Retirement For Dual Military Couples

Introduction

Jan put up a great comment  a few weeks back:

“I’m curious. The stat on how many dual military couples ACTUALLY retire is amazing to me. Your case is even more unique. How many couples have dual military retirement?”

I’m afraid the short answers are “We don’t know” and “Probably not very many”.  A more detailed answer is at the end of this post.

It seems like a fairly straightforward question until you start digging into the databases. It turns out that DoD and the demographers track dual-military couples.  They also track military retirees.  However, they don’t track how many of the former are able to become the latter.

Here are some statistics from the 2009 Demographics Report that I encountered during my search:

Military Statistics

The total number of military personnel is over 3.5 million, including:

  • active duty military personnel (1,387,674)
  • active duty Coast Guard members (41,362)
  • DoD Ready Reserve, Guard, and Coast Guard Reserve members (1,080,617) and
  • DoD appropriated and non-appropriated-fund civilian personnel (835,739).

DoD’s active duty (and the Coast Guard active duty) members are the largest portion of the military force (40.3%), supplemented by Ready Reserve members (30.4%) and DoD civilian personnel (23.5%).

The Select Reserve and Guard Force consists of 846,248 members and seven components. The Army National Guard (360,351) and Army Reserve (197,024) have the largest number of Select Reserve members, followed by the Air National Guard (107,679), the Navy Reserve (68,136), the Air Force Reserve (67,565), the Marine Corps Reserve (37,523) and the Coast Guard Reserve (7,970).

Statistics of Dual-Military Couples

In that context, here are the dual-military numbers:

“6.7% of DoD’s active duty members are in dual-military marriages.”

Another quote in the 2008 Demographics Report says:

“Today, there are approximately 40,000 dual military couples.”

and later:

“The Air Force has the highest number of dual military couples.”

“2.6% of the Select Reserve report that they are in a dual-military marriage.”

(Or, as my spouse reported after her first drill weekend: “So that’s where all the Navy’s women ended up!”)

Total # Of Dual-Military Marriages

Doing the math, that works out to nearly 93,000 active-duty servicemembers in dual-military marriages and another 22,000 in the Select Reserves… just under 115,000 service members.

In late 2009 there were over 1.96 million retirees receiving retired pay:

  • 1.47 million non-disability retirees from active duty
  • 91,000 disability retirees
  • 344,000 Reserve retirees, and
  • 57,000 early military retirees (under a 1990s temporary early-retirement program).

Keep in mind that many of these retirees served in an era where women’s military service was greatly restricted, so it may be another 50 years before the demographics of dual-military retirees reflect today’s servicemember demographics.

Resources For Dual-Military Couples

“America’s Military Population”, published in 2004, states that about 15% of the military’s servicemembers actually serve long enough to retire. This could imply that there may be about 17,000 dual-military retirees. However, I suspect that the number of dual-military couples willing to stick to it for 20 years might be a tad lower than 15%– and that’s not even considering the divorce rate. The actual number of dual-military retirees could be under 10,000… fewer than 5000 couples out of 1.96 million retirees, or between 0.5%-0.9%.

That’s the best answer I could figure out for Jan’s question.

Let me call attention to another great resource for dual-military couples: Nickey Knighton’s Association of Dual Military Couples on Facebook. If you have a question about dual-military couples, or if you just want some support, this is the only social networking site I found.

Of course, another resource is Early-Retirement.org, where I’m aware of only one retired dual-military couple.  The good news is that another active-duty couple on that discussion board will be joining the retired ranks in a few more years, so they’ll double our demographic…

Finally, let me give a big thank-you to “Cheers” at NetWorthIQ.com. (I stumbled across her profile because she lists this blog in her favorites.) She and her spouse are retired Navy, and they’ve built up a considerable archive of advice for dual-military couples as well as military retirees.

Related articles:
The biggest obstacles confronting all retirees
The biggest benefits of a military retirement
Where are all the retirees? How do we ask for their advice?
Retiring on multiple streams of income

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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.

4 Comments
  1. Another stat not tracked is dual uniform service couples. That is members of uniform services, USPHS and NOAA married to military members. All the same benefits but different pay systems, like Coast Guard members who are not on DFAS.

  2. My wife and I both recently retired from the Army after 21 and 22 years of service. She retired as a Major while I retired as a SFC. She has an advanced medical degree and I am currently enrolled in college full time in my senior year as a Finance major. We were blessed to be able to plan our exact retirement dates 10 years ago and were financially able to allow one of us to work while the other goes to school. So we ( dual retired military couples) are out there.

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