By Doug Nordman
Military Spouse Guest Writer and founder of The-Military-Guide.com.
One day you'll reach financial independence and you'll be ready to spend less time at the office. Maybe you'll cut back to part time, or do some consulting, or even completely retire. You might retire right out of the military and live on your pension, or you might decide to work a few years of a bridge career first. USAA's Goals Planning Tool on usaa.com and their financial advisors can help with this decision.
You might hesitate to retire before the "traditional" age of 65. Hardly anyone does that. What are you missing? You've squared away your finances, but are you overlooking anything in the rest of your life?
Retirement is a chance to enjoy your freedom and to develop more of your personal potential. You should feel as excited about the next phase of your life as you were when you joined the service! How will you describe yourself in retirement? Are you an entrepreneur? A surfer? Are you a world traveler or an at-home parent? You may be able to say: "I'm a military veteran"-- but what else will you be?
Talk with your family first, and then share with a few shipmates, neighbors, or relatives. Tell them you're considering retirement and you're never going to work for a paycheck again. But when you do, be ready to tackle these five "objections":
"You're too young to retire. You have so much ahead of you!"
Your response: "I want to enjoy retirement before I'm too old!"
Do you really want to "save" retirement for old age? You have things to see and do while you can still achieve them. Travel and triathlons do not improve with age. Best of all, you can pursue your goals at your own pace.
"You'll be so bored."
Your response: "I've planned this for a while. I think I'll find plenty of things to do."
Retirement means that you're responsible for your own entertainment. (Don't expect your family to volunteer for this duty!) You get to try something different. As a kid, during school vacations you stayed busy all day. (Back then you certainly couldn't find the time for household chores.) You had no trouble pursuing your own path. Now it's your turn again!
You'll still have goals, but you're the scorekeeper. You can be specific ('Run a half-marathon by June") or more general ("Run a 10K this year"). Relax and find your pace. During the first few months of retirement you'll have plenty of activities and challenges. Eventually, though, the major decisions are made, the lists settle down, and you'll be crossing off those goals. You'll pursue new interests and hobbies, and you'll continue this cycle indefinitely.
"You'll lose all your friends!"
Your response: "I'll still spend time with old friends, and I'll make more friends!"
You moved a lot in the military and you made plenty of new friends. You'll find more friends in retirement, too, as you spend more time on activities that you enjoy.
Retirement will certainly help you tell your real friends from your co-workers. If people are put off by it instead of being happy for you, then perhaps they're not such good friends after all. Most retirees keep in touch with a few people from the old job, and you'll find new interests to share beyond office gossip. Your schedule may be wide open, too, and you'll be the person they can invite at the last minute. Or maybe you're already out surfing, and they'll have to catch up with you later.
"You're going to retire NOW?!? But the team needs you!!"
Your response: "We've built a great team, and it can survive without me!"
You may feel that you're letting down your boss, your mentors, and your office battle buddies. Everyone will be even more overworked without you. Are you a quitter? Should you stick around for just one more year?
These doubts are perfectly normal. No one wants to break up the team. It's also easier for the team to hang on to you than to train your replacement -- if they can even find your replacement. As far as they're concerned, there will never be a good time for you to leave.
Don't get distracted: focus on what's best for you and your family. They've sacrificed a lot over the years and they may feel that they've supported your career for long enough. Your team wouldn't force you to stay if your heart was no longer in it. It's better to plan your transition instead of letting it force itself on you.
Your co-workers, if they're truly your friends, would much rather see you reach your goals than continue to suffer with them. As for the rest of the office, they're tired of competing with you for the next promotion. They'll be happy that you're giving them an opportunity -- now get outta here!
"Your spouse will never allow it!"
Your response: "We've been planning this for a long time, and everyone's looking forward to it."
Communication with your family is the key to their support. Share the plan with your significant other (and maybe a financial advisor) so that you both understand the situation (and can check the math). Tell older children that you have enough for the budget. Younger kids just want to know that you'll have more time to play with them.
Reassure your family that you'll figure out your own entertainment, but you'll have more time to spend with them doing the things they enjoy!
About Doug Nordman
I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 and spent 20 years in the submarine force. My spouse graduated from USNA into the Meteorology/Oceanography community before transferring to the Navy Reserve. Both of us are retired in Hawaii, where we were first stationed in 1989. Our daughter graduates from college (on a Navy ROTC scholarship) in 2014.
We made plenty of money mistakes during our careers, but we always lived below our means (easy to do on deployments) and we saved as much as we could in diversified investments with low expenses. As my retirement approached, we realized that our investment income plus my pension would nearly replace my base pay. We made a spending plan to enjoy a beach-bum lifestyle in paradise. After over 10 years and two recessions - so far so good!
The military's inflation-fighting pension and cheap healthcare solve an early retiree's two biggest challenges. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other servicemembers and veterans. All royalties are donated to military charities, and we're collecting more stories for the next edition at The-Military-Guide.com. Share your advice or your own story!
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