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10-point financial checklist for transitioning military members

According to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 55% of veterans report that finding a job is one of their most significant transition challenges. In addition, over 40% say facing financial difficulties is another key concern. 

Whether you’re about to leave the military or are planning to transition in the next year, it’s important to create a plan to help you prepare. This checklist can help you get organized and take advantage of a wide range of resources.

1. Start planning early

The time to start planning is when you’re at least 12 months away from your known End Active Service (EAS) or retirement date. If you can, you should actively begin the process between 18 and 24 months out. The earlier the better.

2.  Think TAP

Engage with your branches’ transition assistance program (TAP). It’s a valuable formal counseling and instruction program designed to help departing military members and their families transition to civilian life as smoothly as possible and find work as quickly as possible. 

3. Commit to saving

Start a transition fund. Landing the job you want may take some time and you’ll likely have new expenses like housing, transportation, even groceries.  When you begin planning your transition, start setting aside money each month to cover essential expenses. Aim to save three to six months of living expenses, but any amount will help during the transition. 

4. Plan ahead for health coverage

As health care costs rise, its more important than ever to review all your healthcare options to ensure that you and your family are covered. You may be able to continue your TRICARE coverage by paying out of pocket using the Continued Health Care Benefit Program, or you may qualify for group insurance through a new job. You can also look into buying coverage via a state exchange.

5. Explore all your VA benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs provides a wide range of benefits to those transitioning out of the military, from tuition assistance programs like the GI Bill and Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) to career counseling and homebuying programs. 

6.  Prepare your job search

Chances are you have skills and talents that are highly valued in the workplace, like leadership, accountability, and managing people. Identify the specific skills, accomplishments, and promotions that highlight your abilities. Take the time to match your interests with your career goals. 

7. Consider internships

Coming out of the military into an internship role may not sound ideal, but exploring internships provides unique learning opportunities. Many companies offer internships for veterans to help them explore careers paths from banking and tech companies to engineering and construction industries. An internship can help you determine which profession might be right for your skill set and interests.

8. Create your post-military budget

Whenever you land your civilian job – your civilian income will be taxed. You need to estimate your actual take home pay and develop (and stick to) a budget that covers rent, food, car payments, debt repayment, and any other expenses. 

9. Make networking a habit

These connections can offer insights, mentorship, and even job leads. Engage with fellow veterans who have successfully transitioned. Platforms like LinkedIn have groups dedicated to veterans, and many communities have local veterans' organizations. 

10. Stay connected with your military family

Moving on from the friends you've served with may be the toughest part of leaving the military. Service members enjoy a camaraderie revolving around day-to-day life. And spouses often have their own family of supportive military spouses they have to leave behind. Try to stay in touch to those who’ve made a difference in your life.

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