Military Retirement Communities and VA Benefits You Should Consider
After spending your adult lifetime being sent to wherever the government tells you to live, military retirees can face especially challenging decisions about where to start the next chapter of their lives. There are military retirement communities throughout the country which will make your selection easier to determine.
Living on a Military Pension
Before you begin your search for military retirement communities, review your financial position. Although military retirees can begin receiving retirement benefits around the age of 40 and potentially receive the benefits for another 40 years or more, is it enough to live on?
For most that answer is no. Even though the pension is fairly generous especially when compared to civilians in the private sector’s retirement benefits, because the immediate cash flow may not be enough.
Enlisted military members who bring in $20,000-$30,000 will bring home approximately $10,000-$15,000, which is near the poverty level, depending on the size of your family. For a family of four, the federal poverty level is $22,350.
You should consider finding a job, but now you can do work you love, even if isn’t a high paying position because you will have your monthly pension. If you have a mortgage or any other debt you especially need to find work to subsidize your pension.
The picture is different if both a husband and wife retire from the military or if the spouse already has a full-time civilian job. Before you retire, try to pay off all of your debt, including your mortgage, car loans and any credit card balances you may have accumulated.
As you review your options for Military retirement communities, keep in mind some of your VA benefits:
- Healthcare – There is a minimal Tricare payment, but compared to what civilians pay, it is basically a non-issue. Benefits for retired military members are also guaranteed, you won’t be dropped after you have an expensive procedure or for a pre-existing condition. Guaranteed medical coverage is a huge blessing in today’s American society.
- Commissary, Base Exchange and Other Base Benefits – although not available to all military retirees equally, some people may practically live on base, visiting the base clubs, shopping at the exchanges, using the gyms, and auto hobby shops. If you don’t live near a base you may not be able to take advantage of any of these benefits. Retirees can save a great deal of money each year by shopping on a base.
- Tax Policies – Federal taxes will be the same no matter where you live, but state and local taxes will vary, some states exempt all pensions and social security.
- Education Resources – Use your GI Bill to obtain a degree or any type of continuing education.
Military Retirement Communities
Retired military personnel share common retirement needs. Many of them, particularly officers or senior coms, will receive a substantial pension. Moving to a state where that pension won’t be taxed could be worth thousands of dollars a year.
Likewise, retired soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines can take advantage of military hospitals and PXs, if they are close enough. A few of the USAA (USAA is a financial services company that primarily services military personnel and their families) highly ranked military retirement communities include:
- Austin, Texas – Austin has defense-contract awards and military skill-based jobs, though the area has lower rates of small and veteran-owned businesses. Even with a higher-than-average sales tax rate, Austin ranks as one of the more affordable military retirement communities due to accessible housing and no state tax on military retirement pay.
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – home to a high number of jobs that require skill-sets learned in the military and boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at only 5.2%. Oklahoma City also is home to a large number of veteran-owned businesses and numerous federal jobs.
- Norfolk, Virginia – has a large number of federal jobs as well as a high number of employment opportunities in other industries seeking military skills. Retirees can enjoy local access to quality base amenities and a VA hospital. The relatively milder climate and affordable housing options also make Norfolk an attractive place to live and work.
- Richmond, Virginia – there are a substantial number of military skill-based jobs in Richmond. In addition to a significant number of defense contractors, military retirees also have access to a local VA medical center and military base amenities. The sales tax is low, but the state does tax military pensions.
There are two distinct types of military retirees. There are those who have completed their 20 years and are generally 40-65 years of age and then there are the truly retired over 65.
When you retire, the military will pay for one more move, so before you make that final military retirement communities decision, do your homework. Consider the lifestyle and just as importantly what you want to do with your time. If you are fortunate enough to retire while still young, you may want to continue working in the private sector, making your last paid move choice even more important.
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