Retiring from the military is an achievement. According to a study conducted in 2011, 83% of military members never complete the 20 years required for the military retirement benefit. Military retirees are an elite group of hard-charging individuals who gave a significant part of their lives, and their family’s lives to the service of their country. However, as meaningful as a military retirement is, it is not free from the financial stresses and pitfalls that accompany any significant career transition. Here are four simple tips that will help make your retirement transition less stressful.
Write down your MyPay user name and password
Just like when you are on active duty, you will use MyPay in retirement to receive your annual statements from Defense Financial Accounting System (DFAS). You will also use MyPay to start/stop allotments and download monthly pay statements. Most active duty servicemembers use their CAC cards to access MyPay. However, the first thing taken away in retirement is your CAC card. Before this happens, log in to MyPay and write down your user name and password. This will save you the hassle of going through the verification process with DFAS to have your account reset because you forgot your user name and password.
Submit your TSP rollover paperwork at least 31 days after retirement
The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a great source of extra savings for retirement. If you contributed while on active duty you can roll those funds out to a financial institution of your choice after your leave the Service. However, you must wait at least 31 days after your final retirement date. The 31 days is to allow for internal processing to calculate any loans you may have on your TSP and stop any allotments you may have had. (You cannot contribute to your TSP after you retire or leave the Service.) If you submit your paperwork earlier than the 31 days, the TSP agency will sit on your paperwork and who knows when it may actually be processed. Submit your paperwork after the 31 days and it will be processed immediately –saving you time and headache.
Visit your local TRICARE office early
TRICARE has taken care of you and your family during your active duty time. You have the option of carrying this benefit with you in retirement. Even though it may seem transparent, there is a difference between TRICARE for active duty servicemembers and TRICARE for retirees. If you want the TRICARE Prime option in retirement (co-pays and no cost shares), then you MUST ENROLL WITHIN 30 days of retirement for continuous coverage. As a retiree you will pay an “Enrollment Fee,” which for 2015 is $46.32 monthly for a family and $23.16 for an individual. It is vital that you enroll within 30 days before or 30 days after your retirement. Otherwise you may be subject to the 20th of the month rule, which means if you enroll outside your 60-day window you would see a gap in TRICARE prime coverage up to 40 days. TRICARE Standard/Extra is always available for retirees and does not require any additional enrollment.
Complete your VA disability claim ASAP
A Veterans Administration Disability claim is s lengthy process for retirees. This claim requires a full examination, review of medical records, claim processing, proposed rating, and final acceptance. The review process does not start until you are retired. If you have your examination completed and claim ready for submission it will begin the processing phase the day you retire. However, if you wait until after you are retired to make the claim and the complete the physical examination, the process can be significantly delayed. Your claim will not be reduced because of the additional time, you will always be paid in arrears after the process is completed; however, waiting for the claim to be processed can be a stressor that can be avoided by prior planning.
A military retirement is a significant life achievement. There are many happy memories to be had and many more wonderful things to look forward to after you leave the Service. The financial aspect of a retirement transition is only one of many areas that need attention as your retirement date draws near. These simple steps and planning ahead can help lift the “fog-of-retirement.”
Capt. Jonathon E. Rowles, USMC (Ret.)
Disclaimer: (have to do it) – This blog should not be considered financial, investment, legal or tax advice. Consult your licensed financial professional, tax advisor or legal counsel. This blog is for educational purposes only.