Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.
First, 10 things you can look forward to:
1. Higher pay
This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.
This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.
3. PT on your time
If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.
This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.
5. Health insurance
While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.
Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.
7. Joining the “old farts” organizations
The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.
8. Running into old friends again
The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …
9. Reliving old tales
Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.
10. Facial hair
Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.
Now, five things not to look forward to:
1. Loss of camaraderie
You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.
2. Lack of respect from young bucks
Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.
3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty
This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.
4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities
Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.
5. Dental insurance
For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.
Kelly Crigger is a retired lieutenant colonel and the author of “Curmudgeonism; A Surly Man’s Guide to Midlife.”