Military not impressed with retirement reformsNews added by Benefits Pro on January 20, 2016

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Joined: September 07, 2011

My Company

By Marlene Y. Satter

Career military service members don’t think much of the new retirement option.

Changes to the military retirement system, currently a traditional pension, made in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. Under the Act, approved in October, were recommendations that came from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Committee.

Under those recommendations, the current military pension — a 20-year, all-or-nothing system — will end and be replaced by a 401(k)-style investment plan or the pairing of a reduced pension and a lump-sum bonus.

But active duty personnel aren’t impressed.

Back in October, the Financial Behaviors Index from First Command Financial Services Inc. found that 70 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior noncommissioned officers — NCOs — in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who say they are likely to serve to full retirement want to be grandfathered in to the current retirement system.

And in its latest iteration, the Financial Behaviors Index has found that 73 percent of that group now want to be grandfathered into the current system.

In fact, the only part of the changes they seem to like are the potential for some kind of benefit for their non-career brothers-in-arms — who, under the existing system, get nothing if they leave before serving 20 years.

In the September survey, 66 percent of respondents favored reform for their non-career colleagues, saying that it would increase “the amount of people who would be eligible for benefits” and “provide more financial benefits” for service members.

But trade their pensions for a lump sum and a 401(k)? No, thanks.

Even though service members aren’t necessarily known for their financial wellness — with many active-duty personnel and their dependents getting by on food stamps and second jobs — they’re not convinced that the idea is a good one — and they could be right, since the amount of any lump sum had yet to be decided when the plan was approved by Congress.

And 401(k)s? “Defined contribution plans have not worked for middle-class Americans in building a suitable income for retirement,” Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc., said in a statement.

Spiker added, “There is no reason to believe they will work for our middle-class military force either.”

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