A SavvyInterview – Tom

This latest SavvyInterview is with Tom, a long time friend (we served on active duty together) and co-worker. In fact, Tom provided some of the early feedback on my book and the establishment of this blog. We often discuss the movements of the stock market, how our portfolios are doing, and the many nuances of building a substantial retirement portfolio.

A SavvyInterview

What was the catalyst that started you on the road to fiscal fitness?  How old were you at the time?

My catalyst was  retirement from the military, the U.S. Army. I was 39 years old and I had no 401(k) established, no IRA established, and no emergency fund to speak of as I had very little money in a savings account. I realized my military retirement was not going to be enough to sustain me and my spouse when we decided to retire for good.

What do you believe are some of the essential behaviors individuals should adopt in order to become, or remain, fiscally fit?

1. First and foremost is to develop a monthly budget. Without a budget, you truly do not have a starting point.

2. Determine what your “wants” vs. “needs” and make sure you really understand the difference between the two.

3. Set financial goals; develop a plan (1, 3, 5, 10, 20 year projections) and reevaluate your plan often.

4. Stay focused on your plan, maintain financial discipline.

5. Do not fall into the “keeping up with the Jones’ “ mentality. I believe this is a hard one to maintain as it is easy to get caught-up in comparing yourself to your neighbors, friends, etc.  Doing so can result in taking on increasing levels of debt.

What is your definition of wealth?

Since we are talking about being fiscally fit, I will keep my answer in terms of money. My definition of wealth is the ability to sustain one’s self or family beyond paycheck to paycheck. Being able to establish a retirement portfolio that will sustain myself and spouse in retirement, 25 – 30 years, beyond just being able to pay the monthly bills.

With regards to planning and managing your portfolio, is that something you do on your own, through a financial planner/advisor, or a combination of the two?

I manage my thrift savings plan (TSP) and IRA account on my own.

What is the one piece of advice you feel is indispensable, something you could share with SavvyReaders?

Start saving early in life! Whether it is through your job [defined contribution plan], an IRA, or both. The sooner you start saving, the earlier your money will start working for you; thus, the greater potential for a larger nest-egg in your retirement years.

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Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I like Tom’s Wants vs Needs statement. There are times when I really think I need something new, but it is truly a want. Now if I have a little extra money, I will buy it, but if the budget is a little tight that pay day, I leave it alone. I fool myself by saying if I come back and it is still here, then I was meant to have it!
    And of course I agree with the “Keeping up with the Jones'” statement as well. That is a horrible trap to fall into. You sink deeper and deeper into debt and if the truth be known, they are in debt up to their eyeballs as well!
    Loving these interviews! Great post SavvyJames

    • Thanks, Karen. No doubt that SavvyInvestors need to focus on their own financial plan and not their friend’s, neighbor’s, or co-workers as everyone’s situation is unique and their goals different.

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