A military Guard or reserve retirement can be an important part of a retirement funding plan, and reaching your 60th* birthday and becoming eligible to receive your Guard or reserve retirement is a big deal. If you're in this situation, congratulations, and thank you for your service!
It is important to know that Guard or reserve retirement pay doesn't start coming automatically; you have to apply for it. Applications for Guard or reserve retirement pay are sent to eligible members prior to their 60th birthday, at the address that the service has on file for the retiree. It is super-important that you ensure that the appropriate Reserve Personnel Command or State Headquarters has all your correct contact information at all times so that you don't get "lost in the cracks" when it comes to your retirement.
Reserve component members generally receive a retirement pay application via the regular mail during the year in which they are 58 years old. Guard members generally receive a retirement pay application via the regular mail approximately six months prior to their 60th birthday. If you don't receive your retirement pay application, please reach out to your Reserve Personnel Command or State Headquarters to see what has happened to your application!
Retirement pay applications must be completed and returned to the appropriate offices in order for retirement pay to start in a timely manner. For most retirees, that is the month following the month in which they turn 60.
The date of eligibility to begin receiving a Guard or reserve retirement is slightly different for certain reservists who served on extended active duty under certain conditions. For service after 28 January 2008, the age at which a retiree can draw retiree pay is reduced by three months for each aggregate 90 days of active duty service during any fiscal year. Effective 30 September 2014, that benefit is modified slightly to group the 90 days periods within two fiscal years. This calculation is a little tricky, but the Army's Human Resources Command has a super-thorough fact sheet with a calculator. Read through this page carefully if you think you qualify for reserve retirement pay prior to age 60. The earliest a reserve or Guard component member can begin receiving retirement pay is aged 50, regardless of the amount of eligible active duty time served.
Eligible Guard or reserve retirees who do not apply for their retirement pay when they turn 60 are eligible for full retro-active pay as long as the payments begin by the time they turn 66. After age 66, a penalty is applied to the payments. You definitely don't want to be penalized and lose any of those benefits that you have earned.
If you have friends or family that have earned military retirement pay from Guard or reserve service, please share this information with them to make sure that everyone understands the process and procedures for receiving retirement pay as earned.
If you've had any experience with this subject, I'd love to hear in the comments. We can all learn together!