Retired At 40: How Much Is A Military Pension Worth?

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A few weeks ago I was reading an article in Money magazine about a couple who retired at 40. While they do live frugally in relatively low-cost St. Louis, the primary reason they were able to retire is that they each served for 20 years in the military and now receive a pension of $58,500 per year. They will receive this amount, adjusted for inflation, for the rest of their lives! On top of that, they get health coverage forever as well.

Obviously there are some important issues involved in working in the military. A sense of national duty, risk of injury and even death, possibly lower pay, and constant relocation, just to name a few. But let’s just focus on the financial aspects here. I knew military pensions were good, but I didn’t know they started as soon as you retired. I figured they’d kick in at 60 or 65, not right away. How much is that pension really worth? How much would a civilian job-jumper have to put away to replicate it?

Converting A Pension To A Lump Sum
A pension income is essentially what is provided by an immediate annuity. You pay a lump sum, and in return you get a constant stream of payments for the rest of your life. According to the quote estimates at, a policy that provides $58,500 of lifetime income per year starting at age 40 is worth a million dollars. This is without inflation adjustments, as I couldn’t find an instant quote for that. There are a ton of different options to these annuities, and there are tax implications to boot, so I’m just giving a ballpark number here. (You can estimate your own lump sum number by multiplying your desired income by 17.)

In addition, I can’t properly estimate how much the lifetime of health insurance is worth, but it has to be worth at least another $100,000-$200,000. The article lists their net worth at about $500,000, but really it is the equivalent of around $1.75 million for someone with no pension. At 40 years old, that is quite impressive.

Converting Lump Sum To Savings Rate
So let’s take an even million dollars. According to this simple savings calculator, if I assume an 5% annualized return on my investments (after-inflation), to end up with a millions dollars, that would be the same as saving $2,500 every single month for 20 years (in today’s dollars).

One way to to look at this is that their pension benefit was like receiving an additional $30,000 per year on top of their previous income. This is not to say this was any easy path and you have to have special resolve to stay for 20 years, which does not sound like an easy task at all.

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  1. Please change “worked in the military” to “served in the military”

    There is a world of difference.

    • They were paid. It is a job. It may be in service to the country, but still a job. They worked. “Served” should be reserved for those that do something without compensation. Firemen work, police work and they risk their lives every day in service to their communities. “Worked” is correct

      • Served is what you do when you either weren’t compensated or pariticipation wasn’t your choice(draft).
        That said serving in the military deserves a special level of respect because when the SHTF they don’t have the option of running away like civilians and cops do. I don’t begrudge them any of their pensions because they are also subjected to all sorts of hazardous material exposure that isn’t published.

        So when all is said and done if you’re in the military I doesn’t matter that you volunteered with compensation because you’re still risking our butt which is way more than any senator or congressman does and they get obscenely compensation and entitlements which our troops and civilians don’t get!

        • That may be true for the less than 10% that have served in combat. Why are we paying for lifetime medical benefits for the 90+ percent that were cooks and typists?

          • Well Clay, if you have ever served, which obviously you haven’t, you would understand that we all have an opportunity to be in combat. We all have to give up things and do things that you will never have to do. We have given up the most productive years of our lives to do what you obviously didn’t want to do voluntarily- serve our country and make sure you have the rights you have and the freedom to question whether or not the promises given to us should be upheld. How would you feel if you had been shuffled all over the world your entire adult life, served in and supported war after war, buried friend after friend, never had a chance to put down real roots anywhere but then have to hear someone like you question whether or not their service was good enough? And no, I’m not nor never have been one of those cooks or typists you speak of. I am a Marine in a Combat Support MOS who believes that if we protect the rights of our nation and our government, then our government should give us what they promised. And if they want to bring back the draft because they don’t want to pay for quality, then do so. But don’t think that we will just sit back and let them steal what we have earned quietly.

      • Last fall, the Department of Defense floated the idea that one way to fix the long-term sequester cuts would be to make military retirees ineligible for civil service pensions.

        In its simplest terms, it means the Pentagon would save money by not contributing to a military retiree’s Federal Employees Retirement System or Civil Service Retirement System account should they decide to continue their DoD service as a civilian employee, said Larry Korb, who oversaw manpower issues as an assistant Defense secretary during the Reagan administration.

        More than half of the DoD’s budget goes toward pay and benefits for its personnel, which makes it an easy target for budget cuts. According to the Office of Personnel Management, more than 134,000 military retirees held DoD civilian jobs as of last March, which means this change has the potential to save large sums of money.

      • Hastings Lamb says

        Beg to differ, no other career in civilian life is like the military. Currently an all volunteer band of brothers (Enlisted and commissioned) who take an oath”I, (state name of enlistee), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.” How many burger flippers or insurance salesmen, etc take such an oath? How many illegal aliens and people on welfare take such an oath? How many students in college or universities take such an oath? How many occupations exist where people who “work” for a living voluntarily sign a “check” for up to and including their lives? Yes, military people perform tasks that could be classified as work but they serve their country and protect it so people like you can have a career or position and work.

    • Because we all know there is a difference between working for a living and serving in the military.

      • Then don’t complain when the government has to write the check for the safety and freedoms others have provided you while you “worked for a living.”

  2. I read that article as well, but that won’t be the case for us. None of us has a pension, so everything will come out of our own savings. If we have $500K at age of 40 (we actually already have that much), we still won’t think about retirement because we don’t have anything to replace our income. That means we have to withdraw from our savings. In that case, a $500K asset probably won’t last as long as we want.

    In addition to annuity, the income replacement funds that Fidelity and Vanguard introduced last year may be another option.

    • Do you know what $500,000 and investing to get an 8% return you could live on the $40,000 a year interest? If you have that now, you are one of the lucky ones. Most Americans don’t have a tenth of that saved up. I suppose you have a good job as well. I don’t understand people that earn that much writing to MSN for advice. MSN should help the single moms, veterans trying to live on ONE pension, not two, and the multitude of people that are struggling to survive retirement on much less than you have.

      • Tim Winans says

        Where can you get 8% interest and the Government taxes the hell out of your interest accrued? I do have that much (or did) and could not even find a measly 3% payout. When I did, the funds were capped at a certain level I.e. We will take only $10K for this interest amount. It sounds like a great idea but an impossibility nonetheless.

        • Michael Elledge says

          I’ve been reading a few articles concerning military pensions. I served 20 years and draw a military pension. The numbers I keep seeing in these articles are a lot more than I see in my monthly check. They seem to be using numbers like 30 to 50 thousand dollars. That’s like 2 to 3 times what my pension is. My pension covers housing payment and maybe electric bill. It is definetly not enough to retire on I started my career all over after I retired 13 years ago. I see people making statements how good a military retiree has it. Don’t get me wrong I am thankful for my pension it helps out and the medical is a good fall back ins but it’s not a top of the line package by any stretch. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s not a big juicy plan like these authors are trying to make it out to be.

          • Tim Winans says

            Michael, I think a lot of people served longer than 20 years plus (and you know this) it depends on your rank at retirement. I make plenty enough to live off of — just my retirement but I retired as a MSgt after 26 years. I even contribute to the SBP (about $300 a month for my wife). I live in the most expensive country on earth (Japan) or it used to be. I have a take home of almost $3,000.00 plus make enough on my saving accounts (interest) to cover the additional higher electricity in the summertime (A/C). I am not working right now “unemployed” and have 3 college degrees — Thank you GI Bill of almost $250,000.00 of free education. I am working on more schooling/college as I type this and will try to get more certifications to work again. I truly believe that without my pension, I would not be able to survive here for very long. I had 16 interviews and still cannot get hired on full time. If there is any complaint I have “after” my retirement is it seems no one wants to hire a retired military person anymore. They act like they do, the play the game real well, but at the end of the day, I am “again” jobless and unemployed. I cannot even draw unemployment because I make a pension — in Washington State as I tried.

          • Tim Winans says

            They play the game real well.
            No edit button.

  3. Hank – Fair enough, I can do that.

    Sun – Actually, I have a few young relatives and friends who are on their way to a military pension, and many more who are on their way to a government or municipal pension. It just doesn’t exist much in the private sector anymore. I know that in many state and city governments they are cutting off the new workers, but assume the military pensions still exist?

  4. I read the same article and what suprised me the most was with just a little bit of part-time work the couple could really increase the security that they have (both had jobs that transfer to the private sector well) — and reduce the risk and concern. The longer they wait, they potentially lose the ability to market themselves effectively.

    However, it is their decision and their desire to balance their home life with their kids. That’s the great part about America. We get to make our own choices.

    • Actually, as a retired veteran with a military pension and worked hard to get an MBA, it isn’t MARKETING ourselves, it’s convincing employers that even though I spent 21 years NAVIGATING SHIPS, I can work as hard as anybody to do the job. The REAL TRUTH is I don’t have corporate business EXPERIENCE. The economy weeds out everyone that has no experience, and even if they say they hire veterans, it is not for anything more than simple lower-level jobs. People can say what they want, but experience is the box they want checked AFTER the preliminary degree.

      • I agree with Barry. People who have retired from the military do NOT have corporate business experience. We basically have to hired on as civil service/ Government jobs to get anything decent (some do but I don’t read about many). No a law is being passed as “double dipping.” If you retired from the military and receive a pension — and then work and retire from a civil service job (GUESS WHAT)? You do not get any civil service pension because you served in the military and receive a pension. Joe Shmoe comes along who has not retired from the military (actually never served his or her country Mmmm … like a Congress man) and gets a full pension from civil service after doing his or her time and retired. They do EXACTLY the same work in civil service yet one is handsomely paid a nice pension but the retired military gets nadda. See if that sounds fair???? Congress tried to sneak way our COLA while they paid themselves off with another raise …no wonder why so many are angry. The rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

        • To address long-term sequester cuts, the Defense Department is mulling numerous reductions that will affect civilian employees, including doing away with civilian employee pensions for military retirees who go back to work for the government as civilian employees.

          The savings could be almost $100 billion over 10 years when combined with a halt to commissary subsidies and restrictions on the availability of unemployment benefits, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters last week in summarizing the recommendations of the newly completed “Strategic Choices and Management Review.”

          “A sequester-level scenario would compel us to consider these changes because there would be no realistic alternative that did not pose unacceptable risk to national security,” Hagel said.

          As of March, more than 134,000 military retirees held civilian jobs at DoD, according to the Office of Personnel Management. For the Pentagon, axing civilian pensions would save money by reducing the amount it has to contribute into the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System, said Larry Korb, who oversaw manpower issues as an assistant Defense secretary during the Reagan administration.

          While Korb does not take the idea seriously, he sees it as an attempt by DoD to draw attention to a pension program that often lets soldiers, sailors and airmen retire from the military after 20 years, then return to DoD as civilian employees making more money for doing the same job.

          Hagel did not say how aggressively DoD would seek to implement such a step or how much it could save. A Pentagon spokesman later declined to provide additional detail.

          But the head of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) blasted the idea as “ill-conceived and completely unfair.”

          “No civilian employee should receive lower total compensation because they served in the military, ever,” NARFE President Joseph Beaudoin said in a statement. “This proposal should be rejected completely as an option, even under the worst budget scenarios.”

          The Defense Department is absorbing a $37 billion cut under this year’s sequester and could face a $52 billion reduction if a second round ensues next year, according to Hagel. He commissioned the strategic choices and management review in March both to help DoD prepare for another sequester and to shape military spending plans through 2019.

      • Tim Winans says

        Not having enough experience just cost me another job. I was bumped out of my job by a person with more experience. I was doing great and my boss loved me but the system pushed me out to let someone else do my job. Everyone fought for me but, in the end, here I sit unemployed. I have been unemployed off and on (more off than on) since 2009. I had 16 interviews last year before I was finally hired on and everyone was shocked that a retired military person could do the job as good (if not better) than the folks who never served. The mindset is distorted.

  5. That makes me a little jealous knowing that I have to save up a ton of my own money just to retire ok. But they provide a service for the Country that deserves the pension they get.

    Thanks to all that serve or have served our country.

  6. The article says that they were both enlisted and both retired with 20 years of service. So the $57,500 they are receiving is actually two retirements, each of which is based on their individual pay while on active duty. The amount paid out in retirement is 50% of the average of the 3 highest paid years of service. Assuming (probably inaccurately) that they retired with the same rank and same high-3, divide the total by 2 to find that their individual retirements are worth $28,750.

    Consider also that officers are paid quite a bit more. With 20 years in officer ranks, a decent officer could easily retire as an O-5, for whom the average of the last 3 years (most likely to be the highest 3) would be about $7100/month, which amounts to a retirement benefit of about $3650/month or $43,800/year. Double that for a couple that both retired as O-5s.

    Not a bad deal.

    Oh, and if you happen to think that $7100/month is not that great for a professional with 20 years of experience, note that it does not include the subsistence allowance ($202/month) or housing allowance (varies by location, but $2745 in DC area for an O-5 with dependents). The best part is that both allowances are tax free!

    Sorry for any slight ranting tone, but I get pretty tired of officers complaining that their compensation is sub-par when compared to equivalents in the commercial sector. Enlisted, on the other hand, especially those with highly specialized skills, are quite underpaid.

    • Can you please detail the equations you are using? I would like to create an personal spread sheet. Thank you for the note!

    • I put in 25 in private and 20 in public sector jobs and will still only retire with about 30K a year at 65due to the wonderful recession, etc. My friend a Marine Col. is turning 50, “retired” to a contractor job for 8 years and is now 50 totally retired bringing in 80K a year for the rest of his life. I do not cry for him in the least. My in laws have two kids that are officers in the military. Their dad is a retired admiral (over 200K retirement a year). Neither child saw combat from 2001 to current and they are both retired in their 40s with incredible pensions.

  7. CreditShack says

    Vanguard sells inflation adjusted annuities through AIG. Instant online quote for $58.5k/yr joint annuity w/100% survivor benefits for two 40 year-olds is $1.9 mil.

    TIPS yields are very low right now, which may be driving up the price of the annuity.

  8. Wow, this is why I keep telling myself I need a government job. My uncle is retired Navy and his pension was comparable, I think, after 25 years or so. It would be great to have that kind of guaranteed income at 40.

    • I’m in the military (at about 27) and I hear the “I’d like that income, I should have joined,” or “I did three years in the Army and I should have stayed in” as if that last 24 years would have been a piece of cake.

      Your uncle left your home town, and probably spent one-third of his life a sea. Not in ports, but at sea, day in and day out. He didn’t make much money, was away from his family that was forced to move every 2-3 years whether they wanted to or not. Kids out of school in the middle of the school year, a different neighborhood, trying to make new friends, new job etc. Not saying you should feel bad for us, but too many people look at the end and forget what the life in the military is like. And even with this retirement, we still can’t get the people we want.

  9. I got a quote for an inflation adjusted annuity. Assuming they each receive half of the amount (so it’s equivalent to two single-life only inflation adjusted immediate annuities), the husband’s is worth about $820,000 and the wife’s about $870,000.

    That’s about $1.7 million total!

  10. I think I’d be really bored if I flat out retired at 40. But I’d love to retire and get a pension from one group and then go one to do part-time work I enjoyed. Or volunteer. Or make lots of quilts. Or write.

    I hope they have fun with that. I’ll just do my best to get something like that when I get older. Micah will probably teach into his 70s if possible…philosophers love to teach. 🙂

    • Tim Winans says

      I saw the word teach and thought I would reply. I am a teacher but was just bumped out of my full time job as a 3rd grade teacher recently. It is heartbreaking and shocking as my principal loved me and fought to keep me. Just because someone taught longer than I did and lost her job (her school closed down), the Government or DoDDS placed her in my job at my school and told me “Thanks for the job well done.” So now, I don’t work “unemployed” and am back in school to get more certs. to get rehired. What is the deal with tenure — I am an excellent teacher and am very-very angry with the system. I seriously doubt that people get bumped in a normal (public) school.

      • Be nice if you stopped whining about your work status on this forum.

        • Tim Winans says

          Fair enough – I like niceness. The point is not so much about me but about how difficult it is to find work in the public sector after retirement from the military.

        • Actually he has a valid point. All of you keep making it sound like retiring from the military is like being handed the lottery. It’s not. It’s earned after going through a lot of crap that most people don’t talk about because most people don’t want to hear about it. So we only brush over the nice parts and move on. But he’s talking about the reality and you don’t want to hear that. Nice.

  11. This is awesome! Congrats to the couple. I lived in Missouri before and I know $60K is pretty good there. They have a great retirement amount, and a nice portfolio net-worth.

  12. In trying to stay with the money theme.
    I served in the AF from 94-99. Everything I have accomplished since then is because of that time. 100%, no doubt because of that service time. Everything from undergrad to MBA while all my friends punch clocks at a factory. A pension would have been great but there are millions of us who are better off financially because of serving without drawing a pension. Not to mention able to buy a house through the VA loan program. I could not put a dollar figure on all that it has given me. That would be a nice study for someone’s PHD.

    By the way. The most taxable income I ever made was around 16k in one year (yea there is a a lot that is not taxable but not that much).


  13. I work in academia and I have a wonderful pension. Our University HR department tells faculty/staff with pensions that if we consider switching jobs to a job without a pension we should be asking for at least 25% more salary to make up for the loss of a pension.

    Making $70k in academia with a pension, I’d need to make $87,500 in the private sector (or any sector that doesn’t offer a pension). HR tells us to take that additional 25% and invest it in IRAs, 401ks, etc. That’s to make up for the loss of the pension.

    Use that information for what it’s worth.

  14. Adding an inflation adjusting component usually multiplies the cost of the annuity by 1.5 to 2.0. Vanguard offers inflation-adjusting annuities underwritten by AIG. For a 50% survivor benefit, joint life payments, that $58,500 per year would be about $1.76M.

  15. That pension is a pretty nice perk, although I don’t know if it would be worth the 15 moves and 3 deployments over the 20 years. If anyone deserves to retire in their early 40s, it’s these two.

    I’m quite impressed by their savings record – $400K saved over the years on an enlisted military pay is excellent. Particularly with three kids, and having paid for IVF for two of them, not cheap.

  16. God bless our soldiers in uniform and the risk they take every day putting their lives on the line for the USofA.

    That pension is good but have you seen what the private sector can make in Iraq? Check it out. Minimum 100k up to 300k per YEAR depending.

