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Transition to Retirement

 Posted by on August 29, 2014 at 09:04
Aug 292014


It happened. It really happened. The day that was always so far off in the murky unknown future came rushing up full force and smacked me right in the face. Retirement. There it was, standing before me daring me to blink. I didn’t blink; in fact, I welcomed it with a traditional North Carolina pig pickin’ and career slideshow that was self-indulgent and way longer than necessary. You only retire once from military service and I am button-busting proud of my sweetheart. However, retirement didn’t enter our lives without turning the volume up on my anxiety either.

That was a few months ago for us. How am I now? Surprisingly the same person I was the day before my husband retired. I expected to fall apart and have a nervous breakdown. I don’t think that’s happened (unless I am in denial), and I have to tell you, if you’re nearing retirement — come on in, the water is GREAT! You just have to be able to roll with the waves that come from directions you didn’t expect.

How retirement changes you

A long time ago, when we were nearing 20 years, my husband said he knew it would be time to retire when it was no longer fun. It took almost eight more years for us to know it was time to make the transition. So what is life like now? It’s different, but it’s not.

We may have left active-duty service, but quite frankly, active service has not left us. We just perform it differently. Years of moving, deployments and various other separations and challenges provided us with personal and family skills we fully engage in our “new life.”

The day after

The day after his retirement ceremony, my husband carefully packed away all his uniforms.

“What are you doing?” I asked with a little bit of panic in my voice.

He said calmly, “I am packing.”

I became more agitated. “Are you sure you want to do that right now? What are you going to wear? Are you really done?”

I think he had a lot of responses he wanted to give, but he only said, “Yep” and kept packing.

I think that was his actual moment of transition. Watching him pack away the only clothes he had really worn for more than 27 years was powerful!

The new look

I will tell you that shopping with an old Marine for the first time for something more than BBQ clothes was not pleasant. I was left on several occasions standing alone in the men’s department watching my husband move toward the exit. I learned very quickly to catch up or I would be left altogether. My takeaways:

  • Go in separate cars.
  • Be patient.
  • Let your service member find his or her own new style. Most likely he or she went to a transition class that had a whole module on dressing for the civilian job. They will temporarily think they know more than you…just let it go.

The new job

It’s important to give your recently retired spouse support and encouragement as he or she embarks on a new career adventure. Here’s what I did.

Every day when he came home I would ask, “So, did you make any friends?”

He’d look at me and say no.

After two or three days, I changed my question. “So, did you meet anyone you liked or didn’t like today?”

“I like them and dislike them all equally.”

So I changed tactics again. “How was your day?”


Once I quit being more excited than he was for his new job, he started sharing again. I recommend you leave the communication channel open for when your service member can process his or her new world and then share it with you.

The new life

It is weird being “retired.” I feel the same as I did when we first married, but then I look in the mirror, or at him, and realize we are truly better versions of that young couple, and our years as a military family are a big part of who we are now. In our new home, in a new state with a new job, we still fly the American flag with the eagle, globe and anchor emblem embedded in the flag holder. Our vernacular stays the same too. We don’t own guns; we have weapons. We drive vehicles, not cars. We back brief or debrief each other at the end of each day. I’ve even mentioned perhaps we need an operational risk management workup or ORM.

The strange new life

The strange things I’ve noticed: We see woodland hunting camouflage everywhere, but not the digital pattern of the last almost two decades. We can pick out another Marine NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE WEARING. At a convenience store the other day, I looked at the guy in front of me and thought, “He’s a Marine.” His hair was regulation, but not enough to be a definite marker. As I left, I glanced to the vehicle he was getting into. Sure enough: a set of Charlies (the tan shirt with the dress blues trousers) was hanging in the backseat and on the bumper was Semper Fi. I wanted to shout “OOH RAH,” but as it was twilight in Texas in the middle of nowhere, I thought better of it.

You will never be alone

Finally, the best thing of all, the brother/sisterhood and instant family that existed during our many years has not left us and from what I’ve seen, never will. I saw this firsthand as my mother, the widow of a retired Air Force service member, traveled from one Morale, Welfare and Recreation RV park to another and had instant friends the moment she pulled in and hooked up.

So as retirement approaches, face it with all the gusto, gumption and gungie-ness you have each step of your active-duty life. It’s just another transition, and after all, military families are the royalty of transition!

