Now that your time in the military has come to an end, you may be concerned about your next steps. Civilian life seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With a solid strategy and the support of family and friends, you can feel just as fulfilled as you did during your service.

Here’s what to do when your time in the military has come to an end and you’re ready to create a civilian life that you love:

The knowledge you've gained through your military experience can be directly applied to civilian responsibilities.The knowledge you’ve gained through your military experience can be directly applied to civilian responsibilities.

Know your value

Now that you’re not in the Armed Forces, you may feel like you have no skills that apply to the civilian job market. That idea couldn’t be further from the truth. The military, in fact, gave you qualities that are impossible to acquire in any other format. You learned soft skills like teamwork and communication as well as specific knowledge related to technology, machine maintenance and medical care.

Consider how your military experience translates to the modern job market. Doing so helps you find an appropriate employer and make the transition easier. Make a list of all your skills and research what jobs apply to them. If, for example, you served in a leadership position in the military, you could be a great fit for management or corporate training.

Remember that jobs are not careers

A career is your passion, while a job is a stepping stone. Jobs give you financial stability while you search for (or develop the skills for) your dream career.

You may have to work whatever jobs you can find after retiring from the military, and they may make you feel discouraged, apathetic or even depressed about your situation. Don’t let this discouragement consume you. Your first post-military job doesn’t have to be your career, and you can use the experience you get to help you find a better position.

Review your finances

Check all of your bank accounts and credit statements to see how much money you have and how much you need. At minimum, you should have a checking account with money already deposited, a savings or emergency account with a year’s worth of expenses, and a retirement account. If you don’t have any of these, don’t panic, but create them as soon as you can.

Also, look over your debts and start taking measures to pay off all that you owe. There are several debt relief programs specifically for servicemembers and veterans, including:

  • The Servicemember Civil Relief Act, which regulates interest rates for credit cards, auto loans and other financial services.
  • The Military Lending Act, which keeps interest rates for credit products from exceeding 36 percent.
  • The Veterans Housing Benefit Program, which offers veterans home loans with low interest rates.

You can also use a credit counseling service to help you manage your debt and boost your credit, allowing you to make major purchases like cars and homes.

Know your health insurance options

A medical crisis can strike anyone at any time, making health insurance a necessity. Luckily, you’re eligible for TRICARE between your military retirement and before getting a new job. The Continued Health Care Benefit program is another temporary coverage option, but you’ll need to find your own health care eventually. Look into possible VA benefits, and try to find a job with employer-provided insurance options.

Connect with your family and build a network

Having personal freedom may feel odd after years of taking and giving commands. It’s not uncommon for veterans to feel depressed after the rigid structure of the military, which is why a support network of peers and loved ones is so essential. Make connections with other veterans, open up to your family, and consult a therapist if you need to.

You may suffer some growing pains when transitioning to life after the military, but you’ll come through with the right plan.

To learn more about preparing for retirement, download our 2018 Financial Planning Guide.