Transitioning Out of the Military

The Bottom Line

8 Things You Can Do To Make The Transition A Little Easier

1) Take Advantage of the Benefits and Support You Have Available

Members of the armed forces risk their lives to defend the country, and there are many programs and support systems in place to assist them. For example, there are many websites with support and transition plans  for members who will be transitioning to civilian life. You can find tips, information about the benefits available to you, and more.

In addition to researching online, one of the first steps you should take is to visit the transition assistance staff at your installation like Fort Bragg's Transition Center. They can help you explore your options, sign up for benefits, and develop an individualized transition plan. The staff can also help you find transition workshops. 

Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union also has programs and accounts in place for members of the military and veterans. Our Credit Union appreciates the sacrifices you have made, and offers personalized support to you — both during active duty and once you complete your military service. If you’re not yet a member of Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union, fill out a membership application or contact us.

2) Take Care of Finances

There are several steps you will want to take to prepare financially for life after the military: 

  • Start an emergency fund. Having at least six months of expenses in a savings account means you can breathe a little easier. If you need a little extra time to find your ideal job or find that you need more money than you originally thought, having an emergency fund can help you stay on your feet.

  • Choose a financial services provider. You might need to select a new financial institution for your banking. Choose carefully since you will find that rates and costs vary widely. Banks are for-profit businesses beholden to their shareholders. However, credit unions like Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union are owned by members, and may charge less in fees or offer excellent loan interest rates.

  • Create a budget. One surprise in store for many members of the military is the cost of civilian life. Military benefits defray many of the costs of living, but without these benefits, you may find everything is a little more expensive. Drawing up a monthly budget helps you keep spending in check and can show you exactly where your money goes.

  • Start saving. Save for the future and for your retirement. As a veteran, you may be able to save for retirement by putting money into a Thrift Savings Plan, which is similar to a retirement account used by civilian employees. Even if you haven’t started saving yet, Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union can help you get started with a savings plan today.

  • Pay down your debt. Enter civilian life with as little debt as you can. It will help you keep monthly expenses low and can improve your credit rating. With less debt, you will find it easier to manage your monthly bills and your money will go further since less of your budget will go towards paying your debts. In addition, once you transition to civilian life you may want to make some larger purchases. Having less debt can make it easier to secure financing for these items.

  • Get health insurance. After you transition from military life, you may have health insurance coverage for a while, but you will need to secure health care coverage and other forms of insurance to protect you as a civilian. Shop around to find the best policies at the most competitive rate.

3) Finding a New Home

You may find that you want to relocate once your military service is complete. Maybe you already know where you want to go or plan to move back to your hometown. If you aren’t sure, you have a whole country to explore. You can choose to rent or buy a home and move to a city you’ve always wanted to see.

The military may cover your moving expenses when you transition. If you are retiring or your transition is considered an honorable discharge, for example, one final move is covered, as long as it is in the United States or your home of record outside the country. You have one year from the date of retirement to move in order to be eligible, but extensions may be granted in some cases.

If you’re considering buying a home, you’ll need a down payment and a mortgage. As a veteran, you will likely qualify for a VA mortgage, which can save you money on rates and mortgage insurance. To find out about your mortgage options, you can contact Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union. Our Credit Union is proud to work with veterans and military families. We have assisted many families in securing VA mortgages as well as other types of home loans. We can help guide you through the process.

4) Work on Family Life

If you have a spouse and children, you will want to talk to them about transitioning from military life. Make decisions as a family and give yourself time to work on a transition plan together. You might have more time to be with your family so discuss how you will spend time together. Will you build new family traditions or go on a family vacation together to start civilian life?

If you are single, you will have the opportunity to spend more time with your family. Before you transition, carefully consider your goals in this area. Now that you are not on active duty, you have more time to plan holiday visits or family vacations — experiences which may have previously been affected by your duties.

5) Plan Your Big Move

Transitioning is a big process. Transition classes  are available at Fort Bragg to help you through the experience. Classes and workshops examine benefits, finances, life skills needed for transition, Individual Transition Plans and more. Workshops at Fort Bragg’s Transition Center last five days, and offer plenty of valuable information, including financial planning, mentorships, special issues and more.

