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Organizing Your Thoughts for Retirement

We’re swiftly reaching that long-anticipated change in military status from active duty to retired.  Wow.

What comes next? What do we do first? What do we do, period?  There are so many questions that need to be answered when we make this change, not just from active to retired status, but from military to civilian, transient to permanent. Options change, opportunities change, everything changes.

So, why not start a series?

Let’s start with sorting out our thoughts about retirement. That will help us get into the right mindset:


When I was a transition assistance program facilitator, I had the opportunity to spend three days with a whole room of soon-to-be veterans talking about separation and retirement. I was often surprised by our participants when I asked them what their expectations from retirement/separation were. Some simply didn’t seem to have any, and some had expectations that were frankly unrealistic.

You should think, what are my expectations from military retirement? What are my spouse’s? My children’s?


One part of developing realistic expectations is setting priorities. It’s a pretty direct relationship, and here’s one way to break it down:

Take these headings and think about them: Family, income, location, career/education (you can make this last one whatever is a priority that doesn’t necessarily fall into the first three). Now, put them in order of what is most important to you. It’s important to understand this.

If location is most important, you might have to compromise on income. We chose to live in this lovely house in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. That’s location, and there aren’t very many local jobs that pay well. So, there’s one of our compromises.

Similarly, if you choose to pursue a certain career, you may not have that much flexibility when it comes to where you live, which can affect your family and your income. You get the idea.

Financial Planning

There is no doubt about it, finances change when you leave the military for civilian life. Income changes, how pay is calculated changes, everything changes. If you are about to separate or retire and haven’t talked to a financial readiness representative (check your local ACS for this), or a financial planner, or a veteran service organization, you might want to check it out. If you are a member of USAA, you can call and talk to a financial planner who can help you figure out retirement financial options.


Now, I am throwing out the challenge to you.

  • If you are about to separate or retire, what are some things you’ve learned about the process that have surprised you?
  • What are some things that you haven’t learned yet that you’d like to know?
  • If you’ve already separated or retired from the military, what are some things you wish someone had told you

Share with us! 



  1. Jennifer A

    We won’t retire for about 4 more years, but I like your list and the idea that you need to realize how the choices effect each other, we have friends who claim they will live XYZ forever – I pointed out that employment could effect that choice. I would also add that when you decide on a place to retire you should consider how far it will be from a base/post to access your benefits.

  2. Corrie Blackshear

    Great point, Jennifer. Living close to a post is important for many, and I think some people don’t know exactly how important until they don’t any more. I’ll make sure to add your suggestion to a future blog post.



  1. Here Comes Retirement, Part Three: Location, Location, Location | - […] my first blog post about retirement that was posted back in September, I talked about the priority pyramid. This…

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