Life is made up of changes and transitions of all kinds. If you’re approaching retirement from the military, this is one transition that probably comes with lots of emotions and some questions for you. While it’s exciting to begin a new chapter, it can also be a little scary.
There are a lot of options for you to explore in the civilian sector. Some research and planning will help you to start off on the right foot. Here are six things to know about US military retirement.
- Consider Your Financial Situation
Of course, it makes sense to look at your finances to determine whether you can comfortably afford to retire from the military. After 20 years of service, you can receive a fairly decent pension and may only need to supplement your income. If you’ve decided to leave earlier than that, your options may be more restrictive.
Changes to US military retirement benefits now allow service members a blended option with the ability to invest money in retirement funds throughout their enlistment. Once you leave the service, you will no longer receive essentials such as housing, medical and other benefits included in your pay. Bear this in mind when considering the monthly cost of living.
- Explore Your Career Options
Now that you’re leaving your career in the Armed Forces, your work life is likely to be quite different. The choices may be wide open for you, depending on when you’ve chosen to retire and the types of skills you possess. Chances are, you’ve picked up a lot of know-how and expertise in the military. If you’re leaving military service after 20 years with retirement benefits, you may only need to work part-time.
Many military retirees choose to go into business for themselves. There are numerous legitimate opportunities to work flexibly online. Some may consider blogging or becoming an online influencer, picking up Instagram followers and earning income through brand sponsorships. Others may even start a brick and mortar company offering their specialized services or products. Even if you decide to work for someone else, your military background has provided you with the life experience and talent to allow you to be choosy.
- Ensure Your Insurance Benefits Are in Order
Military service offers you certain insurance benefits such as medical, life and even survivors’. These can extend past your retirement, and you’ll likely want to do so. However, some consideration as to cost-benefit analysis should be taken into account. For example, do you need to be enrolled at the maximum level for survivors’ benefits or would a smaller investment be possible based on you and your family’s new employment situation?
Another consideration is whether the Military Health Service is your best healthcare choice or if private insurance would be a good idea. You’ll also want to be sure to convert your Service-Member’s Group Life Insurance to a Veteran’s plan upon your discharge.
- Think About Using Your G.I. Bill Benefits
As a military retiree, you can pursue higher education with assistance from the GI Bill. In fact, anyone who’s served at least 90 days following September 10, 2001, can receive benefits. The amount you qualify for depends on your length of service, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’d like to explore career options that require advanced education or skills.
The Post 9/11 GI Bill even helps with living expenses, as well as with academic supplies. Obtaining a degree can make you even more valuable in the civilian job market or entrepreneur track.
- Tie Up Loose Ends
Before you can formally exit military service, there are some things you must take care of. Pre-separation counseling is required at least 90 days prior to your leave, though you can do this as early as two years before you retire. This is a helpful service as it ensures all your benefits are in order, including healthcare, retirement funding and other Department of Veterinary Affairs benefits.
You may also wish to attend a Transitional Assistance Program employment workshop. While not mandatory, this class can be useful in learning the ins and outs of resume writing, career exploration, and job search strategies.
Another requirement you will need to undergo is that of your final medical and dental exam. This will need to be performed at least 90 days prior to separation from the service in order to continue to receive medical and life insurance benefits. Finally, you should figure out the logistics of your move.
As a service member, you qualify for financial assistance with your household moving expenses for up to one year after active duty. All of these things will need to be scheduled in advance, so proper planning and preparation are necessary.
- Prepare to Transition to Civilian Life
Last but not least, It’s important to take some time to contemplate some of the differences between military and civilian life. You’ll need to be prepared for some culture shock if you’ve been accustomed to the regimented routine of the service for a long while. Being a civilian is quite different, with much more open-endedness. This can be a good thing, but it is also an adjustment.
You may encounter difficulty in finding people who understand your unique life experiences, which can lead you to feel like an outsider. In the past, you’ve been around folks with similar lives.
Now, you’ll be facing people with a vast array of personal backgrounds. Unlike your past military transitions, you won’t have the support of formalized services to help you adjust. That’s okay. It can help to find organizations, clubs or other groups where you can meet new people with common interests. A church could be a good start. Some people look to community organizations to meet new people in their local area. Take time to explore what works for you.
With time, research and practice, you’ll develop the structure and routine that fits your preferences. Military retirement is an exciting time of new beginnings. Now that you have some information for navigating it, enjoy this time and embrace what’s to come.