Transitioning out of the military is often a difficult process. First there’s the paperwork, then the checking out of different departments, getting TMO situated and packing, and much more. One of the more difficult aspects can be where to live after military life. For some people, this is an easy decision. There are many military families who move back to where they’re from and where their family lives. But others don’t find moving back home to be appealing or may not even feel as if they have a home to go to. How do military families decide where to settle down when transitioning out of the military?
Factors to Consider When Deciding Where to Live after Military Life
- Where family lives
- Job market
- Environment for raising children
- College opportunities
- Cost of living
- Current income
- Weather and Area
Beginning a New Career After the Military
One of the most important factors is the job market. Not every military job relates to a civilian job or qualifies you for a similar civilian job. For example, a Navy corpsman who served for 14 years, working in hospitals and combat zones, will not be able to get the same job in the civilian world despite their vast experience if they do not have a nursing degree or other medical professional license.
Military members and spouses would do well to look at their qualifications and experiences then match them with civilian jobs. While researching different places to live, they’ll be able to see if there’s a job market that matches what they’re able to do. Unfortunately, just being a veteran won’t be enough to easily land a job.
Walter Medders, a Marine who separated from the military about ten years ago, was told he would be able to find a job anywhere because he was a veteran. He moved back home and found this to not be true. He started working at a “failing steel mill with…worn out equipment failing on a daily basis” and while he is no longer working at that job, ten years later he’s still working at a company with similar problems.
Another veteran, Bruce Barnes, who retired out of the Air Force after serving for 20 years and had received his bachelor’s degree in human resources, spent three to four months finding a job after retirement and then find a house. Courtney Haggard stated that she and her husband, both veterans, took many different jobs after transitioning. There has always been a struggle of finding a good job after separating from the military so researching and applying to jobs before separation would be a smart idea. However, there are jobs that give veteran’s preference and who specifically look for veterans as their employees. It depends on the company and the area in which you live.
Quality of Life
Finding a safe place for your children to grow up and schools they will thrive in are also factors to consider. The Haggard family moved to Tulsa, OK, and not Las Vegas where Mrs. Haggard’s family lives because they felt Tulsa had a “better environment for raising children.” Another military spouse, Anne Brewer, stated she and her husband would have remained in Italy after he retired if they wouldn’t have just had a baby. They felt being close to family with a small child was best for them. School systems, crime rates, extracurricular activities, and family-friendly activities all play a part in deciding where is best to raise children.
Going to Back to School
Many veterans decide to use their GI Bill after separating from the military. If this is the plan, military families need to research what colleges are in the area they want to move to, what types of degrees the college offers, and if the college accepts the GI Bill. College can be a difficult course to navigate so it is advisable to research and contact colleges before moving.
Consider the Cost of Living
The cost of living varies widely depending on location. For instance, Southern California has a huge cost of living where even a studio apartment can cost around $1400 per month. To put that in comparison, in San Antonio you can pay less than that per month for a four-bedroom, two-story house in a decent neighborhood. Researching the cost of living along with being able to find employment to live comfortably in that area, especially for places with high cost of living, is imperative. Military families need to know where they can live and work while staying within their economic means.
Factor in Veterans Benefits
When separating from the military, there could be potential income from various sources that can be factored into where a family can afford to live. Veterans could receive separation pay to ease the transition, retirees receive a monthly income, VA disability varies from veteran to veteran, and using the GI Bill can be very helpful for not only transitioning families but for life depending on the type of income. One thing to be cautious of is thinking these incomes will sustain a family by themselves. While they are invaluable, they are often supplemental rather than main income and should be used cautiously. This is especially true when attempting to find employment or having a job with a low income.
A Comfortable Climate and Culture Matter
While this may seem minor, weather can also be a factor in deciding where to live. Scared of earthquakes? Don’t live in California. Don’t like beaches or chances of hurricanes? Stay away from Florida and other coastlines. Hate the cold? Stick to the South. Love having white Christmases? Move up North. Different areas have their pros and cons and families have to decide what they want to handle. Factoring in different areas such as city, suburbs, or country along with population sizes also plays a role. Crowded cities like San Antonio can make some people claustrophobic or even trigger PTSD symptoms such as anxiety and panic attacks. One military family, Rebecca and Dan Ezell, chose to settle down in Cochran, Georgia, specifically because it’s a country area with lots of land. Mr. Ezell said he is “near phobic about the press of people and sound of congested cities,” but Cochran is also close enough to big cities where they can take their children on fun trips.
How to decide where to live after military life is different for everyone and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, the most important factors to consider are if you want to move close to family or not, where you can find a job, the cost of living, child safety and experiences, and what you and your family decide together. It’s hardly ever an easy process but it can be made smoother by doing research and saving/spending your money wisely.
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Photo Credits: Marisa Mcdonald Photography, Deanna Ritchie, Rawpixel