You’re just about to finish your time of military service and embark on the next big phase of your life, excited and perhaps a little nervous about what the future may hold. You may be asking yourself, “How do I transition and make sure I’m financially stable on my own?” Be encouraged: your experiences in the military have prepared you well for your future and your financial outlook.
With a little discipline and some careful planning, you can create stability, freedom, and success for yourself and your finances by following a few basic steps. Check out the following recommendations, courtesy of the Middleton American Legion family.
Save, Save, Save
The military has taught you to be prepared for all kinds of scenarios, and this translates seamlessly into civilian life as well — particularly when it comes to your money. No matter how much you earn, plan to save a least a small percentage of every paycheck to cover:
● Auto and home maintenance and repairs
● Loss of income
● Health-related costs not covered by insurance
Invest Your Money Wisely
It’s never too early to save for retirement, even if it may feel like it at first. Putting money away while you are young is a wise decision because the longer you invest your money, the greater the compound interest you will earn.
Per 401K Specialist, if your employer offers a choice between a traditional 401k and a Roth IRA, financial guru Suze Orman recommends you choose the latter. Other suggestions include paying off any outstanding debts you may have before further investing in the stock market, and buying a house rather than renting, if you can. Seeking the advice of a financial planner who specializes in veterans services will help mitigate risks and create a financial plan that supports your goals and dreams.
Go Back to School
After getting out of the military, many veterans are unsure of what steps they should take next in terms of their careers. While you may have learned several valuable skills while serving, that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. If you’ve always wanted to further your education, now’s the perfect time to do so.
For example, if you’ve always had a love for information technology, you could pursue a Bachelor’s degree through an online university. This will allow you to work a job (be it full- or part-time) while taking courses in IT online. Of course, you don’t have to stop at IT — you could pursue whatever degree you have your heart set on.
Research Home Ownership
Many veterans hope to purchase a home, but it may take some time and work before you are financially ready to take this step. In the meantime, you’ll want to tackle tasks like improving your credit score by paying down debt and ensuring you pay your bills on time. You should also bolster your savings to help with a down payment, closing costs, and home maintenance and repairs.
While you wait, research special home ownership programs and grants available exclusively for veterans. Exploring mortgage rates, down payment requirements, and estimated monthly payments on VA loans now will help prepare you when it’s time to start shopping for a mortgage.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
Right there with the discipline of saving is the discipline of creating and abiding by a budget. A solid working budget does several important things. First, it forces you to be realistic and to face your known expenses and how you’re spending your money. Second, it allows for conscious adaptation if your situation changes.
Making more money is a blessing unless you unconsciously fritter away your extra earnings. And if you find yourself earning less money, you have a framework to make changes and eliminate expenses or resolve to take on an additional job to meet them. Finally, a budget provides a road map of where you want to go, financially speaking, especially if you include a savings and investment plan as part of it. It’ll help you identify your financial goals and how to reach them.
Just like other freedoms, financial freedom isn’t free — it must be worked for, planned for, and sometimes, fought for — but you’ve been trained and equipped to take on that challenge. Discipline, resolve, and persistence are the keys to the financial stability and security you desire.
Military Missions in Action is dedicated to assisting Veterans with disabilities, members of the Armed Forces, and their families.
For more information visit our website or call 919-552-1603.