  17. My husband is a Marine and we have currently been in the Marine Corps for 4 years. My husband’s commitment is up this year and we are suffering from terrible indecision as to stay in or get out. Assuming my husband made it to Colonel, in 16 more years we would have our financial freedom and healthcare for life by the time we were 45. Im just not sure if the “cost” we may have to pay for the next 16 years is worth it. We both realize that the military is the kind of thing that you are either in it for the long haul or not– much like the couple in the article, if you quit half way in you have wasted so much time (financially speaking) making a lower salary than you could have in the civilian world. That means you will have a lot of catching up to do once you get out.

    Unlike the couple in the article I don’t think we would opt to never work again- it would just be nice to have the freedom to work as much/little as we wanted and do whatever we wanted (I see myself as a Starbucks Barista and my husband at the Apple store. 😉 )

    • all jobs are for the long haul. Most people have to haul for 45 years. You should feel blessed for 20. Not sure why you thin that a Marine officer is so poorly paid

      • 45 years spent in the civil sector will only render your body and min to be at the age it is for retirement. 20 or more years in the military will render your body and mind to double your age making at a satistical stand point your life expectancy to only go on for at an average of 20 years. So yes it is underpaid work.

        • Exactly. And there is no surety that he will make Col. So many end up retiring at LtCol… even though that’s nothing to sneeze at either. But it can be a trial on the body, mind, spirit… and it can be hard on the family, especially depending on the MOS.

  18. First let agree with the posts that state paying for a soldier’s pension is a tax I’m honored to contribute to.

    I will have one of the state pensions that is sometimes criticised. I will concede that my pension, when I finally retire, will be lucrative compared to what many will retire with. (Medical insurance will be on me). However, what many people seem to ignore is this. I have contributed, on average, $4500 per year, every year, to my pension. I had no choice. During those years when things were tight, it didn’t matter. The contributions came out.

    When I started in my career 25 years ago, like many other young people, retirement was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t make my career choice based on what I would get when I quit. I just wanted to do the job. Now, of course, I’m glad I stayed. What I will receive, along with what I have saved (non-matching, by the way), made all the shift work, weekends, holidays and mandatory overtime worth it.


  19. The breakdown of the income is is the article: Todd’s pension $36,900 and then Julie’s pension $21,600. But I can definitely see having an inflation adjustment being worth another $500,000 or more. Their package with medical may be worth up to $2M easy.

    I agree with Lisa that it is a tough decision. Like in many decisions the money isn’t everything. But I think knowing what these pensions are worth will help you make that decision with all available information.

    For those of us without pensions, the more I think about it the more I think that immediate annuities are an under-appreciated part of retirement planning.

  20. Incredulous says

    We are all paying for their finafcial freedom with our taxes.
    War profiteers are getting it even better – but keep on supporting them as well.
    Show me ONE thing which the military has done to build better America!
    No military in the world builds and operates for bettering their society – it only does this indirectly, by providing jobs to people (who sometimes have no other choice for bettering their lives but to enroll) and pouring money (read – YOUR taxes) into private corporations which are designing and selling the military ULTRA expensive toys that go BOOM!
    We are completely fooling ourselves if we think that a military is doing any “Service” to anybody in any country.
    Even when performing “rescue” missions for people stranded because of floods and such – this is not their primary purpose, but a last resort effort. Why? Because it is extremely expensive to get them involved in anything.
    Let’s not even start the discussion about mismanagement and losses and corrupt middlemen in military ranks, etc. etc. etc. all of which are done in “Service” to our country. To repeat again – WITH OUR TAX DOLLARS!!!!


    • I’m in the US Coast Guard. Everything I/we do is contrary to everything you just said. Which is probably why you posted anonymously. Why don’t you go live in Syria (or try) for a little while and we’ll see if you sing the same tune. Most who bash the military really DON’T truly understand how different it is here in the States compared to much of the world. Can’t even wrap their heads around it. Don’t care to. That’s what our freedoms afford them. Our military is the direct reason you have the freedom to say or even feel the way you do. It appears that you don’t enjoy, appreciate or even understand your freedom; you exploit and neglect it. You take advantage of it while you contribute NOTHING to ensure freedom for yourself or anyone else. You talk about paying for military members’ “financial freedoms” with your taxes and getting nothing in return. We pay for your ACTUAL freedom with our LIVES. If you, personally, are an example of what we get for our sacrifices, then I suggest that our pension is and never will be enough.

    • Next time you need someone to protect your freedom to speak your mind and the next time you need National Guard, Coast Guard, or any service branch to render aid to YOU or your loved ones….please re-read your very DISRESPECTFUL and IDIOTIC rant…but don’t worry, because the men and women who chose to serve in these branches will STILL put their life on the line to save your DISRESPECTFUL and INSULTING rear end BECAUSE THAT IS THEIR JOB and that is the kind of people you just insulted with your idiotic and rude comment. God Bless your service men and women….they are a bigger part of your freedom and life than you will ever know or respect apparently. And you should be ashamed. Please feel free to take your ANTI MILITARY, UN-PATRIOT self and move to another country….PLEASE!

    • Of course you wouldn’t use your name because you are a coward and an idiot. But not such an idiot as to post who you are. Because of us, you are free to be one. That’s fine. Let us go without a military for one week and America will stop being a free nation. And that is an unfortunate truth. Business doesn’t make us free in a world where people go in and kidnap whole villages, force children to rape and murder their mothers, and kill each other just because they believe differently than they do. It is a good thing some of us live in the real world and are willing to keep us safe from stupid people who would leave the gates wide open.

  21. I am 48 years old and I consider myself “retired” for all practical purposes . By that I mean, I only work for myself and I only do what I really want to do.

    Personally, I wouldn’t be able to take a military or a government job, no matter what benefits are.

    At the moment, I make money as a professional balloon artist. Later, I might do something else. I was educated as a Medical Doctor in Russia but I have a lot of interests and I just explore different things as I go.

    According to Social Security Admin, my full retirement will be at 67. That is when I will be eligible for for a full SS check, if any… LOL.. That’s almost 20 years from now! If I live that long and still can, I will be working long past 67. My mom is 76 and she is working and, from what I can tell, her work is a great source of joy, inspiration and happiness for her.

  22. Michael "Battledad" Boyd says

    I retired as a CW3 from the Army in 1990 after 20 years of service, and my current retirement check is $2050.00 per month. It’ not a lot, but it certainly pays my house payments, utilities, and car insurance. I am proud to have served, and still consider myself a member of the Armed Services.

    But, lets not forget that I had a wonderful, loving wife follow me around the world, as we moved approximately every 15 months. She kept her nursing career on hold for almost the entire time (as most military spouses do), waiting nearly until my retirement before she took a “real” job. She is now on track with her job, Roth, and 401k. And I too am doing OK in the civilian world. We both still scrimp and save 30% of our paychecks to fund our “real” retirement (which for me will be at 59-1/2 and 55 for her).

    I think that it is wonderful that both the husband and wife mentioned in the article were Soldiers, but keep in mind that it is not the norm. Most military spouses forgo any type of career (and retirement savings), until late in the game. And I salute them all-their sacrifice is tremendous!

    BUT, if I die, she receives nothing from the military.

  23. Hey congrats to the dedicated vets. The “annuity” is definitely a solid benefit. Though it bears noting that the health care package may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The VA hospitals have had some high-profile issues as of late.

    Add to that the host of long-term issues that are suffered by active soldiers (DU bullets? Shell-shock? Agent Orange exposure? Exposure to chemical weapons? etc.) and 20 years served may be 19 years and 365 days too many. Goodness, you could just be a cook in the field and suffer long-term effects from exposure to many of these things.

    Of course, it’s also worth noting that all of this money is coming from public pockets. As the US debt becomes more crushing, this pension and medical load is going to become more critical.

    If you’re a young person reading this now, please know that government promises are not for certain. 20 years of service may be a great step on the path to financial freedom, but it’s also 20 years of being paid to catch bullets, and you’ll be contributing to a massive on-going government debt.

    If things get tough, big expenses (like pensions), often get put on the chopping block (just look at big private corps). The government will be much more lenient to do this, but you don’t have to search far for stories of veterans who definitely aren’t doing too well even with the “free health care”.

  24. Kevin R.C. 'Hognose' O'Brien says

    The US also does something no other industrial nation does: we pay pensions to our part-time servicemembers (National Guard and Reserve).

    The Reserve pension is pro-rated, essentially, so that someone who spends a couple years called up (as most who have been in since 9/11 have) or spends a long time in military schools (pilots, technicians, linguists, Special Forces) gets the same credit, essentially, for that time that a regular does.

    The reserve pensions do not pay on retirement; they pay at age 60. You lock in the pension by serving 20 or more years, but are not required to transfer to the Retired Reserve until age 60, when you begin to draw payments. (Until recently, 60 was also the end of the line for serving on active duty. It’s been extended to 62 for those AARP members who can’t get enough of a good thing).

    Your pension is set by a formula involving base pay on date of transfer to the Retired Reserve. Therefore, many who leave on getting their “20-year-letter” continue to remain nominally available in the Individual Ready Reserve, which lets their final retired pay be based on the inflation-adjusted base pay as much as 20 years later!

    Of course, you can get called up from the IRR. Seldom happens, but all the guys I knew who went IRR were called after 9/11 and went to Fort Bragg to work at SF school and free up younger guys for the war. Most of them were held on active duty for two years (which is a statutory limit).

    Because the final rate of the pension is inflation-adjusted, and because I’m not done yet, I’ve never bothered to calculate the NPV of my pension.

  25. My wife serves in the military and is scheduled to retire at age 43. Fortunately she has one of the best jobs in the military which requires no hazardous duty and relocation only if she chooses to. I will pass your math on to her and perhaps try a little of my own…

  26. Where to begin… There’ve been so many good comments so far, so this will end up more as a stream-of-consciousness response than anything else.

    1. Yes, military benefits are great. There is no denying that. If I stick around for the full 20 years (I’m approaching the “Tipping Point” of 10 now), I can count on about $3800/mo (present value) pre-tax for the rest of my life. Health benefits are not free, though. In fact, the cost of insuring through Tri-Care (the government HMO) is getting more and more expensive for retirees, and the same can be said for prescription medications; the costs of both of these have tripled in the last five years. While the financial retirement is guaranteed, no promises can be made about the affordability (or convenience) of government-provided health care… After all, it’s brought to you by the same people who provide you with the DMV.

    2. As several people here have indicated, 20 years of service is no walk in the park. The days of deploying three times in a 20 year career are long gone. I’ve been gone three times in the last five. Fortunately, I’m in the Air Force; my deployments last for 120 days rather than the 15 months that Army guys are committed to (though the Air Force now has 6-month deployments and hundreds of 12-month requirements in Iraq that must be filled). I deployed when my daughter was 4 months old and returned when she was 8 months. I left again before her first birthday.

    3. I don’t know much about civilian work, as I joined the military out of college. However, I am an MBA with 10 years of military intelligence experience and a Top Secret clearance. I’m relatively certain that I could find a job that pays considerably more than my current salary (including all allowances and other below-the-radar benefits, about $100K annually).

    4. If I leave before I hit 20 years of service, there is no “partial retirement.” I have no 401K that my employer has matched. Unless I join the Guard/Reserves (to get a smaller pension that kicks in at 60) or become a civilian working for the government (NOT a contractor), I get no partial credit for time served. I can contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), but the government does not match contributions from uniformed servicemembers. The TSP has few options: five index-type funds that range from government securities to the S&P 500 to the International Stock Index. TSP has also just rolled out “LifeCycle Funds,” which are composed of the five core funds and targeted for the member’s retirement age.

    5. Aside from the deployments and the more strict behavior requirements (a DUI would end my career, and dating a co-worker *could* land me in jail depending on our ranks), frequent moves are a pain. I am in my 7th home since 1999. The loss of friends is difficult for my wife and I, but we are adults; my four-year-old daughter doesn’t go a week without verbalizing how much she misses some friends who’ve moved in the last 6 months. Studies have shown that children of service members often have problems establishing relationships (fear that they will end prematurely), that they suffer from intense conflict-avoidance (“Why argue about this when one or both of us won’t even be here in 12 months?”) and frequently have separation anxiety problems (with a parent that often goes away for weeks or months at a time, who can blame them?) My wife’s non-military friends complain when their husband have to leave for a few days on a business trip; I usually travel for at least 5-7 consecutive days each month, and that doesn’t consider deployments to Kosovo, the desert, or potentially Africa.

    6. There is talk of whittling away at retirement benefits for retirees. It hasn’t gone very far (military lobbyists are probably behind only Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and AARP on The Hill), but with the increasing budget crunch, reduced benefits are probably inevitable. A smaller pension that vests at 10 years of service and pensions that don’t pay out until age 60 or 65 are only two of the ideas on the table. The current pension system is left over from an era where the typical American life expectancy was 10+ years shorter than it is today. Additionally, the system was put into place to encourage servicemembers to retire at 20 years so that they could be replaced with younger, more able-bodied (and cheaper) folks. Today, those who leave at 20 are often looked at as “taking the money and running.” (Not that I blame them.)

    I understand that few posters here feel that the military pension is the best-kept financial secret ever. However, for those of you that do, age/education/moral standards have been lowered to join our ranks, so it’s not too late if you want to reap the benefits of the United States Armed Forces.

    So you can be jealous of my *eventual* retirement package, but “Gates VP” cannot make me feel guilty for “contributing to the national debt.” I’ve contributed far more to the defense of our country and the freedoms that most people never even think about than I have to the national debt. After all, if the military pension were such a good deal, why would fewer than 1 in 5 servicemembers stick around to claim them?

    • Ok. My father was in Air Force 30 years. I lived most of my years on base. Moving every 3 to 5 years. I don’t have any of these issues. Nor do my other friends I grew up with on base. I have friends since I was 5. My husband who grew up at the same school in the same town and house his whole life…. Does not know one person he grew up with.

  27. “After all, if the military pension were such a good deal, why would fewer than 1 in 5 servicemembers stick around to claim them?”

    Because officers don’t realize how good they’ve got it. (Like I said before, enlisted are another matter.) 10 years experience and that much of an expected retirement benefit means you’re probably an O-4 now. Considering that most of the military intelligence personnel are in the DC/Baltimore area, you are probably receiving a huge housing allowance. Before assuming you’ll get more than $100k and jumping ship, I recommend plugging a few numbers into the paycheck calculator ( to figure out how much you would need to earn before tax outside the military to take home the same about of pay after tax that you currently receive. I’d estimate that your monthly take home pay after tax in 2007 was either $6100 or $6400 depending on whether or not you pay state income tax. So figure out how much you’d need to be paid if all your income was taxed to take home that same amount.

    My own calculations show that an an O-4 in the DC/Baltimore area would need at least 110k w/o considering the military’s retirement compensation. Add 10k if your new employment includes a generous retirement benefit (the military’s is still better); add more if the new retirement benefit is poor. Also, you may not be paying state income taxes, in which case increase that amount another 5k. And my numbers are still based on 2007 pay, so add 3k for the raise you received in 2008.

    So, that’s nearly $130k you’d need. Although I wish you luck, based on my own experience, contractors aren’t paid that much, even with a TS/SCI and military intelligence experience. Somewhere around $110k may be possible, but probably not initially. And I’d bet anything more has a reduced retirement or health benefit. Contractors may cost a lot, but a huge chunk of it goes to the company’s partners or executives, not the guy/girl on the job. But, if you find better, shoot me a note. 🙂


  28. hey, i don’t know why people are posting how its all an honor to pay a soldier’s pension because of what they do. yes, they protect our way of life, but then so do many other professions, in different ways. in my view, they are getting good pay for dificult work. it’s a volunteer army, so it’s not like they are forced to join (leaving out socioeconomic situations). if they were drafted, then fine, it is an honor, but its their decision to join, and they will reap the benefits and disadvantages of such a decision.

    and though i’m sure people will disagree with me, I believe that groups like American Civil Liberties Union do just as important work protecting our way of life (though not facing physical hazards of course).

  29. Incredulous:
    Do you realize that the military is responsible for most of the technology that you use today? And some people join the military because they are proud to serve, not because they have to. Do you think history has proven that a wealthy country can survive without national defense?

    • actually it is companies that are responsible and the military fund it. Not sure that deserves kudos considering what the military pays for it.

      • Military is responsible because it is usually funded so that it may be developed for military use. If it has a non-military use it may be used as such at a later date as long as it does not undermine’s the military’s goals (the technology won’t be allowed on the private sector for probably anti-missile defense technology for example) Without for-military-use funding, the technology probably won’t be funded (or in the case of illegal uses such as explosives, weapons, etc it would be illegal to produce, therefor won’t be funded because it won’t generate a return)

        For the examples like cell phones + satellites, it did not have a clear market and would be extremely risky and expensive investment (and probably make NASA/AF mad for trying to shoot metal contraptions into orbit)

  30. @saladdin
    “I could not put a dollar figure on all that it has given me.”

    Well I’m glad to hear that, because I can’t put a dollar figure on what you gave us. Its always been my belief that anyone who spends time in the service, and especially those who spend 20 years in the service, deserve every penny of their benefits and more.

  31. @Vern
    EXACTLY! The military is responsible for most of the technology…
    What does it mean? Just that – we are satisfying our need for research, ways to better our society, technological improvements that can save lives, or produce energy more efficiently than current technology can – under the WRONG pretense!!!
    Instead of one of goals of government, especially after the cold war is over should be ways to better the lives of its own people. Instead – the goal is to preserve and improve on something which only eventually leads to death and destruction around the world.
    What’s the one main goal of military?
    Wage wars.
    These can be small wars, big wars, hidden wars and open ones. If there is no more war – there is no more need for such a huge waste of government money (OUR TAX DOLLARS).
    Such money can be used for EDUCATION instead. Wide spread development of technology (and grants) in the energy sector, transportation / infrastructure support (crumbling highway bridges benefit no one) and so much more.
    Instead of that – we are pouring money in the military machine, hoping that INDIRECTLY it will turn into the technological improvements which we all hope for.
    How much better we would be if we poured this money DIRECTLY into science or whatever else is beneficial to our society.

    Don’t get me wrong – there will always be need for military in the sense of keeping our thoughts at easy during the night. We’ll always want to feel that we are protected …from something… the bed bugs maybe? Or the Chinese?
    US could do PERFECTLY fine if we slashed our military budget by half:
    Close and sell half or more of our external military bases.
    Close and sell the property of half of our Internal military bases.
    Let those people ready for civilian lives go. They’d do just fine working for private companies. Or will they?
    There are ABSOLUTELY no external threats which our current military can effectively protect us from. It’s geared for direct wars, not the individual crazy last kiss of death of some suicide wacko.
    What will happen if the Chinese decide to invade? Are you going to be protected? I don’t think so. The only reason we feel protected is because the Chinese do not want to kill their biggest Customer.
    I apologize for polluting the comments section with my heretic thoughts obviously. Please do not feel offended.

