What is the Blended Retirement System (BRS)?
The military retirement system changed Jan. 1, 2018 which allowed members who were previously under the “High 3 System” plan to be grandfathered in, or switch to the Blended Retirement System.
All new ascensions, didn’t have a choice and were automatically enrolled into the Blended Retirement System (BRS).
Some say the change was for the better; while others say it is worse.
I will explain the changes here and how it impacts future Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airman, Coasties and Federal Employees.
What is the New Retirement System?
The new retirement system is known as the “Blended Retirement System” or BRS. The “blending” in BRS comes from the blending of two major sources of retirement income.
The existing annuity provision for those who retire after 20 or more years of service, PLUS the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP is a government run 401(k) and Roth IRA retirement account that allows members to invest their own money in either stocks or government securities with up to 5% matching by the government.
What is New About the Blended Retirement System?
BRS uses the annuity formula currently in place: the average of the service member’s highest 36 months of basic pay times 2.5% of their years of service — but the 2.5% is adjusted downward by half of a percentage point, from 2.5 to 2%.
To make up for this reduction the government is contributing to a member’s Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
After the first 60 days in the service, all members will be enrolled in TSP and will receive an automatic government contribution of 1% of basic pay into their account each month.
Additionally, they’re automatically enrolled to contribute 3% of their basic pay to the TSP each month (they can change or stop this at any time).
After two years of service, the government matches the member’s contributions up to an additional 4%. So, after 2 years of service, members can get up to a 5% government matching contribution on top of what they contribute each month.
In the end, if a member contributes 5% of their basic pay, the government will match it, making for a total contribution to the TSP of 10% of their basic pay.
For an E-4 with 4 years service, that equals to almost $3,000 of savings each year. Add in contributions and compound interest over several years and you are talking serious savings, hundreds of thousands of dollars over a military career!
What is the importance of these changes?
The government says that 83% of people who join the military don’t stay long enough to retire. So, when they leave after 5 or 10 years of military service they basically get nothing towards their future retirement.
The Blended Retirement System changes that.
By contributing to the TSP, military members can leave the service at any time and have an existing retirement fund that they can take with them anywhere. Even if they get out of the military, before completing 20 years, they keep the money they have in their TSP fund to continue growing.
Before, they would have to withdraw it or roll it into another 401(k). You can’t contribute to it, but at least it can keep growing through compound interest.
What Else Is New About the Blended Retirement System?
BRS also includes a mid-career continuation pay at about 12 years of service. This is an incentive to continue serving toward the traditional 20 years to qualify for monthly military retired pay.
The amount, length of additional service required, and actual time payable differ for each branch of service. In some cases the different military occupations receive different amounts too.
Here is the calculator: Continuation and BRS Calculator
Or, check with your personnel office for specific details.
Lump Sum Option
When you retire (at age 60 for guard/reserve members), you will be given the option to take your full retirement pay or you can take a lump-sum payment of either 25% or 50% of your gross estimated retired pay.
If you take a 25% lump-sum payment, your monthly retirement pay will be 75% of the normal full retirement pay. If you take the 50% lump-sum, it will be 50% of the normal retirement pay.
When you reach age 67 your retirement pay goes back up to the full amount.
Active Duty Member Eligibility For The New Retirement System
Current members who had less than 12 total years of service on January 1, 2018 were able to switch over to the new system. There was no back pay, but matching TSP contributions began immediately on enrollment.
If you joined active duty:
- Before Jan. 1, 2006 – you will remain in your current retirement system
- After Dec. 31, 2005 but before Jan. 1, 2018 – you can choose either your current retirement system or the BRS
- After Dec. 31, 2017 – you are automatically enrolled in the BRS
The opt-in/election period for the Blended Retirement System was Jan. 1, 2018, and ended on Dec. 31, 2018.
Reserve Component Member Eligibility For The New Retirement System
Reserve Component members with more than 4,320 retirement points remained under their current retirement system. Reserve Component members who had less than 4,320 retirement points on Jan. 1, 2018, had the choice to opt into the new Blended Retirement System or remain in the legacy retirement system. New accessions after Jan. 1, 2018, were automatically enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System.
The opt-in/election period for the Blended Retirement System began Jan. 1, 2018, and ended on Dec. 31, 2018.
The mid-career continuation pay for reserve component members is 0.5x monthly basic pay (of active duty).
The New Blended Retirement System Summed Up
The new system is made up of 3 specific components:
- Defined Benefit:
- Retired pay will be 2% times number of years of service. If you retire at 20 years service you get 40% of your final base pay. If you retire at 30 years service you get 60% of your final base pay.
- You can either get your full retirement when eligible or opt to get a lump-sum benefit at retirement. If you take the lump-sum you will get a reduced monthly retirement check until age 67.
- Defined Contribution:
- The military will contribute 1% of your base pay to your TSP.
- You will be automatically enrolled with a 3% base pay contribution to your TSP. (You can change this at any time.)
- The military will match up to 5% of your contribution after 2 years of service.
- You can always stop contributing to the TSP, get a loan of your TSP balance, or withdraw your money from the TSP account.
- Continuation Pay:
- When you reach 12 years of service and commit to 4 more years of service you will be eligible for a cash incentive of 2.5 to 13 times your regular monthly basic pay if you are active duty and 0.5 to 6 times you monthly basic pay if you are in the reserves.
For More Information About The Blended Retirement System
In addition, the DOD also has a BRS calculator online.
This was a brief rundown of the Blended Retirement System (BRS).
I hope it was informative!
Was this BRS article helpful for you? Let us know in the comments below.