Article by Ed Carter
Getting your DD214 and leaving active duty is often a disorienting experience. The absence of the rigid expectations and strongly enforced social structure of the military can seem daunting or even confusing. Furthermore, shift away from regular pay or remotely orchestrated benefits can leave military members without a clear financial plan. In fact, in a recent PEW Research Center survey, approximately 35% of veterans reported having financial difficulties in their first few years as a civilian.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure you get the most out of your military experiences and benefits, brought to you courtesy of United Military Care.
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1. Translate Your Experience
Whether you served for four years or 25, you probably did a lot of work during your time in the military. Unless you spent your entire career at E-1, you probably also gained valuable
leadership experience. What’s more, your work ethic is sharp, and you’re an adaptable team
player with integrity. Employers are increasingly learning to look for these skills during
the recruiting process. It is sometimes easy to overlook the workplace value of relatively simple military duties; remember that few civilians are regularly required to speak publicly, work overnight or look out for the lives of co-workers. Now’s the time to sort out your capabilities so you’ll be ready to highlight them in your resume, cover letter and in job interviews. If you’re not sure where to begin, both in and out of the military, counselors are available to translate these valuable military skills into usable civilian resumes.
2. Make Some Investments
While not all civilian jobs offer a 401(k) or other retirement plan, having a savings account for
retirement is always a wise choice. If you made regular contributions to your thrift savings plan while serving, you should be able to roll your savings over into an individual retirement account. Before you do so, however, you should carefully consider your options.
In many cases, young veterans are better off keeping their money in one of Thrift Savings Plans relatively simple funds. Those who are confident making their own investment decisions, on the other hand, may prefer the flexibility of a civilian retirement account. If you are unsure which course of action is best for you, speak to an advisor with no conflict of interest in your choice.
3. Pursue Higher Education
The Post-9/11 GI Bill is one of the most powerful benefits that comes with receiving an
honorable discharge after a sufficient period of service. You are probably already aware that
veterans can go to school for free at a public university or receive significant financial aid at a
private one. You may not, however, have a clear idea of what you want to study. Take some
time to choose your future career. Look for options that are likely to result in a rewarding job. A degree in accounting, for example, can be earned online and can prepare you for a job in public, private or nonprofit sectors. A degree in information technology may open doors in cybersecurity or data analytics fields. There are schools that both honor the GI Bill and have flexible learning opportunities to suit your situation.
When you leave the military, you are free to do whatever you want. If your present skills
translate well into a civilian field, you may wish to simply continue with your trade. If you are
passionate about something and want to use your leadership skills to start a business, this is
also an option. While leaving the military can be difficult for a number of reasons, you should remember that many others have adjusted to civilian life. When you have successfully translated your work experience, you will understand what jobs you are realistically qualified for. Locate a reputable degree program that can land you a rewarding career, and you will be well on your way to leading a fulfilling civilian life. Remember to keep long-term savings in mind, and if you ever lost, consider the many resources and benefits at your disposal.