There comes the point in one’s career where retirement becomes more and more real. It starts with realizing there are only a few years left and the conversations about where you will be when your oldest is nearing graduation within those few years. Next comes the emails notifying your service member of their retirement timeline and when they are eligible. Following that comes the internal panic.
If you are a spouse in this similar boat, you know exactly what I am talking about. If you still have a few years and retirement is not yet on your radar, let me shed some light on this. What once seemed like an eternity away suddenly seems so very close, like danger close. A lifestyle that you have known for years will end at some point. Everything that is unlovingly familiar, deployments, TDYs, and PCSing, will become a thing of the past. Making friends seemed easy because everyone knew time was limited, and everyone understood the difficulties of this life. But what happens when you find yourself in unfamiliar communities.
With that internal panic comes the inner monologue of all the questions with very few answers. This is my internal struggle analyzing that my husband may soon be hanging up his uniform for the last time.
“Where are we going to live? Do we go home because it’s home, and family is there? But what is there job-wise at home? Are the schools good, are their jobs there? Or do we stay here because we are already here and the kids have friends, we have friends, and we’re already established in the community? What could we do for work? Maybe he can get a civilian job on a post or something contract-wise?
Do we need one of us to have a full-time job? Can we get by with a part-time something to have something to do but not have the headache or be tied to another full-time job? Do we even need another income, or can we get by on just the retirement pay? Is the VA disability in addition to that? Let’s make a note and look into that.
What about health insurance? Life insurance? That all changes too. I hear there are multiple plans to pick from, depending on your needs. What are our needs? Kids, braces, generally healthy. I don’t want to pay a lot, but I want to know that everything is covered. That probably doesn’t exist. Add that research to the list.
Why is this transition so scary? Why does it feel like we’re jumping off a bridge? Why does there have to be so many gosh darn decisions in this process?! Good golly. Ok, we can do this—one thing at a time. Let’s focus on location and if we need another income. Just keep swimming. Retirement is supposed to be freedom to enjoy the next chapter of life, not a punishment for finishing one chapter. Millions of others have retired and been fine. We’ll be fine too.
If you find yourself staring down the tunnel with the bright light of retirement sharing back, the first thing you should be doing is analyzing your finances. Know what expenses will carry over with you, what expenses like medical you can expect out of pocket, and what your estimated income may be depending on your retirement plan and disability. Having a financial plan upfront can go a long way to success in the retirement transition.