It’s been nearly a year since my active duty spouse retired from the Army and I’m still finding lessons learned. I had been thinking about our retirement for years, but when the time came, it quickly became overwhelming. If you’re facing this milestone, you might be feeling the same as you make all the tough decisions that come with military retirement.
As with most life-changing events, preparation is vital. As someone who went through this journey recently, I thought I had prepared myself for what was to come. I quickly found that my preparation seemed to barely scratch the surface of what a military spouse faces when retirement comes knocking on your door. Here are a few valuable tips I learned through my family’s retirement journey:
Finding your forever (for now) home
One of the toughest decisions we made was where to settle down and plant roots in our forever (for now) home. Many military families often get hung up on deciding where to move. After relocating across the globe every few years and navigating deployments, finding a permanent home doesn’t feel normal or natural. There is a finality that feels much too permanent for those of us who have lived this transient life for the past 20+ years.
“Where do we want to live” needs to be one of those conversations you and your spouse start having well before the service member starts their retirement process. It might be an easy answer for your family. You may want to head back home or live near family or perhaps there was a duty station you both fell in love with and always planned to return to. If that’s the case, be sure to research the state benefits you’ll receive based on the location you choose.
Others might go where the job is. With nearly one-half of retired service members leaving their first post-retirement job before one year be careful about investing in a large mortgage and consider renting to make sure the location and employment are going to be what’s best for your family in the long term.
When it comes to searching for a home, remember that this location does not need to be where you will live for the rest of your life. While it’s not what we may want to do after so many years of packing up our household goods, moving is still an option. So, remind yourself, like I did, that you are not stuck!
Employment is important for both spouses
Military spouse employment is so important to consider as you move into transition. If you’re currently employed as a military spouse, the changes that come with military retirement could impact your career, meaning you may not be able to maintain your current position. But, don’t just assume! If you are currently employed but planning on moving, discuss remote work options with your employer. Only a few years ago, most workplaces had a mandated in-office policy but now the pandemic has normalized generous and flexible work-from-home policies. If you are able to continue working at your current company in your new location, you can walk into this transition period with peace of mind and job security.
If you do decide to explore a new career path be sure to take advantage of free training courses through Coursera and Act Now Education, free mentorships through American Corporate Partners, and professional networking through Vets2Industry. If you have gaps in employment, explain your experience as a military spouse to bolster skills like responsibility and leadership.
Seek out support and resources
Very little of the transition process is within your control, but there are ways to plan and prepare to make things run smoother. This time can also feel stressful and isolating, as your civilian family and friends might not be able to relate to the stressors your spouse and family are experiencing. As you approach retirement, take advantage of familiar and new resources to broaden your network and find support.
Whether you are seeking employment or not, I highly recommend using LinkedIn to find resources for military spouses that are moving from active duty to retired status. There are many non-profits, education-based opportunities, support groups, podcasts, networking events, and more that are growing on LinkedIn. As you connect with these new resources they will have even more connections that will lead you to different types of support. I found resources to grow my personal strengths, support to help me understand my changing military spouse identity, courses on retirement finances, creative expressive art outlets, and more on LinkedIn.
Building a network, both physically and virtually, is a great way to remind yourself that millions of military families across the globe have gone through the retirement process before. No two retirement transitions are the same but connecting with a community of peers who are also going through it or have already been there is just one way to make the process a little easier.
This is a guest post by Anna Larson. She is a retired military spouse and the retired + retiring military spouse ambassador for SpouseLink, an online community for military spouses through the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA).