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Saving for Retirement

A Realistic Way to Plan for Your Military Pension

When it comes to pensions, a critical issue is how quickly your benefits are "vested" -- that is, how quickly you really earn the right to a benefit.

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In the civilian world, for example, an employee might become 20% vested after two years on the job and 100% after seven years.

But there is no partial vesting for military pensions. If you don't stay for 20 years, you generally get nothing.

For that reason, it's usually best to avoid including the pension in your retirement-planning calculations until you're just a few years away from qualifying. "So many things can happen between start and finish that you just don't know what to bank on," says Patrick Beagle, a former Marine helicopter pilot who is now a certified financial planner in Fairfax Station, Va., specializing in military families.

For help figuring out how much you might receive if you do end up staying in the military, go to Defenselink.miland click on retirement.

MAIN: PERSONAL FINANCE GUIDE FOR MILITARY FAMILIES