Is Military Retirement Pay Enough to Retire On?

Military retirees have one of the best pension plans in the US. After only 20 years of service, military retirees can retire under the High-3 retirement plan with 50% of their basic pay, full medical coverage, and a slew of other benefits that will stay with them throughout the remainder of their lives. Members who…
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Military retirees have one of the best pension plans in the US. After only 20 years of service, military retirees can retire under the High-3 retirement plan with 50% of their basic pay, full medical coverage, and a slew of other benefits that will stay with them throughout the remainder of their lives. Members who retire under the new Blended Retirement System will earn 40% of their base pay, in addition to whatever they stashed away in their Thrift Savings Plan.

Members who retire from the Guard or Reserves can also earn military retirement benefits, based on a point system. These benefits start at age 60, which is close to the traditional retirement age of 65.

It is not a stretch to say that military retirement is worth millions over the life of the retiree.

Considering that one can begin receiving retirement benefits around age 40 and potentially receive the benefits for another 40 years or more, this is an extremely good deal. But is it enough to live off for the rest of your life?

Can You Live Off Military Retirement Pay?

The short answer is, yes, absolutely.

But it takes a lot of planning to make this work.

A good friend of mine, Doug Nordman, wrote the book, The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Early Retirement, and founded the website, The Military Guide.

In his book and website, Doug discusses the steps he took to achieve financial independence – the point where he would no longer need to actively work to sustain his lifestyle. He and his wife saved and invested over the course of their careers, and even made dozens of mistakes along the way. But by saving a high percentage of their income and living well within their means, they were able to reach the point where they could maintain a nice quality of life (in Hawaii, no less!) while living off the income from his military pension and their investments.

His story is inspirational and well worth reading. I highly recommend the book or starting with the About Page on The Military Guide. His book had a big impact on me and was one of the factors that lead to my joining the Air National Guard after being out of the military for over 8 years. Being able to earn military retirement benefits will have a huge impact on my financial future.

Another Case Study – Living Off Enlisted Military Retirement Pay

Here is another example, this time of an enlisted couple who both retired from the military and had their story featured in CNN Money. They both are military retirees who will receive a combined $58,500 per year in military retirement pay, in addition to other military retiree benefits such as medical care. This is not a bad sum of money for not doing any more work for the remainder of their lives!

Even with their retirement pay and health benefits, there are some potential roadblocks to their plan not to work anymore. The CNN Money article discusses how their retirement pay currently covers their fixed costs including their mortgage and other regular bills. But it doesn’t give them a lot of freedom if they need to support their children through college, or have many unexpected large expenses arise. Even something like taking a family vacation will need to be carefully planned.

I think it may be possible for them to do it, but I imagine that after a while they will want to find some source of work to keep them occupied. It may not be a traditional 9-5 job, but it may be a part-time job or a hobby that provides them income.

The most important thing about their situation is this:

Their military retirement pay and benefits are giving them the option and freedom to decide whether or not they work. The freedom of bringing in $58,500 per year (indexed for inflation) without doing anything else gives them the opportunity to work, or choose more rewarding work if they decide to do that.

That is a beautiful thing!

This is also something that is worth repeating. Your military pension is extremely valuable because it gives you the opportunity to decide which type of work you want to do. Having that regular monthly cash flow should reduce the amount of money you need to earn in the future, making it easier to take on the type of job you want to do, instead of being tied to taking the highest paying job. So use this as an opportunity to take a job in a field that is rewarding.

Can Everyone Live off Military Retirement Pay?

While many people have figured out how to make it by on military retirement pay, it’s not something that everyone can do, at least right away.

Military retirement is fairly generous compared to most civilian retirement plans, and can even be worth millions over the life of the retiree. However, the immediate cash flow is probably not enough for most people to retire immediately, especially for many retired enlisted military members who bring in $20,000-$30,000 per year.

It does take a lot of planning and it requires the retiree to avoid taking on too much debt or too many ongoing financial obligations.

Living on military retirement pay becomes even more difficult if you have a mortgage, credit card debt, a car loan, student loan debt, and other regular payments. I many cases, a military pension is a great financial blessing, but it may not be enough to live on.

How to Stretch Your Military Retirement Pay

The key to being able to retire on your military pension is paying off as many loans and credit cards as possible before you officially retire from the military. Debt is the quickest way to tie up your future pension checks. But eliminating your debt gives you the opportunity to use your money for more important things, such as your regular living expenses, vacations, and other enjoyable activities.

Another important factor in military retirement is the addition of other sources of retirement funds, especially those which will be available to you later. That is why it is important to open a Roth IRA, Thrift Savings Plan, or other investments. You can open a TSP account through your military pay unit or you can start your civilian retirement plan through a civilian 401k program or at an investment firm.

