Pensions and Standards of Living in 2E (Bad news for Marine colonels and Navy captains)


Okay, so I may be late to the game, having just started to transition from 1E to 2E Mongoose Traveller. But one thing I noticed was that the standards of living have changed dramatically between 1E and 2E, at least for Social Standings of 10 and below.

In 1E, the monthly costs were:

Very PoorCr. 120SOC 2
PoorCr. 200SOC 4
LowCr. 300SOC 6
AverageCr. 400SOC 7
GoodCr. 600SOC 7
HighCr. 800SOC 8
Very HighCr. 1,000SOC 10

In 2E, the monthly costs are:

Very PoorCr. 400SOC 2
PoorCr. 800SOC 4
LowCr. 1000SOC 5
AverageCr. 1200SOC 6
GoodCr. 1500SOC 7
HighCr. 2000SOC 8
Very HighCr. 2500SOC 10

That means that the standards of living have gone up by the following factors:

Very Poor: x 3.33
Poor: x 4
Low: x 3.33
Average: x 3
Good: x 2.5
High: x 2.5
Very High: x 2.5

However, I note that mustering out cash and pensions have not changed at all. This is effectively imposing 250%-400% inflation on fixed income households.

Under 1E, a SOC 7 character who served six terms in a career would have a 12000 Cr/year pension, which is the same as 1000 Cr/month. That pension would allow them to live a lifestyle of up to Very High without needing any additional cash. Granted, this may seem a bit high if we’re assuming that a pension ought to fund an Average lifestyle. Part of the disconnect comes from the fact that pensions take no account of differing scales of pay. A steward, an enlisted soldier, a naval officer, a doctor, and a noble all get the same pension after 20 years. (This is fine with me since to do otherwise would make things too complicated and punish some character concepts, neither of which is desirable.)

Still, I do note that the old standards of living were particularly comforting to retired marine colonels and navy captains whose SOC automatically rises to 10 by virtue of their rank. With a 1000 Cr/month pension, they could afford to keep themselves in a manner that would not embarrass them among their fellows.

The situation is entirely different in 2E, however. Under 2E, a retired O6 from the marines or navy needs 30,000 Cr/year to keep them in a manner that maintains their SOC 10. Unfortunately, they still only have a pension of 12,000 Cr/year to sustain them. Under present standards of living, this will only get them a Low lifestyle, the equivalent of SOC 5. Within a few years they'll be looking pretty shabby. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

I suppose they could use their mustering out cash to supplement their pension, though that would require a huge return on investment. If we assume a 10% return on investment each year (which is high but makes the math easy), getting that extra 18,000 Cr/year would require 180,000 Cr in cash. But a naval captain could only possibly get 150,000 Cr (requiring three cash mustering out rolls, all being a 5 or 6) and a marine colonel could only get 120,000 Cr (requiring three cash mustering out rolls, all being a 6). Under 2E rules, there’s simply no way for a SOC 10 person to retire at their former lifestyle with the pension they’ll receive.

I fully understand that the higher standards of living fit better with the crew salaries we're provided. These are some of the few (only?) places we see salaries and they are high compared to the 1E standards of living. A steward makes 2000 Cr/month and a gunner or marine makes 1000 Cr/month (with much of the food and lodging taken care of). It gets crazier once you get to a pilot who makes 6000 Cr/month. Under 1E, a SOC 7 pilot was making ten times his living costs in salary. Under 2E they're only making four times their standard of living (still crazy, but not nearly as much).

Based on this, I don’t think that the answer is to change the standards of living in 2E. But might it not be a good idea to change the size of pensions to hold pace with the increased standard of living? Consider if we multiplied pensions by 2.5. That would be 25,000 Cr/year after five terms in a career and 5000 Cr/year added for each additional term in the career. This might seem high, since it’s the same as some of the higher mustering out cash in many careers. However, it would get eaten up by living costs pretty quickly.

