When Departing From the Military, What Are You Going To?

The military does a great job of assimilating a varied group of people into one common purpose. However, eventually we all leave the military for one reason or another, and that’s where there’s room for improvement. The military has a moral (and legal) responsibility to provide us with transition resources. However, it’s ultimately our job…
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The military does a great job of assimilating a varied group of people into one common purpose. However, eventually we all leave the military for one reason or another, and that’s where there’s room for improvement.

The military has a moral (and legal) responsibility to provide us with transition resources. However, it’s ultimately our job to make sure that the rest of our life is as productive, fruitful and rewarding as we want it to be.

Throughout our military careers, we all encounter the a wide variety of people. I try not to categorize anyone, but for this article, I’ll put the majority of people into two categories:

  • People who are retiring or separating from the military
  • People who are going to something else

Planning to Go to Something Else from the Military

My favorite people are the ones who belong to the second group: They have a plan, have thought about it and are going to pursue it.

  • Perhaps they had a hobby or a side gig that turned profitable, and they’re going to do that full time.
  • Maybe they developed a military expertise and are going to put it to use in their civilian career.
  • Perhaps they decide to take on a job that values their skill set less than the market, but is more personally rewarding. For example, some go into teaching or become volunteers.
  • Many people go to a more stable family life. They might take a job, but then choose to prioritize their family over career progression. This is also known as “work to live.”

Whatever the case may be, their post-military career decisions support their life goals and are made in pursuit of their plans for their best lives. I love hearing those stories so much more than listening to the others.

Retiring or Separating From the Military

The others are those who are simply leaving the military. They don’t know what they’re going to.

  • They don’t plan for their post-military life.
  • They take off their uniform one week and put on civilian clothes the next week, but they hate their job.
  • They grind through this for the next 20 years until another pension comes along.

I’ve found that the vast majority of our prior service civilian workforce has a high level of competence, passion and sense of mission. They might gripe and grumble about office politics (who doesn’t?), but they feel like they’re adding value.


Not everyone finds the same satisfaction. We all know former service members who retired seven presidents ago and have been irrelevant for at least four. They’re hanging on until some vague future moment.

If this is you, and you’re putting in your 40 hours a week so you can give back to the community, spend time with your family and travel, then great! The rest of your life probably more than makes up for anything a more rewarding job could offer.

So seriously think about what you want to see for the rest of your life. You’ve got anywhere between 20 and 40 (or more) post-military years of employability. You owe it to yourself (and your family) to put a little more consideration into what your work-life balance looks like.

After all, if your job makes you a miserable person, then is there really a work-life balance? Even if you’re only at the office 40 hours a week, your family is probably feeling the negativity more than if you worked 60 hours and left your work at the office.

What do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About Forrest Baumhover

Forrest Baumhover is a Certified Financial Planner™ and financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, a fee-only financial services firm. As a retired naval officer, Forrest helps veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their families address the financial challenges of post-military life so they can achieve financial independence and spend more time doing the things they love.

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