For those with limited economic or scholarship options, the U.S. Army offers a way out. The Army exceeded its goal of 80,000 sign-ups in 2008 during the onset of the recession, according to "The New York Times." Housing, health care and at least a portion of college tuition bills are all covered when you join. You earn a signing bonus and annual pay, and you also have the satisfaction of serving your country.
The average active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army rakes in a $99,000 compensation package. Of that, $40,000 comes in cash and the rest comes in the form of health care, retirement pay, child care, free or subsidized food and housing. That bonus can come in handy, as was the case for one new soldier who told "NPR" he would postpone a private-sector career in engineering to enlist and use a $50,000 bonus to help his parents pay their mortgage. Plus, businesses often offer discounts to active-duty soldiers. You can get a break on anything from vacations to DVDs just by showing your U.S. Army identification.
Paying for School
Depending on your job and length of service in the Army, you can earn up to $50,000 for college through the Montgomery GI Bill. The Army will pay the full tuition for a graduate-level health care degree for medical, dental, veterinary, psychology or optometry school, and some medical and dental students can get a $20,000 signing bonus. As a soldier, you can train on the job to earn certifications for use after your discharge in medical fields, working with computers, repairing aircraft or filling administrative duties.
Active-duty soldiers earn 30 days of vacation a year, as well as paid weekends, holidays and sick days. You can buy life insurance in $10,000 increments up to $400,000. Premiums cost 6.5 cents per $1,000 of coverage, regardless of your age. When you retire, you can cash in your 401(k) savings. The Army’s retirement plan, the Thrift Savings Program, estimates that, if you put away 5 percent of your $40,000 annual income every year for 40 years, your retirement savings will grow to $664,722 at 6 percent annual interest.
More Than Money
Military recruiters say pride in your country is always among the top reasons to join the military, according to an article in "U.S. News & World Report." The report cites President Obama, who said that, in military service, soldiers find meaning in something greater than themselves. Joining the army can impart self-respect and courage. All soldiers must complete a grueling 10-week basic combat training course. If you can complete that, you can take pride in knowing you pushed yourself to your physical limits and use that experience to gain confidence you can use to overcome future challenges.
- The New York Times: More Americans Joining Military as Jobs Dwindle
- U.S. Army: Military Compensation, Benefits
- NPR: In Weak Economy, College Grads 'Surge' Into Military
- U.S. Army: Money for College
- U.S. Army: Scholarships
- U.S. Army: Career Training and Skills
- U.S. Army: Health Care and Vacation
- Thrift Savings Plan: Earnings Potential of Your TSP Account
- U.S. News & World Report: The Pros and Cons of Military Service
- U.S. Army: Basic Combat Training
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