Dawn on a swing

Things Senior Spouses Think About

Once your military family hits the 10- to 15-year mark of service, transition and retirement thoughts ramp up, even if your spouse plans to serve 20-plus years. It’s normal to want to prepare for a significant change. I’ve been playing the “what if” game since my spouse’s career began. Now that I’m a senior spouse, I ruminate about more than just a few retirement issues, but these are the top five for now.

1. What Do I Want to Do?

Military spouses have been grappling with this question for decades. As retirement draws near, it’s hard to understand what the transition means for you because it’s such a personal decision. You probably don’t know exactly what you want to do or even who you are after years of supporting military service. Would you like to work? Go back to school? Stay home and enjoy retirement with your spouse?

Today, spouses can count on a vast military spouse network that supports a productive transition.

2. How Will Retirement Affect Kids?

As a parent, there’s never a moment when you don’t consider your child’s well-being. This is especially true for military families because our kids manage plenty of service-specific scenarios that civilian children don’t. Their education plays a big part in the decision to retire. Where will the kids go to school? Will they thrive in a new town? Can we afford college after retirement? You can drive yourself crazy worrying about how leaving the military changes them.

Arm yourself with support for your kids.

3. Where Should We Live?

If you’re like me, you’ve been negotiating with your spouse for years about where to live post-retirement. Some military families like to finally move “home,” some need to relocate where the second career opportunities lie, and others, like me, want to try multiple destinations (thanks to remote work) before settling down, which happens to be the exact opposite of what my husband would like to do. So, where will we end up? I’m not sure, but there are a few hard factors to consider, like our daughter’s college location and our career options.

At least we both agree that we don’t want to live in the heat and humidity, so that narrows down the list of locations a little!

4. Will I Make New Friends?

As a senior spouse, I know the ins and outs of making new friends after each PCS. We’ve chosen military family-friendly communities each time, so there’s always been a built-in friend group with which we’ve had an immediate connection. Now, as I consider where we’ll land after retirement, I wonder if my introverted personality is suited for making friends outside of the military community. It’s widely known that adults struggle to make new friends as the years go by, particularly if trying to break into established friendships or neighborhood groups that don’t know a thing about military life.

Since we’ll be empty nesters after military service, I’ll need to find ways to make new friends through hobbies, work and volunteering.

5. Should I Share My Military Spouse Experience?

Senior spouses know a few things about military life. Some of us date back to the early days of the war on terror, immediately after 9/11. Without warning, we learned to hone the patience of a saint, source information on our own, and do what needed to be done long before smartphones could text and FaceTime. To say we have a lot of survival mode information stored is an understatement.

Do younger military spouses want to hear it? Has some of the information aged so poorly that it’s irrelevant? I’m torn between knowing I probably have some wisdom to share and letting the next generation do it their way. In some ways, navigating military spouse life is easier than ever before — information is literally in the palm of their hands.

Consider volunteering your experience with one of these military spouse advocates.

Dawn on a boat in the sunset

Senior spouses have much to think about, even if retirement is five to 10 years away. Most transition advocates recommend pondering the big questions early because the answers aren’t always clear-cut. A resource like Military OneSource is a reliable way to find concrete answers and gather the information needed to make the best choices.

Written By Dawn Smith
Army Spouse

Dawn is an experienced military spouse and freelance writer. When she isn’t writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and Golden Retriever keep her busy with dog walks, home upkeep, travel planning, and chauffeur duties.

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