By Amy Miller, AFC®
AMBA’s recent endorsement of the Retirement Choice for Enduring Security (RESOURCES) Act of 2021 made me wonder – how many service members and spouses are aware of this proposed act? I myself a military spouse of nearly 16 years, was unaware so I took to social media to see how many others shared in my lack of knowledge.
I informally polled a group on Facebook of around 2,000 military members & spouses attached to our current duty station last weekend. The poll gave a brief run-down of the RESOURCES Act and gave three response options –
- My spouse and I understand the traditional legacy plan and the BRS. We have a made an election.
- We did not make an election – we were not sure what to do and needed more information/guidance
- What is BRS?
I was shocked to find that the option with the most votes was #3 – What is BRS? This confirmed the fact that the majority of us do not understand our options so I thought I would use this opportunity to do a quick review.
The Blended Retirement System is also known as The BRS combines the traditional Legacy retirement system with a new system that is like 401K plans offered by private employers. With an average of 81% of service members leaving service before the Legacy system will be available to them, at 20 years of service, the BRS offers a way for servicemembers to save for retirement with a government match. All service members that enlisted or commissioned after January 1, 2018, are automatically enrolled in BRS, making this their sole retirement plan. The plan features a 1% automatic contribution from the DOD, which begins at 60 days of service, and matching starts at 2 years and continues through 26 years of service. The service member contribution rate is 3%, full DOD match begins at 5%. Service Member contributions are always vested but DOD matching and any earnings are vested at 2 years of service.
If you were active duty with fewer than 12 years of service, or National Guard or Reserve with less than 4,320 points, as of December 31, 2017, you are grandfathered in to the legacy retirement system, but you could choose to opt into the Blended Retirement System. These options were rolled out via computer-based training seminars to all opt-in eligible service members in 2017 with a deadline for making elections of December 31, 2017.
Unfortunately, this rollout resulted in a much lower enrollment rate than anticipated, with the majority of service members in the Army, Navy, and Air Force not making an election and therefore staying in the Legacy plan. Service members have noted that lack of information and understanding is the main cause. This is where the RESOURCES Act comes in. It establishes a “do-over”- a second enrollment period that will focus on ensuring all eligible service members and their spouses receive BRS information in person and in small group settings that will discuss suitability for each service member based upon their individual circumstances. It will also require each service member and spouse to make an election and requires all E9 and O6 members to participate in the training regardless of their eligibility. The plan is that this second chance will provide access to education, equipping members with the needed information to make an informed decision, resulting in the improved military and veteran financial wellness.
AMBA hopes for a quick enactment and encourages all service members to research and be informed! You can access more information on the BRS by visiting https://militarypay.defense.gov/blendedretirement/.
You can also access more information on the RESOURCES Act by visiting Senator Patty Murray’s website where the details of the reintroduction of this bill are outlined. https://www.murray.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/newsreleases?ID=E7A36A4A-5DBE-474F-9E53-5A8421867D8C