This is somewhat of a ramble of my experience regarding taking advantage of opportunities that life presents you as the ones I’ve had have significantly sped up my progress on my way to FIRE and don’t involve crazy stuff like winning the lottery or creating Uber.
So, I’ve recently separated from the Army after 9 years of service. Definitely not something I regret but due to health issues (and the fact that I moved 7 times in 9 years) I decided to move on to civilian life. It was when I was going through out-processing, that we had a finance brief for Soldiers that were leaving the army and the instructor asked if any of us had money in the TSP (Thrift Savings program, basically the equivalent of a 401k). I was the only person in the room to raise my hand out of about 10 or so people present, and some of the other Soldiers in the room looked around the age of retirement. I was shocked no one had any money in what is one of the lowest cost retirement funds (not to mention best guaranteed not to fail) available.
Now, contributing to retirement funds is not something new on this subreddit. But during my time in the army I’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of a ton of programs that have saved me a ton of time and money, and it boggles my mind that so few people take advantage of those opportunities. For example both life and health insurance in the army is dirt cheap. I got all 4 of my wisdom teeth taken out before I left and it didn’t cost me a dime in co-pay or deductibles. I’ve gotten free glasses (even prescription sun glasses), immunizations, exams etc. Yet I’ve had to chase down and force Soldiers to attend scheduled medical appointments (which they can go to during work hours and don’t have to pay any extra for).
I had the opportunity to attend training and classes that counted towards college credit and that I attended as part of my job, not something I had to do in my free time. I earned my masters degree with the G.I. Bill and didn’t pay a dime for that either (I even got a little money to pay for my text books) and I’ve got enough left of it to earn another degree if I want (or a bunch of certifications). When I left the army I applied for disability but also learned that since I’m over 50% disabled I quality for priority 1 VA Health Care, which is essentially free health care (with a few constraints but nothing big) and basically makes health insurance unnecessary (that’s saving me several thousand dollars a year alone). I initially didn’t think I qualified for VA health care unless I fully retired after 20+ years in. I only found out about this on my way out and I’ve talked to some other veterans who (like me before I left) also had no idea that they qualified either so I bring it up whenever I meet a fellow vet now.
After leaving the military, I attended my first job fair. On the event flyer there was a seminar available just before the event to help people learn how to get the most out of a job fair. I had to get up early to make it but I attended it and hit it off with the presenter as he was also prior military and after the seminar he told me of a couple of contractors at the event that had just gotten new government contracts and were looking for veterans and had jobs so new they had not even been posted on job boards yet. I stopped by both those tables and turned in my resume and got called by them the following week and am interviewing with one of them next week.
TLDR: Life will present you with opportunities, some of which may be obvious and some of which may not. If an opportunity comes along, take advantage of it (so long as it’s not something that requires a major gamble on your part like bitcoin). If no opportunities are obviously available then search around for them, ask people you know, do some research. Even if they don’t always directly put cash in your bank account, they may help give you a boost in some other aspect of your life. And you never know when you might encounter something life changing.
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