Leaving the Military: Civilian Pay and Benefits

Making direct contact with managers looking to hire, rather than going through the usual human resources contacts, pays off for job-hunting veterans. (US Congress photo)

A lot of changes occur when you leave the military, especially in the area of pay and benefits. You may not have spent a lot of time analyzing your military pay and benefits package, but as you transition out of the military, you'll need to closely examine what you'll be paid in the civilian world and what your benefits will cost. Here are a few points to consider:

Taxes may take a bigger bite.

Military tax-free allowances like the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) or Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) don't exist in the civilian world. Virtually all compensation you'll receive will be taxable. Given this, you might take home a smaller percentage of your civilian pay because some of it will go toward taxes that might not have applied to your military income. As you're comparing military and civilian pay, be sure to understand the tax differences and plan accordingly.

Insuring your family can be expensive.

Benefits like health, dental and vision insurance don't come with a big price tag in the military. Sure, you may be forking over co-payments, but there's no monthly premium for the insurance. In the civilian world though, the cost of these benefits can be substantial. Not only will you likely be responsible for co-payments and deductibles, but you'll also have to pay some amount for the coverage. To better understand this impact, be sure to ask prospective employers for a breakdown of total expected costs for a year under their plans.

Your new employer might help you save for retirement.

One civilian benefit isn't available in the military: retirement plan matching contributions. Can you say free money? Though not always offered, some employers will actually match the savings you put into their retirement plans. Some match dollar-for-dollar up to a certain amount. Others only match a percentage.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs 

If a prospective employer offers a match, be sure to include it in your calculation of what you'll be making. Though not part of your take-home pay, it can sometimes be a pretty big benefit and an opportunity you don't want to miss out on.

Of course, there are other elements of civilian pay packages you'll want to consider as well. But, as the previous points illustrate, it's important to look beyond just the monthly or annual salary you might earn in a civilian job. After all, not all paychecks are created equal.

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