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The Guard and Reserve retirement system is very different than the active duty retirement system. Instead of rewarding servicemembers with retirement pay based on the number of years served, Guard and Reserve members are awarded Points based on their service. The more Retirement Points one earns, the larger the retirement pay. Understanding the Guard and Reserve Point system is essential for understanding how and when one will be eligible to retire and how much one will earn in retirement.
We have an in-depth Guard and Reserve Retirement Points Guide that explains what Points are, how they are earned, how many Points you can earn in a given year and other important information. I highly recommend reading the guide if you are in the Guard or Reserves. It will help you better understand the Points system, and hopefully open some doors to earning more Points toward retirement.
In today’s article, we will cover how you can earn more Points to boost the value of your retirement.
Table of Contents
- Retiring Soon and Wanting to Earn More Retirement Points
- How to Earn More Retirement Points Before Retiring
- 1). Retirement Points 7-Level Training (Upgrade training, for other branches of the military):
- 2). Earning Points for Correspondence Courses:
- 3). Earning Point Credits for Correspondence Courses:
- More Ways to Earn Retirement Points:
- Apply for orders (Active Duty, IMA, TDY, deployment, etc.)
- Try to serve additional Drills or AT Days
- Serve in the Honor Guard for Military Funerals
- Take more correspondence courses (if available)
- Advanced method for earning more Points – Front-load your annual Drills and Training days
- Stick around another year (or longer)
- Transfer into the IMA
- There Are Limits to the Number of Points You Can Earn Each Year
- More Points = More Retirement Pay, But Don’t Stress Out About It
Retiring Soon and Wanting to Earn More Retirement Points
We frequently receive reader questions, and the following is a recent example. I try to answer every question personally, but sometimes it also makes sense to share the question and answer with a larger audience. Increasing the number of Retirement Points earned is something that applies to all members of the Reserve Component, so it makes sense to share this with everyone.
Here is the reader question (note: the specifics of this question apply to the Air Force Reserves, but the answer can be applied to members of the Guard or Reserves, and all service branches).
Thank you for your informative article. I know that retirement pay is a hot topic these days. I’m getting ready to retire at the end of the year myself, and have a question, but something else I read in a comment sparked another one.
1) I do not see retirement points in the ECI column on my Point Credit Accounting and Reporting System (PCARS) for my 7-level upgrade training in my previous AFSC (3S0X1). I do see retirement points in the ECI column for my current AFSC. Does certain 7-level coursework count towards retirement points?
2) Do any correspondence courses taken on the Air Force IT e-learning site count for retirement points? I saw a comment you made to another individual that indicated that the Army e-learning courses counted for retirement – something like 1 point for every 3 hours, or something.
3) If these correspondence courses do count, how do I go about getting them added to my PCARS statement?
Thanks! I am a point hound. My goal was to retire with 4000, but I am coming up short by about 150. I have over 100 correspondence courses I had to take for my AFSC (3D0X1), and if I can translate them into points, I might make my goal!
How to Earn More Retirement Points Before Retiring
Thanks for reaching out. This is a great question. I don’t have specific answers to all your questions, but I’ll do my best, then move on to other ways you can earn retirement Points before dropping your paperwork and applying for your Retirement Letter.
Again, these are the answers to the best of my knowledge. Please note that I don’t work in personnel, so please verify everything before filing your retirement papers. Remember, the best time to make corrections is before retiring!
1). Retirement Points 7-Level Training (Upgrade training, for other branches of the military):
I don’t know if every 5-level and 7-level course awards Points for completing the Career Development Course (CDC) end-of-course test or being awarded the rating. I recently cross-trained into a new career field and was awarded 12 Points upon passing the end-of-course CDC test. There was a statement at the front of the CDC course volumes that stated the course was worth 15 Points (I was awarded 12 Points instead of 15, so perhaps the number of Points changed from when I was issued the volumes). See if you can find a copy of your old CDC volumes and look inside the front cover to see if there are any Points awarded for completion of the end-of-course test.
You can and should also check with your Personnel or Education & Training section to verify this. They should be able to help you apply these Points if they should have been applied upon passing the CDC end-of-course test.
You must be in Reserve status to earn Points for correspondence courses: Note that training completed while on active duty wouldn’t earn additional Points credit—that would be double-dipping. You can only receive Points if you take the end-of-course test or complete other training while in Guard or Reserve status.
