by Kara Schulte, Guest Contributor
To reenlist or not to reenlist? That is a question that all military families will face at some point during the course of military life.
For some, the decision is a no-brainer. For others, it’s a decision that can have a huge impact on the direction of their life.
We just went through another reenlistment. The goal from the beginning was to do 20 years, retire, then settle down and live life like other people do.
Now we’re at 10 years in. Half. Way. There. And honestly, the decision to reenlist is actually becoming a little more difficult.
The goal is still 20 years, but with life changes and political unrest there’s a lot of factors to consider. Still, we only had a text message exchange (you guessed it, he’s on assignment somewhere) that went something like:
Him: Are you sure?
Me: Not really. But do we have another option?
Him: Not really.
Me: Ok then.
So there was more to it than that since we had several discussions before the actual ceremony, but this reenlistment stuff is serious. Sure the SM is the one actually doing the job so they do have a huge input in the decision, but it’s a decision that impacts the whole family. The whole family should voice their feelings and thoughts on this crazy ride they’re going to (continue to) embark on.
What are some of the major factors to consider when the reenlistment question pops up?
1. How much time is being spent away?
Deployments are a part of military life, but some jobs require the service member to be gone more frequently than others. Every family is different in how they handle separation, so have an honest conversation about how the separation affects each family member.
- Is the military spouse OK with living a married life as a single person?
- Are the kids having a hard time with frequent separations or do they not even notice anymore?
- Are you not able to start a family because the SM is hardly home?
- Is the service member cool with missing big family celebrations and events or is it really starting to get frustrating being left out of everything?
And by deployments I don’t just mean going to the Middle East into battle zones. Deployments include stateside assignments of varying lengths. Any time spent away from family is tough and has a lasting impact. Without strong support, both the family and SM suffer.
2. Health insurance benefits.
I know all about the Tricare battles between Standard and Prime. I know it can be a hassle to get a referral. I’ve heard the stories of having to wait for a month for what should be a same-day appointment.
But seriously, Tricare has helped saved many military families lives and money. When we lost our first daughter and had extra monitoring during subsequent pregnancies, Tricare covered it all without any fight. Others have had major surgeries and life-threatening illnesses completely taken care of.
The health insurance benefits offered to our military is pretty darn good compared to what is out there in the civilian world; especially since we pay a minimal amount for the coverage.
When considering reenlisting or not, definitely take a second look at the role insurance plays in your lives both financially and for peace of mind.
3. Pay, retirement and other military benefits.
Though currently under the microscope in Washington right now, the military has some pretty awesome benefits. The pay is pretty good and affords many a comfortable lifestyle. It’s not great and could use a good bump, but it’s not terrible.
There’s opportunity for advancement, new skill learning and education benefits (both SM and family). What’s a benefit for the SM is truly a benefit for the family. Skills and education make the SM more marketable for the civilian world.
And I can’t forget the leave accrual rate and retirement benefits. Then of course there are the numerous family resources.
Finding a civilian job with pay and benefits equal to what my spouse makes now was one of the top deciding factors for us to stay in the military.
4. Job security-ish.
As long as everyone in Washington is getting along, being in the military offers great job stability. There’s something to be said for having a steady income and a way to provide for the family.
That being said, there does need to be an alternative plan. The military isn’t going away anytime soon, but changes are still being made and downsizing is still occurring.
- Is your MOS one of the threatened occupations?
- Has your SM heard that the unit they’re in is going to be re-aligned with another?
- How do they stand as far as having promotional requirements met?
- Have they received a speeding ticket? Yes, that’s a bit ridiculous to think about, but in some areas they are looking at the smallest infractions to keep people from reenlisting.
We had a nail-biter situation ourselves with this reenlistment. My spouse was one of 32 Marines eligible to reenlist with only 20 available spots. He was PME complete so we were pretty sure he would be fine, but you just never know what will happen until it happens.
5. Is everyone still on-board?
Sure you can put a value on the pay and benefits along with other perks of being in the military, but none of that matters if someone isn’t happy with the lifestyle anymore.
The pay and benefits can’t buy happiness.
Maybe the service member has had enough or the family wants to settle down somewhere. Being a military family is already challenging enough, you don’t need to face those challenges with an unhappy family member.
What factors impact your family’s decision to stay in or get out of the military?
Kara is a milspouse and SAHM working the direct sales market. Just don’t call her a typical military spouse! She has her MA and is an Accredited Financial Counselor. Before the toddler-chasing craziness begins for the day, she enjoys a quiet cup of coffee on the porch while playing Words with Friends (yes, that game from forever ago!)