Finally, don’t forget about Social Security Benefits, which will be available to you in your 60’s. Full retirement age is 66, but you can begin receiving a reduced amount at age 62, or you can wait beyond age 66 and receive a larger payout. And depending on when you served, your military service may impact your Social Security Benefits in a positive way. So that is something else to look forward to.

With careful planning, you should be able to get to the point where your military retirement pay and other benefits will be enough to pay for your retirement. It may not happen the day you leave the military. But with careful planning, you should be able to reach that point, especially when you are able to begin taking withdrawals from retirement accounts and when you begin receiving Social Security Benefits.

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About Ryan Guina

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of The Military Wallet. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is a current member of the IL Air National Guard.

Ryan started The Military Wallet in 2007 after separating from active duty military service and has been writing about financial, small business, and military benefits topics since then. He also writes about personal finance and investing at Cash Money Life.

Ryan uses Personal Capital to track and manage his finances. Personal Capital is a free software program that allows him to track his net worth, balance his investment portfolio, track his income and expenses, and much more. You can open a free Personal Capital account here.

Featured In: Ryan's writing has been featured in the following publications: Forbes, Military.com, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, Reserve & National Guard Magazine (print and online editions), Military Influencer Magazine, Cash Money Life, The Military Guide, USAA, Go Banking Rates, and many other publications.

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  1. Grim says

    Can anyone assist?

    Half ACTIVE / Half RESERVE – Retirement Pay.

    I spent 10 years active duty USAF (1996-2006).
    I’m currently in the USN Reserve (2016-present).

    When I retire (2026) I’ll have 10 years ACTIVE and 10 years RESERVE as an E-7, over 20 years.

    What’s the ballpark estimate for monthly retirement?

    A financial adviser in the USN Reserve told me it would be half of what ACTIVE/E-7/Over 20 makes ($4,797), which would be $2,398.

    Thank you fellow service members for your sacrifice and dedication to the nation.

    • Theodore Robb says

      How did your Financial Adviser come up with these estimates($2,398.00) under the High-36 military retirement system. I’m several months away from a Final Pay military retirement which ended 8 September 1980. I joined the Navy 27 August 1978. I have 4007 points similar active duty time an also similar reserve time (21years 11months 11days).

  2. Les Waller says

    I retired as an E-6 in 2000 and my “retainers fee” still hasn’t quite reached $20k/year in 2019. We used the money to ensure we could make house payments with it and it was good insurance if I had to be between jobs at any point.
    I got a full-time job after retirement in the IT industry and it pays well; however, after 19 years of doing it, I’m tired of working in an air-conditioned office year round with no windows.
    I’ve decided to build my own online business at home because I don’t think I can take another 5 years of this before being able to receive social security, which will also be inadequate.

  3. Usn-Usar says

    As an always single, long retired E-7 with 22 years, during my first two years I was jammed into old barracks with one commonly non-working coin-op washing machine and drier for the entire 4 wings of about 100 men while marrieds each had a house in the new housing development with new appliances, time off to take the wife, kids or pets to the doc and an exemption from holiday weekend duty because they needed to be home with their families.
    Civilians were perhaps 30 miles away, but there was no public transportation and most junior enlisted couldn’t afford a vehicle. (A later sociology course listed lower enlisted personnel and prison inmates as equivalents, but that was before they abolished the draft.) Once upon a time people were barefoot, lived in caves and without the IRS.
    Married personnel must cost the military at least twice the cost of singles when all active and retirement benefits are included, but apparently married and their extended families created more noise and more votes, and the senior personnel who did the lobbying probably had actively lobbying spouses.
    Meanwhile, the best supervisor I ever worked for/with, military or civilian, “Blackie”, was 2 weeks out of boot camp, freshly arrived in Pearl Harbor when it was bombed, advanced to the top enlisted rank, then E-7, the top Warrant rank, accepted the rank of Lt.jg., and was an O-4 when I worked for him.
    A farm kid who’d never worked a 40-hour job or seen a timeclock, I only knew to work when there was work to be done, and Blackie kept me busy with responsibilities demanding that I master unexpected challenges and preparing me to replace my seniors, but the first two years left a bitter taste that drove me out until some years later when I discovered that I could get paid for that time if I joined the reserves and qualified for the pension and long promised medical benefits that were later largely defaulted upon.
    The experience of a serviceperson isn’t that of a dependent, but hopefully all of us have chanced to meet and appreciate some memorable people and can be thankful.

