The command’s farewell and saying “See you later” to everyone else

Let’s wrap up the “Six months before retirement” series of posts with a few odds & ends on how to spend your last days around the office.

Various groups at your command will want to say their goodbyes separately from your retirement ceremony. This usually involves a lunch or even a dinner party. Since they’re doing all the work (and you’re just showing up) it’s hard to refuse. You’ll have to work with the group leader to decide what’s appropriate for you and for them.

If you’re an extrovert who loves parties then you’ll enjoy yourself. However, it may also be scheduled during a particularly busy and stressful time along with your physical exams, your retirement checklist, and maybe even a move out of your home. Unless you’re an extrovert, you may feel that the farewell gatherings are getting out of hand.

Keep talking with your friends and those group leaders. Make your desires simple and clear. If you feel that the affair is an additional burden on your retirement preparations, then say so! One alternative would be to schedule it a week or two before your ceremony. Another alternative, especially if you’re remaining in the area after retirement, would be to have it near the end of your terminal leave or even after you’ve retired. Have it at a local restaurant or park so that people won’t be interrupted at the office. You’ll have been away from the command for a while, so they’ll want to see how retirement suits you. You’ll have new stories to tell, and so will they. It’s a great way to relax with the group without feeling the pressure to get things done.

Another common farewell issue is retirement gifts. Most retirees (and, frankly, their commands) would prefer a simple plaque or shadowbox. Others may want a more significant memento, or the command may have a custom of “awarding” a gag gift. Once again you’ll have to make your desires known, especially to your friends who can take care of the details. For those who don’t particularly care or who prefer to avoid the entire issue, you could ask that the command make a donation to a military charity of your choice. It’s a simple yet noble gesture that will set the tone for your whole retirement.

Another surprise to many military retirees is the amount of time you’ll spend saying goodbye. Between the retirement ceremony and the command’s farewell you may feel that you’ve done enough: “So retire, already!” But a substantial portion of your day may be spent with people who drop by to chat for a few minutes, to figure out what you want for a part of a ceremony or a farewell, or even to ask a favor.

Be alert to these “chance” encounters. It’s more than sharing a few war stories and setting up a tee time or a surf session. If you’re a supervisor, you may be asked to write a number of recommendation or endorsement letters. This is your last chance to see that your troops get what they deserve. Like the retirement physical, it’s much easier to do a good deed for someone while you’re in the billet and wearing the rank. In a few weeks you’ll be “just another retiree” whose thoughts may not carry any weight with an award committee or a selection board. When you present the situation to one of your perpetual fence-sitters who’d be a great candidate for a special program or a commission, you may be able to get them to commit to a decision in exchange for your recommendation.

A final note about your final day in the office: don’t get ambushed. A prankster may have been planning something for months, or your chain of command may have “just one more thing”. If you’ve been keeping up with your retirement checklist then you should be able to finish the last item well before your final day. On your absolute last day in the office you should show up on time and maybe even say a few goodbyes, but arrange to have an appointment or other reason to leave early– before lunch or even before 10 AM. Go to lunch but don’t go back. Get your business done, finish your list, and go home!

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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