If it is time for you to begin thinking about retiring from active duty military service there are certain separation requirements the military will expect of you from getting your medical and financial records in order to prepare for your next career. There are many tactical preparations beyond the scope of this article. However, there are also some practical considerations that might be useful to at least begin taking into account. Below are five questions to ask yourself:
1. Where Will I Live?
After a career of service that includes having little to no say in when and where you relocate every few years, many service-related families find themselves feeling uncertain about where to live when the decision is all theirs to make and feels permanent. For some, instead of moving and committing to a location and mortgage right away, they will instead spend a planned amount of time renting or even traveling.
When it does feel like the right time to settle, many separating from the military have various factors to help make the decision on where to put down roots. Do you want to be close to friends or family members? Do you need or want to be close to Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals for ease of accessibility when care may be needed as the aging process continues? Do you want to live in one of only ten states without a state income tax that won’t tax your hard-earned military retirement dollars?
2. What Will I Do For Work?
Equally as important as determining where to live is asking yourself what, if anything, do you plan to do for work. Some service members plan to fully indulge in a non-income earning retirement after a career in military service. However, some may need to work to financially contribute to their retirement income and some may choose to work for the satisfaction and fulfillment of a professional endeavor.
If obtaining additional education, licensures, or certifications is in order for professional life beyond the military, use your resources before separation to make a plan to set you up for success in a timely manner. Many find that all of the collective military training and experience is not only valid, but also very valuable in military adjacent careers within the contracting and defense worlds. Certain availability of jobs may also play a part in where a retiree chooses to live.
3. What Will I Do For Pleasure?
Don’t forget to also consider what hobbies, activities, or pastimes you might enjoy in your retirement. After decades of prioritizing service over self, retiring from active duty offers the opportunity to finally focus on fun! These pleasurable pursuits may also inform the location of where you hope to live.
Are there professional or amateur sports teams you hope to follow? Are their outdoor hobbies like running, golfing, fishing, or riding motorcycles you hope to pursue? Do you have a special crafting hobby, volunteer cause, or service organization you plan to devote yourself to? Retirement should be filled with enjoyment so be sure to consider what opportunities you have and how you hope to shape your newly found freedom and free time.
4. How Will I Manage My Assets?
The military does a good job of helping separating service members with financial planning, but there will be a time when the management of personal assets falls squarely on the shoulders of the retiree. The first step is to get clarity on what your total assets and net worth are. Next, you should understand all financial benefits and entitlements coming to you and any taxes or penalties you may owe. Finally, once you have an idea of your annual and monthly income, determine how much you need to save or contribute to ensure that your financial resources hold out for an undetermined life expectancy and any inheritance or assets you hope to pass down to surviving spouses or children.
5. How Can I Continue to Make a Difference?
Finally, one last consideration is to ask yourself, “How can I continue to make a difference?” For many service members who retire, there is the potential to feel a loss of identity after a career of service. The commitment to serve and defend the nation has passed but now the innate character qualities that long to contribute to a cause or group outside of oneself and for the greater good, still continues.
Just as it is important to know where you want to live, what type of work or pleasure activities you wish to involve yourself in, and knowing how to make your assets last, making a plan for giving back is also essential. Whether on a large or small scale, whether publicly or privately, whether in time or charitable giving, having a mindset that involves a continuation of doing good for others can go a long way in determining future happiness and fulfillment even into the retirement years.