Imagine being away for a long time, in a place that doesn’t even resemble the world you grew up in. It used to be a feather pillow, jeans that fit just right and the smell of fresh cut grass that meant you were home. Now you’ve dedicated yourself to being a soldier, bravely and lovingly protecting the place you call home from thousands of miles away. Hospital corners, camouflaged pants and the smell of smoking guns becomes your new norm. What happens when your tour comes to an end and it’s time to trade in your combat gear for street clothes? Will you be prepared? This life-changing transition of re-integrating into American society has the potential to knock even the most decorated soldier off his or her feet.
Transition planning is everything, especially coming back into a world that isn’t quite how you left it. With unemployment rates high and an economy that has taken a hit, finding a job can be a much heftier mission that you might have originally anticipated. Thus, financial planning for potential hardships when a soldier returns home is key in making the military to civilian transition as seamless as possible. To cover all bases, its best to make a three-fold monetary plan of action: prepare for deployment, ensure security for the duration of your tour and have an exit strategy in place, accounting for potential economic changes that might occur while deployed.
When creating your plan of action, it is important to take advantage of the military benefits available to you, like career counseling/placement and special investment vehicles. Seek out a recruiting firm that specializes in placing military personnel, meet with a representative to discuss your career interests, education and experience and keep in touch with the representative over the course of your tour. Consider opening a thrift savings plan that can be managed for the duration of your deployment and thereafter, offering special tax advantages for military personnel saving for retirement. Start planning your return home 8-12 months in advance with your placement representative. They can act as a liaison between you and potential employers.
Integrating Back into Civilian Life
Many veterans experience waves of emotions when they are integrating back into civilian life such as fear, anxiety and frustration. Proper transitional planning will allow you to enjoy the experience of coming back home to your friends and family. Minimize the negative emotions ahead of time through planning so when you reunite with your feather pillow, the jeans that fit just right, and the familiar smell of fresh cut grass, you can exhale and do so with a smile.
Jeffery Sterner writes and blogs about personal financial well-being and issues that influence it for Debt.org, America’s Debt Help Organization.