    • CPOUSNRET says

      Yep, you got it, it’s a hard and unfair first few years as a single Service person. Married personnel of the same pay grade had many undeserved added privileges like a house or duplex to themselves snd their spouse. Another thing about earning a Service “retirement” is YOU ARE NOT RETIRED AT 20 years. 20 years Active, 10 year non-drilling, but recallable reserves. It takes a combination of Active & recallable reserves totaling 30 years. Best check with federal law for all services to be sure you’ll get anything for 10 active, 10 reserves.

  4. Hastings Lamb says

    To those who think military retiree pay is a luxury, they have no idea what it takes to earn such. I suggest they walk a mile in any military retirees active duty shoes before complaining. Perhaps in the next war by taking point on a LRP or flying as a gunner in a helicopter, or performing maintenance on an ICBM in -40 temps, or performin guard duty on a flightline on a northern tier base in a blizzard, etc., etc.

  5. andy walters says

    i was in the navy 4 years and left as an e-5. when i left, i took the new york city fire dept. test, past, and got on the job rather quickly, as veterans are mostly at the top of the hiring list. my buddies in the navy said i was making a mistake by not staying in the military,how wrong they were. i retired with a pension of $106,000 a year from fdny this is equivalent to 0-8 admirals retirement pay, and i seriously doubt i would have ever achieved that rank. anyone i know that retired from the military had to go back to work, because their pensions were not enough to live on.$58,000 for a combined military couple is grossly underpaid, this is reality folks, my advise is go where the money is, and explore other career opportunity, because an honorable discharge today is like gold for high paying jobs. good luck to everyone. andy

  6. John says

    I earn $2613 in retirement after deducting taxes, SBP, & VGLI. I receive $2177 a month in VA SC disability. I also use the Post 9/11 GI Bill to receive $2701 a month for 10 months. Earning $81,897 a year is not bad!

    I retired in 2016. I was an E-7 with 24 years/one month and and get a 10% increase in retirement due to earning a Soldiers Medal. I was rated 90% by the VA and I am attending UMUC while overseas.

  7. Audrey says

    You “seriously doubt it?” Man, that’s the pot calling the kettle black. That’s very negative and condescending of you. Why couldn’t you have just left it at educating her without that last derogatory comment. I don’t think you attacking others who obviously took offense to Eliza’s comments is the best approach. To embarrass them, chastise them in front of this entire forum? They are expressing the way they feel just as Eliza and you, They are exercising their freedom, but yet, you find one thing to focus on, which is to defend someone who based on those ridiculous comments, clearly isn’t worthy. I think that you should take a look in the mirror yourself and think about whether or not you would like to be talked to like a child. Lastly, why did you have to even throw the honor part in there? Are you serious? Are you Mother Teresa? No, you’re not. Just because you feel they posted something that you deemed inappropriate, mean or distasteful, that doesn’t make it okay to question there honor as a service member or veteran, especially on a public forum. You have truly contradicted yourself, and frankly, you should be ashamed for putting people on blast. I can’t help but to chuckle at the fact that you tried to defend someone by attacking others. Wow…really…smh

  8. Lynee says

    Where is the military bearing? Fussing at someone who is ignorant to the military lifestyle is not how the military handles its’ business. Educate and explain why you feel she is wrong. What the military fights for is a right for her to express how she feels. Rather we like it or not. True heroes do not put their lives on the line and then expect people to honor and respect them. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, one of the many beauty of living in America. I’m not concern with who knows what I’ve done for America. I’m good as long as I know what I’ve done for America.

    Freedom isn’t free and this thread shows it because most of you attacked someone who has the right to freely express their opinion. Rather she had the facts or not!

    Eliza! I suggest you meet a few Soldier fast and conduct a personal interview to better understand what you feel to be true. Check your facts and if you still feel the same. Well, at least you will have reference to some of the military lifestyle and why it’s that way. But, I seriously doubt it.

    Good luck all and thank you to the many men and women who have and are currently serving. Being a Soldier is a thankless job to many civilians who doesn’t know any thing about the military.

    Educate is the key. Not fighting with negative words.

    I just love America.

  9. Trey Toure says

    I happen to stumble upon this article as I approach 18+ years of honorable an faithful service to the greatest nation on this planet. Like others, with a wife and two teenage boys I have a lot of questions and it is better to be proactive in ones retirement plans than being reactive. Knowledge is the key. I was more interested in the article and usually do not comment on threads unless I have something positive and beneficial to contribute. But the statement made by “eliza” (note I have spelled his/her name in lower case because that is what you represent, an “imbecile”)

    Ryan Guina, first of all thank you for your service my brother and for putting this out there. Apparently it’s working which is why great Americans on the thread below, that have giving so much for their country are chiming in.

