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Old 11-21-2014, 11:09 AM   #21
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The military are probably the least likely of public employees to see their benefits cut.
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Old 11-21-2014, 11:11 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by nash031 View Post
Sir -
I believe you are going to be hard-pressed to enjoy your life strictly on your pension. I'd estimate you'll be getting between $80-90K (today's dollars),
80-90K a year is more than enough for a comfortable retirement.

You could pay all essential costs (mortgage, utilities, food, car, etc) on half that leaving a lot of money for play.

Pick the location you'd think you'd retire too, check costs and do up a sample budget. I think you'll find you'll be fine.
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Old 11-21-2014, 11:44 AM   #23
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I think what is a bigger threat is that of Tricare (not the TFL Medicare supplement). The Tricare Prime benefit has been under fire for a while now and the rates have gone up...of course the increases have been minimal in comparison with other health insurance (I hate that word insurance, I wish they would call is a health SERVICE plan since that is what it really is). Right now, I am going to live just fine on my pension, and this is in part because of the low cost of Tricare...you CANNOT beat $555 a year for coverage. Now, if this were to go up what the civilian side of the house is paying (the ACA website shows coverage for the DW and I for a Gold plan would be in the neighborhood of $16K a year) then my rear is going back to w*rk.
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Old 11-21-2014, 11:55 AM   #24
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Well, you can beat $555 a year if you manage your income low enough to qualify for Medicaid. If I get frustrated enough with the exchange, I may just do that.
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Old 11-21-2014, 12:00 PM   #25
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The military are probably the least likely of public employees to see their benefits cut.
While true, least likely is not the same as unlikely or impossible. We saw that last year, and we saw the power of the Veteran's groups who fought it. Since it is a budget line item, it can be changed overnight without much notice. It is unlikely, but not impossible.
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Old 11-21-2014, 12:37 PM   #26
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I think military pensions are solvent (in that there is no worry about them not being paid over the long-term.) That said, I think it's unrealistic to think the value of them won't be diminished over time. Even if COLAs are not reduced below the CPI in the future - and I'm sure they will be - the CPI probably won't keep up with your personal rate of inflation. Also, I'd be very surprised if commissary and exchange benefits are not curtailed in some manner going forward.

(An aside on commissaries and exchanges: my wife, who does most of the shopping, tells me that she can almost always find as good a deal on an exchange item by going to a big box store or watching for sales. The commissary is a somewhat better value, but even there with watching the weekly supermarket sales, she doesn't feel like she is missing anything by not having ready access to one.)

One question I would ask the OP (rhetorically) is this: if you are married, have you considered providing for your spouse if you should die shortly after retiring? Even if you take the full SBP, a spouses's income would be severely reduced in the event of your demise in retirement. That would argue for having a good nest-egg built up.

In my own case retired (O-6/28.5 years), we can cover everything we need and most of what we wantfrom my military pension. But we do not live extravagantly and never have. We did build up a nice nest egg of savings/investments during my military career and during my 6 year post-Navy "career," so I feel there is a nice cushion I personally wouldn't feel comfortable without. (At least I would want a good portion of it, not necessarily all of it.)
This also keeps me sleeping well that my wife will be reasonably well provided for if I predecease her (which the actuaries tell me I'm likely to.)

Just a few thoughts. Obviously you need to consider what's right for you.
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Old 11-21-2014, 12:48 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Kaufmanrider View Post
80-90K a year is more than enough for a comfortable retirement.

You could pay all essential costs (mortgage, utilities, food, car, etc) on half that leaving a lot of money for play.

Pick the location you'd think you'd retire too, check costs and do up a sample budget. I think you'll find you'll be fine.
I agree it would be fine, but if OP is used to living off of $150K, it may not be. I inferred that he has no savings, thus his spending exceeds what he'll get from his pension by quite a bit. If that's not true, then yeah, not much of a risk.

Same boat for me. My spending exceeds my future pension, thus I need more.
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Old 11-21-2014, 01:42 PM   #28
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I'm coming up on 20 years of active duty service. I am currently an 05 and am on track to make O6. My plan is to serve 30 and walk away and not work again. I would be 52 years old. To accomplish this goal I would need to rely mostly on this pension rather than my current investments.

Is this risky?


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The math behind government entitlements opens them all to some level of risk. Certain states and municipalities have almost achieved true zombie status. How the courts handle the inevitable legal battles is always open to discussion but the judges are also counting on their own government pensions. Detroit pensioners took a token hit and so far the California bankruptcies have preserved the pensions to the best of my knowledge. Taxpayers, bond holders and current employees seem to be getting the short end of the stick.

