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    Choosing an Alternate Path After Military Retirement

    When approaching military retirement, most transitioning service members prepare to immediately start a second career. They update their resume, buy civilian work clothes, apply for jobs, and go back to work full-time for another 20 years.

    Is there an alternative to jumping right back into the workplace? After all the deployments, moves, stress, and time away from family and friends, what if you did something different post-retirement, even for a little while, that would help strengthen you and your family core?

    With the right knowledge, some financial planning, and use of your military benefits, it’s possible to delay your second career for a long-deserved break. Here, we offer alternatives to rushing back into the grind after retiring from the military.

    Choosing an Alternate Path After Military Retirement (1)


    Choosing an Alternate Path After Military Retirement

    Take A Year to Decide Where to Go Next

    When you retire from the military, you are entitled to one final military-sponsored move. With permission from your branch of service, you can delay that final move for up to 6 years, and the military will pay for the first year of storage of your household goods (HHG). In subsequent years, you must pay for the storage yourself (at a government rate). My husband and I left our HHG in storage for 5 years while we traveled the world.

    military couple traveling

    You can use that year of free HHG storage to research and visit places where you want to settle, like this military family, who spent a year traveling the U.S. in their RV to search for their next home.

    What would you do with that year?

    Start a Business

    Post-retirement is a great time to do something completely new or pursue a dream that has always tugged at you. Your military pension, and possibly some tax-free disability income from  the VA, provide a source of income while building a business. Take a look at 8 Big Financial Ideas for Small Businesses to find resources to help you start and grow your business. 

    Post military retirement is a great time to start a small business.

    But one of the most underrated military benefits for aspiring entrepreneurs is your TRICARE health coverage. Lack of affordable health insurance is a huge hurdle for civilians who want to quit their 9 to 5 to start a business, but it’s a non-issue for military retirees. With only a small monthly enrollment fee, your TRICARE coverage minimizes the cost and the headache of finding health care coverage, allowing you to focus on building your business.

    Travel to Places YOU Want to Go

    Travel is a great way to reconnect with your family after years of hectic military life. If you still have kids at home, you may only have a short time before they leave the nest, so think about how you can make the most of it. This retired Navy family is using their last few years “under one roof” to cruise full-time in their sailboat. Other military families have taken advantage of Space-A flights and flown to destinations all over the world. Using that privilege allows them to see places they couldn’t afford to visit if they had to purchase airfare for the entire family!

    Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, we quickly realized during our first year of travel post-retirement that traveling and living abroad can actually be much less expensive than living in the United States. Research the average salaries around the world, and you will find that in many incredible locations, including countries such as Spain, Portugal, and France, your retirement income is equal to or more than what locals earn while working full-time. If locals can live on that income, so can you!

    Photos from author: 

    Ponte da PiedadePonta da Piedade is a rock formation along the cliffs of Portugal's southern coast.


    KyotoRestaurantThe entry of a typical restaurant in Kyoto, Japan.


    CuencaEcuadorSwingThe swing at Mirador Del Turi in Cuenca, Ecuador.

    If you want to travel and make money at the same time, there are several ways to do it. COVID-19 has pushed many jobs online. Now, you can easily find ways to earn money while traveling, whether by working remotely for a company, freelancing, or starting your own location-independent business.

    Interested in getting paid to live overseas? Use your Post 911 GI Bill to study abroad! Using your GI Bill kills two birds with one stone: it gives you tax-free income to cover living expenses (in 2021 the overseas housing allowance for veterans using their GI Bill is $1833 per month), and allows you to seek a student visa to live in the country where you’re studying. It’s a win-win!

    What Could You Do Post-Retirement?

    Now is the time to begin thinking and dreaming about what you could do after retirement besides jumping straight into a second career. 

    post military retirement dreaming

    Once you have an idea, start planning by getting financially prepared and understanding how your military benefits work. Then, put that plan into action, and look forward to not only retiring from the military, but beginning a new way of life!

    9 Steps to Plan Ahead for Military Retirement

    Stephanie Montague


    Stephanie Montague

    Stephanie Montague is the founder of Poppin' Smoke, a website dedicated to helping members of the military community take advantage of their travel-related benefits. She has been traveling and living abroad with her husband since he retired from the Army in 2015. Through Poppin’ Smoke, Stephanie shares everything she and her husband learn about Space-A travel and using military benefits while abroad. Also, through her Facebook group, U.S. Military Retirees and Veterans Living Overseas, Stephanie facilitates a large and growing community of veterans who are interested in living overseas after their military career.

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