FORT POLK — On Jan. 1, the federal government implemented a new retirement system for all military personnel, both active duty and reserve. Individuals entering the United States military for the first time after Jan. 1 will be automatically enrolled in the “Blended Retirement System,” sometimes referred to as the “BRS.”

The current retirement system, “The High 3 Retirement System”, will not be an option for these new recruits. However, those in military service before January 2018, with less than 12 years of active-duty service, or those with less than 4,320 points of reserve service, as of Dec. 31, 2017, will have the option of choosing between the two retirement systems, but the window of opportunity to change to the Blended Retirement System will close forever after Dec. 31.

For those eligible to convert to the new retirement system, if you do nothing, you will be continued in the High 3 Retirement System.

To be enrolled in the new Blended Retirement System, you must take affirmative steps to do so. If you opt to enroll in the Blended Retirement System on or before Dec. 31, that decision is irrevocable.

The BRS does have several advantages, especially if you do not intend to make a career of military service. In addition to receiving your regular pay and benefits during your service years, upon enrollment in the BRS, the federal government will automatically establish a thrift savings plan in your name and begin depositing an amount equal to 1 percent of your base pay into the account, at no cost to you. You don’t have to make any other contributions to your account if you don’t want to, or if you prefer, the federal government will match your personal contributions up to an additional 4 percent of your base pay.

If you take advantage of the maximum allowable contributions — yours and the government’s — you will be depositing a total of 10 percent of your base pay into your TSP account on a monthly basis, and furthermore, all of this money belongs to you just after two years of service. You can take the entire amount in your TSP account with you into civilian life, both your contributions, as well as all of the contributions made by the federal government. Depending upon the number of your service years, that can be a sizable sum, easing your transition into civilian life.

Also, you can still retire under the BRS and receive a monthly pension after 20 years of service, in addition to your TSP account. However, the monthly retirement pension under the BRS will be at a reduced rate when compared to the High 3 Retirement System.

Under the High 3 Retirement System you are eligible to retire upon reaching 20 years of service. Your monthly retirement pension is calculated by multiplying the number of your service years, usually 20 years, by an average of the three highest years of your base pay, and then multiplying that sum by 2.5 percent.

However, under the BRS, the multiplier of 2.5 percent is reduced to 2.0 percent. All of the remaining variables will remain the same.

For more information on these benefits, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the BRS, visit these websites:

• Military One Source (non-CAC enabled): http://jko.jten.mil/courses/brs/OPT-IN/launch.html;

• DoD BRS website: http://militarypay.defense.gov/BlendedRetirement/;

• DoD BRS online calculator: http://militarypay.defense.gov/Calculators/BRS/;

• TSP Investment Funds:

https://www.tsp.gov/InvestmentFunds/index.html;

• DoD BRS FAQs: http://militarypay.defense.gov/Portals/3/Documents/BlendedRetirementDocuments/BRSFrequently Asked Questions 6.12.2017.pdf?ver=2017-06-13-121623-383.