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Comparing a military E-7 active-duty pension to an E-7 Reserve pension
Old 12-10-2010, 02:08 PM   #1
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Comparing a military E-7 active-duty pension to an E-7 Reserve pension

If you've been following the blog for "The Military Guide", you've probably noticed by now that we've been working through military retirements from the "simplest" to the most complex. This is the second week of Reserve/National Guard topics, including a highly-anticipated post comparing an active-duty pension to a Reserve pension.

I could use a good proofread and fact-check. My spouse served nearly eight years in the Navy Reserve, I've read all of the instructions and guides and professional magazines, and we vicariously shared all the retirement dramas at a PACOM unit. Spouse is waiting until 2022 for her own Reserve pension. I think I nailed all the rules and numbers but the bottom line is that I'm heavy on theory and light on experience. I'm also blissfully ignorant of any special quirks or surprises in the rules for the other services.

I won't regurgitate that post here for fear of glazing civilian eyeballs with boredom. However if you're in the Reserves or National Guard, especially retired awaiting pay, or heaven forbid even actually receiving retired pay, then I'd appreciate your good hard scrub on the numbers in the blog post of this title. Feel free to impart your experiences in the comments or point out my oversights there or here, and I'll make the fixes. Let me know if your own Reserve/NG retirement didn't work out the way you expected and what you'd do differently.

I've also put up a post about Tricare Reserve Select and Tricare Retired Reserve. Again I've followed their development over the years and I can read the rules as well as anybody else, but if you're using either of these programs then I would love to hear your experiences.
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Old 12-13-2010, 02:37 PM   #2
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Interesting post. What I've seen in the National Guard is that a lot of people stick around until they turn 60 and get seperated due to age.

It looks like the active duty E-7 pension is much better, money wise. They have 22 years of drawing retirement pay while the reserve component E-7 has to wait until age 60.

That may be offset if the reserve component E-7 stayed in until age 60. That E-7 would be drawing a monthly paycheck for drills. I would think that in this optempo the reservist would be mobilized a lot tho.

I've seen "guard bums" who volunteer for extra duty and work extra drills to beef up their retirment points. You can also take a certain number of correspondence courses to bump up retirement points as well.
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Old 12-13-2010, 02:44 PM   #3
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Interesting post. What I've seen in the National Guard is that a lot of people stick around until they turn 60 and get seperated due to age.

It looks like the active duty E-7 pension is much better, money wise. They have 22 years of drawing retirement pay while the reserve component E-7 has to wait until age 60.

That may be offset if the reserve component E-7 stayed in until age 60. That E-7 would be drawing a monthly paycheck for drills. I would think that in this optempo the reservist would be mobilized a lot tho.

I've seen "guard bums" who volunteer for extra duty and work extra drills to beef up their retirment points. You can also take a certain number of correspondence courses to bump up retirement points as well.

Enlisted cannot stay until age 60 in the Reserves unless they have not met time in service maximums. Now NG may work a little differently...

High Year of Tenure
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Old 12-13-2010, 02:55 PM   #4
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The Air Force Reserve has a high year of tenure at which the member must retire when they've been in for 33 yrs. That's what happened to me. I once considered transferring to the Air Guard, which you'd think would have the same rules, but they told me I could stay in till age 60. I was 51 at the time. Kind of surprising they'd want 60 year old geezers running around in military uniforms, not to mention trying to keep up with the PT requirements. Not trying to piss anybody off, but still....I feel like the military is pretty much a younger person's game....or at most, middle aged. I feel qualified to say that, having served for 33 years.

I retired 7 months ago from the reserves, with 4000 points and that will give me approximately 55% of an active duty retiree of 20 years at the same grade. Since I mostly worked one weekend a month, a couple weeks a year, and a few extra orders thrown in here & there over the course of the years, I feel that's about right. Plus, because I was a federal employee all those years, and the fed vigorously supports the Guard & Reserves, I received additional military leave from my civilian job, in the amount of 120 hrs per year for the last few years, and was able to "double dip" quite a bit over the years. Meaning...I would use military leave from my civilian job on military orders, get paid full military pay while also getting my civilian pay. In addition, if I was so inclined, I could burn some of my vacation time & do the same thing. I did both and made some pretty good extra money. Now that I'm retired, I REALLY miss that extra income. If I can make it 7 more years to 60, I'll be glad to get my hands on that retirement check each month.
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Old 12-13-2010, 02:56 PM   #5
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I've seen AGR's forced out before age 60. I think that is a way to control retirement costs.

