Military life presents some unique opportunities that other citizens do not have, such as tax-free combat zone pay, $0 down payment mortgage loans, and the potential for retirement at an early age. Servicemembers also have the ability to invest financially in their futures through a variety of benefit options.
The earlier you start investing while you’re in the military, the better off you’ll be. Early investing creates disciplined financial habits and enables the magic of compounding to work longer. Investment returns compound when you earn returns not only on your initial investment, but also on your previous returns from that investment, which helps you harness market growth and build wealth.
In addition to the standard investment opportunities available to most people, there are some unique investment opportunities available to military servicemembers. The following list includes both general and military investment options.
Ways to Invest While in the Military
Your military pension is the most important financial benefit offered to servicemembers. The choices you make throughout your military career will impact your final payout. For active duty servicemembers, all of the military retirement systems include an annuity component if you serve 20 years, which is guaranteed by the government and increases for each additional year of service and with the cost of living. The higher your rank and the longer you serve, the greater your pension. For National Guard members and Reservists, your pension is based on a point system, which is determined by a number of factors, some of which your choices will dictate.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
The government-backed Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is one of the best retirement programs available. Similar to a 401(k), the TSP is an easy way to invest pre- or post-tax income for retirement. With the pre-tax option, you don’t pay tax on the income you contribute now, and your investments grow tax-free, but you do pay tax when you take distributions from the account in retirement. With the post-tax (Roth) option, your contribution is made after income taxes are paid, but the earnings grow tax free and withdrawals in retirement are not taxed. Best of all, the military will match up to 5% of your base pay. While the default investment (i.e., the G fund) is composed of low-risk government securities that provide conservative returns over time, there are also higher-risk options available for potentially greater gains.
Savings Deposit Program (SDP)
For servicemembers serving in a designated combat zone and receiving Hostile Fire Pay, the Savings Deposit Program can be used to save that money and earn 10% annual interest.
Investing in real estate offers a number of tax benefits, provides regular passive income, and can help protect against inflation. VA mortgage loans are a popular military benefit because you can qualify for a $0 down payment on most homes and they offer competitive interest rates. While VA Loans are not designed to be used for investment properties, there are still ways to use them that allow you to make money off rentals. For example, it is possible to purchase up to a quadplex (i.e., 4 units), as long as you are living in one of the units; you can rent out the other three.
While this is not a financial investment, it is an investment in your future — or in your children's or spouse’s futures — and it can save you a lot of money. In 2009, the military began allowing members to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children in exchange for extending their service. The transfer covers in-state tuition, housing, books, and supplies. Only servicemembers who have served at least six years are able to transfer their benefits.
Get Investment Management Support from AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust
Whatever your goals, risk tolerance, or time horizon, your personal team at AAFMAA Wealth Management & Trust LLC (AWM&T) can work with you to develop an investment strategy and define the right portfolio for you. Call 1-888-961-5427 or contact an AWM&T Relationship Manager online today to discuss your military investment options.