    I was fortunate to migrate from Africa to this Country about 20 years ago. 18 of those 20 years I have served on active duty in the United States Marine Corps as and Infantryman now an E-8. Nine deployments (three of which were kinetic combat deployments, a gun shot wound from enemy sniper, the list goes on) But “eliza” you are not worthy of that story.

    (In tears) Not because I almost lost my life, but because I am grateful as a Platoon Sergeant for the 42 Marines and Sailors I was able to bring back home alive from Al Anbar Province. It cuts right through my soul when I read comments like the one from “eliza”. What have you done for this nation? I’ll tell you what I have done, I’ve bled on the Stripes of this Nation to ensure it’s color stays Red. Others have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and if they are asked to do it all over again they will do it with Honor. But for you “eliza” a coward, what have you done for this nation other than being a TROLL. Go take a look in the mirror and come back and tell me what you saw.

    God bless each and everyone of you and the men and women that continue to make that selfless sacrifice, including Police Officers, Fire fighters, first responders, etc. God bless the United states of America.

    Semper Fidelis
    The Marine

    • Ryan Guina says

      Jak, Military retirement is adjusted by COLA, which is determined by the Bureau of Labor, which uses inflation rates in their calculations. It’s all related.

      • Jak says

        You’re saying inflation will erode your military retirement pay.

        “…inflation erodes the relative value of your military retirement pension”

        But it doesnt because it is adjusted by COLA.

      • Biff says

        Jak:

        You make the assumption that COLA WILL = actual inflation, and that is an optimistic assumption, COLA rarely (if ever) leads inflation (Reagan bringing MIL salaries in-line with Civ. being a rare exception). It’s better than nothing, but will not make you whole against inflation. A lot of items you need day-to-day are diminished in arriving at a COLA, and that COLA is “granted” to you by the Exec and Congress. I wouldn’t count on it. If you are younger than 35, “inflation” is a word you do not yet understand on a physical/existance level. We’ve either deflated or dis-inflated for some time now, and we may yet have more of it (as in Japan). When bored, look up an article on mortgage rates and bank yields from late 1970-s to mid 1980’s.

        Best of luck.

  10. Armycombatvet says

    I am curious on what my final retirement pay will be. I will be done with the military in three years and my high-3 average will be a CW3 with 29 years of service but just 20 years will be active (AFS). I have all my LES with my Reserve and Guard time but it will be interesting after what will be paid, after everything is factored in.

  11. John Manheim says

    The nice thing about military retirement pay is when you retire it’s for the remainder of one’s life. Plus the fact most enlisted folks are in their early to mid 40’s, one can start another career making the going amount. My example, I retired in 2003 at the age of 40 as a USAF (E-8) – my 2015 monthly take home military retirement pay after SBP and taxes is $2,637 plus I get $1,227 per month in VA disability (tax free) for a total of $3,864 per month. My post civilian career has blossomed, and I’m making over $65,000 per year. So, I’m effectively making over $111,000 per year. The military paid for Bachelors’ degrees for me and my wife. She makes about $75,000 per year – so our family income is over $186,000 per year – not bad and better than many officers. Many of them retired too old to start productive careers, or they just couldn’t adapt to the civilian work force. Plus officer’s wife’s had to stay home and be part of the officer’s wife’s club and doing volunteer work. All the while my wife finished her 4-year accounting degree, and is now an accounting department manager making over $75K. My example doesn’t even mention medical, BX, Commissary, and other benefits. Also, can’t forget my 10 percent Lowes and many other military discounts. I think we could retire now, but without as many toys. Moreover, we have accumulated over $400K in our 401K’s from our current jobs. We should have around $600-700K or more in our 401K by the time we eventually do retire. I’m thinking we should live a very good retirement!!! Enlisted is definitely the way to go – Aim High folks!!!

    • Runner says

      Hi im 22 year old male and im currently studying furiously for ASVAB so i can enlist in Air Force. Im korean-american, single (i dont plan on marrying), very frugal (i plan on saving 90% of check and spend rest on necessities). I currently have no debts, no children, and i have a desire to serve 20 years so i can retire and buy a simple house in washington. I just want to know if it is possible to serve 20 years in AF since i heard military life has its difficulties? Ty in advance

  12. John Oliver says

    This article, as well as some of the positive comments, is a great relief. I’m retiring as an E-6 after twenty years, which makes me a bit nervous. However, on the bright side, I earned my college diploma, I have zero debt, I haven’t touched my GI bill, and I’ve never been a big spender (I’m cheap). I’m looking forward to retirement.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Congrats on your retirement, John! You have a lot to be proud of. Your retirement is what you make of it. There are many people who can get by on their retirement, while others will never be able to retire because they simply spend more than they make. It sounds like you have that part of it taken care of. And if you decide to work, hopefully you won’t have to take the first thing that comes along and you can choose something meaningful that you enjoy.

