There has been a lot of recent activity surrounding the new Blended Retirement System (BRS), and I don’t intend to reinvent the wheel and explain the whole system to you when there are some nice resources that already exist:
What I intend to do is give you a bottom line recommendation if you have a choice about using the current retirement system or going with the BRS.
If you know you are going to resign before you are eligible for retirement, you should select the BRS. Under the current system, you would get no retirement benefit, so that is a no-brainer.
If you are not sure how long you are going to stay in the Navy, you’ll have a tough decision to make. I’d read the above resources but also check out this article that discusses how flawed the BRS is:
If you know you are going to stick around long enough to be eligible for retirement, my personal opinion is that you should choose to stay with the current retirement system. There are a few reasons for this:
- The BRS shifts risk from the government to you. We buy insurance when there is a risk that we can’t bear ourselves. People buy health insurance because a huge hospital bill could financially ruin them. We buy life and disability insurance because if a breadwinner died or was disabled in our household we wouldn’t have enough money to continue our desired lifestyle. The current government pension system is like retirement insurance. When it comes to retirement, the largest financial risk you run is that you outlive your financial assets. Social security insures against that, but so does your military pension, which regular readers know I highly value. Although the BRS has a pension as well, it is reduced, shifting more of this risk to you.
- Shifting risk to yourself is fine if you invest diligently and aggressively and the market earns a decent return. The problem is that most people don’t invest diligently or aggressively and no one knows what the market return will be over the next 10, 20, or 30 years. There are many people who lack the financial education they need (go here or here to get it) and invest in the Thrift Savings Plan but keep their money in the default option when you sign up, the G Fund. There is nothing wrong with the G Fund and I have some of my own retirement assets invested in it, but it is not designed to earn a high return. It is designed to not lose money and beat inflation. In order to benefit from the extra TSP money that comes with the BRS, you have to earn a high return and will need to be smart enough to invest in something more aggressive than the G Fund.
- If you control your spending, live in a reasonable house, and drive a reasonable car, you can enjoy the higher pension of the old retirement system and fill up your TSP every year, enjoying the benefit of both worlds. We have routinely saved 30% of our pre-tax income for retirement during nearly our entire Navy career, invested aggressively, and reaped the benefits. And I have a retirement pension on top of that?!?! It doesn’t get any better than that.
A Distribution Guidance Memorandum or DGM is an internal Navy Personnel Command document that guides Detailing. Although most of the time this is not an issue in the Medical Corps if you have a reasonable Specialty Leader and Detailer, if you ever run into trouble getting what you need for your family/career and you have a high school senior, it might be worth it to peruse this new detailing guidance:
If you are interested in this position, contact your Specialty Leader or Detailer. The announcement is here. It would need to be filled in early to mid-2017:
Directly supervises 360 junior officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service. Coordinates the School of Medicine’s curriculum and educational programs in the third and fourth years, monitors academic performance in the third- and fourth-year students, and assists fourth-year students in their preparation for Graduate Medical Education applications and selection. Responsible for the School of Medicine’s academic standard in the clinical sciences, as well as personal and professional growth and development of individual students throughout their third and fourth years. Serves on standing committees that directly affect students, to include the Curriculum Committee, Student Promotions Committee, and Board on Review for Interservice Transfers.
I have a wife, two children, two dogs and the need for three bedrooms and two bathrooms. In March 2015 I purchased what I consider to be a modest 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath, 3000 square foot house in a nice neighborhood with quality public schools. The 4th bedroom is largely unnecessary, but like many people we occasionally have visitors and feel that it is nice to offer them a bedroom as opposed to a hotel. This is the story of how that 4th bedroom cost me over $100,000, far more than it would cost to provide our visitors with a hotel room…a REALLY NICE hotel room.
The Guest Room
The guest room and its accompanying full bathroom are approximately 600 square feet. The house sold for $140/square foot, meaning that this extra room and bathroom cost me $84,000. Where I live, you can get a decent hotel room for $100/night. In other words, I could have purchased 840 nights in a hotel room for any guests we have and I don’t think we’ll ever have 840 guest-nights unless we stay in this house for a very, very, long time. In addition, we have a quite comfortable queen size Lazy Boy sleeper couch that could have substituted for the guest room.
Running total: $84,000
The HVAC Incident
“The way they installed this, I don’t even think I can fix it.” That is not what I wanted my HVAC repair man to say, but that is what he said. The guest room did not have its own HVAC zone and because it is above the garage and the insulation is not what it could be, the guest room is always too hot or too cold. And what’s the point of a nice guestroom if it’s not comfortable? After spending $5,000, the guest room had its own wall mounted HVAC unit and zone.
Running total: $89,000
The Exchange Student
Since we have an $89,000 extra room with a bathroom and its own HVAC, we are hosting a Spanish exchange student during the upcoming school year. Hosting an exchange student will likely be a great experience for us all, as I assume it will expand our horizons and hopefully forge a lasting relationship with someone for us to visit in Spain.
I suspect this student, like most humans, will eat and drink and cost some money, so I’m adding that to the running total.
Running total: $89,000 plus whatever a 16-year-old boy eats and drinks during a school year.
Despite the fact that he is of driving age, he is not allowed to drive in the US. This, of course, led to…
The Manny Van
Sometime in August, I will have a wife, two kids, two dogs, and an exchange student. It is (was) going to be tough to get around and do the traveling we’d like to do in our Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion Hybrid. Having a 12, 15, and 16-year-old in the back seat, while technically feasible, was not going to be fun for anything other than the shortest of trips. Plus, we like to bring the dogs.
Enter the $32,500 2015 Toyota Sienna minivan, which I like to call the “manny van” when I’m driving it. I can now haul all living beings for whom I am responsible in the manliest of vans.
Running total: $121,500 plus whatever a 16-year-old boy eats and drinks in a school year
The Moral of the Story
One of the classic financial mistakes that almost all physicians make (including me apparently) is that they spend too much money, buying too expensive a car and too large of a house. Sometimes something as simple as wanting a guest room can lead to unintended and expensive consequences. If we didn’t have a guest room, I would probably have an extra $100,000 and I wouldn’t be driving a “manny van”.
If you work with any enlisted members (they don’t have to be medical) who you think would make an excellent physician, make sure they know about this program. The deadline for applicants is 1 NOV 2016:
I’ve significantly updated the old version of the promo prep document that has been downloaded over 2,000 times. It now includes:
- Screen shots so you can be sure to find what you’re looking for
- Actual images from my own officer record so you know you’re looking in the right place
- Updated promotion board statistics
- Appendix VIII – detailed instructions on how to obtain the Executive Medicine AQD (thanks to whoever created this at BUMED or PERS as I’m not sure exactly where it came from)
- Up-to-date lists of all the medical AQDs and service schools
It is new, improved, and as always the newest version can be found here:
Here are a PDF and link to the NAVADMIN: