Career opportunities and schools are among the main concerns for service members looking to relocate as they leave the military, according to Jessica Brutzman, a realtor and certified military relocation professional in Traverse City, Michigan.
And when Holly Coleman’s husband, Michael, retired in May 2021, that proved to be the case when they moved from Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho to western Washington state.
“My husband is in tech; I’m in health care,” she said. “We knew this area would be the best place financially for us. And it is. We’re making way more now than we ever did while he was active duty.”
While everyone’s priorities differ, items to consider include:
- Proximity to, or distance from, family;
- Jobs for one or both spouses;
- Schools, for children or adults;
- Access to beaches, mountains, rivers or lakes;
- Cultural opportunities;
- Distance from airport;
- Cost of living;
- Big city vs. suburbs vs. rural;
- Political climate;
- Access to VA facilities;
- For retirees, access to military facilities.
For those with children, schools are a big consideration during relocation, ranging from special needs resources to athletics or a particular high school experience.
“My son goes to a mini college for high school,” Coleman said. “He wants to go into tech and being in western Washington, one of the tech meccas of our country, this is his best chance.”
Being able to enjoy a particular lifestyle is also easier to accomplish when picking your own location. Personal budgets are a driving factor as well.
“Be sure to understand your budget so you can maximize your options in whichever state you choose,” Brutzman said.
Those who plan to work should also ensure that local salaries make sense for the cost of living. If retiring, confirm that you can maintain the standard of living you want on the income you’ll have. Picking the right location can make all those parts come together.
Keep in mind that your new “permanent” home may not be quite so permanent. Thinking of your first post-military location as just another duty station can take some of the pressure out of the decision. There’s no rule that you have to stay there.