Every military member, no matter how enthusiastic, wakes up one day (or comes out of a frustrating meeting) and asks themselves, “How much longer do I want to do this?” Invariably, this question is complicated by the cliff vesting nature of the military retirement pay system. Get out before 20 years of service, and you leave with what you have in the Thrift Savings Plan. Stay for 20 years of service, and you get lifetime retirement income, plus the ability to purchase Survivor Benefit Plan coverage for your spouse and any incapacitated children, plus healthcare coverage.
With this type of cliff-vesting, many people make their decisions based on emotions and guesses. And let’s be honest, that’s not ideal.
Thankfully, my imaginary friend* Grumpus Maximus, has written a thoughtful, practical book that helps you look at the pros and cons of a defined benefit plan, considering both the math and the life implications. In The Golden Albatross: How To
Determine If Your Pension Is Worth It, GM runs through the subjective and objective considerations, and lays out a framework for determining which considerations matter for your personal decision.
*imaginary friend: what my family calls my friends that I don’t see in real life, but communicate with via the internet.
I’m going to be up-front here. I really, really like this book. It speaks to me, and I’m never even been in this situation. I’m a little reluctant to write a review because I think there is approximately zero percent chance that I’m going to write a review as good as the book.
On the flip side, I want y’all to read it. So I will soldier on with the full knowledge that I can’t possibly do this book justice.
What The Golden Albatross Is About
This book is about the value of a defined benefit plan, often called a pension, and whether you should remain in a job because of that pension. The Golden Albatross explores how to quantify the value of your pension and pension-related Other Post Retirement Benefits. It helps you think about your pension in real terms: what the pension can do for you. It also shows you how to evaluate the security of your pension. Lastly, GM helps you look at the non-financial side of the equation: health, family, and opportunities outside of your current work.
The Golden Albatross helps you build a personal framework so that you’re prepared for the day you wake up and wonder whether it’s all worth it. Or, if you’re already at a critical decision point, this book helps you make a smart, informed decision based on facts and not emotions.
What I Love About The Golden Albatross
I like the way that this book takes a stressful, emotional dilemma and approaches it based on the individual elements, without oversimplifying the question into simply a math problem. Sure, math is important, but so is all the other stuff.
GM writes in an easy-to-read, conversational style. His friendly personality makes it easy to imagine that you’re talking about this stuff over a beer or two. (But not three!) He’s not afraid to discuss hard topics, like mental health, and how they factor into your choices. Despite the serious nature of the topic, I often found myself having to explain sudden outbursts of laughter. GM is funny, even when it is in a “gosh this sucks but it is totally relatable” sort of way.
Who Should Read The Golden Albatross
If your current employment includes a defined benefit plan, you need to read this book. Whether you’re in love with your job, struggling to gut it out to vesting, or even if you’ve already earned that pension, there is something in this book for you.
I’d also recommend it for the significant others of people in these jobs. As a military spouse who doesn’t have my own pension, I can’t genuinely understand the pressures that c
ome with it. This book has helped me see a lot of things more clearly.
Where To Get The Golden Albatross
The easiest way to get The Golden Albatross is via Amazon. It’s available for Kindle, paperback or hardcover. I ordered a paperback copy and received it within 48 hours. (Amazon is currently offering me a digital credit for a Kindle purchase, too! Your mileage may vary.)
Who is this Grumpus Maximus guy, anyway?
Grumpus Maximus is the pseudonym of a retired U.S. military officer, husband, father, blogger and first-time author. His blog, The Golden Albatross, shares information, experience, and encouragement to those who have a work pension, and those who are struggling to decide whether to “gut it out” to reach vesting. The Golden Albatross: How To Determine If Your Pension Is Worth It is GM’s first book, but I hope it won’t be his last.
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