4 Financial Tips for Transitioning from Military to Civilian Life

VA researcher, and former astronaut, Millie Hughes–Fulford shares the details of NASA and VA’s latest collaboration aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The two projects are working toward vaccines for common infections among deployed troops. Read more

Leaving the regimented military lifestyle behind for life as a civilian is probably the biggest change you’ll experience in your life. Of course, you might initially enjoy the novelty of not having to salute, go for drills, worrying about the prospects of shooting at people or people shoot at you. However, when the novelty eventually wears off and you get tired of hearing ‘thank you for your service’ you’ll start to miss the military and the order than it represents.
For most veterans, the military is a well-oiled machine that runs like clockwork and civilian life might appear to be simply ‘unorganized’.  The unorganized nature of civilian life often throws a number of challenges (some of them financial) in the way of veterans. While there are countless numbers of resources to help you transition smoothly from military life to civilian life, this piece focuses on how you can smoothen out the financial kinks in your transition.

  1. A transition fund can bridge financial gaps

It might be hard getting by on a military salary, but it’s in your best interest to start saving up for when you eventually leave the military. Very few vets leave their hail and farewell today and start work in a civilian establishment the next week. For most vets, you might want to take some time off between your military career and starting a civilian job. For many vets, the harsh economic realities will force you to spend some time at home before you get a civilian job. You’ll need money to cover the bills in-between when you leave the military and when you secure a civilian job.
You should strive to save up at least 6 six months worth of living expenses before you leave the military so that you don’t end up broke and desperate for a job (any job) just to make ends meet.

  1. Learn how to ace an interview

As a military vet, you probably haven’t interviewed for a civilian job in a long time – some military vets never ever interviewed for any civilian job. Heading into an interview for a civilian job is a different ball game entirely; you’ll need to learn how to play the civilian game. To start with, you’ll need help translating your military skills and experiences into everyday skills that a civilian hiring professional will understand. For instance, a civilian might not understand how your experience parachuting behind enemy lines can make you a great manager, but interpreting your skills could show him your ability to set and achieve goals.

  1. Understand that a military paycheck is different from a civilian paycheck

A military paycheck is exponentially different from a civilian paycheck – in most cases, your actual take home pay in a civilian job will be lower than your take home pay in the military. In the military, you are entitled to a number of allowances in addition to your base salary – your housing benefit is also tax-free. Hence, before you take a civilian job, you need to be sure that the total remuneration package is a good deal for you because it will mostly be without the additional allowances you had in the military. However, understanding that civilian pay is different from military pay will also help you create healthy expectations so that you don’t set yourself up for disappointment.

  1. You’ll most likely be responsible for your insurance

Military veterans will still have access to TRICARE on retirement but you’ll still be responsible for a long list of other insurance expenses. You’ll need to sign up for affordable auto insurance, property insurance,  find adequate disability insurance, protect your family with a decent life insurance coverage. You should also consider getting a commercial life policy at least months before you retire. A commercial life insurance might be cheaper than the Veteran’s Group Life Insurance especially if you are not injured, chronically ill, or a tobacco user.


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