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What is Your Retirement Worth?

I just read the article about the Quality of Life Survey in the June SERGEANTS and have to wonder how many of the respondents know the true value of their retirement.

Now that I am retired from the Air Force and have recently begun thinking about "total" Retirement in 2009 , I have evaluated where I am today in terms of finances and where I'll be then. Part of this evaluation included determining just how much my retired pay is worth. Many retirement planners use a standard of $200,000 earnings 6% interest to generate a monthly income of a $1000. That means my current retirement Pay (CMSGT w/27 yrs and COLA for the past five years) is roughly equivalent to having $450,000 in the bank. I compare that to the $278,000 profit sharing account my brother-in-law has after 30 years and feel quite satisfied.

There are a number of differences between my account and his. For one thing, his account could be worth $1 million by the time we retire while mine will only grow to about $550,000. His will still be there when he dies, while mine will simply disappear , except for the part covered by the Survivor's Benefit Plan. There are also intangibles, the family separations , the moves, my measly $478 a month in 1978 - for which this does not begin to compensate.

Furthermore, as a letter carrier, I am in the Federal Service's Thrift Saving's Plan. I see the value of the monthly deposits being added to my retirement account and compounding. I see for myself what it would have taken me to make enough such deposits over my military career to amass a retirement account worth the $450,000 I now enjoy. If I were to add that to my past salaries, I'd probably be shocked at what I really made.

Since I also take part in the Federal Health Benefits Program, I now know more about what the true value of health care was all those years on active duty, even though my health care was excellent. I'm still evaluating TRICARE, but retirement was an eye-opener to say the least.

So, while I won't tell anyone to stop complaining about pay and allowances, I will ask them to stop and think a little about what it is they are really complaining about. Government employees (military or otherwise) will always get a raw deal when it comes to pay , but then most of us are (or were) in it for the "right" reasons and not just the money. Heck, I work a lot harder physically then then I ever did when I was on active duty, for a lot less Take-home pay. But, I also know that my family will never go hungry or homeless , job or no job.

   CMSGT (Ret.) David K. Detert
   Monach Beach, CA.

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This site maintained by Roger Shaw and Charlie Broussard
Last updated 09/14/2001