3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Terminal Leave

In a previous article, I wrote about the decision to either take terminal leave or sell it back.  Basically, it boils down to the opportunity costs—what are you going to do with that terminal leave if you choose to take it?  Personal reasons aside (like taking a well-deserved break), if you have nothing better to…
Advertising Disclosure.

Advertiser Disclosure: Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone. This article may contain links from our advertisers. For more information, please see our Advertising Policy.

default image

In a previous article, I wrote about the decision to either take terminal leave or sell it back.  Basically, it boils down to the opportunity costs—what are you going to do with that terminal leave if you choose to take it?  Personal reasons aside (like taking a well-deserved break), if you have nothing better to do with your leave, then you’re better off financially just selling it.  In this article, we’ll discuss 3 ways you can make the most of your terminal leave.

1. Pull as much to the left as possible.

There are a lot of things that you just cannot do before a certain point.  For example, your VA disability claim cannot be filed until you reach 180 days prior to your separation or retirement.

However, there is a LOT that you can do, well before you start terminal leave.  For example, if you’re starting your own business, you can work on your business plan.  If you’re going back to school, you can take whatever test you need (SAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.) and start your applications.  If you are planning to get a job, you can always make more professional connections.  For example, you can increase your online presence by improving your LinkedIn profile.  If you plan to stay in your local community, you can join a professional organization or take up a volunteer opportunity in your area.

Pulling administrative items to the left as much as you can will free up your time so you can focus more on the things that really matter.  For example, as a financial planner, my business plan originally called for my registration and state filings to be done during my terminal leave.  However, once my CFP® and enrolled agent exams were complete (other items I pulled to the left), I revised my business plan.  My new plan called for me to start my business ‘on the side’ while finishing my last tour.

It’s fortunate that I did so since my Form ADV took 4 months for the state of Florida to approve (due to no fault of my own).  Waiting until my terminal leave to file the paperwork would have kept me on the sidelines, wasting my terminal leave.  Instead, I’ve been working with clients and have a steady flow of appointments that should keep me busy during that time.

Here are some examples of other things you can pull to the left:

  1. Taking your Transition GPS (formerly known as TAP) class.
  2. Taking workshops offered through your local transition office. There are small business workshops, educational programs, and civil service employment workshops, among others.
  3. Going to employer job fairs
  4. Documenting your medical issues/concerns (if you plan to file a disability claim)
  5. Registrations, certifications, or exams
  6. Working on your resume and practicing for interviews

2. Have a multi-faceted plan.

You should have a plan that covers multiple aspects of your life.  Many people are very good at planning for one thing, such as preparing for their next duty station.  However, leaving the military actually involves more moving parts such as:

  • Replacing the income that we often take for granted
  • Figuring out health care, dental, and other active-duty benefits
  • Adjusting to ‘civilian life,’ specifically losing the supportive community that many people appreciate about the military

While it’s important to have a plan for post-military employment (unless you’re going back to school), it’s just as important to plan for these other things.  Your plan should cover:

  • Family. Your family plan should cover things like, where you’re going to live, schools, housing, etc.
  • Personal finances. How long could you keep paying the bills if you don’t get a job right away?  Can you pay for emergencies?  If you’re retiring, what will your retirement check look like?
  • Medical & dental.
  • Where you’re going to live. If you’re relocating, this is definitely something you need to cover in depth.

Ideally, your multi-faceted plan should be part of an existing plan that you update annually or as significant events come up.  If you’d like to know more about what this plan should cover, check out this article about building a five-year plan.  Having a five-year plan in place will help you cover the activities you should be doing before your final paycheck.  Additionally, it will help you anticipate the instability that you can expect as you adjust to post-military life.

3. Set a schedule for everything.

Many people I’ve talked to tell me that their terminal leave went by so quickly, they just didn’t have enough time to get everything done.  When I ask them if they made a schedule, they laugh and tell me no.

Here’s how I see it.  If you plan for it, you can be lucky enough to have 60-90 (or more) days of terminal leave.  If you’re retiring, you might be eligible for even more time.  For example, the Navy allows for 20 days of permissive TDY for job-hunting & house-hunting.  We’ve all been to those retirement ceremonies where they announce the separation orders for like, 5 months from now.  Well, those months are a gift.  Don’t waste them.

Everyone deserves some time off.  That’s what leave is for.  However, not everyone can AFFORD to use up their terminal leave without getting something accomplished.  This is where building a schedule comes into play.

First, take a good look at your plan, and prioritize the things that need to get done before you’re off active duty.  These are things like your check-out, medical appointments, ID card appointments, etc.  Build a list of these things that need to get done.

Second, if you have certain things that you have planned, schedule them.  Family vacations, special trips, put them on the calendar.

Third, if you have hard deadlines, such as college enrollment, or a new job start date, schedule that as well.

Fourth, look at your plan.  What hasn’t been scheduled?  Can you move things around?  What needs to get dropped?  What can wait until later?

By taking a closer look at your plan, you can truly figure out how to make the most of your terminal leave.  Remember, this is probably going to be your only opportunity to receive a full paycheck for doing whatever you want for an extended period of time.  Make the most of it.

Conclusion

If you choose to take terminal leave, there is a lot that you can accomplish.  During that time, the more you accomplish, the more likely you will be prepared for your post-military life.

Get Instant Access
FREE Weekly Updates! Enter your information to join our mailing list.

About Forrest Baumhover

Forrest Baumhover is a Certified Financial Planner™ and financial planner with Lawrence Financial Planning, a fee-only financial services firm. As a retired naval officer, Forrest helps veterans, transitioning servicemembers and their families address the financial challenges of post-military life so they can achieve financial independence and spend more time doing the things they love.

Reader Interactions

Comments

    Leave A Comment:

    Comments:

    About the comments on this site:

    These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  1. John says

    I took 99 days of terminal leave and was granted 20 days of permissive TDY before I retired. Basically a 4 -month vacation!

The Military Wallet is a property of Three Creeks Media. Neither The Military Wallet nor Three Creeks Media are associated with or endorsed by the U.S. Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs. The content on The Military Wallet is produced by Three Creeks Media, its partners, affiliates and contractors, any opinions or statements on The Military Wallet should not be attributed to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Dept. of Defense or any governmental entity. If you have questions about Veteran programs offered through or by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, please visit their website at va.gov. The content offered on The Military Wallet is for general informational purposes only and may not be relevant to any consumer’s specific situation, this content should not be construed as legal or financial advice. If you have questions of a specific nature consider consulting a financial professional, accountant or attorney to discuss. References to third-party products, rates and offers may change without notice.

Advertising Notice: The Military Wallet and Three Creeks Media, its parent and affiliate companies, may receive compensation through advertising placements on The Military Wallet; For any rankings or lists on this site, The Military Wallet may receive compensation from the companies being ranked and this compensation may affect how, where and in what order products and companies appear in the rankings and lists. If a ranking or list has a company noted to be a “partner” the indicated company is a corporate affiliate of The Military Wallet. No tables, rankings or lists are fully comprehensive and do not include all companies or available products.

Editorial Disclosure: Editorial content on The Military Wallet may include opinions. Any opinions are those of the author alone, and not those of an advertiser to the site nor of  The Military Wallet.