What if one of your people came to you with a contract for a $22,000 loan with these terms:
- No payments until retirement from active duty
- Upon retirement, you pay one-fifth of each pension check plus an amount equal to one percentage point of the annual cost-of-living allowance (COLA) until age 62
- After age 62, you pay an amount equal to one percentage point of the annual COLA until death
Surely you would tell the person to tear up such a terrible deal-and yet the U.S. government offers it to each active-duty service member at the 15-year mark. We can trace the roots of this odd situation back to the early 1980s, when military-retirement compensation, a huge part of each year's budget, was being reviewed in Congress.