    There are so many people out there who serve or have served in the military under their OWN WRONG PRETENSES!!!

    If you truly wanted to SERVE – BECOME A TEACHER! Or a Doctor or a Nurse, or a Firefighter or …

    There are countless possibilities once half the money going to the military are redirected to where they really need to go – direct investment in ways to improve the lives of people.

  32. Rich Money Million says

    In addition to the military and the world of academia (mentioned above) working in state government can also have its ‘benefits’. In Florida, many state employees also receive a contribution equivalent to 10% of their income in a retirement account, free health and dental insurance for them and their family, free life insurance, etc. An average worker making about $45K a year can easily get an additional $20K worth of benefits.

  33. Today about 60% of all federal money is paid to individuals,social security, Medicare, state and military retirement, etc.

    Over the next 25-30 years ALL money collected will go to these people.
    No money for defense, education, national security,roads, etc.

  34. all this talk of enlisting being the best-kept financial secret around is only going to bring more unqualified, unsavory characters into the military. The fact that the army is now enlisting GED criminals to operate weapons and nuclear powered machinery is preposterous. I read that gang members are now enlisting to get the best home invasion training to use in burglary when they get out. So sad.

    My father was experimented on during the Cold War in the AF, and now that he’s experiencing the side effects of exposure to radioactivity (unbeknownst to him), is the VA around to help? No. When we tried to navigate the maze of bureaucracy for disability benefits we just gave up (which saves them money for sure).

    I sure wouldn’t use the free VA health care as a recruiting selling point either. The fact that their doctors will actively lie on your file to prevent any future claims of disability is outrageous, not to mention the poor quality care.

    None of this should be construed as un-American talk. I just don’t agree with being screwed over behind my back and lied to. Blind faith in a flawed system has nothing to do with patriotism, sorry.

  35. Hey Joe: but “Gates VP” cannot make me feel guilty for “contributing to the national debt.”

    I’m not even going to disagree with a thing that you said. No guilt intended. The fact that your service contributes to the government debt simply means that you are incurring an increased risk of not being paid. I think you’re fully entitled to every penny you’re getting.

    In fact, you & Pogo are really helping to support my point:
    I sure wouldn’t use the free VA health care as a recruiting selling point either.

    And the point is simple. Just b/c military service seems like a really great deal, doesn’t mitigate the fact that it’s also very risky business. And those risks go beyond just “catching bullets”.

  36. Quick,

    There are plenty of contracting jobs available in Colorado, where the cost of living is considerably lower than D.C.. Additionally the financial benefits of being a government civilian (NOT a contractor) living overseas are pretty high.

    Gates VP,

    The medical piece might change, but—and this might show my naiveté–I don’t there’s a chance in hell that the government backs out of its financial obligation (re: annuity) to me. However, just in case, I am maxing out a Roth IRA for me, a Roth IRA for my wife, and I am putting in an unmatched $15,500 a year into the Thrift Savings Plan. Though we could be living better, my family is getting along just fine on about 70% of my pre-tax salary (I’m also maxing out a Coverdell for each of my two children).

    Lastly, to all: as with any occupation, the military’s benefits are a largefactor in recruiting/retention ability. I can tell you unequivocally that if the retirement benefits are cut, the government will need to make up for it in some other way (matching TSP contributions and/or higher salary, for instance) or they will lose the ability to retain talent past the 10-year “Tipping Point.” I for one can say that, with the deployments, frequent travel/relocation, and constantly hearing that the #1 priority is “the needs of the Air Force,” the generous retirement is a huge factor in my coming decision on whether to leave the uniformed services or not.

    Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy the military. I’ve met great people, been to interesting locations (Iraq, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, U.K., Italy—to name only a few), and have had opportunities that most people don’t get. The money is not the only reason I’m here.

    But–and my readership of this blog is an indicator of this–I recognize the value of military benefits. I’d be remiss if I didn’t consider all variables when making career decisions.

    There are a lot of drawbacks to military service (too many to simply put into a bulleted list), but there are a lot of good things, too. As long as the good things continue to out number the bad, I’ll stick around. However, I am taking care of myself (furthering my education, putting $25K annually toward TSP/IRAs) so that, when/if the time comes, I can salute the Air Force and walk away without the retirement or regrets.

  37. Great topic,
    The system definitely needs changing, there’s no way the govt. can afford this, or should pay for it anymore. The system is from the 1800s when life expectancy was probably not more than somewhere in the 50s. There is no civ-mil pay gap if you include all the pays. And if you include the tax advantage, medical, retirement, etc…the military can be considered overpaid. True, today many are in harms way, but for the vast majority of the time, people don’t see combat. For those that do, they’re pay is mostly tax-free, given extra money, and other benefits. Most just go to work 7-5 on base like everyone else (except for the occasional watch/duty), sipping coffee in the mornings, munchin on whoppers at lunch, and sleeping in their own beds at night.

    btw, I am an active duty officer with 6+ yrs, and could retire on 1 AUG 2021:) But I am set to visit the sand box this year 🙁

  38. WJ,

    I mostly agree that, if a servicemember is willing to put up with the drawbacks for long enough, the benefits are worth it.

    However, aside from an increasingly unpredictable deployment schedule, months away from your family (6-man tents and spiders in your boots, oh my!), and actually having your life put in harm’s way (though a vast majority collecting “hazard fire pay” are only in danger of getting hit with a “golden BB”), there’s a lot more to the military than simply a standard 7-5 job:

    – Maintaining worldwide deployable status. Yes, sometimes this means cool stuff like shooting a 9 mm, or going to Washington State for 17 days of Survival Training. Other times, it means getting injected with a variety of stuff (painful think Anthrax and smallpox innoculations) that is bot dangerous and illegal to force the civilian population to take. It also often means being on a tight notice-to-move (NTM) schedule; I am on two days NTM in case Kosovo gets ugly, or if any other worldwide contingency breaks out (more likely than not a humanitarian disaster like the Indonesia tsunami, or the Mozambique flooding).

    – Again, I don’t know a lot about “normal life,” but it’s not uncommon for me to work weekends or shift my schedule to late nights in addition to 5-7 days a month away from the family. I can’t imagine that most guys with Master’s Degrees do a lot of shift work. When exercises happen, 12-14 hour days are expected; in fact, I almost hope that exercises happen at locations away from home. That way, I can stay at work guilt-free rather than feeling pressure to make it home to eat dinner or kiss the kiddos good night.

    It’s all about choices. Some feel that the job security, steady paycheck, and retirement make this a good job. Others feel that deployments, frequent moves, and political BS aren’t worth the goodies and get out as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

    Military benefits are no secret: they are publicly-accessible information. Additionally, most people who want in right now can get in; if you are competent and willing to tolerate the tough times, you too can walk away with a retirement in 20 years.

    Do I think the military retirement’s a good deal? Absolutely. But if it weren’t, the Department of Defense would have an exponentially more difficult time recruiting and retaining able-bodied (re: deployable) leaders.

    It’s the guys that started serving during the Reagan administration that seem to have gotten the best of both worlds: great benefits and few long-term deployments.

    Honestly, if my retirement didn’t kick in until I turned 60 or 65, my decision to get out would be approaching “no-brainer” territory.

  39. I wish we would take better care of those in the military who are injured (or the families of those killed) and not allow pensions to be available until a more traditional age. My father-in-law didn’t take his officer reserves benefits until 60 or so, and he figures with medical it’s worth at least 30k/yr, still pretty generous considering he has 2 other pensions. I think our taxes could be more fairly spent than on subsidizing very early retirement.

    As to the work hours of “normal” life, my academic husband has a PhD, no pension (403b match), pretty average compensation (less than 50k at almost 40) and works nights, weekends and holidays prepping classes and grading. It might not be shift work, but it’s not 40 hr/wk either.

  40. I did over 20 years as an officer and have a good pension. But, there is no free lunch, I worked long hours at dangerous places under a lot of stress. Also, recall that in the early part of an officer’s career the pay is low (compared to private sector) and it is difficult to get non-military or non-com people for some of these jobs. One must also stick it out for at least 20 years to get a pension.
    The military/gov does a lot of things less than perfect, but they also do things that need to be done that the average person is not fully aware of, but are still important.

  41. @wj you must have lucked out and gotten a pencil pushing job if you think military life is 7-5. If you really deploy then you will understand what military life is all about unless once again you find a job in the rear and with nothing to do but criticize the real military. Spend 20 years of your life with 65% away from your family then tell me 24,000.00 a year for retirement is worth it, not to mention the chance you may not make it home. What a joke.

    When you retire you pay fro your medical benifits….

    @Incredulous you are an idiot….. STFU

  42. Technically, it’s not a pension, it’s pay for reduced service as you are on ‘inactive reserves’ for 10 years, then finally ‘retired’ but still subject to recall. This is why the monthly payment does not survive the military member, unless they enroll in SBP (not a good financial deal – buy an equivalent value term life insurance policy instead).

    For us, USN/RET E-6 it means about $1600 a month after taxes. The state we live in doesn’t take taxes on Military “retired” pay (PA) so it’s only federal we pay. We were careful about our home purchase so it basically pays the mortgage.

    Now, DH did 22 years, 9 deployments (with workups that would be 13 and a half years of 20+ hour days, ‘shore duty’ wasn’t much easier), on aircraft carriers in the dead of night and basically on every cruise at least one sailor died just doing their job not in actual ‘combat’. His knees and shoulder are shot from the time on hard decks, and he has scars all over his body from burns while working on aircraft. We actually figured it out one night that he got paid essentially $1.98 per hour of work, no tips. No 401K, though the tax-free pay in combat zones was nice I’d rather have had him not in places where he’d be a target – no choice there though.

    We do have the Tricare health benefit and it’s not awful, and it’s free for Retirees too BTW unless you want to use the military hospitals and enroll in “Tricare Prime”. Copays are higher but not as bad as they have been. What we don’t pay is a monthly premium. VA is technically there but difficult to access and for us we would rather give that appointment, bed or RX to someone who has no other option. Tricare will stay in some form, it’s far too economical a recruiting tool, and a way to absorb any excess capacity in the military healthcare system.

    Understand though DH was “pre-1983” when the benefits were better – 55% of base pay at 20 years. Now for retiring servicepeople (those who first enlistment/commission was after 1983) the retirement pay is not nearly as good – only 35% of base pay, not nearly as worth it for all the job asks of you unless you really really love what you do.

    As to Voluntary, well it is and it isn’t. For many in the enlisted service, they are there because there are few viable options with a high school diploma out there, especially in the lower socioeconomic stratosphere. For officers, absolutely this is voluntary and many view it as a pathway to professional experience, a way to pay off school loans if you’re in professional or medical service corps, and for some a way to do a really cool job that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

    What I don’t see is a tremendous value from private sector non-military contractor employers out there anymore. It’s almost a liability in some areas, which makes no sense. Slap on the ‘support our troops’ sticker then bitch about how many tax dollars you have to spend on us. Don’t see that with police or firefighters who do get true pensions and great health benefits after 20 years (also tax dollar supported). Gotta love it.

    BTW if you really want to make money in warfare, go contractor and go overseas. Dang cafeteria line workers make many timees more than the service members, totally tax free, better housing and transportation options. AD as the contractors say is for suckers.


  43. Incredulous:
    Many technological advances in medical care have come about because of the military. The use of combi-tubes, ET Tubes, quik-clot, medical imaging, Hex-tend fluid, chest tubes, and various others have been because of the military. These advances in medical care have saved millions and millions of lives and continue doing so each and every day. So I’m uncertain where your political and economic rant begins and ends on this topic.

    The unfortunate side of the military IS the possibility of war. The is the sole purpose. The military is, in-fact, a “killing” machine. There is no other purpose other than to defend against, search, and destroy an enemy. And the reality of that is, in the medical field, the most advanced technology is used on the battlefield and later transfered to the civilian side. You cannot replicate medical treatment and data obtained on the battlefield in any lab, hospital, or clinic.

  44. Lotty,

    How many times has your husband left home for four months at a time? How about 15 months?

    Don’t worry, though–the government gives us two free 15-minute calls home per week. If work doesn’t interfere. And if there’s a free phone when we are available to use it.

    Our troops are doing this for somewhere between 10% and 50% of what contractors in Iraq earn. Most of us consider retirement (1) as a retainer, since we can be recalled on to active duty, (2) as deferred payment after a career of under-compensation, (3) a package that isn’t kept secret from anyone–anyone under the age of 42 can sign up now and enjoy the same benefits.

    What’s next, people complaining about the 5-digit re-enlistment bonuses for hard-to-fill jobs? 6-digit “aviator continuation pay” as a means of keeping pilots in the military? Having the military pay off medical/law school loans when the graduates agree to serve 4 years in the military?

    The military offers a ton of benefits. And you know what? They still don’t have enough people (except for the Air Force, which is inexplicably cutting personnel during wartime).

    What does that tell you?

  45. I’ve recently retired after 28-years in the Air Force. My pension is slightly over $41,000 per year. There are NO medical, dental or life insurance benefits after you retire. You can voluntarily join a nationwide Health Care Alliance which is low cost, but not free. The military is not for everyone, but it’s a good life. And remember this, every single man/women in uniform today is a volunteer. So the next time you hear a service member complain, ask them “why did you reenlist”?

  46. Your credibility with me when straight down the tube when you stated retired military have free health insurance for life. TriCare (tryandgetcare) insurance is on the rise and is expected to increase in the hundreds of percent in the next few years. Meanwhile, annual cost of living increases are in the low single digits.

    Please do your homework!

    Kudos to Joe for laying all this out for you. I hope you read his piece carefully

    Moving along, nothing to see here.

  47. I don’t see how this article got it’s $58,000. As stated before at 20 years of military service one receives 50% of their base salary. In normal progression a serviceman can make as high as E-7 in 20 years. If one is making $21,600, that means her base pay was $43,200 which is the base pay of a E-7 with 20 years. If the other is making $36,900, that means his base pay was $73,800. There are no enlisted personnel that make that kind of basic money. Check out and look up payscales. The highest enlisted pay is a E-9 (also highest enlisted rank) with 30 years service and that is $66,000 a year. Being in the military myself I know that normally, as stated earlier, E-7 is the highest you can make in 20 years. Therefore even if he made E-8 that would only be about $3000 more than his wife or $24,600 a year, for a combined $46,200.
    Also as stated earlier the job is not a job, it’s a life decision. Things like deployment in war zones up to 3 in a 7 year period or probably about 6 in a 20 year career. Did you know that military can not participate in any demonstrations, political rallies, make personnel appearances on behalf of any organization, just quit their job. They give up most of their freedoms to preserve others. Not to mention people shooting at you and in the heat of battle and if you shoot back then kill a person and someone stateside decides you shouldn’t have shot, you loose everything and spend 10 to life in Leavenworth, or you could get maimed for life. Most cops although pay is low get a decent pension. With the cutbacks in the military over the last decade, the jobs that get cut are just added to the remaining workers. It’s not uncommon to see military working 12-16 hour days, 6 days a week, travel away from family months at a time (stateside) and guess what THERE IS NO OVERTIME and you can’t say I quit or I don’t want to come in. IF you do you go to jail. If you do quit (AWOL) you get jail and a bad conduct discharge which follows you like a felony conviction to every future job. As for the military medical, it’s only good until medicare kicks in at 65. It’s like a basic HMO where you share expenses (20% non hospital, $500 or 25% a day in hospital stay). My final statement is to those that complain the pension is too much. If your between the ages of 18 and 35 and in good health, YOU TO CAN JOIN THE MILITARY IF YOU WANT AND GET ALL THOSE GREAT BENEFITS along with the long hours and life is not your own. For those that are older than 35, I’m sure you have heard of the military and could have joined but you chose not to. Careers vary in spectrum, some are great so aren’t It’s your job to research and seek what fits you. You can’t just lay back and let it come to you.

  48. To all involved in this string….. Simply stated, tuff shit! Want the gold plated pension? Walk the walk my pension-less friend!

    See you in Iraq, Afghan, Africa or the beltway…..

    Get over it!
    Major, US Army

  49. 28k is chump change….people make me laugh, complaining about this small amount of $$$$$. The brave men and women in our military should be getting twice that, risking their lives, the constant moves, the hard work and long hrs for little pay….how about the poor f#ckers who get blown up in roadside bomb attacks, you know they get a disability pension based on the percentage of body loss/disability…eg. a leg gets 8% and arm 7%….think the whole body only adds up to 54%…what a disgrace! if it was up to me id double their pensions and triple em for injury sustained in combat…god bless our military members!

  50. Incredulous

    Do you really think you could live in this great country the way you do today with out any sort of military? No. thought so.
    By the way its people like you that i serve this country for and protect your freedom. Do you know what the word means? No. Well figure it out.

  51. Interesting post from ’08. I’m retired military… glad to have the pension. Have basic medical benefits, no dental, no vision. Spent over 20 years all ’round the world, moved every 2-3 years. During that time amassed over 5 total years of my life “at sea” looking at blue water in stretches of 6-7 months at a time. Worked in asbestos filled rooms in old ships, and often walked through 3 inches of crap filled bathrooms (“heads”) when sewage systems backed up, crazy heat, fumes and working conditions. Lonely times away, it often seemed like you couldn’t connect with those at home just because it was so different. Hard to explain. And I loved it.

    Still, too many vaccines and other meds through the years, fractured my back while deployed and who knows what else. Divorced ’cause the first wife wanted someone at home, and then remarried to someone who was glad I was gone.

    Spent most of the time in the mideast, gulf, off Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Except a couple times, didn’t walk the desert like my good friends in today’s armed forces, but nearly died a dozen times in other places. Never really saved that much money, and no 401(k) until the TSP came around in recent years. By the time you retire from the military it’s time to think of a new career if you can. I’m proud of my service, and proud of those serving today. And even still, I feel guilty for getting the pension, and knowing so many who served and didn’t make it. I loved the people, the comraderie, the service and everything else. If they asked me today I’d go back wherever in a heartbeat.

  52. I find this thread very interesting , im a retired Navy man spent 26 years mostly living in San Diego, Ca . I have a blue collar job now , and i get alot of slack from my coworkers that seem to think Military retirees get a free ride after 20 years . What most of them don’t understand is that while they were busy making 80,000 a year doing the same job i was doing for 18,000 . Alot of them forget back in the 80’s Reagon years these guys were pulling in close to 100,000 a year doing blue collar work , now that the wells dried up they bitch . Somebody Please explain to me how a NCO is pulling in 26,000 a year i only get 16,000 . Me thinks they exagerate just a bit .

