One of the most important questions for military families:
Should we reenlist?
You signed up, began the adventure, and here you are: 4, 5, or 8 years later.
Contract lengths vary by branch, job type, rank, and the need for members. Our particular experience is with the Air Force, but at one point or another, you have to sit down and really think about whether you’d like to commit more time to your military career, or are you ready to transition back into civilian life.
Whether you’re a few years before making the big decision, or you need to decide soon, here’s 8 crucial questions to ask yourself and discuss as a family before you decide if you are going to reenlist.
1. How has the military lifestyle treated you so far?
Some families really enjoy the military lifestyle. This may be you if you enjoyed:
- Moving and getting to travel (or at least it didn’t cause weeks’ worth or arguments and/or stress)
- Connecting with fellow military families
- You love the perks
- Cons weren’t really a big deal (like deployments, TDY assignments, etc)
- The kids adjusted very quickly
- You found a way to make it work no matter what the situation
- Both you and you active duty significant other have accomplished a lot together
For others, the separations are extraordinarily tough, and maybe the dependent spouse had a hard time adjusting to life constantly on the move, or the service member did not like the job, or military life was not what you expected. When there seems to be more bad than good things about this lifestyle, it may not be a good option to stay in the military. Once you commit to more time, there’s no turning back.
Make sure it’s something you’re absolutely OK with doing.
2. Are you in a financially good place?
My husband and I HUSTLED the first few years of his contract. I worked two jobs while he was gone, or moved in with my parents to save on rent while he was overseas to save extra cash for a year. And that time in our lives has been a BLESSING to us now that we have been in some tight spots financially.
Being in the military is the PERFECT time to save money.
Do you feel you’ve got a nice head start in savings? Or would like to save a little more? Remember that in the military, the active duty member is at least always guaranteed a salary, and housing. This might mean a lot to your family when perhaps only one of the two spouses works.
If both you and your spouse think you’ll be able to get steady income jobs, or at least one that will provide enough to cover all the expenses of the family, you could leave the military. If you think you’re not at that point, the military gives you great support to help you get on your own feet, and maybe a few more years is a smart choice.
3. Are you located somewhere where you want to stay/settle down?
Many families I’ve seen end up loving some of the new places they get moved to. They buy houses there, and if they move, they’ll rent it out and keep it as an investment, or when they get out of the military, they settle down there.
Others absolutely do not like their temporary homes, and they haven’t been moved in years. With a reenlistment, it’s not always guaranteed you’ll be moved.
Think about your location.
Extending your contract may mean staying there longer, or leaving to a new home. Depending on your situation, this might be something you need to think about and see if extending your contract might help you or hurt you.
4. Do you want to make a career out of being in the military?
Many service members stay for the 20 years and then retire with benefits. The job they obtained is enjoyable, and military life isn’t so bad at all. If you don’t mind the possible moves you might have to make, or the deployments you may have to go through, this may be a really easy choice to make.
If you’re in your first few contracts (2-8 years), this may be something you want to consider heavily. The longer you’re in the higher the chance that you’ll just stay in until you retire. So where you are in your time in may be something to help you decide whether it’s better to just stay in for a little longer, and make the full career out of it.
5. Did you take advantage of the resources?
Education is one of the bigger resources the military can provide to military families. At the same time it is the biggest regret many veterans end up having: not taking full advantage of the resources offered.
Education is covered, certifications in high-demand fields are covered, and the experience you get are all invaluable. And this isn’t limited to just active duty, but spouses can really benefit from the education opportunities you may not get once you separate. If you used your time to the best of your ability and have all the preparation you need to transition into the civilian life, this may make your decision much easier.
You get a free gym membership too. I mean it could be enough to get you to stay.
6. Have you considered how you’ll do as a civilian family?
While all the above questions mostly relate to staying in the military, you need to consider what civilian life means to your family in particular.
What will your jobs, home, everyday life look like? Do you have everything you would need, including a transition plan? One of the most common things I’ve heard is many veterans who didn’t have anything lined up after separating.
If you notice that you’re excited to be a civilian again, and you know pretty well how you’ll manage, you’re essentially telling yourself it’s time to get out. And that’s perfectly ok.
7. Have you considered other options?
So you can re-enlist, or you can extend your contracts. But you can also go into the reserves. You can also become a civilian contractor for the military, without the uniform all the time.
If you’re not feeling re-enlisting, but don’t want to leave the benefits quite yet, the reserves can be an option. Doesn’t hurt looking into the other options.
8. Are you in between/indecisive?
If you’re contract is coming close to the end, and you can’t decide whether your family wants to stay or leave, the best recommendation I could make is to talk to a professional. One of the awesome resources the military has is help to get you transitioned into civilian life when you want to retire.
Talk to them and have them ask you the questions that will really help you make that choice. Many might contain the same things I just mentioned, but a professional has plenty of experience and can give a lot of insight on your options, for example going from active duty to reserves.
Here’s some websites that have information about retiring and planning, but you can always visit your local station/base and ask where you can talk to a professional about transitioning.
Whatever you decide, make sure it’s what best for you and your family.