So, here are my basic points about using your GI Bill benefits any time you have the opportunity to boost your career - still in or got out: * Give it to your family - the best thing you can do for your kids is to be successful yourself. So use 4% for you - you did the time - and give 96% to your kids if you wish. * The risk of giving it ALL to your kids - Only 23% of people who apply can pass the Army entrance exam; Only 69% of kids graduate from high school; 66% of high school graduates enroll in college; only 58% of first time, full-time students earn their 4 year degree within 6 years; a 2011 NY Times story reported "no more than 1/4 of part-time students EVER graduate; out of 79 students in Texas only 2 earned their Associate on time and of 21 who enrolled in a B. S. program, only 13 had finished 8 years later. ONLY TO SAY - using some for yourself guarantees that at least 4% of it was for sure used and completed and hopefully helped you earn more money to support them longer.
* Use it now while on active duty - I did that, got my Master's Degree with the GI Bill while a LCDR in the Navy. Why not, that way I was prepared to work when I got out. * What's the downside of that? Well, on 0-6 scolded me that if you do that, the person loses one month of housing allowance they could have gotten if they waited till they got out. So that looks like maybe $1300 you didn't get for the one month of eligibility you spent on earning the 9 certifications. I term that one of two things, either bad career planning or "milking the system" mentality. And again, that assumes you used the entire GI Bill eligibility, which only 1 in 16 does. And if you gave it to your kids I assume they don't get the housing allowance, though I don't know.
* Wait till you get out - Well then you are hoping their is an opportunity wherever you retire to get a certification. And/or you are assuming you can afford to go to college and not work; and that you WANT to go to college; and that you are college material in the first place, not everyone is of course, nor does everyone NEED to go to college. I decided when I retired as LCDR, I wanted to get right to work, not take 1-2 years out of the work force to earn my Master's. SO THOSE ARE YOUR CHOICES AS I SEE THEM. I find that many military leaders and education centers want to paint everyone with the same brush. In the conversation, they don't even MENTION what that particular student has already done, or would like to do. MAYBE they already have a degree. Maybe they hate school. Maybe they love school. Every option needs to be on the table, that's my only point. No one is right or wrong, unless they just say - "No one" or "Everyone" should (insert whatever).