A reader writes:
There used to be a great calculator the Army put out– you enter your years of service, total points and the multiplier and it gave you a projected pay per month for your Reserve retirement. This should be on your site– the Army has taken it down…Help the lazy folk!
“Lazy”? I appreciate you pointing this out– in the submarine force we used to call this “forceful backup”. The Reserve and National Guard retirement system is complex, and figuring out your retirement pay can be even more difficult. A calculator helps you make sure that you understand your military retirement, and it can keep you from making a hasty career decision. In fact, you’d think that every service would have their own Reserve retirement calculator prominently displayed on their personnel websites.
Well, some of the services make it easy to find, some hide it behind a login, and I’m still looking for one.
You bloggers may have noticed that I used a plethora of keyword phrases in that “lazy” paragraph, because three-quarters of this blog’s traffic comes from search engines. “Reserve retirement” has been a top search phrase here for over six months, so let me make this a “pillar post” that’s easier for humans (and Google) to find what they’re looking for. I’ll break it down by keyword service and tell you what I know of their latest status. I’ll also include the links to the other posts on this blog which explain a few details that the calculators leave out. Please correct me if you have more information, and especially if you have a common access card.
Department of Defense Reserve retirement calculator
Trick question: there isn’t one. This link explains the DoD Reserve retirement system, and it tells you what data to enter into your smartphone or your spreadsheet, but there’s no DoD Reserve retirement calculator. I don’t know why, but perhaps DoD has delegated Reserve retirement calculators to the respective services so that each service can use their common access card data behind a website secure login. That way a servicemember has to log in with their CAC, verify their personal data, and let the website access the details of their record for a more accurate estimate.
Of course if you’re retired awaiting pay (“gray area”) or you’ve been in the Inactive Ready Reserve for a few years, you may be wondering what the heck a CAC is. My personal advice is that you avoid the CAC system until they hunt you down and make you get one. (I think it’s just a coincidence that the servicemember’s smiling face on the CAC website looks like Ferris Bueller.) In the meantime you can use your smartphone or your spreadsheet and enjoy your life.
Army Reserve retirement calculator
I actually had this link in the blogroll and, thanks to the alert reader who asked the question, I just updated it. The U.S. Army Human Resources Command Website has reorganized several of their links, and the old calculator is no longer used.
Here’s the latest link to the Army Reserve retirement calculator. The pay scale is still from 2012, not 2013. I e-mailed the webmaster and received this response:
We will post the new 2013 pay table when it is released by DFAS.
I realize that the 2013 military pay table is already posted on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service website (that link opens a PDF file), but the Army webmaster is referring to the file version that can be used by website calculators. (I suspect that it’ll be updated in a month or two.) My best answer to this situation is that the 2012 tables are “close enough”. You could multiply the result by the 2013 military pay raise of 1.7%, but most Reserve retirements start at age 60. If you have to project your retirement benefits a decade or two into the future then 1.7% is not significant enough to make or break your decision.
[I'd like to thank the Army's HRC webmaster for such a prompt reply. You're helping a lot of readers, and we bloggers appreciate the official response!]
The Army Human Resources Command website goes into more details of how to estimate your Reserve retired pay. It also has a page on computing your length of service for pay purposes and another page of links for special situations. All of these factors are taken into account by the retirement calculator, but it’s just an estimate. Your individual service record has to be reviewed for exceptions to the typical Reserve career, and you may even be eligible to start receiving your pension a few months earlier.
Army National Guard retirement calculator
I know, same as the Army Reserve calculator, but this post is search-engine friendly. The Army National Guard G1 Personnel Gateway has the link to the Army National Guard retirement calculator. It’s the same link as the Army Reserve calculator because they both use the rules of the Department of Defense Reserve retirement system.
Some Reserve and National Guard retirements will start before age 60 for those who meet the deployment requirements of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. Those went into effect for deployments starting after 28 January 2008.
Note that the Army National Guard G1 page also links to many other calculators and tables for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC), the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan calculator, a Social Security benefits estimator, and the Thrift Savings Plan website. It also helpfully links to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) for those of you who are Department of the Army civilians or military technicians.
Navy Reserve retirement Calculator
The Navy started the “Dude, where’s my calculator?” movement a year ago, but I’m a little slow to catch on. In early 2012 they took their calculator off their public site and moved it behind their firewall to require a CAC login.
This only helps if you have a CAC (or a Navy Knowledge Online account), but it makes the calculator more accurate for those who do. The site can access your precise point count and check for any unusual dates or deployments that may make you eligible for an earlier retirement.
Another option is the Association of the U.S. Navy. If you’re a member of this military advocate group then you can log on to their website calculator. Even better, you can e-mail their staff for help reviewing your service record, auditing your point count, and checking for special situations or other issues. Their monthly magazine, their tax guide, and their other website tools are well worth the membership fee.
Unless you have a CAC card, a Navy Knowledge Online account, or an AUSN membership, I’d use the Army Reserve retirement calculator above.
Marine Corps Reserve retirement calculator
Same as the Navy Reserve retirement calculator paragraph, or just go straight to the Army Reserve retirement calculator. I’m weak on my Marine personnel knowledge so if you have a better resource then please set me straight.
From reader Rob’s comment below, start with USMC Manpower & Reserve Affairs. There’s no calculator (just more instructions on how to do the calculation), but try the 2012 retirement guide (PDF) and the retirement checklist.
Air Force Reserve retirement calculator
No help here– the Air Reserve Personnel Center has had their Reserve retirement calculator behind a login for more than a year. Before you sign up for an account you could try the Army Reserve retirement calculator.
Air National Guard retirement calculator
No help here either– the Air Force MyPers website also needs a CAC or an account login. If you want to save a little time, check the Army Reserve retirement calculator before signing up for the Air Force account.
Coast Guard Reserve retirement calculator
You bet I checked. Their Reserve Personnel Management Division has a great website with lots of helpful links. (Besides, I know I have at least one USCGR reader.) However their Reserve retirement calculator link goes to… you guessed it… the Army Reserve retirement calculator.
I’ll say it one last time: these calculators are estimates. First, if you’ve made a combat deployment since 2008 then you may be eligible for a slightly earlier retirement. Second, your point count is subject to verification just before you start your retirement. If you’ve been through Navy ROTC midshipman summer training, or if you’ve had any change to your status since your last DD-214, then you may have a few more points on your record. And finally, these calculators may have a significant time lag before they implement the current year’s pay tables. It’s not a very big difference (a year’s pay raise) but unless you’re starting your pension this year, none of us knows what the pay tables will look like when you get that first deposit.
Guest Post Wednesday: “My Road to a Reserve Retirement”
Sanctuary and military retirement during a Reserve career
Why are you researching Reserve retirement?
Reader questions on Reserve retirement Tricare and points
Navy Reserve retirement credit for ROTC summer training
Calculating a Reserve retirement
Should you join the Reserves or National Guard?
Does this post help?