by Tara Puckey
You’re used to the military PCSing you every two to three years to a new location, so you’ve always had where you were going to live decided for you. But, are you preparing to separate or retire? Have you given where you’re going to live after the military much thought yet? Some service members may have a place or places in mind already.
However, it’s still important to consider a handful of factors before you make that final decision on where you will move for your last PCS when you end your service or retire — especially if you don’t have a job lined up already. That brings the first and relatively critical point for considering where to live and that is.
Factors to consider when deciding where to live after you retire
Military members towards the end of their service are encouraged to start the job hunt ASAP. As you are exploring new potential career fields, see where a majority of the desired companies for employment are located. For example, if you are looking into Department of Defense or government contracting work, you might be aiming your sights on jobs in the National Capital Region. But don’t limit yourself too much because there are opportunities everywhere and it’s a matter of finding the right fit for you when it comes down to it.
Nine states — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming — do not tax employment income. Other states — Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — exempt all military pensions from taxation. Some states don’t have sales tax, but they might have high property tax or vice versa. Keep in mind that cities and counties may have taxes too, so it’s important to research it to the local level. Jot down all the tax structures and estimate what you and your family would really need to live in the places you are considering.
Look into the estimated salary for your desired job and check out the cost of living. You want to be sure you would be getting the most from your salary back with all things considering.
Desired Climate and Activities
You and your family’s welfare should also be taken into account. Some are keener on warmer weather as in Arizona or Texas, but others may want to experience all four seasons as in Virginia or Ohio. In addition, you should be close or at a reasonable distance to what you enjoy. If you love to ski, Colorado might be a good fit. Or if you prefer boating or beach activities, Florida may be more up your alley.
Proximity to a Military Installation and Veteran Affairs Hospital of Facility
For a lot of veterans, it’s important to stay close to the lifestyle that was a part of them for so long, especially as retirees can utilize the benefits for as long as they would like. Luckily, there are installations everywhere from coast-to-coast and overseas, so there are options almost everywhere. Noting the location of the VA facilities would also be beneficial to receive earned treatment and since there are some not connected to a military installation, researches should pinpoint it separately.
Proximity to Friends and Family
A lot of military members move back home because of the support of family and friends, which can be invaluable. Sometimes, it might be the needed encouragement to get back into the civilian sector and networking among familiar faces could get your foot in the door. It can also be a good stepping stone for your family’s long term plan or whatever other plan you map out, if you decide to move back home.
Think about each member of your family and their preferences. If your spouse will be working, does your short list of places have something for them? Also, are the schools in the area a good fit for your kids? Research the different characteristics and qualities that you think would be beneficial for your family members to keep in mind. Once you’ve evaluated the points above, ask yourself these questions:
Do I want to live in the city, suburb or country?
This could go back to your desires and family needs a little bit as well. As mentioned in taxes, where you live could determine what you pay. It could also determine the amount of space you and your family would get and the luxuries that surround each choice. Everyone has a preference on their style of living.
Will I be buying or renting a home?
If your family is ready to buy a home, you should consider the housing marketing at desired locations. When narrowing down a place and the housing market isn’t for buyers, it might be beneficial to rent in the meantime or that might sway you to move someplace else.
What does your gut tell you?
Ultimately, it will come down to your instinct. How do you really feel about this place or that one? Will you be happy? Will your family be happy, generally speaking?
After reviewing each touchpoint, you are in the right direction to make an informed decision on where you should live.
—Tara Puckey is a military spouse and freelance writer who lives in Indiana