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Military Spouse Series: Mission Transition - Settling into civilian style
by Janet Farley, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: Wil-Trans

Return to September/October 2012 Issue

“The Big Move.” It almost echoes off the page. You’ve finally done it or you’re about to do it. In either case, you can count on the actual transition continuing well past the time the movers pull out of your driveway.

Transition MilitaryTo help you and your family members adjust, this issue’s Mission Transition offers you these timely transition tips:

Household Transition Tips:

Let there be light. And, while you’re at it, arrange for telephone service, Internet connectivity, water, cable/DIRECTV, garbage pickup service and other necessary services. To identify providers in your area quickly, search online for utility providers, consult the yellow pages on- or off-line or ask your Realtor for local contacts.

Inspect the property. You might have already gone over the place with a fine-toothed comb when you first said you would take it. Do it again if there has been any time lapse. Be sure you’re satisfied that everything is in acceptable working order. Consider hiring a home inspector. Ask your real estate or your insurance agent and friends for referrals. The cost varies from $500 to $700, but it’s essential for you to get an expert to look at important aspects of the house such as its foundation, roof, plumbing, windows, air conditioning, heat, etc. Find issues before you close so that these items that need repairs can be put into the closing contract.

Close out the business of moving as soon as possible. Inspect all those items the movers unpacked to be sure they are in working order. Consider filing a claim for those things that didn’t make it or were damaged. Update insurance policies to cover your new digs and items.

Handle the rest of the paperwork. You may have thought mountains of paperwork only existed in the military. You thought wrong. You’ll need to civilianize all those things you used to do on the installation. Visit the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a new driver’s license. Get new license plates and/or tags for your car. Register to vote. Make sure your change-of-address instructions are working, and update these as necessary. Sign up for local newspaper delivery, virtually or via your old-fashioned mailbox.

Line up your new service providers. Identify your nearest hospital and determine who your next doctor, dentist, banker, vet and hairstylist will be (not necessarily in that order). Transition military medical benefits as necessary.

New Job Transition Tips:

Transitioning out of the military and to a new community seems like it would be stressful enough, but it’s just not. You may have to throw a new job into the mix as well. Take a deep breath, and consider these points:

Review your existing federal withholding and revise as necessary. If, for example, you find your post-uniform paycheck increased significantly, you will want to be sure to adjust your withholding so you are not hit with an unexpected tax bill on April 15. Consult with your tax advisor for details.

Take full advantage of employer-provided benefits. Know what these benefits are and be sure to apply for the ones you want within the period of eligibility.

Don’t change everything on Day One. You may know there is a better way to do things, but take the time to adjust to your new job, colleagues and work environment before you go stepping on toes unnecessarily.

Give it time. If you feel like you’ve made a big mistake, give it a respectable amount of time. New jobs can be stressful until you get a feel for how things work. As a saving grace, remember you can always discreetly continue your job search on the side.

Family Transition Tips

Moving and adjusting to a new location is particularly hard on children, regardless of their age. The sooner they are involved in school, sports and other activities that make up a regular routine, the happier they will be. The happier they are, the happier you will be. It’s truly a circle-of-life thing.

Register the kids for school if you haven’t checked that box yet. Be sure you have a copy of their school records in hand before you leave point A for point B. To research specific schools and identify location-specific options, search for schools at GreatSchools.Org. Talk to your new neighbors for local knowledge.

Get busy exploring your new hometown. You might not have met your new neighbors yet or identified the location of the best local restaurants, but now is the time to start exploring. Theoretically, you researched your new home online before arrival, but nothing quite beats hitting the streets and getting lost in person. Even if you are returning to a place that you have called home, things change over time. Get reacquainted.

You’ve got your whole civilian life waiting for you. Go out and make it exceptional!

Janet Farley is the author of "The Military Spouse’s Guide to Employment: Smart Jobs for Mobile Lifestyles” (Impact Publications, 2012) and “Quick Military Transition Guide: Seven Steps to Landing a Civilian Job” (Jist Publishing, Inc., 2012). Follow her on Twitter @mil2civguide and @smartjobchoices for tips, news and inspiration.

U.S. Air Force photo by Val Gempis

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