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Planning Finances for Post-Military Life

Whether you're separating or retiring from the military, the transition to civilian life can be both exciting and stressful.

On one hand, you may enjoy a wide range of new professional and personal opportunities. On the other, you must leave behind your rank or grade, as well as a large part of your identity and the lifestyle you've known for years.

Stress is common -- and natural -- at this time. But some thoughtful planning, including careful financial planning, can help reduce the stress of transition on you and your family.

Here are several financial opportunities and resources to consider as you develop your transition plan for post-military life:

Transition Assistance Program. TAP is a DoD-sponsored program designed to ease your transition to civilian life. It consists of four components:

Pre-separation counseling, which is mandatory counseling conducted by representatives of your service branch    

  • Department of Labor employment workshops for servicemembers and their spouses
  • VA-sponsored Veterans benefits briefings
  • VA-sponsored Disabled Transition Assistance Program

Topics addressed by TAP include:

  • Employment assistance  
  • Entrepreneurship and small business ownership  
  • Education benefits, relocation assistance  
  • Health and life insurance  
  • Reserve affiliation and benefits for veterans, retirees and survivors  

You can learn more at TurboTAP.org -- the DOD's official website for providing information to transitioning servicemembers. This resource offers a variety of personal finance tools and resources.

Your installation's Family Center. This resource offers presentations and workshops on topics such as family budgets, consumer rights, credit management, debt liquidation, investments, insurance and taxes.

Additional separation pay. You may be eligible for additional separation pay or unemployment compensation when you leave service.

Social Security benefits. You may qualify for Social Security benefits such as retirement income, disability benefits, Medicare medical insurance and survivor benefits.

Government-sponsored loans. You may also qualify for a government-sponsored loan, such as a VA home loan, an SBA small-business loan or a Farmers Home Administration loan.

You'll also want to carefully consider your options for transitioning assets you've accumulated through the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. Choices include leaving your money in the plan, rolling over to a Traditional IRA or eligible employer plan such as a 401(k), requesting a series of monthly payments and conversion to a TSP annuity.

Your choice may be governed by various rules and restrictions of the TSP and the Internal Revenue Code. So before you make up your mind, consider consulting with a financial professional who is knowledgeable about the TSP and other important financial issues. This can include replacing your Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance benefits and making decisions regarding your Survivor Benefit Plan -- that may affect your post-military life.Visit Military.com's Transition Center to find more resources to ease your re-entry into civilian life.