Preparing for a military retirement is a major milestone in life that requires months of planning and preparation. Depending on whether you retire from active-duty service or from the Reserves, your life will be significantly different.
Successfully Transitioning Out of the Military Takes Planning
For many servicemembers, retiring from the military does not mean that they want to retire completely. Even after a 20-year, active-duty military career, many veterans start a second job.
Ideally, utilize all of the training and education benefits your branch of the military offers to prepare for becoming a veteran. Your planning should be done well in advance so that when the day comes for you to seek civilian job opportunities, you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities for a new career path.
See If You Can Get Academic Credit or Certifications
Also, it’s a good idea to have your military training and experience evaluated to determine how much academic credit you have already earned. The military utilizes the American Council on Education’s recommendations for college credit based on your military occupational specialty (MOS), training, and experience.
The amount of academic credit that you can be awarded toward a degree is ultimately up to a college or university to decide. But working with a military-friendly school such as the University is a great way to save time and money as you take courses to earn a college degree.
While still in service, you may wish to obtain formal civilian certifications using your military experience. These certifications can include those certifications related to trade occupations or information technology.
For Resumes, Be Sure to Translate Common Military Terms for Civilian Interviewers
As you’re working on a resume, take the time to translate common military terms and military training phrases for a civilian audience. For example, if you served as a senior Yeoman in the military, that is most likely a senior personnel manager in civilian terms.
According to veteran and University alumnus William Balcerski, who retired from the Coast Guard after nearly 30 years of service, “There’s a huge disconnect between military and civilian worlds. No matter how much training or qualifications you have in the military, if you can’t articulate them in terms in which a company can understand, they’re meaningless.
“Companies want to know how a person’s experience supports their goals and their visions. You have to focus on your transferable skills and be able to describe them in a way that the company that you’re trying to get with will understand.”
Interviewing with Civilian Interviewers
If you plan to seek a job after your military separation, leveraging your military experience will be helpful. During interviews, be sure to describe the vast amount of training, leadership experience, and knowledge your military career provides to highlight how it will benefit a potential employer.
Also, research commonly asked interview questions before you go to an interview and prepare specific answers in advance.
For example, a common interview question is to explain a professional problem you experienced in the workplace and how you overcame it. You can describe the situation you faced, what action you took, and how that problem was successfully resolved.
Another common interview question is to ask a job candidate to list three strengths and three weaknesses, so be prepared to answer this question as well. When you’re discussing a weakness, you can identify a specific weakness but also include information regarding how you overcame the weakness.
Start Networking Before Your Military Retirement
You don’t have to wait until separation before you develop a professional network. Start by creating a LinkedIn profile and use LinkedIn’s connections to find people associated with employers and industry for whom you wish to work after your military career.
Military retiree William Balcerski also notes, “Networking is absolutely critical. One of the things that you’ll have to do is research the company. But find out who the most important people within that company are, and then utilize websites like LinkedIn and other sites that you can use (blogs) to contact those individuals and establish a rapport, and you have a much significant, improved chance on getting in with that company.”
Pay Special Attention to Healthcare Benefits, Especially During Military Retirement
For active-duty members who become veterans, they have access to health benefits for the remainder of their lives. Be sure to leverage those health benefits through the Veterans Health Administration.
One of the most significant benefits of the military reserves is that drilling reservists have access to Tricare Reserve Select, a premium-based healthcare option at a low cost. In 2024, a drilling reservist can obtain health insurance through Tricare Reserve Select for $51.95 for individual servicemembers or $256.87 for the family option premium, according to Military Times.
Once drilling reservists retire, they are usually not eligible for Tricare for Life until their retirement benefits begin at age 60. Retired reservists are typically eligible for Tricare Retired Reserve until they are eligible for the free healthcare benefit at age 60 but should be aware that the premium goes from $585.24 for the individual and $1,406.22 per month for the family plan through Tricare Retired Reserve.
Stay Financially Literate
Financial literacy is vital for servicemembers, before and after military retirement. Avoiding debt, starting a savings account, and utilizing a budget are good ways to prepare for military retirement. The more financially prepared you are for the expenses of military retirement, the less stressful it will be.
During retirement, you may also be eligible for military discounts. Although these military discounts may not be as plentiful after your military retirement, you should still access these discounts wherever they are available. For example, retired members continue to have access to military commissaries and exchanges, where many items are often less expensive than retail stores.
Military Retirement Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
Ultimately, making the transition from military life to civilian life will be smoother when you’re prepared for all of the changes you will face. Be sure to consider your professional and personal goals as you’re making plans for life after the military. Also, take the time to decompress, adjust to your new life, and enjoy time with family and friends.