When to Retire from the Army National Guard or Army Reserves

Today, we’re going to talk about when to retire from the National Guard or Army Reserves.  Once you’ve hit the 20 year mark in your military career, you are eligible to retire.  Some folks retire right away and many Soldiers choose to continue their service.

As a leader, you need to know WHEN to call it quits.  Only you can make that decision.  My thoughts are that it is better to retire young, while you have your good health and future ahead of you, than to stick around until you are physically broke, tired, old, and ineffective as a leader.

We all know people in the military who NEED to hang up their boots and retire.  They’re unmotivated.  They’re combat ineffective.  Their body is broke.  And they can’t do their job effectively.  Yet, they refuse to retire.

Whether you decide to retire right away or keep serving until you are 60 is totally up to you. I have no desire to tell you what to do.  I simply want you to weigh your options so you can make the right decision for you and your family.

Here are a few things you should consider when deciding WHEN to retire:

# 1 Do You Still Enjoy It? This is the most important question to ask yourself when considering military retirement.  If you still enjoy serving, you should stick around.  If you still wake up every day and are excited to wear the uniform, to serve your country, and go to work, that’s wonderful.  In other words, if your “heart” is still in it, that’s a good thing.  On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy your job anymore, you should prepare your retirement packet and move on to new endeavors.  Life is way too short to do something you don’t enjoy.

# 2 Are You Still Effective? This is without a doubt the second most important question to ask yourself. Soldiers deserve excellent leadership.  They deserve leaders who are competent and WANT to be there.  You must look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself whether or not you are still an effective leader and Soldier.  One way to figure this out is to look at your most recent evaluation reports.  What did your boss say about you?  More importantly, what do you think?  Are you still making a difference? Are you still a top Soldier?  Or are you just putting in time?  Can you still do your job effectively and efficiently?  Would you want to work for someone like yourself?

# 3 Financial Aspect: Finances play an important role in your decision of when to retire. For example, do you still need the monthly check from the National Guard or Army Reserves to support your current lifestyle?  Another thing to consider is your retirement pension.  For instance, will your retirement check increase significantly if you invest a few more more years in the military?  And here’s the most important thing to consider: “Could you do something else with your time that produces a greater financial impact?”

# 4 Family: Family members make a continued sacrifice while you are serving in the military, even in the National Guard or Army Reserves. They sacrifice their time while you are away completing military schools, deployments, temporary assignments, annual training, and drill weekends.  At some point in time, you must stop putting them second.  Instead of always having them make the sacrifices, you should transition into the supportive role and sacrifice your time so they can pursue their interests.  On the other hand, if your family is very supportive and loves that you serve in the military, you might want to continue your service.

# 5 Health: We all know that the Army is physically demanding. In addition, we must maintain our physical fitness to effectively lead troops in combat.  As we get older, our health naturally declines a little bit. I think it’s wise to retire while you are still healthy.  Why wait until your body is broken or hurt to hang up your boots?  So many Soldiers retire with bad knees, bad backs and countless other health problems.  Many of these problems could have been prevented if the Soldier would have retired sooner.  On the other hand, I do understand that some health problems are inevitable.

# 6 Career Goals: What are your overall career goals? If you own a successful business or have a successful civilian career (or want these things), does serving in the National Guard or Army Reserves negatively impact your career? Even if your employer is military friendly, you could potentially miss out on some career opportunities and promotions because of your military service.  If you have a successful civilian career, you must weigh your military options carefully, so you don’t negatively impact your civilian career.  Remember, your full-time job is the bread and butter that pays your bills.  Don’t ever forget that.

# 7 Personal Reasons: Do you support the wars?  Do you support the current politicians?  Do you support the current Army culture?  These are all important questions to ask yourself when making your decision to stay in or retire.  If you are unhappy with the Army’s leadership or you are unhappy with the current “culture” and “values” in the Army it might be a good time to go.  If none of these things bother you, then it’s not a big deal.  If nothing else, it’s worth thinking about.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, all Soldiers must make a decision to retire or continue their service in the Army National Guard or Army Reserves, after they’ve hit their 20 year mark of service.  I know it’s not an easy decision to make.  I hope you will consider each of these seven questions listed above and put some serious thought into your decision.  You owe it to yourself and your family to do that.

What are your thoughts?  Leave a comment below to let me know what you think.

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8 thoughts on “When to Retire from the Army National Guard or Army Reserves”

  1. It is so tricky to know when to retire but I think the things you mentioned to consider are spot on and actually in the right order, too (I don’t know if that was purposeful or not). First and foremost, you should ask yourself at least yearly if you are still enjoying it and if you are still effective. If the answer to either is no, you’ve got a serious issue and it’s time to start considering the other components. We start to fail as human beings if we are unhappy and ineffective and it’s always good to refresh by stepping back and reevaluating. Being attuned to yourself is the most effective way to be happy and successful.

  2. Heart plays the biggest role in decision making for nearly all people, and the decision of when to retire from the National Guard or Army Reserves is no different. Lack of heart, lack of motivation – these are the things that lower our enjoyment, effectiveness, and energy. Even more so than old age, if your heart isn’t in something, your mind and body pick up on that queue and know it’s time to call it quits. When you ask people, “Why did you stop playing [sport]?” or “Why did you stop working at [company]?” the answer is almost always, “Eh, my heart just wasn’t in it any more.” This loss of heart is pervasive across all professions and a major factor when considering retirement.

  3. To me, the best reason to retire is when the work is no longer enjoyable, and that goes for any field (obviously, if monetary reasons do not prevent doing so). Of course, maintaining a good pension is a necessity, and if you have one, read on! So, since the military can be so exhausting and moreover time consuming, I think the best time to drop is when you simply don’t like it.

      1. You hit the nail on the head there Chuck. Sticking around for just a paycheck or a pension, but not liking the job, or not performing at your best is wrong. By doing so, a person is doing his/her country wrong, his/her soldiers wrong, and his/her family wrong. I would hope that a person would look past just the money, because being in the service of our country means more than just a paycheck. It means defense of our country, and the lives of other soldiers. If a person is not effective anymore, it is time to retire. Please consider all that Chuck stated here and make an honest decision.

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