Members of the other service branches should verify with their appropriate agency whether their upgrade training is worth Retirement Points.
2). Earning Points for Correspondence Courses:
Some correspondence courses, but not all, count toward Retirement Points. Most military branches will award credit for certain Professional Military Education (PME) courses required for promotion or career advancement.
For example, the Air Force will give Point credit for members who complete Distance Learning versions of required PME courses such as Airman Leadership School, the NCO Academy, SNCO Academy, and similar courses. (Again, one must be in Reserve status to earn Points for the correspondence courses – you cannot earn additional Points for taking correspondence courses while in active duty status).
I don’t have a full list of correspondence courses that earn Points credit – this would be behind the CAC card paywall, and to be honest, I’m not sure where it would be located. I would speak with your Personnel or Education & Training sections to see if they have a list of approved courses for Point credit.
From what I have read and heard through the grapevine, there aren’t many correspondence courses that award credit. And if it’s like the other service branches, I expect the number of courses to decrease over time. For example:
- Army Correspondence Courses and Point Credit: The Army recently stopped accepting correspondence courses for Retirement Point credit: “Military correspondence non-residential distance learning retirement point credit (1 retirement point per every 3 hours) was removed as a form of retirement point credit effective 15 April 2016.” (source).
- Navy Correspondence Courses and Point Credit: The Navy has reduced the number of correspondence courses available for Point credit. They are also limiting correspondence courses to members with a CAC card – effectively making it impossible for many members of the IRR to complete correspondence courses for Point credit.
- US Marines Correspondence Course Point Credit: I haven’t heard of any changes to this program, but will be happy to update this resource as new information becomes available. Marines can earn credit for taking courses through the Marine Corps Institute Distance Education Courses (MCI’s) as well as Marine Net Courses. Here is a USMC correspondence course reference.
- Air Force Correspondence Course Point Credit: I can’t find any publicly available information for which courses are accepted for credit.
3). Earning Point Credits for Correspondence Courses:
The best thing to do is to bring a copy of your transcript or certificate of completion to your Personnel or Education & Training section. They can point you in the right direction or help you apply the credit for approved courses. You should do this as quickly as possible for two reasons:
- Some transcripts may take some time to process, both on the sending and receiving side.
- Your branch of service may limit which courses are accepted for credit, or, like the Army, they may stop accepting correspondence courses for Point credit.
More Ways to Earn Retirement Points:
You’re very close to your 4,000 Point goal. I wouldn’t let your goal of retiring at the end of the year stop you if you are set on retiring. 3,850 Points is still very good and is equivalent to over 10.5 years of active duty service (10 years is 3,600 Points). But there may be other ways to increase your Point total before your proposed retirement date.
Apply for orders (Active Duty, IMA, TDY, deployment, etc.)
Orders will earn you 1 Point per day served. Availability will depend on your career field, unit needs, and other factors. Bonus: deployment orders over 90 days can help Guard and Reserve members retire early.
Try to serve additional Drills or AT Days
Many units have additional service opportunities that you may qualify for. Ask around your unit to see if there are any duties you can fill. The number of Points you can earn through inactive duty cannot exceed 130 Points (see the section below for more info about limits on Points). This will include your Drill Days, AT Days, correspondence courses, Honor Guard for funerals, and other methods of earning Points while not on active duty status.
Serve in the Honor Guard for Military Funerals
Honor Guard members earn 1 Point for each day they participate in Military Funeral Duties. This is typically unpaid duty (unless you are on active duty orders). But it can be a good way to serve and earn additional Points. It’s also one of the most humbling ways we can honor our military brethren one last time.
Take more correspondence courses (if available)
We have already covered this topic – but it’s worth addressing again. Some courses may be available. So do your research and make sure you understand what is required in order to earn Points. Keep in mind most correspondence courses do require a substantial amount of work in order to receive credit. So this isn’t necessarily a quick way to earn a massive amount of Points.
Advanced method for earning more Points – Front-load your annual Drills and Training days
Some units may allow you to front-load your Drills to earn credits more rapidly. If you are retiring, check with your unit to see if you can serve a full year worth of drills and Inactive Duty Training (IDT) days in a couple of month time frame before applying for retirement or transferring to the IRR. This allows you to earn a full year’s worth of Points in a short time frame.