As for federal pensions, they do print the money but many budgeting nibbles have been done and will probably continue to be done in the future. You are likely to get much of what you think you were promised. Expect some erosion in how things are calculated and how much you might have to pay in taxes. It's risky to assume your COLA will always keep you whole. If this is all you have, expect to slowly but surely lower your expenses.
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Old 11-21-2014, 01:58 PM   #29
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As for federal pensions, they do print the money but many budgeting nibbles have been done and will probably continue to be done in the future. You are likely to get much of what you think you were promised. Expect some erosion in how things are calculated and how much you might have to pay in taxes. It's risky to assume your COLA will always keep you whole. If this is all you have, expect to slowly but surely lower your expenses.
The retirement age might be adjusted too because of increasing lifespans and the general outrage at Federal and public employees being able to take pensions at 55 or even earlier. I say that as someone who can take a pension at 55 and just avoided new legislation that moves that back to 60.
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Old 11-21-2014, 03:09 PM   #30
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I agree that the recent budget approved by Congress and subsequent repeal of the COLA modification gave me real pause.
I think the COLA is the key to why military retirement has been such a good deal.
Mine began in 1989, and my retired pay has increased by a cumulative 92.7% since then. The CPI inflation has increased by 92.06% in the same period, so I'm holding my own very nicely.

But I don't see this lasting forever.
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Old 11-21-2014, 07:41 PM   #31
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I think the COLA is the key to why military retirement has been such a good deal.
Mine began in 1989, and my retired pay has increased by a cumulative 92.7% since then. The CPI inflation has increased by 92.06% in the same period, so I'm holding my own very nicely.

But I don't see this lasting forever.
I agree. Congress has dabbled with the civilian side and is working on more changes. Federal civil service retirement under the newer plan, (FERS), does not have COLA until the retiree hits age 62. Also, other earned income above about $16k will reduce your retirement income, (FERS Supplement), by a calculated amount. This discourages pursuing another career and limits personal freedom.

I can see these kinds of things happening to military retirement pay in the future, also. Congress will nibble at it a little at a time. But I think the changes will affect the new people coming in and others will be grandfathered. As of right now though, I think a military retirement is one of the best things going. You certainly can't beat the health insurance that goes with it either.

I know when I was active duty 30 some years ago, you could retire with 20 years at 50% of pay and a sliding scale above that. I know things have changed over the years since then. Kinda like civil service. What is the present minimum military retirement plan like? I know there is TSP, but any matching, etc? Still 50% with 20?
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Old 11-22-2014, 08:27 AM   #32
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What is the present minimum military retirement plan like? I know there is TSP, but any matching, etc? Still 50% with 20?
The current military retirement plan is the "high three." One can retire starting at 20 years at 50% of base pay calculated from the average of base pay from the last three years on active duty. This retirement system was introduced for those entering service after 1986 and results in about a 10% reduction in retired pay from the "older" generation that retired at 50% of final base pay starting at 20 years. Retired pay is increased by 2.5% (again, average of last three years on active duty) for each year on active duty past 20.

For example, I retired at 26 years. So, my retired pay is 65% of the average of my base pay from years 24-26 on active duty.
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Old 11-22-2014, 09:27 AM   #33
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The current military retirement plan is the "high three." One can retire starting at 20 years at 50% of base pay calculated from the average of base pay from the last three years on active duty. This retirement system was introduced for those entering service after 1986 and results in about a 10% reduction in retired pay from the "older" generation that retired at 50% of final base pay starting at 20 years. Retired pay is increased by 2.5% (again, average of last three years on active duty) for each year on active duty past 20.

For example, I retired at 26 years. So, my retired pay is 65% of the average of my base pay from years 24-26 on active duty.
I thought the current retirement was high 3 COLA -1%?
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Old 11-22-2014, 09:49 AM   #34
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Thank you to everyone that has replied. I appreciate the input and food for thought as I attempt to knock out the next 10 years.



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Old 11-22-2014, 10:05 AM   #35
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I thought the current retirement was high 3 COLA -1%?
The COLA -1% is only applied to the REDUX retirement, which is a 3rd retirement choice that service members can make. This is a horrible offer by the government that entices personnel to take a lump sum of $30K at 15 years of service for a reduced pension later. Some take it, but it's not a good deal.

From the OSD Military Compensation Website CSB/REDUX Retirement System

REDUX System Details
The REDUX multiplier calculation and annual cost of living adjustments differ from the other systems. Also, REDUX has a catch-up increase at age 62 that brings the REDUX retired pay back to the same amount paid under the High-3 System. REDUX is the only military retirement system with a readjustment feature.

