WASHINGTON — If I had to pick just one thing I’m most passionate about as the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, without a doubt it would be taking care of our Airmen and their families professionally, physically, spiritually and financially. I’m a firm believer that these four things go hand in hand. In order to be the best, most resilient Airman possible, you have to balance your professional, physical, spiritual and financial wellness. This is why I’m always looking to arm our Airmen with knowledge to help them grow and make the best decisions possible in their lives.
Part of arming our Airmen with knowledge means providing them the tools necessary to understand and smartly plan their long-range financial goals. But this planning isn’t just for Airmen with families; it’s vital for all Airmen.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the Department of Defense will transition to the Blended Retirement System. If you haven’t heard about BRS, you need to get up to speed now and learn all you can. I need each of you to take an active interest in your financial planning by using every resource we’ve made available to learn about the BRS.
The BRS gives Airmen an opportunity to save their money in a portable Thrift Savings Plan while receiving matching government funds at the same time. This is the most basic layman’s description of the program, which is why I need you to arm yourselves with all of the research and information available. To help you, our Air Force leaders have put together a team of experts ready to provide extensive training. Certified personal financial counselors are available at your Airman and Family Readiness Center. These experts cannot decide for you, but they can help you evaluate which retirement plan is best for you. Every Airman’s situation is different, financial goals are unique to each Airman and there is no “one size fits all” decision.
Airmen who enter the Air Force on or after Jan. 1, 2018, are automatically covered by the BRS. Active component Airmen serving now and those who enter the Air Force on or before Dec. 31, 2017, will be grandfathered under the current retirement system. Airmen with fewer than 12 years of active service on Dec. 31, 2017, or Reserve Component Airmen with fewer than 4,320 retirement points as of Dec. 31, 2017, have the choice to opt into the BRS. Reserve Component members’ “retirement points” and retirement eligibility for the defined benefit are the same under the BRS as under the current retirement systems. The opt-in window for BRS will run from January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018.
Make your decision knowing only you can determine which system is best for you, and understand that if you opt into BRS, it is irrevocable. You only have one chance to make this choice, so it’s imperative you and those involved in making financial decisions for your family fully understand the pros and cons of both retirement systems.
I encourage each of you to take all of the training available on ADLS and utilize the BRS comparison calculator on the Military Compensation website (http://militarypay.defense.gov/Calculators/) before making an appointment with your base financial counselor. The calculator provides a comparison between the current retirement system and the BRS. Doing your homework and preparing your questions ahead of time will help you get the most from your financial counseling appointment. I would like to see all eligible Airmen trained as soon as possible to give everyone time to really think about their options and be fully prepared before making this life-impacting decision.
There are pros and cons to every major decision we make, and this holds true for both retirement plans. I can’t tell you what to do. I can’t tell you what’s best for your family. All I can tell you is that you need to arm yourself with knowledge. Check out the training, talk to people who can provide you with objective advice, talk to those who will be most impacted by your decision and execute your plan knowing you made the best decision for you and your family.