Five Tips to Tackle Military Transition Challenges

By Forrest Baumhover, EA, Westchase Financial Planning, Principle

Your military transition will be one of the most challenging events in your life. Whether you’re separating after your first enlistment or retiring after a 30-year career, there will be obstacles. Here are five things you can do to ensure you’re properly prepared for your transition.

1.      Start early.

Your transition is going to involve a very long to-do list with many decisions that you’ll have to make.  The earlier you start, the more likely you’ll be able to gather the information you need, and make informed decisions that are right for your situation. Two years out is not too early to start making your to-do list.

2.      Save more than you think you need.

Your transition will involve a lot of uncertainties, many of which have a financial impact.  You’ll be surprised at how many unexpected expenses come up, especially if you have to PCS, buy or sell a house, or make any major purchases. Even if you think you’re going into a stable job situation, you’ll want to be overly conservative when it comes to savings and pay down/off as much debt as you’re able.

3.      Get the non-urgent stuff out of the way in advance.

Part of your to-do list is going to be time-sensitive. Things like going to job interviews, planning PCS moves, and submitting your retirement or separation paperwork will have to wait until the right time.  However, there are other things that don’t have to wait. If you’ve been researching a certification that will help in your next job or mulling over that surgery your doctor recommended, you might as well see if you can get those out of the way. Doing so will clear your plate, so you can tackle challenges at the right time.

4.      Take full advantage of your installation’s transition programs.

The Transition-GPS program (formerly known as TAP) is a great source of resources. However, it’s only a starting point for many programs, which you might need to research in more depth. Additionally, your installation will often have programs that can put you in touch with local employers through networking events, job fairs, etc. Take advantage by:

5.      Establish your network.

What’s your network? It depends. You can establish strong roots within your church, become involved in your local community, or choose to broaden your professional network. You might be tempted to do a lot of things. However, it might be better to pick one or two things that develop a deeper relationship than to spread yourself too thin. 

There are many things that go into your military transition. The scary part is not knowing all the challenges that might come your way. However, if you follow these steps, you’ll put yourself in a better position to handle those challenges as they arise.