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By: Sara Croymans, M.Ed., Molly Herndon, MS,  & Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Edited Sunset

Adapted photo: Pixabay[Sunrise Ocean Sea Coast by MartyNZ, November 7, 2015,CCO]

OneOp Family Development, Family Transitions, and Personal Finance teams presented a two-part series on Military Retirement titled “Retirement Ready? Effective Strategies for Military Families”. Part I on November 1 was a traditional webinar while Part II on November 8 offered an opportunity for participants to continue the discussion that was initiated during the first event. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the topics that generated a lot of interest and discussion, indicating the importance of the topic. Many resources are highlighted that were shared by participants and facilitators. In addition, we want to continue the discussion on the retirement topic so please share your thoughts, ideas, resources and strategies by commenting on this blog!

The Transitional Side of Retirement

Q. What strategies can be used to help Service members and their families realize that the stages of grief experienced during the retirement transition are “normal” and that they are not alone?

A. Participants provided the following responses:

  • People are often relieved when they realize that others are experiencing similar challenges and stressors …
  • They should attend TGPS! (Transition GPS) as it is really good at preparing them and reminding them what is in store, out there (civilian world). And being with others who are having a similar experience provides a great informal support system!
    Sometimes it can help to digest big changes in little pieces so then it’s not overwhelming
  • Not sure exactly how it would show in the retirement situation, but I deal with Surviving family members of deceased Soldiers and we find that the grief isn’t a straight line, and it can come up years later as new life events happen. I.E. when a child gets married, the grief may re-emerge as the family wishes the DSM was there for the event.
  • Each individual goes through the stages at different paces and varying levels of progression & regression during the process.
    Grief is very personal.
  • The grief cycle is not a linear transgression.
  • If we’re not paying close attention we can interpret frustration, grief etc. (especially in men I think) as anger

The Psychological Side of Retirement

Q. What are some of the biggest challenges faced in military retirement, from a psychological perspective?

A. Participants provided several responses to this question, including:

  • The longer the member is in service, the harder it is to get back to civilian life
  • Something that civilians may have never even considered is the fact that SMs now have to change their wardrobe entirely, which can be stressful and frustrating.
  • The higher the rank in the military one has, the harder it can be to adjust to civilian life where that rank probably doesn’t matter. SMs oftentimes find themselves having to prove themselves all over again to the civilian world after retirement.
  • Many younger retirees are faced with the challenge of finding a new career altogether, as their job in the service may not have a “match” in the civilian world.
  • For those people who were raised in the military and then married into the military or became SMs themselves, they may not have any idea how to be a civilian or live in the civilian world.
  • Finding a purpose that is similar to serving in the military.

Q. What have you found to be helpful in working through the challenges listed above?

A.  Participants provided several responses to this question, including:

  • If you are a service professional, assist the families in compartmentalizing their challenges and focus on one at a time rather than all of them at once. This helps with the anxiety that can be felt in trying to “fix” everything all at one time.
  • Providing opportunities for the retired SMs and their families to participate in functions and activities to assist with the transition and in making them feel less isolated.
  • Assisting SMs and their families early in the process of retirement (like right when the decision is made to retire) and covering every aspect of retirement rather than just the financial piece or just the psychological piece.
  • Helping SMs feel like they have a purpose by encouraging them to reach out to organizations or people in the community that mean something to them so that they can get involved somehow.

The Financial Side of Retirement

Q. What are some concerns service members have about retirement issues?

A. Webinar participants offered the following responses:

  • Where do they want to live?
  • Questions about state benefits and I suggest they check out; they have a benefits library that lists state taxes and waivers for car and homestead exemption. Also school benefits and more.
  • Questions about VA disability.
  • Will the money last?
  • Questions about Social Security.
  • Service Member can start off on Active Duty and transition into National Guard or the Reserves and retire with 20 yrs, but they become a “Grey Area Retiree” & their retirement starts at age 60.

Q. Where will income come from in retirement?

A. Webinar participants shared these comments:

  • Some are counting on GI bill money for income.
  • Almost all people I counseled planned to get another job after military retirement. The concern was “how much do I have to make to be comparable to military pay?”
  • I hear from a small portion of service members that they want to start a business, which is great if they have ideas, drive and initiative. But many service members are somewhat short on knowledge of industry and business to make their idea turn into a small business that survives the initial start-up phase.
  • The Small Business Administration centers in most states can help military personnel who might want to start a business.

Q. What about IRAs?

A. One webinar participant offered this tip:

  • IRA to TSP: many service members have been told they should roll their TSP over to an IRA. Watch out! It might be a better choice for some to roll their assets INTO their TSP account, which will still belong to them long after they leave federal service.

Keep the Conversation Going!
If you missed Part 1 of the Retirement Ready? Effective Strategies for Military Families program, watch the recording of the webinar here. To view the conversation in Part 2, the recording can be accessed here.

In addition to the resources identified above in the Q & A section many others were shared throughout the conversation, including:

We want to know! What concerns do you hear from Service Members as they plan for retirement? What strategies & resources do you utilize when working with them? Please share your insights on these topics by commenting on this blog.

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, Sara Croymans, M. Ed., and Molly Herndon of OneOp. Find out more about OneOp  on our websiteFacebook, and Twitter.