Community Manager
Community Manager
2 Comments (2 New)

On Jan. 1, 2018, the Department of Defense is replacing the current military retirement plan, the High-3, with the new Blended Retirement System (BRS). To help those facing the retirement plan decision, we’ve provided an overview of the BRS and how this new plan affects you. Additional resources can be found at


USAA Member Community - Blended Retirement System1 



USAA Member Community - Blended Retirement System 2




The two systems are easy to compare based on whether or not you plan to retire from the military.


Your situation: You plan to retire from the military

  • Best Choice: High-3 (old system)
  • Why: Your retirement benefit under the High-3 system includes a larger pension. However, if you separate without retiring, you’ll leave without any government-provided retirement benefits. Keep in mind that you must retire from the military to receive the military pension. According to the DOD, only 19% serve long enough to qualify for retirement benefits under the High-3 system.

Your situation: You plan to separate before reaching military retirement or are unsure if you will make it to a military retirement.

  • Best Choice: BRS
  • Why: Under BRS, you can leave the military before 20 years and keep your vested DOD automatic and matching contributions. This is important since DOD reports that 81% of military members do not retire from the military and thus would not receive any retirement benefit under the High-3 system. If you serve long enough to retire from the military, the BRS still includes a pension for life.

Next: Consider how your military career goals will impact your retirement needs.

USAA has developed the Military Retirement Comparison Tool to help you compare the High-3 and BRS from a financial perspective based on your military career goals. The tool is available to the public, and you can find it at or the USAA Mobile App.


Between Now and Then

Before the BRS takes effect in 2018:

  • Research how the changes may affect your retirement plans.
  • If you aren’t already funding your retirement savings, make a plan and get started.
  • Make it a priority to contribute to your retirement savings. The general rule of thumb is to save 10% to 15% of your pre-tax income — or whatever amount is needed to reach your retirement goal.
  • If you are considering the BRS, remember that you must contribute at least 5% of your basic pay to the TSP in order to receive the full benefit of the DOD match.Visit where you can find tools and other resources to help you navigate the change to BRS. 



Additional Resource:
USAA Launches Military Retirement Comparison Tool -
Press Release


No Department of Defense or government agency endorsement.


The Department of Defense will release more details of the plan before 2018. Details of the plan are subject to change pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approval.


Information is accurate as of Jan. 2017 and is intended for use by USAA, its members, and prospects.


The information contained is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining professional financial advice. Please thoroughly research and seek professional advice before acting on any information you may have found in this article. This article is no way attempts to provide financial advice that relates to all personal circumstances.


USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its affiliates.

AF Dentist
New Member
As a Civil Service Employee I already fully fund my TSP. However, I’m also in the National Guard with 11 years of service. Now that BRS is an option I’m trying to compare shifting a portion of my funding from civil service to national guard to switch from 5% - 10% matching; however, I can’t find any calculators that can show me estimates and comparisons. Thanks!
Community Manager
Community Manager

AF Dentist,

Thank you for reaching out.  First of all, let me congratulate you for fully funding your TSP. You are a role model for many other military members.  The question you ask is a great one but let me answer it in a different way. 


Ask yourself if you will retire from the military.  If you retire from the military, in most cases, the High-3 (current system) is the better option.  As we have run the calculations, the 20% decrease  military pension is hard to overcome.  Considering you only have 9 more years until you qualify for military retirement, you have even less time to make up the 20% decease than someone who has only been in for 1 or 2 years.


If you want to see the two systems side by side, visit our website at and click on "Get Started" to run our Military Retirement Comparison Tool.  The tool will help you compare the BRS and High-3 retirement system based on when you plan to leave the military.  Again, I want to highlight that if you retire from the military, you maximize your benefit in the High-3 system. 


So, we see that the BRS decision is not so much a numbers decision but a career decision.  

  • For those with a lower chance of retiring from the military (early in career) or those who simply do not desire to retire from the military, BRS is the better option since at least they get something through the DoD automatic and matching contribution.  Under the High-3, those that don't retire from the military receive no government provided retirement benefit.
  • For those with a higher chance of retiring from the military (later in career), the High-3 might be a better choice.  However, remember that sometimes, staying in the military is not your decision.  We all have friends that have been released from military service at the 12-16 year point and not given a chance to retire.  Maybe your career field is over manned or your performance reports have not been up to the level for you to promote.  If you stay with the High-3, you are betting on military retirement but if you switch to the BRS, you have options.  You have the option of the DoD matching contributions but also the option of still receiving a military pension if you retire from the military.

Thank you again for the great question!