It’s All About Transition

 Posted by on December 23, 2013 at 18:03
Dec 232013


Change, transition, turmoil, upheaval…INSANITY! If you are married to a military person, these terms should be readily available in your vocabulary. I would also add excitement, adventure, new housing, new places to explore and new friends to make. I have loved my life as a military daughter and, now for the last 25 years, as a wife.

I always knew this day would come, but just like saving money for retirement, it always seemed liked it was a far off possibility that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon. PEOPLE IT’S HAPPENING!

Shortly, for the first time in my life, I will no longer be an active-duty dependent. What does that even look like? Odds are no one from the outside looking in will see the change. But those who have gone before know we stand on a ledge peering tenuously over. They all stand down there waiving up at us, yelling “JUMP IN, IT’S AWESOME!” and they really do look like they are having fun.

The dark-haired, adorable (thinner) young Marine I married is now thicker, considerably older (as am I), with more silver hair. Thank goodness for my magical hair stylist — my hair doesn’t have the silver issues his hair does…

One of the grandest transitions of all is before us. It’s right up there with getting married, having a baby, and then another, and then another and so forth. Dare I say this is bigger than those babies growing up and leaving home? Yes, I do dare say it!

Where do we go? What do we do? How do we act? WHAT DOES HE WEAR TO WORK? Who is going to be my friend? How do I pick a neighborhood? Now, I do exaggerate some. We’ve lived in civilian communities before, we’ve had some choices and we have great networks, so some of those questions aren’t totally unanswered. The great common theme in all of these decisions previously has been the military of course.

I have suspected I might have a big adjustment to life away from an installation, but I didn’t realize how much my older children might be worried about adjusting until the other day. My 18-year-old daughter, a senior in high school, looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t think I can be a civilian.” My first thought was, “Did she join the military when I wasn’t looking?”  Then after I appropriately made fun of her, we talked about what it would be like living away from the military environment. This is how it’s been. We are a military family and we’ve shouldered the burdens and the adventures together, as a family. I am not sure why I didn’t realize we would retire as a family too.

So how do we proceed? Like we always have — together, with a lot of laughter, some tears and with a look forward to the future that builds on the past without dwelling on it. It’s been a good life, and I don’t foresee THAT changing — just the where and how we are living it.

As you and your family approach transitions, regardless of what they are — retirement, moving or deployment, let’s change the conversation. Do your homework, make your preparations and don’t ask, “Are we ready for retirement?” but ask instead, “Is retirement ready for us?”

Guest Blog: Recipe for a Retirement Ceremony

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 16:00
Mar 262013

Blogger Biography: Cheryle is a 10-year military spouse who has lived away from her husband longer than they’ve been under the same roof. Now that they are transitioning into the retirement stage, a whole new adventure has begun. There will soon be more time to spend at the lake, with their three children and their first grandchild. Retirement doesn’t mean you leave the military family behind because once you are a part of the military family, you are always family. Her husband’s military civilian job will keep them close to the family long after retirement.

In learning to cook, the first thing I grasped was the concept of following a recipe. If I mixed the right ingredients I could produce a tasty creation I was proud to share. However, this did not happen on my first attempt. It is the same concept for retirement. Each ingredient (step) of a career culminates to a final moment you are proud to share – the retirement ceremony.

For us, there was nothing conventional about our journey to retirement. Amidst all the twists and turns we experienced, you can still see the principal ingredients (steps) that helped create our journey’s end.

First came the decision of when to retire. While we were struggling with this decision and waiting for the promotion board results, my husband was asked to join a retirement ceremony in Texas, where he spent most of his career.

Typical of our luck, the promotion results were delayed and we had to decide about participating in the Texas ceremony. So, after nearly three decades of serving his country, my husband decided it was time to pass the torch to a new generation.

Next on our agenda was to coordinate flights and hotel rooms and head to Texas! The weekend celebration included visiting tourist attractions, attending a memorable ceremony and hosting a lovely reception. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his military career.

Now fade to black…open curtains to a new scene. We are back in Michigan with the retirement glow still on our cheeks and my husband is in his office when the phone rings. Shine the spotlight on him (audience goes silent).