  53. premium finance says

    nice site impressed by the retire-at-40 accomplishment. But I really like the perspective Jonathan has brought to the article, by putting different values on the couple’s military pensions.

  54. The ACLU? Really? You compare that organization to the US Armed Forces? Get a clue.

  55. Another avenue to look into for health professionals is the the Public Health Service. It is an officer only uniformed service under the Surgeon general. I have been a practicing pharmacist with PHS for 5 years and it has been a great experience. After tax incentives and variable special pays in PHS, I make the same as my colleagues in the private sector plus the pension after 20 years. Some of the added perks in the PHS are the fact they officers do not have to relocate every fews years. I work with many officers that have been practicing in the same assignment for over 15 years. Most officers in PHS end up retiring as O-6 after 20 years and receive all the same perks as armed forces retirees. The quality of life is amazing and the service is rewarding. I know many who have retired as O-6 in mid to late 40s making around 4000/month.

  56. To those that feel the amount of pension a military person gets is too much:
    1. If you’re currently under 44, have a GED, have kept yourself physically fit and not in trouble with the Law, you too can now have the privilege to join the military and get all these benefits. If you don’t join then just shut UP, you had the opportunity. Not to mention an opportunity over the last 20 years or more. I’m sure you have heard of the great life of the military before, so WHY THE **** DIDN’T you join? By the way here are some of the other benefits many of the prior posts have left off that come with a career in military life. Some military don’t necessarily get to partake in these benefits (depending on what service and job) but all are eligible and required, if ordered, to partake in these benefits.
    1. The job is not 8-5 it is 24/7 7 days a week. You have to have a cell phone and must answer within 6 rings, no exceptions unless you’re in the hospital or a family member is in the hospital, and still you have to answer. You are ordered, not asked, (at 2AM on your day off) to report within 30 minutes of getting the call to your post position. Don’t be late or you could go to the brig and article 15. You’ll be lucky you’re not kicked out of the military. You can’t ask on the phone, “Why do you need/want me?” “What’s going on”. You can only say “I’ll be there (Sir)”. When you get to your job at 2:27AM out of breath, oh did I mention IN UNIFORM, your boss says “Good timing, this is an exercise not real world”. “But since you’re here you can help with the morning briefing”. You leave at 06:30AM and go home (if it’s not your day off then you just stay and work your regular shift until 4PM).
    2. You could be told (notice I don’t say asked) to work a 20 hour day and/or a 7 day week or 17 hours a day with no overtime/comptime or additional pay if our shift replacement doesn’t show up! This could be the norm not the exception. I know Army personnel that have put in over 5000 hours in a year (do the math for per/week) with only 2 weeks vacation given. This includes all those hours 10,000 miles from home with only pictures of their 2 year old daughter and wife to remember them by. Knowing that after a year they will come home so their daughter will say “Mommy who is that man”. All for about $30,000 a year.
    3. If you’re deployed at least 3 times in 5 years for over 6 months at a time, you get to be put into the higher risk (75%) chance of getting a divorce.
    4. You can be stations to no less than 4 different locations around the world in a 20 year career, (garden spots like Korea, Nowhere Alaska, Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Nowhere Texas, or Center Oklahoma, or Nebraska.(no offense to the states, I was from Kansas but they aren’t places like Key West Florida). Thereby not being able to buy a home to build equity or get the home tax deduction. If you do get garden spots like San Diego you also get nice rentals at $2500 a month.
    5. Not having a matching 401k.
    7. Stateside you are usually required to work 10 hours six days a week, again no overtime. I personally worked on a crew for 3 years (Air Force) that was 6 days a week 9 hours a day with 2 days off, so basically an 8 day week. That sure was nice since I got a full weekend off every 2 months or so. Not to mention if Christmas, New Years, 4 of July etc landed on a scheduled work day I had (was required) to work and didn’t get that day off or any exchanged day off for being “required” to work on Christmas plus again no overtime. Did I mention we worked the following shifts? (3 weeks of 6 days-2 days off) (3 weeks of 6 swings- 2 days off) – (3 weeks of 6 midnight shifts – 2 days off) and a shift was 9 to 10 hours (depending on shift changeover debrief times), and then do it over again. That does wonders for your sleep schedule. I was not asked to work these shifts I was told to. I did this as a Lieutenant (with a 4 year science degree in Astrophysics) making, on todays scale $49000 a year (benefits included). If I figure overtime as a civilian job, it works out to a job making $17 an hour.
    8. In the military you lose most of the rights you are protecting that our constitution provides.
    a. You cannot openly criticize the President of the United States (he is your sworn supreme commander).
    b. You cannot openly express your party favor (Democrat or Republican, or whatever), but you can vote your conscience though.
    c. You are not allowed to openly express your religion although you can practice it in private.
    d. You have limited (by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and base protocol) freedom of speech.
    e. You cannot voice your sexual orientation.
    9. A big benefit is that you can’t cuss out your supervisor and walk off the job saying “I QUIT”. If you do you face at a minimum of article 15 which means they doc your pay 2 months worth and demote you (even less pay), or all the way to 20 years in Leavenworth Federal Prison. (Just for walking off the job).
    10. If you don’t follow your supervisor’s wishes same as number 9.
    11. If you somewhat screw up and get a few minimum article 15’s, instead of being fired and just going to the next job, you can be drummed out of the military and be given a “Dishonorable Discharge” which follows you for the rest of your life, not to mention you can never work for a Governmental agency, State or Federal or any company that takes Federal monies.
    12. If you have any family problems, teen’s or spouse getting in trouble with the law, they (NOT YOU) get caught with drugs, even marijuana , your career is over. Doesn’t matter if you have 19 years in, you are drummed out for your families problems. I saw it happen.
    13. Don’t get a DUI. You’re out. Don’t get caught with marijuana, you could be doing 5 to 10 in Leavenworth, yes for less than an ounce. Be prepared to be called at 03:00 AM and be told to report within 1 hour to the medical clinic for a drug test. Don’t show up your in the brig and/or kicked out of the military best case.
    14. I almost forgot the best benefit of all. The chance to lose your life at age 25, leaving a few 2-3 year old kids and spouse behind, for the sake of a multitude of ungrateful citizens who think you make too much. If your lucky you might just lose a arm or leg or two. Whereby the military doesn’t need you anymore and kicks you out.
    I’m sure I haven’t even touched on the many other BENEFITS you enjoy with the military, which others can expand on here. But needless to say I got out after my 4 years and went to work for a civilian employer going from $49,000 to $70,000 a year or $35 an hour with overtime/comptime, weekends off along with Christmas and 10 other holidays doing basically the same thing. After 6 years with them I had a conflict with my boss and put in a two weeks’ notice. I started 2 months later with another company again doing basically the same thing at $95,000 a year. I took from the first company a small pension I can get at age 60 and a 401k worth over $110,000 of which the company put in $38,000 (interest included). I just walked out the door.
    Needless to say the Air Force trained me for my civilian career and I wouldn’t be making what I’m making now if it weren’t for the Air Force Training. I just wanted to control my life not have it controlled for me. It might sound like I have hard feelings for the military but I don’t. I actually enjoyed the comradely and the job. I personally had no legal problems. The reason it probably sounds hard is because most civilians NEVER come across a job that totally controls and dictates every movement of your life. Think about that when you put down the military for being a plush job with extravagant benefits. You want a job like that BECOME A SENATOR.

    • You nailed it, Will. I retired after 32 years of enlisted + officer duty. I agree with everything you said. I think the main push-back people who criticize military retirement pay is pure jealousy and large-part ignorance. Like most people who enlist, chances are slim any of these critics could last even 20 years in the risky, arduous, and lonely life of a professional military man or woman.

  57. Military retirement pensions are a good deal if you can commit yourself to the minimum 20 years of active service.

    There are drawbacks to the system:

    1. If you leave the service voluntarily after 10, 15 or even 18 years, you get nothing. You are not vested in the system until serving 20 years.
    2. When you retire you get one check from Uncle Sam a month. No options. No flexibility. No control. There is no lump sum anywhere that you have access to. You can’t take a portion and use it for a down payment on a house, or a boat. Like social security, you are beholding to the government.
    3. When you die it all goes away. If you get hit by a bus leaving your retirement ceremony it is all gone. Your kids don’t get it, your spouse doesn’t get it. It is impossible to build wealth for your family solely with a pension like this.
    4. The longer the military pensioneer lives the less affordable it is for the government. The financial benefit to the government is if life after retiring is shorte. Any who is in charge of the retiree’s health care?

  58. Marineguy says

    Jonathan’s article points out just one benefit of military service for those who have it in them to pursue such a career. He certainly doesn’t entice those seeking financial security to join the military, but instead simply notes that those who join and stick it out will reap a tremendous financial benefit. If the rates of military compensation anger you, I can only guess it’s out of personal regret that you didn’t have the will to commit yourself in your youth.
    When I enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves out of high school, I did it because I felt, as an able-bodied youung American of above average intelligence, I owed it to this great nation to offer a couple years in her defense. When I was done with that, I continued with my education and the GI bill eliminated the financial stresses common among my fellow college students, graduating with not a penny owed. I had a few options upon graduation, but none more interesting than the prospect of military aviation. So I unpacked the woodland utilities, unstiched the stripes from my Creighton shirts, and accepted a commission on the Corps. I convinced my young bride to put her Education Administration career on hold for six years while I flew gray helicopters around the world. They pay was always acceptable, increasing substantially every two years or so. My wife taught elementary school before we had any kids, but by the time our 2nd or three rolled around, we realized that her occupation took far more of a toll than the salary was worth, and she began her second career as a stay home mom. Just as my contract was up, with two deployments under my belt (Iraq, and a Med/Persian Gulf cruise), I was selected to get into the V22 Osprey program. And a year after getting into that, they decided to entice me to stick around with a handsome annual bonus (which is more than my wife made as a public school teacher). So basically what started out as a pure desire to serve, has evolved into a well-paying career. To this day I don’t know if it’s the fact that my job is so damned interesting or the financial stability I’ve achieved at the age of 34 that keeps me in. It hasn’t been a cake-walk, and certainly hasn’t been a 7-5 job (as I write this from a tent in Afghanistan). Every military career is different. As a pilot, I moved around a little at first, from Quantico to Pensacola to San Diego to North Carolina. But I’ve been in my home for 8 years, and from 2005 through the fall of 2009, I had over four years of uninterrupted time stateside. When I get back this summer, I’ll have another four. I’ve played my role in writing the pages of history in places such as Fallujah and Marjeh. I’ve made my sacrifices. Initially they were for my country; now they’re for the enduring wealth of my family–because I’ve done all the things I’ve set out to do. I’m ready to move on to the next chapter, but I’d be a fool to walk away with only 8 years to go. My extended family and non-military friends have been in a recession for years. We have not. We are a single income family of five and we go without nothing. Our parents look at our home, our vehicles, our recreation, and worry that we spend every cent and live on credit. Yet we have nearly as much un-tapped equity in our home as they do, and a substantial next egg in Roth IRAs, TSP, and Coverdell accounts. We have no credit card debt, two of our three vehicles are paid off, and the mortgage P&I on our 2,200 sqft custom-built coastal Carolina home amounts to 10% of my monthly income.
    Am I bragging? No. You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I could be full of sh$t… but I’m not.
    The Corps is hiring, gentlemen. If you’re a candy-ass, then opt for the easy life and curse the bread of those who were born with the resolve to travel the road not taken, the one where brave men sometimes die.
    If you’re up to the task, and you know who you are, then step up! We’re ready for you.

    And by the way, you’ll be taken care of in retirement.

  59. Steven Podhaski says

    I served in the Marine Corp. for 4 years and then I put 17 1/2 years in the Army Natinal Guard and retired as a E-5 ( Sargent)
    I get a whole $5556 a year when I retired. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    $ 1200.00 a year just for cigaretts.
    $ 1440.00 a year in gasoline.
    $ 6100.00 a year for mortgage.
    $ 960.00 Electric bill
    $ 1200.00 a year in car Insurance
    $ $720.00 a year water bill
    $ $360 for Propane gas a year
    $12000.00 This is a total for just a few bills.

  60. billdacat says

    Military pensions are unsustainable and unfair to the working public.

    No one in the private sector gets pensions after 20 years, and since the slaughter of our industrial base, almost no one even gets them even at 30 years..

    I know several uneducated retired military people living high on the hog.. the government hog.. double dipping.. and even get bonus points to get postal worker jobs.. so that even high school educated people or ged … are living in large homes and travel as a hobby like they’re friggin rich while they barely got through high school.. darn right I’m not happy.. that is double dipping at my expense..and they werren’t in a war either… I am all for bonus time towards retirement when serving in a warzone.. but not people watching a radar screen 5000 miles form teh nearest warzobne for their whole careers.. and then retiring with 20 years.. getting a postal jopb making that of an educated worker.. and living high on the government hog… if pwensions are too good for those of us working in the private sector.. then its too good for the government workers..

    so.. I say it is time to do away with these entitlements. 30 year pensions would be a start(get double credit for time in a war zone) . Or better yet, let them deal with the fruits of their own political stance… that of voting for republicans.. and switch them all to 401k’s and make them save their own retirement .. after all, they mostly vote for republicans who helped trash the pension system in this country.

    Personal responsibility, right??????? So while they listen to Beck and Limbaugh and drive around in foreign cars, maybe they better look at their own benefits and see where they come from.. they are the entitlements they complain about all the time .. they are the big government spending. The military is way too big for our country’s budget to handle.. its as costly as social security but we don’t have a specific tax to pay for the military.. its mostly deficit spending.. and we spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined.. this is what eisenhauer warned us about.. too much power in the military.. especially when we have unprovoked wars.. and off the books spending on the military..

    Vote for republicans.. reap what you deserve.. they wiped out our pensions and dumped the welfare people on SS… The government budget was trashed by repubs.. their philosiophies guided this country since Reagan and we’re so far in debt its pitiful.. taxcut and spend is no way to run a country!!!!!

  61. Ex Military Officer says


    You wrote, “The Corps is hiring, gentlemen. If you’re a candy-ass, then opt for the easy life…”

    I am a former military officer. Like you, I’m a combat vet and former aviator. I left active duty after fighting in combat. I have worked for three major civilian employers since I left active duty, all with a requirement to make a profit or risk going under. In three cases, I ran the profit centers. I have never worked harder in my life than I have as a civilian. I’ve had to put out constant productivity in sales, service and operations as a civilian. And the gnawing stress, of having to make a profit every month, quarter and year or risk losing my job or business, has no comparison in the military. I’ve had a few good paychecks, but if I were to add up the present value of 20 years of military pay plus retirement as an O-5, it would greatly exceed the amount of money I’ve made as a civilian while working MUCH harder than I worked in the military. I know of a CEO, COO and maybe a surgeon who served on active duty with me who may be doing better financially as civilians than they would have done by retiring from the military after 20 years. And let’s not talk about New York or Los Angeles cops or firemen pay and retirement packages after 20.

    Every dime that is paid to every soldier (and everyone in the government for that matter) is generated by the sweat of the private sector. Without our money, which is generated by our hard work, you wouldn’t be serving without a draft, because I doubt you would volunteer to work for free. The government doesn’t create money; it spends it. And the more hungry the government gets for money, and the more that government pay, benefits and retirement plans exceed those of the private sector, the harder we have to work to sustain you. Never in the private sector have I had down-time where I got paid to sit around. I can’t tell you how many times in the military I “worked” long hours while actually doing nothing more than a lot of sitting around rather than being productive. If we did that in the private sector, our businesses would vanish. No customer I’m aware of, except the government, pays people to sit around for hours on end. One might say that I was productive in the many military schools I attended. How was I productive? I was in school. In the private sector, people have to pay for their education. In the military, it’s free. Plus you get paid while you’re in school. I estimate that of the several years I served on active duty, I was actually profitable and productive for no more than 15% of it. And I always volunteered for and served with the best most elite units. And in the combat theater, I worked maybe two hours a day when I wasn’t flying. My actual combat missions accounted for maybe 2% of the time I was in combat. Much of the rest of the time, the men in my unit played volleyball and softball. Someone I know, an army ranger who just returned from deployment in Iraq, told me he did very little patrolling and spent much of his time doing things like playing volleyball.

    I’d like to also mention some experience I had working as a civilian for the government. I worked as a civilian on a government contract for several years. I spent about half of those years on the job. The rest, I spent getting paid to do nothing in a room full of other people like me, in limbo, doing nothing. Even while actually working in my position on the job, the productivity was spread out so that I worked maybe a total of four hours a day and spent the rest of my time waiting for something to happen. That’s never happened to me in the private sector while customers breathed down my neck to “hurry up” and the budget forced me to pick up the pace to try to squeeze a profit out of the job, or to at least not lose money. My wife currently works on a federal government contract. Nearly every day, she asks me, “Guess what I did today?” Then she says, “Nothing.” The way I look at it, at least I’m getting some of my tax dollars back.

    Don’t knock those of us in the private sector as having taken the “easy route.” You’re putting your life on the line like I did, agreed. But, on the average, based on my experiences in both the military and civilian world, we in the civilian world work much harder and at a faster pace than military people for the pay and benefits we receive, and thanks to the sucking sound coming from Washington D.C., we’re having to steadily increase our pace. “Working hard” and “putting in long hours” aren’t the same thing. When I hire a gardener, I don’t hire him to sleep in a hammock for two hours in my backyard. And yet, thanks to poor management in both the military and federal civil service sectors, we taxpayers are paying billions to allow many to sleep in hammocks. I’m not sure how much longer the private sector can sustain the government at this pace before we collapse.

    Congratulations on being able to concern yourself with making your family wealthy. Don’t ever forget that your wealth is coming from the sweat of tax-payers. Remember, the government can’t create wealth. It can only spend it. Just ask Jack Welch; he’s the one who likes to remind us of that. As for me, I’m not nearly as concerned about getting wealthy as I am worried about survival. But quite frankly, I’m getting tired. And I don’t think I’m alone. If the U.S. workforce gets too tired and reaches its breaking point, the resulting economic collapse will make the dot-com collapse and the sub-prime mortgage crisis look like small blips on the radar screen.

  62. billdacat says

    Ex Military Officer: excellent post..

    When I recently moved jobs.. one of the opportunities that came up.. someone working as a military contractor told me.. “you should come and do what I do.. I hardly do a thing most days working for the military” .. this is not unique..

