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6 Mistakes Retired Military Officers Can Make That Could Mess-up Their Ultimate Retirement

Retirement Funding Managing Your Finances

You had a great career in the military. You've also had a very successful second career and now you're starting to get real serious about your second retirement.

Even though your military retirement provides you with a great base, there are some big mistakes you can make, fouling up your retirement badly. And the effects won’t be realized until it’s too late to make financial repairs. Here’s how a personal train wreck can happen with very little effort:

  1. Moving without researching for retirement – Americans like to move and military members get used to it. As a country, we are more prone to change geographically every generation than most other countries. But that wanderlust has a price, and if we move to a location that doesn’t work for the cost of living in retirement, we can pay dearly in our retirement years. This is the issue where what barely suffices as making it in California could buy a person a mansion and 20 acres in Wyoming. If thinking about moving, even in one’s young years, take the time to see how it plays out for retirement.1 The choice now can pay dividends or hell later when you're fully retired.
  2. Do the math – We’re constantly told pay down our debt before retirement, and it may make sense if on a fixed income. But some debt is good to retain.2 If your home mortgage is 3.5 percent and your investing returns eight percent, why would you lose out on 4.5 percent in gains paying down debt now? It sounds counter-intuitive but checking out which interest path pays more is worth the time with the calculator. Just remember to normalize for risk (a guaranteed 3.5% versus 8% with risk). Also, don't ignore liquidity. You need to have liquid funds available for life's surprises
  3. Putting off critical insurance – One thing is for sure: long-term care insurance and life insurance (if you need it in the future) you buy now is cheaper than 20 years from now when you are older. That’s because you’re a higher risk later on.3 If you can afford it, get long-term care insurance coverage now and avoid paying through the nose for it later when you need the coverage and have to dig into your retirement to pay it.
  4. What do you want to do in retirement – A lot of money is wasted in retirement because people don’t have a plan what they will actually do. Spend some time now and develop a plan for what you want your retirement to be like. Having a goal will give you purpose and confine your spending to what matters for you. Ask yourself three questions:
    1. Who will change my light bulbs (how will I manage my residence)?
    2. Who will I have lunch with (what will be my social network)?
    3. Where will I eat ice cream (what will I do for recreation)?
  5. Don’t miss Medicare sign up deadlines – A key reason people lose money in retirement is due to not following the law and signing up for Medicare when due. Medicare is age-certain, and you have to sign up for it three months before age 65. Waiting for longer triggers a premium penalty you will pay for the rest of your life every month.4 On top of that, if eligible and you don't sign up for Medicare you will lose your Tricare coverage.
  6. Don’t leave Social Security on the table – You worked for it, you earned it, so why do so many people forget about their Social Security benefits? This is literally part of your retirement package, and anyone who worked the required number of years is eligible for recovering payments from their years of paychecks. But the timing matters too; wait long enough and you maximize the benefit, pull too fast and your benefit is almost half what it could be.5 And that will make a big difference in your daily income when you’re in your later years and on a fixed income amount.

A successful retirement takes smarts. Do your research, take advantage of all your benefits due, and check out your options before diving in (including doing the math and figuring out which alternative pays you better in both the short and long runs).

1 https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T037-C000-S004-how-to-pick-the-best-place-to-retire.html

2 https://dailyreckoning.com/the-power-of-good-debt/

3 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/11/26/heres-what-its-like-dealing-with-high-cost-long-term-care/?utm_term=.509c161e77e0

4 https://www.medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/how-do-i-get-parts-a-b/part-a-part-b-sign-up-periods

5 https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/applying1.html


If you enjoyed this article, you might like these blog posts:

5 Things Military Members Don't Know or Miss About Their Ultimate Retirement


Have You Planned How You Will Spend Your Money?


10 Great Locations to Retire in the US


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