      One thing about the Post-9/11 GI Bill – it covers 100% of your tuition, up to the highest in-state college. And it pays a monthly housing allowance equivalent to an E-5 with dependents. I know some people who have taken classes they enjoy, just so they can earn a little extra money each month through the housing allowance. Something to think about if there are any classes you have been thinking about taking! Thanks for your service, and best of luck in your retirement!

  13. Vince Ryder says

    Living off your military retirement? Of course it is POSSIBLE, particularly if you have a paid-off place to live, and your pension brings in over $2,500 per month. However, the vast majority of military retirees enjoy neither of these factors at a 20-year retirement. A better bet for most is to serve 24 – 30 years, which for many will be another (at least one) bump up in rank, and an additional 2.5% of their “High 36” income PER YEAR of added service. I believe less than 5% of 20-year retirees would make a living “wage” amount in their pension, but perhaps 30% would if they served another 4 years. I did 24 years total, and I’ve lived off my pension for 5 years since retirement. I’m not rich, but I’m not looking for work, either. Three HUGE factors in this calculation are: 1) how many are in your household being supported by the pension, 2) where do you live?, and 3) what lifestyle do you find acceptable?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Vince, You make some great points! I’ve only known a few military retirees who were able to retire for good off a military pension. Most have gone back to work either because they wanted to work (some), or more likely because they had to, to be able to continue living at their current standard of living. There is nothing wrong with either of those reasons. Your three criteria are all factors people should consider before taking the leap into retirement.

  14. Daryl says

    I have been in the military for 27 years and have 22 for retirement and I am retiring in a few short months. I only read half of these comments and really have to chime in here. I have given up my American freedoms to live in a communist regime so all people can enjoy their American freedoms for most of my life. I have been shot at, seen friends die, jumped out of foxholes, felt the blasts of explosives going off right next to me, and been away from my family and ones I love or 6-9 months out of the year. And that was only my first 4 years in the U.S. Army getting paid $500 a month. Since I took a break for a few years still on recall status, then I went to the National guard and my first drill was the LA riots shortly after was the Northridge earthquake. Went in the U.S Coast Guard and again been gone away from my family and friends minimum 6 months out of the year doing drug interdiction, search and rescue, migrant introduction, aids to navigation, port security, ETC ETC ETC. I am in the middle of the ocean as I am typing this post. I have missed my two children growing up and spent very little time with them. I and every other member in this great military service have sacrificed our lives, family, and freedoms. We definitely did not do it for the”great Pay” We do it for this great country and the people that live in it. I read some of these posts and the author a few years in the AF. Some of these comments are a disgrace and some of these people should be ashamed of themselves. Go around the world and actually see how most other countries have it. America has had the privilege of living an awesome life for the last 70 years and if anyone has the pleasure of meeting a WWII vet shake his hand, give him a hug, and buy him a beer because it is the great sacrifices of these men and men like them why our country is one of the wealthiest and greatest countries in the world.

    • andy walters says

      daryl my grandfather is a ww2 vet and he shakes my hand i am a navy vet wartime a retired new york city firefighter and 911 survivor make 106000 tax free retirement yearly the fact is no one gives a sh t people still bad mouth new york city firefighters after all they have done military also, do what you think is right for yourself but use common sense and go where the money is, military vets are a hot commodity in any work force. been there done all of this. smiley face, andy

  15. Archie says

    No, thank you Ryan…I’m just trying to enjoy my family and live a peaceful life. Im trying to get into investing…real estate and my wife is trying to open up her own beauty salon.

  16. Archie says

    Retired military and veterans earned every freakin cent…..0341 infantry Sergeant USMC….2x Purple Heart Recipient Medically Retired, 100% VA special mon. Comp-S, 100% DOD, SSDI Approved.

    • dale says

      Amen… When i retired i was like yes Lord i made. After 3 yrs of being retired it has hit me how much damage my body went through with those 12 to 18 hrs days… Sometime i just cry to myself.. If you think you can do 20 yrs plus in the Military and walk away scott free good luck to you.. I am damage goods physically mentally and emotionally drained nothing like i thought it would be…

      • Chinena says

        Dale,

        Do you get a medical supplement? As far as your physical, mental, and emotional state, I do hope all goes well.

