Navigating retirement: A journey not a destination

By Laura Blair

In the last 11 months, my family has:

Obtained retirement orders, scheduled a move, moved 1200 miles (two weeks after we got our retirement orders),
started a new job, found a place to rent, enrolled a kid in school,
had our final household goods delivery, gotten pregnant with kid #3,
and are finally starting to feel settled in our retirement location.  

It’s been a crazy (almost) year, and I’m exhausted just thinking about all the initial stress we had in the first few months of retirement.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried to plan better...but I’m a procrastinator.   Don’t be like me, be a planner.


With a traditional retirement (20+ years), you will know when the “end is near."  However, with a medical or disability retirement, the end date is a little more in flux due to having to wait for the Med Board to make their determination. No one PLANS to be medically retired (or I would assume).

My husband certainly didn’t expect to medically retire after 12 years.

  • Save your money!

Others I have talked to have suggested saving up at least three months worth of living expenses. This provides a nice buffer for moving, finding a post-retirement job, and getting settled in a new location.

  • Where will you go?  

Start thinking and researching the place you want to retire to. If your options are open, think about moving to one of the tax-break states (the ones that don’t tax military pension). Your wallet and bank accounts will thank you.


The military will move you ONE LAST TIME on their dime. You have up to 12 months to actually complete the moving process.

  • College Funding.  

Make sure the servicemember has transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits early if that is something that is good for your family.  Some servicemembers plan to utilize their funding upon retirement, others do not. Make an informed decision as soon as you can because there is often an Active Duty service obligation required for several years after the transfer.

  • Death stops pension.  

The Survivor Benefit Plan allows for the spouse and/or children to continue to receive 55% of the servicemember’s monthly retirement pension upon their death.  There is a premium required, but definitely worth it in my opinion. The spouse of the servicemember MUST sign if your family declines coverage.

  • Insurance.

    • Health - Tricare for Retirees is an option to continue your medical insurance, especially if anyone in your family decides to not be employed at a job with health insurance benefits.

    • Life -  SGLI ends 120 days after retirement.  Convert your SGLI policy over to a private policy or a VGLI policy.  The health review requirement is waived if the servicemember signs up for VGLI within the first 240 days of retirement.  This is a GREAT option for good rates, especially if the servicemember is medically retired.

Ask for Help

The transition from military life to retired life can take a toll on a couple.  It saddens me to say, but some couples complete an entire military career together only to get divorced in the first few years following retirement.  Individual and Couple counseling can be a helpful step to keep your marriage on the right path post-retirement.  

So, here we are, nearing the 1 year mark of retirement.  The move went smoothly, a little stressful in the beginning (but what PCS is ever NOT stressful!?),
but life on the other side of the fence is fun.  My family has more time to spend together, without having to make plans around deployments, work ups, or trainings.

Retirement is DEFINITELY WORTH IT after dedicating all those years to your country.


photo credit: Melissa Shenefelt, a fellow Navy Spouse

photo credit: Melissa Shenefelt, a fellow Navy Spouse

Laura Blair is a National Certified Counselor, LPC in Colorado, and a Doctoral student in Marriage and Family Therapy at Northcentral University. Her husband is retired. They live in Colorado with their two (almost three) sons and two dogs. Laura currently works as a therapist in her community.  If she had spare time, you would find her crafting and doing fun things with her family.