What all financial benefits are there to joining the military

There is veteran’s healthcare, the GI bill and pensions for when you get out. What other benefits are there when you get out? What all benefits do you get while in? I hear you get a food and housing subsidy. What else?

You’d think that Wesley Clark would know the answer to all of this…

After leaing service:
The pension is probably the biggest extra benefit. Someone who spends 20 years in will draw 1/2 of their last base pay for life (some time in rank restrictions may apply). The 50% increases 2.5% for each year over 20 up to 30 years in.
For an enlisted man who joins at 18 and retires as an E-7 (Chief Petty Officer / Gunnery sgt / etc.), this would be a pension of about 20K per year (0.5 x E-7 base pay of $3341/month). For an officer who gets commisioned at 21 and retires as an O-5, this would be a pension of about $39K/year.

Neither of these sound huge, but remember, those folks would be retiring at 38 and 41 respectively, with 20-30 more years in the working world. To save enough money to pull 20K per year from 38 to age 95, the 18 year old enlistee would have to sock away about 10K/year for his 20 years, and the officer would have to save 18K/year (or so Quicken tells me… assuming 11% return, 4% inflation, all amounts in todays dollars).

Health care for life is a good retirement benefit. (must do 20 years)

VA mortgage qualification (ability to buy a house with little or no money down and no requirement to buy mortgage insurance). All vets get this.

Preferential treatment for govt jobs (all vets).

Some additional financial benefits while still in:

A chunk of income is considered tax free (anything that is an “allowance” is tax free, such as allowance for quarters, allowance for subsistance).

There are various monthly incentive pays for both officers and enlisted with critical skills (doctors, submariners, pilots, etc.) These range from $100 on up to $1000 a month or more.

Re-enlistment bonuses are also paid to critical skill members once their initial commitments are up.

When in an official combat zone, all income is usually considered tax free.

For detailed info on military pay rates, see http://www.dfas.mil/money/milpay/pay/

Tuition assistance (at least for the Navy) will pay 100% of college course cost up to some limit.

Officers may have the chance to go full time to a graduate program while receiving full pay and the govt paying the cost of tuition

Low cost life insurance through the serviceman’s group life insurance

Health care for you and your family with no extra premiums and very reasonable co-pays (if any).

That’s what comes to mind off the bat.

When I lived in the barracks I had no rent and no utility bills other than the phone. I had free, complete health care. I ate in the chow hall except for all the non-nutritious snacks I kept in my minifridge. I rarely ate out. I had $250,000 life insurance for a nominal monthly fee (not that that was much of a benefit, as I had no dependents).

I made a better salary than I had ever made before (I was in my late 20s when I joined) and was able to put 1/3 of my salary into savings and investments every month. On a good month I could put 1/2 my salary into savings and investments.

I got out of the Army with a tidy chunk of money–approximately two years’ salary. I consider that a @#%-load of money.

Money-wise, the Army was very good for me.

Oh yeah, and the job I did in the Army turned out to be something I could also do in the civilian world for pretty good money.

It might not seem important to you now, but the best thing about being in the Navy in Korea for my dad is that now that he’s 73 and takes a lot of very expensive medications, he can get them at the VA for next to nothing. He says it’s the only thing the Navy ever did for him.

I feel someone has to mention that, while military pay & benefits can seem pretty good to a single person who lacks job experience and/or marketable skills that would be necessary to land a good-paying civilian job, it can come up short for enilisted men in the lower pay grades who have dependents. There are many families of corporals and below that have to apply for food stamps to get by. (As my ex-husband told me, if the Marine Corps had wanted him to have a wife, they would have issued one to him.)

And I’ve heard some griping about VA medical care from some veterans, my dad included (he doesn’t mind the free meds, but the crap he has to go through to get them…). I was not exactly impressed with the level of medical care I got as a military dependent.

Just thought this thread needed some balance, lest it seem the military is a ticket to easy street, financially.

I agree that the lower enlisted ranks are no ticket to easy street – especially for those with families. Those with marketable skills (=better options) who have families would do better not joining the military as junior enlisted. But lacking skills to get a better job, making $16K/yr as a private is still better than making $11K/yr stocking shelves at WalMart. (At least from a strictly financial perspective, and not factoing that as a WalMart employee you’re unlikey to get sent to Iraq and get shot at.)

But as bluethree points out, a single (and fiscally careful) junior enlisted person can still sock away a sizeable chunk of money because so much else is paid for.

Officers, on the other hand, are actually paid pretty well. As a former officer who got out and to work in industry, I can say that I’d have been financially better off had I stayed in.

For example, an O-4 (Lieutentant Commander or Major) with 14 years in would be making per month:
$5571 base pay
$988 housing allowance (non taxable)
$175 subsistance allowance (non taxable)
=$6734/mo or $80,808/year

For a pilot, it’s even better:
add $840/mo flight pay (at 14 yrs in)
Pilot extention bonus (after initial commitment) - could be $25K/yr

This doesn’t include:

  • Tax advantage of allowances
  • Extra additional pays (such as imminent danger pay ($225), hazardous duty pay ($150), sea pay (~$200), family separation pay ($250))
  • The other non-pay benefits I mentioned earlier.
  • Extra money for housing if stationed in a high cost area

While this isn’t CEO level pay by any stretch, it compares very favorably to what equally talented and motivated people are getting paid on the outside.

USAF also has the same tuition assistance. SGLI, the Servicemembers Group Life Insurance is automatically offered up to $250k ($15 or so/mo?) for members, $100k (for about $10/month) for spouses and something like $10k for kids (free), no medical required for the dependents. Maybe good for spouses who are otherwise difficult to get life insurance for.

There are good benefits, and I won’t have to rehash them from above.

Why did I get out of the Army? Well, money. As a single soldier, it sucked seeing married soldiers get paid for their mortgage payments and food bills, while I had to stay in a shitty barracks with two other uncouth single, nasty people. These were the good barracks with thier own bathroom – others were 8-man (err, “person”) with community bathrooms.

(Actually, Germany was awesome; we single guys lived in apartments and had kitchens; if I’d never left Germany I’d’ve had no complaints).

Career-wise, best decision I ever made was to leave the Army. But, I’ll offer that it was the Army that launched my civilian career. And I left on good terms. Just that little monetary-equality thing, you know?

So, I guess I’ll say you can get good benefits, but consider the entire quality of life issues, too.