    I am proud of our military but it’s way too big and way too expensive.. I don’t mind paying for SS.. I don’t mind paying for Medicare. But paying for people to retire after 20 years of duty in a non combat area seems beyond reasonable to me. We need to lower our spending.. the private sector can’t keep providing those gold plated benefits when it all comes from deficit spending.

    A bankrupt country has no security..

  63. Interestingly enough, despite how well-compensated military members seem to be, they are still having a hard time recruiting enough folks to meet the requirements.

    You know the requirements:
    – Moving every 15-to-36 months
    – Being away from home months at a time
    – Even when not deployed, regularly enjoying ~60 days a year or so on the road
    – Combat
    – Training accidents (which, through the 1980s and 1990s, took more lives than combat)

    Yes, there are times when there are more people than required for a given task or mission. However, it is impossible to train a capable military force in only a month. Or two months. Or 12 months. If we were to scale back our military force by merely 25%, we wouldn’t be able to respond adequately should North Korea come south, if Iran decided that now was the time to end the world of Jews, if China decided to stop dicking around with Taiwan, if… if… if…

    Not only is military strength insurance, it is an instrument of power that enables all the other instruments of power, such as diplomacy, information, and economics. For example, without the threat of military intervention, “Six-Party Talks” are ineffective.

    We spend a ton on our military. But you know what? Throughout history, every great nation has had a superior fighting force.

    Yes, the retirement is generous. But without it, many of the brightest stars would find a different employer.

    Anyone here who doesn’t think that the beancounters (trained actuaries) in the Pentagon don’t have precise formulas on what financial incentives are required to recruit/retain targeted groups from every age/rank/job specialty, you are fooling yourselves. The federal government would prefer to spend personnel dollars on buying new toys (F-22, anyone?). They only spend money on people when there is a clear requirement.

  64. billdacat says

    “Nearly 6,000 active-duty airmen — enlisted and officers — will be cut loose in the next two years because so few are leaving on their own to enter the tough civilian job market.”

    I have military friends and relatives.. none of them are gettign moved after 15 months.. none have been in combat.. not the low ranking airman I am related to nor the air force officer.. The officer has been seperated from his wife for up to 6 months .. but these are pay related issues to me, not issues of early retirement.

    pay is on the low side.. benefits .. especially retirement benefits are off the charts on the high side. The amount of contractors and the pay and benefits involed are not in line with the private sector.

    We certainly do not need to spend as much on the military as the rest of the world combined and it is sapping valuable resources away from business and R & D.. from the public .. debt is formed to finance our military that could go to business.

    Some great nations were also broken by the expense of maintaining their overly large fighting forces.. ie.. USSR. I would bet that MOSt empires throughout history have fallen from becoming overextended militarily.. as are we now.

    Need recruits.. raise the pay.. don’t make it so we are paying for retirements for people who are nowhere near a realistic retirement age.. age 40 and retired on public money.. ?!?!?!

    “For the 2010 fiscal year, the president’s base budget of the Department of Defense rose to $533.8 billion. Adding spending on “overseas contingency operations” brings the sum to $663.8 billion”

    from wikipedia.. you know, this is completely ridiculous!!!!!

    about 20 years ago….one of every four military retirees was employed by the US Postal Service .. double dipping?

    Average pay $30,000 over private sector
    By Dennis Cauchon

    The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.

    Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.

    Federal workers are enjoying an extraordinary boom time — in pay and hiring — during a recession that has cost 7.3 million jobs in the private sector.

    The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.

    When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.

    The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.

    “There’s no way to justify this to the American people. It’s ridiculous,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, a first-term lawmaker who is on the House’s federal workforce subcommittee.

    Jessica Klement, government affairs director for the Federal Managers Association, says the federal workforce is highly paid because the government employs skilled people such as scientists, physicians and lawyers. She says federal employees make 26% less than private workers for comparable jobs.

    USA TODAY analyzed the Office of Personnel Management’s database that tracks salaries of more than 2 million federal workers. Excluded from OPM’s data: the White House, Congress, the Postal Service, intelligence agencies and uniformed military personnel.

    The growth in six-figure salaries has pushed the average federal worker’s pay to $71,206, compared with $40,331 in the private sector.

  65. Ex Military Officer says

    billdacat: Thanks for that info. I’d like to see an article on how federal benefits including retirement plans differ from the private sector. Also, I’d like to see one comparing the productivity of the average government worker with those of us in the private sector. Have you ever phoned a government office that supports the military? The person answering the phone typically passes you to someone else. And so on. Eventually, you get the original person back on the phone. Commissioned sales and the threat of being fired keeps civilian businesspeople on their toes. What reason do government workers have to work?

  66. This conversation has taken a turn, and now we’re building strawmen out of government contractors and civilians (who require 30 years for their retirement to vest, rather than the 20 required by the uniform services).

    Secondly, if anyone out there really thinks that the military avoids phone calls because we’re too busy out playing volleyball, then you’ve been watching too much Top Gun.

    Third, if Uncle Sam wants to start providing a bigger paycheck (or even–gasp–matching 401k), then I’m happy to re-evaluate the retirement package. But as it is, I get no match on my 401k, and if I decide to walk away from the military after 15 years, I get nothing but a hand shake and a pat on the back.

    I’ve been in the Air Force for 10 years, I’ve been deployed four times for a total of 14 months, and I am on my 7th duty assignment. Enlisted folks (whose pay starts at $1400/month) can typically stay in one place for more than 3 years at a time. For officers, staying in one place for more than 3 years is likely to hurt their career, and as one gains rank, the duty assignments get shorter, to the point where commanders are usually around for only 2 years, and sometimes less. That could be re-evaluated, but we want our General Officers to have a breadth of experience to call on in times of national importance–not ones who have had 4 different assignments of 6 years each.

    Trust me–the actuaries in the Pentagon don’t pay a penny more for personnel costs than they absolutely have to.

  67. Ex Military Officer says

    I don’t have a problem with military people retiring after 20 years. I think all enlisted personnel and officers should be “vested” after four years for retirement income to be paid after the age of 60. I have a problem with the poor planning and the resulting low productivity that is prevalent in the military, the federal government and government contracts. We could probably lay off 40% of all government workers and get the same job accomplished if we boost productivity.

    • BilldaCat says

      Ex military officer nailed it… people should be vested after 5 years. BUT, IMO, people should not be collecting a pension at 38 or 40… 50 or 55 … sure. Having been around military, civilian federal workers, and contractors, I can tell you.. it’s a mixed bag. What isn’t a mixed bag is if you make it to 20 years and get to double dip… It’s too fat for my tastes. As for government workers… A handful work hard but a lot of them seem to be in the office half the week. The Government needs to go through and cut the fat. The pay and benefits would not seem so high if things were more efficient.. and if people couldn’t collect a pension until at least 50 (except for cases of disability). It’s also bizarre to me that people collect disability on top of their pensions… and can work full time too… very odd… This is completely understandable in the case of disability due directly to being in the fighting force.. otherwise.. not so much. Things have been changing, but in bad ways.. pensions are good, retirement at 38 or 40 not so much..It would be a bit more realistic to set a minimum age for collecting a pension… 50 or 55 to collect. People aren’t supposed to be riding pension systems for 50-60 years…

      • Tim Winans says

        With respect,
        So I work 20 years and retire (military) and then work anothe 20 in Federal service, yet only collect pension on my military service. Joe Smoe, who never served in the military, works along side of me in the federal job and he receives a full pension for the federal job yet I get nothing (because I served my country for 20 years)? Yep! Sounds as fair as legislation is honest.

  68. I retired two years ago and I am still trying to find a job.

    Where do I start ~ one night I blew out my knee (ACL, PCL, & MCL)on the flight deck and Navy Doctor preformed the surgery that night. Sounds like things turned out okay ~ NO! Prior to this happening I was running marathons and after that I wasn’t able to run more then 1.5 miles (PRT test)……

    Two years later the USS America was underway 14 of 22 months ~ my wife left me for the neighbor (old best friend) during that time ~ he was helping out around the house…… My wife moved away with him, took the kids, part of my retirement check and theirs nothing I can do about it.

    9 deployments later and 8 PCS moves I retired ~ I get 1,800 each month…. I will give it all back to have my exwife back and the opportunity to run another marathon.

    Try walking in my shoes for just one day….

    • BilldaCat says

      That’s rough, but not typical (though far more common than any of us would like) .. It also sounds like you have a disability related to your service. Do you collect disability on top of your pension? I know people collecting partial disability due to pretty minor problems in comparison — on top of their pensions..

      • Tim Winans says

        Yes! 10% disability but they deduct from my pension and pay back from another venue (the exact same amount).

    • Tim Winans says

      I hear you. I am still unemployed after 6 years. People believe retired military are either Lazy (assumed) or PTSD.

  69. Military Officer - 20 yrs and still going strong says

    @Ex Military Officer – your smoking something and obviously out of touch. Times have changed. Those who do not perform in the military are fast put out to the pasture – called ‘perform to serve’ – look it up! The refinement continues to tighten the requirements while an increase in deployments/burden is placed on the shoulders of the ‘efficiently manned’.

    Government servants – I tend to agree with you there.

    However…chart comparisons are for those looking to make a personalized point. You cannot compare the two – private versus military. This is to say a person on welfare or working in a fast-food restaurant is comparable to a Marine on the front lines or Seal taking care of business. Simply BS. Of course the military should have more pay.

    Once again, GS’s can be compared, not the military member serving his country.

    The military retirement is necessary to maintain the sophisticated intellect required to combat adversaries. Look up -knowledge walk-outs. If retirement was anything less than 20yrs, our military would equally erode.

    If change is in the near future, my recommendation is to stretch the retirement to 40yrs vice the 30yr max 75% structure.

    ‘Navy Chief’ made a good point. The military is faced with unique challenges unlike the private sector. Even those that emotionally invest their effort don’t get what they fully deserve – more-so enlisted. That’s my opinion of course. But hey, all military personnel sign contracts and accept the terms.

    By the way…Firemen get better retirement benefits than most military. There are quite a lot of other professions that are overlooked when comparing retirements.

    Final words…if you like the military retirement, well then join and get it. Don’t bitch about why someone else stepped forward and signed on the line.

  70. I think some important points are being missed due to emotional red herrings. The military retirement system has unique policy goals. Specifically, the military wants to prevent their version of middle managers (O-4s and O-5s) from leaving the military en masse. The military retirement system does this rather effectively.

    For example, take a Major with 10 years of active service in the DC area. He makes the equivalent of $130,000 in the private sector. He has a $1.5 Million dollar retirement (present day value, O-5, 20 years) that is only 10 years away. How much would he have to make over the next 10 years in the private sector to be in the same position in the year 2020? I believe he would have to make about $340,000 a year in order for the tradeoff to make any sense. You can do the math too, but make sure that you factor in the tax rate. In my view, he would be a sucker to take even a $250K a year job in the private sector, unless he really wanted out of the military. But lets assume that he is at least luke warm in terms of liking the military life.

    Further, no one is talking about the new GI Bill transferrability rules. If our Major has a 2 year old at home and signed up for the transferability option a year ago, he can pass his GI Bill on to his child to use when his child goes to college. That would vest in the beginning of 2013. What private sector companies offer that deal? That adds at least $100K to the mix and ups the salary that he needs to make on the outside to $350K a year if he gets out now.


  71. I think all of the previous posters are spot on. How is that possible? They are all feeling their part of the elephant.

    In all organizations there is deadwood–even the military. In all organizations there are those who get an awful deal: disabled, divorced, broken, abandoned. In many organizations there are that 20% who do 80% of the work.

    It is true that some in the military in no way make what they deserve at the time? What should have those guys on IWO JIMA been paid during WWII? The first wave on DDay? At the same time guys were dying in the pacific and floating in the water on Normandy there were overpaid officers visiting brothels and getting drunk on the weekends in posts around the US with no risk at all. Yet after the war all were hailed as “heroes”; the truth was some were and some weren’t. Many of the guys on the inside knew the score. The same is true today. There are likely 20% heroes and 80% “the rest.”

    All these retirees who think that that their pension is an inviolable right better think again. The benefits can change with the stroke of a pen or how inflation is calculated or with the devalution of the currency. “Not worth a continental” is what those revolutionary war veterans would say–look it up if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    The net present value of these pensions in today’s rigged interest rate environment is staggering. So much so that the talk of closing budget gaps through taxing asset millionaires who are making about the rate of inflation on stable investments is hypocritical when the money will in effect go to other net present value millionaires with guaranteed COLA’s. The number of millionaires may go up in nominal terms but in real terms the number will probably never get higher than it was in the 2000’s. We are headed for serious financial pain and no one will be left unscathed; in the future everyone (!) will pay higher taxes–not just the paper rich AND accept a lower standard of living.

  72. Military retired/retainer pay is basically reduced pay for reduced continuing service subject to recall,UCMJ, employment restrictions , citizenship and avoidence of criminal convictions/incarseration.

    As it stands now,state courts are discrimantory in their treatment of veterans in divorce court. The Government pays out over a Billion (DFAS FOIA Oct 2010)dollars every year on court orderd divorce decrees to ex spouses of military members for life..even if the ex spouse remarries. Some ex spouse are marrying 2 or 3 service members and collecting the retired pay. There is no minumum lenghth of marriage to collect. Some are being awarded VA Disability pay which violates federal law but the courts turn a blind eye. One school of thought is the highly lucrative profit attorneys make off this steady stream of income provided by taxpayers dollars via DFAS via the ex spouse. Shameful on all levels.

  73. Just finished the article and thought some things could be clarified. Granted, the amount does seem a little excessive, but based on my retirement (E-7/22 years if service), I am betting these are retired officers. I currently receive about 18,000/yr in retirement. As for “free” health care, it is not what it appears to be. Basic Tricare, only pays 80 percent of what they deem fair value. The rest is paid out of pocket by the retiree. In a lot of cases, medical facilities not near a base will not accept tricare, so you pay out of pocket and hope to get reimbursed sometime in the next year. Medications are subjective, depending on if tricare deems them to expensive. I have had several meds changed specifically because tricare would not pay for them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. I would not have changed any of my life/career for anything, though I’m sure my wife/kids would think otherwise due to moves/separations, et al. It is just the article has some misconceptions about what military retirement entails. Dig a little deeper, and find out all the facts before telling those of us who served how “great” our retirement is.

  74. Wow…it was great to read this thread. After 32 years of military service, (1) covering several wars, (2) being shot at, (3) seeing horrendous things that still give me PTSD, and (4) moving every 18 months on average during those 32 years, I collect my paycheck without regret. By the way, remember that military personnel pay a portion of their pay (including retirement pay) in federal taxes, too, and so civilians aren’t the only ones deserving a gold watch on that score.

    When I was young, I knew a military pension was worth sacrificing for and I made those sacrifices. The envy of those who have not walked in my shoes but who covet my rewards rings rather hollow to me. I endured deprivations and conditions they cannot imagine.

    The thrill of doing it and surviving it makes me want to do it all over again. I guess you have to be one of us to fully understand.

    Strange, though. I don’t envy Wall Street millionaires. I don’t envy anybody. I will try to wrap my head around the fact that people envy my pension which was paid for by my blood, sweat, and tears and by taxes paid both by myself and by other Americans who have been protected by what my service wrought: the public good of national security and freedom.

  75. spytheweb says

    I never knew how good my military pension was going to be. I live in Las Vegas and unemployment here is 14%. My pension is not much but it pays for my monthly bills and a little extra. In 2 years i file for social security and i’am thinking hard of moving overseas to Thailand where the dollar goes a long way. I have lived in Korea (Osan AB) and the Philippines (Clark AB) for 4 years each so adjustment should be rather easy for me.

    I would think that military pensions are not at risk because the military is the last line of defense for the government. When everything breaks down the government better have the military on their side because they will determine who stays in power or who will be protected. So if you short change them, they won’t be happy.

    My son is active duty and i hope he stays for 20 years. He’ll retire at 42 and now he has a great job in the AF medical field. I know he’ll be temped to leave to make money but at 42 and a guaranteed check for life plus the field he’ll be working in he’ll be setup pretty good.

    They have dropped the rate from 50%, when i retired, to now i think, 35%. Which is still good. Some civilian pensions are a thing of the past. I hope military pensions stay around because soldiers do so much for the country. When i grew up i always saw friends and neighbors come home in uniform, now you don’t see that anymore. Young people don’t want to serve in the service.

  76. To the creator of the BLOG

    16 weeks in basic training, I’ve been deployed over six months every year of my 12 year marriage. Thus far I have served 18 years and my wife is expecting our first child. I’ll retire at 21 years of services with a worn and beaten bodies due to all the training and wars. I am spending my last two years away from my brand new baby and wife. See my wife cannot come to Afghan with me. Some post are easy and some Marines work 16 hours a day for your freedom. It all depends on the MOS (job) some military guys have it easy they go to one or two places and that’s it. I am a ground Marine and proud of it. I have been training and moving for over 18 years. This is my ninth and final duty station. I have to wear my rank for three years to retire at this pay. I’ll make about $1900 a month and I deserve it for all of the overtime, training, and full time work I’ve put in. This is not a job of 20 years for the lazy. It’s not just college and then work, It’s separation from parents, siblings, wife and friends. It’s being in combat and having love ones die at home and all around you. This is no 9-5. I am a Marine 24 hour a days. Yes, on occasions we actually work the full 24 to keep you free. How often have you worked a 20 hour shift! Don’t begrudge
    the Marines and soldiers that protect your ability to blog. As you can see some countries control FB, BLOG etc… My buddy from Georgia Tech has tracked via a neat database our work hours, school, mission, war and training and we’ve both logged in over 55,000 hours in less than 18 years. In the civilian world work this much overtime without a pay incentive is illegal. The hours worked for my Marines and I, is like working 32 years, so I feel the Federal goverment letting us retire at 20 is a great deal for the BLOG creator and AMERICA . Sad that you don’t think that sweat equity is paying into a pension. Not many American say they’ve worked more than 35,000 hours in 18 years without overtime pay. I would have gladly contributed toward a pension. Does America realize that I have paid over $3,500 a year in state for a state that I have NOT resided in since joining the Marine Corps? I pay state taxes in the south and I have been stationed in my home of record since joining. If you don’t think our work is valuable fire us all and watch this place go up in smoke. The WORLD out her loves AMERICANS and would never harm us.

  77. Bandaid Warrior says

    Theres one thing you people are neglecting to notice, you can join military service as early as 17 as long as you are 18 by the time your finish AIT(job training) which means you can do 20 years and retire as early as 37 to 38 which I am well on my way to doing, however anyone that says I didn’t earn it, can match me, I’ve been in for 9 years, I’m in the middle of my 4th year long deployment for anyone that can’t do that math half of career so far have been in a hazardous location.

