By Jaimi Erickson
Contributing Writer

Now that my husband and I are knee-deep into the retirement process, I realize that we should have started retirement planning a few years ago. While it’s too late for me to go back and change our retirement timeline, I am learning a lot from other military spouses who have already gone through the process. No matter what your level of involvement in the military spouse community, the advice of seasoned spouses is invaluable. 

After many years in the military, we spouses can get into the mindset of “if it’s important, the military will tell us.” However, retirement is different from other phases since it means an abrupt change of direction. The military tries to prepare you, but retirement really is the point at which its members get thrown into the deep end of adult life. Retirement is when you must teach yourself to swim. 

Let’s learn from those who have stayed afloat and swam to the other side. I went to my “retired spouse village” to gather their thoughts. These are spouses who have gone through the retirement process and are now living in the next chapter after military service. 

Some of the spouses in my “village” still live near military bases, while others packed up and moved closer to family once they transitioned out of service. Some moved because of a job, and others moved because they wanted to live in a specific location. I asked each of these retired spouses what was their biggest lesson learned in the retirement process. All members of the “village” emphasized that retirement should not be scary, but rather that it is a process requiring more planning than some of us may realize. 

After hearing that my husband would be retiring in six months, my first step was to find a comprehensive military retirement checklist. I have always found using a checklist helpful for providing direction in a time that can feel chaotic. AAFMAA (American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association) has the best checklist I have found so far, and it is helpful for both servicemembers and their spouses. You can download the checklist for free and it starts three years out from transitioning out of military service, so you won’t miss anything along the way. 

SpouseLink has regular video chats on Facebook to discuss retirement. These chats do a great job of speaking specifically to military spouses and our concerns navigating retirement. You can watch the chats on the SpouseLink Facebook page


Cheyanne, a fellow homeschool mom I met through our local homeschool group, offered her thoughts on the retirement journey. She shared sentiments about the excitement of having more time with her spouse, but she cautioned about being flexible: 

“I’m excited for our time together… just like after a deployment! However, he doesn’t know what to do with all this free time [and] no workday responsibilities even though he’s doing laundry and dishes plus running all the errands with us. He still is unsure of what to do with himself!” 

“Readjusting to so much time together and no one telling him or us what to do when is freeing and a bit terrifying.” 

“[B]e flexible! Life after retirement is still a bunch of unknowns and relearning what you knew to be true five minutes ago! Just like returning from a deployment, we have to readjust!” 


Liz, whom I met through a spouse club when we were both stationed at Twentynine Palms, reflects on her experiences through the military retirement process:

“[M]ake sure you research the heck out of the area you plan to live in. This move is more than likely not a temporary one. Y’all picked it to lay down your roots and you need to be sure you are comfortable in your own surroundings. Take the time to travel to said destination several times if necessary to ensure that you have all that you need and want.” 

Liz’s husband had a heart attack less than two weeks after retiring, so she shares advice on finances, and the important documents you need to know about and be ready to handle:  

“… utilize all resources available to you, and do not hesitate to ask numerous questions of your realtor, your new potential neighbors — yes go over and meet them! [Also check out] the chamber of commerce; research your church/synagogue options, etc.” 

“… You should always be ready with a plan (i.e., living will, DNR, POA, insurance info, DD-214, survivor benefits, investment information, Social Security, etc.). You are a military spouse, and you can manage a lot, but having a plan is essential to success.” 

Facebook Responses

Additionally, I asked the question about retirement planning in a Military Spouse Retirement Information group on Facebook. Here are some gems of wisdom from spouses in the group: 

“It took a while to settle into a new community. We had to work at finding groups where we fit in. Your social life takes work after retirement.” – Sue 

“TAXES, have a solid emergency fund [so that] you aren’t rushed into any decisions prematurely (jobs, etc.) and really have a plan for what it looks like getting out.” – Christina 

“Healthcare and insurance I think has been our greatest challenge. We are both Veterans so he and I use our VA for everything we can, and our girls have TRICARE select. We never know when to use our VA benefits or if we need to use VA, so I suggest you use VA benefits if possible, you can use them for everything not just if you’re rated for it.” – Cindi 

“Make sure you have at least three months’ worth of bill money saved. It will really take a ton of stress off of your shoulders. It takes a while for retirement check to come in and really get settled in this new way of life.” – Christy 

Military spouses hold so much wisdom. As I navigate the retirement process alongside my servicemember, this advice has helped us take steps to create the plan for our next chapter of life. Our military lifestyle has taught us how to be resilient, empathetic, and strong.  

We can never be sure what the future holds, but there is a way to ensure that your family is taken care of if life-altering events occur. AAFMAA Military Spouse Life Insurance is there for your family if life-altering events occur. What you do for your family each day — on into retirement — is important.  

About Jaimi Erickson

Jaimi is a mom of 4, military wife, and writer. She blogs about motherhood, kids activities and homemaking tips at The Stay-at-Home Mom Survival Guide. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.

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