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Choosing a Forever Home After Military Retirement

by Charlene Wilde - February 25th, 2022

Choosing a Forever Home After Military Retirement

Deciding where your next move will take you after retirement from the military can be especially tough. Will you and your spouse return to one of your hometowns? Will you go somewhere entirely new? How should you weigh your options? If you have school-aged children, you might be wondering if it’s even the right time to move. 

Choosing a home after military retirement

No matter the circumstance, the earlier you can plan the retirement process and life after the military, the better. As someone who recently purchased a home, and with my husband only a few months away from retirement, I've learned that planning and being considerate of your lifestyle as much as possible when selecting where to live after military life is key. Here are a few tips and lessons I’ve picked up during our transition to help you as you embark on the journey to your forever home.

Planning ahead & maximizing benefits 

As a veteran or military spouse, there are several benefits available to you upon retirement and during the homebuying process. One advantage is the military will pay for your final PCS move. According to the regulation that governs military travel, your final move must be made within one year of your retirement, unless you apply for and receive an extension. Those extensions can be granted for almost any reason, as long as a transportation official signs off on them. You can ask for an extension five times, pushing your final move to six years after your retirement date. Regardless of how far out your move is, taking the time to find a home within your budget, engage with lenders and financial professionals, and process the necessary retirement paperwork ahead of time will allow you to shift focus to things like packing and moving arrangements.

If you have a few locations in mind for a forever home, investigate what each state offers veterans in terms of tax breaks and benefits. You can even create a pros-and-cons list to help visualize differences in more clear terms to inform your decision-making. Consulting with a financial planner as early as possible in the process is always helpful to ensure you and your family are maximizing benefits, eligibilities, and have a better understanding of how much money you need to make your move work. When it comes to homeownership, working with mortgage professionals well versed in VA loans is critical. They can help you take advantage of the perks of VA loans including low down payments and favorable interest rates.

Consider your lifestyle and career opportunities 

When choosing a location to move to, be mindful of your lifestyle habits. Do you like hiking or outdoor adventures? Do you want to be close to a city? Keep in mind these factors to ensure you’re selecting a location that provides activities that will bring you and your family joy. Read more about important retirement considerations here.

When planning for a retirement move, consider your children's futures as well, as this is often a big decision the whole family needs to make. If you decide it is the right time to move, weigh in factors like reputable school systems, as well as how the move will impact their education and social life. For instance, I have a child in high school. When we purchased our home back in 2020, we knew we weren’t planning on leaving the area until after my child graduated. 

So, it’s a bit of a fixer-upper? 

We all dream of the perfect home, but sometimes that isn’t reality. With inflation rates skyrocketing, slim pickings on the housing market, and high demand for real estate, the home of your dreams just might not be on the market right now. Remind yourself this is okay. Through my experience, I’ve learned managing expectations is important when looking for a new home. Rather than looking for a “perfect” or seemingly flawless home, you can instead approach home buying with a challenge mentality and look for opportunities to transform an existing home into the one you’ve always wanted. Not only can this give you a project to work on as you settle into your new community, but it can also help you save money when purchasing a house.

One thing to remember is life is unpredictable. You might walk into the retirement process thinking you’ll find a home to spend the rest of your life in, but this doesn’t always happen. When approaching the home buying process, keep as much of an open mind as possible, while also planning for the unexpected. 

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Charlene Wilde

Charlene Wilde is an Army Chemical Corps veteran and a military spouse. She is also Senior Vice President and Assistant Secretary for the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association (AAFMAA), our nation’s longest-standing military financial services non-profit organization.