Dec 08

The 4 Big Questions-Finances

  1. Are your finances in order?

Before you get out, make sure you have zeroed out major debts.  I really recommend paying off cars and having as few monthly payments as possible.  Take a look at what your monthly expenditures are and make a budget.  This will let you know exactly what you need to survive.  If that number is equivalent to what you are making in the military (including BAH), then you’re spending too much.  Chances are, your first job is going to be equivalent to your base pay, if you’re lucky, but probably not higher.  So you’re going to have to learn to survive on just your base pay.  You are going to be entering a world where salaries are negotiable, and employers are going to offer you the least they think you will accept, so you need to know exactly how much you need.  You and your family are used to living at a certain standard, you’re going to start off below that standard, and you need to know exactly what your floor is.

Also, there are taxes to consider.  If you’re like me, I kept my Florida registration so I didn’t have to pay state income tax.  Once I got out, that all changed and it was a kick in the nuts to have that extra expense.  You’re going to have to pay for health care now as well and that’s not cheap.  There are a lot of unexpected financial hits that you’re going to take, and it’s best that you’re set up to take those punches.  If you’re not ready now, take a few months, maybe extend out your ETS date if you can so you can get it together.

Here is an example of what happens with my paycheck.  Take a look at the deductions and taxes!


This is something I certainly wasn’t prepared for.  About 40% of my paycheck is gone before I even see it.  Some of that goes to pay for my healthcare, some goes into a 401k for retirement, some goes into a dental policy, and some goes into a Health Savings Account or HSA.  So if your target salary is $72,000 a year, make sure you’re not planning for having $6,000 a month in your bank account, you’re probably only going to bring home about $48,000 of that.

For most of you while you’re in, your base pay is pretty much equivalent to what ends up in your bank account.  If you’re deployed you’re not paying taxes, and if you’re stateside, you have COLA, BAH, and BAS.  Once you get out, everything is coming out of that base pay, plus health care costs, plus you’re paying for your retirement somehow.  I didn’t realize this and accepted a lower base salary than I would have if I realized I was going to lose 40% off the top.

If you’re thinking of getting out, go make a budget right now.  You can’t even start to look at jobs and salaries until you’ve figured this out.




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