6) Work on your New Career

Carefully consider what type of job or career you want to have beyond the military. Do you want to embark on a completely new career? Were you hoping to use your military training and job experience to land a career in a similar sector?

The exciting thing is that you have many choices. There are a number of employers, like Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union, known for being especially military-friendly and for hiring veterans and their spouses. However, even companies without this reputation often welcome the discipline, skills, and commitment that you can bring.

As a veteran, you can work in the private sector, but many federal jobs also seek candidates with leadership experience — something many veterans have. Opening your own business may also be an appealing idea.

How can you chart an exciting new course for your career? There are several steps you will want to take:

  • Develop a career plan. As soon as you decide to transition to civilian life, create a career plan. What would you like to do for a job? How much money do you need to earn to cover your expenses? Consider taking an online skills assessment to determine which careers might be the best fit for you.

  • Make a list of everything you have to offer an employer or company. List all the projects, skills, experience and education you have. Be as detailed as possible. List everyone you can call on to be a reference as well as a list of everywhere you have served and every important detail you can remember from your career. Having all this information in front of you will be very useful when it’s time to write up your resume or fill out job applications.

  • Do your due diligence. Once you know what career is appealing to you, research it and find out what steps you need to take. Do you need to volunteer to get experience in the field? Will you need to go back to school to get additional training?

  • Create a non-military resume. Translate all your experiences, skills and education into civilian language for employers. For example, if you led a specific mission, describe your leadership skills and how your actions impacted the results. Cut out any military jargon and acronyms you can since many hiring mangers might not understand it.

  • Start job hunting. Look at job ads and research the companies you’re interested in working with directly. Consider working with a mentor or applying for government jobs, since military experience often builds the necessary skills for federal employment. Leadership positions in the private sector might also be a career path you want to explore.

  • Network. Today, many workers find jobs through networking rather than through ads. Create a LinkedIn profile and tell everyone you know you’re hunting for a job. You never know who will help you meet a hiring manger or employer. Attend networking events and create a professional social media platform to get to know lead players in the industry you’re interested in entering. Fort Bragg and surrounding communities often hold job fairs you can attend, as well. These fairs attract employers in the private sector who are actively looking for employees.

  • Pay attention to what you post online. Employers today will check your online profile, so be careful about what you post on social media.

  • Explore starting your own company. If you want to start your own business, research carefully and seek funding through investments, loans, or other resources.

7) Embrace Life

Civilian life is about more than just exploring new career opportunities and new responsibilities. You also have a whole new social life to explore. You can get in touch with old friends and make new acquaintances. Building a network of support and friendship can help you enjoy life after the military much more.

8) Take Care of Your Health

In the military, fitness is stressed for many positions. In civilian life, no one will be pressuring you to keep fit, but taking care of yourself is just as important. There are many ways you can protect your health and fitness:

  • Take time to reduce stress. During and after the transition period, your calendar may be quite busy. You’ll want to find ways to reduce stress so you can handle your schedule. You can meditate, take up yoga, find a hobby, or just practice deep breathing. Whatever you decide, make the time to be good to yourself. 

  • Focus on a healthy diet. Eating quality, nutrient-rich foods can help you stay healthy and can ensure you maintain your fitness levels.

  • Keep up your fitness. Find ways to exercise. This can mean joining a gym, adding gym equipment to your home, or joining a community sports team. Getting active is important, especially if you transition to an office job or a more sedentary position.

  • Find a family doctor and a dentist. If you move to a new location, you’ll need to find local health care providers and make regular appointments to maintain your health.

  • Get plenty of rest. Adequate sleep can help you transition more smoothly by keeping you relaxed and well-rested.

The Bottom Line

For most veterans, civilian life is great. There are many success stories from veterans who made the adjustment to civilian life. If they did it, chances are you can too!

Transitioning to civilian life after a career in the military is not a life change to take lightly. At Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union, we are proud of our military service members and veterans, and we do our best to show it with caring and professional service. Our Credit Union is focused on our members. We help many veterans and deployed military members get the financial services they need.