Again, not all units will do this, but it’s worth asking if you can spare the time away from your day job. (Bonus: you also get the 15 Annual Participation Points if you cross into a new service year). Some Reserve members use this strategy before transitioning into IRR or retirement status. This allows them to earn an additional Good Year of service and add Points to their total.
Stick around another year (or longer)
Crossing over your anniversary date earns you an additional 15 Annual Participation Points if you complete the entire year in the Reserve Component. By itself, 15 Points won’t be enough to earn a Good Year. But that won’t matter if you already have enough Good Years to qualify for retirement benefits.
You could also do what was mentioned above and stick around past your anniversary date, then try to front-load your Drills and AT days. You would only need to earn an additional 35 Points above the 15 Participation Points to earn a Good Year. Just be sure to transfer into the IRR to complete the full year of service so you don’t miss out on the Good Year and/or the full 15 Annual Participation Points.
Transfer into the IMA
The Individual Mobilization Augmentation (IMA) program is part of the Reserves. Members earn the normal 15 Annual Participation Points as a member of the IMA, but they don’t serve the standard weekend drill schedule. Instead, IMA members fill in to “augment” when and where they are needed.
The benefit for transferring into the IMA is being able to batch your service days and serve your entire year’s obligation into one or two periods instead of serving the traditional “one weekend a month, two weeks a year” schedule (this is very similar to the front-loading mentioned above). Another bonus is that many IMA members can pick up more duty days if they are willing to volunteer and put in the time. Third bonus: Some IMA duties are located in prime overseas duty locations – which makes this a fun way to travel on the government’s dime and mix business with pleasure.
Not all career fields or ranks are eligible for IMA duty, so check with your parent human resources agency for availability and more information. Here is an Army IMA Frequently Asked Question page for more general information about the program.
There Are Limits to the Number of Points You Can Earn Each Year
There are two limits to be aware of when looking at the total number of Points a member of the Reserve Component can earn in any given year. The first is the Point limit for inactive duty, the second is the total Point limit.
The total maximum is 365 Points (366 in a Leap Year). This is equivalent to a full year on active duty service (even if the time is mixed between active duty and Reserve time). It is not possible to exceed 365 Points (or 366 in a Leap Year). In other words, you cannot earn 365 Points in a given year, then also take various correspondence courses or Military Funeral Honors duty to exceed the upper limit.
Points Limit for Inactive Duty: By law, there is a cap on the number of inactive duty points that can be accrued for retirement in a given year.
- Reserve year ends on or after 30 Oct 2007: max of 130 Points
- Reserve year ends on or after 29 Oct 2000: max of 90 Points
- Reserve year ends on or after 23 Sep 1996: max of 75 Points
- Before 23 Sep 1996: max of 60 Points
These limits apply to all branches of the military.
More Points = More Retirement Pay, But Don’t Stress Out About It
While it’s true that more Points = increased retirement pay, there is a point of diminishing returns. Earning more Points usually means an increased workload and increased time away from your family and your civilian job. These can negatively impact you if you don’t find the right balance.
Find your balance. I love serving in the Guard. But I also love my time with my family. Each volunteer assignment takes me away from them and away from my business. Most people have similar constraints on their time and energy.
Once you reach 20 Good Years of Service, you must balance continued service with the opportunity cost of Retiring Awaiting Pay. This is also true for those of us who haven’t reached 20 Good Years of Service.
How much are Retirement Points worth? This is a great question, and it varies for each individual and is based on their rank and time in service. The Guard and Reserve Handbook has a Retirement Points chart that shows how much each Point is worth based on your pay scale. Use that chart to help you determine how much you need those additional Points.
Did I miss anything?
As you probably know very well, Retirement Points can be a complicated topic. Some rules apply to all servicemembers, then there are additional rules which may apply to members of certain branches, different programs for Guard members and Reserve members, etc.
I’ve done my best to cover everything, but I’m unfamiliar with every possible scenario. So please drop me a line or leave a comment below if I missed anything. I’ll be happy to update this article to reflect that information.
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C Trout says
Great information to share with G/R folks I know. I heard there is a way to get points (not pay) for volunteering with ESGR. How exactly does that work?
Robert R says
Great article! I have a question on the total maximum retirement points allowed at the end of your service. I have over 10,000 points that follow the guidelines as you stated in your article. Will all over them be counted towards my retirement pay or is there a cap on points? Where is it located in the regulations?
