5 Questions to Ask Before You Leave the Military

Military Transition

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo)

As you begin your transitional journey from the military, there are plenty of potholes along the road to success.  Seeing, understanding and avoiding the hazards are essentials for transitional success.  Analyzing and preparing for various environmental variables prior to departure will put you miles ahead.  John Wooden, Head Coach at the University of California at Los Angeles once stated, “When opportunity comes, it’s too late to prepare.” 

To help you prepare for life after the military, here are five questions you should ask before you separate from service.

Is the Timing Right?

Are you ready to go? You do not want to regret your transition, as there is no going back if you still have something left to do in the military. You should look at associated timing issues and conduct self-assessment. Ask yourself questions. Are you having fun? Have you taken a good look at your goals and objectives for your military service?  Has a good transitional job opportunity presented itself?  Do you still have a thirst for an overseas assignment? Are you trying to get home to family? All of these need to be considered.

what location do i want to be in?

Do you know where you want to settle? Have you made inroads to that location? Have you studied the unemployment rate? Have you looked at the volume of defense contracts in the area? If you are looking at civil service, have you studied the locality pay for your desired region? Have you looked at the climate as it relates to your health, hobbies and personal activities? Do you have the need or desire to be near a military base, so you can use the commissary, exchange and other facilities? Are you looking for a rural or urban life experience? Do you need to be near a VA Hospital? Do you have the need to live near extended family for their benefit? Have you studied what the cost of living in your desired area as compared to other regions of the country? Have you looked at state and local taxes?

am i financially ready?

Have you saved enough money to survive the transition period? Your dollars need to be in short-term savings and not locked up in a retirement account, so you can avoid tax-related penalties. How much should you keep in a ‘rainy-day’ fund? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an acceptable measure of three to six months’ worth of expenses may no longer apply. “A lot of experts now recommend that everyone keeps nine months to one year of income in an emergency account in case of job loss,” says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

what pay and Benefits do i need?

Have you looked at the impact of the loss of pay and benefits associated with the military?  Health care is the big issue today. Have you studied what you will do for health care? Have you looked into TRICARE and the Transition Assistance Management Program (TAMP)? Will you have money in Thrift Savings Plan that needs to be rolled into an IRA?  Is your educational benefit ready to execute?  Have you looked at the real dollar value of the loss of Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)?

what does my spouse need to be happy?

There are many family issues to consider during your transition. Does your spouse need or want to work? Can they find a job at the location you desire? Will he or she require more training or education? Will you or your family need to be near a university or college? Have you studied or discussed sharing your Post 9/11 G.I. Bill benefits with your family? Does your family have special needs?

There is much to consider during a military transition.  You must take time to do the research and study the associated environmental factors.

Wishing you a successful and lucrative transition!

Jay Hicks is an author, instructor and consultant. With a special kinship for military personnel, Jay provides guidance on successful civilian career transition and has co-authored “The Transitioning Military Series”. He is the co-founder of Gr8Transitions4U, where advocating the value of hiring military personnel is the key focus. More about Jay and his passion can be found at Gr8Transitions4U.com.

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