  17. christie says

    im alittle lost my soon to be husband is retirering in from the army in 2 years and and he has been in afghanistan since 2003. he has been in the army for a little over 20 years when he retires. and he says not to worry about money and we are looking for a house a farm house i have horses. the phrase dont worry about money worries me cause im looking at houses and the one we have choose is 250,000.00 and im worried we might not make a decent living. i was raised in a poor family and could you guys give me some idea about what a retired army sergeant would make after 20+ years in the army?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Christie, military retirees get a pension, which is based on their grade and total time in service. They also receive health care benefits for themselves and their qualified dependents. Here is a link to the most recent pay chart: Jan 1, 2012. Keep in mind this is for active duty pay; retiree pay is based on a percentage of the active duty scale.

      Keep in mind your soon to be husband may also have other investments outside of his military pay, and he may be planning on working or earning income after his retirement. I recommend speaking with your fiance to find out more information about his grade, number of years served, and other information. It is essential that you have an idea of how military pay and benefits work when you are going to be married to him.

  18. Clueless says

    So I’ll be retiring here in the next 6 yrs. Basically I’m looking on 3 choices REDUX, high 36, or the CSB? Any suggestion on type of retirement? Still confuse on these type of retirements.

    • Ryan Guina says

      The best retirement plan for most retirees is the High 36, as it is worth tens of thousands (or possibly hundreds of thouands) of dollars more over the course of an average retirement. In most cases it is best to avoid the cash option with REDUX.

  19. enrique flores says

    Good article, sounds to me that the bottom line of this article is to garner some business as a financial adviser.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Thanks for sharing your comment, Enrique. The bottom line for this article is for military members to plan well ahead of their military retirement so they know exactly what they are getting into when they separate from military service. The goal is to be able to have the flexibility to decide on your own terms, not to be forced into a decision.

      The examples in this article prove it is possible to retire from the military without having to work again, as long as you are properly prepared to do so. This includes strong financial management such as getting out of debt, investing in IRAs and/or the Thrift Savings Plan, and living within your means.

      I know several people who were able to retire from the military and never have to work again, but the vast majority of the people I know have not been able to do so – either because they had debt when they retired, or they didn’t have enough money saved to be able to live off their pension.

      There is no right or wrong way to retire from the military – many people choose to work out of desire or necessity, and some retirees miss the responsibility of working. The blessing, however, is having the ability to make the decision without having the decision made for you.

  20. spytheweb says

    I’am retired E-6. I make under $17,000 and have lived just off that for the last 3 years. I live on a budget. I don’t have a car, cable or creditcards. I pay rent, gas & power. Everything i own i own out right. I have a LCD tv, broadband internet, computer, satellite radio and a cat. My 2 sons went off to college (NYU class of 2007) and the Air Force so i have a empty nest. I looking into moving to maybe Thailand after i file for SS. There my money will go a long ways plus the weather is nice. I now live in Las Vegas across from Nellis. I have never been to Thailand, but spent 4 years in Korea and 4 years in the Philippines and lived off base, i think i can adjust. Plus i’ll be able to save again.

    • Chinena says

      Thanks for the comment. I’ll be retiring SSG myself, and I’ll be heading up north to live while my child is in school. I’m sure I’ll need a job living there. Any other pointers?

  21. Mitzi says

    Free housing err no! It makes my blood boil when you civilians say we have free housing…we DONT!!! Military pay is broken down into segments, if you live in base housing (for the most part basic and old) you just dont get that portion of your paycheck. It is no different than any civilian job paying your rent or mortgage. If you civilians cant handle the fact that your civilian employer doesnt break down your paycheck, not give you a portion if you live in your employers quarters, then I suggest you shut up and join up!

  22. William says

    Just found this and looks like a good source of information for our Military.
    I am a retired/disabled USAF E-7 and I was once on foodstamps because a E-4 in England was hard times.

    Thanks

  23. Eliza S says

    Why are we supporting such luxury retirement for retired military personnel? Many of these retirees have two homes (purchased with housing allowance for homes rented out during their tours of duty), two cars, beautiful furnishings, golf club memberships, lavish vacations with free (almost) housing on military bases throughout the US and abroad, standby flights to almost anywhere in the world, inexpensive health insurance, privileges at military exchanges, etc, etc. I know of no other employment that offers such luxury benefits. The money spent for these benefits could well be spent in areas that could benefit all the citizens of the US.

    • Schadenfreudian says

      @Eliza S: “…luxury retirement for retired military personnel?”

      Eliza, someone sold you the economy size of Kool Aid, and you seem to have drunken deeply from it. I’m a retiring O-4 (LCDR) and expect to clear perhaps $2K a month, with SS kicking in a few years later to take me to the uber-rich demographic of Americans making $48K a year.

