Weighing the cost: financial benefits of military service

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- As military members, we are often tasked with long hours and working under difficult or even dangerous circumstances. It is easy to believe that a career in the private sector would be easier, however the military's numerous financial benefits (education, tax savings, healthcare and retirement) should be considered when weighing continued service against a foray into the corporate world. 

As the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed, educational benefits have increased in value. Educational benefits, from tuition assistance to fully funded undergraduate and advanced degree programs, are important to consider when calculating military compensation. 

Many of you have already seen tax related benefits associated with military service. A tax free 12-month stay in the sand can net you a hefty sum of money. 

Also consider the medical benefits of military service. With private-sector insurance plans costing more than $5,000 for family coverage, military health-care benefits are an important component of total compensation; in addition, its value will change according to the number of family members covered. 

The Retirement benefits should certainly be weighed, when considering trading in a uniform for a suit and tie. If you enlisted when you were 18 years old, you will have already received roughly $500,000 by the time most of your civilian counterparts touch their first retirement check. On top of that, your pension will continue to be adjusted every year to account for cost of living increases. 

Although the sacrifices we make in the service of our country are often challenging and have high costs, it is important to recognize the very tangible benefits that accompany our profession of arms.