After 20 years in the Guard, you go before a Selective Retention Board. You pretty much have to convince them that you can still contribute to the mission. Of course, in tough times, no one gets retired. When they are in an overstrength position, lots of people get retired.

I've seen it get political tho, so its not an entirely fair system. I've seen it misused to get rid of military technicians when the management didn't want to take the hard steps to terminate a GS employee.
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Old 12-13-2010, 03:12 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Bimmerbill View Post
It looks like the active duty E-7 pension is much better, money wise. They have 22 years of drawing retirement pay while the reserve component E-7 has to wait until age 60.
That may be offset if the reserve component E-7 stayed in until age 60. That E-7 would be drawing a monthly paycheck for drills. I would think that in this optempo the reservist would be mobilized a lot tho.
I've hinted at it and I'll discuss it in detail in a future post, but there's also the prospect of an easier advancement in the Reserves/NG.

FIREUp2020, you're going to have to keep me honest on the details of what follows here. I think I have it right.

The Navy used to have a "running mate" system for officer promotions where each Reserve officer's date of rank was matched to the same active-duty date of rank. When BUPERS announced what dates of rank would be considered for the next active-duty selection board, RESFOR would use the same dates of rank for Reserve officers for their selection board. This might have made the Reserve selection groups far bigger than necessary, but both selection boards would endeavor to promote the same percentages in their respective communities.

The good news is that Reserve selection boards went pretty much lockstep with active-duty boards. The downside was that at the ranks of O-5 and O-6 there were far more officers than drill billets. Officers would have something like a 1:4 chance at a pay billet or would otherwise spend years in the "Volunteer Training Unit" where they'd drill just for points-- not for pay. They'd get a bigger pension, sure, but it was an exercise in patience and frustration for no paycheck.

The better news is that if you'd burned too many bridges in your active-duty community, the Reserves would give you a fresh start with a (largely) blank slate. I've seen many O-3s have to leave active duty after failing to promote, only to make O-4 on their first Reserve board. I've seen many submariners move over to Intel or other communities and promote all out of proportion to their active-duty expectations.

When that active-duty E-7 retired, the net effect on the Reserve E-7 is that he may have been able to make more money in drill pay than his active-duty counterpart was getting in pension. (Of course the Reserve E-7 had to actually work for it.) The Reserve E-7 might also have had a far better chance of promoting to E-8. When those extra points and the promotion are factored in, he might be earning almost as much pension as the active-duty retiree.

But the Navy abandoned that "running mate" system a few years ago. I haven't kept up with the officer/enlisted promotion rates so it seems rash of me to make wild promises about Reserve promotion opportunities.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bimmerbill View Post
I've seen "guard bums" who volunteer for extra duty and work extra drills to beef up their retirment points. You can also take a certain number of correspondence courses to bump up retirement points as well.
There's at least one in every Navy Reserve unit!

Spouse had a billet in emergency planning & disaster recovery. All of her drills involved coordination meetings (or travel to national convention planning meetings). All of her OJT was FEMA correspondence courses that added up to a six-foot-high stack of paper and quite a few points. It was a great deal... until you got that 3 AM phone call to implement the emergency plan and recover from a disaster.
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Old 12-13-2010, 03:21 PM   #7
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I was an Air Reserve Technician from 1981 till August, 2008. Since I'm under the old CSRS, and since my Service Comp Date is from 1977, I would have been required to retire on my 55th birthday, from both my civilian fed job and from the reserves as well.

Since I chose to transfer out of the military technician position into a regular fed job in '08, the Air Force required me to retire in April of this year, at age 52 because I had reached the 33 yrs high year of tenure that applies to non-technician reservists.

Had I stayed in my old job, I could have remained as a reservist a couple more years, but by that time, I was beyond burned out, and badly needed a different direction in my civilian job, so I opted out. I miss the monthly extra $$, but I can honestly say I don't miss the drills & other military bs, lol.

For regular reservists who are not mil techs, the reserves max tenure of 33 yrs applies, OR...age 60, whichever occurs first. For most people, the 33 yrs comes first.

