Many military families look forward to the day their servicemember transitions out of military service and back into civilian life. There are, of course, plenty of advantages to civilian life, not the least of which is the greater control you’ll have over your life decisions.
At the same time, leaving the military—particularly if you’ve been in for a while and you and your family have gotten used to the lifestyle—can be a little scary for the servicemember, his or her spouse, and the kids.
We’re a pretty adaptable species, and even if things aren’t perfect (and are they ever?), we have a remarkable capacity to not only get used to them, but to thrive in them.
Of course, just because everyone in the family is living in the same house at pretty much the same time, each one of you may be having a completely different experience. For the servicemember, for example, the focus has most likely been on rising through the ranks, gaining leadership skills, attending applicable schools, and building up a career within the military. For him or her, the order of the military probably makes sense and may even be comforting. For the rest of the family, thought, the constant moves, deployments, and uncertainties may be quite the opposite.
If you’re getting close to a time when you’ll need to consider whether to stay in or transition out, it’s a good idea to take inventory and create a plan.
Doing so will help set up your entire family for success after military life.
Goals for Military Spouses
According to The Institute for Veteran and Military Families, the unemployment rate for female military spouses is about three times higher than it is for their civilian counterparts.
Many military spouses say that their biggest struggles in finding suitable employment are related to the inconsistent lifestyle associated with having a spouse in the military.
The few years leading up to a transition provide a great opportunity for military spouses to do whatever they can to achieve (or at least move a little closer to) some of their personal academic or career goals.
Goals for Military Kids
If you’ve got a child who’s eagerly anticipating going to a certain college around the same time that your service member is leaving the service, this may be a perfect opportunity to keep the family together (and help with tuition costs) by planning to move to the same state as the college your child will be attending.
If your kids are younger, you might want to stay in the same area as the base you’re currently stationed at so they’ll be able to be in the same school for as long as possible. That will be a welcome break (to you and the kids) from the constant school changes that happened throughout your spouse’s stint in the military. Besides the social aspect (it’ll be nice for your children to be able to not have to keep making new friends every two years), will have a better chance of excelling in music, debate, dance, or any other endeavor they choose to pursue.
Goals for Servicemembers
Is your servicemember looking forward to starting a new career in the civilian world? According to a recent Military Family Lifestyle Survey, 46% of post-9/11 veterans report that it took longer than expected to find employment. If your retirement goals are dependent upon finding a high-paying position in your servicemember’s preferred career field, things might not be quite as rosy as you’ve been hoping.
One way the servicemember can increase his or her chances of finding a great second career after the military is to earn a degree while still in uniform. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is a great resource for servicemembers seeking to earn their undergraduate or graduate degree.
How to Create Your Plan
Every military family is different, and each member is going to have different goals. Take the initiative and talk to your family about personal and family goals to decide the best course of action to take during those pivotal few years leading up to transition out of the military.