His end of the phone conversation goes something like this…“No, I haven’t seen it…wait, let me open it” (he opens an email). “You have got to be kidding me …”

Ok, maybe I can’t print his exact words. The email contained the promotion board results, and my husband was asked if he would accept the promotion in lieu of retiring. Only a select group of people end their careers in this position. It was an easy decision.

For a brief moment I thought of the money spent on the retirement dinner, plane tickets and hotel rooms for what is now called “the retirement that didn’t stick.” None of that mattered; I was proud of him and glad to be back!!! I love being an integral part of the military life just as much as my husband. Did I mention they now call him the Favre of retirements?

After two more years of mentoring those who will follow his lead, my husband dropped his retirement papers…again…inspiring more jokes about whether it would actually happen.

Now that we were planning a second retirement ceremony, we wanted to find a way to keep the cost down and still create a totally different experience. The following tips helped us cut expenses and create a memorable experience:

  • Share your ceremony and reception with other service members.  This means you can divide the cost for huge savings.
  • Find a location that caters to the military and offers a discount. (The hall rental was discounted from the catering cost.)
  • Find a friend or service member to take photographs to alleviate hiring a professional.
  • Get creative.  My husband and his father made the shadow boxes. This saved money and they enjoyed being in the woodshop together.
  • Look for discount coupons to make a hard cover book of the retirement ceremony. I included many pictures and significant military poems. It was a great way to commemorate the occasion.
  • Gather pictures depicting a sample of each member’s military career and make a presentation to play during the reception.
  • Start traditions.  We had each military son pass the flag to his father. Getting a picture of son saluting father was priceless.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started, but a wealth of knowledge can be attained by speaking with current retirees or researching the Internet. Your ceremony can be customized to fit your budget.

I’m still in awe over every moment of this final ceremony. The elegant hall, the touching speeches and friends that gathered made THIS ceremony the perfect beginning of his retirement.

Now, if you think our final journey went without a hitch, think again. Later, we were informed that an incorrect date would delay his retirement an extra month. The jokes began again, saying Favre would never retire. Eventually, the date arrived and now our transition into the life of retirement has begun.

Planning for Retirement

 Posted by on February 6, 2013 at 07:00
Feb 062013
Staff Blogger Melissa


Seems like everywhere you turn these days everyone is talking about saving for retirement. There are commercials, blogs, magazine articles, radio shows, podcasts…you name it! While these messages are probably more targeted at the baby boomer generation, adults of all ages should take note!

Most people in their 20s typically let these messages go in one ear and right out the other. After all, this is when you are just starting out as an adult. You are probably starting your family and building your career…retirement seems like a LIFETIME away! Many people think “Oh, I can worry about retirement later…I am still young.”  Typically in your 30s retirement starts to seem achievable and you  realize you won’t be chained to a desk forever so you start thinking that maybe you should be putting a little away every now and again. You may even really look at maxing out your IRA or 401k. People in their 40s and 50s really start to number crunch, especially in military families. The career span of an active duty service member wraps up usually at some point in their 40s, long before the average retirement age of our civilian counterparts.

In order to avert stockpiling mass amounts of money at the end of your career it is important to plan ahead.  I learned this lesson at the ripe old age of 18.  My parents had me later in life, so that meant that my dad retired while I was still in high school.  I was able to learn about all their retirement planning and its importance at a young age.  I decided right then that I wanted to retire as soon as possible. Ironic because I was just starting out in college and hadn’t even begun my career yet. I was fortunate that my dad took my then-boyfriend/now-husband  and me down to his financial advisor to learn all about budgeting and retirement planning.  Those few hours we spent in that office were enlightening and invaluable.

We immediately decided to set up our own Roth IRA. It was a good fit for us because we liked that we could draw out money penalty free to buy a house or pay for college.  We left the office that day agreeing to put in $25 a month, and increase as we moved up in our careers. While it may not seem like a lot, it sure felt like a lot to a poor college student working part-time.

I didn’t realize at the time how important having my independent Roth IRA would be as a military spouse. As we have moved all across the country, and now around the world, I have been able to continue to save for my own retirement regardless of where I was working or if I was even working. I upped my own Roth IRA contribution to mirror what I would contribute to a 401k (as long as I stayed within the annual contribution limits for my Roth IRA).

