Preparing for the Final PCS

Preparing for retirement

Leaving the military happens on a different timeline for each individual. Some families have more advance notice to plan, while others feel “forced” to retire after being passed over for a promotion. Either way, many retired service members recommend planning for retirement at least one year before your final service date. Many will advise you to begin even earlier — two years in advance!

What can you do during this time? The service member and spouse can attend a Transition Assistance Program, or TAP, seminar on base to discuss all the major decisions that must be made around retirement. These include financial options, medical benefits, life and health insurance, employment tracks and education. You can attend the seminar more than once, so if you schedule it more than a year before retirement, you can take a “refresher” in your final year of service.

During the final year, the service member should begin making medical appointments for any service-connected injury or illness, so there is an ongoing record of the complaint. The family should start building up their emergency savings so there are additional funds to use during the transition period. And of course, you’ll need to discuss where you want to live!

 Deciding where to live

Yes, for the first time in your service member’s career, the family actually gets to choose where they want to live! While this is certainly exciting and a freeing experience, it also means the family has to sit down and weigh the reasons for moving to different locations. Some families choose to settle near their final duty station, especially if children are already enrolled in schools there. Others want to move back to their home state and live close to family. And some choose a brand-new state with employment opportunities and new adventures.

For any location, it’s important to consider employment options for both the service member and the spouse, as well as school options for all family members. You will also want to weigh factors like state taxes on military retirement or disability pay (each state has different rules) and things like nearby medical facilities.

 What’s different about the final PCS?

The final move for retirement may feel like any other PCS move, but there are several unique details that will be different. First, here are some things that are the same:

  • The military will cover the move for your household goods and all dependent family members, using the same rank-based weight allowances.
  • You can still choose to do either a military move or a Personally Procured Move, or PPM, with the typical reimbursements.
  • You still need to wait for orders before making any move arrangements. Don’t rent a moving truck before you have orders, otherwise it may not be reimbursed!

But the final move before retirement is different from other PCSes because the military is not telling you where you have to move, or when exactly you have to do it. There are also some entitlements that are not covered. Here are the ways the final move is different:

  1. Different timeline. You can move your household goods and family anytime from the moment your orders are approved up until one year after the retirement date. Some families move ahead of the service member by several months to settle into schools or new jobs. Others put their goods in storage and rent a place for almost a year while they job hunt and house hunt. You can request an extension in specific circumstances.
  2. Different destination. You can move anywhere in the United States, or even overseas! However, depending on the distance of your move, it may not be fully covered. The military will pay to move your family and dependents for the travel distance to your home of record. (This is typically the address where the service member lived when joining the military). They will pay to send your household goods the distance to your home of selection (this is a specific address, preferably where you will live after the military). If you move overseas, they will only cover a portion of the costs.
  3. Storage options. The military will cover storage costs at your destination for up to 90 days, OR you can choose storage at your current location for up to 180 days. If you are building a home or have an uncertain housing timeline, go for the longer option.
  4. Missing entitlements. During the final move, the military does pay travel costs to include mileage and per diem on the travel days. However, they do not pay temporary lodging or dislocation allowances. So, if you check into a hotel while clearing the base, you will pay out of pocket.

Your final move can be exciting, confusing and intimidating at the same time! Take your time to sort through all the choices, so you can be well prepared for the next chapter of your lives.

Lizann Lightfoot
Written By Lizann Lightfoot
Marine Corps Spouse

Lizann is the Seasoned Spouse – a Marine Corps wife, mom of four and published author. She loves writing, exploring new duty stations and chocolate!

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