  78. Well, there is one solution that will eliminate this “wasteful” retirement package: Mandatory military service for the entire population.

    Yes indeed. All of the high level decision making can be left to civilian leadership in the Department of Defense. This will take away any need for career Officers or NCOs who currently oversee their respective branches. With mandatory service, we will have new boots in the pipeline every 4 years, relieving any need for career soldiers. This should make everyone happy.

    Yep, everyone start doing push-ups and get ready to serve. Objections? Indeed.

    Food for thought:

    I was assigned to my last duty station for 24 months. I spent 14 of those 24 months overseas. The operation tempo for my unit is consistent for the foreseeable future. Even in a non-global war on terror environment, my unit is overseas at least 6 months a year…consistently. Multiply my overseas to home ratio for a 20 year career and tell me how much it is worth. How much is it worth to be away from your wife, your kids, your family, and your friends? How much is it worth to risk not coming home to the aforementioned group of people? How much for an arm or a leg serving in a war VOTED on by a REPRESENTED government?

    Obviously those costs factored into my mind when I left the service after 5 honorable years, but many continue to serve, and some will reach 20 years of service. These gentlemen and ladies — although some gave more — deserve every penny of their often meager pay. The Officer to enlisted ratio is highly disproportionate. Id wager that for every Officer retirement we pay, we pay for the sum of 3 enlisted retirements. We are getting a bargain.

    So unless you are willing to agree to mandatory service, leave it alone. To those who want to extend the retirement requirement to 30 years, shame on you. Who are we to ask that these men and women give 10 more years of sacrifice.

    • BilldaCat says

      Mandatory military service for the entire population. — Great, let’s do it. The politicians would not be able to get away with sending our troops into harms way for no good reason if everyone had some skin in the game!

  79. Can I ask a question to the people that know? If an 18 year old fresh out of high school wants to enter the navy or army etc. Assuming throughout their duty he/she does not get killed or injured where they would have to take a discharge. If he or she wants 20 or 30 fulltime active duty years consecutively would they be guaranteed that?

    The main reason I ask this question is from the point of view that this individual wants to do their time and retire with as much as possible and as young as possible?

    I just want to say how happy I am for all of you!

  80. Mike, the answer is absolutely not. Aside from quality force indicators that can keep you from getting promoted or removed from service (DUIs, inappropriate relationships, other illegal/inappropriate behavior), there are many other things that can keep a new troop from lasting 20+ years until retirement.

    Assuming that you make it past basic training, frequent 6-12 month deployments to the Middle East, and being moved from assignment to assignment as frequently as every 24 months based entirely on the needs of the service, there are other issues to consider.

    1: Paycheck. You’ll start at $17,000 a year (Uncle Sam will allow you to live in his dorms, at no expense to you). Unless you are among the truly elite and eventually become a Senior Non-commissioned Officer (top 12% of the enlisted force), your annual salary will top out at about $42,000 plus housing costs (which doesn’t really amount to as much as you’d think). (

    2. The military has an up-or-out system. That is, you need to be promoted to each successive rank in the prescribed amount of time, or you are forced to separate. In order to be promoted, there are multiple written tests, annual evaluations that describe whether or not you meet standards, and a physical fitness test at least once a year (and usually more often than that). The Air Force has a formula that includes points for the decorations you’ve earned.

    3. Family. The decision to remain for 20+ years is not yours alone, unless you plan to never marry or have kids. Many who voluntarily leave the service do so in the best interests of your family.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find numbers on what percentage of members choose to stay in the military for 20+ years, but it’s not as many as you’d suspect, considering how generous the pension seems. People either voluntarily leave the service (to earn more money, tired of the deployments, tired of having their kids change schools three times every five years, tired of the deployments, eager to establish roots in an area, tired of deployments, tired of movers breaking/losing/stealing cherished personal items ever other year, tired of deployments, etc.) or they are sent packing (failure to meet standards for one reason or another).

    I don’t mean to dissuade you from joining the service. It is an honorable and rewarding job and — for some people — career. However, it is foolish to join the military for the money or the retirement. If your goal is to make money and retire in comfort at a young age, follow a different path.

    I wish you luck.

  81. First off thank you Joe for responding to me. I am actually not an 18 year old kid like you may be thinking. I am 36 years old, and I have to tell you, the greatest mistake in my life was not joining the Navy the day high school ended for me. My story is just one of many, but I would like others to learn from my story so they don’t make the same mistake I did. I grew up not wanting the normal life. Of wife, kids, and house but to be free and travel. Unfortunately I let narrow minded others kill my dreams.

    Joe’s Thoughts: Mike, the answer is absolutely not. Aside from quality force indicators that can keep you from getting promoted or removed from service (DUIs, inappropriate relationships, other illegal/inappropriate behavior), there are many other things that can keep a new troop from lasting 20+ years until retirement.

    My response: Joe, besides being killed this is the one aspect that would scare me the most. Having 15-18 years in and getting thrown out the door just because things are slow or some other little minuscule reason would break my heart. I would like to know that if I stay healthy and do a good job I could be guaranteed my 20 plus years unfortunately the military is like any other corporation they will throw you out the door to save a penny.

    Joe’s Thoughts: Assuming that you make it past basic training, frequent 6-12 month deployments to the Middle East, and being moved from assignment to assignment as frequently as every 24 months based entirely on the needs of the service, there are other issues to consider. 1: Paycheck. You’ll start at $17,000 a year (Uncle Sam will allow you to live in his dorms, at no expense to you). Unless you are among the truly elite and eventually become a Senior Non-commissioned Officer (top 12% of the enlisted force), your annual salary will top out at about $42,000 plus housing costs (which doesn’t really amount to as much as you’d think).

    My response: Joe, I would have gone Navy not Army. I don’t know if that would’ve made a difference regarding deployment to the Middle East or not. Also I would enjoy the change of scenery I don’t like being stuck in one spot “Big reason why I would have picked Navy”. Sure going into harm’s way is always scary. However, look at the bright side well you’re away from your normal job you are getting free room and board and better pay.(Hazard/war etc.)

    I don’t think you realize how bad things are in the civilian world right now. The numbers being floated around by individuals from this blog. With their opinion of the grass being greener on the civilian side is quite laughable…. Let’s see 18 year old receiving 17,000 a year to start and then (quickly going up). Free room and board, free insurance, 30 days paid vacation. His discounted military hop with buddy’s to all you can handle brothels for his vacation. This of Course assuming he doesn’t have regular access to them anyway with his job or base he works at. Government picking up 90% of the cost for him to go to school if he takes it upon himself to do so during his free time, hmm not bad for starters.

    I am 36 years old I make about 17,000 a year and I get to pay my own rent to. My job you ask let me tell you how great it is. I am a black Jack dealer in a casino. I work 2 days a week, why two days you ask? Because I was hired as a on call dealer, you know so the full time dealers can’t acquire enough hours every week to get insurance. So with individuals like me added into the mix everyone turns into a part time employee. I also have no vacation or any other rights because I’m considered on call part time. And this is one of the better jobs, and only jobs in town. I actually do make a good hourly wage with tips added in just not many hours. My girlfriend has even a better story. She actually has her CPA, and bachelor’s in business administration’s with a minor in accounting. She has 20 plus years experience as a top accountant for a major casino in Nevada. She was let go about eight years ago when her company went under. She had to take a dealing job like me to make ends meet. Now when she goes on interviews for good CPA or accounting jobs. She goes through interviews with 30-100 people for just one opening. Yeah she has had about 30 interviews in the last six months. Take a guess at what these top jobs are offering? 80-100k, 150k+ you may guess. Try 25-35k a year and most don’t even offer insurance. O yeah most want you to come in or be available seven days a week to. This is the great country we live in now. Where our form of capitalism is completely and systematically gutting every single form of industry in this country. The elite or 1%ers almost have it all now. Pretty soon every job in this country will be $10.00 an hour with no benefits no matter what your education level is.

    I’m not going to pretend I know what life is like in the military or what it’s like to have to go into combat. But I have to say ever since I was a kid all I’ve ever wanted to do is travel and be free. I let my parents, friends, and other talk me out of joining the navy when I was coming out of high school. For the most simple and no good reasons. I was told things like “you can’t have a family in the military” ‘but dad I never want kids’ “you will one day mark my words” I still don’t. Or “I wouldn’t want someone telling me what to do all the time.” Ok dad tell me one Job you have ever had that someone didn’t tell you what to do every day. I am the type of guy that likes his freedom and likes to be alone. I really have never wanted the financial or emotional burden of children. Or to be stuck with some mortgage looking out the same window every day. I know I’m in the minority on this subject, but it just amazes me how almost everyone wants to live their life in a 10 mile radius from where they grew up, crap out 2-3 kids and be just another Al Bundy in the middle of nowhere America.

    I don’t doubt certain jobs or stations in the navy would be boring. However, when you are making competitive money along with all the other perks and a fat pension to look forward to after 20 plus years. You have it better than most in this country. Looking at it like this if you enter the military with education as a priority. Once you get your routine down you could go to school part time/online even. In less than 10 years you can have a bachelor’s. At this point in time apply to be an officer and also apply to graduate school. By time you hit 20 years, theoretically, you are only 39 years old with a pension of 1,500-2,500 a month and you have a bachelor’s or graduate level degree as well. Now the big question is do you walk or stay 10 more years to double your pension and finish your Ph.D./Law degree. Hell you would still only be in your late forties.

    What no one tells you coming out of high school is if you go to college and get your bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D. degree. You may end up making good money but you are going to work until you die or social security kicks in. No, matter how much you make you simply can never save enough to retire on your own. The military pension offers a finish line in your work career from the age of 39 and beyond you have the chance to put your feet up for the rest your life and never do a day’s labor again. Or have the luxury to take the degree you earned while doing your 20 to 30 years and pick whenever job you want. Having the right to be very picky because you don’t need to work to survive your pension takes care of you.

    In my conclusion, I want to think Joe for responding to me and I want to thank all of you for fighting for our country. I can’t tell you how jealous I am, but at the same time how happy I am for all of you, you are living my dream. In all honesty, I would sell my entire family and every friend I have ever had down the river today! To be able to wake up tomorrow at the age of 19 again sign the papers for the navy leave and never come back or see anyone I ever knew again. I would have done my 20 to 30 years to the best of my abilities and then taken the pension, degrees, and savings. I had earned and disappeared overseas for the rest of my life. Living in some grass hut house somewhere in Southeast Asia within walking distance of $20.00 brothels and $2.00 restaurants. It sure beats the hell out of anything this so called “American dream” has to offer.

  82. Mike, it’s not too late; check the age requirements for enlisted/officer for all branches and make the call on whether you want in or out. Time is ticking.

    With regard to your story of all of the naysayers in life telling you not to serve — I’ve heard all the same arguments. There is a saying that armies always prepare for the last war. I think the same applies to advice that is given to children; just interchange war with life advice. Most of my peers — with whom I graduated from college — make/made less that me when I was active duty. I also have more degrees than them with less debt. Of course there are always exceptions — some were very accomplished and have jobs paying MUCH more than I will make; some had nice parents who paid off college, etc; but there are always exceptions in life. Generally, I and many people with whom I’ve served are much better off than their peers.

    My parents were adamant about be not serving as it would be a “waste” of a college degree. Now they have nothing to say as I am black on my balance sheet while some of my colleagues are in six-figure debt — mostly because of the high cost of education plus lack of jobs. I am not saying all of this to boast — just making a point: take a long hard look at all of the facts before making a decision, and don’t be swayed by what others say.

    This advice applies to everything that you have read on this board. Military pension may be great, but I know many people who will never make it to 20 years to collect that pension because they are either (a) dead; (b) received service related disabilities; or (c) received bad conduct discharge. It is not an easy road, and there are many obstacles. The main issue with trying to make it to twenty — on top of the ones listed — is that if you don’t make it to twenty and find yourself back in the civilian world, it can be hard to start over at square one.

    Regardless of all of the “we love troops” banter, it is hard to find civilian employment unless you are picked by firms for a special skill set; corps of engineers; military intelligence; law; medicine. Your average combat arms soldier will be limited; it’s hard to translate infantry skills to stock broker.

    If — despite the unpredictability of a twenty year career — you make it to retirement, you will have indeed accomplished something noteworthy and have a chance to start a second career with the peace of mind of having some form of residual income.

    I hope you make the best choice for yourself.

  83. Thank you, ummok for the kind words of encourage. Unfortunately I am too old now I have recently contacted both the Navy and Army recruiters. The navy informed me that I have to be in boot camp by my 35th birthday, that time has passed, even if I would’ve made it. Reserves was my only option they won’t take anyone fulltime active past 29. I remember reading how the army raise their limits to 44 when I contacted the recruiter he informed me it is now back to 35. I just assumed both the Air Force and coast guard are the same.

  84. Many interesting opinions in these threads! I retired 18 years ago and was still young enough to get another job that had a “defined” pension plan and so I enjoy two retirements. Now, I am 65 and collecting my SS benefits, so I triple dip.

    Do military people deserve a retirement after 20 years of service? Read the comments about working long hours and having little time off for any person things you might want to do. I didn’t lay around or waste time. I worked my butt off in a strict and structured disciplinary environment! No one forced me to stay in the military service either.

    So, to all those who served their 20 or 30 years of service to our country, you men and women deserve every cent of your pension!

  85. I have been in the military nearing 15yrs. I have been home for the holidays with my family 3 of those years. I have missed just about every major think you would want to exper. with the fam. When I miss the holidays I mean I missed Thanksgiving, X-mas, New Years and Easter. My Army counterparts miss a hell of alot more. If you deploy one year they average us aging 3.8 yrs. We don’t just work M-F jobs. I am talking 2-3 months straight with no day off. When things get better your looking at a 6days work one day off 12-18hrs shifts. For the holidays I worked 20+hrs. I was a busy bee. Not all have to work these hrs but many of us do. I have not even added the factor that you life is in dangers.
    I serve willingly but I do so with the retirment in the back of my mind. I don’t really consider the medical so much. I expect them to hack that up and hope for help on covering medications. When I retire I will continue to work. Something to help in the community. I am not an officer. The officer pay is much higher then that of us enlisted. We are the backbone. To include breaking our backs. I will deserve every penny I get. I have deployed 8 times. It would have been more but I lucked out with special duty job for four years.
    I would not trade this choice for anything. I have have worked my butt off. But I am tired. We dont just work, we exercise, we go through one inspection after the other, we deploy, there is training, there are recalls, there are duties you are expected to do on your off time. So you don’t get off time. Yes I look forward to retirement…if they don’t take it away. I am getting so close to the end and they are hacking away…will I be grandfathered!? I hope….

  86. side note. sorry for typos tired.

  87. Military retirement was fairly stable until 1986, where it was 50% of your basic salary. This is why the military offers reasonable “allowances” which are not taxable, instead of increasing basic salary amounts – to avoid costs later if someone makes it to 20 (or more) years.

    After 1986, in came the “high 3” computation designed to save the government a few bucks here and there. Off the backs of those who do the dirty work for them.

    Around 10 or 15 years ago, government weenies with calculators came up with what they called the Redux plan, where at your 15 year mark, you had to make a decision on retirement. Take a lump sum 30,000 payment at 15 years (taxable), promise to stay until at least 20, then take a severely reduced amount until you reach normal retirement age. It was a big rip off by DOD just like the shell game scam bootcamp recruits can get suckered with in San Diego during their first “weekend liberty” but this one was done (again) by DOD in order to rip a few bucks off the military folks who do the dirty work for them. Anyway, once you reach regular “retirement” age, the pension increases to the normal “high 3” amount and a one-time inflationary leveler will be applied. Many folks took this option, suckered in by that 30,000 lump sum. Face it, most enlisted folks never saw that kind of money all at once in their life, and fell for it even against the advice of their senior leadership. Those who know how to manage their money used it wisely, and I have to admit, for those is high tech occupations who could eventually retire from the military and find a good paying job outside, it was probably ok. Those less educated and skilled people who took the deal may have felt screwed over in the end, but it was their own decision. This is how DOD takes advantage of those folks – wave some cash around in front of them to take their eye off the scam. Another tragic shame committed by DOD on their own people. Again.

    They are at it again in 2011, always looking to rip a few dollars away from the military because of their own mismanagement of foreign policy and use of military abroad has them broke. Those they send off to get shot or blown up will, again, get the shaft. It’s always the rich screwing over the poor. Let’s admit it, your average enlisted person isn’t a sophisticated blue blood, but I can’t say the same for some of the silver spoon in the mouth types in the officer ranks.

    And those who put a high value on the medical benefit, you need to do more research instead of putting out the misleading, blanket statement of “free medical for life”. The reality and mechanics of it are no longer straight forward and in fact, I believe it is made difficult and red-tapish to discourage veterans and retirees from using it. Personally, if I walk into a military dental clinic where I’m at, and just want them to take a look at a problem I had been tyring to ignore for a year, well, let’s just say they look at me like I’m from another planet. If they finally do agree to “see me” they have this attitude and air about them as if they would rather be doing anything else other than helping me out, they do as little as they can like they are getting paid by the hour to help only active duty folks, even if there’s no waiting line and no other appointments. Sounds great right? Medical? Haven’t tried that but know you have to pay premiums to join the medical (and dental) benefit, just like any civilian does, although the costs might be less but DOD always wants to, and seems about to, raise the premiums. If you have to use outside medical, you pay for it all up front if the clinic doesn’t take the medical “insuance” program (like overseas for instance) then fill out the paperwork, send it in to an outsourced company back in the US, and hope for 80% reimbursement months later. There are various versions of this benefit, I don’t know all of them because I’m overseas. I hope I get run over by a train and die instantly rather than get old and try to use this “free benefit” everyone keeps ranting about. DOD would be happy in the former case as it would be one less pension they have to pay.

    So, for all the non-military civilians out there, don’t be so predictable and stupid. It is only in hard economic times, when the civilian unemployment is higher than normal, everybody, loves to look around at who might be doing better and start attacking them. On the other hand, when the economy is booming, the general consensus is the military, enlisted in particular, are the low end of the society caste system, willing to live a crappy lifestyle and work for peanuts. This includes the recent revelation that Government civilian employees also make more than their civilian world counterparts. I find all of this so ironic if you look at how things were 15 years ago, when times were good and Uncle Sam was trying to beef up the military and government civilian pay in a feeble attempt at recruiting and retaining good people who were having a great time making good money in the regular civilian world. I think one term applied to military and government civilians around this time frame was “SHOE” which stands for Stupidist Humans On Earth. But wait, now that the tables have turned, let’s beat up the military because they are getting too good a deal now, even though the loudest chorus never served a day in their life. What makes me sick is even Bob Gates and that idiot, boot licking, sorry excuse for an officer – Admiral MULLENS – has jumped on the bandwagon. So happy those poodle but wipes left or are leaving soon.