I did see one ART who began his career as an ART a few years later on in life than most, who was able to stay in his ART job plus the reserves until his 60th birthday, but that's not really typical in the AF Reserves...or at least it wasn't. Now that most CSRS'rs are gone, I expect this scenario to be more common in the future.
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Old 12-13-2010, 03:43 PM   #8
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I was an Air Reserve Technician from 1981 till August, 2008. Since I'm under the old CSRS, and since my Service Comp Date is from 1977, I would have been required to retire on my 55th birthday, from both my civilian fed job and from the reserves as well.

Since I chose to transfer out of the military technician position into a regular fed job in '08, the Air Force required me to retire in April of this year, at age 52 because I had reached the 33 yrs high year of tenure that applies to non-technician reservists.

Had I stayed in my old job, I could have remained as a reservist a couple more years, but by that time, I was beyond burned out, and badly needed a different direction in my civilian job, so I opted out. I miss the monthly extra $$, but I can honestly say I don't miss the drills & other military bs, lol.

For regular reservists who are not mil techs, the reserves max tenure of 33 yrs applies, OR...age 60, whichever occurs first. For most people, the 33 yrs comes first.

I did see one ART who began his career as an ART a few years later on in life than most, who was able to stay in his ART job plus the reserves until his 60th birthday, but that's not really typical in the AF Reserves...or at least it wasn't. Now that most CSRS'rs are gone, I expect this scenario to be more common in the future.
ARTs have a very different experience from a regular Unit Reservist or IMA in the USAFR. They are fairly well protected and can taek advantage of the unique position they are in wrt government employee/Reservist.

With DOPMA/ROPMA there was an explosion of promotions in the USAFR in the officer ranks - they had a very generous below the zone or unit vacancy program. However, as with the Navy Reserves, that window has now shut very tightly. They have revamped the promotion system and times for a below the zone look (once only now and only O-5 and below). They had too many promotees to O-6 who couldn't find paying slots - they either gave up the promotion, retired or tried to accomplish a non-pay position using MPA days. Now they are promoting much fewer to O-6, MPA funds are drying up and giving 2 year time in grade waivers to encourage retirements.

From an enlisted viewpoint, it is very different - they need to show skills proficiency with testing, time in grade and then for the higher grades, also find a position before they can be promoted. I hired a SMSgt into a CMSgt position which made him eligible for CMSgt once he had the prerequisites AND I promoted him (as the squadron commander). I promoted/didn't promote all of those below him as well - I had to approve/disapprove the list monthly. I was given a list of eligibles and then a recommendation.....then made my decision.

As for the age of Reservist - I saw quite a few that were quite old...they had been in for 25-30 years. Didn't see many 60 year olds, however, there were a few who had been involved, then had a few 'bad years,' decided to come back in and finishing up their eligibility for a retirement. Many also padded their time doing honor guard for funerals, MPA days, multiple deployments (we encouraged volunteers over 'ordering a recall/mobilization' which was *not* the way the Guard did it). Many made much more as an enlisted airmen than they did in their civilian jobs or just didn't have a civilian job at the time.

Off topic - I was told by many that once I hired the SMSgt and my 1st Sgt I needed to promote them immediately - I didn't. I told both of them they had to prove to me they could handle the position and validate my decision before I did that. I gave them both 60 days. They were both excellent choices, but I don't believe in the "you're in the slot, give them the rank already" philosophy. I had my own sob stories about rank and positions and could match anyone's and was willing to if they complained :-)
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Old 12-13-2010, 07:42 PM   #9
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Didn't see many 60 year olds, however, there were a few who had been involved, then had a few 'bad years,' decided to come back in and finishing up their eligibility for a retirement.
A friend of ours was in that situation-- Vietnam corpsman with the Marines, a couple of tours, three Purple Hearts, decided to take a break for a few years.

He came back to it in the late 1980s with a college degree and a commission and made O-5 in the Reserves. The capstone of his career was being mobilized on one-year orders just a few months before his 59th birthday...
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Old 12-14-2010, 04:48 PM   #10
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The Coast Guard reserve had a high year tenure of 30 years and out at 60 for enlisted. However, if they had a need for your skills they could sign a waiver regarding the high year tenure. Due to 9/11 I was called back to active duty. About a year later I was called into my commander's office and was told they had not realized how old I was and they would have to release me from active duty. Release date was about a month past my 60th birthday. Then I was requested to remain in the reserves to help during a command transition period. Finally pulled the plug at 60 yr, 5 mo for a total of 38+ years.
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Old 12-14-2010, 11:34 PM   #11
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... and was told they had not realized how old I was and they would have to release me from active duty.
I'd take that as a compliment!
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