7 Ways Military Pay and Benefits Provide an Advantage in an Uncertain Economy

Senior Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician Joephaz Sanchez, from Long Beach, California, explains flight deck operations from “vulture’s row” to students from the University of Tennessee Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps during a tour of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli in San Diego, March 29, 2024. Tripoli is an America-class amphibious assault ship homeported in San Diego. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman James Peer/Navy)

If you've been following our military's recruiting challenges, you're probably aware that missed goals have become commonplace. The fact that the U.S. is experiencing low unemployment is often cited as a contributing factor to those recruiting woes. Although plenty of folks will probably disagree with me, a couple of key factors that shouldn't be causing recruiting issues: money and benefits.

My son had me thinking about that. Actually, I was reading an article about the challenges of maintaining our all-volunteer force and was reflecting about how he benefited from serving. He graduated with his bachelor's degree last year and this fall will be headed to law school. All that, and thanks to the Post 9/11 GI Bill and Texas' Hazelwood Act, the financial impact on him -- and our family -- will be minimal.

Military life isn't for everyone, but before you dismiss it, read on. In an environment of sticky inflation, sky-high housing costs and a whole lot of uncertainty, military life does have some solid advantages. Here are seven that stand out.

1. Housing and the Housing Allowance

The collapse of housing prices predicted to follow the highest mortgage rates in decades has not materialized. In fact, buying a home is out of reach for more and more Americans. According to a report from S&P Global Market Intelligence at the end of last year, a majority of states (29) have housing that is not affordable to the median-income household. Of course, military members are provided housing or a housing allowance. Does that make them impervious to all of the effects of the current environment? No, but it certainly provides some serious insulation.

2. Health Care

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2023 Employer Health Benefits Survey, the average civilian employee pays $6,575 per year for their employer-subsidized family health-care coverage. On the military side, the service member pays nothing, and depending on the plan and when they joined, family members pay no more than $377 per year. That's a substantial advantage.

3. Regular Pay Increases

I've talked and written about the plentiful opportunities military life offers to do some financial good. If you're looking for money to boost your savings or pay down debt, in all likelihood, military life is going to help you "find" money you are not already spending. It will come in the form of a promotion, a time-in-service pay raise or the annual January increase Congress passes. On the civilian side of the fence, that's not always the case.

4. Relative Job Security

In today's tight job market, this may not seem like a big deal. However, having lived through multiple recessions, it's important to remember that what's happening today likely isn't what we'll experience tomorrow or next year.

5. Education Benefits

Whether you're looking for financial assistance with education while you serve or opportunities for your spouse to do the same, or you're charting your path after separation, military service comes with a host of benefits that do a tremendous job of making education financially feasible.

6. Paid Time Off

I've been working in corporate America for 20-plus years and work for a company that has a great benefits package. I'm very happy with my 36 days of paid time off. However, that's just a few days more than someone who's new to the military gets, and I don't get all the federal holidays and pop-up three- and four-day weekends.

7. Jump-Start on Retirement

The opportunity to contribute to a 401(k)-like plan, the Thrift Savings Plan, and the contributions the military makes to that plan provide an opportunity to leverage the power of compounding returns. While most who serve will not qualify for military retirement, by contributing to the TSP and taking advantage of this valuable benefit, all will be able to lay the foundation for a solid financial future.

This laundry list may not have you reenlisting or rushing to the nearest recruiter, but it should give you pause as you consider service or continued service. Good luck.

Keep Up With Military Pay Updates

Military pay benefits are constantly changing. Make sure you're up-to-date with everything you've earned. Subscribe to Military.com to receive updates on all of your military pay and benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.

Story Continues