    Fact is, the government moves too slow to respond to such fast moving public opinion and economy. By the times they finally get it right, the economy tide turns so now they will start taking things away from the military. When the economy recovers and people get back to making their own self salaries in the civilian world, the military will have been gutted and it will take 10 budget cycle years to creep back up again, and then the vicious cycle starts all over again.

    I can tell you, the sloppiest, least effective militaries I have seen predominately have a mandatory conscripted service system, usually about 2 years. We are headed in that direction for the US military so we might as well hang up our desire to keep fooling around in countries all over the world now because you can’t do that with your junior ranks are filled with conscripted younger people who don’t want to be there. No offense to the Vietnam era vets, but….. here we go again. When will we ever learn.

  88. I am hoping someone out there can HELP!!! My husband is losing his Navy/Military retirement because he failed to promote for LT Commander. He is prior enlisted and there is not a blemish on his record and past CO’s put early promote on his Fit-Reps. So after 17 years of hard work, personal sacrifice he has been kicked to the curb. No retirement for this family who has missed their father for most holidays and milestones in their lives. So if anyone thinks that just because you serve in the military for 20 years you are guaranteed an early retirement, think twice it is not necessarily a given and heavens forbid do not count on it.

    Note: If my husband had 18 years we would be in the SAFE ZONE and he would be able to finish out his career as a LT and then retire.

    The Navy’s answer to our issue is to have my husband revert back to his enlisted rank and work for the next three years at 50% pay cut, in a job that he is no longer qualified to do, in an area that no one wants him because they don’t want to pay to retrain him. So it’s special programs such as “Navy Recruiter” (Oh he’ll make a heck of a recruiter after what they done to him or “Brig Duty” (prison guard). He will then have 20 years and be able to collect enlisted retirement and then at 30 years apply for his LT retirement. BASICALLY THE NAVY IS MAKING MY POOR HUSBAND GROVEL FOR HIS RETIREMENT. Nice way to show their appreciation for his hard work, personal sacrifice and hardship.

    If there is anyone out there that can suggest where I can fight this, please let me know.

    A wife who loves her husband and wants to go to battle for him!!!

  89. FACTs:
    1. Military retirement is reduced pay for reduced service. You are still under tiered recall rules and subject to UCMJ under Title 10 USC.
    2. Military service does NOT equal civilian employment. Just because there are similar job specialties, doesn’t mean the work environment and demands are a one to one comparison.
    3. Service Members (SM) don’t have freedom of travel, they are subject to commander’s approval for leave, pass, TDY, etc.
    4. SM give up a portion of civil liberties (1st amendment rights especially) When was the last time a civilian boss sent the employee to jail for disrespectful comments or actions?
    5. SM can’t turn down deployments, field exercises or quit with just 2 week’s notice. SM have a contract for service…
    6. SM routinely move every 2-3 years, especially officers. I’m on my 19th move in 19 years… Everytime I move, I incur a one year commitment to the service.
    7. SM can’t just NOT show up for work. We don’t get “sick” or “personal” days unless you receive a “quarters” slip from the doctor, which means a trip to the clinic every time you really needed to stay home in the first place.
    8. SM leave and passes (vacation or absence from duty) must be approved by the commander. There is no guaranteed leave time or passes as the mission and unit needs come first. Leave can be cancelled regardless that you just spent $2000 for that Florida vacation. SOL
    9. While we receive a generous 30 days leave accrual per year, SM are charged for all days while on leave (even weekends, holidays, and days you weren’t schedule for duty). We can’t sell our leave unless retiring or separating from the service. We can only bank 60 days. Anything above that is lost at the end of the FY.
    10. SM don’t get to chose their health care provider. You get the small pool of docs that are offered at your installation. Pick one to be your primary care manager. Don’t like them, too bad.
    11. SM lose all the gains from homeownership due to forced moves. Everything you gain is equity goes down the drain when you have to sell due to a forced move. Most enlisted can’t afford to own several houses along with the rental nightmare that goes with being a landlord.

    Military service is NOT a job, it’s a commitment and a way of life. Your life is so significantly different from civilian counterparts that there’s almost no comparison. Hence a 20 year immediate retirement benefit is not only fair, but just based on what our country asks us to sacrifice day in and day out.

    The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I and the other miltary members/retirees who’ve commented could go on and on but hopefully I’ve made my point.

    There’s a reason Congress hasn’t changed the 20 year plan since it’s inception. Most SM over 10 years of service will leave if there isn’t a grandfather clause with the current proposed changes by the Defense Business Board. If we want to change retirement for the future generations that sign up to serve, so be it. At least then they have a choice whether or not to serve under the new retirement plan.

  90. In reading all of this please remember that these dual military families are not common practice, in most cases there is only one person in a family serving in our military. With the frequent moves my husband and I have taken in just the 4 years we have been married I am finding it very difficult to continue building my own retirement package as my background does not carry well from location to location even with a college degree. Remember most military facilities are in low income area’s jobs are scarce now and overseas jobs are in high demand but few of them have a salary that will be high enough to pay for childcare and students loans. My husband truly believes that with many of the chemicals, and substances that he has been exposed to in his 15 years so far of military enlisted service will result in a short life expectantcy for himself and may or may not make to age 65. Every month we hope to pay the bills, and put some money aside for our future, but there is little left over…sure we get some housing benifits but most people who have this benifit and can live on a military installation do, reducing the cost of our housing, where in most cases our money or this a percent of benifit goes right back into the governments hands. Many military members work up to 10 hours a day, there is no hourly payrate, and there is the expectation set by senior leadership to work that hard with our without benifit because it serves the missions purpose. Instead of attacking the retirement benifits why dont goverment officals and journalists go after the double dippers, senators, presdients, and all government representative that recieve retirement benifits, do they really need this in addion to the $$ they make for endorsements and public appearances?? or how about people who served 20 yrs than got a civil service job and now collect 2 government pensions. When my husband gets out he may or may not find a decent job, given current job market projections, he may or may not find a job that can help cover our financial obligations in addition to our living expensese….we are not counting on a pension we have known for at least the last 6 yrs that this could come under scrutiny and that was a risk we took when he continued to renlist, but he loves serving our country and I am proud that he does, but is it fair to have someone sign a legally binding document that says I will serve in exchange for this benifit only to turn around and take it away?? What are the legal remifications involved…I am sure there are many…for those non military how would you feel if you worked for a company and were told you would have a benifit after 20 years of service, years where you put your family aside day in and out to do your job, years where you were in harms way, only to be told 15 yrs in or 19 yrs in that the promise you were given might be off the table…I think you would be seriously pissed. Not to mention people who have retired, and started working on a second career…most of the time these people are not retiring at 20 yrs but serving 25-35 yrs and moving onto a new career field, using there pensions to help hold them over while they get reestablished in a field at age 45 not so easy in todays job market. If my husband does get a a pension we are not stupid, we would put it away until were were ready to retire….because the benifit he would recieve is not enough to live on but maybe if we can get it into an account build some interest by the time we are 65 we might be able to have enough to continue to scrap by on month to month. Espeically since the governement has run Social Security into the ground and will not be an option to collect another benifit that we have contributed into ..

  91. There is no doubt, military retirement is an expensive endeavor for our country.

    That being said, let me say that some branches of service are more hazardous than others. Within those branches, some MOS’s (jobs) are more hazardous than others. Generally speaking, the majority of the people in harms way are paid some of the lowest enlisted grades. Those making a few more dollars get the added glory and responsibility of leading 8 to 10 troops…and so on up the chain.

    When all is said and done, our great country has to determine how much to pay our servicemembers each month–knowing that some can never be paid enough.

    Thanks to all who served…are serving…and will serve! As you can see by all of the responses,a lot of people are concerned about your retired pay. I wish you all well right now!

  92. When it comes to the military retirement, I get sick of hearing people say “What good is the military?” or “War Profiteers” etc. It’s not the actual military member that has anything to do with these comments. Write your congressman. A person that retires from the military is still considered on inactive duty and can be called up at any time in their life. So what I do know is this:

    A retired VETERAN – is someone who wrote a blank check for their lifetime, made payable to the “United States of America and all its citizens” for an amount ‘Up To and Including Their Life’.

  93. The defense (Pentagon) budget DOUBLED between 2000 – 2010. And it was already bloated in 2000! “Serving” in the military is first and foremost a paid job, with living expenses and other benefits which equal the pay. No other job fits that description. Housing, free healthcare, discounted groceries, it and the payscales have grown at shocking rates. Remember, we as working taxpayers are picking up the tab for 100% of the cost of the various aggressions initiated illegally by George Bush and his administration. All the costs in Iraq and Afghanistan were put on the credit card, and now we have those who enabled this fraud, waste and crimes against humanity are whining about the deficit that resulted from engaging in a war “off the books”. Congress needs to wake up and make drastic cuts to this gravy boat that cost us over $1 Trillion dollars in 2010. Our great-grandchildren will be paying for this madness, which includes paying huge retirement pay for forty years at a cost of $1.5M actual dollars paid out! The well is destined to run dry unless drastic reductions are made effective immediately and no benefit paid until traditional retirement age of 65! There are far too many generals/admirals collecting over $250,000 a yearr in retirement, a national disgrace! We don’t need 1,000 generals, heck we don’t even need 500 generals! A high percentage of Americans NEVER approved of Bush’s aggressions and we certainly should not have our tax dollars paying for the trillions wasted on this immoral adventure! Our standing in the world is probably never going to recover from the clusterbombing and slaughter of over one million innocents. No amount of inflated retirement checks can assuage the guilt any decent person would feel for participating in such slaughter. It is common knowledge that most who “signed up” for Iraq and Afghanistan did it for the windfall of money that went with it. Well, here is a news flash: service in the U.S. military was never intended to be a path to wealth. Somewhere along the line a group of retired military cronies turned congressmen stealthily, while we weren’t paying attention, passed a bill giving huge increases in pay, retirement benes, etc. etc. etc. to themselves and their buddies. It is a disgrace. We need to close the many unneeded bases, drastically reduce the force, amend downward the wasteful retirement scam and stop making false heroes out of those who have benefited greatly financially for the time they spent working not too hard in the military. It just makes me sick to see this fraud, waste and abuse of our tax dollars.

  94. Tongue in cheek, JanisL, I say let us go back to a conscript military so that everyone, including you, has to serve. We can pay these conscripts next to nothing for risking their lives and if they survive let’s not give them any retirement or health care either. You’re right. It’s cheaper. But let you be the first person to volunteer and since we need experience at the top in leadership roles, stay for at least 20 years. If you do this, I will be happy to pay you nothing in return for the life you just gave up and the post-traumatic stress you will have for the rest of your life.

  95. Working for such an ungrateful employer (the people of the US) is a tough gig for 20 years. Join the ranks if it’s such a great deal, I assure you most will not make it to 20 yrs, it’s not a right to stay in the military, there are cuts, reduction in force (layoffs), promotion is competitive, etc. Benefits are earned no entitled.

  96. I really like this post.

    I would agree these benifits are awsome. But they are competitive. This is how much it costs to keep a person in the military 20 years. If they could staff it for less they would. If you want to lower your portion of the burden then vote. Vote for no war machine, vote for reduced military spending. Until you do that you will pay competitive wages to the men and women who work there (or serve, sounds like military semanitics making the unimportant important).

  97. I find the change in tone and tenor of the comments intersting in a twisted sort of way. The original article is from 2008 and here we are in 2012. No more yellow ribbons and “Support the Troops” stickers now that the chips are down?

    What a bunch of MSNBC sheep.

    I guess the military is out of fashion again. Anyone remember Vietnam?

    Cops and Firemen/First Responders are the darlings of America since 9/11, but that seems to be waning in the short memory of humans as well. They’ll be next, mark my words.

    An agency that is in place to be prepared for whatever is a necessary evil. “Whatever” may never happen or only happen once in a while, but when it does, those complaining on this forum will be the first ones to dial 911….. paid for by their tax dollars…. and only then appreciate it when it benefits THEM directly (it’s all about me, me, me, after all). That’s fine, that’s the way humans are and by the way, “we” don’t need your thanks or appreciation, it’s what we do – serving selfish, self absorbed people and politicians who will give you a kiss now, but later, when nobody’s looking, won’t even kiss your arse.

    Think of these agencies like your insurance company. Complain about the premiums all you want, but when the rubber meets the road, the military/first responder policy pays up, often with blood and death. I would compare that to your HMO any day of the week, but seems the complainers only want to see blood and death. Sorta like NASCAR. Come on… admit it!

    It’s the price we pay in our society to have these groups of peope at the ready and standing by, no matter what. Pissed off about your municipal taxes? Quit paying them, the result will be evident much faster – when your water is shut off along with your electricity and YOUR trash piles up on the sidewalk. As soon as services are not there and a complainer needs them, stand by for the extremely high pitched whining that government isn’t doing enough to protect and serve society. Remember the aftermath of 9/11? How did we get here from there? I seem to remember MSNBC was all over President Bush for ALLOWING 9/11 to happen in the first place.

    I think it called “flip flopping” in the political arena . Through the benefit of liberal hindsight, we are reminded of this human dynamic. Go ahead, take it apart, then we’ll get attacked again, and build up the apparatus again, it’s a sick cycle driven by silly, reactive humans and worse, politicians reacting to said silly humans.

    Another thing I find ironic is the website is about stealing away and retiring at 40 so why are those complainers even on this web site? Picking on the military is too easy, and thus tells us a lot about said complainers. They are revealed as folks looking for the easy train ride to sipping on umbrella drinks, and pissed off that it isn’t their white feet at the bottom of the lounge chair in a Corona beer ad.

    Looking for an easy way to skip out of the real world? Uh, the military is definately not for you, so shut your pie holes, you civilian slackers. Not that military people can truly “retire” at 40, I know I didn’t, but because they are now seen to have too good a deal, makes them fair game for those losers who didn’t have the cojones to pony up when they were younger; or did and wussed out after a couple years or worse even, got out to, get this, “go make the big bucks” as civilians outside the military (we hear that one alll the time). Now the landscape has changed, their selfish plan has dissolved, and presto – they’re baaaaack!!!! Tough out there in the “real world”, isn’t you slackers?

    While a painfully evident truth for all you silly, jealous, childish losers out there who now can’t cut the mustard or, in other culinary terms – Can’t afford the cheese to go with their whine. You should of sucked up the lower pay and stuck with the military (or tried it), now it seems you didn’t make the right choice? You of all people, being the slick investement-minded “retire at 40” crowd you want so badly to be, forgot the golden rule: The long term investment tends to pay off in the long term, not the short sighted quick buck scheme you opted for.

    Anyway, as we used to say in the Navy, “Choose your rate, choose your fate”. Now that I am retired from the military, those who would attempt to make me feel guilty about my desire and ability to make a plan and stick to it, and further, try to make me feel bad about my 2,000 bucks a month, can put their lips right on a select part of my anatomy where the sun don’t shine. For those who don’t get that and need some extra help with translation, it means: “Kiss my ***!” Now… get back to work at McDonalds you slackers and keep striving for the quick buck to retire at 40. Flip the burgers and dunk the fries, it’s within your grasp. Literally. See you on the beach with a Corona dripping with condensate from the warmth and humidity of my chosen third world retirement destination. And just to prove once again that retired military do appreciate it, I’ll do what you are unable and unwilling to do and say, “Thanks”. So, thanks.

  98. Happily served says

    I would like to chime in. This blog hits home in so many ways. I feel that I am qualified to post a comment as I have studied this issue for many moons, served for more than 20, and did many years in the recruiting field. Disclaimer: I did not join for the money. I did it for the experiences and serving our great nation. That being said, times have changed. After Pearl Harbor, folks lined up to join. Not so after Sept. 11th. So here goes:

    1. The main reason that military pay and pensions are so high (and yes, they are VERY, VERY HIGH) is because….drum roll please…..less than 25% of age-eligble folk can get into the military EVEN IF THEIR LIVES DEPENDED ON IT. Do you understand that? Walk around a high school or college campus, and you see “normal” healthy-looking kids. But almost none of them can join, even if they wanted to. Don’t talk trash unless you know. I DO. I SPENT SEVERAL YEARS RECRUITING OFFICERS. And supervising the enlisted recruiters. It’s no different, either way. You want the quality we have today (forget about the BS about punks getting into the military). You think we give top secret clearances to fools? You think we let idiots become pilots? Or become combat leaders? You know how many kids are on meds? Have peanut allergies? Have athsma? Are fat? And on and on and on and on and on…I recruited at an Ivy league school. Most of those that called me about joining, I never met….there was no need to. They were already disqualified over the phone. That was about 75% of them, maybe more. Of the remaining 25% or so that I met, only about a third of them got in if they applied. Shut up with your idiotic comments about “GEDs” and “gang members” getting in. Please, do yourself a favor and stop reading the news. It’s all garbage. In my TAPS class that I took when I got out, more than half were good folks getting “passed over” and had to get out. Go to any base now….mostly what you will see are civilians. Why???? BECAUSE THEY ARE CHEAPER. Even cheaper than a PFC. BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

    2. The only folks the military TRULY needs are mid level officers and NCOs. Kids can be found (despite the above) by giving them enough college money and bennies that far exceed what they can make working at McD’s or being a debt slave for life going to college on loans. At least Uncle Sam only owns you for 4 years. The banks own you for decades. The “brass” are few in number. The MIDDLE ranks cannot be “made”. They must be developed. And it takes years to do so. So how do you keep a Captain or Staff Sergeant in at the 10-year mark? When the wife and kids are bugging him to get out b/c they are sick of moving and deployments? When his resume’ blows away his civilian peers and companies are calling left and right, even in a recession? Simple: delayed gratification with an early pension. We screwed with this in the 90s with predictable results. Those guys got out because their pensions were 20% less than the older guys. Imagine what would happen if it were drastically cut in an up economy. Incidentally, this is why most junior officers?NCOs get out in my experience. They don’t leave because they want to, it’s the family. No use being in the military if divorce is a certainty. There goes most of your pension, even if you get it!