      Know what, though? For the amount of crap and for the dangerous, life-threatening situations I found myself and the crew in, I and we have earned every flipping cent.

      • Tara says

        Amen! The only people that have the nerve to say something like that is the ones that sit and live in the US with all the freedom never have they went and fought for anything its just given to them. Military people are special people and should get there retirement and so much more for there service. Thank you to all our troops!

    • AD Military Member Not Living a "Luxury" Life says

      @Eliza…It’s very disturbing to hear people who haven’t did their research make comments about military pay and/or lifestyle. A person’s life is priceless. Military are underpaid for what they do. I’m sure you, Eliza S., don’t work a 24 hr shift. Guess what? If you invested your money wisely, you could live a “luxury” life, too. However, if you look at statistics or researched online, since you do have a computer to blog here, you would know that MOST military members don’t live a “luxury” life. They live a life of not knowing where they or their family will be in the next 90 days or so. Until you get your facts and figures straight, please keep the negative comments to yourself. Thanks and continue to educate yourself on things you disagree with. Knowing is half the better 😉

      • Curt says

        I know my wife and I have spent our money wisely and will have a home that’s paid off a year or so after I retire. I’ve been moved around a lot over the years, but figuring out how to live within your means is key. I believe a lot of people end up misinformed about how things work. If you manage to reach a senior rank and able to draw a 20 year pension, you should be able to get a job that brings you back to a minimum of what you made on active duty. A lot of service members forget their experience in highly sought after and can be rather lucrative. Just an opinion though

    • tgarner567 says

      Elizabeth,

      I am shocked and appalled. Why is it that so many Americans place so little value on the service and sacrifice that members of our Armed Forces have given this country. Many of these retirees have two homes because they were forced to move as many as 10-20 times throughout their careers and they could not sell their homes so they had no choice but to rent them out or live on beans and rice for years to pay two mortgages. Most of them have two cars because both parents had to work to support their families during extended training, deployments and separations to fulfill their duties. Housing is not free, they give up part of their pay that is equal to comparable rent in the area, for the opportunity to live on base because it is safer and more convenient. We are the true 1% who are selflessly serving our country right now. What have you done for your country that is not self serving in some way? And just how would you propose to use these funds in any way that is more beneficial that defending your freedom, constitutional rights and way of life? You have no idea of the magnitude of sacrifice, hardship and danger that our men and women face on a daily basis. So before you judge us as undeserving of such “lavish” benefits, I suggest that you spend a day walking in our shoes before you pass judgement on something that you have no capacity to understand.

    • ayicia scott says

      Did all the citizens of the u.s risk their lives for yours and go to afghanistan, iraq , and other war zones leaving their family behind for a year at a time? Didnt think so…

    • robert says

      @Eliza, I can’t believe your ignorant comment. Every year spent in the military is like 5 times your year as a civilian. by the time a service member retires his/her body is severly broken down with ailments. not to mention the years of stress/anxiety. If you think its such a great lifestyle then why don’t you take the opportunity to join. You get to sleep at night because we are on duty 24hrs a day. You are able to blog and make insane comments because of your freedoms. Thank a soldier instead of dishonoring what they deserve. YOUR WELCOME!

      • dale says

        When you said the 1 to 5 year part.. I broke down and cried like you feel our pain… I wish i could explain it but, i’m 43 yrs old and i was a true Captain America kind of guy in the Military and my body after 20 yrs of service it is like crap now…

    • David E Niles says

      I know of no other employer that expects you to give your life in the defense of their employer without much higher compensation then a military member receives. Such luxuries? I really never played or had time for golf, had two cars, one new for the family, one used for work. You are truly ignorant of the lives of our military members. Do not confuse Officer (10%) with enlisted.

  24. Doug says

    When you used that one couple as an example, you did not note if they were retired officers or enlisted. retired officers make that kind of money but not enlisted. My enlisted retired pay is approx. $15,600 a year. out of that comes my medical, insurance, ans surviver benifits. I have to work because my family can’t live on $800 a month.

    Why is it always someone is out to make it look like the military live like “fat cats” when that is in fact a lie. Active duty military in the enlisted ranks for the most part, use food stamps, if the live on base, in sub-standard housing and still have to pay for it. We do not live the life of Riely. Our pay is below the national average. This kind of lie reporting needs to stop and the truth needs to be told. If you are going to make this kind of report, tell both sides (Officer and enlisted) and not just one side (officers).

