While retiring from the military means no more boot shining or deployments downrange, it does not necessarily mean that it’s time to get a condo in Florida and sit on the beach all day.

Servicemembers — enlisted and officers — will draw roughly half of their base pay when they retire, meaning they have many things to consider before deciding to hang up the uniform. Have they lined up a job in the civilian sector? Should they buy a home? Have they saved enough money?

A sergeant first class with 20 years’ service would see his monthly pay change from $3,458.70 to $1,729.35 once he retires. For a staff sergeant, the pay would drop from $2,908.20 to $1,454.10.

That’s not enough to really retire, said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Primus, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery in Bamberg, Germany, who is planning to retire after his son graduates high school in June.

“It would be impossible to stop working,” he said. “You figure your pay gets cut in half. All of a sudden, I’ll be making $1,500 a month. We can’t live on that.”

In addition to the base pay, servicemembers also get a cost-of-living allowance, extra money for meals and a housing allowance if they live off post.

When a servicemember retires, all of those extras go away, said Sylvester Kimbrough, a military pay technician who focuses on retirement pay at Warner Barracks in Bamberg.

Primus and one of his co-workers who is also retiring, Sgt. 1st Class Phillip Tomey, said they are hoping to find a job where the work and pay are similar to their status in the Army.

“That’s a scary part of retiring; what am I going to do next?” asked Tomey, who plans to retire in November. “I know McDonald’s and Wal-Mart are always hiring, but I want a job where the position and pay are comparable to my position in the Army.”

To prepare for the transition to the civilian sector, both soldiers said they have been putting away money for years. Primus said he has spent the past several years preparing, and he bought a house near Fort Bragg, N.C., a few years ago. Tomey said he has saved about $10,000.

“The Army pays for most of the moving and the lodging when you relocate after retiring, but there are going to be expenses no matter what,” Tomey said. “I wanted to make sure we would have that covered. If we have some of that money left over, that’s great.”

There are many ways to save, but the key is to start early, said Andria Nichols, financial readiness planner with Army Community Service in Bamberg. She recommends that soldiers start saving at least five years before retirement.

“There are so many ways to save money,” Nichols said. “The first thing is to track your expenditures. I think a lot of people would be surprised at how much money they spend in a day or week. Buying lunch every day can be very expensive. If you pack a lunch for work, put that money you would have spent into savings. Try to put 10 percent of your pay into savings.”

Hanging up the uniform doesn’t come without stress, Nichols said.

“So much hits all at once, you have to worry about life insurance, buying a home and your pay being cut in half,” Nichols said. “There is so much more to consider, things you may not have had to pay in the Army, like utility bills. The reality of it all can be overwhelming.”

While retirement will be an extreme life change, Tomey said he’s ready.

“My career has taken me to the ultimate level,” he said. “I’ve led soldiers into battle in the Persian Gulf and in [Operation Iraqi Freedom].

“I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish in my military career. Now I’m ready to move on to the civilian world.”

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