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Are You Ready for Military Retirement?
In His Element - Helping Others
Military Retirement Planning is a Must
Early retirement sounds wonderful, right? In some cases it is a blessing, but in other cases it is a curse. My husband was a field grade officer in the military. He had been a “geographical bachelor” for years, which meant our family stayed in our home while he traveled to his duty station during the week and spent weekends at home (sometimes). Like most careers, changes start taking place, and he just did not feel like he fit into the new set of rules. He was a crusty old soldier and did not like some of the kinder, gentle ways coming out of the military’s human resource division.
Even though there were changes in his career, he found the decision to retire excruciating. He and I talked about it for at least three years before he finally decided it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. His loyalty and responsibilities as an executive officer were extremely strong, but rolling with the new changes was difficult. He decided his military retirement was due.
An Overview of Military Retirement
- Communicate your thoughts with your spouse and children.
- Consider your finances.
- Consider how it will change your lifestyle.
- Consider your home life.
- What is your personal plan after retirement?
Communications before Military Retirement
How is it going to affect your relationships?
Being type A personalities, my husband and I had to discuss how it would affect our marriage if he were to be home all the time. For over twenty-five years we were used to having more time apart than we had together.
We both understood the separation situation from the beginning, but this retirement change would be putting us together most of the time. He was used to being in constant control, and I was used to being in constant control.
We knew there would need to be compromise, and quite frankly, we were both concerned.
A mistake we made was not including our children in this discussion. Our son was getting ready to move out, but our daughter who used to be Daddy’s Girl was in her pre-teen years.
We should have talked about his retirement with them. My son would not be affected as much since he was going to be out of the house, but my daughter and husband had real issues when he did retire. I saw that they were just alike, and he wasn’t prepared to be in a house of females and she wasn’t prepared to take orders.
Be sure you talk to your children and do not just expect them to "fall in." Chances are they are having some control issues of their own if you have been gone much of their life.
Know Where You Are Financially
You must know what your retirement pay is going to be before you go into full-fledged retirement. You can find a military calculator online.
You must take into account when you joined the military. If you joined between September 8, 1980, through August 1, 1986, you qualify for the "High 3 Calculator." It takes your highest paid 3 years to average your monthly military retirement income. If you joined before or after those dates, you will use the regular military calculator.
You must also consider age, years served, and rank (including if you were an NCO before becoming an officer).
Once you have figured out your retirement pay, you need to compare it to your personal financial responsibilities. Reality of lifestyle before and after retirement must be a major qualifier.
Is Military Retirement Going to Change Lifestyle?
Anytime anyone is going to retire, financial lifestyle must be considered. It depends on how you feel about your financial situation, your home life, and what you can and cannot live with in the long term.
Before retirement, you should line up all your debt, pay it off if you can, and decide what you can handle on a retirement check. Actually, all of us should do this years in advance so retirement is an easier transition.
If you and your family are used to a particular lifestyle, you must try to keep it as normal as possible while realizing the realities of a smaller paycheck.
After a while of retired life, my husband wanted to keep contributing, so he "went back in" by taking a job training soldiers on the civilian side. His job and military retirement compensate for what he was bringing in before he retired.
You may not feel like you will want to work after retirement, but plan like you do so you can have that option.
Military Retirement and Home Life
If you think retiring is going to be easy on your home life, think again. You have probably been gone a lot. You may be moving back to a hometown. Things are not going to be the same for you or your family.
You will not be working with soldiers and you will not have everything organized down to the last detail.
You will be walking into a foreign situation where someone else has been in command. My husband and I made the decision for him to retire together, but we did not consider that things would not be normal when he came home for good. Honestly, it was the roughest time in our marriage.
The poor guy walked out of a war zone into "Estrogenville." I think he preferred the war zone. Our son had moved out and our daughter was in her dramatic teen years. It was the clash of the titans around here.
Eventually, it got smoothed out when he got his job. My daughter and I made it a condition: "Either get a job or we are going to smother you in your sleep." He was cranky and we were fed up.
Retirement is different for all of us and we must create a new normal.
You Must Have a Plan for Retirement
Do not believe for a moment that retirement is going to be like walking out of a stressful, fast-paced job into serenity. It ain't gonna happen. Before you retire, have a plan. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Keep your network of soldiers, friends, and colleagues.
- Keep up with what is going on in the military. At least for the first few years you are out.
- Even if you feel burned out, create a resume you can use when you retire from the military. You are a wealth of knowledge in your field.
- Know that you must have something of meaning to you to fall back on after retirement. If you are a craftsman, work with those skills. If you are comfortable with administration, get a resume out there. Monster.com is an excellent place for ex-military to show their vast experience on a resume in your area.
- Be prepared to try new things you might have never thought of before. If you have a high-speed job, realize you are not going to be happy working in a box store (I can say this from experience - yes, he tried it and it didn't work).
As I mentioned above, my husband retired and we did not have a plan. He tried doing things to get out of the house like golfing and fishing, but those things were not fulfilling to a man who had such a regimented, constantly organized, important job. He thought retirement would be less stressful, but it was more stressful.
When he got a job working with soldiers, I am not sure if my daughter and I celebrated his new job or celebrated that he was going to be out of our hair and doing what he truly loved. He felt the same. We are extremely fortunate.
© 2013 Susan Holland