A SOC 8 character might get 30,000 Cr a year in a pension after six terms, but they’d be spending 24,000 Cr/year for their standard of living (twice their pension under 1E, FWIW), giving them a net of 6000 Cr/year—trivial for a Traveller character and only equal to about a one-parsec middle passage or 2/3 of a two-parsec middle passage. That tells me that a SOC 8 retiree might be able to take a one-parsed off-planet trip once every other year or a two-parsec trip once every three years, which seems not entirely unreasonable. Yes, it breaks down at lower SOC levels who curiously accumulate massive amounts of cash, but what can you do?

In any case, looking at the standards of living and pensions I couldn’t help but notice this. Has anyone else considered this with 2E?
1. The idea is to give them enough to survive, but still be hungry for more.

2. Actually, once the combat pilot scandal brewed up, it was explained that high pensions is to prevent conflict of interests, in that retired military personnel consult and/or train the competition.
I didn't compare to MGT1 but did notice the discrepancy that there was no increase in pension for increasing ranks. I use a pension multiplier that increases with rank. For the military I have two sets of multipliers, one for NCOs and one for Officers. All other professions I have assigned as NCO or Officer pensions.
RankNCO MultiplierOfficer Multiplier
1. The idea is to give them enough to survive, but still be hungry for more.

2. Actually, once the combat pilot scandal brewed up, it was explained that high pensions is to prevent conflict of interests, in that retired military personnel consult and/or train the competition.

Comparing the Imperium to the modern day, I suppose having a 20-year pension that isn't enough to live on at your current social standing is appropriate. A 20-year pension in the modern US military is basically 50% of the pay you had the last few years in the military. From speaking to retired career military friends I understand that this is generally not considered enough to actually retire on but is a nice boost to the salary they get for their second career and goes part of the way toward final retirement pay. Some friends have pointed out that they could live off their pension bit they'd have to seriously downsize their lifestyle (e.g., go down from a High lifestyle to a Low lifestyle).

Of course, this assumes they'll have a second career, often one as long as (or longer than) their military career. If you join the military at 18 or 22 (depending upon whether you go to college), You'll hit your 20 years at 38 or 42 (the end of term 5 or 6). We generally assume at least another 20+ years of work after that (to the end of term 11 or 12, i.e., in the age 62-66 range). So, it actually makes perfect sense for a retired soldier or spacer to have a nice pension that makes their second career less stressful on the money side and gives them a chance to save the rest of the money they need for retirement.

So, it makes perfect sense for an ex-soldier/ex-sailor to retire after term 5 or 6 and start their second career as a Traveller (e.g., mercenary, free trader, etc.), using their pension as supplemental income rather than their sole means of support.

Of course, this assumption flies in the face of the Aging rules, which start to impose increasing penalties to your physical characteristics as you get past term 5 or 6. Assuming straight 7s in your stats and all aging rolls being 7 (dead average), you'll get to 0 in all of your physical characteristics just about as you retire (age 66 at the end of term 12). This will cause you, on average, to have to pay Cr. 35,000 for medical care to survive (feebly, with STR 1, DEX 1, and END 1), and even before you've collected your first year of pension. What's more, although that pension (Cr. 24,000) is sufficient to pay for a High lifestyle (Cr. 2000/mo.), it's still only 2/3 of your medical bills to survive. What's more, you'll have to pay those medical bills every four years as your Aging rolls drop you down to 0 in all your physical characteristics. So, in four years you'll make Cr. 92,000 but will have to pay (on average) Cr. 35,000 in medical bills. That means your effective pension is Cr. 57,000/ 4 years or Cr. 14,250/year or about Cr. 1190/month - close to where we started from at the end of term 5 or 6.

The conclusion I draw is that retirement is a terrible thing for most people in the Imperium. It's almost inevitably a time of feeble poverty for people who were once the movers and shakers of the sector. This becomes even more depressing when you take into account that previous Traveller sources have said that Vilani lifespans are above 100 years (and some sources have said 200 years). That's a lot of years in feeble poverty. You could try and stay at your job for a while (assuming they want a STR 1, DEX 1, END 1 person working there), but if the survival roll for that job is based on a physical characteristic then you'll have a -2 to the roll. And as soon as you roll below your term on an advancement check (on average around term 8 or 9) you'll get booted out. Also, there's no chance of getting another job because once any characteristic hits zero even if you survive, you automatically fail any qualification check. So, that's at least 30-40 years with no job, no hope of a job, feeble stats, and only enough income to support yourself at a Low lifestyle. That doesn't sound like the glory of the Third Imperium to me.

