Do you ever want to take a break from the military? I’m not talking about separating or retiring. Those are usually permanent decisions. I’m talking about taking a couple years off to pursue other goals. Maybe you want to earn a degree but the military isn’t willing to send you to school and you don’t have time to do it after work. Maybe you want to travel the world while you are young. Or maybe you have an ill parent who needs a caretaker, or you want to stay home with your kids for awhile. There are a lot of reasons why people might want to leave the military for a short time, even if they don’t want to leave permanently. Enter the Career Intermission Program.
Career Intermission Program
The Career Intermission Program (CIP) began as the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP) in 2009, when Congress authorized the Services to allow members to take up to 3 years off active duty. The purpose of the program was to allow servicemembers to pursue personal and professional goals. It is being used as a retention tool, because it allows people to step away from service for a short time instead of forcing them to leave permanently in order to achieve their goals.
According to this Government Accountability Office report, between 2009 and 2016, 192 officers and enlisted members participated in the program. So far, the participants have been 60% enlisted, 40% officers, 44% male, and 56% female.
Each Service conducts their CIP separately, so I won’t get into the details of how the services run the program here. If you are interested in applying, I recommend contacting your leadership and/or your personnelists. A Google search for “Career Intermission Program” and your Service name will also provide a wealth of information.
It’s too early in the program for the Services to have yet assessed the impact of CIP on participants’ promotion rates or career trajectories, so I also won’t speak to that here. It may end up having no effect. It may end up severely limiting promotion and leadership opportunities, impacting your ability to earn a higher grade. That is beyond the scope of this post. The best I can offer is that you should only enter the Career Intermission Program if it is the right thing for you.
Why I’m Writing About the Career Intermission Program
A couple weeks ago I had a thought. The CIP sounds great in theory, but the reality is that many people can’t simply stop working for one to three years. They wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Or would they?
My first thought was that if it were me, I couldn’t give up my income for several years. I have so many plans for that money! But then I thought – was it possible?
I started to brainstorm ways that people could prepare financially for the Career Intermission Program. Then I started to reach out to some people who have participated in the program to get their thoughts on the subject. I asked about how and if they prepared financially to participate in CIP. I asked what money, if any, they earned while in CIP. And I asked if any of them had financial concerns related to CIP.
Spoiler alert – very few! Most of the respondents indicated that their firm financial footing before starting the program allowed CIP to not be a burden. It warms the cockles of my personal finance loving heart!
I also began researching how the program works from a financial aspect. I wanted to share some of my initial findings with you. If this topic resonates with you, let me know and I’ll build out more information about real world experiences. I think this program can be very beneficial for servicemembers, and I think we can figure out ways to make it happen without a negative financial impact. If we can brainstorm ways to use CIP to improve the member’s financial situation, that’s even better!
How the CIP Works
If you are selected for the Career Intermission Program, you transfer from active duty to the Individual Ready Reserve. This is a one-time, temporary transition for a period of up to three years.
For each month you are in CIP, you commit to an Active Duty Service Commitment of 2 months. ADSC appears to be an Air Force specific term, so fill in with whatever your Service equivalent is if you are in another Department. That’s a 2x payback period, which may or may not work out for you. One person I interviewed mentioned that, based on his timing, it gave him an ADSC until he reached his 20-year point, virtually guaranteeing him a military retirement. This obviously won’t be everybody’s experience, but it’s worth paying attention to.
CIP Monetary Elements
While participating in the Career Intermission Program, servicemembers continue to receive a small monthly stipend equivalent to 1/15th of their active duty base pay. As an example, that would be $377.14/mo for a 7-year O-3 or $245.88/mo for a 13-year E-6.
Additionally, members maintain full medical and dental benefits for themselves and their dependents while in the CIP. It’s hard to put a monetary value on this, as everybody’s situation will be different based on family composition and health. But generally speaking, this is worth several hundred dollars per month. In my opinion, it’s also worth a lot for peace of mind! Obviously if you are dual-mil and your spouse stays on active duty, you would receive this even if you separate.
The third monetary element of the CIP is that participants receive a paid relocation of their household, as long as it’s within the United States. This relocation has a lot of value, in my opinion. For instance, I am currently stationed in the National Capital Region, which is very expensive. If I were to participate in the CIP, I would want to move to a much lower cost-of-living area. I’d get the immediate benefit of not having to pay for that myself, plus the longer-term benefit of saving money while in CIP. The DOD also pays your relocation costs to the next duty assignment at the end of your career intermission.
Finally, you maintain base privileges. This means you can continue to use the commissary, BX, and other base offices to lower your expenses. It’s not big money, but it’s something!
What Else I’m Working On
In my next post about the Career Intermission Program, I’m going to go into some of the ideas I’ve had about ways you can save, or earn, money while in CIP. If you have any questions you’d like answered, please let me know.
Additionally, I’m looking to gather more info from participants! That includes people who haven’t yet applied or been accepted into the program. I’d love to learn more about how you are preparing for the Career Intermission Program.
Normally when I have a multi-part series, I post them weekly. In order to allow time to contact more CIP participants, I haven’t yet decided on a posting schedule. If I have enough information to post a Part 2 next week, I will (I’m currently 40% there) (UPDATE: Check out part 2 here). I also don’t know how many parts this series will have. I’ll keep it going as long as I’m receiving helpful information from participants. I’ll also provide updates if/when the program changes, and if I come up with any more good ideas for saving/earning money during CIP. Sound good?