Military Transitions–What to Expect

By: FINRA Investor Education Foundation Staff

The first thing to realize about your transition from the military back into the civilian community is that you’re in good company. Millions of U.S. servicemen and women have successfully navigated this passage, and you will too. Your glide path back into the civilian community can be smooth or turbulent, though, and you want to do all you can to make a successful reentry.

Recently, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Dempsey, encouraged servicemen and women to do these five things when transitioning back into civilian life:

  1. Take responsibility for your own transition and make a plan.
  2. Rehearse your interaction with the civilian sector.
  3. Despite your natural reluctance, ask a civilian for help.
  4. Networking is important in the civilian sector; embrace it.
  5. Don’t expect to make as much or supervise as many without first proving yourself.

But what should your transition plan contain? Let’s consider the basics. We need food, shelter, clothing and a purpose in our lives to thrive. The first three require money, which usually means a job. Most veterans look for work after the military. Consider these 6 Tips for finding post-service employment.

Be sure to use your service’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) resources before you separate. It can help you with things like resume writing, interviewing skills and networking. There are resources in the civilian community, too, and some cater to veterans. But beware of job search scams. Visit the trustworthy sites listed in 6 Tips to identify the latest job scams.

A job can also provide that purpose in life that we need to get out of bed in the morning. Even an entry-level job can provide opportunities to translate your military skills and experiences, and help you ease into civilian life. Make the most of it: ask lots of questions, and learn from your coworkers and supervisors. You may be starting over, but tell what you already know and what you experienced in the service, so they can help you maximize your potential. At the same time, you’re building your professional and social networks.

Some veterans will return home to find jobs, but others will choose to go back to school. Every veteran should be aware of the education benefits provided them by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. You may use them for your own education, or you can transfer them to a spouse or child. Either way, be aware that your transfer options change once you leave active duty. Make sure you’ve set up yourself or your family members for success with the Post 9-11 GI Bill before you separate.

It’s a good idea to get your financial house in order before you separate, too. If you didn’t have a spending plan (sounds better than “budget,” doesn’t it?) while you were in the service, it’s time to build one now. While you’re still in, create an emergency savings fund and pay down debt. Housing, medical care, taxes and recreation will all change in your civilian status. Expect to pay more out of pocket than you’re used to; certain pays, benefits and other resources that you came to count on in the service won’t be there in the civilian world. While you’re adjusting to your new life, live below your means by spending less than you’re bringing in.

Military success is often realized by careful planning. “Transition” is now your mission. You’re still in the air; fasten your financial seat belt, stow your military pay table, power up your networking devices and enjoy the rest of your flight.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | March 13, 2014

    Start an emergency fund by saving $10/week or $40/month to save $500 by the end of the year

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