What is the CSB/REDUX retirement plan?
If you read my last article, you now know what the US Military retirement system looks like, and how much you stand to be paid at the end of your service should you serve a cumulative of 20 years of active service. I had mentioned the CSB/REDUX plan very shortly during the last article; giving a TL;DR statement that the CSB/REDUX is generally not a good deal.
So what is the CSB/REDUX? It stands for Career Status Bonus, which is a part of the REDUX retirement system. It sounds like they are two separate things; and in a way they are. But they are a package deal, as you cannot opt for one without opting for the other as well. The CSB bonus is a one-time payment of $30,000 to the Soldier enrolling in the CSB/REDUX program. It is payable on the first day of the 15th year of active service. This cash payment is taxable, though if you elect to receive the CSB and you are deployed to a Combat Tax Exempt zone on the 1st day of the 15th year of your service, it will not be taxed so long as your total compensation does not eclipse the pay of the CSM of the Army (as is tradition).
The thought process is that, at your 15th year of service, you should start looking to the future for what you will do when you retire. $30k of cash can open lots of possibilities up to you when planning for the future. Investing in a possible future business venture or civilian training or even a major purchase can help make sure you are ready to separate when the time comes.
But this bonus does not come free. As stated above, you must elect also to use the REDUX retirement system. The REDUX system changes your retirement pay in two key ways; it changes how your retirement multiplier is calculated and it changes the way your cost of living adjustment is calculated each year when you do retire.
So, let’s review the normal retirement (High 3 or 36) calculation for a refresher.
For the REDUX system, the equation is altered at the “Retirement multiplier” portion. But the change is two fold. The first 20 years of active federal service count for a multiplier of 2.0 instead of 2.5. Every year after the first 20 count for a multiplier of 3.5. So, the equation becomes more complex:
So the immediate implication of the adjustment is that, should you decide to retire at 20 YAFS, your retirement percentage would be 40% instead of the 50% that you would be getting with the High-36 system. REDUX attempts to make up for this by adding a whole point to the per year increase of the retirement multiplier (3.5 vs the 2.5 for High-36). Using this increased multiplier, a service member can get back to the whole 50% by their 23rd YAFS, and fully catch up to where the High-36 system would be comparatively by the 30th YAFS (though, it is worth noting here that very few service members are able to make it to their 30th YAFS due to the limited availability of promotions and slots).
The second change to the REDUX package compared to the High-36 is the COLA adjustment. As stated in the last article, the High-36 package adjusts retirement pay each year according to the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Normal adjustments are between 1-3%. REDUX plans the same way, except that the adjustment will be reduced by 1% point. For example, if the CPI increase for the year was 3% and someone with a High-36 plan had their pay increased by 3%, a REDUX plan increase would only be 2%.
The REDUX plan makes up for this with a one-time re-computation of retirement pay at age 62. The first adjustment is to the retirement multiplier. This adjustment effectively returns the multiplier to where it would be if the service member would have retired under the “High-36” system. For example, if you retire with the REDUX plan at 20 years, at age 62 your retirement multiplier will be changed from 40% to 50%. The same adjustment applies for any other YAFS calculation. The second adjustment is to the COLA. Like above, the COLA rate is caught up as if you were on the High-36 system. So every 1% that was missed out on is now adjusted back to the full percentage. However, after this adjustment, further COLA adjustments are still calculated at 1% below the CPI adjustment.
*As a non-footnote footnote, if a service member elects to receive the CSB and fails to reach 20 YAFS, the service member must repay a pro-rated share of the bonus.
The thought process behind the Armed Forces actually offering the CSB/REDUX package is two-fold. First, the system encourages long term service. This helps the Armed Forces keep more personnel in beyond the 20 year drop off, expanding the talent pool so that when promotion time comes around, the Armed Forces can select the highest possible qualified personnel.
Second, the program saves the government a significant chunk of money. There are several reasons for this, most of which I will get into in the next article.
But let me end with this. I do not look down on those who choose to take the CSB. In fact, it can be an extremely useful pot of money to draw on. It may not be in your financial best interests to take the bonus in most circumstances, but if it is wisely used, it can increase your quality of life and even help you navigate to a good career after retirement.
But the key word in that sentence was “Wisely”.
That being said, I am now back from my break. I will not be publishing a comic this week, but look forward to a new video on Monday!