DoD blended retirement now has more than half a million enrollees

At the end of 2018, service members had their last chance to decide if they wanted to opt in to the Defense Department’s new blended retirement system.

Two weeks after the cut off, DoD now says more than 400,000 service members signed up for the blended retirement system (BRS) and 150,000 new service members were automatically enrolled in the program.

“We are immensely proud of the incredible efforts it took to design and implement the policy and educate and train our forces on the Blended Retirement System,” said James Stewart, who is performing the duties of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. “We see BRS as an important change that will set America’s service members on the path toward greater financial flexibility, responsibility and security.”

BRS combines the traditional pension program with a 401(k) savings plan tied to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP contributions begin at the start of a military members’ career, so they do not have to serve a full 20 years to gain retirement benefits.

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Although anyone who joins the military after Jan. 1, 2018 will automatically be enrolled in BRS, service members who joined the military before that date and have served for fewer than 12 years had the option to opt-in or not.

In its first year, DoD contributed more than $300 million to service member’s TSP accounts.

BRS opt-in enrollment saw a large surge in December. As of Nov. 26, about 300,000 of the 1.6 million service members had signed up for the program, meaning more than 100,000 signed up in December.

“It is a highly personal choice to opt-in to BRS, with many factors that can affect a member’s decision,” said Jeri Busch, the Defense Department’s director of military compensation policy. “The department’s goal remains to make sure that each eligible service member has the resources and tools to make a well-informed and educated choice that is best for them and their family.”

DoD said it did not have a benchmark for how many service members it wanted to opt-in to BRS.