Guide to Military Benefits for Retirement, Pay and Savings

Benefits for those who serve in the U.S. military can sometimes be complex and confusing. Here’s what to know about how to optimize some of them.

A soldier salutes her young daughter, who's wearing the soldier's uniform cap.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is the first article in a series where I will discuss the many financial benefits associated with serving in the U.S. military. As a veteran, and as someone who has taken advantage of many of these benefits, I wish I knew about some of these benefits much earlier in my career. The goal of this series is to create a consolidated synopsis of as many programs as possible so that members of the military and veterans can optimize their benefits.

The United States military retirement system is designed to provide service members with financial security after their dedicated years of service but is highly complex and difficult to navigate. For many years, the military had only one retirement plan, called High-36 Retirement Plan, or High 3. This required the service member to serve at least 20 years before becoming eligible. However, many individuals did not serve a full 20 years and left without any retirement savings whatsoever. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) was expanded in 2001 from only federal civilian employees to include members of the uniformed services.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC or with FINRA.

To continue reading this article
please register for free

This is different from signing in to your print subscription

Why am I seeing this? Find out more here

Zach Mindel
Financial Adviser, Forum Financial Management, LP

Zach Mindel is a Financial Adviser with Forum Financial Management, LP, a Registered Investment Adviser that manages more than $8 billion in client assets. Before joining Forum, Zach spent over 10 years in the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviator and remains in the Naval Reserves as a flight instructor. Zach is based in Bellingham, Wash., and works with clients nationwide. He specializes in comprehensive financial planning tailored to the unique needs of veterans, service members and their families. Drawing on his firsthand experience navigating military benefits and transitions, he provides specific guidance on retirement planning, investment management and reaching long-term financial goals.