Each of the first 20 years of service is worth 2.0% toward the retirement multiplier. But each year after the 20th is worth 3.5%. Hence, 2.0% x 20 years = 40%. But a 30-year career is computed by 2.0% times the first 20 years plus 3.5% for the 10 years beyond 20, resulting in the maximum of 75%. The table below summarizes the initial multiplier at various years of service under REDUX.

Years of service 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
REDUX 40% 43.5% 47% 50.5% 54% 57.5% 61% 64.5% 68% 71.5% 75%
Under REDUX, the longer an individual stays on active duty the closer the multiplier is to what it would have been under High-3 up to the 30-year point where the multipliers are equal.

In precisely the same way as High-3, this multiplier is applied against the average basic pay for the highest 36 months of the individual's basic pay. This typically, though not always, equals the average basic pay for the final three years of service. Also, remember this is basic pay; allowances and special pays do not affect retired pay.

Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA) for retired pay are given annually based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of inflation. Under REDUX, the COLA is equal to CPI minus 1%.
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Old 11-22-2014, 01:01 PM   #36
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Cheez whiz, guys, lighten up a little. The military's here to defend your rights to say stuff like that, but this is not a political question. It's all about the money and the retention rates.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BighousePT View Post
I'm coming up on 20 years of active duty service. I am currently an 05 and am on track to make O6. My plan is to serve 30 and walk away and not work again. I would be 52 years old. To accomplish this goal I would need to rely mostly on this pension rather than my current investments.
Is this risky?
I think you're taking a reasonable risk. Let me answer both questions.

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No doubt Nords will be along with detais, but IIRC by law the military pension fund is required to be fully funded at all times. I qualify for a(n infinitessimal) Fed pension and I consider it equal to a treasury bond. IOW, if I don't get paid the $20 a week I am owed in 20 years, we will all be eating rats and collecting rainwater for drinking. At that point, my stash of whiskey, shotshells and rice & beans will ensure I am King of the Dump.
Like Brewer says, the DoD funds the pensions for the services with special-purpose intra-government Treasury bonds for the purpose. If those default then we'll already have too many other problems to notice.

For example, here's an old CBO report on military compensation:
http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/fil...taryComp_0.pdf
A paragraph on p. 23 says
Quote:
To fund the retirement system, DoD sets aside an amount equal to a predefined percentage of basic pay in accrual payments while service members are on active duty. Future costs are dictated by the structure of the benefits, the mix of people receiving them, and inflation in the economy that determines the annual cost-of-living
adjustment (COLA). For the future, costs could be managed by changing the vesting period, by changing the mix
of defined benefits and defined contributions, or by some other means.
DoD has seen your retirement coming and is getting ready for it.

These bonds have actually been perceived as a problem. The funds are accrued on very conservative assumptions in even more conservative investments. DoD could solve some significant cashflow problems if they'd adopt more realistic pension-accounting procedures and invest in some other assets. It would not be as bold as the old proposal to privatize Social Security, but it would stop essentially overfunding the pension plan or earn a higher return.

When SECDEF gripes to Congress about excessive personnel costs, this pension accounting system is one of the more significant portions of the cost.

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I'm sorry, I don't understand. What I am concerned about is the government taking away or reducing the pension. Last year they tried to reduce cost of living increases by sneaking the cut in another bill. I'm guessing it's only a matter of time until they try something like this again.
They're going to try something like that every year, but the process moves very slowly and the military advocacy groups are very effective at lobbying for the status quo.

Last year's attempt not only sneaked by the advocacy groups (without debate) but it even sneaked by the Armed Services Committees of both Houses without debate. I can only imagine the "frank conversations" that went on in private offices. When the fait accompli was passed, you saw how the military groups campaigned to have it repealed for all those who've joined the military before 2014. This time they had a lot of support from Congress, too.

In 1986, Congress passed REDUX. It took 13 years to realize their mistake, and they repealed it. Yet in the last 30 years we've seen military pay indexed to the Employer Cost Index (although that's been suspended), Tricare Prime fielded, Tricare For Life established, CRDP, the new GI Bill, and a host of other additions to military pay & benefits. It's all a pendulum swing, and it'll swing both ways several times during the remainder of our lives. There will be changes to the pension system, but current servicemembers (and current retirees) will be grandfathered. I think your pension will continue to grow with national inflation, and it'll certainly grow faster than your personal rate of inflation. No need to focus on the negative.

