So your time as a military family is drawing to a close. As was suggested in the first part of this series, you’ve bulked up your emergency fund, paid down your unsecured debt as best you could, considered additional sources of income, dusted off and updated your resume, and done what you could to increase your job skills. Excellent work! Now it’s time to consider a few details that are often overlooked in the transition out of military life. I like mnemonics so we’re going to stick with the ‘vowels of transition’ here: A, E, I, O, U…and sometimes Y.
A: ALLOTMENTS – What allotments are currently coming out of the LES (Leave and Earnings Statement)? Additional life insurance? A car payment? Alimony/child support? You’ll need to contact each entity for whom an allotment is established and set up another method of payment. Being proactive and contacting them before the allotment is late makes for a smoother transition.
E: EXPENSES – Hopefully you have a budget established already. Do you have enough in savings to cover your expenses? If so, for how long? What does your ‘austerity budget’ look like? For us, our ‘austerity budget’ is rent, food, utilities (no cable), car insurance, gas, and bare-bones cell phone plan (we don’t have a land line). Using that, we had a baseline for figuring out how far our cash savings would stretch in the event of an extended unemployment period. We would ditch cable, eating out, scale back our food budget, and get in contact with any of our creditors (credit cards and/or student loans) to inform them of the situation and see what options we had. Creditors are more likely to work with you if you contact them BEFORE things get out of hand rather than after the fact.
I: INSURANCE – Depending on the terms of your separation from the military, Tricare coverage may or may not continue for 6 months after your separation date. If it does, that gives you time to research your health insurance options. Ideally, you would find a fantastic job with fantastic benefits shortly after your exit from the military but we all know that the economy isn’t in great shape at the moment so you may find that you’re having to pay for health insurance out of pocket. Better to start researching before you have to make that decision rather than have to rush to choose a plan or go without coverage. I just did an internet search for ‘health insurance’ + my state and went from there.
O: OCCUPATION – What do you want to be when you grow up? What does your spouse want to be? If your servicemember’s MOS translates easily into a civilian occupation and that’s what they want to do, wonderful! If not, what do they need to get there? More schooling? Training/apprenticeship? Can the GI Bill help? They earned it – put it to use!
U: UNEMPLOYMENT – One of the great things we found out about the state in which we live is that my husband is eligible for unemployment compensation upon separation from the military AND his use of the GI Bill does not preclude collection of unemployment. So he can go back to school to work on his degree and certifications for civilian employment and collect unemployment at the same time – meaning we won’t be living below the poverty level during this transitional period, nor will we need to take on additional debt (in the form of student loans) to make it through.
Y: YOU – Transitions are tough. They are tough on the person getting out of the military but they are also tough on the family members. Don’t neglect YOU in all of this. Money may be tight and stress may be running high but not taking care of yourself is a recipe for disaster. Even if it’s only 15 minutes per day, find some time for yourself: a warm bath, a walk, a trip to the library to sit and read, a phone call to a good friend. It’s not selfish to take care of yourself in the midst of all of this. Doing so just means that you’ll be well and capable of taking care of everyone else as the needs arise.
There are many resources out there for help with this transition. What are some resources you’ve come across? Share them in the comments below!