By Alecia D. Blair, Military Saves Communications Strategist & Outreach Manager, AFC® Candidate, FINRA Foundation Fellow, and Lani Poblete, Military Saves Project Manager
The new Blended Retirement System (BRS) is coming in January 2018! If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or unsure about the BRS, that’s okay. It’s natural. Deciding whether the BRS is right for you is a big financial one-size-does-not-fit-all decision that has big implications on your military retirement.
Here is a five-step checklist to help you get organized, take control, and know exactly what you need to do to make the best decision for you and your family.
Step 1: Determine your eligibility.
The first step in considering the BRS is to determine whether or not you are eligible for it.
Active duty service members with fewer than 12 years of total service as of December 31, 2017, are eligible to opt into the BRS.
Reservists and National Guardsmen with fewer than 4,320 retirement points as of December 31, 2017, are eligible to opt into the BRS.
It’s important to know that all service members serving as of December 31, 2017, are grandfathered into the current legacy retirement system. No one currently serving will be automatically moved to the BRS.
If you wish to move to the BRS, you will need to "opt-in" during the one-year opt-in period beginning January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018.
Step 2: Take the mandatory BRS Opt-In Course.
To ensure service members fully understand their retirement plan options, all eligible service members are required to take the BRS Opt-In Course. The course is mandatory and must be completed before a service member can opt-in to the BRS.
Step 3: Educate yourself on the BRS and use the BRS Calculator to analyze your estimated benefits.
Learn more about the BRS by visiting the one-stop U.S. Department of Defense shop at military compensation. Here, in addition to the BRS Opt-in Course, you will find infographics, timelines, informational videos, frequently asked questions, and the BRS calculator to help you run the numbers.
Additional information on the BRS may be found at these sites:
The BRS Comparison Calculator is designed to assist eligible service members in comparing the legacy military retirement system (commonly referred to as the “High-3 System”) to the BRS. It is intended to be used in conjunction with the mandatory BRS Opt-In Course.
Step 4: Schedule an appointment to consult your installation personal financial manager/counselor
This is one decision you don’t need to make on your own. Personal financial managers (or PFMs) and personal financial counselors (or PFCs) are available at military installations around the world to provide free, high-quality financial counseling. You can also talk to a PFM or PFC by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647.
These professionals can help educate you on the BRS as you consider your options. Use this benefit today, and be wary of financial consultants or salespeople posing as financial experts who offer BRS education and try to get you to purchase other services for a fee.
Step 5: Make your decision between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018.
You and other eligible service members should take the time to educate yourselves now. Then, you have all of calendar year 2018 to make your decision about which system is right for your financial goals.
In other words, 2017 is all about education of the BRS and 2018 is all about making a decision about the BRS.
If an eligible service member wants to stay covered under the current legacy system, they do nothing.
If an eligible service member decides the BRS is for them, they must opt-in by December 31, 2018.
How will service members opt-in? While details will be released in the coming months, it depends on their branch.
All service members who enter the military on or after January 1, 2018 will automatically be enrolled in the BRS.
When it comes to the BRS, you’ve got this! And Military Saves is here to help you stay on track. Take the Military Saves Pledge to set your savings goal and follow the prompts to opt-in to receive text message reminders and tips, and for the latest updates on the BRS. Think of Military Saves as your personal savings support system.