You also have a TSP account, and I sincerely hope you've been maximizing the contributions. (If not, then here's your chance to catch up.) If you want to be even more financially secure then save additional amounts in your Roth IRA and your taxable accounts. However my O-4 pension covers over two-thirds of our non-discretionary spending, and most of that spending is fixed-rate mortgages. In 10 years my O-4 pension will probably cover 75%-80% of our non-discretionary spending.

Speaking of that plan to go for 30, I'd personally suggest taking it one tour at a time. The O-6 billets are scarce and the competition is backstabbing fierce. If you're having fun then stay on active duty as long as you're enjoying yourself. But when you get treated to the harsh realities of O-6 assignments and political infighting, if you've been pushing yourself to financial independence then you don't have to stay to 30. You could leave at 20, 22, 26, or at the end of a tour. There's still plenty of bridge careers (if necessary) for O-5s with 20 years of service, and the closer you are to FI then the more choices you have.

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I think what is a bigger threat is that of Tricare (not the TFL Medicare supplement). The Tricare Prime benefit has been under fire for a while now and the rates have gone up...of course the increases have been minimal in comparison with other health insurance (I hate that word insurance, I wish they would call is a health SERVICE plan since that is what it really is). Right now, I am going to live just fine on my pension, and this is in part because of the low cost of Tricare...you CANNOT beat $555 a year for coverage. Now, if this were to go up what the civilian side of the house is paying (the ACA website shows coverage for the DW and I for a Gold plan would be in the neighborhood of $16K a year) then my rear is going back to w*rk.
I agree that Tricare Prime is at risk, and I suspect that within the next decade the program will be scrapped for something resembling the ACA choices or even Tricare Standard. However I think the annual deductible will still be capped at $3000 (or even less for some ranks).

Another perpetual proposal is an annual fee for TFL. It has been voted down every year. The last figure I remember hearing was $200/year. My father currently pays $4500/year for his Medicare supplemental insurance.

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I agree. Congress has dabbled with the civilian side and is working on more changes. Federal civil service retirement under the newer plan, (FERS), does not have COLA until the retiree hits age 62. Also, other earned income above about $16k will reduce your retirement income, (FERS Supplement), by a calculated amount. This discourages pursuing another career and limits personal freedom.

I can see these kinds of things happening to military retirement pay in the future, also. Congress will nibble at it a little at a time. But I think the changes will affect the new people coming in and others will be grandfathered. As of right now though, I think a military retirement is one of the best things going. You certainly can't beat the health insurance that goes with it either.

I know when I was active duty 30 some years ago, you could retire with 20 years at 50% of pay and a sliding scale above that. I know things have changed over the years since then. Kinda like civil service. What is the present minimum military retirement plan like? I know there is TSP, but any matching, etc? Still 50% with 20?
As far as I know, the "CPI-1%" offset for servicemembers who have joined in 2014 is still in effect. (The legislation has been repealed for everyone else.) We'll see how DoD and Congress feel about that in 5-10 years as servicemembers begin to vote with their feet.

TSP is not matched for the military. The law is on the books, and DoD has authorized the services to use it, but I haven't heard of that happening. The focus is still on bonus pay and re-enlistment bonuses (which can both be put in the TSP).

The current retirement plan is High Three (average of the highest 36 months of pay) at 50% of base pay for 20 years. It's a little less than the Final Pay system you remember, but it still works out to roughly 30%-35% of total active-duty compensation.

There's plenty of Congressional nibbling, but you get the military that you pay for. In 1999 retention (even during a drawdown) sucked so badly that REDUX was repealed. In 2005-2009, even with the Great Recession, the services were throwing out plenty of enlistment bonuses and retention incentives. We're going to see a lot of scary drawdown headlines through 2018, but peace is not breaking out all over.
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Old 11-22-2014, 04:28 PM   #37
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(a whole bunch of good stuff)
Nords' post is so much more informative than the simplistic one I wrote and discarded. I will offer this: A military pension is one of my four primary retirement income sources, and that would be my point - its fortunes or setbacks would not deleteriously effect our retirement situation. So, +1 on the TSP advice; savings is yours to manage for good or ill, not subject to the mis-management of others...
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Old 11-22-2014, 05:19 PM   #38
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... There will be changes to the pension system, but current servicemembers (and current retirees) will be grandfathered. I think your pension will continue to grow with national inflation, and it'll certainly grow faster than your personal rate of inflation..
Nords,

Has this really been the case with you? I find that my costs (property taxes, energy, groceries) rise more than the small (but still very welcomed!) annual increases to my pension.
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Old 11-22-2014, 05:59 PM   #39
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Does anyone have any thoughts on how safe VA disability compensation is in the present environment?
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Old 11-22-2014, 06:10 PM   #40
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Nords,
Super informative. Thank you.


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