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Today we continue the ESI Scale Interview series where people answer questions about their success at working the ESI Scale.

In short, the series focuses on what the interviewee is doing in the areas of earning, saving, and investing. They also get an opportunity to ask ESI Money readers for suggestions if they choose to do so.

If you’d like to be considered for an interview, drop me a note and we can chat about specifics.

With that said, let’s get started.

My questions are in bold italics and his responses follow in black.


Hello everyone! I am super excited to be able to share my story with you and hopefully get some advice.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am 31 and my wife is 30…soon to be 31, but don’t tell her lol. [Editor’s note: This interview was completed in October 2018]

We have been together for 4 years and married for about a year and half.

We are looking to have our first kid (plan to have 3 total) in the near future, but for now we have two fur babies.

We live in Hawaii on the island of Oahu (no, we are nowhere near the volcano ;)…sorry, it’s a really good meme if you can find it!)

My wife and I are both active duty military which plays a lot into our retirement strategy, debt levels (thankfully very low), life plans, and career progression (both good and bad, but more on that later).

What is your current net worth?

Sans the recent market downturn, we are sitting right around $600K in net worth (about $810K in assets)

It is broken down as follows:

$200K in Cash (waiting to see how the market turns out as we want to jump in the residential market after the next downturn to start some investment properties-really looking for advice from everyone on this one…a lot of this is investments I sold out of over the last year).

$275K in investments which breaks down as:

  • $125K in a brokerage account
  • $55K in a Roth IRA
  • $95K in a ROTH TSP (this is a federal government program for employees that acts more or less like a 401K with no match unless you are under the new system…that little detail on its own would be whole other post)

$125K in home equity

By my estimates, we should $1M by about 35.

How did you accumulate your net worth?

We accumulated this wealth mostly through good old fashioned savings.

My wife and I are prolific savers (saving a little under half to over half of our income since we joined).

I have invested fairly heavily and rode the Apple, Google, and Berkshire (class B, I’m not that wealthy!) train until recently. I have shifted over most of our investments to VTI, VBR, and a REIT (I’ll ask some questions about this allocation later).

My wife loves boring CD’s and just letting money sit in checking/savings accounts (thus part of the reason we have $200K in cash lol).

I am working on decreasing this cash hoard, but the market makes me want to wait until home prices go down in order to get more investment properties.


Tell us a bit about your career.

My wife and I are both active duty officers, which puts us fairly well off as time has got on (the pay scale moves up at a good clip after the four year point…you can basically look at our pay table online as they are open to the public).

After taxes we make somewhere around $12-13K per month.

I fly and she is a nurse, which are both highly desirable occupations on the outside, but we have zero desire to get out (more on that later).

We progress somewhat on merit, but we get paid the same as every other person in our grade and time regardless of our job performance. This is both good and bad for reasons that should be apparent.

We will top out sometime in the next 4-6 years and grow our income yearly based on time in grade and fluctuations will occur due to location and government budget actions.

Do you have a side hustle?

We don’t have side hustles, but we do have hobbies and interests that we are going to try to turn to making money.

We rent out our home in another state for over $500 beyond the mortgage, so we would like to replicate that with more properties.

My wife is getting her certifications in Yoga, and I am working on my creative pursuits. I love writing, so I am working with my best friend on a blog, and working on publishing my first novel as we speak.

I am also looking to get to writing short stories, children’s books, and several other creative pursuits like podcasts, video games, and cartoons (I like to engage the right side of my brain).

As of right now, these bring in nothing, but they have a lot of potential for the future.

If you were rating these results on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being best), what rating would you give yourself and why?

I would say our EARN score is probably a 6.

If we got out, we could make a lot more, but what we give up by following the system is a pension which feeds into later discussions.

What are your future plans regarding growing your income?

In the future, I want to build out our real estate portfolio and make more money from our side hustles.


What percent of your gross income do you save?

We save about 60-70% of our take home income depending on the month (about $8K per month…I love books way too much 🙂 ).

How did you get to this level?

The large number per month is somewhat of a recent high.

We are both compensated highly for being in Oahu which increased our income significantly over where we were last.

My wife and I are not fancy people, and I have been driving the same car I got when I graduated college (I bought it when it was 3 years old and it still runs like a champ). My friends make fun of it, but she is a beauty…to me at least lol.

For us, we don’t have to work too hard because Hawaii has a lot of free things (aka the beach), and as MMM always admonishes, riding a bike is pretty easy when it is gorgeous most of the time.

We cut the cable a long time ago, and books and writing take up a lot of my free time (makes it hard to rack up huge bar tabs).

If you were rating these results on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being best), what rating would you give yourself and why?

I would give us about an 8 on the SAVE scale.

We could always save more, but at the end of the day, there are some things I love to buy (mostly books, but I am also a Wino…not a snob, but a wino nevertheless).

What are your future plans regarding saving money?

My wife and I plan on continuing to save at the same rate and shift some of that to work on the future kids’ college plans (again, more on that later).


What are your main investments?

Like I said above, I mostly invest in VTI and VBR.

I sold off most of my single stocks over time (especially this last year) after reading a ton of investing books (and reading blogs like this one!)

I put most of what I save each month into the brokerage account and work on my wife (who to her credit puts half of hers into the TSP until she maxes it out around this time each year.)

If you were rating these results on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being best), what rating would you give yourself and why?

I would give us a 7.

My wife and I should just invest more, but I don’t like the market right now (I still invest $5K per month, but I like building cash to take on a bunch of homes when the prices fall back to Earth).

What are your future plans regarding investing?

I will continue to invest as I have, but I want to get more into real estate (need some advice please!)


So long story short, assuming a 5% return over the next 12 years (how long before we both get pensions), I calculate we will reach around $1.7-2.4M by the time we retire.

In addition, we both have our education benefit which we can transfer to our children (the first two) to take care of their college.

I would set-up a fund after the first one is born and then have that available for the third (hopefully one gets a scholarship and then that takes care of it all and I get the remainder 😉 ).

Our pensions are approximately going to equal $85-90K after tax which will be inflation adjusted (just over half of what we spend annually so that should cover everything).

This also means we can essentially never touch our investments and keep letting them grow.

With that in mind, you can see why I can be aggressive in investing and going after the real estate piece.

After active duty life, my wife and I want to pursue our hobbies and give back by working with the homeless and people who suffer PSTD (think more than just veterans…aka victims of assaults and other traumas).

This extra income will allow us to build homes for these people and help them integrate with society, which is our ultimate goal.

Again, money is only a tool to us, and being millionaires won’t make us happy-helping others will. As my Mom instilled in me, we are all born with a debt paid for by those that came before us. We can only pay it back by making the world a better place than the one we found.

What money mistakes have you made that others can learn from?

The biggest mistakes I have made are involved with single stocks. I put around $10K in stupid stocks that all dropped precipitously, and I kick myself for not putting it all in VTI sooner.

DON’T BUY INDIVIDUAL STOCKS KIDS. PERIOD. DOT. It’s dumb, and you aren’t that smart!

Are there any questions you have for ESI Money readers regarding any parts of your finances?

Yes, so many questions.

First, do you have better ideas for ETFs (it seems they are better for tax reasons, but I was wondering if people had opinions on that one)? I can be aggressive for a long time because of the above just below the Wrap-Up.

Additionally, can I get some advice on running a bunch of rentals? I really like the idea of setting those up and living off the proceeds. Unfortunately, I am somewhat of a “worst case scenario” kind of person, so I need some advice on legal structures and insurance to protect what we have saved.

Thanks in advance everybody!!!

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