If you’re preparing to exit the military, you’ve probably already spent a lot of time considering how to best approach life as a civilian. Whether you’ve been in for a full career or just a few years, the idea of leaving behind life as you know it and starting over somewhere new can be challenging, overwhelming, and filled with some level of anxiety. But, in the right light, it can also be one of the most exhilarating times of your life. Instead of just arbitrarily choosing where you want to put down roots, narrow your choices based on what’s most important to you.
One thing that many transitioning service members fail to consider is the practicality of moving. Finally, you’re in a position to decide where to live, and for some that might be a little unnerving. You’ve been in the mode of simply going where the military sends you, so the idea that you have a choice in your next place to live can be scary.
Make sure to weigh your options before you’re set on one specific place to call home. Making a pros/cons list that will help you assess the positives and negatives of a new town will help you look objectively at your options.
When deciding where to live, it’s really important to consider the wishes of your spouse and family, job opportunities, access to military support, education, and the cost of living.
Relocation benefits will give you one final move from your last duty station to wherever you want to go. Consider how important it is to you and your family to be near military support. If you have an ongoing medical condition that will require frequent trips to the VA, you’re not going to want to be far from a facility. If that’s not an issue for you, consider the cost of living in the places where you want to call home.
When the military moved you, you probably received a housing benefit that helped to offset some of the costs of living in the community. Because that’s not an option in the civilian sector, really take a look at your finances to determine how much house you can afford. Be sure to factor in the costs for utilities and other monthly expenses that will come along with your newly chosen location.
If you’re more focused on finding work, no matter where it is, then consider what else a new city/state will have to offer you. Make sure to utilize the resources that are available to you as a transitioning service member. The Relocation Assistance Program and the Transition Assistance program will help you get a feel for the reality of a new area, and give information about real estate and rental costs.
Most importantly, this is a time to get really clear on what you want out of this next chapter because it’s the first time in a while that the decision is up to you. By writing out the pros and cons of any given area, you’re going to have a greater understanding of what’s important to you as you begin the next exciting chapter in your life.