Military & Money

Transitioning to civilian life: A quick-start guide to organizing your finances

After years of dedicated service, you’ve decided to leave the armed forces for civilian life. As with any major life change, there are a number of arrangements you should make to ensure that you’re financially prepared for your new way of living. Here are a few steps to get you started.

 

Military dad with sonStep 1: Update your address.

Sometimes the biggest change is the one that’s easiest to forget: your address. Filling out a change-of-address form is a good first step, but don’t forget to follow up:

  • Verify that your credit union, utilities companies, etc., have the appropriate address
  • Be attentive to what bills you receive – and what appears to be missing – so you don’t miss any payments
  • Consider setting up automatic bill pay so you won’t have to worry about missing bills

Step 2: Assess the change in your cost of living and plan accordingly.

Your monthly budget can change substantially if you’re retiring from service.

“Understanding the differences in costs of living is crucial,” says Julie Bruning, Vice President of Consumer Lending at SAC Federal Credit Union. “While your incomes before and after your service might be similar, you’re now responsible for covering housing, utilities, or wardrobe allowances that are no longer available to you as a civilian.”

To make sure that all your expenses are covered, review your earnings statement and compare your previous earnings and expenses. Then, use Military OneSource’s Financial Management Plan worksheet to project your household expenses and ensure that your new budget and goals are aligned.

Step 3: Take advantage of financial planning resources.

From your credit union to online tools to your military branch, there are tons of resources available to help you make the transition to civilian life as smooth as possible. Here are a few to check out:

  • Many bases and military branches offer career placement services, with resume writing assistance and interview coaching
  • Check your credit score for free at www.annualcreditreport.com and get a picture of your financial health – you can view all three scores at once or spread them out over the year
  • Wealth management tools such as SAC Money Manager can help you track your spending and expenses from one central place

Step 4: Get your legal documents in order.

It may have been a while since the last time you took a look at your life insurance policy, your beneficiaries, your will, or your Power of Attorney, and now is the perfect time to go through and make sure all of the details are up to date. Additionally, if your life insurance is no longer available now that you’re not on active duty, it may be wise to look into other options.

Resource roundup

Here are a few more tools and resources you can use to help you as you plan your life post-military.

Have you or your spouse recently made the transition to civilian life? Share your stories and financial tips in the comments. Plus, be sure to download our 7 financial tips for deployment checklist.

Author SAC FCU Managing Editor

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