Dept Of Defense Update On The Military Blended Retirement System

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On Wednesday 28 November, the DoD BRS office held a teleconference.

The numbers

As of Monday 26 November, the unofficial opt-in numbers are:

307,213 307,207 active-duty total opted in  [Updated Monday 3 December]

243,709 active duty

63,498 Reserve/Guard.

This is out of roughly 1.6 million opt-in eligible servicemembers.

Approximately 100K new servicemembers have joined the military in 2018, and they’ve been default-enrolled in the BRS.

The BRS office will release updated opt-in figures soon, hopefully, broken down by service and rank. And yes, I’ve asked them to release the entire spreadsheet. When that happens, I’ll update this post.

Here’s the spreadsheet:

Unofficial Blended Retirement System Opt-In and Automatic Enrollment as of November 26, 2018

Image of the unofficial opt-in results of the military Blended Retirement System as of 26 November 2018 |

Click on the link above this image to open the PDF.


The deadline is still 31 December

The BRS office has confirmed that the opt-in period will end on 31 December 2018 and will not be extended. That’s in federal law and DoD is not asking for an amendment.

A handful of servicemembers have reported that they were involuntarily opted in to the BRS (either through error or by accident). The BRS office stated that those situations will be resolved through the service’s board for the correction of records– not by the BRS office.


Improved TSP information

As reported on The-Military-Guide, the BRS office has confirmed that they’ll work with the Thrift Savings Plan staff to improve the training materials. (And post them on the TSP website!)  This has already been a problem with BRS servicemembers who’ve deployed to combat zones for a few months. If they inadvertently exceeded a contribution limit during the deployment, they’ve also locked themselves out of DoD’s BRS matching contributions for the rest of the year. Here’s how you can maximize your TSP contributions in a combat zone and still ensure that you get the DoD BRS matching contributions for the entire year. Use that spreadsheet to craft your plan, with or without a deployment.

Several BRS servicemembers have also reported that their TSP contributions have been suspended even when they have not exceeded a contribution limit. The BRS office says that if TSP contributions are suspended by DFAS error or service error (not by the servicemember’s error) then any missed matching contributions will be credited retroactively. That corrective process will be handled by the service finance offices and DFAS just like any other pay error.


Marines (still) lead in BRS opt-ins

Interestingly, the Marines still lead in BRS opt-ins by percentage of eligible servicemembers. The BRS office speculated that it’s due to intensive leadership involvement so that “all Marines are very much engaged on BRS awareness and taking action.”

There’s also a rumor that Marines have had to fill out a form indicating whether or not they’ll opt in to the BRS.

Personally, I think Marines are keenly aware that training injuries and combat can prevent them from finishing a 20-year career. Most Marine recruits never intended to stay for 20 in the first place, so they’re thrilled to have the BRS put more money in their TSP accounts.


Call to action

If you’ve already opted in then you understand that the Blended Retirement System is not about the money.

If you’re eligible to opt in but you have not made a decision yet: what’s holding you back? What insight does a Marine have that you’re missing?

Here are the links to every post we’ve published about the BRS since 2016.  Please ask questions in the comments or contact me!


Related articles:
Your Military Blended Retirement System: It’s Not About The Money.
USAA’s Military Retirement Comparison Tool And The Blended Retirement System
Military Spouses: What You Should Know About The New Blended Retirement System
How to Maximize the BRS If You Decide to Opt-In
DoD’s FAQ Page About The Blended Retirement System
Tricky Details Of The Military Blended Retirement System (What DoD Won’t Tell You!)
The announcements of your service’s Continuation Pay rates
32 Other Posts About The Blended Retirement System By Military Bloggers
Many Sample Runs Of The DoD BRS Calculator (so that you don’t have to)
“Should I Opt-In To The Military’s Blended Retirement System?”
9 Things To Consider Before You Choose The Military’s New Blended Retirement System
Thrift Savings Plan:  Q&A About Opting Into The Blended Retirement System
Maximizing Your Thrift Savings Plan Contributions In A Combat Zone

For visual learners:
The Robyn Videos: All About The BRS In Two-Minute Episodes
Thrift Savings Plan:  Opting Into the Blended Retirement System

Contact Doug Nordman directly:

The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement Price: By Doug Nordman: This book provides servicemembers, veterans, and their families with a critical roadmap for becoming financially independent. The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement All Author royalties donated to military charities. Last Updated: 10/10/2018

WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

  1. Doug, does the 1.6 million servicemembers figure include those of us that are not eligible for the Blended Retirement System? I haven’t kept up with end strength figures for several years, but that number seems high even with BRS-ineligible servicemembers.

    • I agree that it seems high, Michael. We’re waiting on a more detailed breakdown but (at a minimum) it includes both eligible active-duty and eligible Reserve/Guard servicemembers.

      The BRS office might also have been speaking for the Coast Guard, NOAA, and the USPHS as well as all the people who’ve joined the uniformed services in 2018.

  2. Thanks for the update Doug! While I would agree that statistically, a Marine has the lowest chance of making it to 20 years compared to his or her colleagues in the other services, we can’t ignore that the Marines approached the BRS opt-in decision very differently than the other services did. As you suggested in your update, unlike the other branches, every Marine eligible to opt-in was required to register his or her choice, one way or the other. In other words, doing nothing is simply not an option, like it is in the other services. This method is a classic psychological tool that reliably results in higher – or lower – rates of participation based on how the decision requirement is structured. By forcing members to make a conscious decision, the Marines have been able to achieve much higher opt-in rates by capturing the large pool of people that would otherwise ignore the decision all-together. The other services have similarly large pools of eligible members – for whom BRS might be the best choice – that are ignoring the decision; and because doing nothing is an option, they have opted themselves out accordingly. While one could argue whether or not it’s right to force every eligible member to confront the BRS decision, one cannot argue that doing so does produce significant results.

    Comment? Question? What's on your mind?