Welcome to Day Six of the 30 Day Financial Transition Challenge. Today’s article focuses on your Five Year Plan.
For the first five days, we’ve focused on where you stand regarding the Five Fundamentals of Fiscal Fitness. Whether you’ve mastered them (i.e. you uncovered nothing new that you need to change), you’ve developed a ‘to-do’ list, or you’ve realized that you have serious concerns, you should take a moment to collect your thoughts. Today’s article will help you focus on putting everything together as part of a five year plan.
To reiterate the Day Three (Pay Off All Consumer Debt) guidance, if you feel like you need to see a debt counselor, you need to stop right now and schedule an appointment. You can start with your installation’s financial counseling office. If you have consumer debt that will take you over a year to repay, you should talk to a professional counselor to make sure you’re taking the right steps before trying to go any further on your own.
Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF)
You should find a planning method that addresses the major milestones in your life. For most people, ‘retirement planning’ is too distant for realistic planning, while 6 months or 1 year might not be forward-thinking enough. A 5-year plan is adequate to cover your military transition planning needs and to address unexpected issues that arise as you settle into civilian life.
Whether you realize it or not, the military lifestyle forces members and their families to develop a long-view mindset. Unlike our civilian counterparts, who generally find a house, career, raise a family according to their own timetable, we automatically think in terms of deployments, PCS moves, the 20 –year (or 30) year retirement planning.
As soon as you unpack your household goods at your new duty station, it seems like you’re planning (or thinking about) your next move. For the servicemember spouse, you’re automatically thinking about how your follow on assignment will help your career, and what you need to do to get there.
Developing a 5-year plan complements the ‘two-tour’ mindset, where you’re planning your career two tours in advance. This allows you to reverse-engineer the steps you need to take to get to your goal. We’re going to do the same thing today.
Today we’re going to develop the ‘big picture’ of your five year plan. You’re not going to fill in all the gaps here, but we’re going to start with the major pieces that you know you need to address. Over time, you’ll find opportunities, challenges, additional steps, and other considerations that you’ll have to put somewhere in this plan. However, today’s effort is dedicated to developing the framework that helps the other things complement each other.
Take into consideration the following areas of your life:
1. Military plan
- Is there anything else I need to accomplish in the military (i.e. next promotion)?
- Is there anything else I CAN accomplish in the military that will help me in post-military life (i.e. renew clearances, career-broadening assignment, complete degree, obtain professional license or certification?)
- How much time do I have?
- What does my transition plan look like?
- What opportunities do I have to take advantage of the remaining time I have?
2. Post-military plan
- Visualize your first year after military retirement. What does it look like?
- Is it executable? What are the obstacles to you being able to execute your plan?
- Are you moving or staying local? Staying local might limit some possibilities (i.e. getting the perfect job through a headhunter if opportunities are elsewhere), but broaden others (such as being able to network more closely within your local community).
3. Family Plan
- What family milestones are you planning around? College? Wedding? New child?
- Are there family priorities that trump others (staying in one location vice moving for a second career)?
4. Financial Plan
- Do you have a plan for your finances?
- How will your finances change?
- What adjustments do you need to make? Do you need to start before your transition (i.e. cutting expenses)?
- Do you have enough savings/liquidity? (Day 2)
5. Career/Education Plan (Day 5)
- How does your career/education plan fit within your 5 year plan?
- Community involvement? Networking? These things take a commitment of time. Later on, we’ll spend a day on each of these, to see what is possible without overloading your plate.
6. Take some time to think about it.
You’re going to want to figure out a manner to categorize the things that come across your plate by how important they are, and when they need to get done. Also, you’ll want a process to figure out how to disregard all of these ‘pop-ups’ that won’t help you get anything done. Doing this up front will help you properly prioritize:
- If you’ve got kids, they need you regardless of where you are, or what you’re doing. Get a snapshot of the basic functions that are required to run your household. They might change during your transition, but they won’t go away.
- Things that are necessary and urgent (Immediate priorities). For example, getting a handle on your near-term finances, getting your child off to college next semester…these are things that could be urgent.
- Things that are necessary, but not urgent (Eventual priorities). For example, scheduling the movers (if you’re moving) is necessary, but might not be urgent. If you’re planning a year in advance, it might be just as well to put a time on your calendar for when you need to look at your movers.
- Things that are urgent, but not necessary (attention-suckers). These things won’t matter much in the long run, so you’ll need to figure them out early on and think about how to disengage quickly.
- For example, collateral duties at your duty station–unless there is a direct link to that specific collateral duty in your post-military life, you should start unwinding it during your last year.
- If you’re the kind of person who feels like you’re not doing your job unless you’re doing 5 of them, think about this. The sooner you transfer your collateral duty, the more likely you’ll be in a position to help the person who relieves you.
- If you offload everything 2 months before you transition, your relief might completely undo a lot of your work because they’re now in a position where they have to figure it out on their own. Transferring unnecessary parts of your job is beneficial to you AND your command.
- You should think of everything that isn’t absolutely necessary as an attention-sucker. You’re going to have enough on your plate.
You won’t have solved all the world’s problems today. However, you’ll start figuring out the ‘big categories’ of things that are important. Over the rest of the month, we’ll start figuring out some of the things that you should account for, and deciding how they go into your five-year plan (or if they do at all). Stay tuned to tomorrow’s article, in which we discuss the importance of developing your Job Risk Mindset.