4 Key Steps in the March Toward a Comfortable Retirement

2) Open a Roth IRA

Putting money in a Roth is a good move for just about anyone. You invest post-tax money but then your investments grow tax-free and your contributions can be withdrawn with no penalty at any time if you find yourself strapped for cash. But a Roth is particularly smart for service members. The money you earn while in a combat zone is officially tax-exempt, so saving in a Roth (up to the 2015 federal limit of $5,500 a year) is effectively investing 100% tax-free. The wider array of investment vehicles available with a Roth is also a good way to diversify your overall portfolio.

3) Select a survivor benefit annuity

If you’re retiring after 20 years of service or more and are eligible for a pension, you’ll be automatically enrolled in this annuity plan, which allows your spouse or kids to receive your pension benefits after you die. Most veterans pay up to 6.5% of their monthly pension to participate, and their families then receive 55% of the veteran’s monthly pension upon his or her death. You can also decide on a lower payout at a lower cost, or opt out altogether. “Depending on your health, you may be able to buy a large life-insurance policy for a lower monthly premium than the SBP [Survivor Benefit Plan],” says Ryan Guina, who writes a military benefits blog, the Military Wallet.

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