Using Reserve & Guard Retirement Calculators To Estimate Your Military Pension
A reader writes: There used to be a great National Guard Retirement Calculators 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 are complex, and figuring out your retirement pay can be even more challenging. 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 personal websites.
Well, some of the services make it easy to find, some hide it behind a login, and I’m still looking for one.
I’ll break it down by the branch of 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 secure website 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.back to menu ↑
Army Reserve Retirement Calculator
I 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 available.
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.back to menu ↑
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.back to menu ↑
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.back to menu ↑
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.back to menu ↑
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.back to menu ↑
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.back to menu ↑
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.
Don’t Forget Your Other Military Retirement Benefits
Estimating your retired military pay is a great way to prepare for your future. But it’s also important to consider how your other military retirement benefits will impact you, both financially, and in your quality of life. You will still have access to military installations, shopping, and other base amenities.
Perhaps the most valuable benefit, however, is access to military health care in your retirement years. Health care is becoming more expensive and less accessible. Your military retirement benefits will help you gain access to more affordable health care. This article covers your health care options after leaving the military. This is great information for anyone leaving active duty, or the Guard or Reserve components.
This article covers health care for retired Reservists and Guard members. Your TRICARE won’t kick in until age 60, at which time you will be eligible for TRICARE Prime or Standard. When you reach age 65, you will be eligible for TRICARE for Life. In between, there are other options, including unsubsidized access to TRICARE Reserve Select. You will also be eligible to obtain health coverage through an employer or through a private exchange.
Guest Post Wednesday: “My Road to a Reserve Retirement.”
Sanctuary and military retirement during a Reserve career
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?
Retirement planners and calculators (part 1 of 2)
Problems with retirement calculators
Don’t Gut It Out To 20: Leave Active Duty For The Reserves Or National Guard