13 ways to get more money for the transition
Do you know what the problem is with saving money for transition expenses? Trouble is, no soldier wakes up on fire to save money for something they don’t really want – transition costs.
Because when we talk about “transition costs,” we’re not talking about fun things like new business clothes and a civilian home with a swimming pool. What we actually mean by “transition costs” are the promissory notes, the mobile phone payment, the gas, the electricity bill and the demand for endless diapers and/or Cheetos etc., all of which remain unpaid for us when we are unemployed.
Unemployment happens to other people
As a Transition Master Coach for Military.com, I have never met a military member who thought they were one of the unemployed. That’s why I love her so much. Most military personnel are fairly certain they will have a job before they leave the military, although statistics state that 75% of military personnel leave the military without a civilian job.
According to Pew Research, veterans are unemployed for an average of 20 weeks (five months!) after their military service. This is why the experts always tell us that military members need to save three to 12 months on living expenses before leaving the military.
So how do you piece together those transitional savings even if you don’t want to think you’ll need them? I reached out to you for advice from the military money community.
13 ways to get more money for your military transition
1. Build a raft, not a bridge.
Instead of freaking out with the idea that you need to build an entire financial bridge for your transition, instead see it as tying a raft together. The transition is a temporary expense. (Learn more tips on lashing down your transition raft in our FREE Transition Masterclass: A Fistful of Dollars.)
2. Put on your reality glasses.
“When you’re at the end of your life [military] Once you sign a contract, start saving — even if you’re not sure whether you’re going to stay or not,” said Spencer Reese, author of The Military Money Manual.” Reese, a former Air Force pilot, told me he saved 50% of his paycheck in the months leading up to his split.
3. Hide money from yourself.
If you have more than a year to start saving, an app could be the way to push yourself to move forward. “The biggest thing for most people is getting the human out of the loop,” Reese said. “Release the right to make a decision.” Reese suggests using an app like Digit or Stash that links to your bank account to save an amount of money you won’t miss out on. “Most people spend what they can see,” Reese said. “This slows down your spending when the balance goes down.”
4. “Marie Kondo” your stuff.
“When I came out, I had a lot of stuff from different duty stations,” Reese said. “Paddleboards from Hawaii. Bikes from Florida. A weight set. An elliptical trainer. I Marie Kondo-ed it all and sold it on eBay.” Facebook Marketplace and Etsy are also good places to offload things you won’t need in your civilian life.
5. Grow out of your clothes.
As you inventory your closet, also take a look at your clothes—especially if they’re high-end, near-new or collectible items, as well as items that still have the tags on because they never really fit. I’ve bought and sold clothes at Poshmark, thredUP, Tradesy, and The RealReal. When building a transition raft, every euro counts.
6. Prevent lifestyle slippage.
JJ Montanaro, my favorite USAA financial planner, told me that one of the problems with leaving the ministry was lifestyle creep. We all have the notion that we should start living better right away, which usually leads to a bigger house – the biggest expense most transitional soldiers have. While it may seem like a hassle, renting first before buying might be a better option.
7. Make your saver passionately “love money”.
“Quick financial independence is easier with a strong partner,” said Reese. If you’re the money giver in your relationship and are struggling to save for the transition, let your partner guide you. “Let them set the budget for the next six months.”
8. Military retention game.
If you’re worried about the economy or you’re really short on cash, consider staying in the military. “It’s not worth gouging if you hate it,” said David Pere, a former Marine and author of The No BS Guide to Military Life..“If you don’t hate it, you’ll be completely taken care of in the end if you’re good with your finances. You can maximize TSP [Thrift Savings Plan] Contribute, buy real estate, make it work.”
9. Join the reserves.
If you don’t want to or can’t stay in the military, consider the financial benefits of joining the reserve. “I think the reserves are a phenomenal option,” said Pere. He points to the benefits of keeping Tricare and transferring the GI bill to your children. It might also ease some of your financial worries during the first part of your transition.
10. Take a part-time job.
Depending on your personal situation and schedule, you may be able to take a part-time job temporarily until you earn a certain dollar amount for your transitional raft. “The most popular and easiest are driving for Uber, Lyft, Rideshare or Instacart. Also, if you’re interested in investing in real estate, learn your way around.” said Pere. “But also think about side hustles like Airbnb or renting out a room in your house.”
11. Indulge in pet love.
If you are a family of pet lovers with a fenced yard, consider signing up with a pet sitting/dog walking service like Rover. It may be inconvenient, but it’s a way a family can contribute, too.
12. Remote jobs for the spouse
Is your spouse already working at a job they don’t really like? Are they talking about how they would like to get a remote job? Many spouses feel that they must wait until the service member is fully employed and settled in the civilian world before finding another job. But the wait may not be as necessary as you think. “Look at all the changes with COVID,” Montanaro said. “Now there are many more remote work opportunities than there used to be.”
13. Last chance for spousal employment programs
When we talk about spouses, it’s important to note that there are more employment programs and certification programs available for active-duty spouses than for veteran spouses. Training now for a future job is also an investment in the future.
The thought of a period of unemployment after military service scares everyone a little. Self-reliance and self-reliance are such an integral part of military culture that it’s hard to grapple with the idea of a few weeks, let alone a few months, without a job. Putting together a special transitional savings fund can really improve your sleep at night. And if you’re one of the lucky few who don’t need that income, just think of all the nice Cheetos you can buy.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com‘s transition master trainer. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members find their first civilian job by offering career advancement opportunities master class through our Veteran Employment Project and on their website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach them at [email protected].
Learn more about the Veterans Employment Project
Sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today to learn more tips for a successful military transition. You can watch previous courses in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.
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