If you've recently returned from your last tour of duty and have received an honorable discharge from military service, you may be wondering how you can get settled when you've never lived in one place long enough to grow roots. Fortunately, as a veteran there are a number of programs for which you'll now qualify which are designed to help you set your retirement plans, get started in a new career, and purchase a home. Read on to learn more about how you can make the transition to a civilian life much more seamless.
Decide on a new career & receive training at low cost
For some, a military retirement may take place years (or even decades) before most Americans begin thinking of retiring. As a result, you may be considering continuing your military career in the civilian realm, or even going back to school or receiving training in a new field entirely. A number of public and private colleges offer tuition at reduced rates for military veterans, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers tuition payments, housing allowances, and even up to $1000 per year in the payment of fees associated with a college education or vocational program.
As long as you've served a certain number of days in the military after September 11, 2001, you'll be able to receive this assistance for up to 36 months—often at a high enough rate that you can treat school as your full-time job and finish ahead of schedule.
Purchase a home
One of the quickest ways to integrate yourself into a new city or town is to purchase real estate. However, you may find it difficult to save up the 20 percent down payment required by many lenders while you're paying rent and other living expenses at the same time. Honorably-discharged military veterans and their spouses should be eligible for VA-backed loans, available from private lenders at competitive interest rates and terms available to few others. You should be able to obtain a VA loan without offering a down payment or being charged private mortgage insurance that can increase your interest rate.
To apply for a VA home loan, you'll need your DD-214 showing your dates of service and the reason for your discharge. Even if your credit score isn't perfect, you should have little trouble qualifying for a VA loan as long as you have some source of income and haven't defaulted on a previous VA-backed mortgage.
Set up your retirement plans
Even if you're years away from a true retirement, it's important to get plans into place as soon as possible so your retirement funds will be given decades to grow before you need to access them. This can allow you to step away from a stressful second career sooner or decide to retire early to spend time caring for an ailing parent or other relative.
Military retirement benefits are among the most generous available from any employer, public or private. With a pension that begins making regular payments the day you retire, as young as 37 years old, this can provide you with a guaranteed minimum source of income for decades before you qualify for Social Security benefits or are able to make penalty-free withdrawals from a 401(k) or other retirement vehicle.
This immediate access to funds guaranteed by your military pension can sometimes make other retirement savings options look less attractive. However, there are some accounts that can provide you with tax benefits and investment options not offered by a regular savings account while still allowing you ready access to most of your investment funds. For those whose taxable income is low enough to keep them in the bottom marginal tax brackets, a Roth IRA will allow you to invest after-tax funds in a number of stocks, bonds, mutual funds (or even cash) while never paying federal or state income tax on contributions withdrawn at any time or earnings withdrawn after age 59. You can also withdraw earnings tax-free before age 59.5 if you're paying for a home purchase, educational costs, or medical expenses under certain circumstances.Share