Monday, February 27, 2012

Risk Trading, Counterintuitively

I wasn't able to write much from overseas, which was a combination of two major factors: (1) Blogspot being blocked on the network computers on base; and (2) a lack of time (given more free time, I could've hunted down some random Wi-Fi areas, or discovered sooner than the last week I was there that there was a full-blown "Internet area" in one of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facilities on post.

I will probably weave some Afghanistan observations in here from time-to-time, but not in a coherent way. Sometimes, things will just sort of come up (like wild conspiratorial rumors that follow single, isolated acts like ignorant servicemembers burning religious material) that will trigger thoughts and memories (and check tomorrow's Sun for the possible inclusion of said material, and thanks Rob Mills for reaching out on Facebook).

Anyway, one thought that crossed my mind more than once, especially during that awful six-week period at the beginning of the deployment was the proverbial fork-in-the-road question asked in Spanglish by the Clash once upon a time: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The answer I've come to, after a few mental spins around the block is that I will....stay (as in, one weekend a month, though at Devens instead of Reading, two weeks in the summer, and the possibility of other, down the road).

Here's the thought process: Leaving would've meant a certain type of freedom -- no more drill weekends, no more 12-day "wraparound" work weeks, no more condescension from those schooled in the "combat arms" MOS family, no more bureaucracy, pencils, books, teachers' dirty looks, etc. etc.

However, that would've also meant a whole new type of risk -- one that I would rather not take, thank you very much.

Staying in as a drilling reservist means that I have a secondary income no matter what, health insurance no matter what, and a chance to *plus-up" my employment matter what.

That's a really big deal.

Much like someone who has lived through a Depression never loses the habit of saving pennies and avoiding reckless financial speculation, my experiences over the last couple years teach me two important things that I believe will be permanently ingrained in my noggin': (1) No matter how healthy you *think* you are, the unexpected can happen at any time; and (2) No matter how many people tell you "you'll be fine" and no matter how many resumes you send out, you can still wind up involuntarily jobless.

In other words, bad things sometimes happen -- and sometimes, much like the Spanish Inquisition, those things can't be predicted or expected.

In the short term, staying in means the drill paycheck each month, saving a fortune over the required health insurance I'd have to pay for without Tricare, and much more freedom to choose my next full-time, *permanent* (i.e. post-school) job.

It's not every day that someone talks about joining the military to gain more freedom (for himself, that is), but let me explain: By knowing that the backstop of some type of guaranteed paycheck, in addition to family Tricare, is available to me, I can take a greater risk on the job front. I could join forces with the four crazy guys in Kendall Square with the idea to make the next streaming, 4G widget delivery service and the glimmer of an IPO somewhere in their eye even knowing that the whole thing could go belly-up in 18 months because I know that it wouldn't be doomsday for my family if they did.

Otherwise, I'd be much more constrained, and would feel a much stronger gravitational pull towards more stable (but less exciting) options.

And by pushing towards that magical twenty-year mark, I'd also know a lifetime pension would be somewhere out on the horizon, even if I wouldn't be able to touch it until age 59 (only the active-duty guys get the half-enchilada right at the retirement age, which could be as young as 38 for some).

1 comment:

C R Krieger said...

Acronym Alert!

MOS is Army for the code system the Army uses to designate different Army jobs and sub-specialties.  The Services could just use the Department of Labor system, but they don't.

Good call, Greg

Regards  —  Cliff