For USAFR and ANG here is the latest on points awarded for AWC 18. Gotta have a CAC, so straight IRR will be unable to get these (Gotta be PIRR, IMA, or SELRES).
Air War College
3 Orientation GSS700S
15 Elective (choose 1 of 4: joint planning WAR707S, negotiating WAR705S, coercive airpower WAR701S, cross-culture comms WAR704S)
5 International Security ISS700S
6 Airpower and National Strategy AIR700S
8 Applied airpower and security AIR701A
5 Strategic Leadership LDR710S
5 Senior Leadership LDR711S
8 Applied Senior Leadership LDR712A
10 Focused Studies (choose 1 of 6: AFRICOM NSP810A, CENTCOM NSP820A, EUCOM NSP830A, NORTHCOM NSP840A, PACOM NSP850A, SOUTHCOM NSP860A)
For USAFR and ANG here is the latest on points awarded for ACSC 7.0. Gotta have a CAC, so straight IRR will be unable to get these (Gotta be PIRR, IMA, or SELRES).
0 Orientation ORN-601S
1 Critical Thinking GSS-601S
4 Leadership and Command I LDR-601S
3 Leadership and Command II LDR-602A
4 National Security Decision Making ISS-601S
2 Warfare Studies WAR-601S
3 Making Decisions: Strategy and War ISS-602A
3 AF Core Missions AIR-601S
3 Airpower in Joint Ops AIR-602S
3 Joint Fundamentals JNT-601S
4 Joint Airpower in Warfare AIR-603A
3 Joint Planning: Context and Strategy JNT-631S
3 Joint Planning: Art and Science JNT-632S
3 Joint Planning: Process and Application JNT-633S
4 Joint Planning Facilitated JNT-634A
9 Focused Studies (choose 1 of 7 areas. Each area has 2 to 3 individual courses of varying point values, but whichever area adds up to 9 points)
Were the points automatically awarded after each course? Thanks for the info!
Jason Rios says
This is the most informative entity I have come across in my 13 years as a Guardsman. I am currently in the ANG and my unit has never performed Non paid/points only funeral details for personnel. We have a funeral honors team which I served as a part timer and full timer title 10 in the past, but as part timer, sometimes obtaining days are challenging. I also was recently commissioned and they have never had an officer perform funerals before.
Also, I have taken advantage of the correspondence courses via the Acquisition career field. There have been a lot of updates in the past few years in my career field, but I am re-sending my correspondence course transcript next week to see if I am able to still obtain points.
One of the difficulties I come across is that I want to be involved and love being in the Guard. However, there is so much red tape and involvement comes at my own free time. I wish I was able to receive points only time in order to complete more work.
I am looking forward to listening to more of your podcasts and reading more of your website.
Ryan Guina says
Thank you for the kind words, and congratulations on your commission!
From what I’ve gathered, each unit can be a little different in how they permit members to earn points outside of traditional drills or official orders. Correspondence courses can still be a good way to earn points, but only if they are on the approved list for your career field. As for the funeral duties, they should have a process in place for those who perform duties, even if they only do so on a part-time basis. I would work with your FSS squadron to see which processes they have in place to verify the service and ensure you get your credit. This may be something as simple as completing a form and having the senior member of the funeral honors team sign the form verifying the member served on the listed date.
Again, thank you for the kind words and best wishes!
Nancy Gower says
Can I turn some of my college classes – for my nursing degree-that I took while in the Army Reserve into retirement points.
Ryan Guina says
Hello Nancy, I’m honestly not sure. I recommend contacting your Human Resources office for assistance. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.
Andrew Wise says
I am 2 points short of a good year back in 2003. If I completed a college class that year that helped me get my CCAF degree in Criminal Justice, can I go back and apply that to my bad year in 2003-2004? What are qualifying college courses worth?
Any one know what the AFI is that dictates the reason a member can apply for a point? I know was told by past members if you spend 4 hours developing training or preparing for upcoming UTA (training and prep) then you could apply for a point for that work.
Ryan Guina says
Hello JW, I don’t have a copy of the reg. I would speak with your personnel office for more information. You would also need to have approval for this – most likely from your supervisor or squadron commander. It may depend on local policies as well.
I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!
