Salute to Spouses Blog

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In your words: retirement struggles

Military retirement comes with a lot of lessons learned. Many of those revolve around being better prepared.


Specifically, a lot of spouses find that they – and their veteran – were not financially or emotionally ready to face such a huge transition.


I recently asked a group of “retiree spouses” what their biggest struggle was when their servicemember left the military.


Here are their answers, raw and unedited:


“After 21 years of the military telling my husband what to do, where to go, how to dress … it was just a culture shock to all of the sudden have the freedom to do what you want. The stress to find a new job after retirement was also very real so until that was secured, we were nervous about the financial hits.”

“I know it is said all the time but I would have saved more money and paid off the rest of the debt just to hopefully take off the anxiety of not finding a post-retirement job right away.”


“I think it’s just so many changes at once. I read a book about coping with life transitions and usually just one sets people off. There are several at retirement. I think I took it harder than my husband.”


“Choices. So many choices. You have to ask what do we want to do with our lives? Can I support my family on x?”


“Military to civilian life. The loss of instant community. Also, the money. We saved and had to use a lot of it in the beginning because of late checks.”


“We are close to retirement and living in our first all-civilian community. I'm used to being with spouses who are always trying to improve things. If something needs improving, fixing, help … we get to work. With after action reports or a new policy. For the past year all I've heard is, ‘that's how we've always done it,’ ‘it's tradition.’ . . . Either it doesn't work or could be so much better but they don't care. I have to bite my tongue and go along. We have now decided we have to at least retire near a military installation to be with like-minded people.”


“The emotional toll of leaving our comfort zone. My husband truly went through a grieving process at the end of his career … and I lost my military tribe, the ready-made sisterhood of being a military spouse. We moved away from an installation and not being around that familiarity has been hard for us. We also are struggling to find friends. It's not as quick and easy in a civilian setting. The job, finances, medical ... everything logistical fell into place nicely. It was the emotional side that caused us to struggle. We're 8 months in and I still don't feel that we've found our new normal.”


“We moved away from military and family. I don’t remember ever feeling this lonely. I have made some friends that are on the kids’ emergency call card but they are nothing like my military tribe. Plus I feel “sidelined” watching all my military friends still living the military family lifestyle.”


“One of our downfalls is life insurance. We are hurting now trying to get it. Definitely get it when young and before you retire.”


“I miss the structure. I miss the community. Knowing that we all shared the same joys of returns, the same heartache of deployment. The overwhelming support of other spouses in times of need … I miss my military family I made along the way.”



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