Last week, we asked our LinkedIn network what financial questions were keeping them up at night.  While we received a nice collection of topics via email that will provide fodder for future posts, we received one that was particularly relevant after a personal conversation with a very good F-15E backseater friend.

“What are some financial best practices for navigating the military-to-civilian transition?”

My friend — someone who I’ve known since our F-15E training together — was in a tough spot.  He was nearing the end of his flying assignment (that had worn on him personally and professionally) and was positioning himself for a career broadening assignment overseas in a function that he was excited about.  However, those plans were quickly falling apart and he was facing the very real possibility that he would get put in a holding pattern and miss out on this opportunity.  As such, he was trying to figure out how to prepare for the future.

While it’s beyond the scope of this post to go over the career- and life-specific elements of building a transition plan, we’ve found that building “financial maneuvering room” is unbelievably helpful as you approach the transition or are just coming up with options.  When we say “financial maneuvering room,” we mean the opportunity to explore various courses of actions or outcomes, unencumbered by financial uncertainty.

If it sounds pedantic, here’s a simpler way to look at it.  If you have your financial house in order, you can concentrate on other things that may add more value and meaning to your life over the long-haul.

Having suffered and survived through the transition assistance program, I really believe the financial planning and budgeting workshop is inadequate.  First off, our firm-level recommendation is to begin the financial planning aspect 12-18 months prior to your separation date.