Tips to Maximize Your National Guard Retirement Pay

Today, I’d like to talk about your Army Reserve or National Guard Retirement Pay and provide you some tips on how to maximize your pension.  Many soldiers serve in the Army National Guard or Army Reserve so they can get a pension when they are 60.  For most people, this is a great deal.  Since very few employers offer a traditional pension anymore, this can be a great way to improve your standard of living and financial situation during your retirement years.

Working on a part-time basis of just one weekend per month and a couple weeks per year, you can build a decent pension of $400 to $2000 (or more) per month while serving in the Army National Guard as a part-time soldier.  What I like about this is that you can also have  a civilian career (or business) while you serve, so you could potentially have two pensions (or two retirement accounts).  In addition to the military pension, you can also fund your Thrift Savings Plan while you serve.

Of course, there are a lot of factors that will ultimately determine HOW MUCH of a military pension you will receive.  If you do the bare bones minimum, don’t acquire more than 50 retirement points per year, and retire as a Specialist, you won’t get much!  Ultimately, it’s your rank, time in service and total retirement points that will decide how much money you will get when you retire.

Knowing that those three factors will determine how much you get when you retire, you can do a few simple things to maximize your pension.  To help you do that, I’d like to share some of my best tips to maximize your National Guard Retirement Pay.  These are just some helpful lessons I learned during my part-time military career.

  1. Calculate Your Current Pension: It simply amazes me how many people tell me they are serving so they can get a pension, yet they have no idea how much their pension will be when they do retire.  If you are doing it for the pension (there’s nothing wrong with that) visit the HRC website and calculate what your current pension will be.  Mess around with the numbers (points, rank, and years of service) to see what you would need to accomplish to reach your financial goal (pension amount).  The numbers might surprise you.
  2.  Try to do at least 100 points per year The minimum points requirement for a “good year” is 50 points.  You get 15 points for being a member, and normally get 4 points per drill weekend and 14 points per annual training (averages).  As you can see, it’s really easy to get 50 points per year.  From  my experience I’ve found that if you attend all of your unit training, you should have about 60-75 points per year.  Personally, I would make it a goal to try and get at least 100 points per year.  These points accumulate each year of your service.  Your goal is to get as many retirement points as you can before you retire.
  3. Attend  One School Per Year: Stay on top of your military education.  Take OES/NCOES , MOS, professional development and related schools whenever possible.  If you get offered Airborne, Air Assault, Ranger or any other professional school, TAKE IT.  This will help you get promoted faster, will teach you new skills, and will help you get more retirement points.  You have opportunities to attend courses or do them online.
  4. Volunteer to Serve on ADOS at Your Unit: When possible, or if your schedule permits, try to work at least 14-30 days of temporary Active Duty each year (often referred to as ADOS).  During this time, you will get Active Duty pay and you will get one retirement point per day served.
  5. Volunteer for a Deployment: Deploying is a good thing.  Not only will you get a lot of real world experience, travel the world, and earn a nice paycheck, but you will also accumulate a lot of retirement points.  If you deploy for a year, you will get 365 points.  For most soldiers, that’s the equivalent (in points) to FIVE to SEVEN years serving part-time.  It’s the easiest way to get a lot of retirement points quickly.
  6. Take Correspondence Courses: Believe it or not, you can earn retirement points for some of your military education.  In particular, you can earn retirement points (and promotion points) for completing correspondence course.  Sit down with your unit Readiness NCO or unit S1 and find out how you can sign up for some of these correspondence courses.  I believe that 5 correspondence credits are worth one retirement point, but please double check to make sure.
  7. Stay in Shape So You Can Get Promoted: You would be amazed at how many soldiers cannot get promoted because they are obese and can’t pass the APFT or HT/WT.  There are few things worse than seeing a good soldier who can’t get promoted because he is fat.  Do whatever it takes to stay in shape and pass your APFT and HT/WT each year.  Missing out on a couple of promotions during your career can cost you a lot in retirement pay.  Just staying in shape will keep you ahead of 40-50% of your peers who can’t get promoted because they are overweight or can’t pass the APFT.
  8. Know Your Minimum Time in Grade Requirements: Know the minimum time you have to spend at each rank.  Come up with a plan to get promoted at minimum TIG whenever possible.  You won’t get promoted to every rank at the minimum time, but even doing this once or twice during your career can make a big difference in your pension.

Once again, these are just some tips I learned during my time in the military to maximize my National Guard Retirement Pay.  Of course, the three biggest factors are your rank, time in service and retirement points.

Final Thoughts

I believe every Soldier (who wants to make a career out of the military) has an obligation to himself and his family to get the MOST money they can in their military pension.  If you’re going to serve, why not achieve the most that you can?  To do so, follow the steps listed above and you will be well on your way to having a nice National Guard Pension.  Good luck!

What are your thoughts?  What tips can you share with our readers to maximize your National Guard Retirement Pay?  Please leave a comment to share your thoughts or check out my Army Officer Guide to learn more. Remember, you are the one who cares most about your future.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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2 thoughts on “Tips to Maximize Your National Guard Retirement Pay”

  1. Thanks for adding these tips. It’s always a good idea to sit down with your husband or wife to discuss your financial future. There are different retirement options in the military than in the private sector. It sometimes pays off to sit down with a professional financial advisor to review your options. In the mean time, these tips are a good explanation of what you can expect dow the road.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Michelle.

      I believe all families should have more money discussions. Both spouses should talk about their goals, what they want to accomplish and how they plan to do it.

      For most families, the retirement benefits offered by National Guard are a very good deal, especially if you don’t have a pension or good retirement plan at your regular place of employment.


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