Now, I know I'm being a bit tongue-in-cheek here. These rules were never meant to be smoke tested at the far edges. They're meant to simulate ages 30-46 in which range we hope most Traveller characters will fall. But it does make for an interesting thought exercise and helps put what we're doing into perspective. It also teaches us that we should probably hand-wave things about older characters should we ever get there. We should accept that there may be a vibrant person of age 70 who actually has physical characteristics above 1 and not fret about it.
1. If you're leveraging your Credit Imperiale based pension, you might retire on a world that the local exchange rate maximizes in terms of cost of living.

2. As I understand the American military institution(s), on leaving it the smart thing is to apply for disability, which might be easier for officers than the enlisted.

3. Veterans should have free or subsidized medical care and treatment.

4. And military discounts at shops.

5. Or still purchase at the local NAAFI.

6. For frontline troops, including pilots, you want that ideal age range between eighteen to thirty.

7. For staff and command, being older tends, but necessarily so, imply experience and wisdom, so retention would be more important.

8. The Royal Navy used to place officers it had no current need for on half pay, during which time they could follow their own interests, until recalled.

9. It's pretty much assumed that for the Confederation, a lot of retired military personnel end up in the Home Guards, or other Confederation institutions.
Keep in mind, however, that the whole discussion about pensions, aging, and upkeep applies equally to the non-military professions. A scholar, citizen, or noble would fall into the same trap of poverty and feebleness with their non-military pension. (No free or subsidized medical care, no ability to buy things cheaper at the base exchange, no military disability.) How do we reconcile their survival?

Things would be much, much worse for a noble, whose standard of living might require Cr. 5000/month or even Cr. 10,000/month to keep up their Social Standing. Although we might say that NPC nobles have estates, a PC noble is in real trouble. Not only may they have the standard Traveller trouble of trying to pay for a ship mortgage for their yacht, they may also have a totally unsustainable lifestyle as well, kind of like a second mortgage. Of course, the response to that might be that any noble who becomes a Traveller is by definition a down-at-the-heels noble.

As for retiring to a cheaper world, the problem is that this math applies to each and every person living on an expensive world. Every single resident of that world will run into this problem around age 66. They can't all retire to a cheaper world. Just imagine ten million people trying to move from Lunarion to Capon every year in search of a cheaper place to live. (Assume people live to age 100, that's about 1% of the billion or so people on Lunion hitting retirement age every year.) That's one sixth of the entire population of Capon immigrating every year. Even spread out among three or four worlds it would be impossible.
British veterans get their choice of underpass, cardboard box, and death due to drug overdose, alcohol poisoning or exposure.
One size is unlikely to fit all.

Retirement colonies, which even in Roman times were part of Imperial policy to secure conquered lands and have veterans available for the local security; I read about a proposal by the Japanese to establish some in Argentina.

One difference is that interstellar travel is really expensive, so it would need to be government subsidized, which should be easier for a retired veteran to hitch a ride.

Not every retired person wants to emigrate, or at least, the destination is within easy reach, like it used to be for English retirees in France and Spain, or Florida and Mexico.
In theory, most civil service jobs are for life, or till mid sixties; early retirement being an option.

Private enterprise could have a mandatory state pension, one that's subsidized by the business, and a third one funded personally.
Travellers are not your average person anyway. They're those who realize they don't fit a 9-5 job, and depart for places unknown, to find their fortunes. They're not dependent on a pension for survival. The mustering out cash and other benefits that they start with is all they've got at the end of a career, as opposed to investing, starting a family, buying a home, etc.
Character generation isn't meant to create the average citizen, who being well adjusted for their job/career, might be appropriately skilled to continue it.
Travellers are spare pegs, in a round-hole world.