    There you have it. Unless we as a nation are going to bring back the draft….you can FORGET about getting the top talent that the military requires in order to execute its mission. If any of you think that our folks are not top shelf stuff, you are truly ignorant. Seriously, ask a recruiter. ANY recruiter. He will tell you how long the wait lines are, how many kids can qualify to get in, etc. In fact, in my unit we stopped referring to ourselves as “recruiters”….we were “talent scouts”. And that is a FACT. Good luck trying to staff our military on the cheap……..And BTW, if you think it is so rewarding, then try and join yourself. And stay for two decades AT LEAST. Most companies vest after 5 years. In the military…’s 20 years and one day, or no soup for you!

  99. @Happily served – Just wanted to say thanks for your comment, I think you make some good points. Do you see people leaving soon after their 20 years is up?

  100. By the way, I earned a military pension. Just so civilians can understand, in part, the burden of a military career, I would like to share without exaggeration that I was in for 32 years and moved 21 times. That is an average of one complete move, with household goods and family in tow, every 18 months for over three decades. Just imagine it.

  101. Try serving 20 years and working 36 hours straight without showering only to go home and sleep 6 hours before doing it all over again. Or watching children and woman die without cause of their own. Or missing family birthdays, graduations, funerals, holidays, reunions, etc. Or packing up and moving every 3 years. And in the end retire with severe medical problems like recurring headaches that leave you pacing in pain and doctors can’t figure out what is wrong. But if Uncle Sam came calling today I would be one of the the first to put back on my uniform, tight fitted and all, to serve my country. All who served should have some type of pension, retired or not.

  102. MSG Moore says

    Everyone has the same opportunity to join the
    Military. Many try and fail. Our brave men
    And women get paid very little compared to
    The hours they work and the hardships their families
    Face. They pay taxes out of their monthly checks
    Just like all working Americans. So you can say they just get
    The taxes they pay into the system back!!!!

  103. AlwaysIn says

    Two things to remember: 1) Unless you’re disabled you too could have joined the military and put in 20 years. Why didn’t you if it’s such a great deal? (If your under 34 you can still join) 2) If needed any retired military member can, and has been, called back into service. They have to drop whatever they are doing and return to service for a time determined by the government! Remember, A RETIRED MILITARY MEMBER – is someone who wrote a blank check at a young age, good for their entire working life, made payable to the “United States of America” for an amount ‘Up To and Including Their Life’. Yes that’s right not just 20 years. Does the job you do require you to give your life if need be? Not to mention the probability of being maimed or disabled for life.

  104. Joining the military was one of the best decisions i ever made thou at the time i didn’t realize it. 20 years and 8 days. I don’t get much but it pays my rent and food. I plan to file for early SS before the door closes in Jan 2013. I also plan to move to Thailand around March 2014 where my money will mean something again.

    I have a son who works in the medical field in the Air Force. He just left Kandahar Afghanistan this past weekend. I hope he stays in until retirement age which for him will be 42. That leaves him about 23 more years he could work until he really retires plus the field he works in he’ll make pretty good money. I hope he does not jump ship and goes looking for a job now.

    Things in American are going to get alot worst and i fear the government is going to turn military into a 401(K) program and give the money to wallstreet to gamble with. I think everyone in now is safe until they change the rules and have a cutoff for new enlistments.

    Military pensions are the best thing going and the people deserve them.

  105. RETUSAF,

    Same boat just not Air Force. I just wanted to say ensure you do your homework on Thailand first, but yes, can stretch a 20 year pension out a bit further there depending on how you want to live. Good luck and take care. Duck

  106. Spytheweb says

    When i first enlisted in the Air Force Thailand was on my dream sheet. I remember a neighbor hood friend, who was in the AF, came home with a silk jacket with a dragon on back with the words THAILAND across it. When i was in tech school was the time when they were leaving Vietnam from the embassy roof.

    So Thailand was a scratch. I did end up spending 4 years at Osan AB Korea and later 4 years at Clark AB Philippines. I thought about the Philippines but i think Thailand is safer. Back in 1987 a member of my shop from Clark was killed down town and there were attacks on 3 other airman that day. His name was Randy Davis.

    I have been researching Thailand for about one year and a half. Visa requirements and such. Bangkok or Chiang Mai? For what i pay for a apartment here in Las Vegas, i could cover rent, food, utilities but internet will cost more but it’s a hell of alot faster.

    My pension is not too big but the last couple of years i have been nickled and dimed. $300 deposit for pet plus a monthly charge, last year we were required to have renters insurance from a company they recommended, i wonder what the kick back is on that? Now i’am waiting for the rent to go up and wondering why it has not?

    From what i see Thailand has it all, nice weather, cheap, heath care, jumping off spot to the rest of Asia. I’am still looking into it.

    • Been a while since your post re: Thailand, not sure if you monitor this via email.

      You ever decide or make the move?

  107. Jmiller120 says

    For all you who don’t think the military deserve pensions for 20+ years of service you do not have the slightest clue about sacrifice. I’m nearing my 18th year of service. I’m one of less than 1percent of this country’s population that stepped up to defend your right to be a freaking clueless jack***. Ive missed more birthdays, holidays, anniversarys, class reunions, first steps, first words, births, funerals, you name it I was probably deployed for its, than you can imagine. Hell, I’m currently in Afghanistan now. I see my kids growing up in pictures. I talk with my wife through skype, and MWR phones. That alone is not worth what my pension will be. My kids cry at night for the first three months of my deployments because they don’t understand why daddy has to leave again. When I’m home they treat me like a I’m a freaking stranger because I’ve been gone for so long, and they don’t know me anymore. Do you have any idea what military families go through?

    I’ve been shot at, mortered, and blown up. I’ve been to my Soldier’s funerals, how about your ungratefull a** tell the spouse of that fallen Soldier that HAD her husband lived to retirement he wouldnt have deserved it. That’s what your saying now, but you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to say it to her face.

    In a little more than two years I will hold no regrets to collecting my money every month. I earned every damn cent of it. You could have stood up and made the same sacrifice, but the thought of serving anyone but yourself never crossed your mind. I hope one day I overhear someone complaining about how easy vets have it with a 20 year payday. I will enjoy sticking my boot so far up their third point of contact they will get to taste the kiwi on my shoes.

  108. God damn right, and that’s about all I gotta say about that.

    Cheers mates,

    Master Chief, US Navy

  109. I am aware that retired military health benefits have been reduced. I am aware that no increase for the cost of living was made in the last year or two for the retirees. What is next? You have to be realistic and not count your eggs before they hatch. Nobody is exempt from loss. I would not count on the pension alone, unless you plan to live frugally upon retirement. I feel bad for people who’s only drive to be involved in the military is for the pension. It is not looking like it will be that great of an incentive in the years to come. Take advantage of the education benefits. That seems to be the one guaranteed paid benefit. Think of the teachers union and the cuts made there. Times are changing.

  110. After 20 years,it’s 50% of your salary lol.This couple must’ve been high up officers to make this much,or they enlisted in the miltary before the 50% change took affect,which they probally did.This article is subjective,and alot of research wasn’t put into it.

  111. Lots of great points and views here on this article and comments. Since I cannot claim to know the bureaucracy or politics behind the military pensions my comment will be strictly about my finances and how they compare to the one in this article.
    First of all retiring at 40 does sound nice, albeit you would not catch me quitting at that point for sake of boredom however, onto the financial aspect. I am 27 and currently gross $84/k annually, put about $16/k in a money market another $6700 in 401/ROTH + $3600 employer match equaling approximately $10/k annually. Now for realistic aspects, of that $16K in the money market, maybe only $12K will actually stay in due to random purchases and trips overseas to see my fiancee’s family in the Philippines. Note none of the numbers include my savings which is $2,600 annually, again this is typically spent throughout the year.

    So to conclude here is my breakdown at age 40. Keep in mind that I will have to pay for my own health care, however there are a few subtle differences that work in my favor. such as owning a home or two since I will never be forced to relocate without my deciding to, along with invaluable work experience that I can fall back onto if things go sour (Not so much for retired military, let’s face it, who will hire someone with no REAL commercial experience and who has been out of work for X years?? ) and these numbers only assume an 8% return (currently averaging 12% in 401 and about 22% in money market). So in conclusion would I rather work as a civilian vs 20 yrs in the government? why yes of course. Heck If I work just 5 extra years until 45 that total jumps to $441k, not bad

    Money Market – $174,044.00
    401K – $23,586.92
    Roth – $70,760.76
    Empl match – $50,711.88

    Of course most people will quickly jump in a start to criticize and claim I cannot count on the stock market. Well I completely agree! However I have the option to move my money around however I deem necessary and have the ability to cash out whenever I want (Not an option in with a military pension since it is a fixed amount). But for now @ 27 yrs old I think my financial adventures will be fine. Keep in mind those numbers are until I’m 40 and do not include my future wife’s income, if any.

    Do I live in a shack? Do I drive a beater? Can I wine n dine? Well of course after all those deductions I still live better than most dual income households.

    Arrogant? No just cocky and educated.

  112. Another point of view says

    Dear Mr. Cocky and Educated,

    Take a peek at the Thrift Savings Plan — those of us in the military do have the additional option to save some pre-tax dollars and, as you say, “move [our] money around” with the fluctuations of the stock market.

    Your plan is good and time is on your side. However, it is based on a continuous inflow of cash — which, presumably, will continue to flow for you with no hiccups. One of the things about the military is that it is immune to the cycles of the economy — the mission must go on regardless. Yeah we have to deal with things like “sequester” and reduced budgets, but in general the country must still be defended while the political elite work through the BS.

    If someone was to retire from active duty as an O-5 at 20 years, they’d be around 42 with a lifetime pension starting from day one of their “retirement”. If you hold to the current financial planning guidance of “you shouldn’t pull more than 4% of your assets in each year of retirement” the math works out pretty good…here’s the algebra below:

    (I’ll let you find/figure out what an O-5 can expect at 20 years) divided by .04 equals what the size of the nest egg is equivalent to.

    If that same O-5 lived below their means, limited the use of debt, maxed out their TSP contributions each year, maintained liquidity, and continued to keep a long term perspective on their investments, they’d be well on their way to that next phase of their life…whatever it may be.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    Arrogant? No, just cocky and educated.

  113. Well, I’ll keep this as short as I can but also wanted to chime in. I served 11 years Active Duty (Army), and about to go back into NG, serving technician position plus p/t NG commitment. I’m 43 years old, and have been out for 13+ years.

    My wife retired at age 41, as SFC/E7, with 20yrs AFS. The plan was for both of us to get to 20 years… but as a dual Army Married Couple (with kids), life got to be too much (I was in 82nd Airborne, she was on Drill Sergeant Duty). Our family care plan went to crap… and one of us had to get out. Since she was SFC (just promoted), and I was SSG, it was logical for her to finish her last 5 years and retire.

    The retirement is GREAT… it’s worth a heck of a lot when you put it into Present Value terms, considering near Zero-interest rates and stock market has turned into a casino. Has to be worth at least $1.5M, plus the medical. We could have never saved that in 20 years, given our enlisted salaries and raising kids (they are grown now).

    You have to consider the opportunity costs, giving up 20 years of your prime years, age 21-41. My wife’s body is “broken” – her joints are screwed up, has other problems, and was granted (after many, many back-and-forths with the VA) a 50% disability rating. (Drill Sergeant duty really tore up her body).

    So combining that with her basic retired pay, she gets about $35,000 a year, a third of which is tax-free (VA compensation is tax-free). Tricare charges an annual enrollment fee, about $547 a year with a (low) co-pay for doctor visits, Rx, ambulance and ER visits. She took a break… really didn’t go back to work (I was working)… took her time deciding what to do next and now is in F/T college (yes, courtesy of Post-9/11 GI bill)…

    The pension saved us… I have been unemployed quite a bit past 5 years… was working in finance/mortgage industry. We live on a budget, and in a rural area. But I am going back to doing what I loved to do the most… serving my country, even as an older guy (Reagan was president when I was in Basic).

    Keep in mind, those who are critical of the pension benefits… the salaries are low, no overtime, you have to go to work whether you want to or not… you can get killed at work, you will work holidays and some weekends… you may not get promoted as fast as you would like… you might hate your boss or your boss might hate you and you have to keep going to work… your vacation plans can be cancelled by “mission requirements…” you may be living overseas… I could go on and on.

    We are/were both proud to serve… Thanks for reading.


  114. My take on the military isn’t really popular (I live in a military community) but I do think this may be a more far way to go — a person joins the military with the intention of a career. After 20 years of active service, they can then go inactive (which is similary to a civil service job). If they choose not to continue they can go to the private sector. Either way, their pension would begin at their full retirement age. This would do away with the double and triple dippers while still keeping our militiary employed by the governent if they so desire.

  115. We are an active duty military family . My husband is still serving. He will be at 20 in four years . We had a 401k but had to use it . We are in debt still from for different permanent changes of stations . We also have had to manage to separate house holds on several occasions due to deployments and non accompanied tours. We have had to sell four houses and I can barely get an employer to look at me . I have big gaps in my employment due to living in other countries . We both have struggled to continue our education due to moving and deployments. The military pays for 10 days of our hotel and any travel ( plane tickets ) but that is it . We have lived in hotels waiting for housing months at a time . He will get maand walkybe 2 grand a month when he retires . I am forever grateful for that . He has earned it . I am also grateful for the healthcare . We can handle the debt because it is a pleasure to be a veteran and a military spouse . However that 2 thousand dollars will not pay our bills, feed our family and send our kids to college . My husband works from 5 am gets home at 5 pm then heads to college . I have spent months with him away , worried sick that I would get a knock on my door that he had been hurt or worse . We have stressed and worried constantly that he would be cut with nothing to show for his time in service . Im not sure what to think when I read these articles and post . I guess if you spent 20 years putting your life on the line , 20 years missing your kids growing up . Does anyone notice that you can spend one term in congress and you get full retirement ? Do you realize how many more people this is compared to the military ? Most veterans do not serve 20 years . How many politicians can make it four years? E7 20 years makes 2 grand ( if that a month) politician serves 4 walks away making close to 100 grand . Maybe someone should blog on that ?

  116. I’m a teacher in upstate New York. I have a Masters degree and worked nights as well as teaching after college to pay off student loans. When I leave at age 55 with 25 years of service, I’ll only get 23, 500 a year. If I’d joined the military I could have retired long ago at age 38 for the more than that. I wish I’d known.

    • John, with all due respect:

      1) Military pay rates have never been a secret.

      2) If you elected to spend your life educating others in order to collect a pension, the national security business probably isn’t the best line of work for you.

      3) If you retired at age 38 from the military, you most certainly would not be collecting “far more than” $23K/yr pension. Plus, you’d have no equity in a house, your spouse would have struggled to have a successful career, and your children would have spent time in 10 different schools (of varying quality) before graduating HS.

      4) More than 15,000 service members who have given their lives to defend our nation over the last 20 years would love to be around and collect the $23K/yr that you are so unhappy about.

  117. This is a pretty old article, but I just stumbled across it and feel the need to comment on a couple of items. I am retired with 25 years of active service, and working full time in a new career to support my family. I will not deny that it is nice drawing just under 40k in a retirement pension, but anyone who thinks that is a lot of money should live the 25 years that got me there. Deployments and worries associated with a military lifestyle take their toll. Missing the birth of your children, meeting them when they are several months old, missing funerals for family members, missing so much of the formative years of your children’s lives… What other job takes this toll? Oh, and many of those years saw annual incomes *below 15k! But remember, those who serve – make no mistake about this, we SERVE our country, which is why it is referred to as “The Service” – do not serve to get rich. We do it out for a sense of honor and commitment to defend freedom and democracy around the world.

    Your article mentions medical coverage for life. What a great idea!! Doesn’t happen though. Military retirees pay for their medical insurance just like everyone else. The only exceptions are veterans with disabilities who may be eligible for partial or full medical care due to those disabilities, and I would argue that a disability is premium enough. Paid in full. But only for the military member. Family members are not covered and still require insurance.

    Bottom line: if you want to complain about how much a military retiree makes in his or her pension, go serve 20 years. If its worth it to you, point made. If not, point made. Is it worth it to me? Very much so, but not because I’m rich – far from it – but because my benefits include the memories of 25 years of faithful and honorable “service” to my country, which I love dearly. Yes, I would do it again, even knowing what my financial future would look like. I’d do it all again.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining at all about my benefits, and I am deeply honored to have served in protection of the service oriented people who I have always considered true heroes: teachers, nurses, emergency service providers, etc. People who work hard for others and don’t get paid enough for what they do. But I would never compare their benefits to mine, nor would I complain they are getting a better deal or a worse one. They chose a profession as did I.

  118. Bill Randall says

    you’ve got 500k, tax paid and you can’t figure out how to retire on it? 🙂 That’s SAD,,man. my bro retired on 80k worth of student loans. He did it in 5 years, and lived on that 80k during those 5 years. Anyone can do the same, if they know how. He grabbed 30k the first year, lived on 7k in his mini-van, parked near the college. He got an “extra” 6k by saying that he’d teach. He got an extra 4k (in the first one year) by starting college in January, too. If you don’t maintain a 3.25 GPA, you can’t get that 4k per year “TEACH” loan . The subsequent years, he got 17k per year, but went the last semester without any loan . He got his degree, but he’s never used it and never will.

    What he did was go to the Philippines and married a late 20’s nurse ( he was 60). He made sure, first, that she could pass the California State Nursing exam. She hired on at 60k per year, clearing about 40k per year. She also got the 17k per year of loans, grants paid for her actual expenses, and her (govt’) employer gave her another 4k per year. Because she’s in nursing, she does not have to repay those loans. 🙂 In all, she gave he about 170k. He invested the money, over the years, into 10 different houses, big ones, and rented out weekly rooms, 20 or more per house, in several cities. Do the math. 🙂 He’s clearing half a million $ per year, despite having paid back those student loans. You only have “crushing student debt” if you’re stupid

  119. Bill Randall says

    BS, family members ARE covered with VA medical care.

  120. I’m active duty in the Army with just over 3 years (enlisted). I lose sleep over deciding whether I should stay in or get out. If the military pension is drastically changed for the worst, then I don’t know who would reenlist. The short 20 year career is the largest incentive by far that keeps quality people in the military. This is a very taxing occupation that would not nearly be worth 30 years of service for a pension at age 60. Sadly the debt is enormous and very present, so it will be miraculous to see this country find financial resolutions to our problems.

    • BilldaCat says

      IMO, people working for the Government ought to try and buy US made products when they can.. The loss of our manufacturing base has decimated pay and benefits of half the private sector.. and left those in the private sector with no pensions and really poor medical insurance. This country needs to step away from the hard core ideology we have been living under for the last 30+ years and find solutions to our problems that make logical, not ideological, sense..