Retirement: Time passes quickly, so make sure you have a "Good Year"

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Veronica Aceveda
  • 512th AW Public Affairs
Are you going to have a good year?"

I've learned it's not just the new reservists who are uncertain of how the Reserve retirement points system works but seasoned Citizen Airmen as well.

Originally, I was one of them. I had probably been in the Reserve a few years when the military's personnel arena began shifting from using hardcopy records to digital scans. During this period, they returned a batch of papers to me, which included a Points Credit Summary. Previously, I had received them in the mail annually, but I had never actually paid any attention to them. I quickly learned I should have.

At first glance, it appeared to be a sheet of numbers and codes only decipherable by an Egyptian hieroglyphics expert. But, as I took a closer look, I thought to myself, "If I'm reading this right, this isn't right."

In the following days, I discovered several weeks worth of orders were missing; and, more importantly, I had three bad years, meaning three years of my military career was not being counted toward my 20-year retirement goal.

That was a hard pill to swallow; but, since that time, I've vowed to help educate as many reservists as I can on the importance of reviewing and understanding the Points Credit Summary as it plays a major role in one's retirement plan.

So, when an Airman asks, "What's a good year?" I answer that question with another question, "What's your retention and retirement date?"

Several people I've explained the points system to are surprised to learn their R/R date is the date they took the oath into the military. Some have even thought retirement points were accumulated by the fiscal year or calendar year, but in fact, each person's retirement points are collectively added over the course of the 12 consecutive months following their R/R date.

For example, I joined on July 17, and that is my R/R date. So, every point I earn from July 17, 2011, to July 16, 2012, will determine whether or not I have a good year.
Reservists must earn at least 50 points within their R/R year to credit one year toward a 20-year retirement.

Now that we know how many points we need for a good year, let's take a look at how to earn those points.

Reservists in good standing automatically receive 15 membership points each full R/R year.

If that's the case, then Airman Justin A. Example only needs an additional 35 points to make that R/R year a satisfactory year toward retirement.

In a perfect world, where Airmen are able to fulfill each of the four periods in a UTA, they can acquire four points for each UTA weekend. Twelve months worth of UTAs can equal 48 points.

More points can be acquired through deployments, man-days and authorized schools such as the NCO Academy.

The opportunities to record more than the minimum 50 points definitely exist, especially in today's wartime environment.

However, what happens when life happens? Drills are missed and points are forfeited. This leads to what I consider the most challenging part of ensuring a good year - scheduling annual tour dates.

One point is earned for each day of annual tour performed.

While it's understood the mission comes first in the military, it's your responsibility to try and schedule your annual tour to meet the needs of your unit, keeping both your ability to have a good year in mind as well as your fiscal participation requirement.

For example, I missed two UTAs during my current R/R year, which began July 17. I'm now eight points behind in UTA points; so, I will try my best to coordinate my annual tour in April 2012, which is before my R/R end date of July 16, 2012.

Here's the tricky part, referred to as dual tracking. In addition to ensuring you have 50 points within your R/R year, you must also ensure you fulfill the participation requirements within each fiscal year. Traditional reservists and Air Reserve Technicians must complete 14 days of annual tour and 48 inactive duty training periods every fiscal year from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

So, if I can schedule all of my annual tour days in April 2012, this would allow me to gain the necessary points needed for a good R/R year and fill the square of performing my annual tour before the end of the fiscal year.

Again, the decision to schedule one's annual tour, either before or after the R/R date is what I've noticed causes the most complications when trying to master the points or retirement system.

I believe the confusion heightens with each new fiscal year when a fresh set of annual tour dates are to be had. Many people start plugging away at their annual tour dates without any regard to how it affects their R/R year.

Many can say they've been in for years and have never had a problem, but for others they may not be so lucky, such as in my case.

Every time, someone asks me how many years I have in the service, I pause and internalize whether or not to "go there" and include my bad years.

If I answered the truth, the answer would be 21 years. Then, I'd hear something to the affect of, "Oh, you can retire anytime now."

But, that's not the case. So, instead I say, "18 years." And, I usually hear comments like, "Oh, you're so close."

That's when I really think to myself, "If you only knew."

While I've only covered some of the basics of understanding a good year, I highly encourage you to review, learn and understand your Points Credit Summary.

It can be downloaded through the vMPF by clicking on the following: Self Service Actions, Personal Data, ANG/USAFR Point Credit Summary Inquiry and View All.