Tools Of The Trade
Just like a carpenter would not build a house without the right tools, you shouldn't plan your retirement without the right retirement tools and resources. Now that you have over 17 years of service, tools and resources you should be using include: MyArmyBenefits, Soldier for Life, Veterans Affairs (VA), TRICARE, MyPay, and USAR Retirement websites.
A great place to start is MyArmyBenefits. This site provides you with a retired pay calculator to help you estimate what your retired pay will look like and allow you to adjust a number of variables such as the date you wish to retire and the potential rank you will retire with. In addition, there is a survivor benefit calculator that will provide you a great estimate of what your surviving spouse or dependent may receive when you die. There are a number of other great planning tools on this site to include federal and state fact sheets, situational videos, and a help line you can call Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Eastern Standard time.
One tool is never enough to complete a job, so the next tool you should be aware of is the Soldier for Life (SFL) website. The SFL site has information ranging from education, employment, retirement planning, and health information. This site should become your "operations center" once you have retired. It has all the quick links you'll need in one location.
Next on the list of tools in the VA website. I don't think I will need to explain this site in too much detail, but you should become familiar with the eBenefits portal of the VA. Here you can apply for and track your benefits status. Whether it's an education, disability or home loan benefit, you will be able to track it here.
TRICARE is the next tool for you to master. This is an area of particular importance to the retiring service member. You need to understand the various plans and times those plans go into effect. You will be able to find costs associated with each of the plans and determine if you want to purchase additional coverage for a dependent that may not have coverage of their own under TRICARE Young Adult.
MyPay is another tool that doesn't need too much explanation. Important items to understand here are your various accounts and how you can access them and manage them once retired. Your DS Logon user name and password will allow you continued access to your MyPay account and access to your tax documents. The big "hint" here is to create a DS Logon account before you retire, it is much easier that way.
Lastly, being an Army Reserve Soldier, there are some reserve specific items that you will need to be aware of. These can be found on the USAR Retirement website. Items of importance to you will be how and when to request your transfer to Retired Reserve, and most importantly how and when to APPLY for your retired pay. After all, what good is retirement if you aren't being paid for it!
The tools provided above and the links below should lay a great foundation for you to plan a smooth transition into retirement and actually enjoy it. You earned it!