[00:33:55] Stephanie: Yeah, I see that a lot too. A lot of military people can't wait to be in their forever home after retirement.

And then a year later they're asking, okay, where to next? Like they're too accustomed to the ready for the next adventure.

[00:34:13] Spencer: Yeah. Do you have any resources, Stephanie, that you can point people to where they can ask more questions?

[00:34:21] Stephanie: I have a Facebook group called U.S. Military Retirees and Veterans Living Overseas, and that is a great place to ask a lot of questions and learn from members of the military community who are already living overseas as civilians. 

And then also on my website, poppinsmoke.com, you'll see when you land there, there's a whole section related to expat life living overseas. We have an interview series where we interview military retirees who moved overseas with lots of detailed Q&A about how they made it happen, what they like, what they don't like, and so on.

So those are all great resources.

[00:34:58] Jamie: Do you have a similar group for people with space A travel questions? 

[00:35:03] Stephanie: On Facebook, I don't have a Space A group but there's a bunch of those on Facebook already. So I think the idea is that I've tried to address as many questions as possible with the stuff that I write in my articles and head off some of those questions.

And then, of course, I field a lot of questions via email or directly on my Facebook page.

[00:35:25] Jamie: I think, Stephanie, this is a great way to close out our episode. I have some rapid fire questions, but this is the most international episode we've ever recorded. So we have one in New Zealand, one in Hawaii, and one in Spain.

So thank you for staying up late with us. It's morning time for both Spencer and me. We really appreciate you having on the show. So I'm going to close with a couple. Easy questions for you, hopefully. What is the easiest terminal to Space A from?

[00:35:51] Stephanie: I would say one of the easiest is Travis, just because there's a lot of activity going in and out, and also because you can walk to the lodging pretty easily, and they'll let you roll your luggage over on the luggage cart.

[00:36:04] Jamie: Yes, Travis. In Northern California, Travis Air Force Base, for those not familiar, is a great spot, and it's close to a lot of things to do right off base as well. What about your favorite aircraft to Space A on?

[00:36:14] Stephanie: My favorite aircraft is a C-17, and…

[00:36:18] Jamie: Nailed it.

[00:36:19] Spencer: Right answer.

[00:36:20] Stephanie: I think lots of space aid travelers like the Rotator, the Patriot Express, just because it is a commercial carrier and, you don't have to wear any special clothes or bring an air mattress or anything like that.

To me, the C-17, all that is part of the fun, and there's a lot more legroom generally on the C-17, we bring our blow up mattresses and as soon as the aircraft hits altitude, we lie down and go to sleep. So there's no better way to travel.

[00:36:47] Spencer: I would say that my order of preference is like Emirates first class Singapore first class, then a C-17 and then economy.

Like I would. I would much rather, anytime I can lay out on a plane, I am much happier than being forced to sit in a seat, especially on those long haul flights.

[00:37:07] Stephanie: Yes

[00:37:07] Jamie: I agree. I love seeing the families with pack and plays and pool noodles and pool floats and air mattresses inflated in the back of the C-17, it's great.

That was a trap and you passed that test, so good job. And then lastly, the hardest thing to adjust or any funny stories about just Western culture, American culture, now living overseas, anything that was hard to get used to.

[00:37:29] Stephanie: I think we've lived in two completely opposite cultures. So one in Japan and one in Spain.

So in Japan, just as an example, Japan is a rules oriented society. If you are not 10 minutes early for something, you're considered late, everything is by the rules. And then Spain is the opposite. Whereas I always joke, like if you can get away with it in Spain it's legal.

Like typically as it comes to like where to park or driving things and things like that. So I would say that both of those took some adjustment. We're a little bit more Japanese than we are Spanish. And so we're still trying to learn to relax more here in Spain. But we're enjoying the ride. Both are fun.

[00:38:12] Spencer: Stephanie, this has been a great time. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast and talking to us about Space A, travel, living overseas on a military pension. Using Tricare Overseas, lots of great tips for military retirees and active duty folks to utilize their benefits. Again, poppinsmoke.com is where you can find her. And she's got a great mailing list there. She'll send you some free stuff as well.

So you can deep dive into the military benefits that Stephanie talks about, PoppinSmoke.com is the website and she's got over 10,000, congrats on that, subscribers to the mailing list. So that's pretty awesome.

So thanks again for coming on the show.

[00:38:58] Stephanie: Thanks for having me. It was fun.

[00:39:01] Jamie: That was a great episode with Stephanie. I learned a lot. My three top takeaways are what she told us about living overseas after retirement and how you can explore other options. 

Number two. You can store your stuff with approval for one year after retirement so you don't have to feel the pressure to move right away.

And if your branch approves it, you can keep it in storage for a year for free. And then you can get approval to keep it for up to six years total, but you pay the remainder years after year one. That's a really neat benefit to give you some options. 

And then the last top thing I learned about with Stephanie was about TRICARE overseas and how you can still be covered with your benefits living overseas. 

Overall, a lot of neat information about space A travel living overseas, Tricare GI Bill and how to choose where to live after retirement and just open up the aperture for your options after you leave the military and great ways to continue using your military benefits after the military.

[00:39:57] Spencer: Guys and gals, if you find this information valuable, the best way you can say thank you is a five star review on Amazon, Apple, Spotify, wherever you listen to the podcast. And if you want to reach out to me and Jamie's podcast@militarymoneymanual.com or Instagram @militarymoneymanual, we'll catch you on the next episode.

The views and opinions presented here are those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the views of the DoD or its components.

Reference to any commercial products or services does not constitute DoD endorsement of those products or services.

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