Middle-Class Military Members Say They're Concerned About Retirement

11/30/2011 12:43 pm ET

In a sign that enlistment isn't such a surefire long-term investment, only slightly more than a third of middle-class members of the military say they're very confident in their ability to retire, according to a recent survey.

Thirty-four percent of senior non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers making at least $50,000 per year said that they are extremely or very confident in their ability to retire, a survey from First Command Financial Services finds. And only slightly more survey respondents -- just 37 percent -- said they're extremely or very confident that their finances will get better in the next year.

Military households' concerns about their retirement mirrors a larger trend. Seventy-five percent of small business owners said Americans are so unprepared for retirement that it's becoming a national crisis, according to a survey from Nationwide Financials. And one-quarter of middle-class Americans said they don't think they'll be able to afford to retire until they're 80, a Wells Fargo survey found.

And the majority of Americans understand the severity of the problem. Two-thirds of Americans said in a recent Gallup poll that not having enough money for retirement is their top financial concern, up from 53 percent ten years ago.

But retirement planning may be of particular concern to members of the military, whose retirement benefits may be on the chopping block. The Congressional supercommittee's failure to agree on a deficit reduction program could trigger $500 billion in Defense Department spending cuts, putting service members' retirement benefits at risk, according to The New York Times.

In addition, an influential Defense Department panel is considering an overhaul of the military retirement system, CBS News reported in August. If the changes took effect, it would save $250 billion over the next two decades by eliminating the current system, which allows anyone who served for 20 years or more to retire at half their salary. Instead, the proposal would give service members access to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Retirement concerns aren't the only financial troubles service members are facing. Banks may have illegally foreclosed on homes belonging to 5,000 active-duty members of the military and their families. In addition, an October lawsuit claims that 13 banks charged service members hidden and illegal fees to veterans trying to refinance their homes.