    • Ryan Guina says

      Doug, the couple in question were both enlisted – the husband was a Chief Master Sergeant in the USAF (E-9, with annual pension of $36,900), and his wife was a Master Sergeant (E-7, with an annual pension of $21,600). The article discusses how they were motivated not only in their careers, but in their personal lives, by focusing on making rank, earning money, saving, investing, and learning. There is no simple way to achieve an early retirement – it comes through hard work and sacrifice.

      I was enlisted while I was in the military and was never on food stamps, nor were any of the people that I knew. The military has made many increases in pay and benefits over the last decade or so, and very few people now qualify for food stamps, partly because of pay increases, but also partly because of a program called Family Supplemental Subsistence Allowance which is used to eliminate the need for military members to receive food stamps.

      Enlisted members paying to live in substandard housing on base? I’ve never heard of this. In my experience, base housing has always been free (as in no out of pocket expenses). Some off base housing requires payment if it has been privatized, but rents are capped at local BAH levels, ensuring military members aren’t paying much, if anything, out of pocket.

      This website is devoted to helping military members and veterans improve their financial situations, not portray the military as something it isn’t. For more information, please see Do Military Members Get Paid Enough?, and our response to people who think Military Members Have it Too Good and Whine Too Much.

      • tgarner567 says

        Ryan,

        Great reply. I have spent almost 22 years in the Army as an enlisted Soldier and I can recall only two or three military families who were on food stamps throughout my whole career. All of those families were very junior Soldiers who had unusually large families at a young age. One correction though. Base Housing has never been free because it costs members the value of their housing allowance for a given area. Members who live on post forfeit their basic housing allowance (privatized or not). In fact years ago dual military couples took a double pay cut as both members had to forfeit their housing allowance (BAQ). Now only the senior member loses the allowance when they live in government quarters.

      • Ryan Guina says

        Thanks for the reply, tgarner. The term “free” in relation to military housing is used loosely. It’s true members are giving up their BAH, but there is no out of pocket expense. I knew many people who elected to live off base and BAH wouldn’t completely cover their housing and utilities. Perhaps a better way to word it would be “no out of pocket expenses,” which might be more accurate.

        I wasn’t aware of the changes to military couples living on base. That is a nice change!

      • tgarner567 says

        Ryan,

        You are very welcome and thank you for your service as well. I think it just adds to the misinformation when we use the word “free” when referring to any military compensation or allowance. Everything we get in the military comes with a price that cannot always be measure using dollars and cents. Another update on the “out of pocket expenses.” There is a new program for Soldiers who live in privatized housing where they are given an allowance for their utilities every month and that allowance goes to the housing company. If they go over the allowed amount they have to pay out of pocket for the overage. Keep up the good work. its nice to see someone taking the time to dispel the rumors and set the record straight regarding the men and women, the true 1% …who serve in uniform. Thanks

        Tony

  25. Zirah Daigle says

    Great info, but do you really want to get another full time or part time job after 20-30 years of serving your country? With the governments around the world destroying our money supply, inflation is certain. Thus your retirement is worth a lot less than what you thought.

    What if you learn to be an entrepreneur before you retire or separate? Cash flow is what you should be seeking. This is the aim of the New Rich. Cooperation with your fellow man, your brother. Entrepreneurship is also about serving just like in military service.

    Most financial planners and most people always talk about IRAs, 401ks, savings accounts, etc for your retirement. That is only one asset class, Paper. There are many others like commodities(gold,silver, oil, corn, etc) real estate and businesses. To be really diversified you need all asset classes, not just paper.

    Cashflow from all these asset classes and when you retire there is no need to work for someone else, making them rich. That is a future to my liking.

    • Carson Davis says

      Inflation and cost of living are mitigated with the annual COLA raise to retirement pay. My 35K this year will be slightly higher next year.

  26. Dave says

    Very good info. Although it might be a little misleading to say that retirees get “full medical coverage” as though we’re not charged for it. If we want to retain our “full medical coverage”, we have to pay premiums (just like civilians). Granted, our premiums are cheaper (about $150 a month for medical and dental combined) but it’s not quite free. Believe me, when you’re talking about a $2,000 a month income, those little $150 a month chunks add up.
    A smart retiree will look at his retirement income as, say, a house payment with utilities. Now you just have to find a job to cover the rest of your expenses and you’re set.

  27. Retired guy! says

    Liked the article. The problem with MOST active duty military and military retirees is they live beyond their means and paycheck to paycheck. Most people are spenders not savers and until they figure that they need to save for their future…they will continue their lifestyle of living for today. No amount of money can sustain a lifestyle if you spend more than you earn. $20-30k a year in reirement benefits can sustain the living expenses for a family of 6 if it is spent wisely. I know because I am reired and spend my $20-30k wisely. No debt. Thanks for the info!

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