Know Your Military

The Clock is Ticking: Have You Made Your Retirement Decision?

Nov. 21, 2018 | BY Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alison Maruca

Hi there, remember me? We chatted about retirement earlier this summer — I laid out all of the basic elements of the new Blended Retirement System. I strongly encourage you to go back and check it out if you need a refresher. But now we’re quickly closing in on Dec. 31, the end of the opt-in period, and there are a few things I want to remind you of before it’s too late.

Soldier in helmet giving thumbs up
Thumbs Up
This guy should get a double thumbs up because not only has he opted into the Blended Retirement System, but he’s also maxing out his Thrift Savings Plan contribution. Whether he decides to get out after his next tour or stay in until retirement, he knows he’s making a smart decision for his financial future.
Photo By: Lt.Cmdr. Alison Maruca
VIRIN: 180710-N-TT038-001

Eligibility

First of all, you should know by now whether or not you’re eligible to opt into the Blended Retirement System. If you’re an active-duty service member with less than 12 years of service or a member of the Reserve component who has fewer than 4,320 retirement points at the beginning of 2018, you’re opt-in eligible.

You’ve probably received an inbox full of emails and messages from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, your service pay system, the Defense Department and more reminding you that you’re eligible and giving you directions on how to opt-in if you think it’s for you. We know it’s been a lot, but we just really want you to understand how important this decision is for your personal and professional future. So stop auto-deleting those messages. Take a quick moment to read them, consider what opting in could mean for you, and if you decide it’s the best plan for you, take action. Because time is running out.

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Maximizing Your Retirement Option

One of the biggest differences between BRS and the High-3 legacy system is the portability and flexibility that it affords you. However, with great power comes great responsibility, right? So in order to really maximize BRS, you need to know how much you’re contributing to your Thrift Savings Plan to ensure you’re receiving the maximum match from the DOD. The Marine Corps created a great infographic that depicts how much you could gain by maximizing your Thrift Savings Plan contribution as a service member who opts into BRS:

TPS explainer graphic
Retirement Infographic
Value of TSP Matching Contributions for BRS graphic
Photo By: Marine Corps graphic
VIRIN: 181012-M-ZZ999-275

Undecided

There’s a lot at stake if you’re considering leaving the military in the near future. You might think you want to stay in for a full career, but sometimes you just never know how things will pan out, right? We get it. Which is why if you’re on the fence about staying in the military or leaving before you reach 20 years, you really need to think strongly about what BRS could mean for you and your future.

The amazing thing about BRS is that you can still receive government-provided retirement benefits even if you don’t serve a full 20-year career. And conversely, if you do serve 20 years, you’re still able to receive a traditional pension in addition to your TSP contributions.

Reminder: the BRS blends the pension element of the legacy system with the portability and flexibility of a 401(k), similar to what your counterparts in the civilian industry encounter. Pretty cool, right?

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Chat with Your Spouse

Military spouses are pretty incredible, right? They work, hold down the fort, keep the kids happy and fed, support our service members and do so much to enable our military to focus on the mission. In most military families, it’s the spouse who manages the finances, the budget, the long-term planning and more. So, as you, the service member, contemplate what opting into BRS could mean for you and your family, take a moment to include your spouse in that discussion.

Resources

Chances are pretty high that you already completed the mandatory training that all eligible service members had to take in 2017. But chances are also pretty high that you don’t recall all of that training and you haven’t made your decision yet.

We get it. Life often gets in the way of getting this stuff done. But we’re getting close to the opt-in deadline, so your time is running out. If you haven’t yet made your decision but are still considering your options, here are some resources you have access to in order to help you make a decision in the best interest of your financial future:

  • BRS Website
  • BRS Comparison Calculator
  • Installation Personal Financial Managers: Every installation has personal financial managers available to service members and their families at no cost. Seek out your service’s family community center to find out where your PFMs are located and make an appointment with them today!
  • MilitaryOneSource: Financial support available 24/7. Call 1-800-342-9647.
     

If you’ve made up your mind and are ready to opt-in, take action now. The longer you wait, the more money you’re leaving on the table (remember, through BRS you receive the 1 percent service automatic contribution to your TSP). So, take the time to log into your service’s pay system and make the choice. Click here if you need more info on where to opt in for your service.

This decision will require you to think carefully about your military career, your finances and your long-term goals. But there’s an entire team behind you, ready to help you make the best decision for your life. The choice is yours, but remember … the clock is ticking. Make your decision by Dec. 31.

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The author of this article, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alison Maruca, is the assistant director of strategic communications for military compensation policy, retired and annuitant pay for the Defense Department.