With my upcoming military leave for technical school (6-9 months depending on seasoning training) I’ve begun to investigate my civilian employers military leave policy (beyond the basic requirements by law). I learned the only real benefit is I will continue to accrue paid time off PTO while I am on military leave. This is nothing to scoff at and a fantastic benefit. I had the same benefit while working for a sheriff’s office when I deployed to Iraq for 2 full years. I returned with more PTO than what was allowed (280 hours) and had to take one day off a pay period for the next year or so just to stay under the max.
In my current role in health care I accrue at just over 8 hours per pay period (generous but we have to use it for federal holidays and sick leave as well). So I created a calculator in excel to forecast what my PTO balance will grow to when I return (Download Excel PTO CALCULATOR). I quickly realized that I could potentially go over the maximum (to which I will stop earning). This left me with the amazing dilemma of having the option to take 4-6 weeks of PTO in the next 4-5 months while still taking care of a relatively heavy workload.
It’s also put me in what I’ll call the FI’ers dilemma. Do I use my PTO for actual days off during my work time or do I exercise my option to use it up during my first part of military leave (double dipping!). I’m working toward FI so that I don’t have to work if I don’t want to; so it makes sense to use the time to not work right now, after all we in this community know time is our finite resource. On the other hand, just cashing it out while on leave would be a decent bonus check and get us to FI faster!
Both sides of the coin are attractive and there are many other factors that go into the decision. For me, I’ve decided to use the days as actual PTO. One reason is my realization that I prefer working towards a life that I don’t need to take a vacation from and so I’m treating the path to FI less of a sprint and more of a distance race; slow and steady. One reason I have so much PTO built up is I haven’t felt or had the need to use it. I’ve managed a career with a flexible schedule so I don’t take time for medical appointments, I can work remote some days, and generally I enjoy the work I do-it’s both challenging and rewarding. I also have never taken a sick day at my current job, but I’ll deep dive into the topic of health in future posts.
Another main factor is the weather. As any Minnesotan will tell you the season is a big factor in taking PTO. I’ll be taking the time off in the summer and fall – when there is ample opportunity for outdoor activity and bbq’s at the lake. If it were winter, I’d be tempted to cash the PTO out because I almost would rather go to work than be stuck in the house (not really, I have ample winter activities to keep me sane).
While I’m very appreciative to know that when I return from my military leave I’ll have PTO built up to be able to take several weeks of vacation in addition to the up to 90 days unpaid time off between training and going back to work, I am aware of some benefits offered by non non-profits.
When I worked for the county I also received up to 15 days of paid military leave per year (a fairly common practice). I currently have an Air Force colleague on full time orders who works for General Dynamics in his civilian role. General Dynamics pays (at least for their position, I can’t speak to the whole company) the difference between civilian salary and military base salary. Yes, base salary -so without BAH and other fluff calculated in. In this case, General Dynamics pays them $40k a year on top of their E7 military salary. I had another fellow soldier who while deployed to Iraq for nearly 2 years earned half of his regular salary from 3M the entire time! Needless to say, he got a new truck and camper when we got home.
My advice is to be aware of what benefits your employer offers and any potential employers if you are searching for new employment. While I haven’t yet, it may also be worth your while to advocate for increased benefits at your employer. You can arm yourself with information on what similar employers are offering and educate them on the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve awards you would definitely nominate them for.
What military leave benefits does your employer offer right now?