If you need help getting started on planning for retirement, visit your installations Personal Financial Management office. They are there to help, and they WANT to help! They can help answer all your questions about the types of investments to make and even help you set up a basic budget.  If you aren’t living near an installation, you can also access financial counseling services by call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647. Just remember, regardless of whether you are working, you need to plan for your own retirement. Even contributing small amounts now, and increasing when you can, will help set you up for a smoother retirement!

Road to Retirement: Planning for the Coming Year

 Posted by on January 30, 2012 at 18:01
Jan 302012

Road to Retirement: Planning for the Coming Year


Where do I begin? Literally I’m asking that question as I stand looking at the chaos that is the result of the holidays, children out of school, and a husband on a holiday work schedule. It can all be too much and exhausting. Did I mention I really need a nap?

I’ve been thinking about my plan for the upcoming year. I will first need to make a list. I love lists. I use lists a lot, but I typically lose them. However, they help me to initially organize my thoughts.

I think these are the areas I am going to focus on:

  • Reduction
    • Debt
    • Weight (mine)
    • Household clutter
  • Increase
    • Savings
    • Retirement savings (or at least start it (deep sigh…)
    • Muscle
  • Planning
    • Retirement (what does that even look like?)
    • Christmas

There is more I could put down, but why go crazy? The whole retirement thing on my list gives me angina. However, the other things are good. The fact I am trying to lose weight and build muscle means I have to stop feeding myself and my family at all the drive-through windows in town and actually grocery shop and prepare meals. This directly benefits reducing debt and increasing savings because it is not cost effective to eat at windows. I figure if I can multi-task on some of my goals, I’ll be successful somewhere. Okay… this is looking possible.

The good news is because we are still active duty and live near an installation there are some great programs and resources to help with most of my categories. The bad news is I have a feeling retirement will creep up on us like the last twenty-six years in the military have. Fast, furious, and making me wonder exactly where all the time went. I have this foreboding feeling.

I just read over my categories and I’ve revised them:

  • Reduce something
  • Increase something else
  • Plan Christmas

Seriously. Why do I want to set myself up for failure? Just reading that list made me realize I am not super woman and is making that nap look way more appealing. How many New Year’s resolutions get dropped by the wayside on January 31st? I need some success.

Maybe I really do need to focus on retirement.  Getting things ready and preparing for the life-changing transition. I’m not sure exactly what that implies. Everyone says you need to start preparing two years out. That’s difficult because you are still in the heart active duty life and all that brings to your family, yet you have to start figuring out how to disengage from that and prepare to live differently.

Not an easy task, mentally anyway. I don’t even know what differently means. I think I’m starting to sweat. So I asked my very smart friend who has already gone through retirement. She answered me with a series of questions I need to be asking.

  • Where are we going to live?
  • What kind of work do we want to do?
  • What do we want the next relationship with our service to look like?
  • What do want the next phase of our life to look like?

Her parting comment shot straight to my gut and turned my foreboding feelings into just plain panic: “Until you answer those questions you are not doing the work to get ready.”

OH MY GOSH, I really need a nap now. I can’t answer those by myself. I have to talk to… the husband. I don’t want to talk to him. He and I don’t necessarily see eye to eye. I want to live on a ranchette in Texas. He just wants to find a job. Why can’t a ranchette be a job?

So I’ve revised my list again:

  •  Talk to the husband

At least that is a New Year’s resolution I can keep. The rest of it… Well, I have a whole year and I will get started right away, but first… the nap.

Pay it Forward

 Posted by on October 27, 2009 at 18:00
Oct 272009

Pay it Forward

mos_illustrative_logo.1_smallerThe latest economic news certainly sounds promising: the stock market is rallying, home sales are rebounding. But if you’re like most Americans, the recession still feels like a nasty cold that just won’t go away.

But a dose of Vitamin C (for “cash”) is coming your way. A bill has reached President Obama’s desk that will give military personnel a 3.4 percent pay raise in 2010. And while that may not seem like much, it’s higher than the average private-sector pay raise, which is below 2 percent. The bill will also more than double the current $500 supplemental allowance for service members with low incomes and large families.

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All materials copyright Military OneSource, 2012. Blog content held jointly by writer and Military OneSource, with shared rights to republish with appropriate attribution.