Sally Malikowski says
AIR FORCE INSTRUCTION 36-2254, VOLUME I
Ada Berry says
if 130 is the annual max for reservist, if I earn 140 in a year, what happens to the additional 10?
Ryan Guina says
Hello Ada, It depends on the type of orders you were on. The limit only applies to inactive duty orders. I believe all of the points will count if some of your points came from active duty or certain other types of orders.
This is a topic I’m not an expert on beyond that framework. I understand the big picture, and I’ve read government forms that list the limitations. But I don’t know the full details beyond that. I would ask your personnel or human resources office for more information.
I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!
Chris Kelim says
I am an enlisted traditional air national guardsman and also a full-time federal civilian (GS-12). I recently attended Squadron Officer School (leadership school generally for AF captains) as a federal civilian. Can I get PME credit/retirement points in my enlisted position for completing officer PME?
Ryan Guina says
Hello Chris, This is a great question, but one I do not have an answer to. I don’t know if the status you are in makes a difference when you take the course. I would inquire with your base education and training office or your personnel office. They should be able to give you a firm answer and help you claim the credit if you qualify. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!
Jason Parker says
I am currently sitting at 6,400 (I currently have 16 3/4 years Active Federal Service) and will easily reach 7,200 points before my MRD. I was told by an RPAC representative that once you reach 7,200 points you can draw retirement immediately since you did the equivalent of a 20 years active duty. I can’t find anything to verify this and I am still waiting on the representative to get back to me. Have you heard of this? Thanks
Ryan Guina says
Hello Jason, Thank you for contacting me. No, this is not usually the case. 7,200 points is the equivalent of 20 years of active duty service. However, just earning that amount of points isn’t enough to earn an active duty retirement. There are certain rules regarding your status when you reach that number of points, how long you were activated when you reached that number of points, and other factors. I encourage you to look up the term “sanctuary” as it pertains to military retirement, as well as other factors that qualify you for active duty retirement benefits.
In all likelihood, your personnel or human resources office will not allow members of the Guard or Reserves to qualify for an active duty retirement while serving in the Guard or Reserves, unless that individual is already serving in an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) position. This is because AGR positions are funded by the parent force (Big Army, Air Force, etc.). If a member of the Guard or Reserves qualifies for retirement through a method other than AGR, then the Guard or Reserve HQ has to pay for the retirement benefits out of their operating funds. This isn’t something they have a lot of room for in their budgets. So it’s not a common event. In most cases, they will try to get a waiver from the parent force, request the member waive Sanctuary, or simply not extend the member with enough active duty service to qualify for those retirement benefits.
Since you have a high number of points, I encourage you to educate yourself on this topic. Read the regs, talk to your HR or personnel department, read Title 10 of the US code, and do further research to understand how this affects your retirement options.
I hope this points you in the right direction. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service!
There are two types of points: active and inactive. To get a regular active duty retirement you need to have 7305 active duty points. Any inactive duty points would then go on top of the 7305 to increase the pension amount, all paid immediately upon retirement. The reason behind 7305 is 365.25*20.
Lashema Burrell says
Hi. I was given an honorable discharge several years ago. I am a former army reseverist. I’ve tried several years to get a va loan. Without success and much research I’ve found a was allowed to discharge without one less retirement year required for service. I am not allowed my va benefit because of this error. I’m out of the military but would like to earn my points. Is there something I can do?
jay ihrig says
Military correspondence non-residential distance learning retirement point credit (1 retirement point per every 3 hours) was removed as a form of retirement point credit effective 15 April 2016.
Does this mean National Guard Soldiers as well?
According to my neighbor who is an Army National Guard officer, this is a Dept of Army rule, so yes.
Jaames K. Rasmussen says
Myself, spent on both-sides..Active/Reserve/USMCR.
I have only “17yrs” of “Total Satisfactory years.
Total Credit Points..”3530”
Made the rank of “SSgt/E6..
The same token.. My last unit disbanded..Due to “RIF”
At this time my age “62yrs.
Would I be eligible for pay-wise?
Ryan Guina says
Hello James, Thank you for contacting me. I am not aware of any provision that will allow you to get service credit under these circumstances unless you were retired under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA). I would gather all your service records and give them a full review to see if you missed any good years in your calculations. Otherwise, I’m not sure if there is anything that can be done. Age 62 is past the service age limit. So I don’t believe serving again would even be an option. Sorry I don’t have any better news for you.